Best of our wild blogs: 12 May 11

otter makantime I @ SBWR 30Apr2011
from sgbeachbum

Butterfly Portraits - The Saturn
from Butterflies of Singapore

The Cicada Look-alike Planthopper
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Olive-backed Sunbird harvesting nectar from heliconia
from Bird Ecology Study Group

from The annotated budak and Worm eew

Cambodia's wildlife pioneer: saving species and places in Southeast Asia's last forest from

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Singapore: Hottest days of the year

Sunday's 35.3 deg C temperature was highest in six years
Grace Chua, Jamie Ee & Lim Yi Han Straits Times 12 May 11;

SINGAPORE has just sweated through the year's hottest period so far - the four-day stretch from Friday last week to Monday.

Sunday was the most sweltering day in six years, with the mercury hitting 35.3 deg C.

The last two times it was this hot in recent history was on May1, 2005, when it was 35.4 deg C, and during a month-long heatwave in 1983, when it hit 35.8 deg C. But a 36 deg C day in March 1998 is still the all-time high.

The Meteorological Services Division of the National Environment Agency (NEA) explained that such hot days, with occasional heavy thunderstorms, are typical of the inter-monsoon period in April and May, and that temperatures exceeding 34 deg C will be usual on some days.

The average daily maximum temperature for this month will even out to 31.6 deg C, and the temperature and humidity for the coming weeks are not expected to differ by much.

The NEA said that, based on climate statistics, May and June are the warmest months of the year, with average daily temperatures of 27.7 deg C; July comes next with 27.4 deg C and August follows with 27.3 deg C.

Up north, the Malaysian weather authorities are bracing themselves for a heatwave lasting until September; at Subang in Selangor, temperatures were at 36.2 deg C on Friday.

Dr Chew Huck Chin, an associate consultant of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), said such weather could bring on heat-related illnesses like dehydration and heat stroke, especially among children, infants and the elderly. SGH and the National University Hospital were unable to give the number of cases of illnesses or death specifically attributable to the heat.

For the majority, battling the heat is a matter of turning to cold drinks and air-conditioning.

Mr Ken Hamid, 29, who runs a kiosk in front of Lucky Plaza, said sales of beverages, especially bottles of mineral water, have risen by 5 per cent to 10 per cent. The larger 1.5-litre bottles are selling better as well.

At convenience store chain 7-Eleven, a spokesman said sales of water and carbonated drinks were 7 per cent higher, and sales of ice were up 10 per cent. Ice cream sales are stable, she added, but it is monitoring demand and keeping its stores well-stocked.

Research associate Tina Hashim, 27, who was spotted enjoying a sundae in Orchard Road, said: 'I try to wear light clothing when I'm out. At home, I don't have air-conditioning, so I have the fan on full blast when I sleep.'

Coolserve Air-Condition Engineering and electrical appliance stores Harvey Norman and Gain City have sold more air-conditioners. All declined to cite figures, but Coolserve indicated that its installation schedule is packed until the middle of next month.

The Singapore Sports Council said swimming pool attendance was 19 per cent higher in the four days from Friday last week to Monday, compared with the last two weeks of April.

On average, 25,530 people visited the 24 public swimming complexes here on each of the days, up from 21,387 visitors a day in the last two weeks of April.

But as much as most people are seeking out strategies to cool down, some do not mind the heat. Al-fresco dining is still popular at restaurants like Peperoni Pizzeria in Greenwood Avenue, where about half of the tables are in the open.

Its manager Raymond Ho said 70 per cent of its customers are regulars and half are foreigners 'who do not mind sitting in the sun', although some customers had asked to move indoors if tables there became available.

At the IndoChine restaurants on the banks of the Singapore River and at Clarke Quay, business is unaffected; in fact, it does better in the hot season than in the wet one, said marketing manager Eugene Lim.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Zoo said its animals do not seem too bothered by the heat so far.

Mr Biswajit Guha, the zoo's director of zoology, said if it does get too hot, the animals can take a dip in the pools of exhibits or duck into shaded areas provided.

Singapore heats up as temperatures soar to 35 degrees
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 11 May 11;

SINGAPORE: It has been a hot and humid week for Singaporeans. During the day, maximum temperatures have reached highs of between 33 and 35 degrees Celsius.

Singapore's National Environment Agency expect the average daily temperature for the next two weeks to hover around a slightly cooler 31.6 degrees Celsius.

