Best of our wild blogs: 11 Apr 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [4 - 10 Apr 2011]
from Green Business Times

A special civet trip
from PurpleMangrove

Semakau shore with Victoria School students
from wonderful creation

Horseshoe crab eggs seen at Mandai mangroves!
from wild shores of singapore

Mandai mangroves (10 Apr 2011)
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Nesting Grey Herons: 9. Conflict
from Bird Ecology Study Group

from Monday Morgue

16 Apr (Sat): Talk on "Success in growing native orchids in parks and gardens of Singapore" from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

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North-South Expressway: Residents want answers

They are dissatisfied with reasons given why closed tunnel is unfeasible
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 11 Apr 11;

SINGAPORE - Their proposal to extend the covered tunnel stretch of the future North-South Expressway (NSE) has been rejected by the Government, but residents of Nuovo executive condominium at Ang Mo Kio Ave 9 are not giving up just yet.

Concerned about the impact of noise and air pollution that the semi-tunnel stretch of the NSE would have on their families, residents renewed their call yesterday for a dialogue with several government bodies - namely, the Land Transport Authority, the Singapore Land Authority, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Defence Ministry.

"We hope … they'll attend to each of our questions. We'll invite all Nuovo residents to come down. We are prepared to listen and we are reasonable people. We want to know they've made a decision after they've exhausted all alternatives," said Mr Cheong Choon Ghee, 40, who is part of a residents' focus group researching the impact of noise and motor exhaust from the NSE. The residents do not disagree with the NSE being for the "greater good of the nation", he added.

The NSE, expected to cost S$7 billion to S$8 billion, will link northern Singapore to the city centre by 2020.

Residents from three condominiums next to the planned NSE will be impacted by its construction, but those living in Nuovo will arguably be the worst-hit due to the property's proximity to the expressway, with a significant number of units facing it.

During a Parliament sitting on Feb 14, Transport Minister Raymond Lim explained to their Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah why a closed tunnel was not feasible along the 800m stretch from Anderson Junior College to Yio Chu Kang Road. He said this is because of the lack of land sites for ventilation buildings above closed tunnels. He added that noise mitigation studies would be done.

On Feb 22, a written explanation from LTA chief executive Chew Hock Yong was also given. But the residents feel their concerns have not been fully addressed. "It's hard for us to accept," said Mr Cheong.

The residents want to know how the NEA will ensure that the air quality in their vicinity complies with standards. Citing overseas studies, they remain sceptical of the effectiveness of noise barriers like screens and trees.

Most Nuovo residents are families with young children and HDB upgraders who cannot easily move somewhere else, said Mr Dennis Toh, 40, chairman of its management committee.

According to Mr Cheong, the LTA told residents on March 24 that a dialogue should be done through the neighbourhood committee. Last Saturday, the LTA also referred them to the SLA on the land acquisition issue.

Residents seek more talks over expressway concerns
Royston Sim Straits Times 11 Apr 11;

RESIDENTS of a condominium in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6 feel that another dialogue is required to address their concerns arising from the planned North-South Expressway (NSE).

Those living in the Nuovo, next to the project, intend to send a second appeal to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) this week requesting a meeting with the relevant government agencies.

The residents in the 297-unit, 99-year leasehold development are worried about noise pollution, air quality and the impact on their health.

Construction of the NSE is expected to start in two years. The project, costing $7 billion to

$8 billion, will link northern Singapore to the city and is expected to be ready by 2020.

Its 15.9km northern section from Admiralty Road West to Toa Payoh Rise was announced on Jan 19. It is currently slated to be a semi-tunnel from the Seletar Expressway to Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8.

Speaking to the media at a meeting yesterday, residents said a reply from the LTA in February had not addressed their concerns.

Mr Cheong Choon Ghee, 40, an engineer, said: 'While we accept that the NSE will run in front of our estate, we are not convinced that the authorities have given sufficient consideration to the full impact on residents or have adequately weighed the alternatives.'

Mr Jeremy Lim, 34, an information technology consultant, said: 'I'm worried about the future air pollution and noise levels.'

