Best of our wild blogs: 2 Nov 11

Clive Briffett, RIP
from Otterman speaks and Compressed air junkie

Undergraduate part-time field/lab assistants wanted
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Water quality monitoring (WQM) workshop for Sengkang Floating Wetland
from Water Quality in Singapore

'Pen'-house living at Changi
from wild shores of singapore

111030 Sekudu
from Singapore Nature

Pacific Golden Plover guarding turf
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Are we ready with flood precautions?

Straits Times Forum 2 Nov 11;

SUNDAY'S article ('Malaysia prepares to brave monsoon') mentioned the Malaysian authorities ramping up preparations for the north-east monsoon. The country's Meteorological Department is expecting five to six heavy rainfall episodes with 40 per cent above-normal rainfall.

The article also mentioned the Indonesian authorities forecasting heavy rain and strong winds.

The current flooding in Thailand is a clear reminder that we cannot take things for granted. We are surrounded by water, and any major flooding will greatly affect our economy, infrastructure and livelihood.

Since Singapore has already been hit by flash floods this year, I hope the authorities and relevant agencies have made the necessary preparations and would update the public as to what measures have been taken, as well as inform us about the monitoring and alert systems, including evacuation procedures.

Information on the precautions and measures that residents, and those on the ground floor and basement of shops, buildings or factories, can take should also be included.

Hopefully, all the relevant agencies, such as the Singapore Civil Defence Force and national water agency PUB, are ready and prepared.

Are the MRT operators preparing for flood prevention of their tunnels and underground stations? There are drills in the event of train breakdowns and fire, but what about flooding?

As for strong winds, is the National Parks Board going to conduct another round of checks on trees, and is the HDB checking on potted plants and hanging items in high-rise flats?

We need to draw lessons from our past flooding experiences and the current situation in Thailand, while hoping that it would not happen here.

Wo Kay Liang

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Sustainability, the alternative to happiness

Letter from Mona Chew Poh Gek Today Online 2 Nov 11;

THERE has been recent interest generated by the debate in Parliament on using a possible happiness index to gauge Singapore's development and guide the formulation of public policies, with various letters to Today and online joustings, too.

While the commentators have provided the merits of indicators such as Net National Product, Human Development Index, Graciousness Index, etc, all these measures focus narrowly on certain aspects of socio-economic development.

None of them adequately deal with the long-term sustainability of nations. And history has shown how economies have risen, peaked and declined. For nations that have declined, the lack of economic sustainability can be ascribed to many socio-economic factors.

With the emergence of many fast developing nations in the last 100 years, there is now the added concern of environmental sustainability, arising from the strains placed on Mother Earth by both developed and developing nations.

Greenhouse gas emission, global warming, climate change, dwindling food supplies, depletion of energy sources and general destruction of the environment are some of the issues threatening global environmental sustainability.

Ultimately, the economic sustainability of nations is at risk.

Singapore should be concerned with its long-term economic sustainability, and public policies should be aimed at this goal, which may not be adequately guided by any single socio-economic indicator, including GDP, or environmental indicators such as Water Poverty Index.

In 1991, Singapore's own economic guru Emeritus Professor Lim Chong Yah espoused the theory that a nation's development depends on its five interacting production ecosystems: Entrepreneurship, government, ordinary labour, investment and natural resources.

The health and balance of these five ecosystems are critical to the long-term economic sustainability of any nation and would depend on many factors.

These include business environment, technology R&D, freedom from corruption, strong civil institutions, the healthcare system, population/immigration issues, social capital, domestic savings, water and energy supplies and climate change challenges.

A comprehensive Index for Economic Sustainability is now being developed to compare and rank various nations.

Preliminary studies show that Singapore is doing fairly well. They also suggest various areas where it should fine-tune its policies to improve sustainability, for example, in energy resilience.

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Singapore-JB MRT study tender soon

Architectural and engineering analysis likely to take 2 years
Christopher Tan Straits Times 2 Nov 11;

COMPANIES on both sides of the Causeway will this month be invited to bid for the right to undertake an architectural and engineering study of the proposed Singapore-JB MRT link.

