Best of our wild blogs: 25 Oct 12

Dredging, more talks and isopods at the Northern Expedition Day 10 from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

The Northern Expedition on RazorTV
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

News from the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey of Singapore, Johore Straits from Raffles Museum News

Mangrove Madness (Part 2)
from Darwin Shrugged

Wild thing
from The annotated budak

Another Leucistic Javan Myna spotted
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Job opportunity: Asean Center for Biodiversity invites ASEAN nationals to apply for the position of Executive Director from ecotax at Yahoo! Groups

Indonesia remains epicenter for illegal wildlife trade in reptiles and amphibians from news by Jeremy Hance

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Singapore to build fourth storage tank at LNG terminal

Kristie Neo Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore will be investing half a billion dollars to build a fourth storage tank at its Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal on Jurong Island.

Speaking at the Gas Asia Summit, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Trade & Industry S Iswaran said the fourth tank will enhance Singapore's energy security by allowing further diversification of its fuel sources.

"We want to diversify our sources of fuel and energy, and LNG gives us a very important opportunity to do that," said Mr Iswaran. "And with the recent developments in US and other parts of the world, in terms of shale gas, that enhances the opportunity."

The tank is expected to begin operations by 2017 and it will boost the capacity of the LNG terminal to about nine million tonnes per annum (Mtpa).

Mr Iswaran added that the increased storage infrastructure could also catalyse business opportunities such as LNG trading, break-bulk services and LNG bunkering.

The first phase of the LNG terminal development at Jurong Island with two LNG storage tanks is nearly complete and it is on track to begin commercial operations in the second quarter of 2013.

A third LNG storage tank, targeted for completion by the fourth quarter of 2013, will increase the throughput capacity to six Mtpa.

Mr Iswaran also did not rule out the possibility of building more tanks in future.

Jurong Island still has room for another two to three tanks.

Along with Singapore's experience in oil trading, experts agree this new tank brings Singapore a step closer to realising its aim to become an LNG trading hub.

"(Singapore) has some expertise in oil trading and that can be extended into LNG trading as well and investors also have confidence in putting in their money, given that we have been fairly successful as an oil trading hub," said Chloe Hang, associate editor of Asia LNG at Platts.

Mr Iswaran said authorities will now be focusing on front-end engineering design, as well as calling for tenders for the new project.

- CNA/ck

$500m plan to grow LNG terminal
Fourth gas storage tank will help diversify Republic's fuel sources
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 25 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE will build a fourth storage facility at its new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal that will begin operations next year.

The new tank, which is likely to cost $500 million and be completed by 2017, will increase the terminal's capacity by 50 per cent to nine million tonnes a year.

This will enhance the Republic's energy security by allowing it to import gas from more countries and also tap into new opportunities created by the growing global supply of natural gas.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran announced this yesterday at the opening of Gas Asia Summit, part of this year's Singapore International Energy Week.

Now in its fifth year, the annual energy event is a platform for professionals, policymakers and commentators to discuss issues.

Currently, about 80 per cent of Singapore's electricity is generated using piped natural gas from Malaysia and Indonesia.

The other 20 per cent comes from fuel oil and other sources such as waste and renewable energy.

After the LNG terminal begins operations next year, Singapore will be able to import and store liquefied gas from other countries around the world.

This is the second time the capacity of the terminal has been expanded even before it starts operations. The initial plan was to have two storage tanks and handle 3.5million tonnes of LNG each year.

Just months after the terminal's ground-breaking ceremony in March 2010, a third tank was announced to boost capacity to six million tonnes a year.

Mr Iswaran said the fourth tank will improve Singapore's energy security by allowing further diversification of the country's sources for the fuel.

"The increased storage infrastructure could also catalyse business opportunities such as LNG trading, break-bulk services and LNG bunkering," he added.

A report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in June estimated that global natural gas consumption will rise 17 per cent to 3.94 trillion cubic metres by 2017 from 2011, with Asia powering the growth in demand.

Global gas supply increased by 93 billion cubic metres, or 3 per cent, from 2010 to last year, with the increase coming largely from the United States, Russia and Qatar, said the IEA report.

Mr Iswaran noted that, in the past few years, global energy players such as Shell, BP and Gazprom have set up trading desks here.

The new tank is also timely because shale gas, another fuel, has become more viable in the US and other countries, replacing their need for imported gas.

"With energy demand in Europe slowing due to the economic downturn, LNG suppliers have turned towards Asia, where demand for gas remains bolstered by economic growth and Japan's shift from nuclear power to gas," said Mr Iswaran.

