Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tropical Dry Forests in Fiji
By Helen Nguyen 


The 300 islands that make up Fiji are mostly remnants of once active volcanoes continually drifting as a result of tectonic plate movement. The combination of consistence trade winds and a rain shadow, which exists to the northwest of high mountain areas, creates the perfect conditions for the development of tropical dry forests. Historically, the tropical dry forests of Fiji have suffered as a result of many human disturbances, beginning with the early arrival of Polynesians and Melanesians from over 3500 years ago.  As mankind continued to populate the area, large amounts of tropical dry forest were eventually converted to savannas due to extensive burning by its inhabitants. Subsequently, the region was extremely degraded even before Europeans were introduced into the area. Once they arrived, they further saw to the reduction of tropical dry forest by bringing in non-native tree species and foreign commercial agriculture. Lowlands were additionally made into sugar cane plantations by the English colonists, which greatly disrupted the natural cycle of the dry forest ecosystem. As of today, the tropical dry forests of Fiji have been officially declared endangered and are in great need of conservation in order for them to be restored to their former state.

Forest plantation area in Fiji in 2000, as reported in FRA 2000
Species group
Total area
Area by main purpose or use
Area by ownership/management
Industrial use
Non-industrial use
(in ha)
(in %)
(in ha)
(in %)
(in ha)
(in %)
(in ha)
(in %)
(in ha)
(in %)
Other Broadleaves


The tropical dry forests of Fiji have greatly suffered from the negative impacts of colonization and development ever since the early human settlement in the region. Although the ecosystem has been steadily degrading over a long period of time, there still exist many human impacts today that further threaten the survival of the tropical dry forests. The most prominent threat to the ecosystem is currently the introduction of non-native animals, which breaks the natural order of entire populations of indigenous species and affects the growth and dispersal of tropical dry forests. Furthermore, continuous burning of the forests by settlers and the subsequent erosion that occurs has destroyed the soil and land, greatly decreasing the prominence of tropical dry forests. Most areas have also been converted into sugar cane fields or grazing lands, so that the soil can only support grassland. As of now, none of the remaining dry forest areas are officially protected in reserves.
Total forest area in Fiji

Forest type
 Area (in ha)
Dense natural forest
Medium dense natural forest
Mangrove forest
Total: natural forest
Hardwood plantation
Pine Plantation
Total: forest plantations
Total: forest
Scattered natural forest
Total: other wooded land
Total: forest and other wooded land


    If everything continues as it has been for the last few years, the tropical dry forests could disappear entirely from existence in the Fiji Islands. The constant burning and clearing of the land by humans degrades the soil to the point where it is unable to sustain vegetation. Since the ecosystem has yet to be protected, the likelihood that this will continue is very high; therefore, it is only viable that the area of forestry will also rapidly decline if there is no clear intervention. Because very few accept the responsibility of maintaining the indigenous plants and animals, the ecosystem is spiraling out of control with non-native species. There must be a drastic change in order to remove the tropical dry forests of Fiji off the endangered list.


    Industrial roundwood production, consumption and trade in Fiji 
    Foremost, the tropical dry forests of Fiji must be internationally protected and established as a reserve. The fact that there is still no official protection for the forests means that there is still a strong danger of them being completely cleared and destroyed. There should be an international effort to survey and save these lands before more of the ecosystem is harmed. Furthermore, education and awareness needs to be better advocated. There are many study abroad programs for students to travel to countries that have endangered ecosystems, but the islands of Fiji have yet to be a prominent concern. By targeting the younger activist generation, there could be more awareness and knowledge about the state of Fiji’s forests. More care must also be taken on the islands themselves, to ensure that the ecosystem is balanced. There should be a system set up to closely monitor non-native plants and animals, which inherently destroy the ecosystem. Measures should also be taken to ensure that clearing and burning of the forests does not occur until it can be protected and surveyed.



    Works Cited
    "Fiji Tropical Dry Forests." Encyclopedia of Earth. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.
    "Mahara EPortfolio System." Open Source E-portfolio and Social Networking Software - Mahara EPortfolio System. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.
    "Terrestrial Ecoregions -- Fiji Tropical Dry Forests (OC0201)." Wildlife Conservation, Endangered Species Conservation. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.
    "Tropical Dry Forests of the Pacific - Fiji." Geography Department at UCLA. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.