But this forecast does not sit well with some.

A taxti dirver said: "We also have to take rest. We cannot take the heat at all. Many people might think we are making much money, but actually it is not. Because it is too hot, and some of the taxi drivers also fall sick."

Some un-air conditioned coffeeshops said business has slowed to a crawl, reporting meagre earnings even at night.

But the weather comes as a boon to some. Some air conditioner servicing companies said business has increased by about 40 per cent.

Zhang Wei, a Project Manager with Man Ling construction & Engineering, said: "Because it's recently been hotter than usual. Since it suddenly became so hot, those who didn't maintain their air conditioners will suddenly feel that it's not cool anymore, so they will rush to get it fixed. It's very busy like this, same time every year."

Mr Zhang said he has been working 12 hour days since the start of May, servicing about 10 air conditioners a day.

NEA said the hot weather is common this time of the year, as inter-monsoon months are characterised by hot weather and occasional thunderstorms. It said the warm temperatures are also common at this time due to strong solar heating and light winds.


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Forest Fires Cause Haze Over Riau Province

Bernama 11 May 11;

DUMAI (RIAU), May 11 (Bernama) -- Forest and plantation fires have ravaged Sumatra's Riau province, and the smoke have caused haze covering the district over the last three days, Indonesia's Antara nwes agency reports Wednesday.

The haze significantly reduced the air quality in the region and the pollutant standard index (PSI) to 100, Surya Arfan, head of the Rokan Hilir environmental impact control agency said.

"At the number, the air quality is categorized as healthy but only in certain hours like midnight until early morning," he said, adding that several local residents are suffering from respiratory problem due to the haze.

"We will see in the next few days, if the condition gets worse, we will distribute face masks especially to elementary students who are joining the national exam at present," he said.

He estimated that the number of hot spots in Rokan Hilir reached tens of them.

"Our field monitor officers have seen hot spots in idle land areas in Kubu, Bangko, and Bagansiapi-api sub districts. However, we don`t know exactly how large the areas which have been burned," he said.

Marzuki, analyst of the Riau meteorological, climatology and geophysics office, said there are around 110 hot spots in Riau Province.

Based on the monitoring by NOAA Satellite 18, 36 hot spots were found in Rokan Hilir, 13 in Bengkalis, and five in Dumai city.


Malaysia: Air quality in five towns nears unhealthy level
Lee Yen Mun The Star 11 May 11;

PETALING JAYA: The air quality in five towns in three states dropped close to unhealthy levels Wednesday.

The Department of Environment reported higher-than-normal Air Pollutant Index (API) readings for Port Klang (97), Nilai (92), Banting (82), Bukit Rambai in Malacca (87) and Muar (84).

An area's air quality reaches an unhealthy level when its API hits 101, a very unhealthy level at 201 and hazardous when it exceeds 301.

The air quality of an area is considered good if its API reading is between 0 to 50.

Director of air quality unit Kalsom Abdul Ghani attributed the decrease in visibility in various parts of the country to southwesterly winds blowing haze from open burnings in Sumatra hotspots.

"It occurred under transboundary conditions due to the wind, which normally takes this direction at this time of the year,” Kalsom said.

Forest fires cause haze over Rokan Hilir
Antara 10 May 11;

Dumai, Riau (ANTARA News) - Forest and plantation fires in Rokan Hilir District, Riau province, have produced haze covering the district over the last three days.

The haze significantly reduced the air quality in the region and the pollutant standard index (PSI) to 100, Surya Arfan, head of the Rokan Hilir environmental impact control agency, said here Tuesday.

"At the number, the air quality is categorized as healthy but only in certain hours like midnight until early morning," he said.

A number of local residents suffer from respiratory problem due to the haze, he said.

"We will see in the next few days, if the condition gets worse, we will distribute face masks especially to elementary students who are joining the natational exam at present," he said.

He estimated that the number of hot spots in Rokan Hilir reached tens of them.

"Our field monitor officers have seen hot spots in idle land areas in Kubu, Bangko, and Bagansiapi-api sub districts. However, we don`t know exactly how large the areas which have been burned," he said.

Marzuki, analyst of the Riau meteorological, climatology and geophysics office, said there are around 110 hot spots in Riau Province.

