Best of our wild blogs: 4 Mar 11

The Wanderer wanders back to Singapore
from Butterflies of Singapore

Pacific Reef Egret preening
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A year later, how is Tanah Merah's oil-slicked shores? Part 1 from wild shores of singapore

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Mandai forest storm damage worst in 20 years

Koh Hui Theng The New Paper 2 Mar 11;

TREES, some not yet in their prime, were thrashed, twisted and mercilessly detopped. Two weeks after an intense storm hit Mandai, the helpless victims of unpredictable wind and rain are still visible.

Nature Society president Dr Shawn Lum calls it the largest tree fall that he has seen in 20 years.

"It looks like someone used a giant weed wacker to cut through the forest," he said.

Some 10,000 trees from 150 species were damaged in the 40 ha zone, which is as big as 80 football fields. NParks' director for conservation Wong Tuan Wah said the wreckage stretched 1.2km - from Lorong Lada Hitam to Mandai Lake Road near the Singapore Zoo.

The havoc wreaked by Mother Nature was unexpected. It's supposed to be the dry season, the hotter phase of the north-east monsoon.

But on the afternoon of Feb 11, thunderstorms, heavy rain and strong winds, up to 77.8km/h, lashed the area for several hours, said a National Environment Agency (NEA) spokesman.

Dr Lum, who is also a National Institute of Education scientist, said the small, exposed clusters of forests in Mandai made the trees more susceptible to wind action.

"The area looks awful because high-velocity winds appeared to snap many of the trees in half," he added.

Hard timber or soft wood, the trees looked painful in their death throes. Trunks the size of a man's leg were twisted at right angles. Others had split into jagged shards.

Still, there is a silver lining.

The affected secondary forest supports less diverse flora and fauna than virgin forests. Younger trees, all below 100 years old, can grow back relatively quickly.

"Many saplings managed to escape the worst... within five years, faster-growing species will spring up and colonise the place, so what happened was most likely not that disastrous," Dr Lum said.

Mr Wong said reforestation will be carried out through the Plant-A-Tree programme. Members of the public can e-mail to help.

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Don't miss the fishes for the shark's fin

Straits Times Forum 4 Mar 11;

MANY marine conservation groups profess to champion the concept of sustainable seafood but actually focus primarily on the issue of shark's fin ('Shark's fin: Marine group rebuts trader's claim' by Project: FIN; March 1).

The shark is only one among millions of fish species in the seas and oceans. Granted, the number of sharks has declined but the same goes for all other commercial species.

Researchers have logged the decline in sharks, but how does that relate to the decline in the total fish population?

If the fish population declines by 90 per cent, does it not follow that the shark population will drop as well?

A report last year ('Overfishing emptying the seas in South-east Asia'; Nov 11) noted that there was 10 times less fish in the Gulf of Thailand in 1995 than in 1965 while Malaysia experienced an 80 per cent to 90 per cent plunge.

The cod fishery in the North Sea collapsed over a decade ago. The giant bluefin schools found off the east coast of the United States are history.

Apparently, only 10 per cent of the big fish are left.

While it is undeniable that the shark's fin trade is partly responsible for the decline in the shark population, the problem cannot be seen in isolation and must be part of a holistic approach that looks at overall fish populations.

Even if the shark's fin trade is stopped, will that save the sharks? If the seas continue to be pillaged of fish, they too will disappear. Yet, certain groups that promote sustainability of the sea focus mainly on shark's fin.

Could these groups be swayed emotionally by gruesome videos showing live finning? What proportion of shark's fin is derived from live finning?

Perhaps measures could be taken to have shark's fin labelled to differentiate those finned after death, in the manner of 'dolphin safe' tuna meat.

The focus on shark sustainability alone is akin to guarding a particular tree in the forest against loggers, while the rest of the forest around it is burning. One may save that tree from the loggers, but unless one douses the fire, that tree too will eventually perish.

If one is serious about sustainability, one must look at the bigger picture.

The decline in overall marine resources will soon lead to the end of sharks, even if they are not caught for their fins.

Steven Lauw

Why we should focus on protecting sharks
Straits Times Forum 11 Mar 11;

THE keen focus on shark conservation is a result of the critical role sharks play as the key species of the ocean ('Don't miss the fishes for the shark's fin' by Mr Steven Lauw; last Friday). Their decimation would create an adverse domino effect on the rest of the marine ecosystem.

