Best of our wild blogs: 28 Sep 11

Seminars next week in NUS: evolutionary biogeography and conservation in SEA, bats and viruses, exceeding earth's carrying capacity from Habitatnews

NUScasts and Youtube videos from the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III (2011) from Habitatnews

Another Good Vis Day @ Pulau Hantu
from colourful clouds

Shrimp goby and commensal shimp
from Pulau Hantu

Tuas: seagrass shift and very long driftnet
from wild shores of singapore and Project Driftnet and teamseagrass

Drilling to take place near Kusu Island reefs
from wild shores of singapore

Damselfly (5) – Agriocnemis Femina
from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

Holiday Workshops by the Education Unit of RMBR
from Raffles Museum News

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Council formed to keep Singapore clean

Hoe Yeen Nie Channel NewsAsia 27 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) has formed a new Public Hygiene Council, in its latest effort to keep Singapore clean.

It wants Singaporeans to stop littering and practise good hygiene by influencing public attitudes.

The Public Hygiene Council, chaired by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital CEO Liak Teng Lit, comprises 21 individuals representing the public sector, environment groups and related industries.

They include Ms Tan Puay Hoon, president of the Restroom Association (Singapore), Mr Eugene Heng, chairman of the Waterways Watch Society, Dr Foo Suan Fong, principal of Dunman High School and Mr Edward Goh, chief operating officer of Purechem Veolia Environmental Services.

The plan is to tap their collective experience for ideas, which will in turn complement NEA's initiatives.

The NEA already has a whole slew of campaigns, from anti-littering to getting people to use public toilets more responsibly.

But it said there is a limit to their effectiveness, and in order to see progress, behaviour and attitudes need to change. That is where the council comes in.

Streets will continue to be swept, and strict penalties against offenders will still apply.

But there will now be a more coordinated attempt at changing public behaviour through the community.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said: "I still believe we need to make sure it is clean in the morning; you still need to maintain that.

"If a person is habitually anti-social, I need to make sure there is a high probability that he will be caught.

"Thirdly and most importantly, I want his neighbours to care. And frankly, neighbours know who are the guilty ones."

Public Hygiene Council chairman Liak Teng Lit said: "Every single Singaporean really needs to take ownership.

"Do the right thing, and advocate for it, stand up for it. When people do not do the right thing, they really ought to be able to stand forward and say, that's not right."

The council is inviting feedback on its website,


New council to tackle littering, hygiene issues
Esther Ng Today Online 28 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE - One in four Singaporeans know it is an offence to litter but will do so out of convenience, while one in a hundred will litter regardless of the consequences.

These are some of the findings a sociological study commissioned by the National Environment Agency (NEA) has found, and are due to be released next month.

To tackle the scourge of littering, as well as other public hygiene challenges such as dirty toilets, a newly formed Public Hygiene Council will work with the NEA and other Government agencies to get Singaporeans to be more civic conscious.

The 21-member council comprise stakeholders from the private sector - such as food court operator Koufu, the Singapore Hotel Association and Purechem Veolia Environmental Services - as well as representatives from Government bodies.

And it has set the bar very high. "We need to reach the standard of Japan or Northern Europe or Korea, and we must not settle for less," said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan who was present at the launch of the council at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital yesterday.

"It's not enough to be clean in some areas, and have a mess in certain areas. So the difference this time round, we're going to do an all out blitz on all areas and involving all stakeholders."

Over the next few months, the council will garner feedback from the public and work with stakeholders to "promote best practices" and outreach efforts, said NEA's chief executive Andrew Tan, who added that the council's promotional efforts will complement the agency's regulatory role.

Mr Tan noted that there is "no single formula" to tackle cleanliness and littering problems, but rather by a combination of enforcement, education, provision of rubbish bins and a cleaning regime.

"It's a community of best practices that we can promote around the island by the different stakeholders who can achieve a certain tipping point and establish a new social form that we can then all follow," he said.

Lamenting that Singapore has a "first world infrastructure" but a "third world behaviour", the council's chairman Liak Teng Lit urged Singaporeans to keep the country clean just as they would their "homes and bedroom".

"Every single Singaporean really needs to take ownership," Mr Liak said.

"Do the right thing, and advocate for it, stand up for it.

"When people do not do the right thing, they really ought to be able to stand forward and say, that's not right."

New council rolls up sleeves for dirty job
Littering and filthy public toilets among problems it will tackle
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 28 Sep 11;

FOUR in 10 people in Singapore would litter if they knew they could get away with it, a National Environment Agency (NEA) survey found. Another finding: The state of public toilets is 'appalling'.

These results were cited by a new Public Hygiene Council launched yesterday in another renewed push to raise cleanliness standards in Singapore.

The 21-strong council is made up of representatives from schools, the hotel and restroom associations, environmental organisations, government departments and hospitals.

Mr Liak Teng Lit, chair of the council and chief executive of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, said that bringing all the relevant groups together would improve future cleanliness campaigns.

The council hopes to pick up the work where fines and penalties end, to keep Singaporeans' bad habits in check.

And even though the NEA has an array of campaigns, from anti-littering to promoting clean public toilet habits, the council plans to step in by pooling together the expertise of hotels, schools and others to bring about a change in behaviour.

So, to deal with dirty toilets, for example, the council will tap the advice of the Restroom Association as well as operators of foodcourts and restaurants. The hope: with more heads and hands on deck, the cleaner that deck will be.

It plans to conduct studies on hygiene and littering and wants to get feedback through its website and Facebook page

'All this will help move the council away from the more top-down approach of the past,' said Mr Liak.

