Best of our wild blogs: 27 Apr 11

Pop pop pop - Coral babies in the making
from Psychedelic Nature

Little egret - breeding plumage
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Hundreds of new Singapore biodiversity discoveries, a new website and more! from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Volunteers speak about the Mega Marine Survey
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Singapore's mangroves and marine life on ARKive and EOL
from wild shores of singapore

10 Ways to Go Seriously Green [Casaubon's Book]
from ScienceBlogs Select

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Food price rises in Asia threatening growth

Straits Times 26 Apr 11;

MANILA: Sharp rises in food prices are threatening economic growth in Asia and could push millions more into extreme poverty, the Asian Development Bank said in a report released yesterday.

Food prices in Asia have increased an average of about 10 per cent so far this year, which the bank calculated could force an additional 64 million people in Asia below the poverty income threshold of US$1.25 (S$1.50) per person a day, if prices remain at current levels.

If food prices go up by more than 30 per cent over the year, then the poverty number will swell by 193 million.

There are currently about 903 million Asian people living in poverty, out of a total population of 3.3 billion.

'Whenever we say that Asia's growth rate is booming and Asia is a new global growth centre, people misunderstand the point,' said Professor Changyong Rhee, the chief economist of the bank, which is financed by governments and helps fund infrastructure projects around the region, among other activities.

'Asia is home to two-thirds of the world's poor. There is still a long way to go,' the South Korean added.

Asia is both a major contributor to global inflation and vulnerable to its effects.

Growth in China and India is blamed for pushing up prices of many commodities. Yet Asia's population density and uneven income distribution make people in the region especially susceptible to spikes in food prices, Prof Rhee said.

The poor in Asia are much harder hit by rising food prices as they typically spend about two-thirds of their income on food, much higher than in developed countries.

Poor countries that are net food importers are the most vulnerable to the increases, Prof Rhee said, citing Bangladesh, the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka as examples.

A bigger concern is that local food prices for certain staples are rising faster than global prices. For example, between June last year and February, global rice prices increased by 16.8 per cent. However, domestic rice prices went up by 21.4 per cent in Bangladesh, 21.6 per cent in Indonesia, and 36.7 per cent in Vietnam.

A continued rise in prices for food and fuel could leave the region's consumers with less disposable income to spend on electronics, clothing and other products.

Inflation could also lead central banks to further raise interest rates.

Taken together, these factors could slow down economic growth of Asian nations, with Singapore projected to suffer the highest gross domestic product (GDP) drop by as much as 1.5 percentage points this year, based on the bank's estimation of 10 Asian countries.

If the trend continues, Singapore's GDP would drop by 0.8 percentage points next year.

The average dip in GDP across Asian countries is estimated to be around 0.6 percentage points.

Food price inflation has already risen by double-digit figures in countries such as China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

The rapid increases in the cost of food are a serious setback for the region, which has rebounded rapidly from the global economic crisis.

Much depends on whether global food prices continue to climb.

Last month, food prices dropped for the first time in eight months, although experts said this could be a slight pause before prices shoot up again.

On Monday, Barclays Capital, a securities firm, reported that food prices in Vietnam, one of the countries in the region that have been hit worst by inflation, rose 24 per cent this month over the past 12 months, the fastest pace in more than two years.

But Ms Prakriti Sofat, the analyst at Barclays who wrote the report, predicted that prices in Vietnam, especially of rice, would fall in the coming months as farmers who had been hoping for even higher prices sell off their stocks before the arrival of a new harvest.

'We believe rice prices should taper off as the spring harvest begins in May,' Ms Sofat said.

Prof Rhee also expects a moderation in food prices later this year, but he fears it could lull governments into inaction. 'It's time for us to talk about long-term investments in food to make sure this problem is not recurring,' he said.

The report stated: 'New farming techniques and crop varieties need to be developed and transferred to farmers to adapt to farming conditions that have increasingly become even more challenging, especially in the face of dwindling resources (such as agricultural land and water) and the adverse effects of climate change.'


Poor are worst hit by rising food prices


Increase in global rice prices between June last year and February.


Increase in domestic rice prices in Bangladesh.


Increase in domestic rice prices in Indonesia.


Increase in domestic rice prices in Vietnam.

