Best of our wild blogs: 21 Jun 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [13 - 19 Jun 2011]
from Green Business Times

The Sea Anemone Public Lecture tomorrow – Tue 21 Jun 2011: 7.00pm @ NUS LT23
from Otterman speaks

24-25 Jun (Fri-Sat): Raffles Museum Open House - for kids!
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Huge container ship run aground off Sisters Island
from wild shores of singapore

Mysterious red anemones at Punggol
from wild shores of singapore

The King and I: King Cobras in Singapore
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

from The annotated budak

Plant survey at Semakau
from Urban Forest

Mating season on Cyrene
from Psychedelic Nature

Python crushes cat to death at Bukit Panjang
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Read more!

Malaysia: Saleng Zoo in Johor to close

Jassmine Shadiqe New Straits Times 21 Jun 11;

KULAIJAYA: Johor's first and biggest private zoo, the Saleng Zoo, will cease operations following the seizure of more than 60 animals by the Wildlife and National Parks Department yesterday.

The animals seized included Siberian tigers, lions, panthers, wild boar, crocodiles, honey bears, Asian leopard cats, porcupines and birds that required special licences to keep them.

The department's deputy director-general (II) Dr Zaaba Zainal Abidin said the zoo operator, Chai Sit Yee, had been issued with numerous warnings and compounds in the past after he was found to have violated several regulations under the Wildlife Act 1972.

The zoo is registered under T.C. Arapaima and Tropical Fish Sdn Bhd, and has been in operation for 17 years.

"We have seized orang utans, tigers, elephants and wild boar from the zoo in the past, and also had warned them to use larger enclosures for the animals.

"The zoo does not have a veterinarian to ensure that the animals are well kept and healthy. We also found the enclosures too small, cramped, dirty and the animals' health questionable.

"Their licence to operate the zoo was not renewed as they had defaulted on several key elements in running a zoo.

"There have also been many complaints lodged against the zoo."

The raid yesterday morning took the zoo's 10 workers by surprise.

At 5pm, the animals were still being moved into cages by the 64 enforcement officers before being sent to the Malacca Zoo where the animals will be kept in a special enclosure for treatment and observations.

Dr Zaaba said the animals were seized under the new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Section 716), which came into force on Dec 28, last year.

Under the act, a special permit is required for the operation of circuses and zoos, and failure to comply would result in the cancellation or non-issuance of permit to operate zoos.

Saleng Zoo's animal trainer J. Sivapiran said he had started a signature drive and collected more than 400 signatures in support against the decision to close the zoo.

He said he had tried numerous ways to get help from relevant departments, ministries and also politicians, but in vain.

He denied that the animals were abused and not taken care of.

"The zoo has spent more than RM4 million since it started operations, and another RM30,000 was spent to build larger enclosures.

"We were given a grace period of six months to do the required recommendations, but before the grace period expired, they had seized the animals.

"The zoo started with two tigers and now, we have 34, including two cubs born two days ago.

"I agree that we can do better for the animals' welfare, but there is no way the animals are abused here."

He added that the signature drive would go on and believed that they would get more than 20,000 signatures by the end of the month.

Saleng crocs settling down well at wetlands
The Star 22 Jun 11;

SEPANG: Five crocodiles have been relocated to the Paya Indah Wetlands, near here, from Johor’s Saleng Zoo.

An assistant wildlife officer at Paya Indah said the crocodiles were adapting well to their new home and did not show signs of stress after they were moved there on Monday night.

A visit by The Star yesterday revealed the reptiles have joined 17 other crocodiles in a pond as big as two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“It took about two hours to release the crocodiles into the pond, starting at 10pm on Monday.

“The new arrivals swam freely and did not show signs of aggression towards the original occupants of the pond – which is a good sign,” said the Perhilitan officer, who declined to be named.

He added that the crocodiles were released at night as the cooler temperature was less stressful to both the animals.

Apart from the spacious pond where the crocodiles have made their home, the Perhilitan-run wetlands appeared to be in dire need of green upkeeping.

Once touted as a potential eco-tourism park covering about 3,100ha, the park holds only a handful species of animals, including three hippopotamus from Botswana and five Malayan porcupines.

Dried vegetation line the landscape, barely providing shelter for picnickers or joggers.

Entrance is free but visitors are required to sign a guestbook and a declaration of indemnity before entering.

First opened to the public in 1997, the park was rejuvenated with a RM10mil allocation which led to its reopening on Oct 20, 2008.

