Best of our wild blogs: 12 Aug 12

The Naked Hermit Crabs celebrates Singapore National Day at Chek Jawa from Peiyan.Photography and wild shores of singapore

Life History of the Yellow Palm Dart
from Butterflies of Singapore

Last predawn trip to Changi shore
from wonderful creation

Red-crowned Barbet: Brood care and feeding behaviour
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Save the Braddell Road forest

Ong Ruici Today Online 11 Aug 12;

The forest area outside Braddell View estate is about the size of the Padang. Having often enjoyed its familiar, calming sight and the bird calls from within, I am dismayed that it is being rapidly cleared.

At least half of it has already been levelled, with no prior notification and no signs relaying the purpose or duration of the work or names of the agencies overseeing the project. This forest fragment provides an indispensable green corridor for forest birds flying from MacRitchie Reservoir and Bishan Park, like the patches at nearby Caldecott Station and the crematorium at Bishan.

The health of small natural forests and our nature reserves are inextricably linked. I have recorded 31 bird species feeding and resting in the Braddell Road forest since last year, such as the Crimson Sunbird, Rufous Woodpecker and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.

This forest fragment may thus have conservation value that should be explored.

Recently, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh called for more involvement by the public in land use issues and suggested we enact a law on environmental impact assessment, one which Malaysia already has.

Singaporeans are aware of the value of our nature areas and want a stake in their preservation.

We are willing to take ownership through dialogue with the Government, which is clear from the spirited negotiations over Bukit Brown, the Pasir Ris woodland and the forest land at Dairy Farm, Chestnut and Petir Road.

As such, I wish to know why there was no notification before the clearing of the Braddell Road forest.

I request for the release of the plans for this land area. I fear that it may be too late to halt works. I regret that I could not take action earlier.

I appeal to the authorities to comprehensively assess the environmental impact of future clearances and make the assessments available for discussion.

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UN director presses US to cut biofuel output

AFP Yahoo News 10 Aug 12;

The head of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization urged the United States to halt its biofuel output to prevent a food crisis, in an editorial published by the Financial Times on Friday.

"An immediate, temporary suspension" of a mandate to reserve some crops for biofuels "would give some respite to the market and allow more of the (corn) crop to be channelled towards food and feed uses," Jose Graziano da Silva wrote.

A severe drought in the United States has cut likely corn production to the lowest level in six years, the US Department of Agriculture reported on Friday.

A USDA report released on Monday estimated that only 23 percent of corn plants are in good to excellent condition.

"Against that backdrop, cereal prices have shot up, with an increase in (corn) prices of almost 40 percent since June 1," strategists at the CM-CIC brokerage said.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the country has just sweltered through its hottest July on record, with drought affecting 63 percent of its continental territory.

Biofuels have been repeatedly identified as a factor in rising prices for vegetable oils, corn, soja and cereals.

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Marine species' deaths caused by UVB increases

Matt Bardo BBC Nature 10 Aug 12;

Increased ultraviolet radiation has caused a sharp rise in the deaths of marine species, scientists have found.

An international team gathered information from previous studies looking at the effects of ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation on marine life.

Their work shows a close link between UVB levels and death rate, particularly in algae, corals and crustaceans.

The team believe this is the first time the effect of UVB on the health of marine ecosystems has been calculated.

"In our study, mortality is the biological response which showed the greatest sensitivity to UVB radiation," said lead author, Dr Moira Llabres from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain, who worked on the paper with the Catholic University of Chile and the University of Western Australia.

The article is published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

"Ultraviolet B radiation has caused a steep increase in deaths among marine animals and plants," said Dr Llabres.

UVB radiation is known to impair photosynthesis, nutrient absorption, growth and reproductive rates in certain species but this is thought to be the first attempt to quantify the damage it does to marine ecosystems.

"The organisms most affected are protists, such as algae, corals, crustaceans and fish larvae and eggs," she said.

"UVB radiation represents a big threat to sea life because it is affecting marine ecosystems from the bottom to the top of the food web."

The attention of many scientists has been focused on the effect of global warming, ocean acidification and eutrophication in recent years but Dr Llabres said that the evidence suggests UVB radiation, which has risen because of damage to the ozone layer, may be an important and overlooked factor behind the decline:

"Krill decreased 60 times in abundance in the Southern Ocean between 1970 and 2003, while UVB radiation increased considerably during this time interval."

"The decline in corals in the tropics and subtropics is consistent with the increased levels of UVB, so the increase of the water temperature may not be the sole cause of this decline," she said.

Algae are also sensitive to UVB, which is significant because they are "primary producers of the ocean", Dr Llabres told BBC Nature.

"I do not think it is difficult to distinguish the effect of UVB radiation from acidification and eutrophication but all these phenomena are closely related and most likely act together through synergies."

The scientists were surprised that the hole in the ozone layer has been pushed down the environmental agenda in recent years following the success of the Montreal Protocol - the 1987 environmental treaty agreement that aimed to phase out substances that damage the ozone layer, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

"The Montreal Protocol (first signed in 1987) was successful in avoiding further deterioration of the ozone layer and established the foundations for its recovery, but this recovery has not yet occurred," said Dr Llabres.

"This misconception is surprising given the evidence that high levels of UV continue affecting human health, such as skin cancer and ocular damage."

Scientists observed record destruction of ozone over the Arctic in 2011 and the hole over Antarctica only reached its maximum in 2006, according to figures from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

It is not thought that the hole in the ozone layer will recover for decades, partly because CFCs take around half a century to even reach it, meaning damage may not be evident for a long time after the CFCs are released.

"I think that more investigation should be focused on the UVB effects on marine ecosystems because high levels of UV radiation continue reaching the biosphere actually," said Dr Llabres.

"It will be vital to know how UVB radiation affects the predation between the organisms in the marine communities."

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