Best of our wild blogs: 30 Nov 12

Blog Log, 25 Nov 2012: Creatures on Sponges
from Pulau Hantu

Plant-Bird relationship: 15. Miscellaneous herbs and their families
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Read more!

60 cases of smuggled animals in past 5 years

Some of those confiscated by AVA are quarantined, tested for diseases before being put up for adoption
Goh Shi Ting Straits Times 30 Nov 12;

PUPPIES and songbirds count among the 60 cases of smuggled animals that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has handled in the past five years.

Typically, animals that are confiscated are placed under quarantine and tested for diseases before they are put up for adoption. Exotic animals or birds are re-homed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Smuggled animals that are unhealthy or at risk of having an infectious disease are humanely euthanised, said the AVA in response to queries from The Straits Times.

Last Tuesday, a 27-year-old driver allegedly tried to smuggle 21 puppies in his car boot across the Woodlands Checkpoint, and was stopped by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority inspectors. The case is currently under investigation.

Besides puppies, the oriental white-eye songbirds, or mata puteh in Malay, are commonly smuggled into Singapore due to their popularity among bird-keepers.

In March, a Malaysian man was jailed for two weeks and fined $4,000 for illegally bringing in 24 oriental white-eye hatchlings from Batam, Indonesia. Seven of the 24 hatchlings, kept in small boxes inside a pouch concealed in his trousers, were found dead. The remaining birds were sent to Jurong Bird Park after being tested negative for avian influenza.

The small green birds usually fetch about $150 each, while the better singing birds can cost up to a thousand dollars.

Bird-watcher Alfred Chia, 52, said that while these songbirds are not indigenous to Singapore, they are commonly found in neighbouring countries like Thailand and Malaysia.

The AVA currently does not allow the import of birds from avian influenza-affected countries, such as Indonesia.

In the case of dogs and cats, the main concern is the risk of rabies, which is a fatal viral disease that can be transmitted to man by the bite of an animal carrying the virus. "Singapore enjoys a rabies-free status but we cannot be complacent as the disease is endemic in the region," said the AVA.

AVA said that the 21 puppies found last week - 14 pomeranians and seven pugs - are now under observation at the Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station. They will be vaccinated and quarantined for up to 180 days. Those interested in adopting the animals are required to pay $750 for the full vaccination, and an internal and external parasite treatment. The dogs will also be sterilised, microchipped and licensed.

The AVA will invite people interested in adopting to visit the quarantine station for an interview when the puppies are ready for adoption.

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 29 Nov 12

In celebration of the conservation of Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve - registration opens for the 2012 Anniversary Walk on Sun 2nd December 2012! from Habitatnews

Bug bites
from The annotated budak

Read more!

Mandai could be nature tourism hub

Ng Kai Ling Straits Times 29 Nov 12;

THE Government is looking at adding hotels and more restaurants to the Mandai area to turn it into a complete tourist destination.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said at the opening of the giant panda exhibit yesterday that the area's rich biodiversity makes it an ideal location for other nature-related developments.

The plan is to leverage Singapore's award-winning attractions, such as the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari as well as the upcoming River Safari, and develop a "green lung" for tourists and Singaporeans alike.

Mr Iswaran, who is also the Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, said the River Safari's opening next year will be an important step in Mandai's development.

Yesterday's opening of the 1,500 sq m panda enclosure also marked another milestone in the strong bilateral ties between Singapore and China, he added.

The Giant Panda Forest is the first attraction to be launched at the River Safari, and it opens to the public today. Visitors can buy zoo admission tickets ($20 for adults, $13 for children) and pay an extra $5 (adult) or $3 (child) to see the pandas.

The rest of the 12ha river-themed park will open next year, tentatively in February.

Last year, Singapore welcomed a record 13.2 million visitors - 14 per cent more than the 11.6 million who came in 2010. In the first half of this year, tourist arrivals grew by 11 per cent compared with the figure in the same period last year.

With a strong suite of nature-themed attractions already in Mandai, Mr Iswaran said the area has potential for developments such as accommodation, dining and other leisure facilities.

"We want developments that are sensitive and complementary to what we already have... we don't want something that jars that," he added.

The tourism industry and observers welcomed the idea.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic's senior tourism lecturer Michael Chiam said that to stand out, the hotels should not be just rooms in a forest. They should blend into the greenery and give people the experience of living in a jungle.

Mr Robert Khoo, chief executive of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, agrees and said the hotels should be like the five-star lodges in Kenya and South Africa.

Hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng said there is definitely potential in developing the area.

"Any time there is a new attraction, there would be business opportunities," he said.

River Safari helping Mandai become 'nature cluster': Iswaran
Area also has potential for accommodation, dining and other leisure facilities
by Vimita Mohandas Today Online 29 Nov 12;

SINGAPORE - The River Safari, where panda couple Kai Kai and Jia Jia will make their public debut today, marks an important step for the development of Mandai as a "nature cluster", as Singapore continues to rejuvenate its tourism offerings, Second Minister for Home Affairs, and Trade and Industry S Iswaran said yesterday.

Speaking at the grand opening of the Giant Panda Forest, the first of the River Safari attractions to open to the public, Mr Iswaran said visitor arrivals to Singapore grew a "robust" 11 per cent year-on-year in the first half of this year.

"The River Safari joins Singapore's stable of award-winning attractions that have impressed many visitors, many of whom do not expect such a rich and diverse array of nature-based attractions in a small, highly urbanised city like Singapore," he said.

Mr Iswaran noted that Mandai's rich biodiversity makes it an ideal location for a nature cluster, with potential for accommodation, dining and other leisure facilities.

"As the developments in this area continue, I am confident that the Mandai Nature Cluster will continue to build on its own unique identity as a top nature-based destination, with quality attractions and lifestyle activities," he said.

Those present yesterday included China's Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Wei Wei, and representatives from the State Forestry Administration of China, China Wildlife Conservation Association, presenting sponsor and conservation donor CapitaLand, and airline sponsor Singapore Airlines.

Members of the public will be able to meet these gentle giants from today, with a Giant Panda Preview add-on ticket when they visit the Singapore Zoo. Visitors will get to see many creature comforts around the enclosure, including a man-made waterfall, dipping pools and bamboo gardens that simulate the pandas' natural habitat.

Next month, they will get to learn about the importance of conservation through a special exhibition at the Singapore Zoo featuring the life of giant pandas in China.

The grand opening of the River Safari is slated for next year.

Related links
Earlier media articles about plans to develop mandai

Read more!

Malaysia: Genetic markers key to saving Borneo jumbos

New Straits Times 29 Nov 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Experts are delving deep into Borneo elephant genes to identify populations of the pachyderm which are isolated and genetically impoverished.

A recent study conducted by a team of scientists concluded that Borneo elephant show low genetic diversity which could threaten their survival.

The study was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE by experts from various institutes in Portugal, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

Experts believe that studying the genetic variability of endangered species' is necessary for conservation and monitoring purposes.

Using blood samples collected from captive Borneo elephants at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, a team of scientists used cutting edge DNA sequencing methodology to identify genetic markers for the species.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said access to variable genetic markers was crucial to determine genetically impoverished and isolated elephants.

As Borneo elephants live in highly disturbed habitats due to oil palm plantation development, the populations risked isolation from one another.

"These new genetic markers may also allow us to reconstruct part of the demographic history of the elephants and possibly unravel the mystery of their origin.

"Their presence in Borneo still raises controversy and we have long wondered why the elephants' range is so restricted.

"The only previous genetic study done on these elephants recognised their presence in Borneo for more than 300,000 years, but there is a lack of elephant fossils on the island to support this," said Goossens.

Theory points to the sultan of Java, who had sent Javan elephants as a gift to the sultan of Sulu in the late 12th century, leading the to feral population in the western end of Sulu island.

"Subsequently, the sultan of Sulu translocated some elephants to the northeast of Borneo and these may have become the founder members of the current population in Sabah."

Earlier this year, the state government launched the 2012-2016 Elephant Action Plan to study and protect the endangered species.

The Borneo elephant is genetically unique and Sabah has a population of about 2,000 pachyderms.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said large areas of lowland forest were paramount to the species' survival.

"Land conversion to oil palm plantations in key areas such as the Kinabatangan floodplain and central Sabah should stop if we want to avoid isolation of herds and maintain a healthy population."

Read more!

Indonesia: Elephant dies of electrocution in Banjarnegara

Antara 28 Nov 12;

Banjarnegara, C Java (ANTARA News) - An elephant from the Serulingmas Wildlife and Recreation Park in Banjarnegara, Central Java, was found dead on Wednesday after being allegedly electrocuted.

The ill-fated animal was discovered by an elephant tamer who works in the park.

"The elephant was found lying with a burnt mouth. There was an electric cable in its mouth," Head of Culture and Tourism Office of Banjarnegara, Aziz Ahmad, said here on Wednesday.

He noted that the electric cable was used to weld the rail of the elephant`s cage, which had been undergoing repair for several days.

