Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jun 11

2-3 Jul (Sat & Sun): Biodiversity talks at the Botanic Gardens
from Celebrating Singapore's Biodiversity!

More about Singapore's sea anemones: Dr Daphne's second public talk from wild shores of singapore

Butterfly Portraits - Long Banded Silverline
from Butterflies of Singapore

Changeable Lizard
from Monday Morgue

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Nature lovers push harder for Green Corridor

Grace Chua Straits Times 30 Jun 11;

NATURE and heritage groups have beefed up their original proposal to save the KTM railway land.

They point out that the land, comprising that on which the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station now sits and the north-to-south strip through which the rail tracks wind, links historic buildings and nature conservation areas. It could even become a Unesco World Heritage site, they add.

The KTM land reverts to Singapore tomorrow.

In their original proposal, green groups pushed for the 173.7ha strip of land on which rail tracks now run to be turned into a 'green corridor' for cycling, gardens and nature walks.

But corridor proponents now also call for calculations to be done on the true financial contribution which permanent green spaces make to property values.

The Straits Times understands that the proposal was discussed in a 1 1/2-hour closed-door meeting on Tuesday between nature groups and Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

Parties at the talks described the discussion as 'positive'.

Brigadier-General (NS) Tan, signalling his openness to the idea of a Green Corridor, had called the original proposal 'fascinating'.

He has personal memories of the pleasures of a walk along the railway near Mount Sinai while studying at the then Raffles Junior College there, and jogging along the track in Bukit Gombak, where the Ministry of Defence is located, he told The Straits Times in an e-mail two weeks ago.

The civic groups' strengthened proposal offered the following arguments for conserving the railway land:

Its natural heritage: The railway land links habitats ranging from mangroves to forests, and is home to rare birds, butterflies such as the Blue Glassy Tiger, and pangolins.

Its historic/cultural treasures: It connects heritage sites such as the old Ford factory and a World War II battle site near Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Its commercial potential: Small structures such as rail crossings and tunnel crossings could be turned into rest areas, cafes and shops.

Responding to this suggestion, Dr Yeo Kang Shua, an assistant professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, commented that heritage trails and cafes may be great ideas, but policymakers will want to know whether they are sustainable in the long term.

The independent architectural conservator, who is involved in projects to save historic buildings, said: 'We may want to ask first, 'What's wrong with leaving it alone?'' He also questioned the heritage value of the railway tracks, since only the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station has been gazetted as a national monument.

Its re-use for recreational and commuter cyclists: A cyclist pedalling at 20kmh from Bukit Panjang would get to the Central Business District in less than an hour, opening up a new commuting option. But transport researcher Lee Der Horng of the National University of Singapore said cycling and pedestrian walkways on the railway land are unlikely to help transport congestion.

The green corridor would more likely be used by recreational cyclists on weekends, he said, suggesting instead that a bus service run through the corridor to ease congestion on MRT lines.

Its ability to boost property values: Consultant Matthew Guenther noted that the value of the corridor could be estimated by the value of the six land parcels Singapore offered to Malaysia last September in exchange for the railway land - roughly $3 billion.

He said, however, the value Singaporeans would place on the corridor and other green spaces was unknown, and so should be worked out.

Global Property Strategic Alliance's chief executive Jeffrey Hong said green spaces offer landed homes 'exclusivity and privacy' and raise their values.

A final version of the green groups' proposal will be sent to government agencies in the next few weeks, said Mr Leong Kwok Peng, vice-president of the Nature Society of Singapore.

But civic society groups are sticking to their guns on one thing - that the land be preserved as a continuous tract.

Mr Leong said: 'The essence, the beauty of it lies in an unbroken countryside view. If you don't keep it now, I don't think you'll have the chance to in future.'

Additional reporting by Yen Feng

Train of thought

LAST year, civic groups sent government agencies a proposal to keep the KTM railway land as a continuous stretch of green space, arguing that it links various natural habitats and is home to rare birds and animals.

Now, they are about to submit a second version of their proposal. Key suggestions include:

Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah railway stations have been gazetted as national monument and building to be conserved; turn them into transport museums

Preserve rail crossings and turn them into rest areas, shops, cafes and facilities for hikers and cyclists

Provide pedestrian lanes and two-way cycling lanes

Turn railway tracks into tram lines

Plant community gardens for recreation and food, near residential areas and schools in places such as Clementi, Commonwealth and Bukit Panjang

Conduct a study to find out what factors most affect home prices in Singapore, and how nearby green spaces affect home values


Correction as emailed to me by Dr Yeo Kang Shua on 1 Jul 11:

Dear Ria,

It would be most appreciated if you could post a comment to the ST article that was posted in your wildsingaporenews website.

The published quote below that is attributed to me is edited to a point where readers may misinterpret my intentions.

“… He also questioned the heritage value of the railway tracks, since only the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station has been gazetted as a national monument."

My original response to ST query is appended below:

"... Dr Yeo also raised questions about the heritage value of the Tanjong Pagar railway, since, only the building has been gazetted as a national monument. "What about the platform, the tracks? Without them, would the station be sufficiently representative of its past?"

I have emailed the ST for a correction.

Yeo Kang Shua

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Jane Goodall: Tending the shoots of hope

Cheong Suk-Wai Straits Times 30 Jun 11;

ON A recent flight, pioneering British primatologist Jane Goodall found herself seated next to a mother who told her how she had been kept awake by her five-year-old daughter fretting that a dripping tap in their house was wasting water.

Dr Goodall, 77, recalls: 'So Mum went to check and gosh, it was because of a broken washer, so she started stuffing things up it. But she was later woken up at 3am by her sobbing daughter. She had to go out with a torch to turn the water mains off before the child would sleep.'

It turned out that the girl belonged to Roots & Shoots, a youth movement which Dr Goodall founded in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1991. It promotes mindful and sustainable living, and today has 8,000 members in 128 countries.

This plucky woman made her name in Tanzania in the 1960s, as the first researcher to observe chimpanzees eating flesh and fashioning tools such as spoons from blades of grass to slurp up termites.

Up till then, scientists had thought that only humans knew how to make tools. In the late 1980s, she lobbied for the ethical treatment of animals. She went on to advocate sustainable living through her Jane Goodall Institutes in 27 countries, including Singapore.

The twice-married mother of one and grandmother of three arrived here over the weekend to grace a host of events - including a forum following the screening of last year's biopic Jane's Journey at the National Museum - and is in town until today. Over coffee on Sunday, she told me more about her life and calling:

Why did you agree to German film-maker Lorenz Knauer making your intensely personal biopic, Jane's Journey?
I met Lorenz about six years ago when he came to one of my lectures. There were many children there and he was watching the children watch me. And he'd never seen children so attentive at a lecture. So he wanted to find out who I was and what my secret was. He first had to persuade me to let him make the film because I get tired of these films, you know. National Geographic, Discovery Channel and even my first husband (Hugo van Lawick) had done them. Lorenz persuaded me because of the children bit... it's been very worthwhile but very hard work.

What was so hard about it?
Well, there were very tough interviews, especially those going back into my marriages, which nobody else had tackled before - or I hadn't let them do so!

Was it worth baring your soul that much?
I don't know. Somebody else will have to answer that. I just did it because Lorenz's vision for it seemed good.

What have you learnt from working with children, whom you say are your reason for hope?
That they gravitate to an understanding that they have to care for the environment, and they get very passionate about what we're doing that's bad for it. When they grow up, they have to get a job and they may be able to do so only in a company (whose indifference to sustainable living) they have been criticising. And so they say, 'there's nothing we can do'.

That's where the Roots & Shoots network, if it works, is going to support them and say: 'Look, you say ABC Fast Food is a bad company because it's harming the environment. Which it is. But that does not mean that everyone working in it is bad. In fact, maybe not one of them is bad. So don't give up your concern for the environment or animals. Work on the people around you and learn.'

And many young people cry when I tell them that; they say: 'That's the first time I've been able to live with myself.'

What works in getting others to live mindfully?
With governments, the key is getting Roots & Shoots into the education system so that it is an accepted part of the curriculum. With the kids, it's about getting them to choose what they want to do. But first, let them understand what's happening around them because they can't choose what to do if they don't know what to do. In a group of, say, 10 young people, at least one will be passionate about animals, another will be passionate about community service and there's usually a bunch that cares about the environment because, come on, it's fun to go and clean up, put up recycling bins and get all your schoolmates to do recycling!

When CNN was going to film one of our first projects in China at a big Beijing primary school and the plan was to clean up one of the stinking, filthy rivers there, some people said we'd never get Chinese children to pick garbage out of a river. Guess what? They were just as excited as could be to do so and the more disgusting it was - eeurgh! - the more eager they were to get at it to outdo each other, wooden tongs and plastic gloves and all.