The residents had sent a letter to the LTA in February, requesting the closed-tunnel portion of the NSE to be extended 800m north to the junction of Yio Chu Kang Road and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6.

In a written reply that month, LTA chief executive Chew Hock Yong said an extension of the full underground tunnel would require an additional ventilation building in the Yio Chu Kang area.

But no suitable site was available due to competing land uses. He added that land sites were either obstructed by an existing MRT viaduct, are part of the Defence Ministry's training ground, or close to the Yio Chu Kang MRT station, where space has been reserved for residential use.

Last month, residents requested that LTA facilitate a dialogue between them and the Defence Ministry, Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Urban Redevelopment Authority and National Environment Agency (NEA).

Last Saturday, the LTA, in an e-mail reply, said: 'A second dialogue, in our view, may not be necessary for now as we know what the issues were and have addressed them in our replies to the residents.'

Representatives from both the LTA and SLA had held a dialogue with about 80 residents on Jan 26 after the NSE was announced.

'For issues related to construction, we will need time to work through as it involves many aspects of detailed design,' the LTA added in its e-mail.

Residents yesterday said they wanted to know how the LTA would monitor vehicle emissions to ensure they do not exceed limits, how the NEA would monitor air quality, and what the LTA would do to cap noise.

Said Mr Cheong: 'By the time the Government completes its design, there's no room for talk anymore. Our concerns are valid and we feel they are in a position to answer most of our questions now.'

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India: Olive Ridley turtles arrive in large numbers

Times of India 11 Apr 11;

CHENNAI: Wildife enthusisats and others in the field are excited. Volunteers from the Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) have reported finding around 101 nests of Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) on the 8 km stretch from Neelankarai to Urur Kuppam in South Chennai.

Another 82 were located along the 7-km stretch from Srinivasapuram to Napiers' Bridge which was never considered a turtle-nesting site. "This is something that we never expected. Last year, we found only 30. So the pattern is definitely encouraging," says SSTCN coordinator Akila.

V Arun of SSTCN is ecstatic. "After a gap of ten years, we have hit the three number figure. In 2000, we found 105 nests on the Neelankarai-Urur Kuppam stretch where 220 had been found in 1990!" he says.

Olive Ridleys, which are perhaps the most important guests to the city, begin arriving along the coast every year from January and are eagerly awaited by wildlife enthusiasts. This year, they appear to have taken an extra liking to the city despite its immense hostility on other fronts, experts said.

Olive Ridleys have become locally extinct in other coastal places in the state like Thoothukudi and Tharamgabadi due to various facets of development', say conservationists.

In Chennai, with the threat of the proposed elevated expressway along the coast looming large, wildlife enthusiasts' hopes of saving the species, listed in the Schedule 1 endangered list, have hit a dip. However, 2011 has been encouraging. "Due to the sustained efforts of the last 40 years, turtles still come to Chennai. This year has given that extra reason for us to continue our struggle to save our coasts and our beloved turtles." says SSTCN volunteer Adhith Swaminathan.

Turtles share the same conservation status as the tiger. "People have failed to give attention to an endangered species that visit their city," says Naveen, a wildlife photographer.

Turtles, which evolved about 110 million years ago, are said to be the verge of going extinct in the next few years.

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Indochina: Xayaburi dam proposal was 'poorly researched'

Impacts on Mekong River unclear, says report
Bangkok Post 11 Apr 11;

Impacts of the Xayaburi hydropower dam planned for northern Laos are unclear as the proposal is poorly researched, says a technical report to the Mekong River Commission.

The four Mekong countries -- Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam -- comprising the commission meet to make a final decision on the project next week.

The Xayaburi dam project is designed to churn out 1,285 megawatts. Thailand is expected to buy up to 90% of the output.

Thai environmentalists have vowed to stop Laos from going ahead with the dam. They say more information is needed to assess its impacts.

However, Vientiane in February told the Mekong countries that it would go ahead despite opposition.

It claimed the project would not have an impact on the environment and that it had full authority to approve the construction because the dam would be located in its territory.