    Costa Rica Tropical Rainforests

    Historical State:
    Costa Rica, although a very small country, has an extremely high level of biodiversity. The country has 12,000 species of plants, 1,239 species of butterflies, 838 species of birds, 440 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 232 species of mammals. Costa Rica’s tropical rainforest possesses the highest biodiversity in Costa Rica of all biomes and is the most extended terrestrial environment in Costa Rica. The tropical rainforest exists due to high levels of rainfall, caused by its geographical location and global climatic conditions, such as the InterTropical Convergence Zone and Caribbean storms. However, it is also the biome that is most disturbed by human action. Costa Rica used to be almost completely covered by tropical rainforests, but Costa Rica has had a poor history of deforestation and cattle ranching. These two problems have reduced virgin forest to only 25% of its total area. In the early 1990s, Costa Rica had one of the worst deforestation rates in all of Latin America.

    Human Impact:
    As mentioned earlier, Costa Rica has had major deforestation problems in the past. This deforestation has typically been due to clearing for agriculture, especially coffee and bananas, and for cattle pastures. In the 1970s and early 1980s, a large amount of rainforest was converted into cattle land. When the United States stopped importing Central American beef, however, Costa Rica had giant stretches of rainforest destroyed for no reason. From 1990 to 1995, Costa Rica lost about 3% of its forests per year. All of this deforested wood is wasted by burning or rotting, so attempting to conserve or reforest these areas is basically a lost cause. Costa Rica’s extremely high deforestation rates have dropped significantly since the mid-1990s. However, illegal timber harvesting in protected land and clearing of land for agriculture and cattle pasture in unprotected areas is still a large threat. As a result of this, there has been major soil erosion and loss of soil fertility. Also, the country uses more pesticides than all other nations in Central America combined. All of these pesticides have significantly contaminated Costa Rican soil.

    Future Prospects:
    The future is actually extremely bright for Costa Rican rainforests. The country has made significant efforts to protect its ecosystems, and even won the 2010 Future Policy award at a global summit on biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan. Also, the country may soon become the first developing country to meet UN biodiversity commitments. Costa Rica pays for nature reserve management and environmental services, like clean air, fresh water, and biodiversity protection through fuel taxes, car stamp duty, and energy fees. The government also pays landowners to preserve old-growth forests and plant new trees. Around two-thirds of remaining Costa Rican rainforests are currently protected. Several programs have been implemented to promote sustainable development and eco-tourism has become a very important source of revenue for funding national forests and landowners. Besides eco-tourism and taxes, the country is trying to seek money from developing countries. In 2005, Costa Rica joined a coalition of tropical developing countries that proposed a "rainforest conservation for emissions" deal at the December United Nations summit on climate change in Montreal. This deal is supposed to compensate tropical developing countries for conservation efforts. This program is meant to add to an old program that protected rainforest by selling allowances to emit greenhouses gases. In 1999, the program generated around $20 million. From 2000 to 2005, the annual deforestation rate was only 0.1%, compared to 3% from 1990 to 1995, so considerable improvements have been made.

    How can we further improve?

    As Professor Gillespie says, the best way to help is travel to the country. In Costa Rica, this is especially true because of the strong eco-tourism industry. Eco-tourism has been a major reason for Costa Rica’s significant improvements in conservation efforts, becoming one of the country’s greatest sources of revenue .The country has incredible biodiversity, a very accessible and developed parks system, and is safer than surrounding countries. However, this tourism can end up being harmful if not controlled. Tourism is an extremely booming industry in Costa Rica, and the building of hotels has been controversial in regards to the environment. However, Costa Rica may be the overall leader of environmental protection out of developing countries and sets a great example that other nations should follow.

    "Costa Rica: Environmental Profile." 7 Feb. 2006. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.

    "Do Costa Rica's Ecosystem Payments Work?" Conservation and Environmental Science News., 17 Sept. 2007. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.

    "Environment - Costa Rica - Problem, Average, Area, Crops, Farming, System."Encyclopedia of the Nations - Information about Countries of the World, United Nations, and World Leaders. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.

    Watts, Jonathan. "Costa Rica Recognised for Biodiversity Protection | Environment |" The Guardian, 25 Oct. 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.
          Niger DeltaNkeonyere Cynthia Ezechukwu

    Niger delta is located in south Nigeria.the niger delta region spans over 9 states in Nigeria. Abia , Akwa Ibom , Bayelsa , Cross River , Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo  and Cross is a home to the world’s third largest wetland that consists of islands,salt water mashes, mangroves,freshwater swamps,savannas and lowland rainforest. has africa’s largest mangrove forest and a rich is home to a lot of endemic, endangered and threatened has a semi-hot, humid climate with high temperatures year round and heavy rainfall. it has a lot of fish resources. The area has abundance of natural resources such as oil, gas and gravel and a rich biodiversity. it has 70 protected areas all which have lost great portions of their area which means loss of biodiversity. The resources oil and gas is it’s main source of revenue. the oil was first discovered in 1958.