The feasibility study is expected to take a little over two years to complete, and will cover details such as the alignment of the line, the size of the stations, whether it should be a surface or an undersea connection, construction methods and cost.

A notice inviting firms to take part in the tender appeared in Malaysian newspapers yesterday. But Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday that the notice was a little too early, as the tender is not yet open.

Singapore Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said during a visit to Putrajaya early last month that both countries would put out a tender at the same time, inviting firms to bid.

The Straits Times understands that the tender will open this month. And engineering consultancy firms are looking forward to it.

Mr Rajan Krishnan, senior vice-president (Asia) of Parsons Brinckerhoff, which has conducted several infrastructural feasibility studies here, said: 'There will be interest among consultants doing these kinds of studies. We look forward to the tender documents to see the exact terms.'

Mr John Davies, director of infrastructure at engineering group Arup, said: 'Of course we're interested. We've done a number of cross-border studies of this kind in Hong Kong, and we're quite familiar with them.'

Talks of an MRT extension to Johor Baru date back as far as 1989, soon after the first MRT trains started rolling here.

But it was not until May last year that the plans were made concrete, following a land swop deal between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak.

It was then announced that there would be a metro link between the two countries by 2018. During his visit to Malaysia last month, Mr Lui said the project was 'on time and on track'.

The link is expected to be an extension of the Thomson MRT Line, which is also scheduled for completion by 2018.

It is expected to run from a station near JB Sentral in Johor Baru to one near Republic Polytechnic in Woodlands - the Thomson Line's northernmost stop.

The cross-border link will feature combined customs, immigration and quarantine facilities in both Singapore and Johor Baru. This means commuters will need to clear immigration only once per trip.

Engineering studies for the underground Thomson Line are under way. The line will run along the north-south corridor from Woodlands to Marina Bay.

While the LTA said the line would have four-carriage trains, it said the length, the number of stations and the location of stations are still not confirmed.

However, it has been confirmed that the Thomson Line will interchange with the North-South Line at the Woodlands station.

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Floods in Thailand - nature can help

IUCN 31 Oct 11;

As the floods in Thailand have reached record levels, they leave behind a trail of destruction to people, infrastructure and the environment.

The flooding has caused around 400 deaths so far and has affected about 8.2 million people in 60 of Thailand’s 77 provinces. Some 200,000 hectares of farmland have been submerged and 1,000 factories have been inundated. The economic losses are estimated to be above US$ 3 billion. But nature itself can help control the destruction caused by such disasters.

Ecosystems, such as floodplains, wetlands and mangroves, provide the natural infrastructure needed to help control destruction and heavy erosion caused by flooding.

Natural floodplains can be maintained through sound land planning and management, as they are important in storing water during floods and recharging groundwater reserves. Healthy wetlands and natural river channels can buffer the impact of large floods, by slowing the flow of water and storing water to lower flood peaks.

Cities concentrate the effects of flooding as they contain paved surfaces and narrow streets that channel water and restrict drainage into the ground. And often it is the most vulnerable who face the challenges of escaping floods and rebuilding their lives following destruction.

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Thai Flood Frustration Grows

Robert Birsel PlanetArk 2 Nov 11;

Thai authorities tried to stem growing anger among flood victims on Tuesday as water swamped new neighborhoods and the government began mapping out a plan costing billions of dollars to prevent a repeat disaster and secure investor confidence.

The floods began in July and have devastated large parts of the central Chao Phraya river basin, killed nearly 400 people and disrupted the lives of more than two million.

Inner Bangkok, protected by a network of dikes and sandbag walls, survived peak tides on the weekend and remains mostly dry.

But large volumes of water are sliding across the land to the north, east and west of the city, trying to reach the sea and being diverted by the city centre's defenses into new suburbs as they recede in others.

In the northeastern city neighborhood of Sam Wa, angry residents demanded the opening of a sluice gate to let water out of their community. Residents jostled with police on Monday and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ordered that the gate be opened by a meter (three feet).

But city authorities warned that the flow through the gate could move via a major canal into large parts of the city which are now dry.