Scallop fisheries thrived in America's east coast for over 100 years. However, when the area faced a decline in sharks, the population of cownose rays, which fall prey to sharks, spiked and affected the population of commercially valuable scallops, causing a decline in catches.

The fear of sharks also causes their prey to move to different parts of the ocean, which is important to the health of our oceans.

For example, tiger sharks, which feed on turtles, contribute to the health of seagrass beds, which act as nurseries for eggs and newborns, and as food and shelter for many marine animals. In the absence of tiger sharks, turtles spend all their time grazing at the same locations. The presence of tiger sharks causes the turtles to swim away, hence preventing overgrazing at the same areas and allowing other marine life to flourish.

An Oceana report stated that shark finning decimates between 26 million and 73 million sharks annually. The issue isn't just about cruelty but waste, as this practice uses only between 1 per cent and 5 per cent of the shark.

In countries where conservation measures are lacking, it is common for fishermen to maximise profitability of each fishing trip by discarding lower-value carcasses to make space for higher-value fins. Thus, shark finning isn't limited to the question of whether the animal is disposed of in a human way.

Mr Lauw is right when he suggested that we should not try and save one tree instead of the entire forest. However, what if decimating that single tree prompts the destruction of the forest?

Shark and marine conservation are not mutually exclusive. They complement each other.

Teng Siew Jiuan (Ms)

Why Asian conservationists are tackling shark finning
Straits Times Forum 12 Mar 11;

MR STEVEN Lauw reinforced the need to take a holistic approach to slow down the rapid depletion of world fish stocks, including sharks, in order to protect our marine resources ('Don't miss the fishes for the shark's fin'; last Friday).

It should not be a case of emphasising any one species over another, but safeguarding all of our marine heritage for future generations.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates that nearly 80 per cent of world fish stocks are being exploited at or beyond sustainable levels.

Overfishing is the main cause for this state, driven by our insatiable demand for seafood. In particular, the demand for shark's fin is exceptionally high in Asia and is therefore an issue raised by many conservation groups in Singapore and the region.

Amy Ho (Ms)
Managing Director
WWF Singapore

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PUB keeps an eye on waterways as construction sites mushroom

Ong Dai Lin Today Online 4 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE - With more construction sites sprouting around Singapore, national water agency PUB has been busy working with contractors in the past five years to protect the waterways.

As a result, closed-circuit television cameras, water treatment plants at construction sites and silt curtains have been introduced at these sites to prevent silt from polluting the country's waters.

Contractors have also been taught how erosion occurs and how sediments behave to make them aware of the impact of their work on the environment.

Mr V Rajandran, manager of the catchment and waterways department at PUB, said the move to get contractors to put in place an earth control management plan was prompted by the advancement of technology and the need to keep Singapore's waterways clean with the growing number of construction projects on the island.

Since implementing these measures, Singapore's waterways are now clear 95 per cent of the time - a "big" improvement from the past, he added.

Some of the technology in place at constructions sites: Erosion control blankets made with coconut fibre, which are used to cover exposed soil surfaces, and water treatment plants.

PUB uses closed-circuit television cameras at a site's discharge points to monitor the colour of the water.

Companies that release silt into waterways can be fined up to S$5,000. If the offence continues after the company has been convicted, it will be fined S$500 for each day of the offence.

So far, five to 10 per cent of construction companies in Singapore have been fined by PUB since the measures were introduced, said Mr Rajandran.

But it is not just the punitive measures that are spurring contractors to implement earth control management measures.

For instance, the companies can re-use the recycled water for their work and save on water costs, said Mr Rajandran.

Mr Alan Lim, senior project manager at Swee Hong Engineering Construction, told MediaCorp that the company used the recycled water to wash its vehicles onsite - which translates into about 10 per cent savings on the project's water costs.

Mr Ng Boon Gee, assistant director of development at Gardens by the Bay, said that, given the size of the project, it is challenging to keep silt from seeping into the waterways.

But by stipulating earth control management measures into the tenders of the five contractors working on the project - and working closely with them - silt discharge is controlled tightly.

Mr Ng added that, as the project faces the Marina Channel, it is important to make sure the water discharged from the site is of good quality.

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More Singapore data centres going green

Rachel Kelly Channel NewsAsia 3 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE: Data centres are known for their high energy consumption, roughly 40 to 60 per cent of a data centre's operating cost comes from energy usage. However, an increasing number of players are looking to reduce that figure and their carbon footprint.