There are hundreds of adults who've said to me: 'Of course I recycle now because the kids make me.'

When people tell me that a politician or businessman won't even listen to them and just puts blinkers on, I say: 'OK, find me the school to which his children go and I will start Roots & Shoots there!'

But what can you really change when the global economy relies on conspicuous consumption to keep everyone afloat?
I don't think we can have any hope unless we get Roots & Shoots and similar youth organisations to create a critical number of youth who understand the impossibility of this dream of unlimited economic development because in a world with finite resources, that isn't possible. We have to find a different kind of economy where a product is valued on its harm or benefit to nature. Every time we take something from nature, there's a cost. Most people would be horrified to know that when they eat something with palm oil from a plantation that replaced a tropical forest, that is killing orang utans.

Maybe I move in the wrong circles, but I can't think of anyone who would be horrified about losing orang utans.
That's because they don't understand them. If they went into a forest and had an orang utan with big eyes reach out to them, most of them would melt.

Would they? Hasn't progress sharpened man's mind but hardened his heart?
I've sat at the tables of chief executives of, say, petrochemical companies and in their homes. They love their children and yet can make business decisions that would release vast amounts of pesticides into the environment. It's like we've become schizophrenic. There are two sides to us: one is this economic growth and me-me-me. The other is something left of the heart. We have to join the two.

Where would you propose we begin?
I'm beginning with youth. They're infected with this way of living. They're not going to be perfect but they understand and they're helping others to understand.

Aren't they just rolling boulders uphill?
Yes, but more are rolling the boulders.

Did you start championing sustainability because you found championing chimpanzees just like rolling boulders uphill?
Nothing has changed. There's no point killing yourself to save chimpanzees, orang utans, dolphins or whatever if you're not raising new generations to be better stewards of the planet. Also, we're working with poor communities in Africa because if people are living around a wilderness area and are in absolute poverty, conservation efforts cannot work. You have to get the locals on your side and you can do that only if the poor creatures have a slightly better life!

Why do you persist in pursuing such difficult causes?
Because I'm flipping obstinate about the things I care about. You know that children's toy which, when you knock it down, springs back up again? Well, that's me.

She's glad animals can't talk

CALM, considered and very candid, primatologist and conservation activist Jane Goodall travels a total of 300 days a year to coax and cajole - but never coerce - people to live mindfully to save resource-stripped Earth. Here she is on:

Her first thoughts upon waking every morning
'Where am I? Do I have to give a lecture? Do I have a plane to catch?'

The punishing pace she sets herself
'When I'm in England writing and there's another lecture tour coming up, I hate it. I hate it until I get there.'

Why she doesn't believe in self-analysis
'Well, what's the point? I seem to be doing okay!'

What she would say to animals if they could talk back to her
'Well, I'm glad they can't talk back because otherwise they'd say to me, 'Get off the planet. Leave us alone. Let us get on with our lives.''

Singapore not having many areas of natural interest
'I don't know what I would turn out like if I could not play in a garden or be on a cliff.'

How to motivate those who don't care about the environment
'I get asked this everywhere and I don't know how to answer it. Most of these people have too much and so for them, life is fine, thank you very much.'

'I try not to do it. My colleagues say, 'We can't have Jane wearing the same clothes year after year.' And I say, 'What's wrong with that? If I like something, why shouldn't I go on wearing it?''

Her Roots & Shoots mantra
'Begin with knowledge and understanding. Move on to hard work and persistence, then love and compassion that leads to respect for all life.'


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Indonesia Must Brace for Haze: Expert

Dessy Sagita Jakarta Globe 29 Jun 11;

As the country transitions into the dry season, a weather expert has warned that choking haze from forest burn-offs could again pose a major problem.

“The peak of the dry season is from July to August, with high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds possibly worsening fires and haze,” Kukuh Ribudiyanto, head of extreme weather and early warning systems at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), said on Wednesday.

Kukuh was referring to the large forest fires that usually happen every dry season, especially those set by farmers and plantations to clear land in preparation for the new planting season.

Although burn-offs are outlawed, enforcement has generally been weak. The resulting smoke from fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan in the past led to haze blanketing the entire country, and even spilling across into neighboring countries’ skies.

Kukuh said hotspots — areas of high temperatures shown on satellite imaging that usually signify fires — had already been registered in some parts of Sumatra such as South Sumatra, Aceh and Riau.

“Luckily, we’ve still had rains throughout the transition period from the rainy to the dry season. The rains have helped to minimize the fires,” he said. “But now with decreasing rains, we have to be extra careful.”

Warih Puji Lestari, an analyst at the BMKG’s Riau branch, said the situation there was not yet causing much worries because the concentration of haze was not too thick and wind speeds were still within normal range.

“The wind has moved from five to 15 kilometers per hour, and the concentration of the smoke is relatively normal — not too thick,” she said.

Warih said there was still a possibility the haze could reach neighboring countries if the wind got any stronger.

“But if current conditions remain stable, the chances of the haze reaching Malaysia and Singapore are very slim,” she said.

People in Riau, however, still needed to be on alert because the province was set to experience hot weather over the next few days, she added.

According to the Washington-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, of the 31 hotspots recently recorded in Sumatra, 28 were located in Riau.

Last month, thick haze from forest fires in Riau caused some flights to be delayed across the province. The haze also reached Malaysia and Singapore, forcing people to stay indoors.

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Malaysia scientists tag Borneo saltwater crocodile

Greg Wood AFP Yahoo News 29 Jun 11;

Wildlife researchers in Malaysia are to track a saltwater crocodile by satellite, they said Wednesday, in a bid to find out why nearly 40 people have been attacked on Borneo island over a decade.

The wild saltwater crocodile was captured earlier this month on the Kinabatangan river in Sabah state and had a tag strapped around its neck before being released, said Benoit Goossens, head of the Danau Girang Field Centre.

The tag is already returning information to the scientists.

Officials said there have been 38 attacks by saltwater crocodiles -- the world's largest living reptile -- on humans in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak over the last 10 years, 23 of them fatal.

"The information gathered from the crocodile will help us better understand the movement of the male crocodiles," said Goossens.

"We are not saying that the information will help stop crocodile attacks.

"But it will help villagers and plantation workers better understand the behaviour of the crocodiles so that they are better able to avoid any confrontation with it."

The three-year project with the state wildlife department is believed to be a first for Southeast Asia, he added.

Land clearance and the creation of new plantations near the river may have caused the crocodile's food sources to decrease, leading to a rise in attacks, he said.

An increase in the crocodile population may also be responsible, and the various theories will be tested against the data gathered from the crocodile.

Last year, state wildlife officials said they were pushing to have saltwater crocodiles removed from a list of endangered species, saying the reptile's numbers have strongly recovered in recent years.

Saltwater crocodiles -- which can grow up to seven metres (23 feet) long -- have the most commercially valuable skin of all crocodiles and are found from Sri Lanka all the way to the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific.

Saltwater crocodile tagged in race to save species
The Star 30 Jun 11;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre have recently fitted a satellite tag on a saltwater crocodile in the Kinabatangan, in an effort to monitor its movements to ensure its further survival following the changing landscape emerging from plantations.

Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the tagging of the four-metre long male crocodile - named 'Girang' - was the first in Borneo, and possibly in South-East Asia.

It was carried out in the vicinity of the Field Centre with the assistance of the department's Rescue Unit, he said in a joint statement here on Wednesday.

"Following the Human-Crocodile Conflict Conference that was held in Kota Kinabalu in June last year, the department expressed a desire to carry out scientific work on the primary cause for the rising levels of conflict being experienced in Sabah large rivers.

"The tagging of a saltwater crocodile with a satellite device, is the start of a long-term research and conservation programme initiated by our Department and the Danau Girang," added Ambu.

Danau Girang director Dr Benoit Goossens, who is also leader of the Kinabatangan Crocodile Programme, explained that plantations caused a considerable decrease in the overall amounts of prey available especially to large individuals.

"This situation makes for a far more dangerous environment. The realisation of this is that attack rates found near plantations are extremely high compared to those of forested areas.

"By tagging large crocodiles in plantation areas and in forested areas, and especially males which are potential man-heaters, we will try to understand and monitor the movements of these large predators," added Goossens.

It is hoped that the results would help in providing guidelines for plantation workers and local villagers in order to reduce fatal attacks and contribute to the protection of the species for ecosystem health and tourism, he concluded. - Bernama

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Malaysia: Concern over impact of development on Sabah wetlands

Conservation group voice concern over effects on ecosystem
Durie Rainer Fong The Star 30 Jun 11;

KOTA KINABALU: A group overseeing the conservation of wetlands in Sabah had voiced their concern to City Hall over a high-rise development project that could affect the ecosystem of a wetland here.

The Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society has made its opinion clear to new Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir about the proposed multi-storey condominium, to be located just 148m from the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre (KKWC).

The society also expressed its worries previously about the project potentially upsetting its plans to turn the 24ha mangrove forest of KKWC, declared a state Cultural Heritage Site in 1998, into a Ramsar site.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an inter-governmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society president, Zainie Abdul Aucasa said he had underlined to the Mayor the importance to call a meeting between the stakeholders and developers to iron out the issue.

“We have to make clear to the developer that we are not against any development but we want to protect our wetlands.

“The Mayor was very impressed with our persistence and efforts to create public awareness on the importance of KKWC as a Ramsar site and to gain public support in protecting this sensitive area from the inevitable progress that is taking place in the surrounding area,” he said.

Apart from the Mayor, he said the society had also written letters to various government departments to stop the proposed condominium project from taking off.

“We also held meetings with the Environment Protection Department to discuss about the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed project,” Zainie said.

He said despite mitigation steps taken by the developers, the proposed project would still be harmful to the KKWC especially on the wetland’s ecosystem, which is home to various species of mangrove trees, birds and aquatic organisms.

Among the environmental issues, he said migrating birds might be thrown off from their flight paths because of high concrete buildings while construction works would also cause sediment run-off resulting in increased water turbidity in the KKWC.

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Warming, Overfishing, Plastic Pollution Destroying Ocean Life: Scientists

'If we don't do something quickly, the oceans in 50 years won't look like they do today,' scientist warns in an interview with SolveClimate News

Lisa Song, SolveClimate News Reuters 29 Jun 11:

The state of the oceans can best be likened to a case of multiple organ failure in urgent need of intervention, suggests the most comprehensive analysis yet of the world's marine ecosystems.

Global warming, overfishing and plastic pollution are wreaking havoc at an unprecedented rate on marine life, reported scientists at a recent meeting of the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO).

The impacts of climate change — acidifying oceans, coral bleaching and habitat loss — are the biggest cause of decline in ocean health, and the hardest to solve, some researchers told SolveClimate News in interviews.

Global warming will "swamp everything," said Tony Pitcher, a professor of fisheries from the University of British Columbia who attended the meeting. "The effects are all around … If we don't do something quickly, the oceans in 50 years won't look like they do today."

The workshop brought together 27 scientists from six countries and represents the first time in at least a decade when experts from separate fields — geochemists, geophysicists, pollution experts, fishery biologists and climate change scientists — gathered to share their assessment of the oceans.

"These people don't usually talk to each other very much so getting them together ... was quite a special occasion," said Pitcher.

But the scene was far from celebratory. "In each kind of science, the experts were reporting that somewhere in the world the worst-case scenario was already present," he told SolveClimate News.

The Next Great Extinction

Climate scientists continue to report that atmospheric levels of CO2 are rising at an accelerated rate, spelling trouble for the oceans. Seas absorb the heat-trapping gas, which makes them more acidic.

Acidity of the world's oceans has increased 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution, said Bärbel Hönisch, a professor of earth science at Columbia University who did not attend the workshop. Ocean acidification stresses corals, shellfish and other organisms with effects that ripple through the marine food chain.

Adding to that ocean stress is overfishing, the IPSO assessment said. The large and long-lived species in fisheries worldwide — and in the South China Seas in particular — are "virtually fished out," Pitcher explained.

When added together, conditions may be ripe for the next great extinction similar to the five mass extinctions that have occurred throughout Earth history. "That was the comparison that was made," said Pitcher. "Certainly the rate of change in the chemistry of the oceans is greater than in some of the ancient extinctions."

Hönisch was more cautious. We won't wipe out ocean life, she predicted, but toxic algal blooms will thrive in the absence of large fish and other organisms threatened by extinction.

"The question for me has always been, do we care about the fish that are commercially interesting?" Hönisch asked. "Do we care about what we have today?"

The Climate Change Threat

Climate change is the oceans' greatest threat, said Daniel Pauly, a fisheries professor from the University of British Columbia who also attended the seminar.

As oceans heat up, there is less mixing of warm water near the sea surface and colder water near the bottom, he told SolveClimate News. That decreases the amount of available oxygen in the water column; less oxygen means less life overall.

Oxygen depletion, acidification and warmer temperatures are "a deadly mixture," Pauly said, and is almost certain to exacerbate other risks.

Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable, said Alex Rogers, lead author of the IPSO report and professor of conservation biology at the University of Oxford.

Extreme Weather and Coral Bleaching

The underwater reef formations, often called the rainforests of the sea, are built by tiny animals called coral polyps that create limestone formations by constantly taking calcium carbonate out of the sea.

Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems in the ocean housing millions of species, Rogers told SolveClimate News. They provide ecosystem services such as food, coastal protection, tourism and recreation that are worth up to $375 billion dollars per year, he said.

Corals live off the microscopic algae that dwell inside their tissues. Elevated water temperatures can cause coral bleaching, a whitening of corals that occurs when they expel algae. Corals eventually die, erode and collapse from continuous bleaching.

Charles Sheppard, a professor in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick and a workshop participant, said that an increase of 1 degree Celsius over about 10 weeks is enough to trigger bleaching.

"It's the extremes that do the killing," he explained. Average temperatures in the oceans have increased about half a degree Celsius since the 1970s, he said, but it's the weeks of extreme heat that kill off corals for good.

Corals must also live with increasing acidity.

As oceans become more acidic, corals have to spend more energy to deposit the limestone. "It's just a harder environment for them to live in," said Sheppard. "If you add that to temperature rise — which also adds stress — the two together is bad news."

Dying coral reefs don't just destroy ecosystems: Reefs protect coastlines by reducing storm surge and erosion.

Many of the atolls in Polynesia and Micronesia are made of corals, said Sheppard. In healthy corals, the growth of new limestone outpaces natural erosion of the coral. When the reefs die off, the islands will erode away.

"Corals are among the most threatened organisms on the planet," said Pitcher. Between the bleaching, overfishing, the dynamiting of coral reefs to kill fish and mining of coral for construction material, "corals will probably disappear from the planet in 40 years," he said. "It's kind of scary when you think that 200 million people depend on coral reefs for their livelihoods."

Poor countries that rely on fish as their main protein source — and which are expected to be hardest hit by climate change — are most at risk, said Rogers.

Developing nations in the tropics also face overfished seas, while surviving fish in these regions are moving to cooler waters as the climate warms.

Overfishing Easier to Solve

Compared to climate change, overfishing is relatively easy to solve, said Pitcher. Canada and the U.S. are among the better countries in terms of fisheries management. Both nations use quotas to limit their catch, but their management methods need to be improved, he said.

"Fisheries are about managing people rather than fish," said Pitcher. The UN has a voluntary code of conduct for responsible fisheries that takes into account aspects of sustainability. Fishers who use bottom trawlers, for instance, would score lower than those who use regular nets.

In addition, said Pitcher, most governments only survey the populations of fish that humans eat. "But fish live in a natural ecosystem," he said. "They eat things. and things eat them," adding that it's important to also monitor the health of non-marketable fish.

Pauly supports the expansion of marine reserves where fishing is banned. Only about 1 percent of the seas are protected, he said, versus 10 percent of continents in the form of national parks and other reserves.

"We accept that there must be [protected] parks on land. We don't conceive the need for that in the water. When [scientists] say we need 10 percent of the oceans protected, you get a howl from the fishing industry."

Most fish stocks live in "exclusive economic zones," said Pauly — designated areas for signatory countries of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that allow fishing and mining within 200 miles of their coastlines. These coastal areas make up 40 percent of the oceans.

Countries are reluctant to create marine reserves, largely because "we cannot wrap our minds around the oceans being fragile and inaccessible to us," he said. "The fishing industry isn't perceived as something that can change the structure of life in the ocean … Most people picture fishermen going out in small boats to brave the elements."

In reality, giant commercial trawlers are responsible for 40 to 60 percent of the world's catch. The scale and might of these trawlers compared to the fish is "like hunting rabbits with tanks," said Pauly.

"Fisheries' problems are relatively cheap to fix," said Pauly. But if we keep stalling, he warned: "It's going to be a problem that's not fixable."

Managing Plastic Pollution

Another relatively manageable problem is chemical pollution from plastics, said Pitcher, which aggravates the effects of other toxic pollutants.

Over time, pieces of plastic get ground down to microscopic particles and ingested by filter-feeding organisms such as clams, krill and some fish and sharks. Pitcher said this in itself isn't catastrophic, but endocrine disruptors like flame retardants stick to plastic and get eaten by the organisms. With time, those toxins make their way up the food chain.