The 11-year-old female elephant, named Dona, might have tried to bite the cable, which possibly led to its electrocution and death, Ahmad continued.

"We are extremely sorry for this accident, particularly because there were only two elephants here," he added.

Meanwhile, elephant tamer Suroyo (26) stated that he would deeply miss the elephant he had been raising since four years ago.

"Dona was a docile and cheerful elephant. Every time I am around, she would want to play. I still can`t believe that Dona is gone. It breaks my heart," he said.

The carcass of the pachyderm will be buried within the boundaries of the wildlife park on Wednesday evening, after being examined by the local police.(*)

Editor: Heru

Read more!

Rhino killings for horns rapidly rise in South Africa

Jon Gambrell Associated Press Yahoo News 28 Nov 12;

Associated Press/Denis Farrell - In this photo taken Friday, Nov. 22, 2012, a carcass of a rhino lays on the ground at Finfoot Lake Reserve near Tantanana, South Africa.

VAALKOP DAM NATURE RESERVE, South Africa (AP) — By the time ranchers found the rhinoceros calf wandering alone in this idyllic setting of scrub brush and acacia, the nature reserve had become yet another blood-soaked crime scene in South Africa's losing battle against poachers.

Hunters killed eight rhinos at the private Finfoot Game Reserve inside the Vaalkop Dam Nature Reserve this month with single rifle shots that pierced their hearts and lungs. The poachers' objective: the rhinos' horns, cut away with knives and popped off the dead animals' snouts for buyers in Asia who pay the U.S. street value of cocaine for a material they believe cures diseases.

That insatiable demand for horns has sparked the worst recorded year of rhino poaching in South Africa in decades, with at least 588 rhinos killed so far, their carcasses rotting in private farms and national parks. Without drastic change, experts warn that soon the number of rhinos killed will outpace the number of the calves born — putting the entire population at risk in a nation that is the last bastion for the prehistoric-looking animals.

"This is a full-on bush war we are fighting," said Marc Lappeman, who runs the Finfoot reserve with his father Miles and has begun armed vigilante patrols to protect the remaining rhinos there. "We here are willing to die for these animals."

Unchecked hunting nearly killed off all the rhinos in southern Africa at the beginning of the 1900s. Conservationists in the 1960s airlifted rhinos to different parts of South Africa to spread them out. That helped the population grow to the point that South Africa is now home to some 20,000 rhinos — 90 percent of all rhinos in Africa.

From the 1990s to 2007, rhino poachings in South Africa averaged about 15 a year, according to a recent report by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC. In 2008, however, poachers killed 83 rhinos and by 2009, the number hit 122, the report says.

The killings grew exponentially after that: 333 in 2010, 448 in 2011 and as of Tuesday, at least 588 rhino killed this year alone, according to South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs.

"That the year-on-year rhino poaching losses have continued to grow in the face of heightened awareness, constant media attention and concerted law enforcement effort is testament to just how pervasive and gripping the rhino crisis in South Africa has become," TRAFFIC wrote in its August report. "If poaching continues to increase annually as it has done since 2007, then eventually deaths will exceed births and rhino numbers in South Africa will start to fall."

Most of the killings, according to government statistics, occur in South Africa's massive Kruger National Park, covering 19,400 square kilometers (7,500 square miles) in the country's northeast abutting its borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe. There, the impoverished slip across the park's borders, largely from Mozambique, to kill and dehorn rhino, earning the equivalent of months' wages in a single night of hunting. South Africa has deployed soldiers in the park with dogs to sniff out poachers, but their small force can't sufficiently cover a park that's roughly the same size as New Jersey.

The horns are sold by criminal gangs and smuggled into Asia. While poachers have been shot dead and hundreds of suspects arrested this year, the rhino killings continue unstopped largely because the trade is transnational and worth millions of dollars, said Julian Rademeyer, a journalist in South Africa who wrote "Killing for Profit," a book on rhino poaching that came out this month.

"The problem with law enforcement strategies is they end where our border ends," Rademeyer said.

And law enforcement can't always be trusted in South Africa, where corruption eats away at the nation. There have been several cases of rangers assigned to guard parks being arrested for aiding poachers.

With both South Africa and Swaziland allowing rhino to be hunted legally, criminal gangs have obtained hunting licenses under false pretenses. Gangs have hired prostitutes and the poor from Asia and Eastern Europe to pose as big game hunters with licenses to kill a single rhino apiece, Rademeyer said. Their "trophies" end up shipped back to Asia, where the horns are removed and sold.

Rhino horn is made of keratin, a tough protein found in human fingernails. Doctors have repeatedly said the material has no medical value. In Asia, however, demand for rhino horn has jumped dramatically. Experts blame it partly on a widespread rumor in Vietnam that rhino horn cures cancer, though some elite Vietnamese grind up horn and take it as a hangover cure or as a fever reducer.

The ever-increasing demand saw Vietnamese poachers kill the last of Vietnam's rare Javan rhinoceros last year for its horn. The World Wildlife Fund ranked Vietnam as the worst country for wildlife crime in Asia and Africa in July. The country is seen as having lax laws on importing horns. Diplomats at the Vietnamese Embassy in South Africa's capital Pretoria have also been linked to trafficking. Earlier this month, a South African court sentenced a Thai national to 40 years in prison for selling rhino horns.

With high-level officials involved and a strong demand, Rademeyer said poaching "will probably get a lot worse before it gets any better."

Rhino poachers have gone beyond Kruger and are targeting private farms and reserves. Poachers likely watched the Finfoot Game Reserve, which breeds rhino for game viewing, for days, Lappeman said. Workers caught a man in ragged clothes lurking around the park with more than 1,000 rand ($115) in crisp hundred rand bills and a new mobile phone in his pocket around the time of the killings, Lappeman said.

The poachers fired on the rhino far from the game lodge, probably moving methodically closer as no one came to investigate the shots, he said. Lappeman said he and his father only found the dead rhinos the day after seeing the lost calf.

One wounded mother rhino walked all the way to the property's edge, finally dying on a dirt road to be found first thing that morning.

"She had physically come to the road to die, to say, 'I'm dying, come fetch my calf,'" Lappeman said.

Only 10 years left to save rhinos
WWF 28 Nov 12;

Poaching of rhinos and elephants has risen so sharply in Africa that the fate of the species are now at risk. Tens of thousands of elephants and at least 588 rhinos have lost their lives in 2012.

“The rhino faces extinction within 10 years if we do not reverse this trend,” says Dr Joseph Okori, WWF's African Rhino Programme leader.

In South Africa several rhinos are killed every day for their horns.

“Villagers are at the bottom of the chain and can earn several months income through two or three days of poaching. Huge amounts of money is in circulation,” says wildlife vet Okori, who has worked on the protection of endangered species all his life.

Behind the rhino poaching boom is an increasing demand from Asia, primarily Viet Nam. Ivory consumption has risen in step with economic growth in Asia. Large amounts of illegal ivory is reaching markets in Thailand and China.

Demand for rhino horn has become so strong that criminal syndicates have plundered antique shops and museums in Europe for old horns.

“In Vietnam appliances that grind rhinoceros horns are sold for around $450,”said Joseph Okori.

To reverse the escalating poaching and to stop the illegal trade, a range of measures are required, Okori says. The demand in consumer countries must decrease sharply, and world leaders must acknowledge that wildlife trafficking as a serious crime.

Establishing trust and engaging in dialogue between authorities and village residents is also necessary to encourage locals to raise the alarm when poaching occurs.

In Namibia, for example, there is a effective information system which is reliant on cooperation with local populations, as well as a well-developed local management scheme which results in the lowest poaching in Africa. Similar ideas have begun to spread to Botswana, South Africa and Zambia, said Okori.

WWF now supports the creation of a compulsory DNA registery for rhinos. There are currently 5,600 rhinos in the database. DNA evidence is invaluable when poachers are arrested and cases are tried in court.

“We welcome the fact that the Swedish government has provided increased support for stricter border control, as well as other measures to combat smuggling and poaching. Both governments and tourists need to take more responsibility. People should absolutely not buy souvenirs from endangered species or carved ivory souvenirs while on holiday,” said Hakan Wirtén, Secretary General of WWF Sweden.

Read more!

Sea Levels Rising Faster Than Projected Yahoo News 29 Nov 12;

New satellite measurements suggest that global sea levels are rising faster than the most recent projections by the United Nations' climate change panel.

The new report found that sea levels are rising at an annual rate of 0.12 inches (3.2 millimeters) — 60 percent faster than the best estimate of 0.08 inches (2 millimeters) per year, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated in 2007.

"This study shows once again that the IPCC is far from alarmist, but in fact has underestimated the problem of climate change," German oceanographer and climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf, who led the study, said in a statement. "That applies not just for sea-level rise, but also to extreme events and the Arctic sea-ice loss."

Satellites, which measure changes in sea level by bouncing radar waves off the sea surface, provide much more accurate measurements than tide gauges, because they have near-global coverage, as opposed to just coastal coverage, researchers say.