"We're also seeing shorter-dated contracts as opposed to long- term (contracts) and I think there's room for greater development of a spot market."

Energy experts said Singapore could take advantage of these global trends to become a regional LNG trading hub.

Singapore is already one of the world's biggest oil-refining hubs and a major bunkering port.

Mr Iswaran also said yesterday that the take-up of LNG from the new terminal has been"faster than initially anticipated".

He added that the Government is now studying possible frameworks for the future import of LNG.

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First vertical farm to boost supply of local greens

Each tower produces up to 10 times more vegetables than usual methods

Jessica Lim Straits Times 25 Oct 12;

LAND-SCARCE Singapore has its first vertical farm on a plot of land in Lim Chu Kang the size of about five football fields.

Vegetables - Chinese cabbage, nai bai and xiao bai cai - grow on 120 towers and the harvest is sold at five NTUC FairPrice Finest outlets.

The innovation is also a boost for the country's efforts to widen food-supply sources.

Each 9m-tall tower, made of tiers of planting troughs rotating around an aluminium frame, produces five to 10 times more vegetables than conventional methods in the same land area.

A water-pulley system, using rainwater collected in overhead reservoirs, rotates the troughs so that the plants get a uniform amount of sunlight.

A prototype of the tower was developed in 2010 by private company Sky Greens, which owns the farm, and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

The farm, which officially opened yesterday, produces 500kg of greens daily.

At FairPrice Finest, a 200g bag of xiao bai cai from Sky Greens costs $1.25 while a 250g bag of Pasar brand xiao bai cai from Indonesia costs 75 cents.

Although the local greens cost more, the supermarket chain hopes to leverage on their freshness. It takes three hours from harvest for Sky Greens produce to hit the shelves. Imported vegetables take three days to three weeks.

Sky Greens plans to have 300 towers by early next year and 2,000 by end-2014. By then, $28 million would have been spent on the project - an amount funded with the help of investors like Spring Singapore.

Interested parties, say, local farmers, can also buy the 2m-by-3m tower for $15,000.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan, who toured the farm yesterday, said: "We are always looking at ways to increase our sources of food supply; our vegetables are mostly imported. If we can produce some in Singapore, it can go some way to meet local demand."

Such devices, he said, make it possible to farm in other areas, such as industrial spaces, and they will also help Singapore meet its targets for local production.

The goal is to raise local output of leafy vegetables from the current 7.2 per cent to 10 per cent.

Singaporeans ate 131,000 tonnes of leafy vegetables last year and a large proportion of it came from China, Malaysia and the United States.

The director of Sky Greens, Mr Jack Ng, 49, said the farm will soon grow other produce such as Shanghai greens, lettuce and kailan. He added that farmers from the US and China have expressed interest to buy the towers.

"But we want to cater to the local market first. We need to ramp up volume. We will see what happens after we meet FairPrice's supply demands," he said, adding that other chains like Cold Storage have also contacted him.

NTUC FairPrice's managing director of group purchasing, merchandising and international trading, Mr Tng Ah Yiam, said some of its outlets started selling Sky Greens vegetables in April.

"Response has been very good. Store managers call to ask for more," he added, noting that the cooperative also wants to support local farms. The plan is to roll out the produce to more outlets when there is enough supply.

Consumer Rosalind Tan, 72, is not fazed by the higher cost. "The prices are still reasonable and the vegetables are very fresh and very crispy," she said. "Sometimes, with imported food, you don't know what happens at farms there."

First commercial vertical farm opens in Singapore
Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore now has its first commercial vertical farm, which means more local options for vegetables.

The technique uses aluminium towers that are as tall as nine metres, and vegetables are grown in troughs at multiple levels.

The technique utilises space better -- an advantage for land-scarce Singapore.

Sky Greens farm first started working on the prototype in 2009, and has opened a 3.65-hectare farm in Lim Chu Kang.

It produces three types of vegetables which are currently available only at FairPrice Finest supermarkets.

They cost 10 to 20 cents more than vegetables from other sources.

Despite the higher prices, the greens have been flying off supermarket shelves.

Ms Ivy Lim, a customer, said: "(The price) is not a very big difference, it's just marginal... I think as compared to organic (produce), the price is very attractive."

"The response has been very good. Even before the official launch, the vegetables were sold out in the last few days," said Mr Tng Ah Yiam, managing director of group purchasing, merchandising and international trading at FairPrice.

"Actually, the store manager called me and said we need more vegetables. So I think it's a good sign that the consumer supports local vegetables."

But prices may drop as the farm ramps up supply.

The farm currently has 120 vertical towers, and hopes to increase the number to 300 by next year.