We have a fair track record of restricting certain marine pollutants, said Pitcher.

One success story over the past 20 years is the reduction of anti-fouling paint layered on the bottom of ships to prevent barnacle growth. Once scientists realized the paint was releasing large amounts of lead into the water, many countries passed legislation to limit its use.

Even if marine plastic pollution is drastically reduced, it's impossible to reverse the ocean's deteriorating waters without curbing overfishing and the emissions that cause climate change, Sheppard said. "It's the combination which does so much harm."

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jun 11

Small Croc at SBWR
from Life's Indulgences

Prismatomeris glabra: A shrub called Haji Samat
from Flying Fish Friends

An Interview with Mr Tan Ming Kai – discoverer of a new species of katydid in Singapore from Raffles Museum News

Monday Morgue and The Green Corridor
from Monday Morgue and Domestic Cat and Domestic Dog

Read more!

Indonesia encourages ASEAN members to ratify Nagoya Protocol on Biodiversity

Antara 28 Jun 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia as the current chair of ASEAN is encouraging other Southeast Asian nations to ratify the Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization.

"As the current chair of ASEAN, we always encourage ASEAN member states to ratify the Nagoya Protocol soon," Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta told a discussion at the Press Council building here Tuesday.

Indonesia is among the 24 countries signing the protocol on May 11, 2011. The protocol will be put into force only if it has been ratified by 50 countries.

Thank God, a number of developed countries such as Spain and Japan had also signed the protocol, he said.

Arief Yuwono, deputy for environmental destruction and climate change control to the environment minister said the ministry was making approaches to the House of Representatives (DPR) and other relevant parties to enact a law ratifying the protocol.

He said the protocol gave a number of benefits to Indonesia among others it confirmed the country`s sovereignty to its biodiversity sources and protect its genetic sources and traditional knowledge.

The Nagoya protocol was adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its tenth meeting on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan.

Indonesia is the world`s second largest mega biodiversity after Brazil.

ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Reducing Food Waste: Making the Most of Our Abundance

Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planetteam emphasizes reducing food waste as a means to meet the needs of a growing human population, alleviate hunger, and conserve resources.
Worldwatch Institute 28 Jun 11;

According to staggering new statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), roughly one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to some 1.3 billion tons per year. In the developing world, over 40 percent of food losses occur after harvest—while being stored or transported, and during processing and packing. In industrialized countries, more than 40 percent of losses occur as a result of retailers and consumers discarding unwanted but often perfectly edible food.

At a time when the land, water, and energy resources necessary to feed a global population of 6.9 billion are increasingly limited—and when at least 1 billion people remain chronically hungry—food losses mean a waste of those resources and a failure of our food system to meet the needs of the poor. The Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project (, a two-year evaluation of environmentally sustainable agricultural innovations to alleviate hunger, is highlighting ways to make the most of the food that is produced and to make more food available to those who need it most.

According to Tristram Stuart, a contributing author of Worldwatch’s State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet report, some 150 million tons of grains are lost annually in low-income countries, six times the amount needed to meet the needs of all the hungry people in the developing world. Meanwhile, industrialized countries waste some 222 million tons of perfectly good food annually, a quantity nearly equivalent to the 230 million tons that sub-Saharan Africa produces in a year. Unlike farmers in many developing countries, however, agribusinesses in industrial countries have numerous tools at their disposal to prevent food from spoiling—including pasteurization and preservation facilities, drying equipment, climate-controlled storage units, transport infrastructure, and chemicals designed to expand shelf-life.

“All this may ironically have contributed to the cornucopian abundance that has fostered a culture in which staggering levels of ‘deliberate’ food waste are now accepted or even institutionalized,” writes Stuart in his chapter, “Post-Harvest Losses: A Neglected Field.” “Throwing away cosmetically ‘imperfect’ produce on farms, discarding edible fish at sea, over-ordering stock for supermarkets, and purchasing or cooking too much food in the home, are all examples of profligate negligence toward food.”

Nourishing the Planet researchers traveled to 25 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, meeting with 350 farmers’ groups, NGOs, government agencies, and scientists. “This amount of loss is shocking considering that many experts estimate that the world will need to double food production in the next half-century as people eat more meat and generally eat better,” says Danielle Nierenberg, Nourishing the Planet project director. “It would make good sense to invest in making better use of what is already produced.”

"Humanity is approaching -- and in some places exceeding -- the limits of potential farmland and water supplies that can be used for farming," notes Worldwatch Institute Executive Director Robert Engelman. "We're already facing food price spikes and the early impacts of human-caused climate change on food production. We can't afford to overlook simple, low-cost fixes to reduce food waste."

Nourishing the Planet offers the following three low-cost approaches that can go a long way toward making the most of the abundance that our food system already produces. Innovations in both the developing and industrialized worlds include:

Getting surpluses to those who need it. As mountains of food are thrown out every day in the cities of rich countries, some of the poorest citizens still struggle to figure out their next meal. Feeding America coordinates a nationwide network of food banks that receive donations from grocery chains. Florida’s Harry Chapin Food Bank, one of Feeding America’s partners, distributed 5.2 million kilograms of food in 2010. In New York City, City Harvest collects some 12.7 million kilograms of excess food each year from restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms and delivers it to nearly 600 New York City food programs. Similarly, London Street FoodBank utilizes volunteers to collect unused food items from London businesses and get them to food banks around the city.

Raising consumer awareness and reducing waste to landfills. Those who can easily afford to buy food—and throw it away—rarely consider how much they discard or find alternatives to sending unwanted food to the landfill. In 2010, however, San Francisco became the first city to pass legislation requiring all households to separate both recycling and compost from garbage. By asking residents to separate their food waste, a new era of awareness is being fostered by the initiative. Nutrient-rich compost created by the municipal program is made available to area organic farmers and wine producers, helping to reduce resource consumption in agriculture. The Love Food Hate Waste website—an awareness campaign of the U.K.-based organization Wrap—provides online recipes for using leftovers as well as tips and advice for reducing personal food waste.

Improving storage and processing for small-scale farmers in developing countries.In the absence of expensive, Western-style grain stores and processing facilities, smallholders can undertake a variety of measures to prevent damage to their harvests. In Pakistan, the United Nations helped 9 percent of farmers cut their storage losses up to 70 percent by simply replacing jute bags and mud constructions with metal grain storage containers. And Purdue University is helping communities in rural Niger maintain year-round cow pea supplies by making low-cost, hermetically sealed plastic bags available through the Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS) program. Another innovative project uses solar energy to dry mangoes after harvest; each year, more than 100,000 tons of the fruit go bad before reaching the market in western Africa.

State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planetis accompanied by informational materials including briefing documents, summaries, an innovations database, videos, and podcasts, all available at The project's findings are being disseminated to a wide range of agricultural stakeholders, including government ministries, agricultural policymakers, and farmer and community networks, as well as the increasingly influential nongovernmental environmental and development communities.

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Greenland ice melts most in half-century: US

Slim Allagui AFP Yahoo News 29 Jun 11;

Greenland's ice sheet melted the most it has in over a half century last year, US government scientists said Tuesday in one of a series of "unmistakable" signs of climate change.

"The world continues to warm," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a briefing paper for reporters.

"Multiple indicators, same bottom-line conclusion: consistent and unmistakable signal from the top of the atmosphere to the bottom of the oceans."

An annual climate survey, which includes work by scientists from 45 countries, said that ice sheet in Greenland melted at its highest rate since at least 1958, when similar data first became available.

Arctic sea ice shrank to its third smallest area on record, while the world's alpine glaciers shrank for the 20th straight year, the study said.

In line with previous studies, the survey said that 2010 was also one of the hottest years on record.

Last year was either tied for the hottest or the second hottest on record, depending on methodology. But all methodologies used showed the temperature to be at least 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 Celsius) above the average recorded in the three decades through 1990.

The survey noted that 2010 was exceptional for its extreme events, including a deadly heat wave in Russia, floods in Pakistan that displaced more than 20 million people and record snowfall in several US cities.

A series of studies have voiced alarm at the rapid pace of melting in the Arctic Ocean, which could lead to a rise in sea levels that threatens low-lying coastal areas and islands.

The Oslo-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program said in May that warming in the Arctic was on track to lift sea levels by up to 5.3 feet (1.6 meters) by 2100, a far steeper jump than predicted a few years ago.

Many environmentalists have been disappointed at the pace of diplomacy to fight climate change, with few expecting a major agreement at the next major UN-led talks opening in South Africa in late November.

Former US vice president Al Gore recently accused President Barack Obama of failing to show leadership on climate change, saying that poor coverage of the media had given credibility to skeptics of global warming.