In addition to the change in sea level, the team assessed another marker of global warming — the overall warming trend of global temperatures. But their results closely corresponded with the IPCC's fourth assessment report, finding that the current overall warming trend of global temperatures is 0.28 degrees Fahrenheit (0.16 degrees Celsius) per decade.

Seas-level rise is thought to be driven by glacier melt as well as a phenomenon known as thermal expansion, which occurs when ocean water expands as it warms. Rising tides are a concern because they boost the threat of extreme flooding in populous coastal areas, putting millions of people at risk worldwide. The IPCC estimated the seas would rise up to an average of 6.6 feet (2 meters) by 2100, though some areas are expected to be hit harder than others.

The team involved in the new study included scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the consulting firm Tempo Analytics and the French Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales (LEGOS).

Their findings appear today (Nov. 28) in the journal Environmental Research Letters, as delegates from 190 countries meet in Doha, Qatar, this week for the U.N.'s Climate Change Conference. The IPCC's next comprehensive report on the state of climate change is due out by 2014.

Read more!

UN agency: 2012 warmer than normal despite La Nina

Karl Ritter Associated Press Yahoo News 28 Nov 12;

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Despite early cooling from La Nina, 2012 is on track to become one of the top 10 hottest years on record, with the U.S. experiencing extreme warmth and Arctic Sea ice shrinking to its lowest extent, the U.N. weather agency said Wednesday.

In a statement released at international climate talks in Qatar, the World Meteorological Organization said the "alarming rate" of the Arctic melt highlights the far-reaching changes caused by global warming.

"Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said.

Delegates from nearly 200 countries are meeting in the Qatari capital of Doha to discuss ways of slowing climate change, including by cutting emissions of greenhouse gases that scientists say are warming the planet, melting ice caps, raising sea levels, and changing rainfall patterns with impacts on floods and droughts.

Discord between rich and poor countries on who should do what has kept the two-decade-old U.N. talks from delivering on that goal, and global emissions are still going up.

The WMO said global temperatures rose after initial cooling caused by the La Nina weather oscillation, with major heat waves in the U.S. and Europe. Average temperatures in January-October were the highest on record in the continental U.S., and the ninth highest worldwide.

Before that, a cold spell had much of the Eurasian continent in an icy grip between late January and mid-February, when temperatures in eastern Russia plunged to -50 degrees C (-58 F).

Cyclone activity was normal globally, but above average in the Atlantic, where 10 storms reached hurricane strength, including Sandy, which wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and the U.S. east coast.

Sandy wasn't the strongest cyclone, though. That was typhoon Sanba, which struck the Philippines, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula, "dumping torrential rain and triggering floods and landslides that affected thousands of people and caused millions in U.S. dollars in damage," the WMO said.

Droughts impacted the U.S., Russia, parts of China and northern Brazil. Nigeria saw exceptional floods, while southern China saw its heaviest rainfall in three decades.

But of all the weather events in 2012, the most ominous to climate scientists was the loss of ice cover on the North Pole. In September, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado said Arctic Sea ice measured 1.32 million square miles (3.41 million sq. kilometers) — which is 18 percent less than the previous record low, set in 2007. Records go back to 1979 based on satellite tracking.

The scientists said their computer models predict the Arctic could become essentially free of ice in the summer by 2050, but added that current trends show ice melting faster than the computers are predicting.

Read more!

As nations haggle, global carbon cut targets get impossibly deep

David Fogarty and Alister Doyle PlanetArk 29 Nov 12;

As the nations of the world struggle in Doha to agree even modest targets to tackle global warming, the cuts needed in rising greenhouse gas emissions grow ever deeper, more costly and less likely to be achieved.

U.N. talks have delivered only small emissions curbs in 20 years, even as power stations, cars and factories pump out more and more heat-trapping gases.

An overriding long-term goal set by all nations two years ago to keep temperature rises to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above levels prior to the Industrial Revolution is fast slipping away.

"The possibility of keeping warming to below 2 degrees has almost vanished," Pep Canadell, head of the Global Carbon Project at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization, told Reuters.

Disagreements mean the U.N. climate talks in Doha, Qatar, that run until December 7 have scant chance of making meaningful progress. The talks are aimed at reaching a new deal to start by 2020 to slow climate change in the form of more floods, droughts, rising sea levels and severe storms like Hurricane Sandy that lashed the U.S. Northeast last month.

Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, have risen 50 percent since 1990 and the pace of growth has picked up since 2000, Canadell said. In the past decade, emissions have grown about 3 percent a year despite an economic slowdown, up from 1 percent during the 1990s.

Based on current emissions growth and rapid industrial expansion in developing nations, emissions are expected to keep growing by about 3 percent a year over the next decade.

For the talks to have any chance of success in the long run, emissions must quickly stop rising and then begin to fall. Temperatures have already risen by 0.8 C (1.4 F) since pre-industrial times.

"The alarm bells are going off all over the place. There's a disconnect between the outside world and the lack of urgency in these halls," Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists said at the Doha talks.

Nearly 1,200 coal-fired power plants, among the biggest emitters, are proposed around the globe, with three-quarters of them planned for China and India, a study by the Washington-based World Resources Institute think-tank said last week.

Emissions from China, the world's top carbon polluter, are growing 8 to 9 percent a year and are now about 50 percent higher than those of the United States. And China's carbon emissions are not expected to peak until 2030.


In some projections, global emissions will need to go into reverse by mid-century, with the world sucking more carbon out of the air than it puts in, if warming is to be kept to below 2 C.

And air pollution, mostly particles from fossil fuel use, may be masking the warming by dimming sunshine.

"Those aerosols today hide about one-third of the effect of greenhouse gases," Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice-chairman of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told Reuters.

Without that pollution, a breach of the 2 degree threshold might already be inevitable, he said.

The latest IPCC report, in 2007, said keeping greenhouse gas concentrations low would cost less than 3 percent of world gross domestic product by 2030. So far, the panel has not assessed the costs of delays, said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the panel.

The report also said that world emissions of greenhouse gases would need to peak by 2015 to give a good chance of keeping the average temperature rise to below 2 C.

But deep disagreement on future emissions cuts between rich and poor nations has delayed the start of a new global pact until 2020, undermining the chances of a robust extension in Doha of the existing plan, the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges almost 40 rich nations to cut emissions until the end of 2012.

The deadline for a deal on new cuts due to start in 2020 has been put back to 2015, giving breathing space for the troubled talks as ever more carbon enters the air.

Yet current emissions cut pledges are putting the planet on course for a warming of 3 to 5 C, a U.N. report said last week, adding that 2 C was still possible with tough action.

"The later we go in getting complete action and the higher emissions are in 2020, the greater is the risk that these targets are not possible or are extremely expensive," said Bill Hare, head of the non-profit advisory organization Climate Analytics.

Key will be a switch to nuclear or biomass power and carbon capture and storage. If these don't step up, there will be no financially feasible solutions to meet the target, he said.

In Doha, both the United States and the European Union - the main emitters among developed nations - say they will not deepen their pledges for cuts by 2020. "It's a desperate situation," said Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace.

To be effective, the next climate pact from 2020 would need global agreement for rapid and deep cuts. Under a scenario drawn up by the IPCC, rich nations needed to achieve cuts of 25 to 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.

But existing pledges are for less than 20 percent.


Canadell, citing work by the Global Carbon Project and other researchers, said that to have a reasonable chance of keeping warming to 2 C, global emissions would have to drop about 3 percent a year from 2020.

Since developed nations are meant to take the lead, that would mean the rich would have to cut by between 4 and 5 percent a year, he said. That could cripple economies by prematurely shutting down coal-fired power plants and polluting factories.

Global accountancy firm PwC estimated that the improvement in global carbon intensity - the amount of carbon emitted per unit of economic output - needed to meet a 2 C target had risen to 5.1 percent a year, from now to 2050.

"We have passed a critical threshold - not once since World War Two has the world achieved that rate of decarbonisation, but the task now confronting us is to achieve it for 39 consecutive years," PwC said.

(Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Extreme weather calls for action, U.N. climate chief says
Alister Doyle PlanetArk 29 Nov 12;

Extreme weather from melting Arctic ice to Superstorm Sandy shows snail-paced U.N. climate talks have to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the head of the U.N. weather agency and its climate chief said on Wednesday.

"Climate change is taking place before our eyes," Michel Jarraud, the head of the U.N.'s weather agency, said of the shrinking of ice floating on the Arctic Ocean to a record low in September and other extremes.

And the first 10 months of 2012 were the ninth-warmest since records began in the mid-19th century, with early months cooled by a "La Nina" weather event in the Pacific, according to a report by Jarraud's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

It also documented severe floods, droughts and heatwaves, in what the U.N. expected to add to pressure for action at the November 26-December 7 meeting among 200 nations in OPEC member Qatar.

"The message here for this conference is very clear," Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat told Reuters of extremes and rising emissions. "Governments need to hurry up and they need to be much more on track."