"We are opposed to it but the government has ordered the BMA to open the gate, so more water will come," said Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) spokesman Jate Sopitpongstorn.

"It could reach the Bang Chan industrial estate. We have to see the consequences," he told Reuters, adding that residents of the area had been told to be on alert.

Yingluck's government and the Bangkok authority represent opposing factions in Thailand's strife-plagued politics.

An expert from the government flood management team played down the danger to inner Bangkok of opening the sluice gate, saying the flow was relatively small compared with the amount coming in through leaks in the city's dikes.

"Inner Bangkok is not so much an issue," said academic Anon Sanitiwong Na Ayutthaya. "At least we know what to do, it's just a matter of time to fix the leaks."

The disaster has been the first big test for the government of Yingluck, the younger sister of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Yingluck, a political novice, took over this year after an election that many Thais hoped would heal divisions that triggered street violence last year.

Saving central Bangkok from a ruinous flood would be an important victory. The city's 12 million people account for 41 percent of Thailand's gross domestic product.

But prolonged misery in outlying areas and heavily flooded provinces to the north would take the gloss off any victory for Yingluck, especially given a perception that those areas have been sacrificed to save the capital.

To the north of Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Ayutthaya provinces have been largely inundated for weeks, along with seven industrial estates that have sprung up over the last two decades on what used to be the central plain's rice fields.


People eked out a living in the flooded provinces on Tuesday with women cooking over gas stoves in the shade of plastic sheets strung up over pick-up trucks while men in their underwear cast fishing nets into water covering roads.

Cars, trucks and taxis were bumper to bumper for about 20 km (12 miles) on an elevated road out of Bangkok, parked and abandoned safely above the murky tide.

The cabinet met to work out a recovery plan that one cabinet minister said this week could cost up to $30 billion, including an overhaul of the water-management system and rehabilitation of industrial estates.

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Kittirat Na Ranong said the government would need to borrow "hundreds of billions of baht" to recover and prevent a repeat of disaster during the annual rainy season.

"Any investor, ambassador, I talk to, they never ask how high the floodwaters are but what will Thailand actually do to prevent this from happening again," Kittirat told reporters.

The government would invite experts from inside and outside the country to help draw up the plan and he would approach the Asian Development Bank to discuss financing.

"We have to be prepared for the future," Kittirat said. "Preparation and the prevention of floods and drought is something we must start to do now."

Yingluck said on Monday she had assured Japanese investors there would be no repeat of the disaster. The government expects it will take three months to get the flooded industrial estates back on their feet.

Thailand is the second-largest exporter of computer hard drives and global prices are rising because of a flood-related shortage of major components used in personal computers.

Thailand is also Southeast Asia's main auto-parts maker and Japan's Honda Motor Co said car production could be difficult in the second half of its business year ending in March. Its Ayutthaya plant has suspended work indefinitely.

The Bank of Thailand has nearly halved its projection of economic growth this year to 2.6 percent from July's 4.1 percent estimate, and said the economy -- Southeast Asia's second largest -- would shrink by 1.9 percent in the December quarter from the previous three months due to the floods.

Headline inflation rose to 4.19 percent in October from 4.03 percent the previous month as the flooding pushed up some prices but the central bank said the rises were temporary and it would focus on longer-term factors in setting policy.

The floods submerged four million acres (1.6 million ha), an area roughly the size of Kuwait, and destroyed 25 percent of the main rice crop in the world's largest rice exporter.

The deluge was caused in part by unusually heavy monsoon rain but the weather has been mostly clear for the past week. The BMA said 2,245 mm (more than seven feet) of rain had fallen this year to the end of October, 40.8 percent above average. ($1=30.75 baht)

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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Key UN report ties climate change to extreme weather

Marlowe Hood AFP Yahoo News 2 Nov 11;

A new UN report concludes that man-made climate change has boosted the frequency or intensity of heat waves, wildfires, floods and cyclones and that such disasters are likely to multiply in the future.

The draft document, which has been three years in the making, says the severity of the impacts vary, with some regions more vulnerable than others.