Global warming continues as greenhouse gas grows
Randolph E. Schmid AP Yahoo News 29 Jun 11;

WASHINGTON (AP) — The world's climate is not only continuing to warm, it is also adding heat-trapping greenhouse gases even faster than in the past, researchers said Tuesday.

Indeed, the global temperature has been warmer than the 20th century average every month for more than 25 years, they said at a teleconference.

"The indicators show unequivocally that the world continues to warm," Thomas R. Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, said in releasing the annual State of the Climate report for 2010.

"There is a clear and unmistakable signal from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans," added Peter Thorne of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, North Carolina State University.

Carbon dioxide increased by 2.60 parts per million in the atmosphere in 2010, which is more than the average annual increase seen from 1980-2010, Karl added. Carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas accumulating in the air that atmospheric scientists blame for warming the climate.

The warmer conditions are consistent with events such as heat waves and extreme rainfall, Karl said at a teleconference. However, it is more difficult to make a direct connection with things like tornado outbreaks, he said.

"Any single weather event is driven by a number of factors, from local conditions to global climate patterns and trends. Climate change is one of these," he said. "It is very likely that large-scale changes in climate, such as increased moisture in the atmosphere and warming temperatures, have influenced — and will continue to influence — many different types of extreme events, such as heavy rainfall, flooding, heat waves and droughts.

The report, being published by the American Meteorological Society, lists 2010 as tied with 2005 for the warmest year on record, according to studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA. A separate analysis, done in Britain, lists 2010 as second warmest.

Deke Arndt, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at NCDC, noted that every month since early 1985 has been warmer than the 20th century average for the month.

Even more willing to attribute extreme weather events to climate change were speakers at a second briefing organized by the Pew Center on Climate Change.

"Scientists have concluded just recently that the link between climate change and extreme weather is not so much theoretical anymore as it is observational," Fred Guterl , executive editor of Scientific American magazine, said at that teleconference.

"Climate change is a risk factor for extreme weather just as eating salty foods is a risk factor for heart disease," said Jay Gulledge, director of the Science & Impacts Program at the Pew Center. "That doesn't mean we can predict the next flood in Iowa or drought in Georgia ... but it means they are more likely."

Meanwhile, a separate report from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado said the Earth is getting thicker around the middle due to ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. "If you imagine the Earth is like a soccer ball and you push down on the North Pole, it would bulge out at its 'equator,'" said CIRES fellow Steve Nerem, co-author of the study.

At the NOAA briefing, Karl added that the Greenland ice sheet lost more mass last year than any year in the last decade. Melting of the land-based ice sheets in places like Greenland, Antarctica and other regions has raised concerns about rising sea levels worldwide.

"The arctic is changing faster that most of the rest of the world," added Walt Meier, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado. "This has long been expected." In addition, he said, the September Arctic sea ice extent was the third smallest in 30 years, older, thicker sea ice is disappearing, there is a shorter duration of snow cover, and the permafrost is melting.

Thorne added that the conclusion that the earth is warming does not rest on a single type of data.

The 2010 report adds information on lake surfaces and permafrost temperatures for the first time, bringing the total number of climate indicators considered to 41. The report involved 368 researchers from 45 countries.

Other findings of the report:

—Alpine glaciers shrank for the 20th consecutive year.

—Even with a moderate-to-strong La Nina during the latter half of the year, which is associated with cooler equatorial waters in the tropical Pacific, the 2010 average global sea surface temperature was third warmest on record and sea level continued to rise.

—Oceans were saltier than average in areas of high evaporation and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, suggesting that the water cycle is intensifying.

—A strong warm El Nino climate pattern at the beginning of 2010 transitioned to a cool La Nina by July, contributing to some unusual weather patterns around the world and impacting global regions in different ways.

—Tropical cyclone activity was below normal in nearly all basins around the globe, especially in much of the Pacific Ocean. The Atlantic basin was the exception, with near-record high North Atlantic basin hurricane activity.

—Heavy rains led to a record wet spring (September to November) in Australia, ending a decade-long drought.

—The Arctic Oscillation affected large parts of the Northern Hemisphere causing frigid arctic air to plunge southward and warm air to surge northward. Canada had its warmest year on record while Britain had its coldest winter at the beginning of the year and coldest December at the end of the year.

—An atmospheric pattern related to the strength and persistence of the storm track circling the Antarctic led to an all-time maximum in 2010 of average sea ice volume in the Antarctic.

National Climatic Data Center:
State of the Climatet:

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jun 11

27 Jul (Wed): Discussion on "The Seacil Artificial Reef" hosted by the Nature Society (Singapore) from wild shores of singapore

29 Jun (Wed): "Singapore's sea anemone diversity" by Dr Daphne Fautin from wild shores of singapore

Hot on a Snail Trail
from Pulau Hantu and Blog Log: 26 June, 2011

12 and 13 Jul (Tue and Wed): FREE screening of “The Cove”
from wild shores of singapore

Job Opportunity: Research Assistant (1 Position)
from Raffles Museum News

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Unique carnivores of Borneo

Muguntan Vanar The Star 27 Jun 11;

KOTA KINABALU: Twenty-four carnivore species are unique to the Borneo island, international conservation experts gathered here confirmed.

They have also got a better understanding of the carnivores found in the world's third biggest island and have taken moves to classify some of these carnivores as “critically endangered” species.

This came about at the three-day brainstorming session of the first Borneo Carnivore Symposium that ended here on Saturday.

Almost 200 delegates from 15 countries presented and discussed the diverse range of carnivore species on the island, which included cats such as the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), civets such as the Malay civet (Viverra tangalunga), known locally as tangalunga, Sunda stink badger (Mydaus javanensis), also referred to as the Malay badger or teledu, and the playful otters.

The findings at the symposium will determine priorities for Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, the countries sharing Borneo island, to take steps to preserve the carnivores, many of which are rare and some thought to be extinct only until a few years ago.

“Coming together of scientists, conservationists and government agencies is the first step towards efforts to ensure the survival of all our carnivores,” said Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu.

“One of our goals was to establish a knowledge base for the priority areas and threats faced by these unique carnivore species,” said Dr Laurentius, the organising chairman of the symposium.

He said like other species of wildlife, the carnivores need adequate and different types of forests to support the wildlife and plant life diversity.

“If developed for other uses, such as cultivation of oil palm, it has to be with proper landscape planning to ensure the species' survival,” Dr Laurentius added.

According to Dr William Duckworth, director of the Small Carnivore Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC), the symposium will be used to upgrade some of the carnivores on the IUCN/SSC red list of threatened species.

He added that one of the species to be upgraded is the Borneo ferret badger (Melogale everetti) that is found in Sabah's Crocker Range highlands.

“We really do not know much about the Borneo ferret badger, even about its habitat.

“All confirmed records only come from the high elevation areas of Sabah's Crocker Range and the Kinabalu National Parks,” he said.

Other carnivore species, including the elusive Borneo bay cat (Catopumabadia) were recorded in Kuching and the Baram region of Sarawak, while the recently rediscovered hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) and otter civet (Cynogale bennettii) would also be listed.

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The Istana is not just a green park

Lim Jing Jing Today Online 28 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - It was once a nutmeg plantation. Today, it is the Istana, the official residence of the President of Singapore.

At 43 hectares, about the size of 53 football fields, it is home to more than 10,000 trees, which in turn house a variety of wildlife.

The trees were here more than a century ago, long before any of the dense concrete jungle of shopping malls were built along Singapore's Orchard Road.

The yellow flame trees lining the path leading to the Istana quietly greeted countless state visitors which included foreign dignitaries, statesmen and royalties.

Today, other than functioning as the green lungs of urban Singapore, the trees of Istana have become a science lab for the National Parks Board's (NParks) study of wildlife in Singapore.

"One good reason why we do it in the Istana is because it's serene and well-protected, so we can do our work quietly," NParks chief executive officer Poon Hong Yuen said.

"Key figures, like Mr Lee Kuan Yew, have (also) been very encouraging of NParks doing new things in the Istana because these are the things he also enjoys very much."

As a result, NParks introduced a pair of oriental pied hornbills in 2008 to the gardens to understand their nesting and feeding habits. Today, the Istana gardens is home to eight of these birds.

The NParks says there are about 150 varieties of trees in the gardens of Istana.

Over 70 of them are featured in the new book, Trees of the Istana, which was launched yesterday by President S R Nathan.

The book took three years to write and was first mooted by President Nathan.

The release of the book this year coincides with the United Nations' International Year of Forests.

Leaf through book on Istana's trees
New tome showcases 70 tree species found at President's residence
Royston Sim Straits Times 28 Jun 11;

THE oldest tree on the Istana grounds is a 150-year-old tembusu standing near the Sri Temasek bungalow, where Cabinet ministers have their meetings. And the one with the widest girth is a kapok tree near the main gate, which measures 7m around its trunk.