Superstorm Sandy, which struck the U.S. east coast after raging through the Caribbean, showed the United States "is not exempt from the vulnerabilities of climate change and that it also needs to do something," she said.

"We have had severe climate and weather events all over the world and everyone is beginning to understand that is exactly the future we are going to be looking about if they don't do something about it," she said.


Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists, said the costs of defenses against higher sea levels would rise towards 2100 and could amount to five to 10 percent of gross domestic product of low-lying nations.

And between 75 and 250 million people in Africa alone could face greater stress on water supplies by 2020, hitting food output. "This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition," he said in a speech to the conference.

He said polls showed U.S. public opinion had swung towards wanting more action by President Barack Obama to slow global warming after Sandy. "But whether that's a lasting change it's too early to say," he told Reuters.

China, the United States, the European Union and India are the top emitters. None have announced plans to limit emissions at Doha despite wide pleas for action.

The U.N. meeting is struggling to overcome disputes about how to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the existing plan for cutting emissions by developed nations that will otherwise expire at the end of the year.

The European Union, Australia and a few other countries are willing to extend but Japan, Russia and Canada have pulled out, arguing that it is meaningless unless emerging nations led by China and India also sign up.

The United States never ratified the 1997 Kyoto pact. Without an extension of Kyoto, developing nations say they won't work for a global deal applicable to all and meant to be agreed by 2015 and enter into force by 2020.

Also, coal-dependent Poland won backing as the host for next year's U.N. climate talks after OPEC member Qatar, a double act that dismayed environmentalists who say both oppose action to drop fossil fuels and embrace greener energies.

"The prospect of Poland hosting the next global climate conference is hugely concerning. At a time when action is desperately needed, a host country should be firmly committed to climate protection," Greenpeace's Jiri Jerabek said.

(Editing by Hugh Lawson and Jason Webb)

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 28 Nov 12

changeable hawk eagles @ tanah merah - Nov2012
from sgbeachbum

Birds eating the fruits of Nephelium lappaceum
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Read more!

Dolphins need acres of space to survive

From Louis Ng Founder and Chief Executive, ACRES
Today Online 28 Nov 12;

I refer to the letter, "RWS' dolphins can be of educational value" (Nov 27). The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) agrees that certain zoos and marine parks can play an educational role.

ACRES is not against the Marine Life Park and not campaigning for it to be closed; we are not in principle against the captivity of certain animal species.

We are against the keeping of animals who cannot cope with captivity, such as dolphins, which have one of the largest home ranges in the wild. Studies show that confining such wide-ranging animals is detrimental to their welfare.

Tellingly, dolphins and whales are the only animal groupings that are prohibited from being kept in captivity in some countries.

This year, Switzerland joined a growing list of progressive countries that have banned the import of dolphins; the keeping of dolphins or whales in Swiss zoos or water parks will end.

Also, the Solomon Islands, where Resorts World Sentosa's dolphins were caught from the wild, banned the export of dolphins from January. A recent scientific study confirmed that this trade was unsustainable, contributing to the depletion of this species there.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one of the major threats these dolphins face in the wild is "live captures for oceanarium displays". Will RWS be informing its guests of this? Can it fulfil its educational role in dolphin protection when it has not walked the talk?

ACRES is keen to work with RWS on education programmes. However, RWS must house species that can cope in captivity and are obtained ethically, from sustainable sources.

It must ensure that its attraction plays a proper, non-contradictory role in education and in-situ conservation.

RWS' dolphins can be of educational value
From Patrick Tan Today Online 27 Nov 12;

I refer to the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society's (ACRES) "Candlelight vigil for dolphins at Speaker's Corner" (Nov 24, online).

While I am no great fan of Resort World Sentosa's (RWS) Marine Life Park and it is sad that three dolphins have died, I believe the park, if properly run, would allow people a better understanding of marine creatures.

Years ago, my family visited Discovery Cove in Florida in the United States - one of our most memorable experiences. We swam with dolphins and learnt more about them and other marine creatures than books could ever teach or my children could ever learn in school.

While I respect ACRES for its beliefs, I feel there is a lack of consistency in its approach. Why cry over three dolphins when there are some birds and dogs that should not be kept in homes in Singapore? Are these not animals that should be allowed their natural freedom? ACRES should work with RWS to make sure that the dolphins are well taken care of and that they are of educational value.

Read more!

Monkey attack in MacRitchie leaves woman with 13 stitches

Victoria Barker My Paper AsiaOne 27 Nov 12;

SINGAPORE - IT WAS meant to be a leisurely stroll with the family at MacRitchie Reservoir Park some time in September.

But the trip left housewife Audrey Best, who had been on a boardwalk with her in-laws, with 13 stitches to the last finger of her right hand.

The culprit: a macaque which attacked her suddenly in what Mrs Best, 33, termed a "freak accident".

The mother of a 15-month-old girl was behind her husband when they walked past a baby monkey and four adult monkeys.

"I felt scared and I happened to look one monkey in the eye. It all happened so quickly," she told My Paper over the phone yesterday.

"I remember feeling this intense pain after the monkey launched itself towards my face."

The monkey released her within seconds as her mother-in-law tried to scare it off immediately, using her hands.

Her English- teacher husband and father- in-law also scared off the monkeys by growling at them.

"I think when we walked away, they took it as a sign of retreat... Maybe the monkey thought I had food, (but) it definitely felt like a territorial attack," she suggested.

She noted that she had been the only person in her group who held a bag in her hand, while others carried sling bags or backpacks.

Mrs Best spent three nights in hospital and still attends hand occupational-therapy sessions every fortnight.

Dr Michael Gumert, a primate researcher from the Nanyang Technological University's psychology division, said that people can often provoke macaques without realising it.

Dr Gumert said: "They may have done something careless like move too quickly or move too close to the monkey.

"They (the macaques) may already be riled up and redirect aggression from a previous conflict."

One should avoid eye contact and stay as still as possible in the event a monkey becomes aggressive, he added.

In response to My Paper queries, Ms Kartini Omar, director of parks at the National Parks Board (NParks), said that monkeys would return to the forest for food, if food is not available from humans.

Related links
Why we should not feed monkeys

Read more!

K-pop extravaganza trashed by litterbugs

Organisers say large events inevitably generate litter; some slam social shame
Grace Chua Straits Times 27 Nov 12;

IT MAY have been a big hit with fans of Korean pop, but the SMTown Live World Tour III concert also left a big mess.

Ponchos, plastic bags and other types of litter were strewn all over the Marina Bay floating platform after last Friday's event, according to members of the Waterways Watch Society.

The civic group's chairman, Mr Eugene Heng, said rubbish could have been swept into the bay by rain or strong winds.

"I am quite sure that the performers from Korea would have been shocked to see such an aftermath," he wrote in an e-mail to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who posted the message on his blog.

"It tells you how 'successful' we have been in our education and awareness programmes and policies," Mr Heng told The Straits Times.

Concert-goer Nicole Lee, 18, said there might not have been enough dustbins. "The bins were very full, so people just put their litter around the dustbins," added the student.

And 25-year-old civil servant Chaw Chia Hui, who also attended the concert, said he was used to seeing litter at events. "People will just do it. When one person does it, other people do the same."

Concerts and large gatherings inevitably generate a certain amount of litter, say event organisers. They usually hire cleaners specifically to clear up afterwards.

For instance, SMTown organisers Running Into The Sun hired a cleaning team to work on the entire venue from last Friday until today. Ushers, signs and a Facebook concert guide also reminded concert-goers not to litter.

The rubbish left behind consisted mainly of plastic ponchos handed out to the audience of 23,000, said a spokesman for Running Into The Sun.

"The cleaners have to wait until all the equipment is cleared out before cleaning as it is dangerous for the cleaners to be working while the stage crew tears it down."

Last night, both the seating gallery and stage were free of litter.

Mr Ananda Avalokita of Positive Events, which puts on sustainable concerts and other gatherings, said the firm gauges how many people are likely to attend and provides enough dustbins and recycling bins.

But it avoids giving out water bottles and disposable tableware for food and drinks.

Beach party ZoukOut is also taking the eco-cups route, said Zouk head of marketing and events Timothy Chia. About 40,000 partygoers are expected to attend the two-day event next month.

To clean up after them, Zouk has hired 100 cleaners at a total cost of $23,000, Mr Chia added. It will also place extra bins at Siloso Beach.

Mr Liak Teng Lit, chairman of the Public Hygiene Council, said he had seen photographs of the aftermath of Friday's concert. He pronounced it "a disaster".

Social norms in Singapore are "quite bad", he said. "We need to figure out what it is we need to do to get people to do the right thing. The answer is not as simple as, you ask them to do it and they will do."

For instance, bins could be placed conveniently at exits, while masters of ceremonies could gently remind event-goers to pick up after themselves.

"We have to stop behaving like a third-world country," he said. "Singaporeans need to have some pride."

Read more!

Ornamental, cleansing ponds not suitable for fishing

From Chia Seng Jiang Director, Parks, National Parks Board
Today Online 28 Nov 12;

We thank Mr Jeremy Wong for his suggestion, "Let's have more fishing spots" (Nov 23) in our parks.

