Best of our wild blogs: 14 Feb 12

Oriental Honey-buzzard Mobbed By House Swallows
from Bird Ecology Study Group

bee-eater ejecting bolus @ bukit brown - Feb2012
from sgbeachbum

Things We Find in the Woods Part Ten
from Crystal and Bryan in Singapore

Talk on "Biophilic Cities", how does Singapore measure up?
from wild shores of singapore

Read more!

Singapore LNG market to get boost

Lynda Hong Channel NewsAsia 13 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's upcoming liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal could boost the country's plan to become a regional, if not international, LNG trading hub.

The S$1.7 billion terminal at Jurong Island, which will be operational by the second quarter next year, will also enhance Singapore's energy security.

Come next March, the authorities will decide on the future direction of Singapore's LNG market structure.

At 53 metres high, the tank has the capacity for 180,000 cubic metres of liquefied natural gas.

When completed, the two tanks at the terminal will process 3.5 million tonnes of LNG annually to meet rising demand.

The supply could go up to six million tonnes per annum by end-2013, when additional facilities are added.

A third tank could also be ready by the first quarter of 2014.

Spanning 30 hectares, this terminal is an important part of Singapore's plan to provide reliable and competitively-priced energy to Singapore homes and businesses.

Second Minister for Trade and Industry & Home Affairs S Iswaran said: "Once we have this terminal fully built, it will gain us access to gas supplies from around the world.

"This is not just about geographic diversification. As you may be aware, there are other unconventional gas being discovered around the world -- shale gas and so on.

"So all these are going to play new opportunities for us, which we can access through the LNG terminal."

The terminal could also enable Singapore to tap opportunities in the trading of LNG, following in the footsteps of its neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia.

Even before the LNG terminal is ready, it's already seen strong interest from power generation companies and industrial users

BG Group, the appointed aggregator has sold 90 per cent of its committed supply of three million tonnes per annum for up to 20 years.

Singapore's LNG terminal has the capacity for another four LNG tanks and two LPG tanks.

And Singapore's Energy Market Authority will embark on a consultation exercise with stakeholders and the public in March on the future of the structure of Singapore's LNG market.

The consultation will explore LNG procurement options after BG Group's contract has been fulfilled.

It will also study if Singapore should start importing and exporting LNG.

- CNA/wk

Yet-to-be-completed LNG terminal draws huge demand
Robin Chan Straits Times 14 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE'S first liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal is about 80 per cent complete and is already fielding huge demand from customers.

The $1.7 billion terminal, which is on track to become operational in the second quarter of next year, will produce LNG to supplement piped gas from Indonesia and Malaysia.

By 2014, the production capacity will be expanded from 3.5 million tonnes a year to six million, and a third LNG storage tank at the terminal is set to be completed in two years.

The plant will initially be used by energy firm BG Group, which is franchised to sell three million tonnes of LNG here a year for up to 20 years, but 90 per cent of that has already been taken up, said Mr S. Iswaran, Second Minister for Trade and Industry, during a visit to the facility yesterday.

The Energy Market Authority has responded by preparing a consultation paper that will be released next month to gather industry and public feedback on how to structure the LNG market beyond what BG Group has been appointed to do, said Mr Iswaran.

It will take into account various factors, including technical capabilities and Singapore's limitations. This is all to ensure that LNG will be 'robustly priced and competitively priced in our context', he added.

Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, also made it clear that the LNG terminal is just one part of Singapore's energy strategy.

He told the media on the sidelines of his visit: 'Our aim is to make sure that every Singapore home and all our businesses have access to reliable and competitively-priced energy. Our strategy to achieve that is energy security, and our key strategy is diversification.

'This terminal is a very important part of that strategy. Once we have this terminal fully built, it will gain us access to gas supplies around the world.

'And this is not just about geographic diversification. As you might be well aware, there is also a lot of unconventional gas being discovered around the world, such as shale gas and so on. All these are going to create new opportunities for us which we can access through the LNG terminal.'

The diversification strategy could also mean importing electricity.

Mr Iswaran said the Government is 'at an early stage in the process to decide whether we want to import electricity, and if so, how much and how to do so'.

Importing electricity could undermine existing investments by companies in LNG, some have observed, as it provides competition to power generation companies here.

But Mr Iswaran said power generation companies here would have taken that into account in their business plans.

'We are not intending to make any precipitate moves. That is why it's a very deliberate process. First, to understand the lie of the land in terms of the perspective of our incumbent gencos (power generators),' he noted.