Impact on Singapore: What the report says

SINGAPORE will be the hardest hit among 10 Asian nations, if food and fuel prices continue to soar, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank.

The report projects that the Republic's gross domestic product (GDP) could dip by as much as 1.5 percentage points if global food prices and oil prices both rise by 30 per cent throughout the whole of the year.

And if the 30 per cent rise persists through to next year, Singapore's GDP will go down another 0.8 percentage point, it predicted.

Singapore is highly vulnerable to inflation because the country must import almost all of its food and fuel.

The Republic's Trade and Industry Ministry's figures show that Singapore's economy grew by 14.5 per cent last year and it grew by another 8.5 per cent in the first three months of this year.

Rising food prices 'a threat to Asia'
They may push another 64m into extreme poverty and cut growth: ADB
Business Times 26 Apr 11;

(HONG KONG) World food prices that surged 30 per cent in the first two months of the year threaten to push millions of Asians into extreme poverty and cut economic growth, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said yesterday.

The surging prices translated into domestic food inflation of 10 per cent on average in many Asian economies, while international prices were up more than 30 per cent in annual terms, the Manila-based bank said in a report.

A sustained rise in domestic food prices at that level could push an additional 64 million people - or nearly 2 per cent of Asia's 3.3 billion people - below the poverty line of US$1.25 a day.

The ADB added that the high prices will also erode the living standards of families already living in poverty.

Food prices have been driven higher by surging oil prices, production shortfalls due to bad weather and export restrictions by several food-producing countries.

'Fast and persistent increases in the cost of many Asian food staples since the middle of last year, coupled with crude oil reaching a 31-month high in March, are a serious setback for the region which has rebounded rapidly and strongly from the global economic crisis,' the ADB report said.

If higher food and oil prices persist for the rest of the year, they could shave as much as 1.5 percentage points from economic growth in developing Asian countries, the report said.

'Food prices have become highly volatile, and the Asian food system's vulnerability to price shocks and natural calamities has increased significantly,' the report said.

Some countries will be hit harder than others. Singapore is highly vulnerable to inflation because the tiny city-state must import all its food. On the other hand, South Korea, where food accounts for a relatively small part of the consumer price index, will get off lightly.

While countries had taken short-term measures such as cuts in import duties or sales taxes, subsidies and aid programmes, the ADB said the frequency of food price shocks highlighted the need for long- term solutions such as more investment and higher agricultural productivity to secure food supplies.

Poor families in Asia are hit much harder by food price inflation because they spend as much as 60 per cent of their income on food, a much higher proportion than in developed countries. In contrast, people in the United States and other developing countries spend 10 per cent or less of their income on food.

And a lot of the food sold in wealthy countries is processed, so manufacturing costs account for a bigger share of the final price.

Global food prices jumped 34.2 per cent in February over a year ago following a 28.4 per cent rise in January, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) benchmark index. Surging cereal, edible oil and meat prices were behind the increases.

The FAO warned that 29 countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America and the Caribbean would need food assistance.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are among those that will face severe food shortages in part due to factors such as social unrest and ethnic conflicts. Cambodia and Laos also face unfavourable prospects for crops due to delayed and erratic rains. -- AP, Reuters

Food prices could push millions into poverty-ADB
Reuters 26 Apr 11;

MANILA, April 26 (Reuters) - Surging food prices could push millions of people in Asia into extreme poverty and threaten the durability of the region's world-leading economic recovery, the Asian Development Bank said on Tuesday.

Domestic food price inflation in developing Asia averaged about 10 percent in the first two months of 2011, while international prices were up more than 30 percent in annual terms, the Manila-based ADB said in a report.

A sustained 10 percent rise in domestic food prices could push an additional 64 million people -- or nearly 2 percent of Asia's 3.3 billion people -- below the poverty line of $1.25 a day.

"Fast and persistent increases in the cost of many Asian food staples since the middle of last year, coupled with crude oil reaching a 31-month high in March, are a serious setback for the region which has rebounded rapidly and strongly from the global economic crisis," the ADB report said.

