Best of our wild blogs: 22 Mar 12

Thousands of dead fishes at Sungei Api Api?
from wild shores of singapore

Chek Jawa with Dr Dan
from Chek Jawa Mortality and Recruitment Project

Blue-crowned Hanging-parrot eating leaf galls
from Bird Ecology Study Group

New UN iPhone Application Highlights Role of Ecosystems in Tackling Climate Change from Mangrove Action Squad

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Bukit Brown trumps all popular parks here

Letter from Robin Bond Today Online 21 Mar 12;

It is sad to read of the demise of Bukit Brown. The Minister of State (National Development) has foreclosed discussion of the issue, but given the criticism from several civil society groups, that would be unwise.

It is time to start real discussion, on a matter of long-term importance, way beyond the short-term pressures. Perhaps it is a matter for independent assessment, such as through a public enquiry.

Representations, to date, have concentrated on heritage reasons for Bukit Brown's preservation and have been well made. What has not been aired sufficiently is the character of the area as a natural park.

It retains its original topography, unmodified by bulldozers. There are real valleys and hills, which, even if some survive the development, would not be visible because of the eight-lane bridge and road.

It is quiet. Birdsong is the predominant sound. But that will not be so with eight lanes of traffic whizzing by.

It is parkland, not jungle. The land between the trees has been tended for at least a century and a half. The trees are enormous, spreading beauties and not straight, narrow trunks straining to reach light at the top of the canopy.

Singapore is developing parks for popular use, such as the newly reopened Bishan Park, but nice and popular as it is, it is not "natural".

Trees were felled, allotment gardens were abolished, and above all, a meandering, rock-strewn riverbed has no place in the natural world. It is man-made.

Bukit Brown is natural, beautiful and without equal in Singapore; we will be poorer from its destruction.

In a century's time, when car usage would have decreased due to unsustainability, it would be lamentable if Bukit Brown was no longer there.

Curb car pollution for Singapore to be more sustainable in future
Letter from Mallika Naguran Today Online 22 Mar 12;

WE ARE told that the new road in Bukit Brown will improve traffic flow, which is expected to increase by up to 30 per cent by 2020.

The question we should be asking is: What kind of sustainable Singapore do we want in 2020 and beyond? By building more roads, we continue to encourage private vehicle ownership.

Public transport has been improved, with interconnected Mass Rapid Transit lines and bus networks. So why is our transport system struggling to cope?

The answer is that our planners have a fragmented view of the social, economic, environmental and development aspects of Singapore. Visions and policies do not weave together across these as they should.

Staggered work hours and telecommuting could reduce the stress on public transport during peak hours. This approach was tested 20 years ago in one statutory board but nothing has materialised since.

Flexi-work could start with working from home weekly or monthly, or by changing office hours. The Civil Service, the nation's largest employer, could take the lead.

Buses could be more frequent, with more and varied express bus services to busy areas. Bicycle lanes could be drawn within the bus lanes; half a metre is all that is needed. Melbourne sets a brilliant example of this approach and it works.

Cars are highly polluting, during manufacture, delivery and use. Car ownership here should be given the same treatment as our housing policy. Families of three or more should be allowed to buy a car more easily than singles.

Pollution tax should be incorporated in the cost of cars (besides Electronic Road Pricing). Parking rates should be made uncomfortably high, as is the case in Hong Kong. It is time to wield the stick if we are serious about reducing congestion on roads.

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Dead fish in Pasir Ris: Not water contamination, says NEA

Straits Times 22 Mar 12;

THE mystery of how thousands of dead fish were washed ashore on Pasir Ris beach and along Sungei Api Api has not been solved, but at least it has nothing to do with the water.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has ruled out water contamination as the cause of their deaths. It said yesterday that it analysed water samples from the area and did not detect any irregularities. There was also no discharge of toxic chemicals or pollutants into Sungei Api Api on Tuesday.

Pasir Ris beach remains open to the public and the NEA said people can use it for recreational activities.

The agency will continue to take water samples and monitor the water quality in the area.