A team of experts has now written a technical review to the commission which says design and operation models for the dam fail to meet best international practices.

The report refers to the project's environmental impact assessments and feasibility studies, and its potential impacts on river flows and eco-systems.

Laos' studies of the project, the experts' report said, are incomplete, with crucial gaps in knowledge needed to understand its potential impact. Without that information, an accurate assessment of the implications could not be reached.

The four countries agreed to set up the MRC in 1995 to jointly manage their shared water resources and develop the economic potential of the Mekong River. The Xayaburi hydro power dam is planned for the lower Mekong River, which means it has to be reviewed by the commission for its possible environment impact and economic potential. In response, the Laos government said some of the report's recommendations may be based on incorrect assumptions, especially concerning the likely impact on fisheries.

''Some substantial requirements mentioned in the MRC review are probably based on the wrong assumptions,'' Laos said, citing an assertion that the water level in the river would not fluctuate after the dam is built.

Such an assertion made some of the report's recommendations, such as the inclusion of ''nature-like fish passes'' to allow fish to travel through during spawning seasons, more than questionable, it said.

The recommendations have ''an experimental character'' and would be difficult to implement without studies.

Laos recommended more studies be carried out on fish biology, peak biomass, and fish swimming performance to help refine the design of the fish facilities.

It also questioned the role of the MRC in reviewing the proposal.

Hydropower was a form of green energy which should be promoted as an answer to power supply shortages.

Pianporn Deetes, a campaigner for International Rivers, said gaps in knowledge were a common problem in understanding the potential impacts of dam projects on the Mekong, including Xayaburi.

She said the Lao government should pay heed to the findings.

''The technical review has confirmed a crucial point that we need more knowledge to understand the Mekong River, on which millions of lives depend.

''What would be lost cannot be compensated by the benefits from the dam,'' said Mrs Pianporn.

Activists fight to stop dam across Mekong
(AP) Google News 9 Apr 11;

BANGKOK (AP) — A plan for the first dam across the Mekong River anywhere in its meandering path through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam has set off a major environmental battle in Southeast Asia.

The $3.5 billion Xayaburi dam is slated for the wilds of northern Laos and would generate power mostly for sale to Thailand. The project pits villagers, activists and the Vietnamese media against Thai interests and the Laotian government in its hopes of earning foreign exchange in one of the world's poorest countries.

A decision on whether the dam gets the green light, is axed or deferred for further studies is expected April 19 during a meeting in the Laotian capital among Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Opponents warn it could open the way for 10 more dams being considered along the lower Mekong.

"Our lives and livelihoods depend on the health of the Mekong River," said Kamol Konpin, mayor of the Thai riverside town of Chiang Khan.

"As local people have already suffered from dams built upstream in China and watched the ecosystem change, we are afraid that the Xayaburi dam will bring more suffering."

China has placed three dams across the upper reaches of the Mekong, but otherwise its 3,000-mile (4,900-kilometer) mainstream flows free.

The Xayaburi would cut across a stretch of the river flanked by forested hills, cliffs and hamlets where ethnic minority groups reside, forcing the resettlement of up 2,100 villagers and impacting tens of thousands of others.

Environmentalists say such a dam would disrupt fish migrations, block nutrients for downstream farming and even foul Vietnam's rice bowl by slowing the river's speed and allowing saltwater to creep into the Mekong River Delta.

A Thai firm would build the 1,260 megawatt hydroelectric project. However, Thai villagers along the river are staging protests and planning to deliver letters to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Lao Embassy in Bangkok, where the Thai government has maintained an official silence on the issue.

Pianporn Deetes, of the U.S.-based International Rivers, said environmentalists are ready to take their case to court if Abhisit doesn't deliver a positive response.

Last month, 263 non-governmental organizations from 51 countries sent letters to the governments of Laos and Thailand urging that the project be shelved.

Laos said in February that the Xayaburi would be the "first environmentally friendly hydroelectric project on the Mekong" and that will "not have any significant impact on the Mekong mainstream."

"We are excited about this project," the statement said.