Food and fuel prices have added to price pressures in Asian economies, and earlier this month the ADB said some emerging economies were showing signs of overheating. [ID:nL3E7F60B1]

The ADB said if a 30 percent increase in global food prices persisted in 2011, growth in some food-importing countries could be cut by up to 0.6 percentage points. It also said if the level of oil and food price increases seen early this year continues, growth in developing Asia in 2011 "could be reduced by up to 1.5 percentage points."

"Food prices have become highly volatile, and the Asian food system's vulnerability to price shocks and natural calamities has increased significantly," the report said.

While countries had taken short-term measures such as cuts in import duties or sales taxes, subsidies and aid programs, the ADB said the frequency of food price shocks highlighted the need for long-term solutions such as more investment and higher agricultural productivity to secure food supplies. (Editing by John Mair and Richard Borsuk)

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Electric vehicle trial set to start in June

First cars have arrived, charging stations likely to be up by next month
Christopher Tan, Straits Times 26 Apr 11;

THE electric vehicle trial is expected to be plugged in by June, after a delay of about a year.

But the initial fleet of battery-powered cars may be far smaller than planned because of supply disruptions in Japan.

The first fleet of five Mitsubishi i-MiEVs has been delivered to Singapore, a spokesman for the Energy Market Authority (EMA) told The Straits Times.

The battery-powered cars are part of a $20 million trial announced by the EMA in 2009 to test the durability and viability of electric vehicles in a tropical city.

The trial is open only to institutions, government bodies and corporations.

Of the five cars, two - owned by the the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) - have been registered for use.

Ms Low Peck Kem, divisional director of MOM's national human resources division, said the ministry was invited to take part in the electric-vehicle trial. The ministry agreed as the cars would help 'in our efforts in environmental protection', she added.

The two i-MiEVs will be used mainly for site inspections, she said. Although they have been registered for a number of weeks now, they will not be put to use until June, when the charging points are up.

Under initial plans announced in 2009, 50 i-MiEVs were expected to be delivered to Singapore this year. But the figure was later halved to 25 for unknown reasons.

The Straits Times understands that only 10 might be available this year - five have arrived.

The EMA spokesman said: 'Delivery of the next batch has yet to be confirmed in the light of production delays in Japan arising from the recent earthquake.'

Another reason, sources said, was that parties keen to buy the cars are waiting for the charging infrastructure to be up before ordering them.

One company, vehicle rental firm Smart Automobiles, has changed its mind about buying electric cars for its fleet.

'It has taken too long to happen,' said Smart managing director Johnny Harjantho. 'Customers who were keen to rent these cars have lost interest.'

At the moment, buyers have only one choice: the i-MiEV. Other car-makers with electric models have yet to import them, although Renault is expected to do so by the end of the year or early next year.

The lithium-powered i-MiEV hits 100kmh in about nine seconds and has a top speed of 140kmh. Under ideal conditions, it has a range of 160km between charges.

German components maker Bosch, which clinched the deal to set up the charging network, said it is ready to roll out 25 stations by next month.

The stations will charge a vehicle fully within eight hours. There will also be a quick charging station which gives a full charge in 45 minutes. But as of last week, none of the stations had been installed. The company would not say more.

The EMA spokesman, responding to queries from The Straits Times, said preparations were under way for the first batch of six charging stations to be set up by June.

Singapore-based Greenlots, an electric vehicle charging systems company, is supplying Bosch with the tamper- and weather-proof chargers - which are made completely here.

The chargers incorporate smart features, such as controlling power supply to prevent brown-outs in the building where the chargers are installed; and storing usage history.

Mr Oliver Risse, managing director of the three-year-old company, said each charger costs around $4,000 to $5,000.

Besides the electric vehicle trial, he said several property developers - including Australia's Lend Lease and Singapore's CDL Group - are also in talks with Greenlots to install about 100 chargers in 40 to 50 buildings here.

One of the biggest road humps to ready adoption of this greener form of mobility is cost, observers said.

Despite being exempt from taxes and the certificate of entitlement scheme, the i-MiEVs assigned for the EMA-led trial cost around $90,000 each - approximately the cost of a Toyota Corolla sedan, a substantially bigger car.

If an individual were to buy one with the existing green vehicle rebate accorded to eco-friendly vehicles such as compressed natural gas and hybrid cars, it would easily cost more than twice that.

Tesla of America, which had hoped to be part of the test-bed, packed up and left Singapore in February after it failed to secure tax exemption for its cars.