Based on the monitoring by NOAA Satellite 18, 36 hot spots were found in Rokan Hilir, 13 in Bengkalis, and five in Dumai city.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Thunderstorms coming to the rescue
New Straits Times 11 May 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: People suffering from the sweltering heat can look forward to some relief in the next few days.

"There will be changes in the weather as tropical storm Aere is moving north," said Malaysian Meteorological Department forecasting director Saw Bun Liong yesterday.

With the weakening influence of Aere, there should be afternoon thunderstorms or morning squalls.

Saw said the southwest monsoon season from May to September normally saw the country experiencing less rain, leading to hot and dry weather.

The mean rainfall recorded in May and June was between 100mm and 150mm, he added.

As of 5pm yesterday, the Department of Environment website showed the Air Pollutant Index (API) ratings of 52 sites monitored nationwide as good and 27 sites as moderate. Only one site was rated as unhealthy. No readings were shown for Petaling Jaya, Selangor and Jalan Tasek, Ipoh.

(API readings of 0-50 are categorised as good; 51-100, moderate; 101-200, unhealthy; 201-300, very unhealthy; and over 301, hazardous.)

The four areas with the highest API readings were Tanjung Malim, Perak, at 109, followed by Port Klang at 97, Nilai, Negri Sembilan, at 86 and Muar, Johor, at 80.

Bukit Rambai in Malacca was at 79 while Shah Alam and Banting in Selangor recorded API readings of 78.

Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang recorded the lowest reading at 29.

Air quality drops by 17%
Isabelle Lai The Star 11 May 11;

PETALING JAYA: With the hot and hazy weather conditions, the air quality in Malaysia plummeted by 17% within a day with good air quality down to 44% yesterday from 61% on Monday.

The Department of Environment recorded 23 areas with good air quality and 29 areas with moderate air quality. Data for Monday showed 31 areas with good air quality and 20 with moderate air quality.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department, meanwhile, recorded 19 areas affected by haze including Malacca, Kuantan, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Sepang, Ipoh and Petaling Jaya.

In a statement yesterday, it said the current dry period was due to the tropical storm Aere over north-east of the Philippines and low-pressure area over the Andaman Sea.

“This resulted in the moisture of our region being drawn to these two areas,” said the statement.

The department said the highest maximum temperature observed at its stations throughout the country since May 6 was 36.2C.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Medical Association president Dr David Quek said frequent intake of water was critical in this weather.

“Dehydration is a real possibility. It can cause heat stroke, giddines and breathing difficulty among others,” he cautioned.

He urged the public to reduce exercising in the open as it could lead to heat stroke as well.

“The key is to rehydrate. But don't drink soft drinks. Water is the best,” he said, adding that people should avoid being outdoors if possible.

Dr Quek also advised those already ill to stay away from public areas until they are fully recovered.

DOE: Drop in visibility an annual affair
The Star 12 May 11;

PETALING JAYA: The drop in visibility in various parts of the country is a phenomenon which occurs yearly around this time, says the Department of Environment’s air quality unit director Kalsom Abdul Ghani.

She attributed the haze that blanketed the Klang Valley yesterday to the southwesterly wind, which blew smoke from open burning in Sumatra’s hotspots.

“It occurs under transboundary conditions due to the wind at this time of the year,” Kalsom said.

The number of hotspots in Sumatra, particularly at central Riau, had jumped significantly in three days.

Satellite images captured 60 hotspots in the Indonesian province on Sunday, which increased to 136 and 156 respectively over the next two days.

Hotspots in peninsular Malaysia also jumped from one to five on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, air quality in five towns in four states dropped close to unhealthy levels yesterday.

The department reported that the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading for Port Klang was 97 at 11am, just three points short of falling into the unhealthy zone.

The other towns were Nilai (92) in Negri Sembilan and Banting (82) in Selangor, Bukit Rambai (87) in Malacca and Muar (84) in Johor.

The air quality is unhealthy when the API hits 101, very unhealthy at 201 and hazardous when it exceeds 301.

The air quality of an area is considered good if its API reading is between 0 and 50, as was the case in Alor Setar, Sungai Petani, Kota Baru, Taiping, Ipoh, Tanjung Malim, Kangar, Prai and Kota Kinabalu.

Langkawi had the best air quality with an API reading of 31.

Most areas in Sarawak also enjoyed good air quality except for Samarahan, which recorded moderate air quality at 53.