Vietnam's official media, in a rare disagreement with its communist neighbor, has blasted the dam, while scientists and environmental groups have called for its construction to be delayed for 10 years until more research is conducted.

"It seems that countries of the lower Mekong still haven't learned lessons from the impact of the Chinese dams," Pianporn said. "Xayaburi is so important because it could set off the destruction of the lower Mekong."

Since 2007, there have been proposals to put up 11 mainstream dams in Cambodia and Laos.

The Mekong River Commission, set up by the four Southeast Asian neighbors in 1995 to manage the river, has expressed serious reservations about Xayaburi. A study by the group recommended a 10-year moratorium on all mainstream dams, a stand supported by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a Southeast Asian trip earlier this year.

The commission cited feared damage to migrations of between 23 and 100 fish species, among a host of other environmental problems.

Another MRC document showed nobody spoke in favor of the dam during public consultations this year in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, while many officials, academics and residents cited problems or lack of information about the project. No consultation was held in Laos.

"If this project goes ahead it would be unimaginably irresponsible," said Ame Trandem of Rivers International.

Somkiat Khuengchiangsa, who has spent his life along the river and heads The Mekong-Lanna Natural Resources and Culture Conservation Network, said governments are more interested in the economics of the project than its effect on residents.

"Rivers are not the property of nations or groups of people. They belong to all mankind," he said.

Read more!

Changing salinity in the Sunderbans impacts fishing economy

Moushumi Basu The Pioneer 11 Apr 11;

Sunderbans (West Bengal): With fishing being the predominant source of livelihood in the Sunderbans, the changing pattern of salinity here is seen creating an economic wedge between the fisher folk of the central and western sectors of the mangrove swamps.

According to a study, the rivers in the western part of the Hooghly estuarine delta due to fresh water feed from the Ganges provide prolific capture of fish of high commercial value both in India and abroad.

On the contrary, the fishing community around the high saline Matla estuary of the central Sunderbans is rendered economically vulnerable. They can at best hope to find a low priced fish that can just cater to the local community.

This changing phenomenon, according to experts, is believed to be due to an impact of climate change along with siltation of certain deltaic rivers and discharge from Farakka and other barrages on the Ganges.

Water in Sunderbans is seen to change its colour, taste and form at very creek — from the shallow muddy rivers to grey and emerald blue; from slender meanderings to several miles of wide rivers. And fish unmistakably rules the palate in and around the region.

“The nature of our catch today is as per the changing levels of salinity of the waters here,” says Khokon Mondal and his fellow villagers, all traditional fishermen from Pathorpaara in Satjelia islands of central Sunderbans.

Perched on their small dinghies along with five other fishermen from his village, Mondal regrets, “The yield of good quality fish here has gone down drastically during the past few years — at best we can hope to capture fish as Lotte, Phasa etc, that can fetch a maximum of Rs 30-40 per kg”.

In sharp contrast the fishermen from the islands of Sagar, Namkhana, etc. in the west are fortunate to find fish as hilsa, parshe, bhangon, pomfret and shingee magur (catfish) which are high in demand sold up to Rs 500 per kg in the market. “Today, many of the fishermen in these islands are able to even afford trawlers, with much bigger nets enabling more catch”, they pointed out wistfully.

Explaining this contrasting phenomenon, Dr Abhijit Mitra, Head of Department of Marine Science, Ballygunge Science College, University of Calcutta, said, “The impact of climate change on the aquatic ecosystem is an interlinked event between the melting of Himalayan glaciers feeding the Sunderban rivers and their subsequent alteration of salinity.” Further, anthropogenic or human-intervened factors such as barrage discharge also contribute to the varying salinity pattern of these rivers.

Hence salinity changes here are indirect but potentially sensitive indicators for detecting the threats due to climate change. “These alterations are reflected in the faunal and floral community of the said area,” Mitra felt.

An ongoing study on climate change and impact of salinity alteration in Sunderbans, conducted by the Department of Marine Science, has shown that the rivers of Sunderban delta have two distinct water characteristics at the central and western estuaries of the Matla and Hooghly, respectively.