The council's members are appointed by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources. The ministry will oversee any funding request from the council.

For now, its first priority is public toilets, especially those at coffee shops and hawker centres. Ms Tan Puay Hoon, president of the Restroom Association, said she was ashamed to take overseas guests to these toilets because of their condition.

She added: 'The floors are often wet and slippery and it's dangerous for the elderly and children.'

The council has started consulting stallholders and will announce an education campaign by year-end.

It also intends to put a lid on the littering problem.

For example, it wants to focus on improving habits at HDB lift landings, where refuse tends to collect. It will also go beyond educational efforts by looking at the design of bins. The small openings may be a reason for people dumping trash at the side rather than into the bins.

Even though the number of litterbugs caught dropped by half, to 7,500, in the first half of this year compared to last year, there is a growing perception that Singapore is getting dirtier.

The NEA's chief, Mr Andrew Tan, agreed that there was such a view, given the number of Forum page letters focusing on the subject in recent months.

But he felt that the perception could also have come about because the littering problem was worse in high-traffic places such as bus stops and interchanges, Orchard Road, Little India, Chinatown and East Coast Park.

Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, vice-dean of the arts and social sciences faculty at the National University of Singapore, said people could also be getting more cunning at avoiding being caught.

She cited the NEA survey she led, which found that four in 10 of the 4,400 respondents polled would litter if they believed they would not be caught.

The survey's full findings will be compiled into a book to be launched next month.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan lauded the council's goals and said people could help keep Singapore litter-free by taking care of their own neighbourhoods.

'If you see your neighbour littering, remind him not to do so,' he said.

Council member Leo Yee Sin, head of the infectious disease department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, said good hygiene is essential because Singapore's small size means disease outbreaks could spread more quickly than in other countries.

Mr Liak said residents need to help clean up the country and not rely on professional cleaners.

'We have a First World country's infrastructure but we look like a Third World country sometimes,' he added.

Singapore's First Public Hygiene Council Calls For A New National Passion For Good Hygiene
NEA Press Release 27 Sep 11;

Singapore, 27 Sept 2011 -- The newly launched Public Hygiene Council calls on the public to be “passionate” about good hygiene practices, both in the area of personal and public hygiene. This is particularly important in an urbanised, densely populated country like Singapore.

The Council will promote a process of engagement with society, which aims to spread good hygiene practices and where the public makes a stand on what they are prepared to do to sustain and improve personal and public hygiene standards and practices. Through this process, the Council also hopes to rally the community to stand resolute against poor public hygiene habits, such as littering and poor toilet user behaviour.

Outreach and Obtaining Feedback

Utilising a variety of platforms, the Public Hygiene Council seeks to gather ideas suggestions and feedback from the public on hygiene issues. The Council also seeks to grow a community of practitioners and advocates by calling on individuals and groups to learn from best practices and do their part to stamp out bad hygiene practices.

Among these, there will be focus group discussions with the different stakeholders to develop relevant educational campaigns, as well as networking and sharing sessions to share best practices on instilling good hygiene practices. Public and stakeholder groups can also provide their feedback through behavioural studies, which the Council intends to use to gain insights on the current standards of hygiene in Singapore. Online polls and forum discussions on various public hygiene issues would also be organised to seek feedback, obtain suggestions for improvement, as well as organise various activities and programmes.

Chairman of the Public Hygiene Council, Mr Liak Teng Lit, said, “I think many in Singapore want a cleaner and more hygienic environment and everyone has a part to play to achieve this goal. There needs to be ownership of hygiene issues. The Council cannot do it alone. We want to call upon like-minded people to join us in our efforts towards a cleaner and more hygienic environment for all.”

A Concerted Effort for a Cleaner Singapore

The Public Hygiene Council comprises passionate individuals from various sectors of the community, including, non-governmental organisations, government, media and education.

The Council believes that a cleaner and more hygienic environment is within Singapore’s reach, and it hopes that more people in society will participate collectively towards this goal by carrying out one good hygiene practice a day, such as picking up a piece of litter.

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Asian countries among the worst air polluters

But WHO says Singapore one of region's better places; most-polluted city in the world is in Iran
Straits Times 28 Sep 11;

GENEVA: Asian countries fare poorly when it comes to air pollution, although Bhutan, Japan and Singapore rank among the better places, according to the World Health Organisation's first global survey.

Cities in Canada and the US were rated among the best, while those in the Middle East were among the worst. The south- western Iranian city of Ahwaz in fact walked away with the unfortunate distinction of having the highest measured level of airborne particles smaller than 10 micrometres.

WHO released the list on Monday, to highlight the need to reduce outdoor air pollution, which is estimated to cause 1.34 million premature deaths each year.

The global body said investments to lower pollution levels quickly pay off because of lower disease rates and, therefore, lower health-care costs.

The list, which relies on country-reported data over the past several years, measures the concentration of airborne particles smaller than 10 micrometres - so-called PM10s - for almost 1,100 cities.

WHO recommends an upper limit of 20 micrograms for PM10s, which can cause serious respiratory problems in humans. They are mostly sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide from power plants, vehicle exhausts and industry.

The world average for PM10 was estimated to be 71 micrograms per cu m.

Singapore's outdoor air pollution level was significantly lower at 32 micrograms per cu m, for 2009, the latest available figures. And this was an improvement over the pollution five years ago, when it was estimated to be 48 micrograms per cu m.

Still the Republic was behind Bhutan - which at 18 micrograms per cu m had the lowest levels of pollution in Asia - and Japan, with 22 micrograms per cu m.