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New miniature frog found in Borneo

Scientist discovers new frog species
Japan Times 27 Apr 11;

KYODO: A Japanese biologist has discovered a new species of miniature frog in the Malaysian part of Borneo Island, while refuting the "discovery" there last year of a pea-size new species that was billed as "the Old World's smallest frog," according to a newly published scientific paper.

Kyoto University professor and amphibian specialist Masafumi Matsui, who has long been conducting fieldwork in Borneo, described the new species of narrow-mouthed frog of the genus Microhyla in a report in the latest edition of the academic journal Zootaxa.

Matsui gave the scientific name Microhyla malang to the new species, which inhabits the western part of Sarawak state and the western part of Sabah state.

In the same report, he provided detailed scientific evidence to invalidate the widely reported finding of the Old World's smallest frog, named M. nepenthicola, showing that it is in reality M. borneensis, an earlier described species of Microhyla frog with the unique habit of breeding in pitcher plants on the forest floor.

Matsui said M. malang and M. borneensis, closely related species that coinhabit Mount Serapi in Kubah National Park, are very similar in appearance but can be distinguished by body size, color pattern and extent of toe webbing.

Last year, Indraneil Das, a Malaysian scientist at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, and his German colleague, Alexander Haas from Hamburg University's Zoological Museum, published a paper in Zootaxa in which they described the smaller form of what had long been regarded by taxonomists as M. borneensis as a new species, considering the larger form to be true M. borneensis.

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Caterpillar Outbreaks In Indonesian Not Connected, Experts Say

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 26 Apr 11;

Experts said on Monday that the multitude of reported caterpillar outbreaks in the country were not related incidents.

Millions of hairy caterpillars were first reported to have invaded at least five subdistricts in Probolinggo, East Java, eating up mango trees and invading fields and homes.

More caterpillar appearances were later reported in other regions, including in Jakarta.

“With Probolinggo, it was an explosion of a single species. Meanwhile, the other regions just experienced small breakouts,” said Hermanu Triwidodo, an entomologist with the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB). He suggested any subsequent outbreaks would continue to decrease in size.

Experts have attributed the cause of the Probolinggo caterpillar outbreak to the declining population of the pest’s natural predators and climate change.

Hermanu called on people not to overreact to the appearance of caterpillars in their area. “They are just domestic pests and not an outbreak,” he said.

Hari Sutrisno, an entomologist from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said that despite the complexity and size of the Probolinggo outbreaks, they were not caused by a new insect species, a new invasive species or an act of terrorist engineering.

“We need to be clear on this because there are lots of irrational ideas circulating out there,” Hari said.

“Based on the results of our identification, there were four species found on the site that have already been recorded near Tengger Mountain in East Java since 1948.”

Syakir, who leads the Agriculture Research and Development Agency at the Agriculture Ministry, said the agency had suggested ways to handle the caterpillars if people believed the insects were beginning to negatively affect their lives.

“We’ve recommended that people handle these insects in natural ways, starting from collecting and burning them or burying them in the ground, installing light traps, preserving their natural predators such as ants and birds, and using natural insecticides — made from tobacco, for instance,” Syakir said.

He said chemicals could be used as needed but suggested insecticides with low toxic levels so as not to disturb the caterpillar’s natural predators or pollute the environment.

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Indonesian government committed to keeping Papua`s forest regions intact

Antara 27 Apr 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said his ministry remains committed to keeping Papua`s primary forest regions intact and not letting them be exploited by forest concession holders.

The minister made the statement in a media dialogue on forestry policies held by ANTARA News Agency here on Tuesday.

He said there had been requests for opening the forest regions in Papua for non-forestry activities but the government was resolved to keep intact the 7.3 million hectares of primary forests in the province.

"Some 26 million hectares of forest areas in the country are already controlled by forest concession holders. We intend to keep this as it is, there will be no expansion of the forest concession area. Should there be parties intending to sue (the government for not issuing new permits), they are free to do so," Minister Hasan said, adding the non-expansion policy was being implemented nationwide including in Papua.

Hasan said there has also been a proposal for the appropriation of 1.3 million hectare of forest area for the development of the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) in Papua but the government has approved for only 600,000 hectares.