However, a quick browse through the guest book saw only two names slightly after noon yesterday, while about 50 names were signed last Sunday.

Malaysia rescues big cats from 'filthy zoo'
Yahoo News 21 Jun 11;

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysian wildlife officials rescued 32 tigers and a number of lions, along with other animals, from what they called on Tuesday a dirty and cramped private zoo.

Zaaba Zainol Abidin, deputy director general of the wildlife and national parks department, said the animals, including 32 hybrid Siberian-Bengal tigers, were kept at the Saleng Zoo in southern Johor state in filthy conditions.

"The design is bad. The water wasn't being changed, and it's so dirty. Even the droppings they didn't clean," he told AFP.

The rescued animals are being transferred to a public zoo in Malacca and a wetland reserve in central Selangor state over several days, he said.

He put the number of lions at eight or nine, and said crocodiles, bears and a black panther were also rescued after wildlife authorities refused to renew the zoo's permits to keep the mostly endangered animals.

Zaaba said that the zoo had abused its permit in the past by purchasing an endangered tapir, a large forest-dwelling herbivorous mammal, from locals.

Saleng zookeeper J. Sivapriyan said he opposed the seizure of the animals, adding that the enclosure for the animals was being enlarged.

"I take care of the tigers, which are like my children," he told AFP. "I don't abuse the animals."

Malaysia has pledged to better protect animals from abuse and illegal trade.

A new wildlife law, which came into effect late last year, also aims to tighten control on zoos and circuses.

Last year, Malaysia jailed Anson Wong, a rogue wildlife trader described as one of the world's most-wanted wildlife traffickers, for five years.

Read more!

New large crab species discovered in Costa Rica

Yahoo News 21 Jun 11;

SAN JOSE (AFP) – A new species of large land crab was discovered on Cocos Island in Costa Rica, a local newspaper reported on Monday.

University researchers from Costa Rica and the United States discovered the new species, named "Johngarthia cocoensis," on the Pacific Ocean island. The distinguishing characteristic of J. cocoensis, according to the researchers, is its large size--a male can measure 40 cm (15.7 inches) with their front legs extended (females measure smaller).

The crabs live in holes dug into the soil and eat primarily grasses and seeds.

Robert Perger and Rita Vargas from the University of Costa Rica and Adam Wall from the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum are credited with discovering the new species.

Perger told the local newspaper that J. cocensis resembles the J. malpilensis crab, which lives on nearby islands.

"The similarity with other species in the western Pacific indicates that larvae (which develop in the sea) may have crossed to Cocos Island by sea currents," and then adapted to the habitat to grow into a new species he said.

Cocos Island is located off the coast of Colombia but within the territorial waters of Costa Rica and is the only island in the Western Pacific that has a humid tropical forest climate and a wide variety of animal species.

Read more!

Tumours plague endangered Queensland turtles

Petrina Berry 9 News 21 Jun 11;

A herpes virus is killing endangered sea turtles in north Queensland.

About half of green turtles at Edgecombe Bay at Bowen, south of Townsville, have life-threatening or debilitating tumours, compared to 10 per cent elsewhere, scientists say.

Some turtles recover but in the worst cases, the tumours affect the turtles' organs and vision, making it difficult for them to feed and escape predators.

Researchers from Townsville's James Cook University (JCU) are studying the unusually high infection rate.

JCU virologist Dr Ellen Ariel says every second juvenile turtle at the bay has tumours triggered by the herpes virus.

The phenomenon was first noticed about 10 years ago. JCU researchers, the local indigenous population and Queensland government researchers have been investigating the virus since.

"The healthy ones are really fast but the ones with the tumours are very lethargic," Dr Ariel told AAP.

"What we want to find out is why there's a very high prevalence of this disease in this one small area.

"We don't know if there are environmental influences involved."

She says it's unclear if these sick turtles migrate to this bay or whether they arrive healthy and became sick.

"There are records of turtles recovering from the tumours but there are also cases of them dying," Dr Ariel said.

"After the cyclone (Cyclone Yasi in February) many of them (with tumours) died because they're too weak to survive."

She said the research would include gathering statistics on mortality rates in diseased turtles.

WWF is helping fund the research, which involves catching, testing and tagging the turtles in a kind of "turtle rodeo" manner.

Read more!