Cities in Pakistan and India, such as Quetta and Kanpur, and the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator fared among the worst on the pollution scale.

Mr Mohammad Hasan, 39, of Karachi, Pakistan, said attempts to improve air quality in the port city of 18 million - such as by replacing heavily polluting buses with vehicles using compressed natural gas - are being undermined by bigger polluters which are 'playing havoc with the lives of Karachi's populace'.

'Industries and factories are emitting thick clouds of smoke, and no government agency is out there to check them or correct them,' the bank employee said.

Elsewhere in the region, pollution in heavily populated China, at 98 micrograms per cu m, was way above the world average.

China's Environmental Protection Ministry said in a report last year that a third of the nation's 113 cities surveyed failed to meet national air standards. And a World Bank report said 16 of the world's 20 cities with the worst air are located in China, which relies heavily on coal to meet its energy needs.

Myanmar, with 94 micrograms per cu m, and Indonesia, with 55 micrograms per cu m, figured among countries with the most pollution in South-east Asia.

The WHO said the reasons for high pollution levels varied, but that often rapid industrialisation and the use of poor quality fuels for transportation and electricity generation are to blame.

In India, major metropolitan areas such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata have banned the construction of new power plants within city limits, while existing ones are being shut down or relocated.

But at the same time, a lack of public transport has led to an explosion of privately owned cars and SUVs as the economy booms, with the number of heavily polluting diesel vehicles increasing 10-fold, as diesel is highly subsidised by the government.

At the other end of the list are cities in Canada and the United States, which benefit from lower population density, favourable climates and stricter air pollution regulation.

Estonia topped the list with the best air quality, at 11 micrograms per cu m, Mauritius ranked second, with 12 micrograms, and Australia tied with Canada for the third spot, on 13 micrograms per cu m.


Singapore's air is the cleanest in region but ...
Today Online 28 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE - While the air in Singapore is cleaner than it is in other South-east Asian countries, the Republic's outdoor air pollution reading exceeds the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommended air quality guidelines, according to a report on about 1,100 cities released by the global body yesterday.

However, in a press release, the WHO noted that "only a few cities currently meet the WHO guideline values" - only 10 countries made the cut.

The report looked at how many tiny air pollutant particles - PM10 particles - were recorded floating in the air in each city.

Singapore's PM10 reading came in at 32 micrograms per cubic metre of air, above the WHO's guidelines, which call for PM10 readings below 20 micrograms per cu m.

In contrast, countries like Estonia - which topped the list - and Australia have some of the best air in the world, with PM10 readings of 11 and 13 per cu m respectively, while in Asia, Japan had a reading of 22.

The data, collected from government agencies worldwide, was dated between 2003 and last year.

The WHO said outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 1.34 million premature deaths each year and that investments to lower pollution levels quickly paid off due to lower disease rates and, therefore, lower healthcare costs.

The reasons for high pollution levels varied but rapid industrialisation and the use of poor quality fuels for transportation and electricity generation are often to blame, it said.

PM10 particles come mostly from power plant and auto exhaust emissions, and can penetrate into the lungs where they may cause cancer, asthma and acute lower respiratory infections.

They can also enter the bloodstream, leading to heart disease, research suggests.

In South-east Asia, Thailand's PM10 reading was 41, with Bangkok's air being more polluted than that in other Thai cities, at 54.

Malaysia's reading was 42, while Indonesia's reading was 55. The air was significantly worse in Medan, which had a PM10 reading of 111, compared to 43 in Jakarta.

Bejing's reading soared above China's national PM10 reading of 91, at 121, while Shanghai's reading was 81.

The Republic of Korea had a reading of 61.

Cities in Iran, India and Pakistan have some of the worst polluted air on the planet.

The Iranian city of Ahvaz had the highest measured levels of PM10 particles in the world, at 372 per cu m of air, while the reading for New Delhi stood at 198. The reading for Islamabad, in Pakistan was 189.

On the other end of the list are cities in Canada and the United States, benefitting from lower population density, favourable climates and stricter air pollution regulation.

The PM10 reading for Canada was 13, while the reading for the US was 18, with the worst reading coming from Bakersfield, California, at 38. AGENCIES

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Malaysia: New Hope for Orang-utans

WWF 27 Sep 11;

Kota Kinabalu, 27 September 2011 – Several images of Orang-utans building nests in replanted trees were captured by WWF-Malaysia in the newly restored degraded area, where efforts to rehabilitate wildlife habitat were initiated by Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) at the northern part of Ulu Segama Malua Forest Reserves (NUS), Lahad Datu. These efforts give hope that the wildlife population in this degraded forest will increase before long.

Datuk Sam Mannan, the Director of Sabah Forestry Department, expressed contentment upon seeing that the reforestation efforts are helping the Orang-utans in NUS. He also mentioned that the best for the survival of this species is to have well-managed forests as a home. A mixture of native tree species were planted in NUS with the aim of enhancing quality of wildlife habitat and food sources, especially for the Orang-utan.

“The declaration of restoration efforts in Ulu Segama Malua Forest Reserves on 15th March, 2006 is strategically linked to the largest endangered population of the Bornean Orang-utan, subspecies Pongo pygmaeus morio, in Sabah,” said Datuk Sam Mannan.

The Ulu Segama-Malua Sustainable Forest Management, covering an area of 241,098 hectares (ha), was initiated by the State Government and is jointly managed by SFD and Yayasan Sabah (YS) for the conservation and rehabilitation of habitat for endangered wildlife. SFD has partnered WWF-Malaysia in reforestation efforts within 2,400 ha of the NUS area since 2008.