Residents were shocked to see a mass of dead fish along Sungei Api Api on Tuesday. The fish appeared to have been washed in with the tide, said the national water agency, PUB.

Contractors engaged by the NEA had removed nearly all the dead fish by last night and no more were found after that.

The dead fish were of two species, both belonging to the sardine family. The fish are found in Singapore's coastal waters but are not bred in the fish farms off Pasir Ris. Fish farmers there have not reported any fish dying in their farms.

Algae blooms which kill fish have also not been reported in the area recently.

Fish farmers The Straits Times spoke to did not know what could have caused the sardines' deaths, although one suggested the fish could have been trapped in an area with poor oxygen levels during the changing of the tides.

Singapore has also had other instances of mass fish deaths. In December 2009, a plankton bloom killed 400,000 fish in farms off Pasir Ris and Pulau Ubin.


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Cutting carbon footprint of Jurong Island industries

Centre aims to cut energy sector's carbon footprint
Grace Chua Straits Times 22 Mar 12;

SINGAPORE'S newest Create research centre will study ways to slash the carbon footprint left by companies refining petroleum and making petroleum-based chemicals.

It hopes that these solutions will be taken up by energy and chemical firms based here.

The Cambridge Centre for Carbon Reduction in Chemical Technology has received approval and funding from the National Research Foundation, the foundation said in a release yesterday.

The centre is a collaboration between the University of Cambridge, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS). It is part of the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (Create) programme, which invites top international research universities to set up research centres here in collaboration with Singapore universities.

The centre - which is expected to open early next year with space at the Create campus at NUS, and laboratory space at NUS and NTU - has funding for five years.

Singapore's high-quality academic environment and its high density of energy and chemical firms on Jurong Island offer ample opportunities for research, explained Professor Lynn Gladden, pro-vice-chancellor for research at the University of Cambridge, who is in Singapore this week.

The energy and chemical industry here plays an enormous role in the economy: In 2008, it contributed 38.6 per cent of overall manufacturing output, and $4.9 billion in value-added. Key components of everything from petrol to plastics are produced on Jurong Island.

But the chemical industry is also a major producer of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. In 2008, it accounted for 22 per cent of total industrial energy consumption worldwide.

While they did not give precise figures, Cambridge scientists reckon that if successful research is implemented, it could help Jurong Island's chemical industries - and by extension, Singapore - slash their carbon footprintsignificantly.

Asked why the centre would work to boost efficiency rather than look for fossil-fuel alternatives, Prof Gladden said: 'The bottom line is that refining as we know it today is going to be around for many more years, so what we want to do is reduce the carbon footprint of these processes.' The centre's work will complement other Create and Cambridge efforts that seek alternative energy technologies.

The centre aims to recruit 40 doctoral students and 20 post-doctoral researchers. It also intends to secure industrial partnerships with firms such as petrochemical giant ExxonMobil and materials company Johnson Matthey, and hopes to spin off firms to market new technologies, Prof Gladden said.

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25,000 people to participate in Singapore's World Water Day activities

Wayne Chan Channel NewsAsia 21 Mar 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's commemoration of World Water Day this year will see a record 25,000 people gathering at 15 locations islandwide in support of water this Saturday.

10,000 of these participants will walk, cycle and paddle across waterways, reservoirs and between ABC Waters (Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters) sites with small blue pails.

Symbolic of how people in developing countries have to walk an average of six kilometres every day to fetch water, both the distance and the pails serve as a reminder to conserve water.

PUB, the national water agency, said that 20,000 people took part in last year's activities and it aims to have a 20 per cent increase in community participation this year.

Themed "Singapore Celebrates World Water Day: Active, Beautiful and Clean Waters for All", activities on the day also include cleaning up of water bodies, water monitoring, guided nature walks, and the launch of learning trails.

National water agency PUB's 3P Network Director George Madhavan says there's a growing awareness that water is a precious resource in the community.

"Last year we had 100 partners, this year it's gone up to 125 partners. We also see more interest groups being formed to keep our water ways clean and also to share the important message that water is scarce," he said.