These are two of the 70 tree species detailed in a book called Trees Of The Istana, launched yesterday by the National Parks Board (NParks).

Besides showcasing the greenery and wildlife at the official residence of the President of Singapore, the hardcover book also covers the planting and landscaping activities of the 41ha grounds from past to present.

The idea for the book came from President S R Nathan in 2008; it is the third in a series of books on the Istana, after Gardens Of The Istana and Birds Seen At The Istana.

NParks' director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah, who co-authored the book, said: 'There are many beautiful and majestic trees here, and not many Singaporeans know about them. We hope they can find out more through this book.'

The other authors are Istana curator Koh Soon Kiong, Dr Duncan Sutherland and Ms Aileen T. Lau, founder of Suntree Media, which publishes the book.

The Istana grounds, formerly a failing nutmeg plantation owned by merchant Charles R. Prinsep until it was acquired in 1867, are tended to by 13 full-time staff, aided by contractors.

In a nod to history, NParks staff have planted eight nutmeg trees on the grounds; one has produced fruit with twin seeds instead of a single seed.

NParks chief executive Poon Hong Yuen said the agency uses the Istana as a 'laboratory', a place to plant new trees, introduce wildlife and see whether they can adapt to the environment.

Trees Of The Istana costs $48 and hits major bookstores and the Singapore Botanic Gardens' Garden Shop today; the Istana will also stock the book on open-house days.


13 full-time National Parks Board staff tending to the Istana grounds

20 species of fruit trees, including banana, chiku, jackfruit and durian

150 species of trees in all in the Istana grounds

400 fruit trees

10,000 trees in total

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Singapore: $400m for research to make life in city better

Cheryl Ong Straits Times 28 Jun 11;

SCIENTISTS or commercial companies with good ideas on efficient energy use, making buildings more eco-friendly, or safeguarding Singapore's food supply can now tap into a fund for research into these areas.

A $400 million kitty has been set aside for this.

Announcing this yesterday, Minister of State for National Development, Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin, said: 'Which other city-states would feel the pressures of urbanisation more keenly than us? I think Singapore has to blaze this trail to find our own innovative solutions.'

He was speaking at the inaugural Urban Sustainability R&D Congress at the Biopolis.

Three-quarters of the fund - $300 million - will be for research into energy-related issues.

This 'Energy Resilience for Sustainable Growth' fund, to come from the $1 billion earmarked by the National Research Foundation (NRF) last year, will pay for studies into affordable alternatives to fossil fuels or those that find ways to use fuels more efficiently.

Of the remaining $100 million, half will come from the NRF for studies into protecting Singapore's food supply and raising the nation's food output. Applications for this have been received and are being evaluated, said a spokesman.

The remaining $50 million will come from the Ministry of National Development (MND) Research Fund for the Built Environment.

This money will pay for research into areas such as constructing buildings that use less electricity, improving transport systems, and protecting the environment.

A spokesman for MND said it is drafting the call for proposals.

At the congress yesterday, BG Tan also handed out the inaugural Minister for National Development's R&D Awards to three statutory boards that showed creativity in incorporating urban sustainability in their projects.

The Housing Board's Treelodge @ Punggol and the Building & Construction Authority's Zero Energy Building were given Distinguished Awards, while the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority's Vertical Farming project in Sembawang won a merit prize.

Research companies and institutes hailed the availability of these funds for research.

Dr Raj Thampuran, the executive director of the Science & Engineering Research Council of A*Star, said: 'Research allows us to be fast adopters, quick followers, innovators and enables to us gain the knowledge to shape solutions to our needs.'

Hitachi Asia's Research and Development Centre general manager Nobutoshi Sagawa said the money will stimulate positive growth in the sector, while Ms Lily Toh, managing director of local green-tech firm Winrigo, said the money is a godsend for small outfits like hers.

'It's quite difficult to get funding for research because many grants look at a company's turnover, favouring big companies over small- and medium-sized ones like ours, so I support this new funding as it will help SMEs and benefit the community and consumers,' she said.

The congress, which brought together people from the public sector, industry and researchers to discuss issues facing cities like Singapore, ends today.

Government to commit S$400m on urban sustainability R&D
Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 27 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: The government will commit S$400 million to spearhead research and development (R&D) in urban sustainability.

This was announced at the first ever Urban Sustainability Research and Development Congress on Monday morning.

The congress will see some 800 participants from government agencies, research institutes and the private sector discuss R&D responses to urban sustainability challenges.

The congress will bring together 12 government agencies, which will discuss R&D priorities in five key areas including Sustainable Urban Living, and Urban Ecology and Food.

Opening the congress, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower, Tan Chuan-Jin, said one of the key challenges facing Singapore is creating sustainable urban living given our space constraints.

"Every year, we have many young Singaporeans coming out into the workhouse, setting up families and we need to house them. And we need to find a creative way to organize ourselves from an infrastructural perspective. But I think it's not just the building space, it's really about the living space - how do you integrate everything together."

Participants will also collaborate on projects in "living labs" such as Punggol Eco-Town, CleanTech Park, Jurong Lake District and Marina Bay.

Each living lab will present different opportunities. Punggol is a residential test-bed, Clean Tech Park is an industrial testbed while Marina Bay and Jurong Lake District will present opportunities for test-bedding in a mixed use setting.

Brig-Gen (NS) Tan added that S$300 million will go towards driving Energy Resilience for Sustainable Growth.

The aim is to develop cost-competitive energy solutions for deployment within 20 years so that Singapore can improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and increase its energy options.

To address urban sustainability challenges, the Ministry of National Development (MND) will do a S$50 million top up to its research fund, while the National Research Foundation (NRF) will earmark S$50 million to develop food supply resilience and sustainability.

The NRF has set aside this sum under its Competitive Research Programme Call on "Meeting Future Food Demands for Singapore." Proposals are currently under evaluation. This will complement MND's S$10 million Food Fund to enhance food supply resilience.

Brig-Gen (NS) Tan also presented the Minister for National Development R&D awards to recognise and support technological innovations.

The Housing and Development Board's Treelodge@Punggol and BCA's Zero Energy Building received the Distinguished Award while the Vertical Farming prject by the Agri-Food and Vetrinary Authority won the Merit Award.

- CNA/fa
S$400m boost for urban sustainability
Vimita Mohandas Today Online 28 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - In the search for urban sustainability here, energy resilience looks set to be the key focus.

Of the S$400 million the Government has committed to spearhead research and development for a sustainable Singapore, three-quarters of the amount will go towards energy solutions that can be deployed within 20 years.

The announcement yesterday at the inaugural Urban Sustainability R&D Congress highlighted five priority areas of sustainable urban living, urban mobility, green building, urban ecology and food.

Already, projects could soon be underway to meet Singapore's future food demands, with proposals now under evaluation by the National Research Foundation under a S$50-million programme set aside for this.

Another S$50 million will come from the National Development Ministry, which is doubling its research fund to cover other aspects of urban sustainability for the nearer term.

But long-term cost competitive energy solutions that can improve efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and increase energy options will get the most resources.

And yesterday's R&D congress kicks off a new platform for government, research institutes and the private sector to discuss which R&D responses can best overcome Singapore's urban sustainability challenges.

Some 800 participants, including from 12 government agencies, participated yesterday.

Opening the congress, Minister of State (National Development) Tan Chuan-Jin said space constraint was another key challenge.

"Every year, we have many young Singaporeans going into the workforce, setting up families. We need to house them and we need to find a creative way to organise ourselves from an infrastructural perspective," he told reporters.

"But it's not just the building space, it's really about the living space - how do you integrate everything together."

The set-up of the congress will allow for collaboration on some specific projects, such as Punggol Eco-Town, CleanTech Park, Jurong Lake District and Marina Bay.

These "living labs" present different opportunities: Punggol is a residential test-bed, CleanTech Park is an industrial test-bed, while Marina Bay and Jurong Lake District are mixed-use settings.

And as these sites undergo development, the Government wants companies and researchers to focus on applying cutting-edge technologies that can come onstream in the near term.

"The next chapter of the Singapore Story must be about us confronting these challenges with the same human ingenuity as we did before," said Brigadier-General (NS) Tan.

"Because there are few city states in the world that will feel the pressures of urbanisation more keenly than us, Singapore cannot rely on ready solutions from others and must lead the way to find innovative solutions."

To recognise and support such efforts, he presented the Minister for National Development R&D awards yesterday for three technological innovations.

The Housing and Development Board's Treelodge@Punggol and the Building and Construction Authority's Zero Energy Building received the Distinguished Award, while the Vertical Farming project by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority won the Merit Award.