Hundreds of scientists working under the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) will vet the phonebook-sized draft at a meeting in Kampala of the 194-nation body later this month.

"This is the largest effort that has ever been made to assess how extremes are changing," said Neville Nicholls, a professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and a coordinating lead author of one of the review's key chapters.

The report's authors stress that the level of "confidence" in the findings depends on the quantity and quality of data available.

But the overall picture that emerges is one of enhanced volatility and frequency of dangerous weather, leading in turn to a sharply increased risk for large swathes of humanity in coming decades.

AFP obtained a copy of the draft report's 20-page Summary for Policymakers, which is subject to revision by governments before release on November 18.

A series of natural catastrophes around the world has boosted the need to determine whether such events are freaks of the weather or part of a long-term shift in climate.

In 2010, record temperatures fuelled devastating forest fires across Siberia, while Pakistan and India reeled from unprecedented flooding.

This year, the United States has suffered a record number of billion-dollar disasters from flooding in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to Hurricane Irene to a drought in Texas.

China is reeling from lack of water too, even as central America and Thailand count their dead from recent flooding.

These events match predicted impacts of global warming, which has raised temperatures, increased the amount of water in the atmosphere and warmed ocean surface temperatures -- all drivers of extreme weather.

But teasing apart the role of natural fluctuations in the weather and rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has proven devilishly difficult.

The nine-chapter Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation, or SREX, pored over hundreds of recent scientific studies in search of patterns.

The new report's main conclusions about future trends include:

- It is "virtually certain" -- 99-100% sure -- that the frequency and magnitude of record-hot days will increase over the 21st century on a global scale.

- It is "very likely" (90-100% certainty) that the length, frequency and/or intensity of warm spells, including heat waves, will continue to increase over most land areas.

- Peak temperatures are "likely" (66-100% certainty) to increase -- compared to the late 20th century -- up to 3.0 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050, and 5.0 C (9.0 F) by 2100.

- Heavy rain and snowfall is likely to increase, especially in the tropics and at high latitudes.

- At the same time, droughts will likely intensify in the Mediterranean region, central Europe, North America, northeastern Brazil and southern Africa.

- Rising and warming seas are also very likely to boost the destructive power of cyclones, while melting glaciers and permafrost, along with heavier precipitation, will trigger more landslides.

The Carnegie Institution's Chris Field, co-chair of the IPCC's Working Group 2, would not comment on the report's conclusions, but said they would help shape political choices.

"When the SREX is finalized and approved by the world's governments, it will provide a solid foundation for smart policies on managing risks from climate extremes and climate-related disasters," he said by email.

The IPCC's landmark Fourth Assessment in 2007 said global warming was "unequivocal" and that human activity was almost certainly largely to blame.

Future holds more extreme weather
Seth Borenstein AP Yahoo News 2 Nov 11;

WASHINGTON (AP) — For a world already weary of weather catastrophes, the latest warning from top climate scientists paints a grim future: More floods, more heat waves, more droughts and greater costs to deal with them.

A draft summary of an international scientific report obtained by The Associated Press says the extremes caused by global warming could eventually grow so severe that some locations become "increasingly marginal as places to live."

The report from the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change marks a change in climate science, from focusing on subtle shifts in average temperatures to concentrating on the harder-to-analyze freak events that grab headlines, hurt economies and kill people.

"The extremes are a really noticeable aspect of climate change," said Jerry Meehl, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "I think people realize that the extremes are where we are going to see a lot of the impacts of climate change."

The final version of the report from a panel of leading climate scientists will be issued in a few weeks, after a meeting in Uganda. The draft says there is at least a 2-in-3 probability that climate extremes have already worsened because of man-made greenhouse gases.

The most recent bizarre weather extreme, the pre-Halloween snowstorm that crippled parts of the Northeast last weekend, cannot be blamed on climate change and probably isn't the type of storm that will increase with global warming, according to four meteorologists and climate scientists.

Experts on extreme storms have focused more closely on the increasing number of super-heavy rainstorms, not snow, NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt said.