    Human impacts
    Today the Niger Delta is one of the most endangered ecosystem and Humans were largely to be blamed for this. large oil companies extract tons of oil and gas from the Niger Delta region.the process of oil extraction is very harmful to the environment. it has a large impact on the condition of the ecosystem and the biodiversity of the area. they methods these companies use lead to oil estimate of 1.5million tons of oil has spilled in the Niger Delta region during the course of 50years. a lot of this spills have occurred in sensitive habitats for birds,fishes and plenty other wildlife which leads to more loss of biodiversity.The oil companies also practice a method knowing as gas flaring. gas flaring involves the process of burning natural gas which is a product of oil drilling. gas flares are detrimental to the environment and the health of the inhabitants of the area. gas flares contain over 250 toxins  and leads  to loss of crops, plants and animals in areas near by.the pollution damages the  soil and air quality. The delta area is also at risk due to deforestation, not enough farming practices,and alien species invading the area. 


    What the future holds
    if the oil extraction is not under control,the area might become a wasteland. the people would have to evacuate because the oil spills is contaminating the water and causing pollution and the gas flares are endangering the environment. the contaminated  water and atmosphere can actually reduce the people's life span because it is detrimental to their health. the protected areas could lose all its endangered species and in turn lose its rich biodiversity.

    How we could improve it
    we could promote ways to conserve natural resources to reduce pollution.invent better tanks to prevent oil spills and clean up the oil spills that have already occurred. promote tourism to the area so the inhabitants could benefit from it. the proceeds could be used to provide electricity, clean water and will make the area to not depend solely on the revenue from oil and gas.Clean water will promote their health therefore they will live longer and electricity just provides a better living environment for the people of the area. overall, the government should  create and enforce laws and that will not improve the environment but laws that will also protect the biodiversity.


                                     “Shells Environmental Devastation in Nigeria”.Center for constitutional rights and Earth’s International.Web. 30 Nov.2011<’>

    “Niger Delta named most polluted ecosystem”.Nigerian Conservation Foundation.Web.26 Nov 2011<>.
    “Oil pollution in Niger Delta:Environmental assessment of ogoniland report;UNEP” Santa Aguila Foundation.Web. 24                              Nov.2011<>

             “Mend’s resurgence,amnesty,future of Niger Delta” Vanguard Media. Web. 24 Nov 2011<>

     "Nigeria-Niger Delta" Global Security.Web.24 Nov 2011<>

    Nigerian oil” National Geographic Society. Web.25 Nov 2011 <>

    Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests

    Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests
    By Brittany King

    Historical State
                This hotspot covers 397,142 km² in total; specifically covering 40% of the Chilean landmass, three islands off Chile’s coast, and a small part of Argentina. The mainland portion is virtually an island itself, bounded by the Pacific Ocean, Andes Mountains, and Atacama Desert. The region contains a variety of vegetation types, from desert to Mediterranean. About half of the species present are endemic. Habitat degradation and forest clearing have been occurring there since the 16th century and in the 1970s plantations of pine and eucalyptus trees began replacing native vegetation.

    Vital Signs
    Hotspot Original Extent (km 2)
    Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km 2)
    Endemic Plant Species
    Endemic Threatened Birds
    Endemic Threatened Mammals
    Endemic Threatened Amphibians
    Extinct Species†
    Human Population Density (people/km 2)
    Area Protected (km 2)
    Area Protected (km 2) in Categories I-IV*
    †Recorded extinctions since 1500. *Categories I-IV afford higher levels of protection.

    Current Human Impacts

                  Chile’s economy is one of the fastest growing ones in Latin America and relies heavily on natural resources. The major threats are centered in the Mediterranean, southern part of the hotspot where a high percent of Chileans live. In the past few decades about 20,000 km² of native vegetation in the southern region has been replaced by the plantations of pine and eucalyptus mentioned previously. While the plantations increase soil stability and reduce erosion, they cause fragmentation which slows gene flow and limits the carrying capacity for specialist animals. Urbanization also threatens the area. Hydroelectric development, the construction of highways and small urban centers, and the development of the coastal region for tourism are all major threats to the ecosystem.
                  There is also illegal trade of flora and fauna in this region, which adds to the disruption of the ecosystem by humans. The vegetation and animals are vulnerable to fire, an element that the ecosystem is not adapted to. About 360-600 km² were burned annually in this region between the 1970s and 1990s due to accidental and intentional forest fires. This has allowed invasive species adapted to fire to flourish. Coupled with this is the amount of overgrazing that occurs due to domesticated animals, which causes degradation of vegetation and an increased vulnerability to nonnative species.  About 70% of the hotspot’s original vegetation has been degraded to some extent.