Dr. Hj. Rahimatsah Amat, Chief Technical Officer (Borneo programme) of WWF-Malaysia, was delighted to see that the Orang-utan conservation efforts in NUS are bearing fruit.

“The Orang-utan is the largest arboreal (tree-living) animal in the world. They spend most of their time in trees; feeding, sheltering and travelling through the forest canopy from one tree to another. Without trees, it would be difficult for Orang-utans to survive.”

Thus, his hope is to see Orang-utans continue utilising the restored forest area, which has more replanted trees for food, shelter and travel.

“We're already seeing some really exciting results from our research and monitoring team, reporting evidence of much wildlife starting to return to the restored areas of the degraded forest. Not just Orang-utans but also other wildlife such as Clouded Leopard, Sun Bear and many more endangered species, There was a herd of wild Borneo Pygmy elephants that passed through our reforestation site early this year but fortunately, they didn’t cause any major damage towards the replanted trees. On the other hand, the elephants have left their dung at the replanted site as a tremendous natural fertiliser,” added Dr Rahimatsah.

A video clip of an Orang-utan swinging on replanted trees can be viewed at WWF Malaysia’s Youtube site:

Dr. Rahimatsah Amat also stated that “we could not have done it without the collaboration from SFD and YS as well as our generous donors who have always been a part of our conservation effort”. Funding for the reforestation in NUS are from WWF-Germany, WWF-United Kingdom, WWF-Netherlands and WWF-Japan, including from the private sectors, i.e. Adessium Foundation, Itochu Group, Marks & Spencer, Seng Heng and Aeon Jusco.

To date, 1,096 ha of degraded forest in NUS have been replanted out of the total 2,400 ha which was allocated to WWF-Malaysia for reforestation by the SFD.

In recognition of the efforts contributed by the SFD towards managing USM under the SFM model, the Ulu Segama Malua Forest Reserve was awarded the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificate by the Scientific Certification System (SCS) at the FSC General Assembly held at Kota Kinabalu in June 2011. The certification would mean that the home for Orang-utans is better conserved.

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Video Camera Traps Capture Indonesian Jungle Animals

Brandon Keim Wired Science 27 Sep 11;

One month of recordings from 10 video camera traps in northern Indonesia’s mountain jungles are condensed into a five-minute parade of rainforest life.

The footage was captured in August by the Eyes on Leuser project, started by Dutch conservationist Marten Slothouwer to document the richness of the Leuser region.

Its name derived from a local tribal word meaning “covered in clouds,” Leuser is threatened by logging and development, but the region’s story is far from grim. Thanks to local and international efforts, an area three times the size of Yellowstone National Park has been designated for protection.

That protection isn’t always enforced, said conservationist Mike Griffiths, but the situation is vastly improved from the mid-1980s, when he quit an oil company job and moved to Leuser to help protect it.

“We stopped the timber plantations, we stopped the logging, we stopped the major dams,” said Griffiths. “What the mountain videos are now showing us is that we haven’t lost very much. Life is starting to come back rather well.”

Among the animals seen in the video are marbled cats and golden cats, two medium-sized predatory felines, and the largest of all cats: Panthera tigris.

“We think we can support a population of about 400 tigers, which we think is the minimum number for maintaining a viable population. This is one of the few places in the world where you can do that,” said Griffiths.

The presence of predators in the videos indicates a healthy ecosystem. “If you get a good variety of predators, that means the things they feed on are still around,” he said. In future videos he hopes to find evidence of elephants, which were once numerous in Leuser.

“The area is recovering after really being buffeted,” Griffiths said. “In another 15 or 20 years, the forest will look absolutely spectacular again.”

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Indonesia hoping no country will accept illegally logged wood

Antara 27 Sep 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia is hoping no country in the world will buy or sell wood or products made of wood obtained through illegal logging , a minister said.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said here on Tuesday Indonesia was hoping other countries would support its efforts in fighting illegal logging and protecting its rainforests by not allowing illegal wood to enter their territories.

"The Indonesian government knows no compromise in dealing with illegal logging but for for fairness`s sake, advanced countries should also not buy or accept wood from illegal logging. It would really be ironical, if , while Indonesia is fighting illegal logging, our foreign friends accept the products of illegal logging. Therefore, we are cooperating with CIFOR, donors and other related parties ro with regard to certification of the legality of traded wood ," he said.

Zulkifli referred to the case of "Merbau" wood as an example which was only produced and existed in Indonesia and therefore it was not impossible that it comes from other countries.

"It can be ascertained that Merbau wood always comes from us. So it is impossible for it to come from Malaysia, Singapore or China. So there must be no more Merbau wood stockpiled in the European market for example. We will fight illegal logging but we also ask friendly countries not to accept `log and laundry`, " he said.

The minister also said that besides the certification program Indonesia has also taken a number of decisions including a moratorium on forest clearing and mapping of forests affected by the regulation.

"The forestry minister has issued a map of regions which may not be disturbed, namely a moratorium. We have the map covering 27 million hectares called primary forests and peat land," he said.

He said the forests are found in Kalimantan and Papua. The government, he said, has also launched a one-billion tree planting program since 2010 which has now been realized until 1.5 billion trees.

In 2011 the target is one billion trees but it is expected to reach two billions, he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono here on Tuesday morning opened an international seminar on future Indonesian forests where he was also one of the key speakers.

