Best of our wild blogs: 26 Nov 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [19 - 25 Nov 2012]
from Green Business Times

Whiskered Tern vomiting fish
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Twin-barred Tree Snake
from Monday Morgue

Read more!

Indonesia: Forest Ministry Pushes to Continue Deforestation Moratorium, House Pushes Back

Camelia Pasandaran Jakarta Globe 23 Nov 12;

Indonesian lawmakers threatened on Friday to freeze the budget for reforestation projects if President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono continues the nation’s deforestation moratorium until 2014.

Yudhoyono issued a two-year moratorium on new forestry permits for peat and primary forests after the Norwegian government promised $1 billion in conservation assistance. To receive the funds Indonesia has to provide verifiable proof that it has reduced deforestation rates in a nation where more than a million hectares of forests are cut down annually.

The bulk of the money won’t be paid until Indonesia can prove reforestation efforts have made an impact.

But the promise of funds was not enough for United Development Party (PPP) lawmaker Romahurmuzy.

The head of the House of Representatives forestry and agriculture commission said Indonesia was losing too much money setting up reforestation projects when it could be issuing more permits for palm oil plantations.

“It’s not worth it,” he said. “Our total budget is Rp 1,600 trillion. The budget for the Forest Ministry is Rp 6 trillion. The reward is not equal to the economic potential being lost in the forest sector.”

The government receives some 300 applications for new palm oil plantations a year, Romahurmuzy said. It approves between 70 and 80 a year.

One 10,000 hectare plantation can provide work for entire villages in rural Indonesia, Romahurmuzy said.

“If Norwegian is not serious about the compensation, the government should seriously consider not continuing it,” he said.

The Ministry of Forests will recommend the moratorium stays in effect until the 2014 presidential election, ministry spokesman Sumarto said. The ministry still has 40 million hectares of cleared land to replant, he added.

“The Forest Ministry plans to continue the moratorium,” Sumarto said. “[Minister] Zulkifli [Hasan] will soon report the plan to the president.”

The government has a responsibility to restore the nation’s forests and should not focus on the compensation funds, Sumarto said.

“We have the responsibility to maintain our economy by changing the consumptive pattern in managing the forest,” he said.

It will take at least 25 years to restore the nation’s forestland, Sumarto said. The reforestation programs also provide jobs for some of the four million people who live near deforested areas, he added.

“So we try to extend the moratorium at least until 2014, as long as this government term,” he said.

Read more!

Malaysia: Threat to a hill rich with fossils

Satiman Jamin New Straits Times 26 Nov 12;

300-MILLION-YEAR HISTORY: Bukit Buchu could be flattened if no action is taken

KUALA TERENGGANU: A HILL full of 300-million-year-old fossils in Batu Rakit here may go into oblivion if no efforts are taken to protect them.

The barren hillside of Bukit Buchu, overlooking Taman Atikah in Batu Rakit, looks like many other hills that dot the coastal road to Kota Baru.

However, while the more picturesque hills have no visitors, the jagged rock face of Bukit Buchu has seen a regular stream of geologists and geology students since the 1980s as the hill holds ancient marine flora and fauna fossils.

Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) Oceanography and Environment Institute geological researcher Dr Peter Robertson Parham said he was excited when his colleagues informed him about the hill.

He was surprised by the density of the fossils there.

"I thought I would have to sift through a lot of rocks to find a fossil but when I went up the hill, I realised they were everywhere, even on the loose rocks that I trampled on."

Parham demonstrated his point when he picked up a loose rock which has indentations of round patterns on one side.

"The patterns are actually the fossil of brachiopods which lived in shallow seas during the Carboniferous era about 300 million years ago."

He said it was amazing that the fossils were so well preserved as the soft shale on which they were embedded could be easily affected by the elements, let alone the geologic upheavals over millions of years.

"The mud at the bottom of the prehistoric sea was turned to shale by geologic activities, such as the receding ocean levels at the end of the Carboniferous era," he said, adding that the layers of shale also indicated that the rock face of Bukit Buchu had been sheared, turned and upturned repeatedly by ancient geologic activities.

"We can learn a few things about the geological history of this area by studying the changes indicated by the patterns on the rock face."

UMT vice-chancellor Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Ibrahim Komoo, who is also the founder of the Malaysian Historic Geological Heritage, said the absence of laws protecting fossils and fossil sites could hamper efforts to preserve them.

"One way to get around this is by gazetting heritage areas as geoparks, such as in Langkawi."

He said although Bukit Buchu might lack the criteria to become a national heritage, the state government could still turn it into a state geopark to let students and the public have a better understanding of the geological history of Terengganu.

Ibrahim said Terengganu had no lack of possible geopark sites, such as Gunung Gagau, which might contain dinosaur remains as highlighted by the New Straits Times.

"Some areas in Tasik Kenyir also have the potential of becoming state geoparks as they have unique geological features. Some interesting fossils have also been found there."

Efforts to preserve Bukit Buchu should be hastened as the fossil-bearing hill stands on private land and the landowner can level the hill or turn it into a housing area, which means Terengganu may lose the 300-million-year-old treasure trove that it holds.

Read more!