The rivers in the western sector (Hooghly and Muriganga) are connected to the Ganga-Bhagirathi system of Himalayan glaciers. Their estuaries are thus “freshened up” with melting glaciers coupled with increased discharge of excess rainwater from barrages.

In sharp contrast, rivers of central part of Sunderban delta are deprived of fresh water inflow from Himalayan glaciers, due to heavy siltation of the erstwhile Vidyadhari river.

The latter was the main connect of the rivers (Matla, Thakuran, Gosaba and Harinbhanga rivers) of the central sector with the Himalayan glaciers.

As a result the rivers are turning hyper-saline in nature, due to tidal water feed from the Bay of Bengal, says the report.

“The footprints of climate change are, therefore, perceived in these differing ways in these two sectors of the estuarine complex,” pointed out Mitra.

“The above effect is being visibly perceived in the fishing community”, observed Dr Kakoli Banerjee, Research Associate, Ministry of Earth Sciences Project, who is a part of the study team of the Dept of Marine Science, University of Calcutta.

Fish such as the hilsa and pomfret that are known to fetch good money in the market are no longer found in the central tide fed region. “Species as the hilsa are anadromous in nature and have feeding grounds in the sea and spawning grounds upstream,” she said.

Such fish ideally thrive in areas of optimum blend of fresh and saline water. The recent trend of increasing salinity in the central sector of Sunderbans has dramatically modified their migratory path towards the west, she added.

For similar reasons, Bangladesh on the eastern side of the Sunderbans continue to flaunt its tag of “world-famous hilsa from Padda river”, a tributary of the Ganges in Bangladesh. “The Bengal Basin is slowly tilting towards the east due to neo-tectonic movement — it is presently at three degree tilt towards Bangladesh”, said Rajrupa Ghosh, research team member from Marine Science Department.

This is forcing greater freshwater input to the Bangladesh Sundarbans, through River Padda than the Indian side. As a result, the salinity there is much lower than that of the Indian Sundarbans creating an ideal condition for the Hilsa to flourish, she said.

Signature species on the decline

In another interesting observation, the Sundari trees (Heritiera fomes), signature species of the mangroves, is vanishing from the central parts of the Sunderbans.

The tree derives its name ‘Sundari’ from its beautiful white and red inflorescence. Its blossoms, regarded as the most attractive of the 34 mangrove species here, are a rare sight.

“This phenomenon is also owing to similar reasons of inflow of fresh water on the western sector and Bangladesh Sunderbans, which is ideal for flourishing of these prized mangrove species,” said Dr Bannerjee.

The Sundari is found to be perishing from the central Matla estuarine tract, she added. This slow destruction of Sundari trees may be considered an effect of climate change, combined with other forms of anthropogenic stress, she said.

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South Africa's photo-op penguins show signs of decline

Justine Gerardy Yahoo News 10 Apr 11;

CAPE TOWN (AFP) – Penguins waddle over giant boulders and dive into the shallow turquoise sea to the delight of camera-ready tourists near the tip of South Africa.

The birds are a top attraction in Simon's Town, a naval village in Cape Town where motorists yield to the seabirds, but their numbers are dwindling, a worrying factor that also points to wider threats to the world's oceans.

"The African Penguins have been decreasing, by 60 percent now, since 2004, so that's why we are all very worried," said Lorien Pichegru of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology.

"There's 26,000 pairs left and that's the lowest number ever recorded. At the beginning of the 20th century we had more than two million birds."

Scientists call penguins an indicator species: one that is easy to monitor and can also point to unseen and wider problems in the ocean.

Africa's nesting penguins were reclassified as endangered last year after their numbers were nearly wiped out, likely as a result of competition for food from commercial fisheries and shifting fish stocks.

The flightless birds, known for their "tuxedo" plumage and their comical walks, mainly eat anchovies and sardines and only breed in southern Namibia and South Africa.

But changing fish patterns have forced them to travel farther to find food and even establish new nesting areas such as at Simons Town's Boulders Beach, where a pair arrived in the 1980s, and returning to Robben Island, famous for the prison that held Nelson Mandela.