The President said this meeting was very important and provided an opportunity for Indonesia to meet the national target in the reduction of gas emissions in the next few years and in protecting its rainforests.

"The theme of the meeting is correct and relevant. Forest problems are strongly linked with Indonesia`s interest in assuring the sustainability of its forests," he said.

A number of parties concerned and who have interest in the environment attended the seminar. President Yudhoyono hoped the seminar could contribute significantly to Indonesia`s efforts in assuring the sustainability of its forests.(*)

Editor: Heru

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UAE: New creatures discovered in Fujairah wadi

Vesela Todorova The National 28 Sep 11;

FUJAIRAH // Scientists have discovered 25 new species of animals in a protected area of Fujairah's Hajar Mountains.

They are among 55 species that have until recently never before been seen in the Wadi Wuraya area.

Among the newcomers are the tiny, long-legged ant Lepisiota elegantissima, and a beetle, Sphenoptera vanharteni, which feeds on rotting vegetation.

The ant, which measures a mere 2mm, was discovered in one of the scores of branches of Wadi Wuraya.

"The ant has very long legs and I suspect it must be very agile and a high-speed runner at the scale of an ant," says Christophe Tourenq, the senior conservation manager at Emirates Wildlife Society - World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF).

"These are new species and scientists are still to learn about their lifestyle and habits. So far we are in the phase of trying to finish the description of biodiversity in the wadi but it is a never-ending story.

"Hopefully once we are done with this we can invite specialists to study in detail the new creatures. The more we know about them the better we can preserve them."

EWS-WWF collaborated with Fujairah Municipality in mapping the wadi's biodiversity.

Research there has been going on since 2006 and was managed by the Dutch scientist Antonius van Harten.

Mr van Harten's findings have been published in a four-book series, Arthropod Fauna of the UAE, summarising his discoveries in Wadi Wuraya and other parts of the country.

More than 250 specialists worldwide assisted him with the description and classification of the finds.

Mr Tourenq says while the new species are so tiny they are only likely to be noticed by experts, the discoveries are very significant.

"These creatures are part of the web of life," he says. "This beetle might be insignificant for you but it main be a main source of food for a bird species or the main predator of certain parasites. All species are connected."

The new species also include several beetles, spiders and terrestrial crustaceans.

Among those previously only found in other regions is Gallagher's leaf-toed gecko, or Asaccus gallagheri.

The tiny lizard was found in Fujairah in June by Dr Theodore Papenfuss, a researcher from the University of California, Berkeley, and his assistant Todd Pierson.

It is active at night when it uses its powerful vision to feed on insects and was first recorded in Masafi in the 1970s. But its presence at Wadi Wuraya was only confirmed this year.

The findings confirm the wadi as having one of the country's richest biodiversities. Scientists have recorded 74 families of invertebrates and 18 of reptiles and amphibians.

That is in addition to 74 species of birds, 12 species of mammals and about 300 species of plants.

Those plants become the focus of the programme this winter.

55 new species thrive in Fujairah’s wildlife haven
Gulf Today 28 Sep 11;

FUJAIRAH: Wadi Wurayah continues to be a stronghold for wildlife in the UAE with the discovery of 55 new species, including a shiny golden bug called Sphenoptera vanharteni and Lepisiota elegantissima (a long-legged elegant ant), in addition to Asaccus gallagheri (a tiny gecko).

The findings are a result of continued research, collaboration and verification by Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF (EWS-WWF), Fujairah Municipality and local authorities.

Out of the 55 new species recently found, 25 are considered new to science species, further highlighting the importance of this protected area.

These new species found in Wadi Wurayah are composed of two species of Arachnida (spiders, scorpions, ticks), one species of terrestrial Crustacean (crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles), one species of Entognatha (springtails), and 51 species of Insects (bugs, flies, ants, butterflies, etc).

Christophe Tourenq, senior conservation manager of EWS-WWF, said “These discoveries highlight the importance of conserving the habitats of the UAE. The protection of the many unique life forms that reside in our natural environment is interconnected with and interdependent on the protection of these habitats. The sustainability of our lifestyle is also dependent on the health of our natural environment and the resources it provides.”

The findings come as part of an intensive inventory of the arthropod fauna (insects, spiders, scorpions, terrestrial crustaceans) of the UAE that has been carried out under the patronage of Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nayan, member of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi.

The results of this project coordinated and managed by Anthony van Harten, were published in a 4-volume book series titled Arthropod fauna of the UAE.

Tourenq added, “It is vital that we all do our part towards the conservation of our natural heritage. EWS-WWF calls on all UAE residents to work together and act responsibly to help support the on-going protection of the country’s habitats from degradation and loss.”

Another Wadi Wurayah species was discovered on the night of June 12 by two reptiles and amphibian specialists — researcher Theodore J. Papenfuss from University of Berkley, California, and his assistant, Todd Pierson, who were assisted by Fujairah Municipality and EWS-WWF staff. They spotted a tiny gecko on the gravel bed of the wadi: the Gallagher’s leaf-toed gecko Asaccus gallagheri.

Males of this elegant minuscule gecko of less than 7cm show a beautifully-coloured yellow tail and feed on the insects they chase in the dark, thanks to their night-vision. The Gallagher’s leaf-toed gecko was first described in Masafi, UAE in 1972 and is only found in the UAE and northern Oman.

In October 2010, Wadi Wurayah officially joined the list of 1,932 wetlands around the world, which are of international importance for biodiversity conservation under the Ramsar Convention. Due to its habitat diversity and the presence of permanent water, Wadi Wurayah is considered a stronghold for the wildlife in UAE.