As the IT industry continues to grow, the demand for data storage continues to rise.

Governments globally have introduced varying environmental guidelines for data centres to nudge industry participants in the right direction.

Clement Goh, Managing Director of data centre service provider Equinix Singapore, said: "People are more socially conscious, especially the larger MNCs. The other thing is, with green initiative typically you have higher expenditure to bring in the right equipment, but in the long run you will see a reduction in cost, because the consumption of energy will help to reduce the cost of a data centre.

"I think in South East Asia, Singapore is the leading country that has these standards, we see that there will be more followers moving forwards. Of course in Asia Pacific, Japan has started a standard of their own."

Some industry players said investments that data centres need to make in energy-saving initiatives should pay for themselves within 10 years.

Equinix has cut its energy usage by 10 per cent and the company is looking to bring that number to 30 per cent in the next five years. It has been using technology such as blue led lights which reduce energy usage by about one-to-two per cent in comparison to the everyday light bulb.

Mr Goh said: "In terms of being a global players we have 90 data centres worldwide, we have global standards in terms of how we put in place energy saving initiatives. For example, on all of our sites we use LED lights where ever possible. We also use a sensor based switch which also means that the rooms are blacked out unless there is activity in the room or data centre area.

"Also being a large consumer of infrastructure equipment we could influence our equipment manufacturers to use components that are energy efficient. One good example that we use here is crag units that use electrically commutated fans, which are fans that are more efficient, and also provide better airflow than the extended fans - and continuously working with the local government to ensure that we have a proper standard for the Singapore market."

The Nasdaq-listed company is also mindful of water conservation. It uses recycled NEWater to cool its new data centre in Singapore.


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Dead leatherback sea turtle discovered in Phuket

Phuket Gazette 3 Mar 11;

PHUKET: Experts believe a 200kg leatherback sea turtle found floating in the shallows of Klong Tha Cheen in Phuket yesterday afternoon died after becoming entangled in a fishing net.

The death comes amid what one expert has described as a “crisis” for the endangered species.

The body of the turtle, estimated at between 15 and 25 years old, was discovered floating in mangrove forest by residents of the Bang Hon Sai Thong residential estate in Rassada subdistrict.

The villagers hauled the carcass onto the beach and alerted officials from the Marine Endangered Species Unit at the Phuket Marine Biological Center at Cape Panwa.

The animal had large wounds to its front legs thought to have been made by fish hooks. A large cut in its mouth was also consistent with entanglement with a fishing line.

The officers loaded the heavy creature onto a truck and drove it to the PMBC for further examination.

The body, weighing 196 kilograms, had a circumference of almost three metres. Officials estimated it died no more than two days before its body was discovered.

PMBC director Wannakiat Tubtimsaeng said the turtle was of mating age and it was likely swimming ashore to lay eggs on one of Phuket's beaches.

However, the area where the turtle was found was not a place where leatherbacks traditionally laid eggs.

The most common nesting spot is Mai Khao beach in Thalang district.

Leatherback turtles have also been known to lay on other west coast beaches including Kata, Karon and Patong.

Fishermen apparently pulled the creature onto a boat to disentangle it before throwing it back into the sea in Klong Tha Cheen. The animal was found several kilometers upstream, not an area where pelagic sea turtles like the leatherback would normally venture.

The official cause of death will be determined pending a full autopsy, he said.

Mr Wannakiat said the situation looked grim for turtles in Phuket this season, with no turtles of any type laying eggs on any beaches so far. In particular, no leatherbacks have been seen laying eggs anywhere along Thailand's Andaman coastline.

He called the situation a “crisis” for the population of leatherbacks, the most endangered species of turtle in the region.

Giant Phuket Turtle Loses Fight to Exist
Pathomporn Kaenkrachang PhuketWan 3 Mar 11;

A GIANT leatherback turtle has been found dead near a pier in Phuket City, spotlighting the sad decline in turtles of all species of turtles as tourism and trawlers take over the Andaman coastline.

The turtle, a female, weighed 196 kilos and measured 157 centimetres from tip to tail. Villagers found the turtle in the water near Rassada Pier, the spot in Phuket City where tourists catch ferries to Phi Phi.