Malaysia palm oil firm denies breaching Indonesia's forest ban

* Calls allegation preposterous
* Says stopped a contractor from an unauthorised clearing
* Says has clearance from authorities
Niluksi Koswanage Reuters 20 Jun 11;

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 (Reuters) - Malaysian palm oil firm Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) denied on Monday it had breached Indonesia's two-year forest clearing ban on the first day it was signed to law, calling the allegation by an environmental group "preposterous".

But Malaysia's third-largest listed planter said it stopped an "over eager" contractor from making an unauthorised clearing of a small logged over area that is a small part of one of its concessions in Borneo island.

London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said last week they had evidence that KLK burnt peat forest under a moratorium zone in central Kalimantan province in Borneo -- a key region undergoing rapid estate expansion.

There appears to be more scrutiny on palm firms after Indonesia, in a concession to planters, revealed a list of exemptions to its much delayed two-year forest moratorium on logging that came into effect on May 20.

"Existing concessions with valid licences are exempted from the moratorium and be allowed to continue," KLK's plantations director Roy Lim told Reuters in an emailed statement.

"KLK has long abandoned using fire to clear land for new planting or replanting. Our policy and practice is zero burning for such activities."

Lim added KLK had obtained a plantation business permit in 2009 for more than 6,000 hectares (14,830 acres) in Kalimantan province on Borneo that EIA based its report on, implying it had clearance from the authorities well before the forest ban came into effect.

"Notwithstanding, the unauthorised clearing of a small logged over area by our over eager contractor (about 70 hectares) has been halted pending further verification due to the lack of clarity."

KLK shares were down 1.3 percent on Monday, lower than the broader market although analysts attributed this to general weakness in regional markets.


Malaysian and Indonesian planters have come under scrutiny over the past two years by green groups for expanding their estates at the expense of forests and peatlands -- climate warming acts that these companies often deny.

Indonesia is seen as a key player in the fight against climate change and is under intense international pressure to curb its rapid deforestation rate and destruction of carbon-rich peatlands.

Norway and Indonesia signed a pact in May last year under which Jakarta promised to impose the moratorium. In return Norway vowed to pay $1 billion, based on Indonesia's performance in achieving long-term goals to slow deforestation.

But green groups have criticised sovereign wealth funds for investing in palm oil companies that they say have a track record of destroying the environment, while at the same time funding Indonesian moves to reduce deforestation.

KLK is a part of the $550 billion portfolio for a Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, which EIA and its Indonesian partner Telapak says has profited from deforestation.

A Norwegian finance ministry official said this year the fund will keep investing in Southeast Asian planters but may exclude firms that severely damage the environment. (Editing by Ramthan Hussain)

Read more!

China's Three Gorges Dam operator defends project

Allison Jackson Yahoo News 20 Jun 11;

BEIJING (AFP) – The operator of China's Three Gorges Dam has defended the controversial project, saying it has a "sacred mission" to control flooding, generate clean energy and ensure water supply.

Just one month ago, the government said the world's largest hydroelectric dam had caused a host of ills that must be "urgently" addressed -- a rare admission of problems in the project it has long praised as a world wonder.

"Managing and operating well the Three Gorges Dam is the sacred mission entrusted to the Three Gorges Corporation by the country," the company said in a social responsibility report published at the weekend.

"All along we have prioritised social benefits" and "given full play to the benefits of flood control, electricity generation, navigation, downstream water supply and ecology," it said.

But critics of the $22.5 billion dam on the Yangtze River have long warned of its environmental, social and other costs.

Despite these concerns, the operator said it planned to build four "giant hydroelectric stations" on the upper reaches of the Yangtze that will generate nearly 43 gigawatts of power -- equivalent to two Three Gorges Dams.

The social responsibility report said the dam had generated 368.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity by the end of 2009 and last year, during the worst flooding in years, held back 7.6 billion cubic metres of water.

The operators also provided nearly $250 million for poverty alleviation and disaster relief, the report said.

Construction of the Three Gorges Dam began in 1993 and the project in central China began generating power in 2008.

Authorities have hailed it as a major new clean energy source and a way to tame the notoriously flood-prone Yangtze, China's longest river.

But the State Council, or cabinet, acknowledged the environmental, social and geological concerns after a meeting last month and said "there are problems that must be urgently resolved".

About 1.4 million people were displaced to make way for the dam and its huge reservoir, which has put several cultural heritage sites deep under water.

Chinese experts and officials have warned of the potential for seismic disturbances -- including landslides and mudflows -- caused by the massive weight of the reservoir's water on the region's geology.