Looking to live smaller, closer
Esther Ng Today Online 28 Jun 11;

Big, sprawling cities such as Tokyo and Mexico City will be a thing of the past, some experts said yesterday at the inaugural Urban Sustainability R&D Congress here.

Living smaller and closer are the keys to sustainability, they said, because shrinking the distance between people and their destinations would reduce energy use, carbon emission and waste.

But what population density before a city becomes unliveable? For instance, Singapore's density is now 95 people per hectare, while Hong Kong's is 400.

"It's possible to increase that density but that's a political question," said Curtin University of Technology's Professor of Sustainability Peter Newman.

"It boils down to whether people want that density to increase or not."

While higher population density is usually seen as a threat, he said this need not always be so: "Density enables us to multiply sustainability and take advantage of better waste management, better transport links and local services."

Santa Fe Institute's Distinguished Professor Geoffrey West added that spreading out a city makes its population more "car-attendant", while spending more than two hours commuting is "intolerable".

He referred to the "Marchetti Wall" - the growing realisation that people do not like to spend more than one hour each day travelling to work.

"That's why we're not going to see any more Tokyos or Mexico City," said Prof Newman.

While Singapore has made progress in urban sustainability, the experts felt that the Republic needs to think beyond its shores.

"The urban transformation, the policies are just so Singapore-centric - there ought to be five to 10 per cent value-added to it." said Prof West.

"Singapore needs to take a leadership in big thinking, in influencing business, in culture and science and with that, it can be a truly great city like Venice, London or New York." ESTHER NG

$400m boost for R&D in urban sustainability
Awards were also given out to three MND statutory boards
Mindy Tan Business Times 28 Jun 11;

THE government will commit $400 million to spearhead research and development in urban sustainability, said the Ministry of National Development (MND) at yesterday's inaugural Urban Sustainability Research and Development Congress.

Of this, $300 million will be set aside for the first National Innovation Challenge, on building 'Energy Resilience for Sustainable Growth'.

The aim is to drive energy resilience and specifically develop cost-competitive energy solutions for deployment within 20 years, thus allowing Singapore to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and increase energy options.

In addition, MND will be topping up the MND Research Fund with an additional $50 million, bringing their total commitment to- date to $100 million.

The fund will support research that covers other aspects of urban sustainability beyond energy.

Finally, the National Research Foundation will set aside $50 million under its Competitive Research Programme Call on 'Meeting Future Food Demands for Singapore'.

Proposals are currently under evaluation, and are expected to contribute to the sustainability of Singapore's future food supply. This will complement MND's current $10 million Food Fund to enhance food supply resilience.

Guest of Honour, Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower, said: 'Like many other cities in the world, we will need to grapple with fresh challenges, from climate change, competition for resources, and opportunities from mega cities, changing demographics, and growing demands on urban services . . . I think Singapore has to blaze this trail to find our own innovative solutions.'

Mr Tan also presented the Minister for National Development's R&D Awards to three MND statutory boards to recognise and support technological innovations.

The Building and Construction Authority's Zero Energy Building (ZEB) and the Housing & Development Board's Treelodge@ Punggol were the Distinguished Award winners.

The Vertical Farming project by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority won the Merit Award.

ZEB, a test-bed for clean energy technologies, is the first building in South-east Asia to be fully retrofitted with green building technologies. It achieved zero net consumption in its first year.

The biennial Urban Sustainability R&D Congress brings together government agencies, research institutes, and private sector companies to discuss R&D in national urban sustainability issues and collaborate on projects in 'living labs', such as Punggol Eco-town, CleanTech Park, Jurong Lake District, and Marina Bay. The two-day event, which hosted 800 participants, ends today.

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Malaysia: Can't count on bounty of the sea

New Straits Times 28 Jun 11;

THE national love for fish is demonstrated daily by the kind of crowds we produce at wet markets and in the evenings, at the overflowing seafood outlets.

It is time, however, to consider some hard facts: 1.43 million tonnes of fish catches last year, not including squids, prawns and oysters, are not enough to feed a population of 28.5 million.

Among the first few to raise the alarm are the World Wide Fund for Nature and Malaysian Nature Society. In an exercise completed in May last year, they listed 17 species on the watch-out list, those facing depletion, including our beloved grouper (kerapu) and pomfret (bawal).

The New Straits Times did a survey of retail outlets to see if Malaysians are heeding such pleas for restraint.

No luck there.

At the Pasir Penambang market in Kuala Selangor -- where Kuala Lumpur buyers snap up fresh seafood -- buyers and sellers shared their love for grouper and pomfret. But the supply of senangin, white pomfret, and mackerel (tenggiri) there has been on the low side.

Understandably, researchers, sellers, enforcement people and fishing boat owners are alarmed by dwindling catches.

Forty years ago, Kuala Selangor traditional fisherman Chan Chong Ying, 61, used to catch 20kg of fish worth RM3,000 from a day out at sea.

"It is difficult to land 2kg of fish now," said Chan, who with some exaggeration, announced his retirement. "My boat is now at the jetty -- permanently."

The owner of Joo Lian Fisheries, Lim Ah Lam, 69, recalls the time his business was at its peak when he had boxes stacked up until the entrance.

"These days, we are down to two boxes in a day."

On the ground, coastal fishermen are pointing fingers at deep-sea fishermen, including foreign crews, monopolising the area of catch until the exclusive economic zone -- 200 nautical miles from the shore.

Daud Husin, 47, a coastal fisherman, said deep-sea vessels, equipped with trawl nets, have destroyed their fishing gear and damaged the seabed.

The real "villains" in the piece are the Vietnamese vessels and crew.

These are boats owned by local operators who retain the original Vietnamese crews. The authorities recently probed their activities.

Kota Kinabalu Fishermen's Association general manager, Hassim Kassim, said these Vietnamese vessels did not unload and declare their catches at the jetties.

There have also been recent reports of fishing groups going on strike in Kuantan, Hutan Melintang and the coastal parts of Sarawak.

These were sparked by the reduction of their super diesel subsidies.

Previously, the price of super diesel was set at RM1.25 per litre for vessels from all zones but it has since risen to RM1.80.

The Department of Fisheries said deep-sea vessels were making a pile from selling subsidised diesel to "third parties".

The subsequent crackdown on them brought about strikes by fishermen, resulting in a pattern of reduced catches.

Away from the din at the jetties, industry scientists and researchers are equally troubled.

Associate Professor Dr Kusairi Mohd Noh, senior fellow at Institute of Agricultural and Food Policy Studies at Universiti Putra Malaysia, is arguing for a more efficient stock-management policy.

"In a blink, fishing spots can be wiped out."

Overfishing, illegal trade activities, trawling, rising costs and habitat disruption are blamed for the depletion in fish stock.

To avert a crisis, the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry has issued more permits to import fish from Thailand.

Thailand is the second biggest exporter of fish to Malaysia after China, the source of frozen fillets, mackerel, sardines, shrimps, prawns, cuttlefish and squids.

Imports are one alternative to depletion, but what about the future?

Director-general of fisheries Datuk Ahamad Sabki Mahmood said there was a need to invest in conservation, which must be in proportion with the public consumption and harvest rate.

With this, the Department of Fisheries is seeking RM25 million to deploy 50 artificial reefs.

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A case for shark conservation through ecotourism

Conservation dollars and sense
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science EurekAlert 27 Jun 11;

MIAMI – Shark populations over the last 50 years have decreased dramatically. From habitat degradation to overfishing and finning, human activities have affected their populations and made certain species all but disappear.

A new article in Current Issues in Tourism by Austin J. Gallagher and Dr. Neil Hammerschlag of the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami study the impact of these apex predators on coastal economies and the importance of including conservation efforts in long term management plans.

The team collected data from a total of 376 shark ecotour operations across 83 locations and 8 geographic regions. Oceania, The Greater Caribbean and North America ranked at the top for highest proportion of different locations offering shark tour services, and the Bahamas alone contained over 70% of all shark ecotourism in the Greater Caribbean and generated over $78 million in revenue in 2007. The Maldives saw similar numbers, and in 2010 banned shark fishing due to shark-based ecotourism contributing and estimated >30% towards their GDP.

"We know that for many countries, sharks are an important piece of the economy -- in this study we wanted to examine their value as a recreational resource in a new and refreshing way by taking a global perspective," said Gallagher.

"It makes total economic sense for us to protect these resources, whether you are in charge of a coral atoll somewhere in Indonesia or working off the coast of New England—if the sharks can remain, the divers will follow and livelihoods can flourish."