"Food is one of the biggest threats, if not the biggest threat," said Rob Crawford of South Africa's department of environmental affairs, pointing to a 600-kilometre (375-mile) shift in the migration path of sardines.

"Penguins cannot swim that far to feed their chicks and then at the end of breeding they've got to fatten up to moult as well," he said.

Birdlife International has warned that the African Penguin, one of the world's 18 penguin species, is edging closer to extinction.

To halt the slide, it has called for research into the effects of climate change and possible no-fishing zones around island colonies.

A 20-kilometre (12-mile) trawling ban around the world's biggest colony on St Croix island in Algoa Bay, east of Cape Town, allowed nearly three-quarters of birds there to stop having to make exhausting long-haul hunts, research showed last year.

Healthy populations of the seabird would ordinarily withstand raids by egg-stealing gulls and hunters like seals, cats, dogs or wild predators.

But the population concerns mean that every individual is now seen as critical, and oiled, injured and abandoned chicks are rescued. Last year 49 babies were flown off an Algoa island due to threats of cold weather.

Rehabilitation is successful "because the birds are so feisty and they are able to survive after the release (from captivity)," Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds boss Venessa Strauss told AFP.

The non-profit Cape Town-based organisation treats around 1,000 penguins annually, including around 500 birds slicked in oil.

"It's bigger than the penguins. It's about the health of our marine ecosystem," said Strauss, surrounded by solemn rescued adults from the species once known as Jackass penguins because of their noisy brays.

"A lot of focus is on the penguins but at the end of the day it's about the ecosystem. The marine ecosystem is taking strain and the penguins are just really telling a part of the story," she said.

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Oman: Sardine landings fall 40 pc as sea temperature rises

Madhuparna Bhattacharjee Zawya 10 Apr 11;

The rise in surface temperature of the Oman Sea has led to a 40 per cent decline in sardine landings in the past ten years, according to the data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Due to the continuous rise in the surface temperature over the past 40 years and the development of zooplankton that consumes phytoplankton, fish stocks have been suppressed, the data said.

Speaking to Muscat Daily, Dr Sergey Piontkovski, associate professor at the department of Marine Sciences and Fisheries at Sultan Qaboos University, said, "The rise in temperature decreases the productivity of phytoplanktons in the stratified waters, as mixing is reduced, thus blocking the penetration of nutrients from the deep to the upper layers."

He said that in the Muscat region the plankton-consuming sardines comprise 50 per cent of the total annual landings in Oman.

Piontkovski with his team of researchers from various institutes and countries is currently working on a project to study the patterns in the Oman Sea and what might be expected in the next few decades.

"This is a strategically important issue for the country," he said revealing that the team has collected data from over 90 research expeditions, which will enable the scientists to evaluate term tendencies in any sort of changes in the sea. "The retrospective analysis of historical data on measurements will be complemented by 15 years of data on remote sensing of physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the Oman Sea."

In any sea, the physical, chemical and biological processes work in a complex way and in the long run are affected by climate change. At present, 'oceanographic satellite' images are enabling the scientists to monitor the region on a daily basis. "We receive images on sea surface temperature, ocean currents and red tide developments and analyse them on a day-to-day, week-by-week, month-by-month and also year-by-year basis," he said.

In the images, the concentration of phytoplankton is given in the form of colour spectrum, in which the blue range of colours identify low concentration. As the concentration goes up, the colour shifts from green to red. Chlorophyll is the indicator of the amount of phytoplankton in the water.

Piontkovski said that the rising sea surface temperature, decline in the oceanic primary production, dwindling fish stocks and expanding red tides are matters of great concern. "What we have to do is to understand what could be done to prevent this or how much more environmental management has to be optimised."

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Degraded coastal wetlands contribute to climate change

IUCN 11 Apr 11;

Drainage and degradation of coastal wetlands emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide directly to the atmosphere and lead to decreased carbon sequestration, a new World Bank report has found.