Biologists from the Phuket Marine Biology Centre plan an autopsy to see if they can determine what killed the turtle. It appeared to be about 15 years old, an ideal age for egg-laying.

Villagers believe it was probably a victim of an encounter with a trawler net, but the biologists say the turtle may have died from any one of a number of causes.

In bygone days, leatherbacks came ashore in numbers to leave eggs at Mai Khao, on Phuket's west coast, and further north at Thai Muang in Phang Nga.

There were four deposits of leatherback eggs detected at Thai Muang and two at Mai Khao last year, but nearly all were unfertilised eggs. The laying season runs from November to March.

No deposits of eggs have been detected so far this year.

Phuket Reminder: It’s sink or swim for the leatherback
Phuket Gazette 29 Mar 11;

PHUKET: A dead 200-kilogram leatherback turtle washed up in Phuket earlier this month, adding to fears of the imminent extinction of the pacific subspecies.

The male, which had not quite reached full maturity, ingested a plastic bag and died from intestinal blockage, an autopsy by the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) revealed.

Sixty years ago, Phuket’s beaches were host to 400-500 leatherback turtle nests. Last year there were seven – this year there have been none.

This does not bode well for the turtle, as December, January and February mark the nesting season.

The Pacific subspecies of the leatherback is “the world’s most endangered marine turtle population”, with only about 2,300 females remaining, according to a World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) estimate.

Dr Kongkiat Kittiwattanawont from the PMBC explains why the pacific population has suffered so badly:

“There used to be direct hunting of sea turtles in Phuket about 40 years ago. Their shells and products were sold for export,” he says.

“Also, Thai people used to eat the eggs, and that is actually the main factor in the destruction of the population” he adds.

In the past, almost all leatherback eggs laid in Thailand were poached, the WWF reports.

“Now, because of campaigns and law changes, the public has become more educated and aware of this issue, and illegal consumption of sea turtles appears to be very rare,” he said.

But the damage has been done. The survival of the species seems to have taken an irreparable blow from the years of poaching. And a variety of new threats have come about as a byproduct of Thailand’s economic development.

“Recently, new threats like coastal fishing have arisen. We have found many turtles caught in fishing gear. Pollution is another reason for the decline. We have found that about 5 to 10 per cent of sea turtles stranded on the beach have eaten plastic bags or other trash,” Dr Kongkiat said.

Climate change is also playing a role in the demise of the leatherback.

“Last year we saw just a quarter of the usual nesting statistics, and that was because it was very warm. Sea turtles prefer to lay eggs in temperatures of about 29 to 30 degrees in the sand... last year it was an average of 32 degrees under water,” Dr Kongkiat explains.

PMBC efforts to raise leatherbacks have proven problematic as the species does not do well in captivity.

“The best thing for us to do is to take care of nature. We cannot save the sea turtle by itself; we have to save its habitat as well – like sea grass beds and coral reefs.

"People can help by trying not to destroy the habitat and putting trash in the sea. If they help preserve the environment, they help preserve the sea turtles as well,” Dr Kongkiat says.

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Call to save Papua New Guinea forests

James Cook University Science Alert 4 Mar 11;

Immediate steps must be taken to protect the forests of Papua New Guinea according to leading tropical forest scientist Professor Bill Laurance.

He said these include a rapid reduction of raw-log exports and the reinstatement of the legal rights of indigenous groups—to reduce environmental damage and the exhaustion of timber supplies, while increasing societal benefits in PNG.

Professor Laurance will outline the need for action at the UPNG’s Waigani Campus on March 4, as part of the Vice Chancellor’s Public Lecture Series.

Professor Laurance is Distinguished Research Professor and an Australian Laureate at James Cook University in Cairns, North Queensland. He joined JCU recently after having spent 14 years with the Smithsonian Institution, an eminent US-government research organization.

He is also a research associate at Harvard University and his research focuses on the impacts of intensive land-uses, such as habitat fragmentation, logging, and wildfires, on tropical forests and species.

Professor Laurance, who has also organised a special workshop and debate on the PNG issues to be held at JCU next week, said that Papua New Guinea sustains some of the world’s most biologically and culturally rich forests.

“Like many tropical nations, PNG is changing rapidly as it attempts to develop economically, but corporate misdealing is undermining its capacity to do so sustainably,” he said. “Overexploitation of forests is rampant, with most accessible forests likely to be logged or disappear in one to two decades.