By the end of the century, the intense, single-day rainstorms that typically happen once every 20 years will probably happen about twice a decade, the report said.

The opposite type of disaster — a drought such as the stubbornly long dry spell gripping Texas and parts of the Southwest — could also happen more often as the world warms, said Schmidt and Meehl, who reviewed part of the climate panel report.

Studies have not yet specifically tied global warming to the continuing drought, but it is consistent with computer models that indicate current climate trends will worsen existing droughts, Meehl said. Scientifically connecting a weather disaster with global warming is a complicated and time-consuming task that can take more than a year and involve lots of computer calculations.

Researchers have also predicted more intense monsoons with climate change. Warmer air can hold more water and impart more energy to weather systems, changing the dynamics of storms and where and how they hit.

Thailand is now coping with massive flooding from monsoonal rains — an event that illustrates how climate is also connected with other manmade issues such as population growth, urban development and river management, Schmidt said.

In fact, the report says, "for some climate extremes in many regions, the main driver for future increases in losses will be socioeconomic" rather than a result of greenhouse gases.

The panel was formed by the United Nations and World Meteorological Organization. In the past, it has discussed extreme events in snippets in its report. But this time, the scientists are putting them all together.

The report, which needs approval by diplomats at the mid-November meeting, tries to measure the confidence scientists have in their assessment of climate extremes both future and past.

Chris Field, one of the leaders of the climate change panel, said he and other authors declined to comment because the report is still subject to change.

The summary chapter did not detail which regions of the world might suffer extremes so severe as to leave them only marginally habitable.

The report does say scientists are "virtually certain" — 99 percent — that the world will have more extreme spells of heat and fewer of cold. Heat waves could peak as much as 5 degrees hotter by mid-century and even 9 degrees hotter by the end of the century.

From June to August this year in the United States, blistering heat set 2,703 daily high temperature records, compared with only 300 cold records during that period. That made it the hottest summer in the U.S. since the Dust Bowl of 1936, according to Weather Underground Meteorology Director Jeff Masters, who was not involved in the study.

And there's an 80 percent chance that the killer Russian heat wave of 2010 would not have happened without the added push of global warming, according to a study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists expect future hurricanes and other tropical cyclones to have stronger winds, but they won't increase in number and may actually decrease.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel, who studies climate's effects on hurricanes, disagrees and believes more of these intense storms will occur.

And global warming isn't the sole villain in future climate disasters, the climate report says. An even bigger problem will be the number of people — especially the poor — who live in harm's way.

The 18-page summary report isn't completely grim. It says some "low-regrets measures" can help reduce disaster risks and costs, including better preparedness, sustainable land and water management, better public health monitoring and building improvements.

University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver, who was not among the authors, said the report was written to be "so bland" that it may not matter to world leaders.

But Masters said the basic findings seem to be proven true by actual events.

"In the U.S., this has been the weirdest weather year we've had for my 30 years, hands down."

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on weather extremes:

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Global Blue Carbon Market Proposed by Five UN Agencies

Environment News Wire 1 Nov 11;

PARIS, France, November 1, 2011 (ENS) - A global blue carbon market that would create direct economic gain for those who protect ocean habitats is the main feature of a plan issued today by five United Nations agencies to improve the management of the world's ocean and coastal areas.

The "Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability" says that the agencies intend to work with existing international carbon markets to define and implement a blue carbon market for protecting marine and coastal carbon sinks.

Oceans act as sinks for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2. In fact, the oceans are the largest active carbon sink on Earth, absorbing 26 percent of all CO2 emissions.

One reason for the oceans' big share of carbon is its biological pump, which removes carbon dioxide from the ocean surface, changing it into living matter and distributing it to the deeper water layers.

Out of all the biological carbon captured in the world, 55 percent is taken up at sea by marine living organisms, and so is called blue carbon.

At least half of this is captured by the ocean's vegetated habitats - mangroves, salt marshes, seagrasses, and seaweed. These plants cover less than 0.5 percent of the seabed, but play an important role in regulating the climate and mitigating climate change.