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Discovery about overfishing ‘can help save reefs’

James Cook University Science Alert 28 Sep 11;

An international team of scientists has achieved a major breakthrough in fishing sustainability on coral reefs which could play a vital role in preventing their collapse.

“Fishermen and scientists have long wondered how many fish can be taken off a reef before it collapses,” Dr Nick Graham of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARC CoE) and James Cook University said.

“The consequences of overfishing can be severe to the ecosystem and may take decades to recover, but hundreds of millions of people depend on reefs for food and livelihoods, so banning fishing altogether isn’t a reality in many nations.”

In a report in today’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS) the researchers demonstrate how overfishing can generate a predictable sequence of events that lead to the collapse of reef ecosystems.

Their research offers a vital new tool for managing corals reefs and tropical fisheries worldwide, providing clear targets for sustainability that can help reef fisheries support the very resource they depend on.

“Our work shows that as fish biomass – the number and weight of fish living on a reef – declines due to fishing pressure, you cross a succession of thresholds, or tipping points, from which it is increasingly hard to get back,” Dr Graham said.

“For example, you see patches of weeds replacing coral, you see more sea urchins devouring the coral, you see a general decline in the species richness on the reef, and you see less coral cover.

“The loss of hard corals is actually the last stage in the collapse of the reef system. Though many people take it as a major warning sign, in fact, by the time you see the loss of live coral cover, it may be already too late to save the reef.”

The study shows that in well-protected areas, there are typically 1000-1500 kilos of reef fish of various species per hectare of coral reef.

As the volume is fished down below 1000 kilos, the early warning signs – like increased seaweed growth and urchin activity, begin to show up.

The researchers found that between 300-600 kilos/ha there appeared to be a window of what is known as maximum sustainable yield, but when the fish stock drops below 300 kilos/ha the reef is in real trouble, they say.

“This information is critical to policy makers and reef managers: if fish stocks can be maintained at a certain level, the chances of retaining a sustainable fishery and a healthy reef system are greatly improved.” Dr Aaron MacNeil from the Australian Institute of Marine Science said.

“It’s a way of understanding the health of the whole system, not just parts of it. It offers managers a tangible target for protecting both the fishery and the reef, and it supports the need for long-term monitoring of fish in places such as the Great Barrier Reef.”

Dr Joshua Cinner from the ARC CoE and JCU said that having a target was one thing, but achieving it was “another kettle of fish”.

“So we also assessed how well different reef management schemes did at maintaining reefs within or above this sustainability window,” he said.

Reef fisheries with no regulations tended to perform poorly, with some completely collapsed. No-take marine reserves, where fishing was prohibited were the best performers and tended to maintain key ecosystem processes, such as predation.

“But people depend on reefs for their livelihoods, so we can’t prohibit fishing everywhere.” Dr. Cinner said

“A key finding from our study was that even easily enforceable regulations that restrict gear or the types of species that can be caught helped maintain biomass. These regulations are often more palatable to fishermen than no-take closures and consequently receive higher levels of support and compliance.”

The researchers’ work was carried out on Indian Ocean coral reefs, and needs to be confirmed in the Pacific and Great Barrier Reef regions – however they are confident a similar relationship exists between the volume of fish and overall reef health. Similar relationships may also apply in other ecosystems.

Their paper “Critical thresholds and tangible targets for ecosystem-based management of coral reef fisheries” by Tim R. McClanahan, Nicholas A. J. Graham, M. Aaron MacNeil, Nyawira A. Muthiga, Joshua E. Cinner, J. Henrich Bruggemann and Shaun K. Wilson is published in this week’s online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

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'Illusion of Plenty' Masking Collapse of Two Key Southern California Fisheries

ScienceDaily 27 Sep 11;

The two most important recreational fisheries off Southern California have collapsed, according to a new study led by a researcher from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

Scripps postdoctoral researcher Brad Erisman and his colleagues examined the health of regional populations of barred sand bass and kelp bass-staple catches of Southern California's recreational fishing fleet-by combining information from fishing records and other data on regional fish populations. Stocks of both species have collapsed due to a combination of overfishing of their breeding areas and changes in oceanographic conditions, the researchers found.

As they describe in the most recent edition of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, the researchers say the total amount, or biomass, of each bass species decreased 90 percent since 1980. Yet fisheries catch rates have remained stable for a number of years, even as overall population sizes dropped drastically. This is due, the authors say, to a phenomenon known as "hyperstability" in which fishing targets spawning areas at which large numbers of fish congregate, leading to a misleading high catch rate and masking a decline in the overall population.

"The problem is when fish are aggregating in these huge masses, fishermen can still catch a lot each trip, so everything looks fine-but in reality the true population is declining," said Erisman, a member of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. "So as the true abundance is declining, the fisheries data used to assess the health of the fisheries are not showing that and give no indication of a collapse-this is referred to as 'the illusion of plenty.'"

Erisman says the cod fishery that collapsed in the North Atlantic Ocean is the world's most famous example of fisheries data masking an impending collapse, but other fish stocks in regions where fish congregate to spawn are declining as well.

In order to grasp a clear picture of the true health of the barred sand bass and kelp bass in Southern California, Erisman and his colleagues looked outside fisheries data. They tapped into fish population numbers tracked by power plant generating stations, which are required to log fish entrapments as part of their water cooling systems, and underwater visual censuses conducted by Occidental College since 1974.

The authors acknowledge that both bass species began declining in the early 1980s, a drop other studies have directly linked with a climatic shift in regional water temperatures. But they say fishing impacts exacerbated the declines.