Environmentalists have cautioned the reservoir would serve as a giant catchment for China's notorious pollution, ruining water quality.

The government said last August that billions of dollars would be needed to address environmental damage along the river, including sewage treatment.

China is relying on hydroelectric power as a major component in its energy mix as it seeks to meet soaring power needs. It has dozens of dams either under construction or on the drawing board, according to state media reports.

Read more!

Oceans in distress foreshadow mass extinction

Marlowe Hood Yahoo News 20 Jun 11;

PARIS (AFP) – Pollution and global warming are pushing the world's oceans to the brink of a mass extinction of marine life unseen for tens of millions of years, a consortium of scientists warned Monday.

Dying coral reefs, biodiversity ravaged by invasive species, expanding open-water "dead zones," toxic algae blooms, the massive depletion of big fish stocks -- all are accelerating, they said in a report compiled during an April meeting in Oxford of 27 of the world's top ocean experts.

Sponsored by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), the review of recent science found that ocean health has declined further and faster than dire forecasts only a few years ago.

These symptoms, moreover, could be the harbinger of wider disruptions in the interlocking web of biological and chemical interactions that scientists now call the Earth system.

All five mass extinctions of life on the planet, reaching back more than 500 million years, were preceded by many of the same conditions now afflicted the ocean environment, they said.

"The results are shocking," said Alex Rogers, an Oxford professor who heads IPSO and co-authored the report. "We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime."

Three main drivers are sickening the global marine environment, and all are a direct consequence of humans activity: global warming, acidification and a dwindling level oxygen, a condition known as hypoxia.

Up to now, these and other impacts have been studied mainly in isolation. Only recently have scientists began to understand how these forces interact.

"We have underestimated the overall risks, and that the whole of marine degradation is greater than the sum of its parts," Rogers said. "That degradation is now happening at a faster rate than predicted."

Indeed, the pace of change is tracking or has surpassed the worst-case scenarios laid out by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its landmark 2007 report, according to the new assessment.

The chain reaction leading to increased acidification of the oceans begins with a massive influx of carbon into Earth's climate system.

Oceans act as a massive sponge, soaking up more than a quarter of the CO2 humans pump into the atmosphere.

But when the sponge becomes too saturated, it can disrupt the delicately balanced ecosystems on which marine life -- and ultimately all life on Earth -- depends.

"The rate at which carbon is being absorbed is already far greater now than during the last globally significant extinction of marine species 55 million years ago," when some 50 percent of deep-sea life was wiped out, the report said.

That event, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, may be an ancient dress rehearsal for future climate change that could be even more abrupt and more damaging, some scientists fear.

Pollution has also taken a heavy toll, rendering the oceans less resilient to climate change.

Runoff from nitrogen-rich fertiliser, killer microbes, and hormone-disrupting chemicals, for example, have all contributed to the mass die-off of corals, crucial not just for marine ecosystems but a lifeline for hundreds of millions of people too.

The harvesting up to 90 percent of some species of big fish and sharks, meanwhile, has hugely disrupted food chains throughout the ocean, leading to explosive and imbalanced growth of algae, jellyfish and other "opportunistic" flora and fauna.

"We now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation," said Daniel Laffoley, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas, and co-author of the report.

"And we are also probably the last generation that has enough time to deal with the problems," he told AFP by phone.

Ocean life on the brink of mass extinctions: study
Reuters 21 Jun 11;

(Reuters) - Life in the oceans is at imminent risk of the worst spate of extinctions in millions of years due to threats such as climate change and over-fishing, a study showed on Tuesday.

Time was running short to counter hazards such as a collapse of coral reefs or a spread of low-oxygen "dead zones," according to the study led by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO).

"We now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation," according to the study by 27 experts to be presented to the United Nations.

"Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, over-exploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean," it said.

Scientists list five mass extinctions over 600 million years -- most recently when the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago, apparently after an asteroid struck. Among others, the Permian period abruptly ended 250 million years ago.

"The findings are shocking," Alex Rogers, scientific director of IPSO, wrote of the conclusions from a 2011 workshop of ocean experts staged by IPSO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at Oxford University.

Fish are the main source of protein for a fifth of the world's population and the seas cycle oxygen and help absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities.


Jelle Bijma, of the Alfred Wegener Institute, said the seas faced a "deadly trio" of threats of higher temperatures, acidification and lack of oxygen, known as anoxia, that had featured in several past mass extinctions.