This will increase its current daily supply of vegetables from 0.5 tonnes to two tonnes by 2013.

"The challenge will be to get investors interested. This type of farm needs (relatively) higher capital," said Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, the chairman of Sky Greens. "This is a new system, so people need to be trained (and) we need to attract people to come here to work."

The farm's expansion is expected to cost some S$27 million.

Currently, about seven per cent of Singapore's vegetables are grown locally.

It is hoped with more innovative farming methods, it will help meet the target of 10 per cent in the future.

"We are always looking at ways to increase our sources of food supply and if we can produce some in Singapore, then that can go some way to meet local demand," said Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry.

- CNA/xq

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Malaysia: Malacca Fisheries Dept acknowledges the population of udang galah along Sungai Linggi is declining

R.S.N. Murali The Star 25 Oct 12;

MALACCA: The Malacca Fisheries Department has acknowledged that the population of udang galah that once flourished along the banks of Sungai Linggi has seriously depleted.

The department embarked on an initiative to increase the population by cultivating and releasing fries into the river where udang galah netting was the main source of income for 450 registered fishermen in Kuala Linggi and nearby areas deemed as fishing enclaves.

Department director Rosmawati Ghazali said the population of the freshwater species had gradually depleted due to unmonitored netting along the riverbanks by unregistered fishermen.

“We have increased our efforts to increase the population of the species through various methods including releasing the fries,” she said after a ceremony where 110,00 fries were released by Kuala Linggi assemblyman Datuk Ar Ismail Othman along the riverbank close to the Malacca/NegriSembilan border, about 50km from here, on Tuesday.

Rosmawati said the department also released 210,000 fries between the Sungai Linggi and Sungai Ramuan Cina river estuaries.

She said through the effort, the department hoped the local fishermen could still enjoy a bountiful catch and generate a steady income for their families.

On an average, a single fisherman could land a catch of five kilogrammes a day during fine weather, she said.

Rosmawati said the department also released fish fries into other rivers in Malacca, with the of helping part-time anglers earn supplementary income.

She said the different species were released based on the pH content of waters as extreme pH levels could make the river unsuitable for the fries to survive.

She said that acidic water also speeds the leaching of heavy metals that was harmful to fishes.

“For instance in Sungai Malim, we released fries that was compatible to the pH level of the river as the acidic barometer was high as the river passes through industrial estates,” she said adding that the department had released 83,000 fries into rivers in the state since early 2011.

She also said that the department was conducting a workshop for fishermen on how to utilise Global Positioning System (GPS) to boost their catch.

The workshop, she said would concentrate on to sea-going fishermen and gradually to those other fishing villages.

Rosmawati alsowarned fishermen not to overlook on regulations which required them to store lifejackets inside their vessels.

She said those found disobeying regulations would have their monthly aid of RM200 provided by the department, revoked.

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Malaysia: Three areas reclassified as Class 1 Forest Reserves

Roy Goh New Straits Times 25 Oct 12;

CONSERVATION: Mount Magdalena, Ulu Segama, Danum Valley get more protection

CONSERVATION was the big winner yesterday as three forested areas, which put together, measure bigger than the state of Malacca, were reclassified to be further protected.

The state assembly passed a bill to declare 484,890ha at Mount Magdalena in Sandakan as well as 127,890ha at Ulu Segama and part of the Danum Valley in Lahad Datu, as Class I Forest Reserves which prohibits any form of land conversion and timber exploitation.

In the same bill to amend the Forests (Constitution of Forest Reserves and Amendment) Enactment 1984 tabled by Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister's Department Datuk Radin Malleh, three other forests were also reclassified for conservation.

The areas were Solimpopon Forest Reserve in Kalabakan (1,902ha), Dalit Forest Reserve in Keningau (740ha) and Menumbok Forest Reserve in Beaufort (2,000ha).

The move to protect the total 4,642ha of forest came in tandem with other forest reserves which were reclassified as state land.

He said the Mount Magdalena area, formerly known as the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve Class II, was suitable as a wildlife corridor and served as a buffer for the world renowned Maliau Basin Conservation Area, which recently hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Kate Middleton.

As for Ulu Segama, which also included the Danum Valley Forest Reserve Class I (Extension), Radin said it was suitable as a water catchment area and has high conservation value because of its vast biodiversity.

Both the Gunung Rara and Ulu Segama areas, including a section of the Danum Valley, were previously classified as commercial forests.

In tabling the bill, Radin had also proposed the reclassification of seven degraded protected forestsmeasuring 4,560ha to be declared state lands as they are occupied by indigenous communities.