    Future of the Hotspot

                   There is progress being made in preserving the biodiversity of this ecosystem. 12.8% of the original area is under official protection and all Araucaria trees have been made national monuments in order to protect them. However the total area is not yet large enough to protect the biodiversity of the Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forest, and most protected areas are small patches. The coast is virtually unprotected, though a Valdivian Coastal Reserve has been purchased by the Global Conservation Fund, Nature Conservancy, and World Wildlife Fund. This will hopefully help in the management and protection of this fragile ecosystem which in the last century has been reduced by 50%. As awareness of the loss of this habitat increases I feel that the ecosystem will have a greater chance of survival. The more land being put under protection the brighter the future of the area looks. The creation of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve added about 60,000 km² of land to the 50,745 km² already protected.

    What Can Be Done

                  So far no species have gone extinct, but many species, specifically endemic ones are in danger of doing so. Steps that can be taken to protect this hotspot and its biodiversity are to make it easier for the government to buy private land in order to set up nationally protected areas in this region. Right now most land there is owned privately, and the system in place makes it too hard for the government to purchase the land. Stricter laws on cutting down trees, and the use of fire could be put into place in order to reduce the amount of fragmentation and degradation occurring.  

    Works Cited
    "Biodiversity Hotspots - Chilean Forests - Overview." Biodiversity Hotspots - Home. Conservation International. Web. 29 Nov. 2011.
    Conservation International (Lead Author);Sidney Draggan (Topic Editor) "Biological diversity in the Chilean winter rainfall-valdivian forests". In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth May 8, 2009; Last revised Date May 8, 2009; Retrieved November 29, 2011 <>
    "EIC Conservation Database." Welcome to Eco-Informatics Centre. Web. 29 Nov. 2011.
    "Overview - Conservation International." Home - Conservation International. Web. 29 Nov. 2011.
    "Valdivian Coastal Reserve, Chile - Conservation International." Home - Conservation International. Web. 29 Nov. 2011.

    The Florida Everglades

    The Florida Everglades
    by Crystal Guerrero & Fahad Nathani

    Historical State of the Ecosystem 

         Located along the southern tip of Florida, the Everglades has long been recognized as the one of the world’s most distinctive wetland ecosystems. Comprised of a series of interconnected rivers, lakes, and estuaries, the Florida Everglades stretches from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico and the 10,000 islands and at one point spanned over 8 million acres of land. The Everglades is distinct among the world’s large wetlands because it derives its water from rainfall runoff, whereas other large wetlands mostly depend on river flooding. Additionally, it is the only subtropical wilderness in the U.S. occurring due to the combination of ocean currents, climate, and geographical location. The Everglades is home to a variety of native wildlife, such as the wading bird. In particular, it is the only place in the world where the American Crocodile and the American Alligator coexist together. Early inhabitants treated the river with care and accord, referring to the river as “Pahayokee.” which means “the grassy waters”. 

    Human Impacts on the Ecosystem 

         After the arrival of colonial settlers, the human impact on the Florida Everglades has been especially detrimental. As early as the 1800s, settlers began exploiting the land for agricultural and domestic purposes. Initially, these settlers thought the Everglades was a useless swampland, not knowing that it was actually a slowly moving river that was highly dependent on the flow of water through the system. As a result, they began to dig canals and create dams throughout the Everglades in order to drain the water to make the land more inhabitable. The drainage of the water would provide fertile land so that the new settlers could increase their farming and would be able to build homes in the surrounding area. Severe hurricanes in the 1920s and 1940s caused Congress to pass the Central and Southern Florida Project in 1948, which allowed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a complex water management system in an effort to control the flood waters that occurred frequently in south Florida. Although this intricate system of canals levees did help control the flood waters, it drastically interrupted the natural water flow, which was crucial to the life of the Everglades ecosystem. Also, to reduce drought, the water levels were kept extremely high which led to a decline in plant species. Due to this type of human intervention that escalated in the 1950s, the Everglades is about half its original size today. It is now divided into over 1000 miles of canals and dams, and water control areas that distribute water to coastal towns and cities.
         Water pollution has also played a negative role with the state of the Everglades. Phosphorus from pollution has lead in an overflow of nutrients to the plants, which then kills them off. The disproportion of nutrients also alters wildlife communities. Consequently, the fishing industry and wildlife tourism has also decline with the wading bird and other rare endangered species such as the Cape Sable seaside Sparrow and the Florida Panther. The Wading bird population has now decreased by 93% since the 1930's and there are now 67 endangered or threatened species residing in the Everglades. The evasion of exotic plants is also adding to the deterioration natural domain. As a consequence, plants and animals that once thrived in this habitable ecosystems can no longer rely on the natural resources that once benefited their growth.