A build-up of carbon dioxide, blamed by the U.N. panel of climate scientists on human use of fossil fuels, is heating the planet. Absorbed into the oceans, it causes acidification, while run-off of fertilizers and pollution stokes anoxia.

"From a geological point of view, mass extinctions happen overnight, but on human timescales we may not realize that we are in the middle of such an event," Bijma wrote.

The study said that over-fishing is the easiest for governments to reverse -- countering global warming means a shift from fossil fuels, for instance, toward cleaner energies such as wind and solar power.

"Unlike climate change, it can be directly, immediately and effectively tackled by policy change," said William Cheung of the University of East Anglia.

"Over-fishing is now estimated to account for over 60 percent of the known local and global extinction of marine fishes," he wrote.

Among examples of over-fishing are the Chinese bahaba that can grow 2 meters long. Prices per kilo (2.2 lbs) for its swim bladder -- meant to have medicinal properties -- have risen from a few dollars in the 1930s to $20,000-$70,000.

(Editing by Jan Harvey)

World's oceans in 'shocking' decline
Richard Black BBC News 20 Jun 11;

The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists.

In a new report, they warn that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history".

They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognised.

The impacts, they say, are already affecting humanity.

The panel was convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), and brought together experts from different disciplines, including coral reef ecologists, toxicologists, and fisheries scientists.

Its report will be formally released later this week.

"The findings are shocking," said Alex Rogers, IPSO's scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University.

"As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.

"We've sat in one forum and spoken to each other about what we're seeing, and we've ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we're seeing changes that are happening faster than we'd thought, or in ways that we didn't expect to see for hundreds of years."

These "accelerated" changes include melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, sea level rise, and release of methane trapped in the sea bed.
Fast changes

"The rate of change is vastly exceeding what we were expecting even a couple of years ago," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coral specialist from the University of Queensland in Australia.

"So if you look at almost everything, whether it's fisheries in temperate zones or coral reefs or Arctic sea ice, all of this is undergoing changes, but at a much faster rate than we had thought."

But more worrying than this, the team noted, are the ways in which different issues act synergistically to increase threats to marine life.

Some pollutants, for example, stick to the surfaces of tiny plastic particles that are now found in the ocean bed.

This increases the amounts of these pollutants that are consumed by bottom-feeding fish.

Plastic particles also assist the transport of algae from place to place, increasing the occurrence of toxic algal blooms - which are also caused by the influx of nutrient-rich pollution from agricultural land.

In a wider sense, ocean acidification, warming, local pollution and overfishing are acting together to increase the threat to coral reefs - so much so that three-quarters of the world's reefs are at risk of severe decline.

Carbon deposits

Life on Earth has gone through five "mass extinction events" caused by events such as asteroid impacts; and it is often said that humanity's combined impact is causing a sixth such event.

The IPSO report concludes that it is too early to say definitively.

But the trends are such that it is likely to happen, they say - and far faster than any of the previous five.

"What we're seeing at the moment is unprecedented in the fossil record - the environmental changes are much more rapid," Professor Rogers told BBC News.

"We've still got most of the world's biodiversity, but the actual rate of extinction is much higher [than in past events] - and what we face is certainly a globally significant extinction event."

The report also notes that previous mass extinction events have been associated with trends being observed now - disturbances of the carbon cycle, and acidification and hypoxia (depletion of oxygen) of seawater.

Levels of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans are already far greater than during the great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago (during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), it concludes.
Blue planet

The report's conclusions will be presented at UN headquarters in New York this week, when government delegates begin discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.

IPSO's immediate recommendations include:

stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation

mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste

making sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon dioxide levels are now so high, it says, that ways of pulling the gas out of the atmosphere need to be researched urgently - but not using techniques, such as iron fertilisation, that lead to more CO2 entering the oceans.

"We have to bring down CO2 emissions to zero within about 20 years," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg told BBC News.

"If we don't do that, we're going to see steady acidification of the seas, heat events that are wiping out things like kelp forests and coral reefs, and we'll see a very different ocean."

Another of the report's authors, Dan Laffoley, marine chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas and an adviser to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), admitted the challenges were vast.

"But unlike previous generations, we know what now needs to happen," he said.

"The time to protect the blue heart of our planet is now."

Multiple ocean stresses threaten “globally significant” marine extinction
IUCN 20 Jun 11;

An international panel of experts warns in a report released today that marine species are at risk of entering a phase of extinction unprecedented in human history.