There are several parks with designated recreational fishing spots. They include Bedok Jetty at East Coast Park, Bedok Reservoir Park, Changi Beach Park, Kranji Reservoir Park, Lower Seletar Reservoir Park, MacRitchie Reservoir Park, Pasir Ris Town Park, Sembawang Park, West Coast Park and Woodlands Waterfront Park.

Mr Wong had written to us separately and suggested that we open up more spots for recreational fishing, such as at Sengkang Riverside Park and the freshwater ponds at East Coast Park.

We replied that the ponds at East Coast Park are primarily designed as ornamental ponds and are not suited for fishing, while the pond at Sengkang Riverside Park is designed to capture and cleanse storm water run-off prior to discharge into the river.

For the safety and enjoyment of all park users, we take this opportunity to encourage anglers to use the designated fishing areas, which are demarcated by signboards in our parks.

Members of the public can send their feedback and suggestions to or call our helpline (1800 471 7300).

Let's have more fishing spots
From Jeremy Wong Today Online 23 Nov 12;

With more youngsters taking up fishing, the National Parks Board should open up more spots for this recreation, namely, at Sengkang Riverside Park and the freshwater ponds at East Coast Park.

There could be catch limits, like in Australia's sport fishing grounds, no use of netting, strict action against litterbugs and so on.

There are more park users and anglers at places such as Bedok Jetty, especially on weekends, than at the three spots mentioned above. The latter may thus be safer for fishing if space is set aside.

Read more!

Malaysia: Singaporean trampled to death by elephants

The Star 28 Nov 12;

KLUANG: An elderly man was trampled to death by a herd of elephants during a trip to his oil palm plantation.

Singaporean Toh Sam Yit, 79, who has a Permanent Resident status, and his grandson went to the area from their house in Taman Lian Seng, Kahang, on Monday when the tragedy occurred.

According to the victim's eldest son, Toh Sin Ming, 51, his father was supposed to have returned to Singapore to visit his granduncle.

“However, my father changed his mind and decided to take my 15-year-old son to the plantation in Kampung Orang Asli Punan near the Mersing border,” Sin Ming said.

Trampled to death
Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 28 Nov 12;

JUMBO ATTACK: Senior citizen found with his head buried in the ground at plantation

KLUANG: A SENIOR citizen was killed on Monday after he was attacked by a elephant while checking on his oil palm trees at his plantation in Kampung Orang Asli Punan, Kahang near here.

In the 6.30pm incident, Toh Sam Yit or fondly known as Ah Kong, was found dead with head injuries by several villagers.

Kluang police chief Assistant Commissioner Abdul Majid Mohd Ali said the 79-year-old victim and his 15-year-old grandson had gone to the plantation to check on the oil palm trees.

"They arrived at about 4pm. The victim then told the grandson to wait for him at a hut before he went to check on the trees alone.

"The grandson became worried when the victim did not return after about an hour and immediately asked several villagers to help him find his grandfather.

"They found the victim about 100m from the hut," said Majid.

It is understood that the village, located at the Kluang-Mersing border, is a main pathway for elephants, which often cause damage to the villagers' plantations.

One the villagers who found the victim, Zamri Boy, 23, said the body was found at about 7.30pm after he and four others looked for him.

"We started our search near the hut. Ah Kong's head was buried in the ground when we found him. We believe he was trampled by the elephant," said Zamri, adding that Ah Kong would often sleep at the hut to guard the oil palm trees from being damaged by elephants.

He said the Wildlife and National Parks Department had been informed of the problem but so far no action had been taken.

Department officials could be not contacted for comments.

Association chairman: Territorial elephants killed man
The Star 30 Nov 12;

JOHOR BARU: The place where an elderly Singaporean man was trampled to death by a herd of elephants was in the animal's migration route.

Malaysian Nature Society Johor chairman Vincent Chow said it was unfortunate that a shy animal had killed a human being.

Singaporean Toh Sam Yit, 79, who has permanent resident status here, had gone to his oil palm plantation on Monday when tragedy struck.

“The herd might have viewed the victim as a threat to their calves which may explain the attack.”

Chow also said elephants entered the Endau-Rompin National Park through that route from November to December to seek shelter and food during the monsoon season.

Read more!

Australia: Myna bird pushes out natives

CEED Science Alert 28 Nov 12;

Despite being number three on the IUCN's list of the worst invasive species, this is the first study to show the affect of myna birds on natives at the population level.

The common myna – popularly known as ‘the cane-toad of the air’ – has been convicted on new evidence it is pushing Australian native birds out of their home range.

Debate has raged for more than a decade about the damage caused by swelling myna populations, both in Australia and other countries around the world, leading the pesky bird to be rated No. 3 on the IUCN’s list of the worst invasive species.

Now a team of Australian researchers has come up with what is thought to be the world’s first clear proof that mynas do indeed have a negative impact on native bird numbers.

In a long running study, Kate Grarock and her colleagues of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and Australian National University investigated 20 birds species round the national capital, Canberra, analysing ornithological records of bird abundance collected by the Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG).

COG established the Canberra Garden Bird Survey (GBS) in 1981 in which volunteers surveyed birds in and around the city. Observers survey an area of 3.1 hectares every fortnight for a 120-minute period. A total of 74 492 surveys was undertaken in Canberra over 29 years

“We found a negative relationship between the establishment of the Common Myna and the long-term abundance of three Australian cavity-nesting species and eight small bird species,” Ms Grarock says.

The birds most affected by mynas were cavity nesters like the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Crimson Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, and small birds such as the Superb Fairy-Wren, Striated Pardalote, Rufous Whistler, Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail, Magpie-lark, House Sparrow, Silvereye and Common Blackbird. Larger birds like magpies, wattlebirds, galahs, ravens and currawongs appeared unaffected.

“To the best of our knowledge, this finding has never previously been demonstrated at the population level,” she adds. “It is particularly difficult to track the impact of an invasive species on native wildlife when it isn’t an actual predator, as this can take place subtly and over a long time and can vary season by season,” she says. “Also you need to know whether it is the invader that is causing the damage – or whether it is simply due to habitat change, such as cities expanding.”

The results confirmed that the impact of the myna was significant on native as well as on other introduced birds – and was not benign, Ms Grarock says.

Mynas were introduced into Australia in 1862, originally to control insect pests at the Melbourne markets. A pair was brought to Canberra in 1968, and the species’ numbers began to increase dramatically throughout the ACT from the early 1990s, to become one of the city’s commonest birds, prompting public calls for their control.

Similar calls have been voiced in cities around Australia as well as round the world.

“The common myna is considered by the public to be a pariah. In Australia in 2005, the species was voted as the ‘most significant pest’, ‘the pest problem seen to be increasing most’ and the top ‘pest problem that needs more control’. Community concern about the common myna was greater than for devastating species such as the cane toad, red fox, feral cat and European rabbit,” she notes.

However, until now there has been little clear scientific basis for its public reputation.

“Understanding the impact of an introduced species is essential for its effective management,” Grarock also says. “If you are going to put a lot of money and effort into a control program, you need to be sure it is worthwhile – and that it is going to work. Controlling mynas may have little benefit if the main cause of native bird decline is urban development.”

The research into the impact of the common myna demonstrates the sort of long-term investigation that is necessary to prove an invader is having a negative effect on native or local wildlife, to develop an effective control strategy and to prioritise it among other possible threats to Australian native wildlife, she says.

The team’s paper “Is It Benign or Is It a Pariah? Empirical Evidence for the Impact of the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) on Australian Birds” by Kate Grarock, Christopher R Tidemann, Jeffery Wood and David B Lindenmayer appears in the journal PloS ONE.

CEED is the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. CEED’s research tackles key gaps in environmental decision making, monitoring and adaptive management.

Read more!

Study raises concern over international trade in python skins

TRAFFIC 27 Nov 12;

A new study finds that close to half a million python skins are reported as exported annually from South-East Asia. The main importer is the European fashion and leather industry. The study raises concerns over the illegality in parts of the trade, animal welfare issues and the trade’s impact on the conservation of python populations.

The report, Trade in South-East Asian Python Skins, was launched today by the International Trade Centre (ITC), in co-operation with TRAFFIC and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and reveals that the trade in python skins is worth an estimated US $1 billion annually.

Alexander Kasterine, Head of ITC’s Trade and Environment Programme, said: “The report shows that problems of illegality persist in the trade in python skins and that this can threaten species’ survival. The fashion and leather industry has a stronger role to play in supporting Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) and developing countries to ensure supply is legal and sustainable.”

Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam are the main sources of exports of python skins, with European Union countries – in particular Italy, Germany and France – the biggest importers. Around 70% of all python skins are re-exported via Singapore. The report notes that a lack of transparency concerning undisclosed stockpiles in Singapore could be facilitating the laundering of illegally sourced skins.