The report, written in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and wetland specialists ESA PWA, calls for coastal wetlands to be protected and incentives for avoiding their degradation and improving their restoration to be included into carbon emission reduction strategies and in climate negotiations.

“For the first time we are getting a sense that greenhouse gas losses from drained and degraded coastal wetlands may be globally significant and that drained organic-rich soils continuously release carbon for decades,” says Stephen Crooks, Climate Change Services Director at ESA PWA - the consulting firm which looked at 15 coastal deltas worldwide for the report. “Emissions will increase with ongoing wetland losses.”

The report highlights the current rates of degradation and loss of coastal wetlands which are up to four times that of tropical forests. Destruction of about 20 percent of the worlds’ mangroves, an area of 35,000 square kilometres in the last 25 years or four times the New York City metropolitan area, has led to the release of centuries of accumulated carbon. This has also disturbed the natural protection against storm surges and other weather events.

“We must work with nature to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also restore the ability of nature to take carbon out of circulation,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. ”CO2 emissions from lost or degraded coastal wetlands are sufficiently large to warrant amendment of national and international climate change policy frameworks to promote restoration.“

Of the 15 coastal deltas studied for the report, seven were found to have released more than 500 million tons of CO2 each since the wetlands were drained, mostly in the past 100 years. By comparison, Mexico’s carbon dioxide emissions for 2007 were just over 470 million tonnes.

Mangroves, tidal marshes and sea-grass meadows remove carbon from the atmosphere and lock it into the soil, where it can stay for millennia. Unlike terrestrial forests, these marine ecosystems are continuously building carbon pools, storing huge amounts of “blue carbon” in the sediment below them. When these systems are degraded due to drainage or conversion for agriculture and aquaculture, they emit large and continuous amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere.

“Protecting these coastal ecosystems and the blue carbon they store can be a win-win for communities,”
says Marea Hatziolos, Senior Coastal and Marine Specialist at the World Bank. “Shore line protection and increased fisheries productivity are among the co-benefits provided by healthy coastal wetlands—contributing to community resilience while sequestering CO2. If wetlands conservation can be linked to carbon markets, communities have a way to pay for conservation which will generate local and global benefits.”

Managing coastal ecosystems for the range of services they provide can complement existing approaches to nature-based solutions to reduce the effects of climate change, according to the report. Such investments have the potential to link to REDD+ and other carbon financing mechanisms, provided that protocols on accounting, verification and reporting of net carbon uptake can be agreed.

The full report:

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Surging food prices fuel ethanol critics

Rob Lever Yahoo News 11 Apr 11;

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A surge in global food prices has prompted fresh criticism of US subsidies for ethanol, which diverts massive amounts of corn from global food supplies for energy.

Producers of ethanol argue that the biofuel helps blunt the impact of high imported petroleum prices, but critics say the US policy giving tax breaks for ethanol used in motor fuel ends up being bad for food, energy and the environment.

The issue has created unusual political alliances, with environmental groups and some lawmakers from both parties clashing with farm interests and legislators from the corn-producing midwest states.

Senators Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, and Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, introduced a measure last month to scrap the tax credit of 45 cents per gallon for ethanol in gasoline.

"The ethanol tax credit is bad economic policy, bad energy policy and bad environmental policy. The $6 billion we waste every year on corporate welfare should instead stay in taxpayers' pockets where it can be used to spur innovation, stimulate growth and create jobs," said Coburn.

The lawmakers cited a Government Accountability Office report describing the tax credit as "largely unneeded today to ensure demand for domestic ethanol production."

C. Ford Runge, a University of Minnesota professor of applied economics and law, argues that ethanol from crops has many "hidden costs" that should dissuade the government from subsidies.

Runge, who raised concerns about ethanol policy as early as 2007, says his research suggests some 30 percent of food price increases come from diversion of US corn for ethanol.

"If you're taking 40 percent of the US corn crop, the largest of any country on earth, and putting it to one use... you don't have to have a Ph.D in economics to know that's going to put upward pressure on prices," he told AFP.