'But we also know there are several interested parties who are keen to participate in our market, but from a generating plant offshore.

'So we need to assess how it will add to our framework, and importantly, we need to ensure that it doesn't compromise the security and stability of our system.'

Read more!

Video Reveals Shocking Footage of Sea Lions Strangled by Debris

Wynne Parry Yahoo News 14 Feb 12;

The images aren't pretty: Sea lions with shiny fishing lures protruding from their mouths or with their necks tightly bound, even deeply cut, by packing bands once used to secure boxes. Seals with necks tightly encircled by pieces of fishing net.

The scientists who study these animals know that becoming entangled with items such as these can injure or even kill the unlucky animals.

A video, put together by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, documents the effects of loops, fishing gear and other debris, including a tire and a wind sock — which drowned a sea lion by pinning her flippers to her body.

The researchers posted the video on YouTube recently to let people know about the problem.

The problems

A study of eastern Steller sea lions, which are threatened by extinction, along the southeastern coast of Alaska and northern British Columbia found that plastic packing bands and rubber bands were the most common items to show up around the animal's necks, while metal flasher lures used for salmon fishing were the most frequently ingested fishing gear.

Between 2000 and 2007, the study researchers spotted 386 animals that had picked up some sort of debris.

"We are certainly underestimating the number of animals entangled. We go out every summer here in southeastern Alaska and we try to visit every haul out (where animals come to shore) and rookery (where they breed) at least once," said study researcher Lauri Jemison, a wildlife biologist in the Steller Sea Lion program of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Their numbers are likely conservative, as they could've missed counting an entangled sea lion that didn't come to shore, wasn't visible in the crowd of sea lions or that hauled out elsewhere, Jemison said.

A widespread problem

Many marine species, including marine mammals, sea birds and turtles, face similar problems, Jemison and colleagues write in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin in 2009.

In Alaskan waters, Steller sea lions and the smaller, northern fur seals become entangled more frequently than other pinnipeds (fin-footed mammals).

Fur seals, too, somehow manage to pick up bands around their necks, like the sea lions do. But unlike Steller sea lions, they don't appear to be swallowing much fishing gear, according to Michael Williams, the Pribilof Island program manager for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

During intensive surveys on the Pribilof Islands, in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska, researchers could spot about 100 entangled fur seals from a population of about 500,000 that use the islands as a home base during the summer and fall, according to Williams. But, as with the sea lions, it's quite likely more animals are affected.

Getting caught

Somehow, fur seals, and probably sea lions as well, swimming out in the great blue ocean are finding their way through little loops, according to Williams.

"The probability of it seems so remote given how big the ocean is, yet it still happens. I think it has to do with convergence zones." Ocean debris collects in these zones where currents converge forming islands of debris, which attract fish seeking shelter, and in turn, their predators, including seals, Williams speculates. [Album: Lost Predators Leave Broken Food Chains]

While adults may pick the loops up during foraging, young pups may become entangled while playing. As young seals — which appear more prone to become entangled — grow, the restriction around their necks tightens, potentially strangling them. This is especially true of males, which develop larger, thicker necks, and grow larger overall than females, according to Jemison.

Preventing entanglements

There are a number of ways to address the problem. The "Lose the Loop" slogan encourages people to simply cut any loop that could be thrown into the trash or modify gear so it doesn't contain loops. However, the cut bands can still create problems if they are ingested by animals, note the authors of the Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Other solutions include reducing litter from boats and on land, and using materials that don't need loops, according to experts.

Educating the fishing industry is another key. Sea lions often pick up fishing lures while chasing an easy meal, according to Jemison, who said that both commercial and casual fishermen lose salmon and their lures, lines and hooks to hungry sea lions.

Hooks can perforate a sea lion's esophagus or stomach, killing the animal. Sometimes a dangling lure is a sign of a swallowed hook, and sometimes there is no external sign the animal has consumed fishing gear. (By itself, a lure is not a death sentence, as some animals lose the shiny flashing lures and continue with their lives.)

The department is currently seeking funding to work with the fishing industry to come up with solutions, such as modified gear or deterrents to keep the sea lions away from fishing boats, she said.

Read more!

Terengganu bans hunting of flying fox

Natalie Heng The Star 14 Feb 12;

PETALING JAYA: There will be no more hunting of Malayan flying fox in Terengganu. The ban follows a state government decision to stop issuing new hunting licences for the species.

This makes Terengganu the third state in the country to ban hunting of the bat, after Sarawak (in 1998) and Johor (2010).