This includes two plots that would be issued with communal titles -- Tanjung Nagas (708ha) and Mount Pock (1,388ha) in Semporna.

Other similar areas to be given recognition as settlements were Gumantong-Guluang-Gesusu in Kudat (590ha), Bukau Api-Api (1,239ha), Dalit in Keningau (512ha), Kuala Bonggaya and Kuala Labuk (102ha) and Lahad Datu (21ha).

"These areas were found to be unsuitable to be retained as forest reserves," Radin said.

In a supplementary question, Datuk Liew Teck Chan (SAPP-Likas) asked if there were still valuable timber within the reclassified areas.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman responded there was no timber in the areas, adding that those currently living on the lands had been there for generations.

"We also plan to issue titles for people who do not have lands in the areas."

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Indonesia: Turtle conservation shows good results after four decades

Bali Daily Jakarta Post 24 Oct 12;

After around four decades of turtle conservation in Indonesia, the work to save some of the endangered species has shown significant results with around 50 percent of the population in the 10 largest hatching sites in Indonesia being saved from various threats.

Data from the 10 sites across Indonesia shows that 100 percent of the eggs could be protected from various threats, including theft, predators and nature. The data also shows that an average of 50 percent of the baby turtles could be saved.

There are four turtle species included in the data: the green turtle, hawksbill turtle, leatherback turtle and olive ridley turtle.

The data, presented during the recent symposium on turtle conservation in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, was taken from Abun in West Papua, Derawan in East Kalimantan, Paloh in West Kalimantan, Pangumbahan in West Java, Meru Betiri National Park in East Java, Karabak Ketek In West Sumatra, Tamiang Bay in South Kalimantan, Alas Purwo National Park in East Java, as well as Perancak, Kedonganan and Serangan in Bali.

Ida Bagus Windia Adnyana, head of turtle study at Udayana University’s veterinary faculty, said that the highest achievement was in the hatching sites in Kalimantan, which managed to save 70 to 80 percent of the population.

“It is because the turtles could be saved on the nesting beach, and there was not much exploitation there,” he told Bali Daily.

In Sumatran nesting sites, the percentage of turtles saved was lower, less than 50 percent, because egg smuggling was still rampant, particularly in West Sumatra and Aceh.

Meanwhile, in Java and Bali, the percentage of turtles saved reached 50 percent on average.

Windia said the turtle population in Java and Bali had been impacted by the activities of turtle conservation-based tourism.

“In some cases, the baby turtles could not survive because of incorrect treatment. Baby turtles should be released right after hatching.”

Overall, he said, the efforts had shown significant results, which were expected to improve further because people had become more aware about conservation.

“This is a success for conservation efforts in Indonesia. We have to be optimistic about the work that has been carried out for the last four decades because it has shown significant results,” he said.

Particularly in Bali, the improved results have been proven by the increasing number of nests along the island’s southern coast, stretching from Saba in Gianyar to Pengambengan in Jembrana.

He said that comprehensive quantitative data on the turtle population was not yet available, because there was no data on hatching sites nationwide.

During the symposium, 19 speakers from various Indonesian turtle conservation sites presented their data, experience and lessons learned from managing turtle conservation.

Wawan Ridwan, director of the marine and fishery program at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, said that there were still a lot of threats against turtles.

“Trade in turtle meat and eggs is still rampant. Besides, there is also an increasing demand for plastron [the ventral surface of the turtle’s body] on the international market for medicinal purposes,” he said.

There are also threats from predators, unselective fishing — in which turtles are a bycatch, as well as the impact of climate change, for example eggs that failed to hatch because of coastal abrasion, he added.

“These various threats are forcing us to improve our conservation strategy by adapting to the current situation,” Wawan said.

Threats from outside, including the plastron trade, could not be overcome only by enforcing local laws, but needed joint regional or international efforts.

According to WWF, the issue of bycatch had been overcome by modifying fishing gear. The number of turtles that could survive after they had been erroneously caught and were released back to the sea reached 98 percent.

Participants in the symposium also discussed the development of turtle conservation-based tourism in places such as West Java, East Java, Bali and West Nusa Tenggara.

They agreed that the initiative needed to be supported by a policy and technical procedures that were in line with the biological needs of the turtles.

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Indonesia: EPA concludes fact finding on Indonesia’s palm oil

Linda Yulisman The Jakarta Post 24 Oct 12;

A visiting delegation from the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed fact finding on the operation of oil palm plantations in Indonesia, a step that may lead to a review of the eligibility of palm oil to join renewable fuel programs in the world’s largest energy market.