The preliminary report arises from a ‘State of the Oceans’ workshop co-hosted by IUCN in April, the first ever to consider the cumulative impact of all pressures on the oceans. Considering the latest research across all areas of marine science, the workshop examined the combined effects of pollution, acidification, ocean warming, over-fishing and hypoxia (deoxygenation).

The scientific panel concluded that the combination of stresses on the ocean is creating the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth’s history. And the speed and rate of degeneration in the ocean is far greater than anyone has predicted.

The panel concluded that many of the negative impacts previously identified are greater than the worst predictions. As a result, although difficult to assess, the first steps to globally significant extinction may have begun with a rise in the extinction threat to marine species such as reef-forming corals.

“The world’s leading experts on oceans are surprised by the rate and magnitude of changes we are seeing,” says Dan Laffoley, Marine Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, Senior Advisor on Marine Science and Conservation for IUCN and co-author of the report. “The challenges for the future of the ocean are vast, but unlike previous generations, we know what now needs to happen. The time to protect the blue heart of our planet is now, today and urgent.”

“The findings are shocking,” says Dr Alex Rogers, Scientific Director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) which convened the workshop. “As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean, the implications became far worse than we had individually realized. This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, our children’s and generations beyond that.”

Marine scientists from institutions around the world gathered at Oxford University under the auspices of IPSO and the IUCN. The group reviewed over 50 of the most recent research papers by world ocean experts and found firm evidence that the effects of climate change, coupled with other human-induced impacts such as over-fishing and nutrient run-off from farming, have already caused a dramatic decline in ocean health.

Increasing hypoxia and anoxia (absence of oxygen, known as ocean dead zones) combined with warming of the ocean and acidification are the three factors which have been present in every mass extinction event in Earth’s history.

There is strong scientific evidence that these three factors are combining in the ocean again, exacerbated by multiple severe stresses. The panel concluded that a new extinction event was inevitable if the current trajectory of damage continues, and could be said to have already begun.

Facts highlighted by the panel include:

• The levels of carbon being absorbed by the ocean are already far greater now than at the time of the last mass extinction of marine species, some 55 million years ago, when up to 50% of some groups of deep sea animals were wiped out.

• A single mass coral bleaching event in 1998 killed 16% of all the world’s tropical coral reefs.

• Overfishing has reduced some commercial fish stocks by more than 90%.

• New science also suggests that pollutants including flame retardant chemicals and synthetic musks found in detergents are being traced in the Polar Seas, and that these chemicals can be absorbed by tiny plastic particles in the ocean which are in turn eaten by marine creatures.

The experts agreed that adding these and other threats together means that the ocean and the ecosystems within it are unable to recover, being constantly bombarded with multiple attacks.

The report sets out a series of recommendations and calls on states, regional bodies and the United Nations to implement measures to better conserve ocean ecosystems, and in particular demands the urgent adoption of better governance of the largely unprotected high seas which make up the majority of the ocean.

For more information contact:
James Oliver,

About the report’s authors

Alex Rogers is Professor of Conservation Biology at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford and a Fellow of Somerville College. He is a marine biologist with special expertise on deep-sea ecosystems, particularly cold-water coral habitats, seamounts and hydrothermal vents and has recently led scientific expeditions to the Indian and Southern Oceans. He also has a special interest in sustainable use of the oceans and human impacts on marine ecosystem. Professor Rogers is also Scientific Director of the International Programme on State of the Ocean, an NGO that is specifically analysing current impacts on marine ecosystems globally (see below).

Professor Dan Laffoley is a key figure at the global scale on marine conservation, and widely recognized for his leadership on Marine Protected Areas and innovative conservation approaches. For over 25 years he has been involved in leading marine protection efforts at UK, European and global scales creating many of the key initiatives and concepts that underlie our modern approaches to protecting the ocean.

State of the Ocean report June 2011 pdf 2011265KB

Read more!

Sea Level is Rising Faster Than Ever Seen

Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience Yahoo News 21 Jun 11;

Sea levels are rising faster than they have been in the last two millennia, new research shows. The swelling seas match up well with historical temperature data, suggesting the warmer it is, the more the sea level rises.

"Sea-level rise is a potentially disastrous outcome of climate change," study researcher Benjamin Horton, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. "Rising temperatures melt land-based ice and warm ocean waters."