The directive came after Te­­rengganu’s state chairman of In­­dustry, Trade and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Toh Chin Yaw raised the issue at a state executive council meeting on Jan 18.

This was after the bats made a spectacular re-appearance over the Bukit Kapah area in Kuala Berang, in the Hulu Terengganu district. The sightings came after a three-year “dry spell”.

However, these sightings were accompanied by gunshots from hunters, prompting concerned citizens to highlight the declining bat population to the state government.

The current licensing system, in place since 1972, does not restrict the number of bat hunting licences given to an individual.

The licence for the fox, which includes both the mainland species Pteropus vampyrus and island species Pteropus hypomelanus, is valid for three months and allows a bag limit of 50 heads.

Environmentalists say it is time for a policy change, in light of scientific studies which indicate that the bats’ population is on the decline due to a combination of habitat loss and over-hunting.

Last year, a total of 10 licences were issued in Terengganu, 87 in Pahang, 33 in Negri Sembilan, 60 in Perak and one in Kedah. These brings the total to 192, a significant drop from the 541 issued in 2005.

Read more!

Number of forest fire hot spots in Riau increasing

Antara 13 Feb 12;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The number of forest fire hot spots in Riau Province continues increasing daily, according to data from the Pekanbaru meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG).

"Previously, on Saturday, Feb 11, there were 17 hot spots in Riau, and since Sunday, Feb 12, the number has increased to 59," the Pekanbaru BMKG forecaster, Warih Budi Lestari, said here on Monday.

The hot spots have spread almost throughout all districts and towns in Riau, including in Meranti, Idnragiri Hilir and Kampas, with one hot spot each, Pelalawan (four), Siak (nine), Rokan Hilir (11), Dumai Town (14), and Bengkalis having the largest number with 18 hot spots.

The hot spots are caused by human and natural factors, Warih said.

"We can actually anticipate the natural conditions, but some people, in fact, deliberately set fires to open new plantation areas," he noted.

During January 2012, there were 375 hot spots in Riau Province, according to data obtained from the NOAA-18 satellite.

Several meteorological analysts said the hot spots were triggered by low rainfalls and high temperatures of above 33 degrees Celsius.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Read more!

Soil Erosion Increasing Global Warming Threat: UNEP

Nina Chestney PlanetArk 14 Feb 12;

Global warming will get worse as agricultural methods accelerate the rate of soil erosion, which depletes the amount of carbon the soil is able to store, a United Nations' Environment Programme report said on Monday.

Soil contains huge quantities of carbon in the form of organic matter. which provides nutrients for plant growth and improves soil fertility and water movement.

The top meter of soil alone stores around 2,200 billion tonnes of carbon, which is three times the level currently held in the atmosphere, said the UNEP Year Book 2012.

"Soil carbon is easily lost but difficult to rebuild," the report said.

"Soil carbon stocks are highly vulnerable to human activities. They decrease significantly (and often rapidly) in response to changes in land cover and land use such as deforestation, urban development and increased tillage, and as a result of unsustainable agricultural and forestry practices."

Such activities can break down soil's organic matter. When this happens, some carbon is converted to carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is one of the main contributors to global warming, and it is lost from the soil.

Around 24 percent of global land has already suffered from declines in health and productivity over the past quarter of a century due to unsustainable land use, UNEP said.

Some 60 percent of carbon stored in soils and vegetation was lost as a result of land use changes, such as clearing land for agriculture and cities, since the 19th century.

As global demand for food, water and energy is forecast to rise dramatically, soils will come under increasing pressure.

Without changing the way land is managed, over 20 percent of forests, peatlands and grasslands in developing countries alone could lose vital ecosystem services and biodiversity by 2030, the report said.

The degradation of peatlands is a particular concern.

Peatlands contain over a third of the world's soil carbon, making them the most effective carbon store on earth. But the draining of peatlands currently produces over 2 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions a year - equivalent to around 6 percent of manmade greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.

To ensure soil carbon stocks are enhanced, not depleted, UNEP suggested agricultural methods such as reduced tillage and the careful use of animal manure or chemical fertilizers and crop rotation.

Financial incentives to improve land use such as payments for carbon storage, flood control and water quality improvement, and a global climate deal that includes the trade of carbon credits for soils could help improve management of soil resources, the report said.

Although rules governing the treatment of land use, land use change and forestry are being debated as part of a new global climate deal, UNEP said there was a "critical need" to develop universal ways to measure, report and verify changes in soil carbon over time.

(Editing by Jane Baird)

Read more!