“Most timber is exported as raw logs, mainly to China, providing only limited income and employment for local communities. Moreover, traditional communal groups in PNG have recently been stripped of their right to sue offending corporations for environmental damage.”

Professor Laurance said that human welfare in the country has actually worsened in recent years, with mean incomes, adult literacy, and the Human Development Index all falling.

Although PNG has emerged as an international leader in promoting carbon-trading for forest conservation, these efforts have suffered from mismanagement and have so far failed to bear much fruit.

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High manatee, dolphin deaths puzzle US officials

Yahoo News 3 Mar 11;

MIAMI (AFP) – Near-record numbers of manatees have died in Florida waters in early 2011, the second straight year of above-average deaths, alarming officials who are also puzzled by a surge in dolphin fatalities along the US Gulf Coast.

Of the 163 manatee deaths recorded from January 1 to February 25, 91 of them have been blamed on cold water temperatures off the southern US state, where normally temperate weather draws the protected sea creatures during winter months, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Manatees live near the coastline, and when weather turns cold they often shelter near springs or in warmer discharge canals at power plants to avoid the condition known as "cold stress," which can weaken and eventually kill the aquatic mammals.

A record 185 manatees died in Florida during the same period last year, according to the commission.

Authorities at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also investigating the huge increase in baby dolphins found washed up dead along the US Gulf Coast, in the first birthing season since the BP oil spill disaster.

Eighty-three bottle-nosed dolphins, more than half of them newborns, were found dead in January and February along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, where millions of barrels of oil from a leaking undersea well poured into the Gulf of Mexico over three months.

"Direct or indirect effects of the BP/Deepwater Horizon spill event are... among the potential reasons for this increase in strandings," NOAA spokeswoman Kim Amendola said Wednesday.

"We have not found an indicator on what could be causing these deaths," but said several factors could have contributed to the deaths including biotoxins, "red tide" algal blooms, or infectious disease, she said.

"We are following the situation closely," she added.

The oil from the spill spread through the water column in massive underwater plumes and also worked its way into the bays and shallows where dolphins breed and give birth.

Dolphins breed in the spring -- around the time of the April 20 explosion that brought down the BP-leased drilling rig -- and carry their young for 11 to 12 months.

Birthing season goes into full swing in March and April.

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Global food prices hit new record high

A United Nations food price index reached another record in February, as unrest in Libya pushed up the price of oil, a major part of agricultural production
Phillip Inman 3 Mar 11;

Poor harvests, rising oil prices and increasing demand for basic foodstuffs pushed global food prices to a record high in February, according to the United Nations.

Prices rose above their last peak in 2008 for a second consecutive month and could surge further as unrest in Libya and other north African countries pushes up the price of oil, a key part of agricultural production.

UN spokesman David Hallam warned that further jumps in the oil price could have an impact on food markets, which have seen sustained price rises last year.

Hallam said: "Unexpected oil price spikes could further exacerbate an already precarious situation."

Coffee has more than doubled over the last year from $1.30 a pound to more than $2.60. Milling wheat futures, which are a guide to bread prices, have jumped from around €120 a tonne to more than €250 a tonne. Cocoa has risen from $2,800 a tonne to more than $3,600 in the last two months alone.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO's) food price index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket composed of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 236 points in February, the record in real and nominal terms, up 2.2% from January's record and rising for the eighth month in a row.

Oil prices recently hit two-and-a-half year highs, nearing records set in 2008, with markets fearing north African and Middle East unrest would choke key supplies. Farmers depend on fuel to run agricultural machinery, while dry bulk shippers are heavy oil users, the cost of which are passed on to food buyers.

Spiralling shipping costs for commodities threaten to drive food inflation even higher as nations from Asia to the Middle East and Africa scramble for supplies, analysts say.

The UN is concerned that record prices will trigger a repeat of riots seen in 2008, during the last period of record food inflation.

The Rome-based FAO said that global supply of main agricultural commodities would remain tight until new harvests in key producing countries, and warned food prices could climb even higher. The agency expected a tightening of the global cereal supply-and-demand balance in 2010/11.

"In the face of growing demand and a decline in world cereal production in 2010, global cereal stocks this year are expected to fall sharply because of a decline in inventories of wheat and coarse grains," the agency said.

The FAO said it forecast global wheat production to increase by around 3% in 2011.