"The combined evidence from this study indicates that persistent overfishing of seasonal spawning aggregations by recreational fisheries brought about the collapse of barred sand bass and kelp bass stocks in Southern California," the authors write in their paper.

"The relationship between catch rate and stock abundance suggests there is an urgent need to incorporate fisheries-independent monitoring to create something sustainable and monitor the fisheries effectively," said Erisman. "While fisheries monitoring remains a key part of management, it is clear that such data alone do not provide an accurate assessment of stock condition."

Larry Allen of California State University Northridge; Jeremy Claisse and Daniel Pondella II of Occidental College; Eric Miller of MBC Applied Environmental Sciences; and Jason Murray of the University of South Carolina coauthored the study.

The research was supported by Scripps' Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, the Walton Family Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The Vantuna Research Group (Claisse and Pondella) of Occidental College has been supported by Chevron.

Journal Reference:

Brad E. Erisman, Larry G. Allen, Jeremy T. Claisse, Daniel J. Pondella II, Eric F. Miller, Jason H. Murray. The illusion of plenty: hyperstability masks collapses in two recreational fisheries that target fish spawning aggregations. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1139/f2011-090

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Brazil Farming Revolution May Slow Amazon Demise

Reese Ewing PlanetArk 26 Sep 11;

Cassio Carvalho do Val is about to invest nearly $2 million to add 10,000 cattle to his ranch on the edge of the Amazon.

But instead of burning down forest for his growing herd to graze freely he will break with tradition, reducing his pastureland and adding grain to their diet.

Val is one of a growing number of farmers betting on so-called integrated farming by diversifying production and revenue. His move epitomizes a quiet and fragile revolution that marks a departure from Brazil's slash-and-burn past.

It is a trend that may also help ease the felling of the world's largest rain forest.

Soy growers are rotating fields with more corn and cotton, planting forest and raising cattle. Ranchers are planting corn to supplement their herd's traditional diet of grasses.

This tends toward greater and more efficient output while easing pressure for expanding area, and bodes well for the consumers struggling worldwide with higher food prices, as well as conservationists who see Brazil as a crucial battlefield.

Such investments in yield are not new in the United States or Europe. They are, however, in the tropical grain and cattle belt of Brazil, which means there are risks and uncertainties.

"I lose 80 calves a year to jaguars," Val said from a dark hardwood paneled farm house in southern Para state, where any movement more complex than breathing triggers perspiration.

Val, a Sao Paulo University-educated sociologist, is one of a growing number of farmers taking a more scientific view of production. He has hired consultants to help acquire a whole new set of skills in grain farming.

Yet, he still embodies many of the older ruralist sentiments that thrived here in an era defined by man-versus-nature. The jungle and the bush were the enemy.

Brazil, with its chronic social inequalities, relied on homesteading until the last decade to populate and secure its vast, United States-sized


Val's father packed 40 days by burro to the area that is now Redencao in 1959 -- aging black-and-white photographs of that trek don the walls of his son's farm house. The shoot-from-the-hip, pioneering spirit is still revered here.

He secured government financing to clear 220 square miles of forested land that he had bought title to and named Santa Teresa Ranch. The family has since sold off most of the farm.

The dictatorship of the time threatened to repossess homesteaders' land if they failed to improve it, which meant clearing the forest to raise cattle and plant crops.

Unbridled expansionist policies eventually brought environmental and trade pressure to a head in the last decade, on fears the Amazon would be lost, hastening global warming.


Government efforts to rein in agriculture also threaten to derail the very investments needed by farmers to keep yields improving in existing areas and for orderly, legal expansion.

Brazil's 5.3-million square mile area still has over 625,000 square miles of unutilized land that could be legally converted to agricultural ends, according to the IBGE.

Katia Abreu, a senator and the head of the National Confederation of Agriculture, estimates that current laws governing land use criminalize 70-90 percent of Brazil's 5 million growers and ranchers for cutting forest that had been state-sponsored under previous governments.

Some are guilty of illegal clearing after the laws had forbidden such practices, she admits.

"The bulk of them are more victims of bad enforcement of the law," Abreu said, adding that a new law before Congress should normalize most farmers' legal status.

The implications for global food prices could be profound. China, Europe and the Middle East are Brazil's main buyers and a couple percentage points variation in its output of soy, beef, sugar and coffee could send market prices reeling.

Val plans to invest 3 million reais ($1.8 million) to plant corn on 9 square miles of his 88 square miles of pasture. The remaining 94 square miles of his ranch must remain forested reserve in this part of the Amazon.

His farm is in legal order and thus would be eligible for government subsidized financing. But many farms are not.

Four hours south of Val's farm by twin-engine plane lies the 80-square-mile Falavinha integrated farm in Deciolandia, Mato Grosso. It was categorized as savanna biome, which means 20-35 percent of the farm had to be forested reserve.

But, after authorities redrew Brazil's biomes, the region may be forced to comply with Amazon Basin requirements of 50 percent reserve. The costs of replanting would be high.

Federal agencies are also notoriously slow to provide vital services. Farms bigger than 3 square miles must submit satellite maps of their land to agrarian reform agency Incra.

But farmers say Incra is understaffed for the workload as it is, and the government plans to eventually expand the number of farms to smaller properties that must submit maps.

"We spent 10,000 reais to complete the farm's mapping and submitted it a year ago and still nothing," the owner of the farm, Geraldo Falavinha, said over the roar of cotton gins. "We are locked out of government financing and need to invest."