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Mangroves in the Philippines: bringing back marine life

Jeanevive D. Abangan PIA Press Release 11 May 11;

“Wala may kaykay (a kind of tiny clam) sa amo sauna, karon daghan nang makuha. (There used to be no kaykay before in our place but now a number can be picked),” Rolando Baba, mangrove caretaker in Barangay San Juan, Maco in Compostela Valley said.

Baba said such types of bivalve mussels can now be found around planted mangroves in Brgy. San Juan and are now growing at about five to seven feet tall.

Baba has noticed this initial sign of coastal environment improvement when mangroves have been planted since 2006 in the coastal barangay where he used to earn a living mainly from fishing.

He now devotes his service as a mangrove caretaker with an honorarium of P1,500 a month from the municipal government of Maco.

He has found fulfillment in his job. Aside from being paid more than what he used to earn from fishing, he has now known the value of mangroves which, he said, play an important role in protecting the coastal environment from siltation, erosion, as well as in saving lives of coastal residents from the danger of strong winds and waves.

His fellow residents may have yet to fully appreciate the importance of mangroves but Baba has become much aware of how mangroves have begun to bring back the kind of environment conducive for propagation of marine foods.

National Fisherfolk Director Rogelio Amatorio noted the same observation in rehabilitated coastal areas planted with mangroves.

“Noon makakakuha lang ang mga mangingisda ng halos tatlong kilo lang na isda, ngayon may five kilos na,” he said in an interview during the nationwide simultaneous mangrove planting activity done in Region 11 at Purok 9, Brgy. Poblacion, Maco, Compostela Valley.

Amatorio was referring to the 542-hectare coastline planted with mangrove from 2007 to 2010.

In conducting this year’s nationwide simultaneous mangrove-planting activity, Pambansang Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda targeted to cover about 80-hectare coastlines, majority of which were in Palawan and in Manila Bay.

But despite the wider stretch of coastlines now being planted with mangroves, Amatorio said mangroves areas have been degrading at an “alarming rate.”

“Only 30 percent of our mangrove areas are in good state, while 70 percent have been degraded,” he told the media.

Mangrove areas are diminishing due to urban development, Amatorio said, citing particularly conversion to fishponds. “Ang iba kinakahoy.

They just don’t know the value chain in it,” he said.

However, he finds hope for mangrove planting activities to bring back the rich coastal marine ecosystem which nurtures man’s sources of food and serves as man’s protection from natural calamities.

He explained the activity as a collaborative effort among local government units, local fisheries management councils, the private and the non-government sectors. He assured that planted mangroves will be taken care of.

In Maco, the local government is implementing Adopt-A-Mangrove project which requires that a tripartite agreement be signed be signed by the LGU, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the adopting party.

Municipal Environment and Natural Resources officer (MENRO) Allan Olaguer revealed in a forum yesterday that among those which have adopted a mangrove area in Maco are the Knights of Columbus, Maco National High School, the Association of Barangay Captains, and the provincial government of Compostela Valley.

The others, Olaguer said are the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Maco Development Cooperative, Apex Mining, and the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) student-members of the University of Mindanao.

Maco has six coastal barangays with about 100-hectare coastline which can be developed into mangrove plantation which forms part of the development agenda of Maco Mayor Arthur Carlos Voltaire Rimando.

Nowadays, Baba is keeping his hands busy looking after the more than 2,000 planted mangroves in Barangay San Juan, but he is looking forward to going back to fishing.

He is optimistic that indeed the mangroves will eventually trigger an increase in fish stocks, not just bring about propagation of shells and clams. “Makabalik ra pohon og pangisda. (I may someday go back to fishing,” he said. (PIA-11/ Jeanevive Duron-Abangan)

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Malaysia: On the trail of untrained and ill-equipped exotic pet owners

Edward R. Henry The Star 11 May 11;

THE Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) are taking extra measures to nab and charge exotic pet owners who abuse or illegally free the animals in urban areas.

Exotic pets require special care and often these animals become troublesome for its owners and end up being abandoned in urban areas to fend for themselves.

In recent times, people in Petaling Jaya have spotted a green iguana in a drain, civet cats (paradoxurus hermaphrodites) running on roofs of homes along Jalan SS2/16 and the Blyth’s River Frog (limnonectes blythii) with horn-like features in bushes in Taman Jaya.

There was also panic among residents in Petaling Jaya when there was news of an unidentified man who had freed a sack of snakes at a field in Jalan SS2/18. One of the snakes had slithered onto a tree branch and was killed by an owl.