One of the things that will be launched at the event is an iPad application that students can use to bring others on learning trails at Lorong Halus Wetlands. Six new ABC Waters learning trails that will also be launched on Saturday.

Adding to the festivities will also be some attempts to make it into the Singapore Book of Records. Jurong Lake, for example, will host Singapore's biggest-ever Mass Water Filtration Exercise.

Another attempt at the record books will be at Sengkang Floating Wetland, where 300 Anderson Secondary School students will try to build the largest floating raft made from recycled drink cans.

Various other organisations will also be recognising World Water Day.

Singapore Post, for example, has launched a "Reservoirs of Singapore" stamp collection, profiling 10 different reservoirs in Singapore. It features designs by Don Low of Urban Sketchers, a local sketching interest group.

A glossy photo book of 17 ABC Waters sites, "Knowing Your ABCs", will also be launched by the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) and PUB.

PUB will also recognise winners of the Water Conservation Video Competition 2010/2011, which saw primary school students creating 45-second videos of what water conservation means to them.

MacRitchie Reservoir will see the launch of the Learning Trail Passport, a collection of learning trails at seven different ABC Waters sites.

400 scouts from the Singapore Scout Association will also attend the NEWater Scientist Programme at The NEWater Visitor centre on Saturday. The programme will teach them how to install water saving devices in their neighbours' homes to spread the water conservation message to the community.

On March 24, cub scouts from the association will also qualify for the NEWater Scientist Badge, as well as the Coca Cola Live Positively Water Badge by attending the World Water Day Special Water Badges Programme.

International World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to raise awareness on the importance of caring for water and water sustainability.

World Water Day in Singapore will kick off on March 24, with a 2km morning walk for 3,000 participants from Gardens by the Bay to Marina Barrage.

Simultaneously at Kolam Ayer ABC Waterfront, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Yaacob Ibrahim will lead 80 kayakers and 50 dragonboaters on a 5km rowing expedition to Marina Barrage.

100 runners from Team Fatbird and 100 cyclists from Joyriders Singapore will also be travelling from various locations, before ending their routes at Marina Barrage.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan will launch Singapore's celebration of the day at Marina Barrage, where the cyclists, kayakers and dragon-boaters converge.


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Malaysia: New Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve

RM18m forest site
New Straits Times 22 Mar 12;

NATURE lovers now have a new destination to look out for -- the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve in Puchong.

The forest reserve was opened yesterday with the launching of the Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre.

Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah said the state government should extend the lease for Universiti Putra Malaysia from 80 to 999 years.

"Though the size has been reduced from 4,270ha to 1,176ha, the forest is rich with unique flora and fauna and should be maintained."

He also urged the state Forestry Department and the university to maintain the forest in its original state.

In conjunction with the World Forestry Day yesterday, university students and staff planted a thousand trees before the launch.

The RM18 million education centre was sponsored through the Ninth Malaysia Plan under the Higher Education Ministry's budget.

Present at the launch were former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

The Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve will also serve as an outdoor lab for forestry students and will be open to students or groups interested in environmental activities for motivational courses, team-building workshops, camping, jungle trekking and paint-ball activities.

Nature lovers interested in carrying out activities there can log on to http://ayerhitam.upm. or contact 03-8946 7171 for more information.

Read more: RM18m forest site - General - New Straits Times

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Pangolin seizure highlights Malaysia—Thailand smuggling route

TRAFFIC 21 Mar 12;

Kuala Lumpur, 21st March 2012—Wildlife authorities arrested two men and seized 18 pangolins from a vehicle near a protected area in the northern state of Perak in Peninsular Malaysia on Saturday.

The seizure and arrests were made along the East-West highway that divides the Belum Royal State Park from the Temengor Forest Reserve and is the second to take place in this area in the last six months.

In November last year, authorities found 12 pangolins in the boot of a car belonging to two local villagers travelling along the same highway, headed towards the Malaysia-Thailand border.

In Saturday’s incident, officers from the Perak State Wildlife and National Parks Department in Ipoh and Gerik were on patrol along the highway in the early hours of the morning when they were overtaken by a vehicle.