On the approval given to the MIFEE project or industrial forest estates, Minister Hasan said priority is given to such projects because the government focuses on enhancing food resilience in accordance with the economic development corridor as directed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In addition to MIFEE, he said, there are 19 other proposals in Papua on the exploitation of industrial forest and forest areas for non-forestry activities. However, many have withdrawn their proposals after having been given explanation that such activities could not be carried out in primary forest areas.

"They can`t use the thickly forested areas, they instead can use the logged over areas but then they chose to withdraw," said Minister Hasan.

The government, he added, hopes that the remaining proposals would not be withdrawn because there are at least 40,000 hectares (logged over areas) can be utilized for supporting the sugar self-sufficiency program.

For industrial estate forest, Hasan said the treatment is the same for proposal on oil palm plantation and other non-forestry needs. For such purposes, the activities can take areas outside primary forest or peat land areas.

At least Indonesia has 12 million hectares of deserted forest or logged over forest areas, the minister disclosed.(*)

Editor: Aditia Maruli

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Tsunami-hit Japanese whalers set sail for hunt

Yahoo News 26 Apr 11;

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese whalers launched their annual coastal hunt with five crew from the tsunami-devastated whaling town of Ayukawa joining their first voyage since the March 11 disaster.

Two whaling vessels left Kushiro on Tuesday, on the east coast of the northern island of Hokkaido after their departure was delayed by one day due to bad weather, said Hiroko Furukawa, a fisheries agency official.

The crew from Ayukawa Whaling, the only whaling company in Ayukawa, were on board to catch up to 60 minke whales off Kushiro until June, the official said.

"Local whaling officials are preparing to accept people from Ayukawa, who were victimised by the disaster," Furukawa said, adding that another 23 people from Ayukawa had come to Kushiro to work in processing whale meat.

The massive tsunami that last month slammed into Japan's northeast coast destroyed Ayukawa Whaling's storage facility and carried its fleet of three whaling ships hundreds of metres inland, where they remain.

Ayukawa Whaling chairman Minoru Ito has said he would lay off all 28 employees and suspend whaling operations in the town until further notice.

The tsunami came shortly after Japan recalled its Antarctic whaling fleet a month early, citing the threat posed by the militant environmentalist outfit Sea Shepherd.

The group, which says its tactics are non-violent but aggressive, has hurled paint and stink bombs at whaling ships, snared their propellers with rope and moved its own boats between the harpoon ships and their prey.

Japan has continued to hunt whales under a loophole that allows killing of the sea mammals for what it calls "scientific research", although the meat is later sold openly in shops and restaurants.

Japan also argues that whaling is an integral part of the island nation's culture.

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Myanmar's main city bans plastic bags: state media

Yahoo News 26 Apr 11;

YANGON (AFP) – Authorities in Yangon have banned plastic bags, state media said Tuesday, in an attempt to stop non-degradable waste polluting Myanmar's main city.

"Production of polythene bags and ropes, and storage and sale of those items at stores and groceries in the townships are not allowed starting from 22 April," the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

It said polythene bag factories which failed to close would lose their operating licenses and face legal action.

The move comes two years after authorities in Myanmar's central city of Mandalay successfully prohibited polythene bags to protect the environment.

"It's a good idea. We use these bags everywhere too easily. Whenever I saw these unrecycled polythene bags in the garbage, I worry for our environment," said Mya Mya, a 60-year-old housewife in Yangon.

Some department stores in Yangon sell recycled shopping bags, but most shoppers still use polythene bags.

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Sunderbans absorb over 4 cr tonnes of carbon dioxide

The Hindu 26 Apr 11;

Protecting the world from the adverse affects of climate change, the Sunderbans forests play a crucial ecological role by acting as a carbon sink and absorbing more than four crore tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a recent study.

Having 2118 sq km of total mangrove forest cover, the Indian Sunderbans have soaked in 4.15 crore tonnes of carbon dioxide, valued at around $79 billion in the international market, researchers from the University of Calcutta said.

“Mangrove trees act as a natural tank for carbon dioxide storage. They absorb carbon for their own needs, which is a boon for us. The more such biomass we have on earth, the more CO2 will be pulled from the atmosphere. This will ultimately result in controlling the rise of atmospheric temperature and the subsequent climate change,” Prof Abhijit Mitra, who led the research, told PTI.