The five UN agencies that authored the Blueprint - UNESCO, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the United Nations Development Programme, the International Maritime Organization, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization - warn that although the oceans account for 70 percent of the planet's surface, only one percent of that area is protected.

To develop and implement a global strategy on blue carbon, their Blueprint says standards must be agreed for blue carbon monitoring and certification. Targets must be set for habitat protection in the context of blue carbon.

In addition, economic valuation methodologies must be developed for blue forest ecosystem services.

The agencies say they will work to create global acceptance of ocean and coastal habitats as a new form of tradable carbon market with a "global blue carbon fund."

Within international climate change policy instruments, they intend to create mechanisms that will allow the future use of carbon credits for marine and coastal ecosystem carbon capture and storage.

The critical role of oceans and their ecosystems has been overlooked, the agencies say. They aim to ensure oceans and coastal ecosystems are not neglected at the upcoming Rio+20 conference scheduled for June 2012.

Their report emphasises that 60 percent of the world's major marine ecosystems have been degraded or are being used unsustainably, resulting in huge economic and social losses.

Mangrove forests have lost 30 to 50 percent of their original cover in the last 50 years while coral reefs have lost 20 percent, increasing the vulnerability of many highly populated coastal areas.

The ocean absorbs close to 26 percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions. This is causing acidification of the oceans that is already threatening some varieties of plankton and poses a threat to the entire marine food chain and the human livelihoods that depend on the oceans and coastal waters.

"Some of these phenomena are not new but are aggravated by cumulative pressures such as climate change, intensified human activity and technological advances," the agencies said today.

"Ecosystems situated in the deep ocean, where biodiversity and habitats often have major value, but are generally not well understood, have virtually no protection at all."

The international community pledged to tackle these challenges at the United Nations summits in Rio in 1992 and Johannesburg (in 2002.

But the commitments made there remain ineffective and their objectives have not been met, the UN agencies acknowledge. Neither the pledge to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015, nor the promise to create networks of protected marine areas by 2012 have been met.

Few countries have adopted legislation to reduce land-based marine pollution,which has led to an increase in the number of dead ocean areas, the report finds. More than 400 marine areas have been listed as "biologically dead."

"The full implementation of many of these goals and targets will require further efforts by states, intergovernmental organizations and the international community," write the authors.

They claim the present situation is the result of insufficient political will and resources, inadequate institutional capacities, insufficient scientific data and market imbalances.

"Greening the Blue Economy will be science and technology driven," they conclude. "But success will depend on sound policy processes and effective institutional arrangements and will therefore require commitment and funding from the international community as well as nations and industry."

Ten proposals to safeguard the ocean
UN Agencies call on States and the international community for renewed commitment
FAO 1 Nov 11;

1 November 2011 Paris - UN agencies are launching today a plan to improve the management of oceans and coastal areas. The Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability sounds the alarm about the health of the oceans, and explains how they influence our everyday life by regulating the climate, providing highly-nutritious food and by sustaining livelihoods and economies. It recalls that although the ocean accounts for 70 per cent of the surface of our planet, only one per cent of it is protected.

Presented at UNESCO Headquarters during the 36th session of the General Conference, the Blueprint was prepared for consideration by the UN conference on sustainable development (Rio+20, June 2012).

It proposes a series of concrete measures to:

Create a global blue carbon market as a means of creating direct economic gain through habitat protection

Fill governance gaps in the high seas, by reinforcing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,

Support the development of green economies in small island developing states

Promote research on ocean acidification- how to adapt to it and mitigate it.

Increase institutional capacity for scientific monitoring of oceans and coastal areas

Reform and reinforce regional ocean management organisations

Promote responsible fisheries and aquaculture in a green economy

Strengthen legal frameworks to address aquatic invasive species

"Green" the nutrient economy (fertilizers for example)

Enhance coordination, coherence and effectiveness of the UN system on ocean issues

The Blueprint was prepared by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It emphasises that 60 per cent of the world's major marine ecosystems have been degraded or are being used unsustainably, resulting in huge economic and social losses. Mangrove forests have lost 30 to 50 per cent of their original cover while coral reefs have lost 20 per cent, increasing the vulnerability of many highly populated coastal areas. The ocean absorbs close to 26 per cent of atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions which is provoking acidification that is already threatening some varieties of plankton and poses a threat to the entire marine food chain and dependant socio-economic activities.