The officers gave chase after one of them recognized the vehicle’s registration number as that belonging to a known poacher.

Officers finally apprehended those in the car at a petrol station near Gerik. The pangolins were found tied up in bags in the boot of the car. A 13-year-old boy found in the car was released.

Though small-scale, the seizure and arrests are significant in light of the trafficking routes between northern Malaysia and southern Thailand.

Reports of seizures show that at least 445 pangolins have been confiscated from traffickers in the northern states of Malaysia since February 2010. In total at least 1,800 pangolins have been seized throughout the country in that period.

“It’s great to see enforcement stepping up efforts around protected areas and even better that the case resulted in arrests,” said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Senior Programme Officer Kanitha Krishnasamy.

“These are the actions that could break the illegal trade chains and we congratulate the Perak Wildlife Department.

“However, it still bad news for pangolins that continue to be the most commonly encountered mammals in seizures in South-East Asia. No species can hope to survive this level of pressure,” she added.

Saturday’s case is being investigated under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 that prohibits the hunting, taking or keeping of totally protected wildlife without a special permit, which carries a fine of up to RM100,000 (USD 32,713) or up to three years in prison, or both, upon conviction. The law also provides higher penalties for the offence of keeping an immature or female of such species.

The seized pangolins have been released into the wild.

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Google opens Amazon wilds to armchair explorers

Glenn Chapman (AFP) Yahoo News 22 Mar 12;

SAN FRANCISCO — Google's free online map service on Wednesday began letting people explore portions of the Amazon Basin from the comfort of their homes.

Pictures taken along the Rio Negro in Brazil last year using camera-mounted three wheeled bicycles have been woven into Google Maps, allowing users to virtually venture on waterways and trails and in even villages.

"Take a virtual boat ride down the main section of the Rio Negro, and float up into the smaller tributaries where the forest is flooded," Google Street View Amazon project lead Karin Tuxen-Bettman said in a blog post.

"Enjoy a hike along an Amazon forest trail and see where Brazil nuts are harvested," she continued. "You can even see a forest critter if you look hard enough."

Map images included scenes from Tumbira, the largest community in the Rio Negro Reserve, and other communities along the river.

"We hope this Street View collection provides access to this special corner of the planet that many of us otherwise wouldn't have the chance to experience," Tuxen-Bettman said.

"We're thrilled to help everyone from researchers and scientists to armchair explorers around the world learn more about the Amazon and better understand how local communities there are working to preserve this unique environment for future generations."

"Trikes," the camera-mounted three wheelers typically used to capture street scenes for Google online maps, were launched in August from Tumbira in a first-ever project to let Internet users virtually explore the world's largest river, its wildlife and its communities.

The project was the brainchild of Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS) which went to Google Earth with an ambitious vision of turning "Street View" into a river view in the lush and precious Amazon Basin.

"It is incredible," FAS project leader Gabriel Ribenboim told AFP as trikes went into action, one atop a boat and another pedaled on land.

"It is very important to show the world not only the environment and the way of life of the traditional population, but to sensitize the world to the challenges of climate change, deforestation and combating poverty."

Trikes have cameras that continuously snap images in every direction. The pictures are woven into Google Maps and Earth services so people can virtually peer about as if they were there.

Satellite positioning equipment on trikes pinpoints where images are gathered.

Members of a Google team taught FAS members and local residents how to use the trikes and a special tripod-mounted camera tailored for capturing inside of schools, community centers, and other public spaces.

The camera, with a fish-eye lens to take panoramic sky-to-ground images, was used to recreate walks along rain-forest trails.

"We want the world to see that the Amazon is not a place only with plants and animals," said FAS chief executive Virgilio Viana.

"It is also a place with people, and people who are not completely at odds with the current thinking of global sustainability."

FAS hopes that the Google project will not only entice people to experience the wonder of the Amazon in real life, but show that people can thrive in harmony with the rain forest.