    Future Prospects of the Ecosystem 

         Even with the institution of the Everglades National Forest in 1947 that recognized it as an international biosphere reserve, the Everglades’ conditions continued to decline well through the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st century. As signs of human ecological impact on the Florida Everglades were becoming more apparent, pressures began mounting to begin efforts to restore the ecosystem and make south Florida’s water use more sustainable. In the late 1990s, groups of environmental agencies and organizations met to collaborate in formulating a plan for reforming south Florida’s water systems to help recover the ecosystem while still meeting its water needs. Consequently, in 2000 President Clinton in cooperation with Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP, a multi-billion dollar plan aimed at safeguarding south Florida’s natural ecosystems while improving water supply techniques and maintaining food control. Expected to take more than 20 years to implement, the CERP would prove to be the “largest environmental restoration project in the nation’s history.”(Dept. Fl.). The plan focuses on restoring a more natural flow of water to the 2.4 million acres of wetland in order to revive the natural habitat. Another major goal is keeping proper flood control while continuing a reliable supply of water to the millions of Floridians residing in the area. In short, today Florida is trying its best to make its water control systems as sustainable as possible. Although the Everglades’ unique ecosystem could never be restored to its original form, efforts from state and federal governments would focus on making the damage as minimal as possible.

    What Should be Done?

         Environmental policy at the state and governmental level appears as though it is the most important factor in the preservation of the Florida Everglades today, because without regulation by the government, exploitation of the ecosystem would only continue to increase and no significant change could be made. South Florida still remains a popular tourist destination and a center of prime real estate today and as a result corporations and industries would continue abusing the land unless regulated or warned about their misuse. Thus Congress and state governments must work together to pass legislation smoothly as well as ensure it gets carried out by the local governments. In order to do this effectively, local governments also should raise awareness and educate residents and nearby industries of their damaging impacts on the ecosystem while also informing them of the negative implications for so that they may favor sustainable changes more for the future prospects of their company. This would make rallying support for the legislation much smoother. Cost-sharing is a great incentive for doing so, because splitting the costs of these restoration projects with the government would help appease some profit-driven corporations. Although Congress has made progress passing plans like the CERP, due to bureaucratic conflict in the years following its approval its implementation came to a standstill. Because reducing the population of humans residents would involve people being moved and thus less likely, maintaining a sustainable distribution of water seems like a more realistic solution to the Everglades’ problem, as water is a crucial element to the area. Reforming the area’s levees and water irrigation systems to better distribute the water. Furthermore, using well-tested modern technologies would ensure that the Everglades would be receiving the most cost-effective treatment and ensure that south Florida will not be making the same mistake as it did in the 1950s. Nevertheless, action is needed to make the south Floridians’ relationship with their environment more enriching for such a national biodiversity landmark.

    Further Data

    Reference List

    "How is the Ecosystem Threatened.” Everglades Foundation. N.p., n.d.
         Web. 30 Nov 2011.

     "Quick Facts about the Everglades ." Everglades Foundation . N.p., n.d.
         Web. 30 Nov 2011.

    "Florida Everglades." Natural Resource Defense Council. N.p., 20/10/2009.
         Web. 30 Nov 2011.

    Dinerstein, E., A. Weakley, R. Noss, R. Tipton, and K. Wolfe. "Everglades ." N.p., 2001.
         Web. 30 Nov 2011.

    "Everglades ." N.p.,8/10/2010.
         Web. 30 Nov 2011.

    "Florida Everglades." USGS. US Department of the Interior, 11/10/2002. 
         Web. 30 Nov 2011. 

    "Everglades Restoration." Florida. N.p., 20/01/2011. 
         Web. 30 Nov 2011.

    Davis, Steven, and Steven Ogden. Everglades: The Ecosystem and It's Restoration. CRC Press, 1994. eBook.       <>.