Tight cereal markets as food prices increase again
Recent oil price surge adds to concerns over high food prices
FAO 3 Mar 11;

3 March 2011, Rome - Global food prices increased for the eighth consecutive month in February, with prices of all commodity groups monitored rising again, except for sugar, FAO said today.

FAO expects a tightening of the global cereal supply and demand balance in 2010/11. In the face of a growing demand and a decline in world cereal production in 2010, global cereal stocks this year are expected to fall sharply because of a decline in inventories of wheat and coarse grains. International cereal prices have increased sharply with export prices of major grains up at least 70 percent from February last year.

"Unexpected oil price spikes could further exacerbate an already precarious situation in food markets," said David Hallam, Director of FAO's Trade and Market Division.

"This adds even more uncertainty concerning the price outlook just as plantings for crops in some of the major growing regions are about to start," he added.

Food Price Index

The FAO Food Price Index averaged 236 points in February, up 2.2 percent from January, the highest record in real and nominal terms, since FAO started monitoring prices in 1990.

The Cereal Price Index, which includes prices of main food staples such as wheat, rice and maize, rose by 3.7 percent in February (254 points), the highest level since July 2008.

The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 230 points in February, up 4 percent from January, but well below its peak in November 2007.

The FAO Oils/Fats Price Index rose marginally to 279 points in February, a level just below the peak recorded in June 2008.

The FAO Meat Price Index averaged 169 points in February, up 2 percent from January. By contrast, the FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 418 points in February, slightly below the previous month but still 16 percent higher than February 2010.

Cereal supply and demand

FAO expects winter crops in the northern hemisphere to be generally favourable and forecasts global wheat production to increase by around 3 percent in 2011.This assumes a recovery in wheat production in major producing countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. So far, conditions of winter crops in those countries are generally favourable.

The latest estimate for the world cereal production in 2010 is 8 million tonnes more than was anticipated in December but still slightly below 2009. This month's upward revision reflects mostly higher estimates for production in Argentina, China and Ethiopia.

The forecast for world cereal utilization in 2010/11 has been revised up by 18 million tonnes since December. The bulk of the revisionZreflects adjustments to the feed and industrial utilization of coarse grains. Larger use of maize for ethanol production in the United States and statistical adjustments to China's historical (since 2006/07) supply and demand balance for maize are the main reasons for the revision.

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Talks on 'Green Climate Fund' postponed

Yahoo News 3 Mar 11;

PARIS (AFP) – A first meeting to set down the ground rules of a fund to channel hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries exposed to climate change has been postponed until the second half of April, a UN official said on Thursday.

Representatives from 40 countries had been scheduled to meet in Mexico City on March 14 and 15 for the maiden meeting of a panel designed to breathe life into the Green Climate Fund (GCF) established last December.

A spokesman for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) told AFP by phone from Bonn that the meeting had been postponed "until the latter part of April."

In Cancun, Mexico, the 194 parties of the UNFCCC agreed to establish the GCF, which would have a board of 24 members chosen evenly from developed and developing nations.

The task of drawing up the fund's terms of reference has been entrusted to a transitional committee of 25 developing and 15 developed countries.

Important details are at stake, including the scope of a registry to record financial pledges and climate-mitigating action and whether non-governmental groups, the private sector and international organisations should be allowed to take part.

But the first meeting has been hampered by delays among Asian, Latin American and Caribbean countries over who should have a seat on the committee, the spokesman said.

"The others have made up their minds," he said.

The GCF has been one of the scant signs of progress in international climate diplomacy since the stormy Copenhagen Summit of December 2009.

It began as a unspecific promise by rich countries to provide as much as 100 billion dollars a year in climate aid by 2020.

Developing countries see the fund as a test of the sincerity of industrialised countries demanding tighter curbs on carbon pollutions by emerging giants Brazil, China, India and Indonesia.

The Cancun agreement also called for "urgent action" to cap warming to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and requested a study on strengthening the commitment to 1.5 C (2.7 F).

It agreed on ways forward on fighting deforestation, a leading cause of climate change, and on monitoring nations' climate pledges.

But the talks were blighted over the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the landmark treaty whose obligations on wealthy countries to cut emissions expires in late 2012.

These issues will be handed to the next senior-most meeting of the UNFCCC, in Durban, South Africa from November 28 to December 9.

Before then, the forum meets in Bangkok, at the level of senior officials, from April 3 to April 8, and in Bonn from June 6-17.

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