"Deforestation is not the result of stupidity," Viana told AFP at the outset of the Google project. "It is an economic decision; so we have to make people earn money with the forest standing."

The goal of the project was to capture a 50-kilometer (30-mile) stretch of the Rio Negro, and along the way train a local team that will keep the imaging gear to broaden the mission.

"We want to create a digital mirror of the world, and this is an important place on the planet," Tuxen-Bettman told AFP as a trike made its maiden run.

"Eventually, maybe we will have the whole basin mapped," she said hopefully.

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Follow The Money To Catch Illegal Loggers: World Bank

Deborah Zabarenko PlanetArk 22 Mar 12;

The same follow-the-money approach used to catch drug kingpins and human traffickers could be used to track down the big operators behind large-scale illegal logging, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

Around the world, illegal loggers cut down an area of forest the size of a football field every two seconds, generating criminal proceeds of between $10 billion and $15 billion annually, the Bank said in a report,

"You have a crime, it's generating proceeds, and one way to enlarge your toolkit is to follow the money," said Jean Pesne, manager of the Bank's Financial Market Integrity unit, which released the report, "Justice for Forests."

Deforestation of protected land may be done to harvest old-growth trees and exotic woods or to clear land for large-scale agriculture or cattle grazing. But it can lead to soil erosion and cuts down on trees' ability to lock up climate-warming carbon dioxide.

The report, which does not differentiate between the reasons for tree-cutting, advocates the use of financial tools more familiar in the pursuit of organized criminals to combat illegal deforestation.

The full range of crime-fighting tools should be used to catch illegal logging organizations, rather than the low-level operators who cut down the trees. These tools include electronic surveillance, undercover operations and witness protection, according to the report.

Preventive measures have been tried to curb illegal logging, but have been "without significant impact," the report said.

"Use money as both intelligence and evidence," Pesne said by telephone. "What are these criminal organizations, how are they structured, and what are the intermediaries who are interfering with their work? ...

"These are sophisticated tools that are better suited to go after the big fish."

Any intermediaries would have to be paid at some point, making them the beneficiaries of a crime, and law enforcement officials could follow the flow of dirty money from the criminal organization to corrupt officials, Pesne said.

Most countries where illegal logging takes place have laws in place to track these funds, but making them work requires cooperation from the private sector, especially financial institutions obligated to report suspicious transactions, the report said.

These techniques would probably be most effective in more sophisticated countries with a strong judiciary and the ability to train financial investigators, Pesne said.

Indonesia and Brazil, both countries with substantial illegal logging, have started moving to probe the big players in those criminal enterprises, he said.

In Africa, Pesne said, countries such as Cameroon, Congo, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo have worked to prevent illegal logging but they could begin to use the follow-the-money techniques.

(Editing by Paul Simao)

Illegal logging makes billions for gangs, report says
Richard Black BBC News 21 Mar 12;

Child sits on tree in flood Illegal logging has been blamed for a number of flooding incidents, notably in the Philippines

Illegal logging generates $10-15bn (£7.5-11bn) around the world, according to new analysis from the World Bank.

Its report, Justice for Forests, says that most illegal logging operations are run by organised crime, and much of the profit goes to corrupt officials.

Countries affected include Indonesia, Madagascar and several in West Africa.

The bank says that pursuing loggers through the criminal justice system has made a major impact in some nations, and urges others to do the same.

It also recommends that aid donors should fund programmes that strengthen the capacity of law enforcement and legal authorities to tackle the illegal timber trade.

"We need to fight organised crime in illegal logging the way we go after gangsters selling drugs or racketeering," said Jean Pesme, manager of the World Bank Financial Market Integrity team.

The analysts calculate that an area of forest the size of a soccer pitch is illegally logged every second.
Chainsaws of supply

The report picks out a number of ways in which illegal timber is managed in a similar way to other prohibited commodities such as drugs.

But currently, it says, "most forest crimes go undetected, unreported, or are ignored.

"All too often, investigations - in the rare event that they do take place - are amateurish and inconclusive, and the few cases taken to court tend to be of trivial significance, prosecuting people whose involvement in crime is due to poverty and exploitation."