Selangor Perhilitan director Rozidan Md Yasin said under no circumstances should exotic pets be set free in urban neighbourhoods.

“Youngsters today are going for exotic pets just for the thrill of it while others just want to show off that they own a rare creature. Some of these animals might carry diseases that humans can contract,” he said.

Rozidan added that buying an exotic pet might seem like a fun idea.

“But, exotic animals are difficult to care for even by the most dedicated pet owners. Most of the time, people get the pets when they are infants but as the creatues grow and the colour and size change, they start to look less attractive and the owners end up releasing them into the urban areas.”

“Recently we received a green iguana ­— a large, arboreal herbivorous species of lizard — native to Central and South America. The frantic individual turned it over to our department as he could no longer provide proper care,” he said.

Rozidan added that if the green iguana was released in the urban areas or in a forest it could create havoc on local plants and small animals or die if it cannot forage for food.

“If we manage to get the culprit, then he or she could be charged under Section 86 of the Cruelty to Wildlife Act. If found guilty he or she would be liable to a fine of not less than RM5,000 and not more than RM50,000 or a jail term not exceeding one-year or both,” he said.

Rozidan said the department could charge the offender under Section 88 for provocation of wildlife as the animal provoked or injured could become a danger to human life and the offender could be fined RM30,000 or jailed one year or both.

Last year, Perhilitan received 44 local protected animals while from January until March this year, nine animals were handed over to the department.

Six exotic animals were also handed to the department last year, while three were received so far this year.

Currently, Selangor Perhilitan is conducting briefings in neighbourhoods to educate people not to buy exotic animals and for those in possession of such rare animals, to register them with the department.

“We need to get the people to register their exotic animals before the new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (716) comes into force in August. These laws are in place to protect the public, the environment and to help enforce humane standards for housing and care of exotic animals that do not fit as pets,” he said.

Owners of exotic animals who go to the briefings have come forward over the months to declare their animals like the Blyth’s River Frog, Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus), Holland Mouse (Pseudomys novaehollandiae) and Tarantula (Coremiocnemis brachyramosa).

“Our enforcement officers also go undercover to nab poachers and animal traders.

“Last week, a male, Asian Bearcat or (Arctictis Binturong) was rescued by Perhilitan who bought the animal from an illegal trader,” he said.

Wildlife enforcement officers who posed as customers lured the poachers in Petaling Jaya to sell the protected animal after making contact in a website and closed the deal for RM800.

Both poachers have been arrested and would be charged soon under the Wildlife Conservation 2010 (Act 716) Section 68 for possession of a totally protected animal without a permit.

They could be fined not exceeding RM100,000 or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both.

Measuring about one metre, the animal looking a little frightened and weighed about 23kg.

According to a source, the animal was meant for the cooking pot and it was kept in a small cage in a car and deprived of water.

For those wanting to hand over their exotic pets or get information can do so at Perhilitan, Jalan Lanar 8/15, Section 8 Shah Alam or call 03-5510 6328.

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Foreign Species Invade San Francisco Bay

Lauren Sommer NPR 12 May 11;

California is cracking down on invasive species, and that could have a big impact on national regulations due out later this year. The state has passed the strictest rules in the country to prevent cargo ships from bringing foreign plants and animals to San Francisco Bay. But the standards are so high, California may not be able to enforce them.

Hundreds Of Invasive Species

Trucks and cranes spring into action as a 900-foot container ship docks at the Port of Oakland. Every year, thousands of ships pass under the Golden Gate Bridge. They bring cars, sneakers, computers — and exotic organisms.

Biologist Andrew Cohen of the Center for Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions sees four of them. He slogs through a muddy beach in the eastern Bay Area and scoops up a clump of seaweed that's home to clams and snails. Cohen also spots some yellow dots, and he says they are "the egg mass of a Japanese sea slug which showed up here a few years ago."

Biologists have found hundreds of invasive species in San Francisco Bay, which Cohen says makes it one of the most invaded estuaries in the world.

"Anytime I go out in the bay," he says, "there's a reasonable chance I'm gonna find something I've never seen in the bay before – something which no one has seen on the Pacific coast before. That's just astonishing."

International Hitchhikers

Most of these invaders arrived as international hitchhikers. Ships that carry cargo on the open ocean have to balance their loads. So, Cohen explains, ships fill massive onboard ballast tanks by pumping seawater in at one port and pumping it out at the next.