In an essay written for Yale University's Environment 360 online magazine, Runge cites "strong evidence that growing corn, soybeans, and other food crops to produce ethanol takes a heavy toll on the environment and is hurting the world's poor through higher food prices."

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that rising food prices are driving unrest around the world, including recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

Runge said high food prices -- including corn at record highs -- are a factor in the unrest, saying "these countries have been subjected to the pressures in their household costs," adding to the political pressures.

Economist Ed Yardeni at Yardeni Research said diversion of crops to fuel is important because the US provides more than half of global corn exports and over 40 percent of soybean exports.

"So our ethanol policy is exacerbating the global food fight, destabilizing the Middle East... Is that insane, or what?"," Yardeni said.

Yet ethanol has its staunch defenders including Senator Tom Harkin the corn-belt state of Iowa, who told a recent hearing that ethanol "has dramatically reduced our need for oil."

Harkin said the focus on ethanol diverts attention from the oil industry's "very lucrative and unnecessary subsidies."

Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said ethanol is important for the goal of energy security, and he dismisses its impact on food prices, saying refiners use only the starch component of feed corn, and produce animal feed as a byproduct.

"Ethanol is the only thing we have today to moderate skyrocketing prices of gasoline and crude oil," Dinneen told AFP.

"If the chaos in the Middle East teaches us anything, it should be that America must forcefully begin down the path of energy self-reliance. Increasing the use of domestic renewable fuels like ethanol is the first, and arguably, the easiest step we can take," he said at a congressional hearing.

US President Barack Obama said in a March 30 speech on energy policy that ethanol should be part of the US energy future as part of an expanded effort for biofuels.

He said there is "tremendous promise" in renewable biofuels, "not just ethanol, but biofuels made from things like switchgrass, wood chips, and biomass."

A White House official said that "corn ethanol is already making a significant contribution to reducing our oil dependence. But going much further will require commercialization of advanced biofuels technologies."

Dinneen argued the US will need a variety of biofuels, but added "the existing ethanol industry is providing the foundation on which those other biofuels will be able to grow."

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Warming Antarctica Linked to Rising Pacific Temperatures

LifeScience Yahoo News 10 Apr 11

Rising temperatures in the Pacific may be directly contributing to ongoing warming in Antarctica, a new study finds.

Heat rising from warm Pacific waters near the equator causes waves of warmth in the atmosphere — a phenomenon called the Rossby wave train, researchers report today (April 10) in the journal Nature Geoscience. The wave train brings warmer temperatures to West Antarctica during the winter and spring.

The Antarctic Peninsula has been warming rapidly for at least a half-century, and continental West Antarctica has been getting steadily hotter for 30 years or more. The findings also could have implications for understanding the causes behind the thinning of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which contains about 10 percent of all the ice in Antarctica. [In Photos: Antarctic Ice]

University of Washington researcher Eric Steig and colleagues used satellite and surface temperature observations to show a strong correlation between warmer temperatures in Antarctica and sea surface temperatures in the central tropical Pacific Ocean.

They found a strong relationship during the winter months, June through August in Antarctica. A smaller effect also appeared in the spring months of September through November.

The observed circulation changes are in the form of a series of high- and low-pressure cells that follow an arcing path in the air from the tropical Pacific to West Antarctica. That is characteristic of a textbook Rossby wave train pattern, study researcher Qinghua Ding, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, said in a statement. The same pattern is consistently produced in climate models, at least during winter.

Using observed changes in tropical sea surface temperatures, the researchers found they could account for half to all of the observed winter temperature changes in West Antarctica, depending on which observations are used for comparison.

"This is distinct from El NiƱo," Steig said in a statement. That climate phenomenon, which affects weather patterns worldwide, primarily influences sea-surface temperatures farther east in the Pacific, nearer to South America. It can be — but isn't always — associated with strong warming in the central Pacific.

The atmospheric waves may also be partly to blame for the melting West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Westerly winds created by high pressure over the Amundsen Sea push cold water away from the ice sheet and toward the open ocean, Steig said. It is then replaced by warmer water from deeper in the ocean, which melts the ice sheet from below.

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