EPA representative Regina McCarthy said on Tuesday in Jakarta that despite the end of the mission, her agency did not have any immediate plan to recalculate greenhouse emissions generated from palm oil based biofuel.

“We will continue to talk and understand what the technical issues are and once we’re comfortable, we will make a decision, but not before,” she told reporters at a workshop on sustainable palm oil production.

McCarthy underlined that the EPA’s analysis would not restrict the entry of palm oil to the US.

Previously the EPA has stated that palm oil cannot be included in the US renewable fuel program (RFS) based on its assessment of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from biofuel production, distribution and tailpipe emissions.

Palm oil-based biodiesel cut green house emissions by only 17 percent compared to gasoline and the diesel fuels it is set to replace, slightly lower than the 20 percent threshold required to qualify.

Deforestation is the key issue faced by the oil palm industry, especially in Indonesia where lowland rainforests contain high levels of biodiversity, and peat lands are home to globally significant carbon reserves.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Rusman Heriawan said that what should concern local stakeholders are opportunities in the US market if the renewable energy project was fully executed.

“Our palm oil exports to the US are still relatively small, but the market will become much bigger as the country aims to replace fossil fuel with other fuels. If it’s confident our palm oil is eco-friendly, this will be good for our palm oil prospects in the future,” he said on the sidelines of the workshop.

The RFS is scheduled to reduce US dependence on fossil fuel by more than 328 million barrels per year, and cut GHG by more than 138 million metric tons a year when fully phased in by 2022.

The EPA’s evaluation should be an impetus for palm oil producers to improve their compliance with sustainability standards, Rusman added.

The government has introduced the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) scheme to address concerns over rapid deforestation and the massive destruction of carbon-rich peat land, particularly caused by the incremental expansion of oil palm plantations.

The Agriculture Ministry wants to issue sustainability certificates for up to 20 oil palm plantations before the end of this year.

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Plastic Trash Invades Arctic Seafloor

Megan Gannon Yahoo News 25 Oct 12;

Plastic bags strangling sea sponges. Beer bottles colonized by sea lilies. Such images of ocean pollution aren't usually associated with the remote, icy waters of the Arctic, but snapshots of the seafloor suggest the northern region is becoming increasingly littered with plastic.

Scientists regularly drag an underwater camera just above the sea bed during expeditions to HAUSGARTEN, a deep-sea Arctic observatory in the eastern Fram Strait, between Greenland and Norway's Svalbard archipelago. The photos it takes are usually analyzed for the presence of sea cucumbers, fish, shrimp and other large inhabitants, which could indicate changes in Arctic biodiversity. But the camera sometimes catches unwelcome guests: plastic bags and other trash resting on the seafloor.

"The study was prompted by a gut feeling," said researcher Melanie Bergmann in a statement. "When looking through our images I got the impression that plastic bags and other litter on the seafloor were seen more frequently in photos from 2011 than in those dating back to earlier years. For this reason I decided to go systematically through all photos from 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2011."

Bergmann, a biologist with the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, found waste in 1 percent of the pictures from 2002 and 2 percent in the 2011 images, marking a twofold increase over the decade. The sharpest rise in garbage occurred between 2007 and 2011, according to the study of more than 2,000 images.

Two percent is a high figure for a region thought to be one of the most secluded on the planet, the researchers said. Bergmann pointed out that they recorded more garbage in their study than was observed in a deep-sea canyon not far from the industrialized Portuguese capital Lisbon.

Almost 70 percent of the litter in the pictures was in contact with deep-sea organisms, the researchers said, warning that garbage can injure creatures like sea sponges and impair their ability to breathe and absorb food. Moreover, chemicals in plastic can have toxic effects and alter gas exchange on the seafloor.

Plastic even poses a threat when it's no longer visible to the naked eye. Earlier studies have demonstrated how plastic that has broken down into microscopic particles can soak up pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. When ingested by tiny ocean animals, these toxin-loaded plastic particles contaminate the food chain.

On a positive note, waste could provide a good surface for some organisms to latch on to and flourish, but researchers are not sure how this would affect the deep-sea composition of species and biodiversity in the region.

The scientists, whose study appears online this month in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, pointed to melting sea ice and increasing ship traffic in the Arctic as possible causes for the rise in plastic.

"The Arctic sea ice cover normally acts as a natural barrier, preventing wind blowing waste from land out onto the sea, and blocking the path of most ships," Bergmann explained. "Ship traffic has increased enormously since the ice cover has been continuously shrinking and getting thinner. We are now seeing three times the number of private yachts and up to 36 times more fishing vessels in the waters surrounding Spitsbergen compared to pre-2007 times."

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