Rising sea levels could threaten coastal cities, with 50 percent of the U.S. population living within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the coast. The faster sea levels rise, the more difficult it will be for cities to adjust and the more dramatic the erosion of the coastline will get, according to researchers.

Reading sea levels

The team reconstructed sea-level variability off the East Coast of the U.S. over the last 2,000 years from the microfossils (from animals that typically lived in the oceans) found in soil cores from marshes in North Carolina.

The results revealed the height of the seas during particular years, which they then compared with data from tide-gauge measurements from the last 300 years.

They found that sea levels were stable from around 200 B.C. to A.D. 1000, followed by a rise of 0.02 inches (0.5 millimeters) per year for 400 years. After this increase, the sea level held steady through the late 19th century. Sea levels started rising again since then, averaging about 0.08 inches (2 millimeters) a year on average. This is the steepest rise the group has seen in its records, which go back more than 2,100 years.

Historical records

They then compared this data with historical temperature records. First, they noticed that the sea-level increases that occurred in the 11th century coincided with a warm period known as the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Current sea-level rise seems to coincide with temperature changes, as well.

The data will help researchers understand the Earth's changing climate and oceans in the context of historical changes. It may also help researchers predict how much sea levels will rise with higher global temperatures.

"Scenarios of future rise are dependent on understanding the response of sea level to climate changes," study researcher Andrew Kemp, of Yale University, said in a statement. "Accurate estimates of past sea-level variability provide a context for such projections."

The study was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Study details significant sea level rise
Randolph E. Schmid Associated Press Yahoo News 20 Jun 11;

WASHINGTON – Sea level has been rising significantly over the past century of global warming, according to a study that offers the most detailed look yet at the changes in ocean levels during the last 2,100 years.

The researchers found that since the late 19th century — as the world became industrialized — sea level has risen more than 2 millimeters per year, on average. That's a bit less than one-tenth of an inch, but it adds up over time.

It will lead to land loss, more flooding and saltwater invading bodies of fresh water, said lead researcher Benjamin Horton whose team examined sediment from North Carolina's Outer Banks. He directs the Sea Level Research Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania.

The predicted effects he cites aren't new and are predicted by many climate scientists. But outside experts say the research verifies increasing sea level rise compared to previous centuries.

Kenneth Miller, chairman of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University, called the new report significant.

"This is a very important contribution because it firmly establishes that the rise in sea level in the 20th century is unprecedented for the recent geologic past," said Miller, who was not part of the research team. Miller said he recently advised New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that the state needs to plan for a sea level rise of about 3 feet by the end of the century.

Horton said rising temperatures are the reason behind the higher sea level.

Looking back in history, the researchers found that sea level was relatively stable from 100 B.C. to A.D. 950. Then, during a warm climate period beginning in the 11th century, sea level rose by about half a millimeter per year for 400 years. That was followed by a second period of stable sea level associated with a cooler period, known as the Little Ice Age, which persisted until the late 19th century.

Rising sea levels are among the hazards that concern environmentalists and governments with increasing global temperatures caused by "greenhouse" gases like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil over the last century or so.

Although melting icebergs floating on the sea won't change sea level, there are millions of tons of ice piled up on land in Greenland, Antarctica and elsewhere. Melting that ice would have a major impact by raising ocean levels.

The result could include flooding in highly populated coastal cities and greater storm damage in oceanfront communities.

While the new study does not predict the future, Horton pointed out that it does show "there is a very close link between sea level and temperature. So for the 21st century when temperatures will rise, so will sea level."

Two of his co-authors calculated in an earlier paper that sea level could rise by between 30 and 75 inches by the end of this century. And it might even rise faster than that, Martin Vermeer of Aalto University in Finland and Stefan Rahmstorf of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact reported in 2009.

"Accurate estimates of past sea-level variability provide a context for such projections," co-author Andrew Kemp of Yale University's Climate and Energy Institute said in a statement.

Horton's team studied sediment cores from salt marshes at Sand Point and Tump Point on the North Carolina coast to develop their calculations of sea-level change over the two millennia. They analyzed microfossils in the cores and the age of the cores was estimated using radiocarbon dating and other methods.

For the years since tide gauges have been installed, those findings closely track the results from the study, the researchers noted. The study is being published in this week's edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While Horton's report is the first to produce a continuous record of the past 2,000 years "other studies show similar changes, especially concerning the acceleration in sea level rise in the 20th century," Miller said.

Read more!