Tomas Waller, the Chair of the Boa and Python Specialist Group (BPSG) of IUCN added that “it would appear a substantial proportion of the skins in trade are sourced illegally from wild animals, beyond agreed quotas, and using false permits to launder the skins”

“With potentially large mark-ups along the supply chain, there is a strong financial incentive for illegal trade in python skins and considerable scope for traders to issue false permits,” said Olivier Caillabet, Programme Officer with TRAFFIC in South-East Asia, and a co-author of the report.

Although more than 20% of exports of Reticulated Python skins from South-East Asia (mainly Viet Nam and Lao PDR) are declared as captive-bred, the report argues that the “commercial case is not convincing and needs to be specifically assessed”, noting that the cost of breeding, feeding and maintaining the snakes to reach slaughter size appears much higher than the market price.

The report recommends that the fashion industry implements a traceability system to demonstrate to consumers that its sourcing is legal and sustainable. The system would complement the existing CITES permitting system, to allow identification of skins along the length of the supply chain.

An additional concern regards the possible lack of sustainability of sourcing. Large numbers of wild pythons are slaughtered before they reach the reproductive stage, meaning harvest quotas may have been set at unsustainable levels. The report recommends a precautionary approach is applied to harvesting, with legally binding minimum skin size limits to ensure protection of immature snakes.

The report highlights previously unknown slaughter methods, yet argues that trade bans are not an effective or fair way to address illegality and animal welfare issues.

The report can be downloaded from

Read more!

Hong Kong: Shrinking Shenzhen mangrove forests poses threat to migratory birds

The reduction in a large area of wetlands poses a threat to the many migratory birds that visit the nearby Mai Po Nature Reserve, experts say
He Huifeng South China Morning Post 28 Nov 12;

The dramatic shrinking of Shenzhen's mangrove forests over the past three decades poses a threat to the many migratory birds that visit Hong Kong's Mai Po Nature Reserve each autumn, winter and spring, experts in both cities warn.

Shenzhen had more than 530 hectares of mangrove forest in the early 1980s, forming one of China's most important wetland conservation zones. It now has less than a quarter of that left - just 130 hectares - experts said in a report published in Shenzhen's Daily Sunshine newspaper.

More than half of the endangered species that were living in Shenzhen's mangrove wetlands have disappeared, including birds, plants and fish, the report said.

It said shorebirds had suffered the most. In the early 1990s, more than 70,000 birds lived in the wetlands between Shenzhen's Futian and Nanshan districts. Today, less than a third remain.

The mangrove wetlands straddling Shenzhen and the Mai Po Nature Reserve are considered an important habitat for nearly 200 bird species, especially migratory ones that use the East Asian-Australasian Flyway every year to travel to and from breeding grounds in northern China, Mongolia and Siberia.

"The size of Shenzhen's mangroves is shrinking drastically and is now less than 130 hectares, according to an ongoing survey that I and other NGOs are doing," Wang Yongjun, a former head of Shenzhen's Futian Mangrove Nature Reserve, told the Daily Sunshine in the report published last month.

Xu Meng, director of the Shenzhen Bird Watching Society, said the extent of the mangrove forests and the number of rare bird species seen had been dropping every year.

"For example, the last time that someone reported seeing Pelecanus crispus [Dalmatian pelican] - a beautiful, big, white aquatic bird - was the spring of 2003," Xu said. "Since then, it's disappeared from the skies of our city."

Experts in Shenzhen blamed the mangrove forests' decline on reckless urbanisation and industrial pollution. But few expected such a massive loss of forest area, especially after Shenzhen's city government released a blueprint in 2007 pledging to triple the size of the city's mangrove forests to more than 500 hectares by 2015.

The authorities have not released a general survey of the state of the city's wetlands and mangroves since 2006.

Most of Shenzhen's remaining mangroves are now threatened by infrastructure projects and commercial property development.

The mangroves of the Dapeng subdistrict in east Shenzhen are being nibbled away by the government-supported Shenzhen Strategic Emerging Industry base.

Those in the Xixiang, Fuyong and Shajing subdistricts in west Shenzhen are making way for two state-run projects - China's second West-East Gas Pipeline and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Coastal Expressway, which is expected to open next year and reroute a third of the vehicles using the existing Guangzhou-Shenzhen Expressway.

Xiong Yang, from the Green River NGO, who has been studying Shenzhen's mangrove forests for years, said the Nanshan district's Qiaocheng wetland, upstream of the Mai Po marshes, was under threat from property projects.

"The wetland park in Overseas Chinese Town's Happy Coast, a commercial reclamation project in the Qiaocheng wetlands, is actually becoming a new threat to the nearby Mai Po reserve, even though the developers and authorities have hailed the project's new villas, artificial lake and yacht docks as a haven to protect birds," Xiong said.

"To make the wetland park attractive for property buyers and tourists, the developers are trying to launch projects to clean up the wetland's silt and also introduce seawater to clean up the wetland. It will make the park look beautiful and clean but will be a disaster for the fragile ecosystem.

"I have been writing letters to ask government to release information about the projects. It's very ironic that the municipal Human Settlements and Environment Commission asked me to approach the developers."

Repeated calls to Futian mangrove reserve authorities went unanswered.

A spokesman for the Happy Coast project said the local government had praised the project as a "successful, eco-friendly business model."

"It was severely polluted and just wasteland seven years ago before we spent huge sums to reclaim land there. Now, the wetlands there look much more beautiful and have recovered after we cleaned up waste and overgrown vegetation," he said.

Dr Wen Xianji, a mangrove specialist at the global conservation body WWF, which manages the Mai Po Nature Reserve, said he was concerned about the commercial projects.

"The authorities should be very careful when approving such projects. They might change the salinity of the coastal-estuarine wetland," he said. "It would be a big blow to species that have been living there for centuries.

"I don't know if the Hong Kong government has been informed about this plan or not. But I do know that WWF knows little about it, even though any change on the Shenzhen side would affect the general environment in Deep Bay. Although the size of the mangrove forest on the Hong Kong side has expanded in recent years, various infrastructure projects and water pollution across the Pearl River Delta are continuing to affect the Hong Kong side."

Read more!

Sydney beached by a crimson tide as algal bloom invades

Nathan Klein and Chloe-Lee Longhetti The Daily Telegraph The Australian 28 Nov 12;

Red algal bloom at Clovelly Beach / Pic: Craig Greenhill

A FEW worried tourists feared it was the aftermath of a shark attack. But what was turning the seas around Sydney into a blood-red tide yesterday - and closing some of the city's most popular beaches - was a danger of a different kind.

A thick algal bloom known as noctiluca scintillans - commonly called "red tide" or "fire in the sea" - capable of causing skin rashes and eye irritations, began washing up early yesterday morning.

Surfers first spotted the algae just after dawn at Bondi, with the number of sightings spreading throughout the morning - stretching from Wamberal on the Central Coast to Cronulla Beach in the city's south.

Bondi and Clovelly beaches were the first to close as a safety precaution as clouds of the algae, which contains high levels of ammonia, began washing ashore.

The bloom, a natural phenomenon and not toxic, was likely caused by higher water temperatures and more movement in ocean currents which led to an upwelling of colder nutrient-rich water.

With this weekend predicted to be one of Sydney's warmest for the year - with the mercury well into the 30s - it is hoped the major bloom will continue to break up.

But swimmers could be forced to stay out of the water if the rare algae continues to spread along the coast.

Bondi reopened in the afternoon after the algae bloom broke up sufficiently, with a spokeswoman for Waverley Council saying most of the algae had either washed up or broken up in the water.

"There are some possible risks to human health from red algae including skin rashes and eye irritation, and for this reason the beach will remain closed until the algae dissipates," a Randwick Council spokeswoman said.

Signs have been installed at the affected beaches.

Marine biologist Fred Gurgel said most algal blooms last about a week and some species are "potentially dangerous" if people come into contact with them.

"It is potentially dangerous, it produces toxins and varies from people to people," Dr Gurgel said. "It should clear up in less than a week."

Office of Water spokesman James Muddle said tests conducted confirmed the unusual outbreak was not toxic.

Bondi local Michael Strum said the algae had stopped him swimming in the water.

"It looks like pink sludge, it's disgusting," he said.

Several tourists ignored lifeguards' warnings and could be seen swimming in the surf at Bondi yesterday.

Read more!

Brazil deforestation hits record low

Marco Sibaja Associated Press Yahoo News 28 Nov 12;

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest has dropped to its lowest level in 24 years, the government said Tuesday.

Satellite imagery showed that 1,798 square miles (4,656 square kilometers) of the Amazon were deforested between August 2011 and July 2012, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said a news conference. That's 27 percent less than the 2,478 square miles (6,418 square kilometers) deforested a year earlier. The margin of error is 10 percentage points.

Brazil's National Institute for Space Research said the deforestation level is the lowest since it started measuring the destruction of the rainforest in 1988.

Sixty-three percent of the rainforest's 2.4 million square miles (6.1 million square kilometers) are in Brazil.

The space institute said that the latest figures show that Brazil is close to its 2020 target of reducing deforestation by 80 percent from 1990 levels. Through July 2012 deforestation dropped by 76.26 percent.