According to the study, a single reef shark could be valued at $73 a day alive, as opposed to the one-time value of a set of shark fins used for shark fin soup at $50. Over the course of that same shark's life, it could be worth more than $200,000 using a conservative 15-year life cycle. The study also documented trends by species, and found that reef sharks and whale sharks are among the most well-represented in the ecotourism industry.

"Our study clearly shows that, economically speaking, sharks are worth more alive than dead; however, sharks are also ecologically important, helping maintain the balance and health of our oceans," says Hammerschlag.

Sharks reproduce very slowly, so even modest amounts of fishing can negatively impact local populations. But with appropriate conservation policies, sharks can begin their recovery, a road that could be both enjoyable and profitable through ecotourism.

"After the 1975 release of the movie JAWS, the general public felt that 'the only good shark was a dead shark,' however in the thirty years that have followed, this mentality has changed. A growing number of people are turning their fear into fascination and want to continue to see sharks in the wild," said Hammerschlag.

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Gene machines may help save endangered Tasmanian devil

Julie Steenhuysen Reuters Yahoo News 28 Jun 11;

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Scientists are using high-tech gene sequencing machines in a desperate attempt to save the Tasmanian devil from an infectious cancer called devil facial tumor disease that is threatening to wipe out the species.

"The disease is like nothing we know in humans or in virtually any other animal. It acts like a virus but it actually is spread by a whole cancerous cell that arose in one individual several decades ago," Penn State University's Stephan Schuster, who is working on the project, said in a statement.

The cancer, first observed just 15 years ago, is quickly spreading among populations of the already endangered Tasmanian devil, the world's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial that lives on the Australian island state of Tasmania.

Devil facial tumor disease disfigures the victim and causes death from starvation or suffocation.

"It has 90 to 100 percent lethality in a few months. In many regions of Tasmania, it is completely lethal," said Schuster, who worked on the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Conservation experts have been isolating and breeding a population of healthy animals and plan to release them in the wild once the cancer runs its course.

To help select the best animals for the effort, a team led by Schuster and Webb Miller of Penn State and Vanessa Hayes of the Venter Institute in San Diego sequenced two Tasmanian devils, Cedric and Spirit, from the extreme northwest and southeast regions of Tasmania, respectively, to determine the genetic diversity of the animals.


Then they compared the range of genetic diversity to that of humans, the most studied species on the planet.

"In the case of the Tasmanian devil, those two only have 20 percent of the genetic diversity that living humans have," Schuster said in a telephone interview.

The study is one of the first to use whole genome sequencing as a tool to conserve an endangered population, Schuster said.

Whole genome sequencing technology allows researchers to read all the little bits of code -- the A, C, T, G sequences -- that are the building blocks of DNA.

It took 10 years and $3 billion for the international Human Genome Project to get the first draft of the human genome a decade ago.

The scans now cost $10,000 to $20,000 each, but companies such as Illumina, Life Technologies Corp, Pacific Biosciences and Roche Holding are working hard to bring the cost down even more.

Schuster's scan of the two Tasmanian devils showed the population already had low genetic diversity, which likely made them vulnerable to the infectious cancer, which is spread by skin-to-skin contact.

"Transmission is through biting, fighting and mating," he said, and the disease has the potential of "burning through the entire population within a decade."

Using the genetic code from the two animals, the team devised a test that could look for specific genetic differences within the species to find the most genetically diverse animals for the breeding program.

"It costs $150 per animal, whereas the sequence of the complete genome is in the $10,000 range," Schuster said.

The team used a new gene sequencing platform from Roche Holding AG, which helped pay for the research.

Schuster said the findings show that whole genome sequencing can be a useful tool in conservation. He said future studies are planned in cattle and other domestic animals.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Climate change hots up in 2010, the year of extreme weather

Last year was the joint-warmest on record and also the wettest over land, with sea ice levels dropping and drought on the rise
John Vidal 27 Jun 11;

The year 2010 may have been the most extreme in terms of weather since the explosion of Indonesia's Mount Tambora in 1816, when much of the world experienced reduced daylight and no summer, says one of the world's most prominent meteorologists.

A combination of abnormal climatic phenomena resulted in the year being the hottest, wettest, and in many cases also the driest and coldest in recorded history, says Jeff Masters, co-founder of climate tracking website Weather Underground.

According to Masters 2011 is already on track to be exceptional, with a deepening drought in Texas – where 65% of the state is now in "exceptional drought" conditions – and one of the warmest springs experienced in 100 years taking place across much of Europe. It is also the most extreme tornado year recorded in the US, with Arctic sea ice already at its lowest ever for the time of year.

US and UK government scientists declared in January that 2010 had tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record – the 34th consecutive year with temperatures above the 20th-century average – but, says Masters, new data on other climatic phenomena suggest that extremes were widespread.

Scientists recorded the second-worst year for coral bleaching (caused by raised sea temperatures), the lowest-ever volume of Arctic Sea ice, highly unusual monsoons in China and a series of abnormal storms across the US and elsewhere. Some of the phenomena have been linked to a strong El Niño/La Niña episode, which follows unexplained temperature changes in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. Global tropical cyclone activity, however, was the lowest on record.

According to Masters, 19 countries – covering nearly 20% of the global land area – experienced their hottest recorded years in 2010. "Hot years tend to generate more wet and dry extremes than cold years. This occurs [because] there is more energy available to fuel the evaporation that drives heavy rains and snows, and to make droughts hotter and drier in places storms are avoiding," he says.

"Many of the flood disasters in 2010-11 were undoubtedly heavily influenced by the strong El Niño and La Niña events that occurred, [but] the ever-increasing amounts of heat-trapping gases humans are emitting into the air puts tremendous pressure on the climate system to shift to a new, radically different, warmer state, and the extreme weather of 2010-11 suggests that the transition is already well underway.

"I don't believe that years like 2010 and 2011 will become the 'new normal' in the coming decade. [But] a warmer planet has more energy to power stronger storms, hotter heat waves, more intense droughts, heavier flooding rains, and record glacier melt that will drive accelerating sea-level rise. I expect that by 20-30 years from now, extreme weather years like we witnessed in 2010 will become the new normal," he says.

Climate abnormalities in 1816 caused average global temperatures to decrease by about 0.4-0.7 °C, resulting in major food shortages across the northern hemisphere. It is believed that this was largely caused by a succession of major volcanic eruptions capped off by the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815 – the largest known eruption in over 1,300 years.

2010: a year of extremes

Temperatures in Earth's lower atmosphere tied with the warmest year on record. Unofficially, 19 nations set all-time extreme heat records in 2010.

The atmospheric circulation in the Arctic took on its most extreme configuration in 145 years of record-keeping. Canada had its warmest and driest winter on record, but the US its coldest winter in 25 years. A series of remarkable snowstorms pounded the eastern US with the "Snowmageddon" blizzard dumping more than two feet of snow on Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Sea ice
Arctic Sea ice volume in 2010 was the lowest on record, with 60% missing in September 2010 compared to the average from 1979-2010.

Coral reefs took their second-worst beating on record in 2010, thanks to record or near-record high summer water temperatures over much of the planet's tropical oceans.

Last year set a new record for the wettest term in Earth's recorded history over land areas. The difference in precipitation from the average in 2010 was about 13% higher than that of the previous record wettest year, 1956. The record wetness over land was counterbalanced by relatively dry conditions over the oceans.

The Amazon rainforest experienced its second 100-year drought in five years with the largest northern tributary of the Amazon river – the Rio Negro – dropping to 13 feet (four metres) below its usual dry-season level. This was its lowest level since record-keeping began in 1902.

Cyclones and hurricanes
Each year, the globe has about 92 cyclones – called hurricanes in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific, typhoons in the western Pacific and tropical cyclones in the southern hemisphere. In 2010, we had just 68.

An abnormal summer monsoon helped lead to precipitation 30-80% below normal in northern China and Mongolia, and 30-100% above average across a wide swath of central China. Western China saw summer precipitation of more than double the average.

A scorching heatwave struck Moscow in late June 2010 and steadily increased in intensity through July, as the jet-stream remained "stuck" in an unusual loop that kept cool air and rain-bearing low-pressure systems far north of the country.

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jun 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [20 - 26 Jun 2011]
from Green Business Times

Animal Life and Nature in Singapore
from Psychedelic Nature

White-throated Kingfisher attacks monitor lizard
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Dairy Farm Road
from Singapore Nature

juvenile estuarine croc @ SBWR 26June2011
from sgbeachbum

Durian Season 2011
from Ubin.sgkopi

Thousands of fish escape AVA fish farm?
from wild shores of singapore

One last dance on the railway through the green corridor
from The Long and Winding Road and The unkempt beauty of Coffee Hill and A walk on the wild side of the north

Four-lined Tree Frog
from Monday Morgue

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