"For a long time, people didn't think too much about this, 'cause it was just water, says Cohen. "But eventually, we found that we were moving virtually everything that lived in the sea."

Those transfers included parasites, which cause rashes, and the Asian clam, which altered the entire food web in San Francisco Bay. California has spent millions of dollars trying to get rid of the worst invasive species. But the state's efforts have rarely worked. The strategy has turned to prevention.

Treating The Water

Inside the Golden Bear, a 500-foot ship at the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, engineer Bill Davidson switches on the ballast pumps to test a new water treatment technology. The idea is to kill the organisms in the water before the ballast is released. The system has two steps: First, the ballast water is filtered. Next, chlorine is added.

Davidson says the chlorine is fed back into the ballast stream and "that will ideally oxidize or kill any live organisms."

The treatment system neutralizes the chlorine before it's released, which makes it inactive. But getting the system to work is trickier than it seems, because the organisms are very small.

Tough Standards

In a lab on the ship, Julie Kuo of Moss Landing Marine Labs looks through a microscope at a tintinnid — a tiny, cone-shaped plankton. Kuo counts these organisms in water samples from the treatment process. She also checks to see if they're dead.

"If they're kind of sitting there and you don't know if they're alive or dead," she explains, "you poke them with a probe."

The treatment system is designed to meet international standards that limit the number of living organisms in ballast water. Right now those standards are voluntary. But California has adopted a rule that applies to all newly constructed ships, starting next January. The technology to reach this new standard isn't ready.

Nicole Dobroski is with the California agency overseeing the regulation. She says, "We recognize that that's a challenge, but there's a good reason we wanted it to be a challenge."

Dobroski acknowledges that none of the treatment systems being developed can consistently meet California's standards yet. Still, the state is moving ahead with the regulation.

"We wanted them to be innovative," she says. "We wanted them to think out of the box."

Ships across the globe will also have to think out of the box. Almost half of all of the cargo brought into the U.S. in shipping containers comes in through California ports.

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Deepwater Horizon Spill Threatens More Species Than Legally Protected, Study Finds

ScienceDaily 11 May 11;

Marine species facing threats from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico far exceed those under legal protection in the United States, a new paper in the journal BioScience finds. University of New Hampshire professor Fred Short and others found 39 additional marine species beyond the 14 protected by federal law that are at an elevated risk of extinction. These species, which range from whale sharks to seagrass, should receive priority for protection and restoration efforts, the authors advocate.

"A lot of species in the Gulf of Mexico are going to be damaged by this oil spill but aren't on the U.S. radar screen, although they're threatened globally," says Short, who is a research professor of natural resources and the environment at UNH. Along with lead author Claudio Campagna of the Wildlife Conservation Society and others, Short was a major contributor to the paper, "Gulf of Mexico Oil Blowout Increases Risks to Globally Threatened Species," which appears in the Roundtable section of the May 2011 issue of BioScience.

"It is imperative to understand the global consequences of environmental disasters, as a local perspective underemphasizes the incidence on widely distributed species," says the Wildlife Conservation Society's Campagna. "The IUCN Red List data has an unmatched, so far neglected potential to inform policy decisions at a regional level."

The researchers consulted the extensive species database of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List, which assesses species' global survival status via a rigorous scientific process. They found 53 species with a distribution that overlaps the area of the oil spill that are categorized as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Of these, only 14 receive legal protection in the United States under the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, or the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

"There are species that are surely threatened that could be driven to extinction because of this oil spill," says Short.

Among the Red List species that are not protected by U.S. law are the commercially valuable Atlantic bluefin tuna (western stock), 16 species of sharks, and eight corals. Many species are particularly vulnerable because they return to the Gulf of Mexico to spawn, and the oil spill coincided with peak spawning periods. The researchers also write that the whale shark, the largest fish in the world, is uniquely at risk from oil and oil dispersants because of its filter-feeding behavior; its long lifespan and slow reproductive rate compound the threat to its recovery. It is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List but not protected by the Endangered Species Act.

"Threatened species not yet listed in national legislation should nevertheless be the subject of damage assessments, targeted research, and monitoring, as well as recovery efforts when needed," the authors write. The U.S. Natural Resource Damage Assessment, which is the primary legal authority for assessing damages and providing for recovery of coastal and marine species, may not account for injury to these globally threatened species.