George Pinto a director of Ibama, Brazil's environmental protection agency, told reporters that better enforcement of environmental laws and improved surveillance technology are behind the drop in deforestation levels.

Pinto said that in the 12-month period a total of 2,000 square meters of illegally felled timber were seized by government agents. The impounded lumber is sold in auctions and the money obtained is invested in environmental preservation programs.

Environment Minister Teixeira said that starting next year Brazil will start using satellite monitoring technology to detect illegal logging and slash-and-burn activity and issue fines.

"Over the past several years Brazil has made a huge effort to contain deforestation and the latest figures testify to its success," said Adalberto Verissimo, a senior researcher at Imazon, an environmental watchdog agency. "The deforestation figures are extremely positive, for they point to a consistent downward trend."

"The numbers disprove the argument that deforestation is necessary for the country's economy to grow, he said by telephone from his office in the Amazon city of Belem." Deforestation has been dropping steadily for the past four years while the economy has grown," he said

"But the war is far from over. We still have a lot of battles to fight and win."

For Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace coordinator in the Amazon region, said the lower figures show that reducing deforestation is perfectly possible, but he added that "the numbers are still too high for a country that does not have to destroy one single hectare in order to develop."

Read more!

Global appetite for palm oil raises environmental, humanitarian concerns

Jason Motlagh Sydney Morning Herald 27 Nov 12;

LAHAD DATU, Malaysia: Twenty-five years ago, Lahad Datu was just another sleepy port town on the fringe of Malaysian Borneo, frequented by traders, sea gypsies and the occasional pirate gang.

These days, big money is flowing into banks and construction projects that have multiplied in the city centre, where a gaudy silver statue honours the cash crop that put the former backwater on the map: palm oil.

Long a preferred cooking ingredient in developing countries, palm oil is now in greater demand in Western markets because of its low price and long shelf life. Derived from the fruit of oil palm trees, it can now be found in many of products sold in supermarkets, from cookies to cosmetics. And its use is increasing as the commercial food industry phases out trans fats.

The huge global appetite is yielding billions in revenue for Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's first- and second-largest producers of palm oil. But environmental and human rights activists warn that the boom is doing irreparable damage to rare biodiversity and accelerating the effects of global warming, with no concern for long-term social costs.

They add that indigenous people are being pushed off their ancestral land to make way for plantations staffed by tens of thousands of migrant workers, who are often denied health care and education services. Many families that have laboured for decades still do not have the legal documents that would grant them and their children basic rights.

The labourers and their children "are invisible; they have no future. They just work and work and work," said Alison Neri, the director of a social welfare organisation that assists Indonesian migrants in eastern Malaysia.

The toll is most acutely felt in Borneo, the Southeast Asian island shared by the two countries that's home to one of the oldest rain forests on Earth and humankind's closest relative, the orangutan.

According to a new study, oil palm plantations over the past two decades have cleared about 16,000 square kilometres of primary and logged forested lands. Palm oil deforestation and hunting have combined to cut Bornean orangutan populations down to 54,000, half the total of the 1980s, according to environmental groups. At this rate, some predict the iconic animal could be extinct within a matter of years.

Borneo started losing its rain forest cover in the 1960s when the Malaysian government pushed the expansion of oil palms to complement rubber tree growth. Migrant workers travelled in droves from Indonesia and the Philippines to work on the plantations being carved out of the backcountry.

Palm oil has since evolved into Malaysia's most lucrative crop. In 2011, the export of palm oil and palm-based products netted $US27 billion - a five-fold increase over the past decade - thanks to brisk trade with China, Pakistan, the European Union, India and the United States, which imported record levels for the year.

The transformation of Lahad Datu is emblematic of the boom going on in Malaysia's Sabah province, which accounts for about a quarter of Borneo's land area. The local population has doubled over the past 15 years. Western fast food chains and other new businesses have arrived. And real estate prices are soaring in what has been dubbed "Palm City".

On the southern edge of town, lines of tanker trucks deliver crude palm oil to a sprawling, state-owned refinery complex where smokestacks belch into the night. Fresh lots have been set aside for prospective investors, and officials hope a deep-water port under construction nearby will position the region to be a top exporter of biodiesel fuel.

Longtime residents who recall a time when street crime and power failures were a fact of life boast their children are coming back to the city to start businesses and profit from the boom. "The quality of life here has improved tremendously," Tammay Bin Inton, 58, a community leader, said as he joked with friends at a popular coffee shop.

Nasrun Datuk Mansur, a state assemblyman and assistant to the Sabah chief minister, said the industry is "the catalyst for all types of business activities that are helping Lahad Datu develop very fast, and I believe it's true for the whole country".

But critics of the palm oil industry counter that the breakneck expansion of plantations into virgin tracts of Borneo's countryside is benefiting little more than a handful of major companies, which gain extra income from timber, at the expense of one of the world's most biologically diverse areas and the farmworkers who do the heavy lifting.

A joint study published last month by Stanford and Yale universities found that land-clearing operations for plantations in Borneo emitted more than 140 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 alone, equal to annual emissions from about 28 million vehicles.

"We may see tipping points in forest conversion where critical biophysical functions are disrupted, leaving the region increasingly vulnerable to droughts, fires and floods," project leader Lisa M. Curran, a professor of ecological anthropology at Stanford University, said in a statement.

Slash-and-burn agriculture accounts for 80 per cent of Indonesia's carbon dioxide emissions, making it the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the United States and China.

"It's a perfect storm of human rights abuses and social conflict on the one hand and the destruction of some of the most biologically diverse forests in the world on the other," said Laurel Sutherlin, communications director for the Rainforest Action Network, a San Francisco-based environmental organization. "Extraordinary ecosystems are becoming dead tree farms."

Indonesian officials have announced plans to convert about 18 million more hectares into palm oil plantations by 2020. Malaysia wants to double the area under cultivation over the same period to drive development in its rural eastern provinces, where infrastructure and living standards lag far behind its wealthier, more industrialised western peninsula.

Lost in the environmental debate is the plight of thousands of migrant workers - mostly from Indonesia - who remain the life's blood of Malaysian palm oil plantations. Some have laboured in the country for more than 30 years. Yet the government does not provide education or health-care services to them and the estimated 36,000 children living on backcountry farms.

Leonary Marcus, 17, came with his parents from Indonesia as a young boy. He attended a learning centre run by a local nonprofit organisation, but without legal documents, he was ineligible for secondary school. For the past five years he has toiled on the plantations, earning about $US7.50 a day.

"It's a hard life, but what choice do I have?" he said.

Without access to state schools, workers' children are destined to hard labour in the shadows, said Aegile Fernandez, director of Tenaganita, an organisation that assists undocumented migrants in the country. She said it was the "duty of every government to look after every child on its soil - no questions asked".

The Malaysian government declined to comment on the issue.

In response to mounting pressure, leading palm oil producers have partnered with advocacy groups to form the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an association based in Zurich that aims to establish clear social and environmental safeguards for the industry.

Top consumer goods companies, such as Unilever and Nestle, are members, as well as agribusiness giant Cargill, the largest importer of palm oil to the United States.

But activists say there has been more talk than serious reform.

On a recent afternoon, Mappi Tabbo and his five children, ages 5 to 19, loaded a pickup truck with their day's haul of palm nuts.

Ten years after leaving Indonesia for a better-paying job, the 41-year-old still risks arrest, a penalty that exceeds a year's wages and possible deportation if caught by police. He avoids town altogether.

Motlagh reported with a grant from the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting.

Read more!

EU Commission backs controversial sustainable palm oil scheme

Barbara Lewis PlanetArk 28 Nov 12;

The European Commission has approved a scheme that would certify as sustainable transport fuel made from palm oil, condemned by environmental groups as one of the most damaging sources of biodiesel.

The Commission made public on Tuesday a decision taken last week to endorse the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil scheme, which means the palm oil producers it licenses can qualify for subsidies.

"Palm oil is driving deforestation, wildlife loss, community conflicts, and accelerating climate change. Instead of greenwashing palm oil, the EU should outright ban its use as a biofuel," said Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

Concern that some biofuels create more problems than they solve led to a major policy shift in September when the EU executive announced a proposal to limit how much biodiesel and bioethanol could be made from food crops.

Last month, it announced new rules to encourage a shift away from first-generation biofuels, blamed for stoking food price inflation, forcing forest clearance and draining of peat land. The aim is to move towards a second generation of fuels made from waste or algae, for instance.

The Commission's own research has shown palm oil has the highest emissions of any biofuel when so-called ILUC factors - the indirect land use change caused by using it for fuel - are considered.

"Emissions from peat conversion have a larger impact on the overall emissions attributed to oil crops, particularly for palm oil, than for bioethanol crops," a Commission document released in October said.

The roundtable is an association of hundreds of palm oil growers, processors, traders and distributors, as well as some non-governmental organizations working in palm-oil producing nations, such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Commission spokeswoman Marlene Holzner said the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil scheme had been judged "suitable."