Review highlights role of citizen science projects

Mark Kinver BBC News 23 Nov 12;

A review of more than 230 "citizen science" projects says the involvement of volunteers offers "high value to research, policy and practice".

It added that such schemes had the potential to help meet the demands of monitoring the UK's environment.

The review's authors also produced a guide offering advice on how to get the most out of citizen science projects.

The review and guide was commissioned by the UK Environmental Observation Framework (UK-EOF).

The authors, from Nerc Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and the Natural History Museum, London, reviewed 234 projects - ranging from small one-off local surveys to large-scale long-term programmes.

'Cost effective'

"Participation with environmental science and natural history has a long history, especially in Britain, long before it was termed 'citizen science'," project leader Dr Helen Roy, an ecologist from the CEH, told BBC News.

"However, the development of communication technologies through the internet offers many new options which will help even more people to get involved in contributing information for monitoring our environment, which is under increasing pressure."

The review reached a number of conclusions about the value of data collected by volunteers:

The development of technologies was "revolutionising citizen science", for example through online recording and smartphone apps;
Data quality could be excellent, but was not fully recognised by all researchers or policymakers;
It is a cost-effective way of collecting environmental data
There was potential to make considerably more use of citizen science that currently was the case.

The guide, published alongside the review, offers the scientific community advice on how to develop, implement and evaluate citizen science projects.

The guide's lead author, Dr John Tweddle from the Natural History Museum, said participating in the monitoring and observation was a "fun and rewarding pastime" for volunteers.

"Our guide aims to support anyone with an interest in developing their own citizen science project - and new communication technologies, like mobile phone apps and environmental sensors, mean that it has never been easier to get involved."

Read more!

UN to launch new round of talks on global warming

Karl Ritter Associated Press Yahoo News 25 Nov 12;

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — As nearly 200 countries meet in oil-and-gas-rich Qatar for annual talks starting Monday on slowing global warming, one of the main challenges will be raising climate aid for poor countries at a time when budgets are strained by financial turmoil.

Rich countries have delivered nearly $30 billion in grants and loans promised in 2009, but those commitments expire this year. And a Green Climate Fund designed to channel up to $100 billion annually to poor countries has yet to begin operating.

Borrowing a buzzword from the U.S. budget debate, Tim Gore of the British charity Oxfam said developing countries, including island nations for whom rising sea levels pose a threat to their existence, stand before a "climate fiscal cliff."

"So what we need for those countries in the next two weeks are firm commitments from rich countries to keep giving money to help them to adapt to climate change," he told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Creating a structure for climate financing has so far been one of the few tangible outcomes of the two-decade-old U.N. climate talks, which have failed in their main purpose: reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet, melting ice caps, glaciers and permafrost, shifting weather patterns and raising sea levels.

The only binding treaty to limit such emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, expires this year, so agreeing on an extension is seen as the most urgent task by environment ministers and climate officials meeting in the Qatari capital.

However, only the European Union and a few other countries are willing to join a second commitment period with new emissions targets. And the EU's chief negotiator, Artur Runge-Metzger, admitted that such a small group is not going to make a big difference in the fight against climate change.

"I think we cover at most 14 percent of global emissions," he said.

The U.S. rejected Kyoto because it didn't cover rapidly growing economies such as China and India. Some hope for stronger commitments from U.S. delegates in Doha as work begins on drafting a new global treaty that would also apply to developing countries including China, the world's top carbon emitter. That treaty is supposed to be adopted in 2015 and take effect five years later.

Climate financing is a side issue but a controversial one that often deepens the rich-poor divide that has hampered the U.N. climate talks since their launch in 1992. Critics of the U.N. process see the climate negotiations as a cover for attempts to redistribute wealth.

Runge-Metzger said the EU is prepared to continue supporting poorer nations in converting to cleaner energy sources and in adapting to a shifting climate, despite the debt crisis roiling Europe. But he couldn't promise that the EU would present any new pledges in Doha and said developing countries must present detailed "bankable programs" before they can expect any money.

Sometimes, developing countries seem to be saying, "OK give us a blank check," he told AP.

Climate aid activists bristled at that statement, saying many developing countries have already indicated what type of programs and projects need funding.

"They need the financial and technical support from the EU and others. Yet they continue to promise 'jam tomorrow' whilst millions suffer today," said Meena Raman of the Third World Network, a nonprofit group.

Countries agreed in Copenhagen in 2009 to set up the Green Climate Fund with the aim of raising $100 billion annually by 2020. They also pledged to raise $30 billion in "fast-start" climate financing by 2012.

While that short-term goal has nearly been met by countries including the EU, Japan, Australia and the U.S., Oxfam estimates that only one-third of it was new money; the rest was previously pledged aid money repackaged as climate financing. Oxfam also found that more than half of the financing was in the form of loans rather than grants, and that financing levels are set to fall in 2013 as rich countries rein in aid budgets amid debt problems and financial instability.

Meanwhile, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps going up. It has jumped 20 percent since 2000, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, according to a U.N. report released last week.

A recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are on track to increase by up to 4 degrees C (7.2 F) this century, compared with pre-industrial times, overshooting the 2-degree target on which the U.N. talks are based.

Read more!