Further, the authors advocate that environmental impact assessments conducted for future offshore oil and gas development should incorporate available data on globally threatened species, including species on the IUCN Red List.

"Next time this happens -- and we know there will be a next time -- we need to take this broader list into consideration," says Short.

Journal Reference:

Claudio Campagna, Frederick T. Short, Beth A. Polidoro, Roger McManus, Bruce B. Collette, Nicolas J. Pilcher, Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson, Simon N. Stuart, Kent E. Carpenter. Gulf of Mexico Oil Blowout Increases Risks to Globally Threatened Species. BioScience, 2011; 61 (5): 393 DOI: 10.1525/bio.2011.61.5.8

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Over a billion tonnes of food wasted every year: UN

Yahoo News 11 May 11;

ROME (AFP) – Around a third of the food produced in the world every year -- around 1.3 billion tons -- gets lost or wasted, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Wednesday.

"Given the limited availability of natural resources it is more effective to reduce food losses than increase food production in order to feed a growing world population," the FAO said in a report.

FAO said the amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereals crop.

Some 925 million people around the world suffer from hunger.

The report said that the problem in the developing world was mainly food losses -- through, for example, crop failures and poor infrastructure.

In industrialised countries, the issue is more about "retailers and consumers throwing perfectly edible foodstuffs into the trash."

The report found that in Europe and North America consumers wasted between 95 and 115 kilograms (209 and 253 pounds) of food every year.

The report found that in the retail industry there was an "over-emphasis on appearance". "Surveys show that consumers are willing to buy produce not meeting appearance standards as long as it is safe and tastes good," it said.

"Consumers in rich countries are generally encouraged to buy more food than they need," it said, giving as an example oversized ready-to-eat meals produced by the food industry and fixed-price buffets in restaurants.

The data was contained in a report commissioned by FAO from the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology for "Save Food!" -- a conference being held in Germany later this month.

Cutting food waste to feed the world
Over a billion tonnes squandered each year
FAO 11 May 11;

11 May 2011, Rome - Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted, according to an FAO-commissioned study.

The document, Global Food Losses and Food Waste, was commissioned by FAO from the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (SIK) for Save Food!, an international congress being held in Düsseldorf 16-17 May at the trade fair of the international packaging industry Interpack2011.

Other key findings include:

Industrialized and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).

Losses and waste

The report distinguishes between food loss and food waste. Food losses — occurring at the production, harvest, post-harvest and processing phases — are most important in developing countries, due to poor infrastructure, low levels of technology and low investment in the food production systems.

Food waste is more a problem in industrialized countries, most often caused by both retailers and consumers throwing perfectly edible foodstuffs into the trash. Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.

Total per capita food production for human consumption is about 900 kg a year in rich countries, almost twice the 460 kg a year produced in the poorest regions. In developing countries 40 percent of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40 percent of losses happen at retail and consumer levels.

Food losses during harvest and in storage translate into lost income for small farmers and into higher prices for poor consumers, the report noted. Reducing losses could therefore have an "immediate and significant" impact on their livelihoods and food security.

Squandering resources

Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.

The report offered a number of practical suggestions on how to reduce losses and waste.

In developing countries the problem is chiefly one of inadequate harvest techniques, poor post-harvest management and logistics, lack of suitable infrastructure, processing and packaging, and lack of marketing information which would allow production to better match demand.

The advice is therefore to strengthen the food supply chain by assisting small farmers to link directly to buyers. The private and public sectors should also invest more in infrastructure, transportation and in processing and packaging.

In middle- and high-income countries food losses and waste stem largely from consumer behaviour but also from lack of communication between different actors in the supply chain.

Over-emphasis on appearance

At retail level, large quantities of food are also wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance. Surveys show that consumers are willing to buy produce not meeting appearance standards as long as it is safe and tastes good. Customers thus have the power to influence quality standards and should do so, the report said.

Selling farm produce closer to consumers, without having to conform to supermarkets' quality standards, is another suggestion. This could be achieved through farmers' markets and farm shops.

Good use for food that would otherwise be thrown away should be found. Commercial and charity organizations could work with retailers to collect, and then sell or use products that have been disposed of but are still good in terms of safety, taste and nutritional value..