She added that the EU's Renewable Energy Directive already prohibits the destruction of forests to grow palm oil or other biofuel crops.

(Editing by Andre Grenon)

Read more!

Climate Change Threatens to Create a Second Dust Bowl

Melissa Gaskill Scientific American 27 Nov 12;

A cool October broke a 16-month streak of above average temperatures across the Lower 48, but temperatures are projected to remain above normal across most of the western half of the country in the coming months. In addition, the latest climate change projections put future temperature gains on the high side of various models.

As of November 6, 59.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing persistent drought conditions that are most severe in the Great Plains—North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado—where drought is expected to persist or intensify in the foreseeable future. On October 17–18 those drought conditions combined with high winds to create a large dust storm across Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming, closing major highways.

To Katharine Hayhoe, professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, this heralds big changes for agriculture on the Great Plains. "In a nutshell," Hayhoe says, "we're seeing major shifts in places and times we can plant, the types of crops we can grow and the pests and diseases we're dealing with. If you talk to seed companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and even farmers, they tell you we can modify our way out of this, that we can overcome all these problems with technology. There's no question we can adapt to some of the change, but whether we can adapt to all of it is a very open question."

In the 1930s Dust Bowl a land speculator– and government-encouraged plowing frenzy removed windbreaks and grasslands that stabilized soil. The dry, windy weather that followed created one of the worst man-made ecological disasters ever. Powerful winds scoured bare soil from the ground and carried it long distances. Farms failed across Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

This October's dust storm, which followed preparation of fields for fall planting, could be the first act of an encore performance. "If the drought holds on for two or three more years, as droughts have in the past, we will have Dust Bowl conditions in the farming belt," says Craig Cox, an agriculture and natural resources expert with the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit using public information to protect public health and the environment. "It could be in a sense an invisible Dust Bowl—not like the big storms before, but withered crops, dry streams and other disasters that accompanied the Dust Bowl. Wind erosion is tremendously damaging and hard to control. A lot of practices that control wind erosion require growing things, and if those weren't in place when the drought hit, it's almost impossible to put them in place now."

Since the 1940s agriculture on the semiarid southern Great Plains—Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas—has relied on irrigation. On the high plains of Texas, tens of thousands of wells pumping from the 10-million-year-old Ogallala Aquifer have depleted it by 50 percent. Given variation in its depth and the difficulty of pumping at low water levels, most of the remaining reservoir will likely be useless for irrigation within about 30 years. At the same time, climate change has brought less rain as well as hotter temperatures that increase evaporation—forcing farmers to use even more water for irrigation. "We have agriculture systems in semiarid areas," Hayhoe says. "We built these vulnerabilities into the system and climate change is the final straw that may break the camel's back."

Agriculture on the southern plains isn't necessarily doomed, though, Hayhoe stresses. "There are techniques being developed already, such as dry-land farming, rotating crops and using waste as biofuel that will keep the economy going." Actions also can be taken at the local level to reduce the vulnerability of agriculture, she says, including using energy more efficiently and developing sounder management and development policies.

Other adaptations include switching to more heat-tolerant breeds of livestock and even away from cattle altogether, says Wayne Polley, research ecologist at the USDA's Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory. "Major changes in agricultural land use will mean changes in our eating habits and our family budgets as well."

"There are absolutely things farmers could do to deal with climate change," Cox says. "This is not a technical problem. There is a whole suite of practices that would make farming systems more resilient and able to stand up to climate change. Yet instead of making farming more resilient to the challenges, current government agricultural policy actually takes us in the opposite direction." Ending mandates for corn ethanol and once again tying crop insurance to land conservation would help reduce erosion and drainage of wetlands on farmland, he says, reducing the risk of returning Dust Bowl conditions.

The good news, Hayhoe adds, is that whatever happens, the land will still be here. "In the southern Great Plains we may have a major shift to dry-land crops. We may have to shift when we plant. But we have the option of trying different things—as opposed to, say, Bangladesh, where cropland is being lost to sea-level rise.

"We can save ourselves by wise planning," she says. "But a lot of change has been hampered because people don't want to do anything that has a 'climate change' label on it, and also because industrial, large-scale systems are resistant to changes because changes are expensive. But that's true only in the short term. Not doing anything will be way more expensive in the long term. Business as usual is not going to be a viable option 30 years from now, or even sooner."

Fifty miles south of Hayhoe's Texas Tech office, agricultural fields line an arrow-straight highway. On a dry, windy day, in circular fields created by wheeled irrigation contraptions that spin from a well in the center, water sprays onto new autumn crops. Enormous bales of recently harvested cotton stacked up at nearby gins render bits of the snowy fluff to the wind, which catch the grass along the road's edge to gather into miniature drifts. As temperatures rise and the aquifer levels fall, these iconic images of high plains agriculture may be blown away with the dust.

Read more!

UN climate scientist: Sandy no coincidence

Karl Ritter Associated Press Yahoo News 27 Nov 12;

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Though it's tricky to link a single weather event to climate change, Hurricane Sandy was "probably not a coincidence" but an example of the extreme weather events that are likely to strike the U.S. more often as the world gets warmer, the U.N. climate panel's No. 2 scientist said Tuesday.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predicted that as stronger and more frequent heat waves and storms become part of life, people will stop asking whether global warming played a role.

"The new question should probably progressively become: Is it possible that climate warming has not influenced this particular event?" he told The Associated Press in an interview on the sidelines of U.N. climate negotiations in Qatar.

Ypersele's remarks come as global warming has re-emerged as an issue in Washington following the devastating superstorm — a rarity for the U.S. Northeast — and an election that led to Democratic gains.

After years of disagreement, climate scientists and hurricane experts have concluded that as the climate warms, there will be fewer total hurricanes. But those storms that do develop will be stronger and wetter.

It is not correct to say Sandy was caused by global warming, but "the damage caused by Sandy was worse because of sea level rise," said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. He said the sea level in New York City is a foot higher than a century ago because of man-made climate change.

On the second day of a two-week conference in the Qatari capital of Doha, the talks fell back to the bickering between rich and poor countries that has marked the negotiations since they started two decades ago. At the heart of the discord is how to divide the burden of cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide.

Such emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, have increased by 20 percent since 2000, according to a U.N. report released last week.

Van Ypersele (vahn EE-purr-say-luh) said the slow pace of the talks was "frustrating" and that negotiators seem more concerned with protecting national interests than studying the science that prompted the negotiations.

"I would say please read our reports a little more. And maybe that would help to give a sense of urgency that is lacking," he said.

Marlene Moses, the head of a coalition of island nations that view the rising sea levels as an existential threat, said that was good advice.

"These are the kind of people that it is probably a good idea to listen to," she said. "It is very much in the interest of small islands to focus on the science, which is why we have always based our positions on the latest research and why here we are calling for dramatically higher ambition."

Since 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, has released four reports with projections on how global warming will melt glaciers and ice caps, raise sea levels and shift rainfall patterns with impacts on floods and droughts. The panel shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with climate campaigner Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president.

The IPCC is set to start releasing portions of its fifth report next year. Van Ypersele would not discuss the contents except to say the report will include new research on the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, boosting previous estimates on sea level rise.

He said the scientific backing for man-made climate change is now so strong that it can be compared to the consensus behind the principles of gravity.

"It's a very, very broad consensus. There are a few individuals who don't believe it, but we are talking about science and not beliefs," Van Ypersele told AP.

Climate change skeptics say IPCC scientists have in the past overestimated the effect of the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere and underplayed natural cycles of warming and cooling. Others have claimed the authors, who aren't paid for their work, exaggerated the effects that climate change will have on the environment and on human life.

Negotiators in Doha are supposed to start talks on an elusive global treaty to rein in emissions. They have set a deadline of 2015 to adopt that pact, which would take effect in 2020.

Among other topics, they are discussing how to help poor countries convert to cleaner energy sources and adapt to a shifting climate, as well as extending the expiring Kyoto Protocol, an agreement that limits the greenhouse emissions of industrialized countries.

The U.S. rejected the Kyoto deal because it didn't cover world-leading carbon polluter China and other fast-growing developing countries. Other rich countries including Canada and Japan don't want to be part of the extension, which means it will cover less than 15 percent of global emissions.

"Japan will not be participating in a second commitment period, because what is important is for the world is to formulate a new framework which is fair and effective and which all parties will join," Japanese delegate Masahiko Horie said.

Meanwhile, a series of recent climate reports have underscored the depth of the challenge before the U.N. climate negotiators. A report released Tuesday by the U.N. Environment Program warned current climate projections are likely too conservative because they don't factor in the thawing of permafrost — a layer of soil that stays frozen year-round in cold climates.

Lead author Kevin Schaefer, of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, said 1,700 gigatons of carbon are locked up in permafrost primarily in the U.S., China, Russia and Canada. He called for further studies on the potential climate impact if it's released, saying up to 39 percent of total emissions could come from permafrost by 2100.

AP Environment Writer Michael Casey contributed to this report.

Read more!