This process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir is known as carbon sequestration.

As a primary greenhouse gas, large-scale CO2 emission is responsible for global warming as it leads to a rise in sea levels and temperature, adversely affecting agriculture, fishery and human health.

With funding from the Union Ministry of Earth Science and the state forest department, the two-year-long study of the carbon sequestration efficiency of the mangroves was done by the varsity’s marine science department.

Out of the total amount of carbon tied up in earthbound forms, an estimated 90 per cent is contained in the world’s forests. For each cubic foot of merchantable wood produced in a tree, it has been estimated that about 15 kg of carbon is stored in total tree biomass.

To evaluate carbon stocks in the above-ground biomass (AGB) of three dominant mangrove species (’Sonneratia apetala’, ‘Avicennia alba’ and ‘Excoecaria agallocha’) in the Sunderbans, carbon content in stem, branch and leaf biomass was estimated using laser beams by the team of ecologists.

The estimates done in the study, however, exclude the below-ground biomass found under the soil.

Atanu Raha, the state’s principal chief conservator of forests, pointed out that the results are positive as there has been no degradation of forest cover in the Sunderbans.

“In the core forest area, there has been no degradation due to human intervention. Only few forest trees have been lost due to natural reasons beyond our control,” he said.

The unique biological productivity, taxonomic diversity and aesthetic beauty of the Indian Sunderbans has been recognised with the crowns of World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve in 1987 and 1989 respectively by the UNESCO.

The study also found that the central part of the Sunderbans is a poor carbon sink as compared with the western part of the delta.

“The fresh water of Himalayan glaciers fails to reach the central part due to heavy siltation and clogging of the Bidyadhari channel. This has affected the growth of productive mangrove vegetation,” Mitra said.

Effective soil management, tidal interactions (through artificial canalisation) and sufficient flow of freshwater into the mangroves can improve the biomass production of mangrove species, the study suggested.

If the social forestry project is taken up extensively in the Sunderbans, then it might even help the government to earn carbon credit points and sell them for cash using the carbon emission trading system under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“Himachal Pradesh has already done it. In the international market one tonne of carbon is valued at USD 19.

So the Sunderbans can be valued at around USD 79 billion in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide it sequesters,” said Mitra.

The carbon trading system has been recognised by the UN as a method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving it a monetary value.

Credits, that can be bought or sold in the market at the prevailing price, gives the owner the right to emit carbon dioxide after paying for it.

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On thin ice: vulnerable arctic treasures identified

IUCN 27 Apr 11;

A report released today identifies 13 of the richest and most vulnerable places in the Arctic Ocean that should be considered for protection as summer sea ice melts and industrial activity expands into newly accessible areas.

The Bering Strait, Chukchi Beaufort Coast, Barents Sea Coast and Great Siberian Polynya are among the hotspots, according to the report, released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Natural Resources Defense Council. This is the first-ever Arctic-wide identification of areas most important to Arctic marine life and vulnerable to additional stress on top of that related to global warming, loss of sea ice and ocean acidification.

The Arctic Ocean supports a unique array of polar-adapted wildlife – from polar bears and whales to seals, walruses and sea birds. Many of the four million people living in the Arctic rely on these animals for nutritional and cultural sustenance.

The areas identified in the report are unique or particularly rare; contain threatened, endangered or declining species and habitats; are especially vulnerable, fragile, or slow to recover; or meet other internationally recognized criteria. They represent top priorities out of a total 77 Arctic areas that should be considered for protection.

The 13 top priority areas featured in the report are: St. Lawrence Island, the Bering Strait, and Wrangel Island (off the US and the Russian Federation), Chukchi Beaufort Coast (US), Beaufort Coast/Cape Bathurst (Canada), Polar Pack Refugium, Lancaster Sound/North Water Polynya, Disko Bay/Store Hellefiskebanke (off Canada and Greenland), White Sea/Barents Sea Coast, Pechora Sea/Kara Gate, Novaya Zemlya, High Arctic Islands and Shelf, and Great Siberian Polynya (off Norway and the Russian Federation).