This last comment highlights the very differing scales of illegal logging, which encompasses everything from mechanised teams to individual villagers taking wood for fuel.

However, it says, a number of countries including Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are getting tougher, and starting to bring prosecutions higher up the criminal food chain.

Western countries, consumers and businesses can also play a significant role in cleaning up forestry, the report says.

Three years ago the US amended the Lacey Act, and now companies operating in the US are obliged to prove that their wood comes from legal sources.

A number of businesses are being investigated under the amendment, notably the iconic Gibson guitar company.

The EU has introduced similar legislation, and a growing number of companies will only buy wood that is demonstrably legal and sustainably harvested.

In 2010, a report from the London-based Chatham House think-tank concluded that these and other measures had reduced illegal logging by about a quarter over the preceding eight years.

It urged Japan, as a major timber consumer, to introduce its own legislation; and as Chinese consumption grows, campaigners are increasingly turning their attention there.

Two years ago the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) discovered that beds made of illegally obtained Madagascan wood were selling for up to $1m in Beijing.

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CITES seeks tougher limits on coral, shark, dolphin trade

AFP Yahoo News 22 Mar 12;

UN wildlife trade regulator CITES said Wednesday that tougher limits should be imposed on trade of aquatic species such as corals, dolphins and sturgeons to protect them from extinction.

After a week-long meeting in Geneva, experts of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora decided to recommend "cautious export quotas" for species including seahorses from Southeast Asia, sturgeons from the Caspian Sea and giant clams from the Pacific.

Exports of dolphins from the Solomon Islands should be limited to 10 animals a year, they added.

Signatory states to the convention would decide whether to pass the recommendations when they meet in Bangkok in 2013.

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Damage to world's oceans 'to reach $2 trillion a year'

* Cost of ocean degradation put at 0.37 pct of future GDP
* Without action, global temperature to reach 4C-study
* 'Blue carbon' assets should be included in offset schemes

Nina Chestney Reuters 21 Mar 12;

LONDON, March 21 (Reuters) - The cost of damage to the world's oceans from climate change could reach $2 trillion a year by 2100 if measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions are not stepped up, a study by marine experts said on Wednesday.

The study found that without action to limit rising greenhouse gas emissions, the global average temperature could rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century causing ocean acidification, sea level rise, marine pollution, species migration and more intense tropical cyclones. It would also threaten coral reefs, disrupt fisheries and deplete fish stocks.

In the study, "Valuing the Ocean", marine experts led by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) analysed the most severe threats facing the world's marine environment and estimated the cost of damage from global warming.

It found nitrogen-rich fertilisers and waste would strip more ocean areas of oxygen, causing what is known as hypoxic dead zones, which are already found in more than 500 locations.

"By 2100, the cost of damage if we do not radically cut emissions rises to $1.98 trillion, or 0.37 percent of global gross domestic product," the SEI said.

The loss of tourism would incur the highest cost at $639 billion per year. The loss of the ocean carbon sink, the seas' ability to soak up carbon dioxide (CO2), would cost almost $458 billion, the study showed. Warmer water holds less CO2.


If cuts in emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases were carried out more urgently and temperature increases were limited to 2.2 degrees C, nearly $1.4 trillion of the total cost could be avoided, the study found.

However, such progress would require the widespread use of radical carbon removal technologies like sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, Frank Ackerman, one of the report's authors told Reuters.

"The faster we stop emissions rising, the lower the damage will be. But on current technology, I wouldn't be surprised if we end up on a 4 degree C pathway," said Ackerman, senior economist and director of the Climate Economics Group at SEI's U.S. Center.

The study did not put a monetary value on the loss of some species which inhabit the world's oceans, critical processes like nutrient cycling or the loss of coastal communities' traditional ways of life.

"The challenge is to figure out what parts of the ocean environment have a value you can put a meaningful price on. There are very important areas which we still can't incorporate into a market," Ackerman said.