Changing consumer attitudes

Consumers in rich countries are generally encouraged to buy more food than they need. "Buy three, pay two" promotions are one example, while the oversized ready-to-eat meals produced by the food industry are another. Restaurants frequently offer fixed-price buffets that spur customers to heap their plates.

Generally speaking, consumers fail to plan their food purchases properly, the report found. That means they often throw food away when "best-before" dates expired.

Education in schools and political initiatives are possible starting points to changing consumer attitudes, the report suggested. Rich-country consumers should be taught that throwing food away needlessly is unacceptable.

They should also be made aware that given the limited availability of natural resources it is more effective to reduce food losses than increase food production in order to feed a growing world population.

A separate report on food packaging for developing countries also prepared for the Save Food! congress noted that appropriate packaging is a key factor impacting on losses occurring at almost every stage of the food chain.

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Climate migration will not wait for scientific certainty on global warming

Research says millions are displaced annually as a result of climate disasters. We must take the precautionary approach
Achim Steiner 11 May 11;

Imagine if the world acted only when 100% scientific proof was in place.

We would still be insulating buildings with cancer-causing asbestos and fuelling cars with lead additives, damaging babies' brains. The circulation in fridges would also be done by chemicals that, by thinning the Earth's protective ozone layer, would probably have led to a sharp increase in cases of skin cancer worldwide.

But this is not happening. In those cases, governments assessed the emerging science, consulted on the risks and accepted that the evidence outweighed the uncertainties.

Internationally, it is called the precautionary approach: you and I might call it acting responsibly, prudently or just being smart.

Climate change perhaps triggers some of the most polarised debate between precaution and those who say that without scientific perfection it is all just hot air.

This has re-surfaced in recent weeks over the issue of climate change and migration.

It has been sparked by a map, produced by a Unep-collaborating centre in Norway, overlapping vulnerable areas of the globe and forecasts of climate impacts.

The map was linked to scientific projections, made in 2005, suggesting there might be 50 million "climate refugees" by 2010.

Presenting complex data is a challenge for any public or private institution – in respect of migration, rising populations, unsustainable use of resources, poverty and civil war all contribute to vulnerability in the face of natural and weather-related disasters.

The science has moved on since 2005, as has the debate at about how best to classify people affected by natural hazards, either temporarily or permanently and within or across national borders.

Looked at today, the map over-simplifies the message, which is why we asked for it to be removed.

Yet the question remains – are there people being displaced by climate change, and what of the future?

These are questions that are likely to be high on nations' minds when the UN security council debates climate change and security in July to review a growing body of informed opinion and evidence.

In 2008 analysts for the Pentagon in the US concluded that extreme weather events linked with climate change could lead to mass migration in some parts of the world.

This year the International Institute for Strategic Studies in the UK stated: "In areas with weak or brittle states, climate change will increase the risks of resource shortages, mass migrations and civil conflict."

Some attempts, such as the 2005 estimate, have also been trying to put possible numbers on the likely numbers displaced.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) looked at the data for 2008.

The data suggests that at least 36 million people were displaced by "sudden-onset natural disasters", of whom more than 20 million were displaced owing to the sudden onset of weather-related disasters, including about 6.5 million people because of floods in India.

"Research from other sources suggests that many millions of people are also displaced annually as a result of slow-onset climate-related disasters such as drought," it adds.

Munich Re, the re-insurance company, recently concluded that in 2010 "The high number of weather-related natural catastrophes and record temperatures, both globally and in different regions of the world, provide further indications of advancing climate change."

The company mentions the floods in Pakistan, where about a million people were displaced.

We could say with greater certainty that many victims of rising greenhouse gas emissions were already with us, if only the existing science was able to disentangle the climate signature from the other complexities and challenges many people across the world increasingly face.

The question we must continuously ask ourselves in the face of scientific complexity and uncertainty, but also growing evidence of climate change, is at what point precaution, common sense or prudent risk management demands action.

The role of institutions such as the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) is to continuously review emerging science, subject it to careful peer review and ensure that it is available to public policymakers and, indeed, the public.

To declare a phenomenon such as climate change non-existent until we have unravelled all aspects of atmospheric science and impacts on the biosphere and on human beings would be reckless and irresponsible.

Although reviewing science is an integral part of knowledge generation, we should not allow the critique to paralyse emerging science on climate change from reaching society – especially when the lives and livelihoods of considerable numbers of people are at risk.

• Achim Steiner is UN under-secretary general and executive director of Unep

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