The report reflects the findings of 34 leading scientists and representatives of indigenous communities in Arctic countries who gathered at a Scripps Institution of Oceanography workshop last fall.

As the Arctic warms, industrial activities such as shipping, fishing and oil and gas exploration are expanding into ocean places that were previously inaccessible due to the year round presence of sea ice.

“There is increasing interest in expanded economic activities in the Arctic,” says Thomas L. Laughlin, Deputy Head of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme. “The information and maps we have available now will allow governments and the international community to make the right choices regarding the conservation and use of the natural resources of the Arctic.”

“The Arctic Ocean is the last untouched frontier,” says Lisa Speer, Director of the International Oceans Program at NRDC. “We have a short window of opportunity to plan for industrial development in a way that respects and protects important and fragile ocean places, wildlife and communities. As nations around the Arctic plan new offshore oil development, fishing and shipping, this report jumpstarts the process of identifying areas that should be considered for protection from the environmental consequences of those activities, including oil spills, pollution, and habitat degradation.”

The report also looks at the unique features of the High Seas of the Central Arctic Ocean, an area of international waters at the top of the world where marine life survives in an extreme environment of cold and darkness – outside any country’s jurisdiction. Globally unique, the high seas of the Central Arctic may be exceedingly vulnerable and slow to recover.

For more information, you can find the full report online here:

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Going Green Puts E-Cyclers in the Black

Joseph Shure, BusinessNewsDaily Yahoo News 26 Apr 11;

The world’s seemingly insatiable appetite for electronics is shaping up to be a major environmental problem. As the life span of consumer electronics and computers is shortened by each new generation of technology, they are discarded and often end up in landfills, fields and rivers.

As government agencies and environmental activists lament the waste these unwanted technologies create, a burgeoning industry is developing around refurbishing or recycling all manner of unwanted electronics.

Some companies in this field grind up old electronics and harvest them for raw materials like aluminum, copper and gold; others specialize in wiping data from old computers and re-selling them.

‘Urban mining’

Though his field is officially called electronics recycling, John Shegerian likes to think of himself as an “urban miner.”

Shegerian heads the Fresno, Calif.-based Electronic Recyclers International. At ERI’s sevensites, massive electronics recycling machines grind up computers, television sets and other tech gadgets, extracting the valuable metals and plastics within for sale to manufacturers.

Growing electronics consumption has helped companies like ERI quickly ramp up their production volume.

“In our first month of business, we recycled 10,000 pounds of electronic waste,” Shegerian said. “Now, we recycle 15 million pounds per month.”

ERI’s success has made the company an attractive partner to the metal industry. Last year, the Korea-based copper smelter LS-Nikko opened an office at ERI’s headquarters and became a minority shareholder. In March, aluminum titan Alcoa also bought a stake in ERI.

Shegerian said his firm offers benefits to metal firms by helping them meet their environmental goals that are being increasingly demanded of them.

“An important piece of the puzzle is making sure the sustainability mission is accomplished,” Shegerian said.


Ed Stukane sees the value in recycling electronics, but his mission is ensuring as many as possible are re-used. Stukane is the chief marketing officer of PlanITROI, a Denville, N.J.-based firm that buys companies’ unwanted information technology equipment.

If the equipment is still usable, PlanITROI wipes its data, refurbishes it and sells it to an online electronics retailer.

If the equipment is too old to refurbish, the company sells it to an electronics recycler.

One of the key services PlanITROI provides, Stukane said, is helping companies determine how much their IT equipment is worth and how much value it will lose in a given amount of time. (The company’s name refers to its ability to help a company “plan” the return on investment of its IT equipment.)

Companies like PlanITROI help firms profit from their discarded IT equipment while minimizing the waste they create.

“[Our clients] think to themselves, ‘We are a responsible, global corporation. We don’t want our equipment ending up in a field in Africa or a river in China,’” Stukane said.

Double ‘greening’

Joshua Levitt is the managing director of, a Bayonne, N.J.-based company that refurbishes IT equipment and sells it to businesses.

The business model allows companies to go green in two ways: first by using recycled electronics and second by saving money.

Levitt said his company benefits from his customers’ — and society’s — increasingly green-conscious attitudes.

“The concept really works when the necessity to extend useful product life positively influences both our environment and your bottom line,” Levitt said.

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