The study also recommended that the United Nations appoints a High Commissioner for Oceans to coordinate research and action, that ocean services should be more integrated into economic policy and that there should be more preparation for a 1-2 metre sea level rise by the end of the century.

A new potential market in "blue carbon" could also present an important economic opportunity, SEI said.

Marine ecosystems, like mangroves and sea grasses, contain far more carbon than terrestrial forests but are being degraded at a more alarming rate and are not yet included in carbon offset schemes, which reward investors in emissions reduction projects in developing countries with carbon credits.

"There are many questions about the legal responsibility for different parts of the ocean. Tracking terrestrial carbon offsets is enough of a challenge, tracking the marine ones is going to be a new challenge," Ackerman said.

"But they need to be included. Leaving out an area like that could undermine progress being made in areas that are being taken care of." (Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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Nature in need: Half of world’s most important nature sites left unprotected

IUCN 21 Mar 12;

The world’s governments have committed to increasing the coverage of protected areas by 2020 to address rapid rates of environmental destruction, however, a new study led by BirdLife International, with contributions from IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), shows that only half of the most important sites for wildlife have been fully protected. These findings highlight an urgent need for improved targeting of new and expanded protected areas in order to protect the planet’s wildlife.

“Protected areas are a cornerstone of conservation efforts, and cover nearly 13% of the world’s land surface,” says Dr. Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. “In 2010, the world’s governments meeting committed to expanding this to 17% by 2020, with an emphasis on areas of particular importance for nature.”

New research has found that only half of these important areas are currently protected. Researchers discovered this trend by analyzing the overlap between protected areas and two worldwide networks of important sites for wildlife: Important Bird Areas, which comprise more than 10,000 globally significant sites for conserving birds; and Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, which include 600 sites holding the last remaining population of highly threatened vertebrates and plants.

“Shockingly, half of the most important sites for nature conservation have not yet been protected,” says Dr. Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Global Research and Indicators Coordinator. “Only one-third to one-fifth of sites are completely protected—the remainder are only partially covered by protected areas. While coverage of important sites by protected areas has increased over time, the proportion of area covering important sites, as opposed to less important land for conservation, has declined annually since 1950.”

With governments committed to halting the extinction of threatened species and expanding protected areas, goals could be achieved and local communities could benefit by focusing new protected areas on the networks of sites considered to be the most important places for wildlife. For example, establishment of a protected area on the Liben Plain in Ethiopia would help to safeguard the future of the Critically Endangered Liben Lark, (Heteromirafra sidamoensis) which is found nowhere else. Similarly, designation of a proposed reserve in the Massif de la Hotte in Haiti would protect 15 highly threatened frog species that are restricted to this single site.

“By using the IUCN Red List Index to measure changes in the status of species, and linking this to the degree of protection for important conservation sites,” says Butchart. “We believe that protection of important sites may play an important role in slowing the rate at which species are driven towards extinction: by 50% for birds, if at least half of the Important Bird Areas at which they occur are protected, and by 30% for birds, mammals and amphibians restricted to protected areas compared with those restricted to unprotected or partially protected sites.”

In addition to designating a comprehensive network of protected areas, governments must ensure that reserves are adequately managed. It is estimated that this would cost roughly US$23 billion per year—more than four times the current expenditure. However, in countries with low or moderately low incomes, increased management funding would require less than one-tenth of this sum—double what is currently spent. Such sums may seem large, but are tiny by comparison to the value of the benefits that people obtain from biodiversity. Ecosystem services, such as pollination of crops, water purification and climate regulation, have been estimated to be worth trillions of dollars each year.

“Adequately protecting and managing Important Bird Areas and Alliance for Zero Extinction sites will help to prevent extinctions, safeguard the benefits that people derive from these sites, and contribute towards countries meeting their international commitments on protected areas,” says Butchart. “Some countries are already leading the way, with governments using these site inventories to inform designation of protected areas, for example in Madagascar, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and in the European Union. We encourage other governments to follow these examples as they expand their protected area networks and maximize the effectiveness of nature protection.”

Issues involving species survival, protected areas and conservation will be discussed at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea, from 6 to 15 September 2012.

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