Some of these phenomena are not new but are aggravated by cumulative pressures such as climate change, intensified human activity and technological advances. Furthermore, ecosystems situated in the deep ocean, where biodiversity and habitats often have major value, but are generally not well understood, have virtually no protection at all.

The international community pledged to tackle these challenges at the Summits of Rio (1992) and Johannesburg (2002). However the commitments made remain largely ineffectual and their objectives have not been met. Such has been the case for the pledge to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015, and the promise to create networks of protected marine areas by 2012. Few countries have adopted legislation to reduce land-based marine pollution, leading to an increase in the number of dead ocean areas. More than 400 marine areas have been listed as "biologically dead" to date.

"The full implementation of many of these goals and targets will require further efforts by States, intergovernmental organizations and the international community," state the authors of the report. They claim the present situation is the result of insufficient political will and resources, inadequate institutional capacities, insufficient scientific data and market imbalances.

"Greening the Blue Economy will be science and technology driven," they conclude. "But success will depend on sound policy processes and effective institutional arrangements and will therefore require commitment and funding from the international community as well as nations and industry".

The Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability

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Australia: Queensland's seagrass beds under threat into 2012

Tony Bartlett ninemsn 1 Nov 11;

The seagrass beds which sustain Queensland's turtles and dugongs could remain under threat into next year, a forum on the Gold Coast has heard.

With turtle strandings along the Queensland coast nearly double last year's figure, specialists from around Australia gathered at Sea World on Tuesday to discuss the impact of January's floods and cyclones on turtles and dugongs.

A protected species expert at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Mark Read, said the rich underwater pastures which the turtles need to survive will remain under threat for some time.

"At this stage weather forecasters are predicting a moderate La Nina event this season which will produce milder weather patterns than last year's events," Dr Read said.

"Despite this we are still anticipating the species' main food source, seagrass meadows, will be adversely affected by these weather patterns, so it is important we minimise all other impacts.

"These include coastal development, habitat degradation, boat strikes, marine debris, sedimentation and pollution, oil spills and other threats to water quality."

Dr Read said an extra 60 people had been trained in how to perform necropsy examinations on stranded animals so vital information can be collated about their cause of death.

Sea World's director of marine sciences, Trevor Long, said because turtles have such a slow metabolism there wasn't an immediate impact after January's extreme weather.

"What happens is a crash over many months, and that's what we're into right at the moment," Mr Long said.

Mr Long said he'd like to see the creation of a rehabilitation centre in Queensland because there's no facility at the moment capable of dealing with the strandings.

"Rehabilitation centres are not difficult to manage or establish, and that's something I'd like to see come out of today's forum," he said.

Queensland Environment Minister Vicky Darling said so far this year there had been more than 1200 turtle strandings.

"Townsville, Gladstone and Moreton Bay have all had over 200 each, which isn't unexpected but is almost double last year's numbers," Ms Darling said.

"The message to people on our waterways is to slow down a little bit and look out below."

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India: Orissa bans fishing near sea turtle nesting sites

The Times of India 1 Nov 11;

BHUBANESWAR: Orissa on Tuesday imposed a seven-month ban on fishing within 20 km of the coastline in three districts to protect endangered turtles who have started congregating in the sea for mating, an official said.

The ban has been imposed near the beaches of Gahirmatha, Rushikulya and Devi in the districts of Kendrapada, Ganjam and Puri where the turtles are expected to come for their annual nesting in December.

"Boats and trawlers will not be allowed to carry out any fishing activities in the sea near the nesting sites," Divisional forest officer Manoj Mohapatra told IANS, adding the ban will remain in force till May 31.

Mohapatra said two-three dead turtles had washed ashore recently at Gahirmatha and Devi river mouth and this indicated that the turtles have started congregating in the sea.