The keystone to large-scale integrated farming in Brazil is cattle, especially as far as preservation of the Amazon and other tropical biomes are concerned.

In Para, Val says he will expand his herd to roughly 30,000 from 20,000.

A recent study by the Institute for Atmospheric Research Research singled out cattle ranching as the main agricultural source of pressure behind deforestation.

Inevitably, leaders in Brazilian agriculture and ranching will throw out numbers about the 137,000 square miles of pasture in Brazil that can be easily converted into farmland "without having to cut a single tree." Brazil currently plants 66,875 square miles to crops and commercial forest.

But converting pasture into planted area is not simple. It raises the question of where the cattle will graze.

Brazil's beef production is grass-fed, unlike in the United States and Europe where grain on feedlots is used mostly.

The U.S. writer on food Michael Pollan says cattle should be taken off "their typical feedlot diet of grain" and allowed "to eat grass", to help bring down sky-high grain prices.

In Brazil -- the world's top exporter of beef and a major grain producer -- many ranchers and farmers would disagree.

"Cattle need to eat more grain here to reach slaughter faster. There's less environmental impact," Darci Ferrarin Jr. said his DGF integrated farm in Sorriso, Mato Grosso.

Brazil could double or triple the cattle per hectare from the present average of nearly 1 head/ha simply by introducing grain to their diet, better breeding practices and fertilizing and replanting grasses in pastures, beef analysts say.

"We make more money from this type of farming, but nature and consumers benefit," he added, while leaning on one of his sister's prize-winning white Nelore heifers that stands nearly seven-feet-tall and weighs as much as a mid-sized car.

(Editing by Todd Benson, Kieran Murray and Alden Bentley)

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Ecotourism can play vital role in maintaining healthy forests

Rural communities can maximize the benefits of sustainable ecotourism
FAO 27 Sep 11;

27 September, 2011, Rome - The continuing boom in ecotourism has the potential to save endangered forests or destroy them, depending on how effectively tourism expansion is managed, an international partnership for forest conservation and improvement cautioned today.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), comprising 14 international organizations and secretariats, including FAO, issued its view on the relationship between ecotourism and forestry today as the world celebrates the World Tourism Day and the International Year of Forests.

Ecotourism and livelihoods in developing countries

Tourism has demonstrated resiliency in the face of the global economic downturn. Globally, the tourism industry generated more than $1 trillion in 2010, according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO). And the share of tourism in developing countries is steadily rising, up from 31% in 1990 to 47% in 2010.

"Sustainable tourism has proven one of the most effective ways of providing economic and employment opportunities for local communities while protecting the world's natural resources," said Taleb Rifai, WTO's Secretary-General.

Ecotourism, characterized by responsible travel to natural areas that promotes conservation of the environment, is one of the fastest growing segments of tourism worldwide, and is growing at a pace of more than 20 percent annually - two to three times faster than the tourism industry overall.

"For many people, there is an attitude of "we had better see it while it is still there to see" when it comes to visiting threatened forests or endangered wildlife," said Patrick Durst, a senior forestry official with the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), working in Asia.

Local benefits

Ecotourism can provide local communities with motivation to maintain and protect forests and wildlife. When local people get income and employment from ecotourism, they are far less likely to destroy the natural resources through unsustainable exploitation.

"Ecotourism has a far greater potential for contributing to income and livelihoods in poor rural communities than what is realized," noted FAO's Edgar Kaeslin, Forestry Officer in Wildlife and Protected Area Management. "It is crucial that local people are fully involved in the activities and receive sufficient benefits."

The benefits of ecotourism flowing to local businesses are dramatically higher than those from mass tourism. Standard all-inclusive package tours typically deliver just 20 percent of revenue to local companies, while the rest is captured by airlines, hotels and large tour companies, whereas locally-based ecotourism operations that hire locally and are based locally can return as much as 95 percent of earnings into the local economy.

Excessive ecotourism poses dangers

However, failure to limit tourist numbers at popular sites can quickly overload ecosystems and damage fragile natural resources, sometimes permanently.

Also, as with most economic endeavors, when profits are to be made, there is a risk that powerful players will dominate and squeeze out smaller local operators. Under the guise of "ecotourism" less scrupulous enterprises sometime have wittingly or unwittingly introduced negative influences to local people, disrupted local economies and tarnished unique indigenous cultures. In some of the worst instances, indigenous peoples have even been displaced or dispossessed of traditional access to natural areas.

Ecotourism as sustainable forest management

The best ecotourism programmes strive to regulate against such abuses and guide it toward maximizing local benefits. Training for local people is crucial to ensure they can compete successfully for desirable ecotourism jobs.

Training for local people is crucial to ensure they can compete successfully for desirable ecotourism jobs. One prominent example is the ecotourist trade involving critically endangered Mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tourism in those countries generates significant incentives for governments and local communities to conserve their rich environment instead of choosing unsustainable pathways to development, said Doug Cress, coordinator of the UNEP led Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

"Mountain gorillas are the only species of great ape that are actually rising in numbers," Cress said. "There is no question that is a direct result of the careful commitment to responsible tourism in East Africa that respects the gorillas and their habitat."

In recent years FAO has provided technical assistance to a number of countries, including Egypt, Hungary, Laos, the Philippines and Tunisia, to develop ecotourism as a sustainable forest use. With support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), FAO recently began implementing an $18 million programme in collaboration with Pacific islands (Fiji, Niue, Samoa and Vanuatu) aimed at developing ecotourism as a major component of sustainable forest management.

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