He said patrolling has been intensified along the coast to strictly enforce the ban.

Over half a million Olive Ridley turtles arrive and congregate in the shallow coastal waters of the state in October-November for mating and nest between December and March. Most hatchlings emerge by May.

Most of the turtles nest every year at Gahirmatha located in the Bhitarkanika National Park. It is also known as one of the world's largest turtle nesting sites.

Last year, the nesting commenced twice and a record 7.20 lakh turtles had nested at the beaches of the state.

Like tigers and elephants, Olive Ridley turtles are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Trapping, killing or selling of the species could result in a maximum of seven years' imprisonment.

Despite several conservation measures, thousands of turtles get killed every year mainly after being hit by boats and trawlers that operate illegally.

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Most Non-Chinese Rare Earth Projects Doomed: Consultant

Alessandra Prentice PlanetArk 2 Nov 11;

The vast majority of non-Chinese rare earth metal (REM) ventures will fail due to a lack of expertise and high ore processing costs, says Jack Lifton, founder of the industry consultancy Technology Metals Research.

Firms were quick to launch new mines and restart mothballed operations as soon as China, which controls about 95 percent of the REM market, started slashing its export quota in 2009.

Of the 244 companies hoping to produce the rare earth metals essential to a wide range of high-tech industries, less than 4 percent will prove profitable, the strategic metals consultant told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

"The choke point for all the companies is the question of what they can do with the concentrated REM ore once it's above ground. You can extract the rare earths together, but then you have to separate them...the world's REM separation capacity is 99 percent Chinese and they have unused capacity," Lifton said.

"The Chinese overwhelmingly control this and that is the key to the rare earth industry. Without separation capacity, all you have is a loss-making ore concentrate company."

Prized for their magnetism, luminescence and strength, rare earths are used by manufacturers of everything from smartphones to hybrid cars and wind turbines, but the elements occur together in the earth in different proportions and the separation process is complex and expensive.

"That's why you don't want the biggest deposits, you don't want to have to process hundreds of tonnes at horrendous cost. You're looking for the highest grade heavy rare earths and the least cost to recover them. It's a question of economics," Lifton said.

Heavy rare earths such as dysprosium and terbium, crucial for the high-power magnets needed by the auto, defense and clean energy industries, are scarcer than cerium and other light rare earths, making them much more valuable.

China currently controls 100 percent of the market for three heavy REM: dysprosium, terbium and yttrium.

"I'm worried about dysprosium supply...A while ago we predicted that dysprosium would be $2000 a kilo by 2020, it's now selling for over $2000 a kilo within China. All bets are off," Lifton said.


Named after the ancient Greek word for 'hard to get', dysprosium will be in deficit until 2017, the longest of all REM, according to a report on critical REM published by Technology Metals Research in August 2011.

U.S. firm Molycorp, the world's largest REM producer outside of China, is slated to start initial production in early 2012, but its deposits are skewed toward light rare earths.

Prices of light REM in particular have fallen almost 30 percent since reaching record highs earlier this year after China repeatedly slashed export quotas, cutting shipments abroad to 30,184 tonnes in 2011 from about 60,000 tonnes in 2007.

The rare earth market is in a correction cycle after China's export cuts, mining reforms and stockpiling pushed prices of most REM to an unsustainably high level, Lifton said, adding prices at this lower level would make it even harder for non-Chinese ventures to make a profit.

Cerium, a light REM used primarily in glass polishing, surged from about $4 a kilogram in 2009 to about $157 in July 2011. The price has since fallen to around $55/kg.

"In terms of investment, the best bet are the companies that will be producing the heavy rare earths that will be in deficit in the future. As it shakes out, there are around 250 companies, only 25 of them have a chance and less than 10 will survive," Lifton added.

According to Technology Metals Research, the non-Chinese mines with the highest deposits of the heavy rare earths, which they consider critical in terms of future shortage, including dysprosium, belong to Lynas Corp, Great Western Minerals Group, Quest Rare Minerals,Ucore and Tasman metals.

(Editing by James Jukwey)

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