Best of our wild blogs: 29 Nov 13

The trash on the Pulau Serangoon shore
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Cigarette lighters from Singapore, for Shigeru Fujieda at Kagoshima University, Japan from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Carpenter Bees visiting flowers of Melastoma malabathricum
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Great Mormon
from Butterflies of Singapore

Mon, 02 Dec 2013, 11.00am @ CR1: Dominik Kneer on “Dynamics of seagrasses in a heterogeneous tropical reef ecosystem” from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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Monkey trouble? Build homes away from our forests

Heng Cho Choon Today Online 29 Nov 13;

The suggestion to “Plant more fruit trees in forests to keep monkeys away” (Nov 28) would not ameliorate the problem of monkeys encroaching on human property. Instead, more people would go searching for fruits during fruiting seasons and on weekends.

I have seen this happening in Bukit Batok Nature Park and the forest at Rifle Range Road. People invariably trample on the undergrowth, eventually causing soil erosion. Some even camp overnight to wait for durians to drop.

The authorities should be more discerning in granting permits when developers submit their building plans.

At Hindhede Drive, several condominiums are built so close to the nature reserve that residents are troubled by monkeys and snakes on the premises.

My friend who lives at Swiss Club Road also bemoans the unwanted visitors to his bungalow premises. Monkeys invade his garden to feast on bananas, squirrels gnaw at his wires and civet cats devoured the koi in his pond.

Human dwellings should be built far from the forests to minimise human-animal conflicts.

There should also be heavier penalties for those caught poaching in forests, as it is not easy for the National Parks Board to monitor every nature park and the park connector network.

Limited land means not all homes can be far from forests
Thomas Lee Chee Chee Today Online 30 Nov 13;

In our land-scarce island, there is little opportunity to only build homes away from forested areas. (“Monkey trouble? Build homes away from our forests”; Nov 29)

Even if houses are far from forested areas, monkeys would go looking for food when they cannot find enough in the forest. This is natural. Have we not heard of wild boars swimming from Johor to Pulau Tekong to look for food?

I was not suggesting, in “Plant more fruit trees in forests to keep monkeys away” (Nov 28), trees with tempting fruit like the durian. People might fight over durians, but I have not heard of monkeys doing so.

Many fruit trees, not only papaya and banana, can attract monkeys, and we would not eat the fruits or seeds from those trees. The experts could decide on suitable types. As to people intruding into our forests, that is a different follow-up matter for the authorities.

In short, I think my suggestion is perhaps the closest to pleasing most parties.

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Indonesia’s REDD+ Challenges

Alex Hamer Jakarta Globe 28 Nov 13;

While recent moves to stimulate sustainable business practices in the manufacturing sector have gained wide attention, Indonesia’s efforts to slow deforestation, which accounts for 59.4 percent of all national emissions, has struggled to make headway as extreme weather events become more common globally, likely due to climate change.

In 2010, the Norwegian government promised $1 billion in funding for the United Nations-designed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus project (REDD+) to be established in Indonesia. Simply put, the project aims to protect carbon-rich forest and peatland from being burned or logged. Indonesia’s peatland holds 57 billion tons of carbon dioxide; according to UN estimates, that is 142 times Indonesia’s current annual carbon emissions.

Peatlands are burned and drained in order to clear the land for palm oil and acacia-tree plantations, and forests are logged for timber and pulp.

So far, only $50 million of the results-based Norwegian funding has been handed over for the Central Kalimantan-based program. An Australian-funded REDD+ project, which began in 2008, was canceled in July when little progress had been made reverting drained swamps back to peatland in Borneo.

According to those involved in REDD+, overall progress has been blocked by confusion over responsibility between federal, provincial and local authorities, the difficulty in enforcing the 2011 moratorium on new logging project licenses, obtuse policies from the forestry and agriculture ministries, and big business not coming on board.

Engaging business in conservation was a key goal of the recent Warsaw talks, where it was noted the role of business had been “marginal” at best. A goal of the three-week conference was to appeal to big business because it “often lacks a seat at the major international negotiation tables,” and is the “largest terrestrial agent of change.”

Norwegian ambassador to Indonesia Stig Traavik believes there has been some improvement in the logging and palm oil industries’ approach to conservation since REDD+ launched. He singled out Sinar Mas subsidiary Asia Pulp & Paper and Nestle for their commitment to zero new deforestation.

A Greenpeace report on APP’s progress under the new commitment was largely positive, concluding that “overall the implementation of the forest and peatland moratoriums has been successful, though the [two breaches] revealed a number of failings in internal sign-off processes.”

“Many of the big companies are changing their ways, [which] creates an atmosphere of corporate responsibility,” Heru Prasetyo, deputy at the Presidential Work Unit for Development Monitoring and Control (UKP4).

Heru said problems come from smaller landholders, who often operate on the edges of protected forests and ignore government rulings on what areas can or cannot be deforested.

“Smaller companies are still hungry, trying to catch up, and there has to be incentives [from the government] for them not to cut trees, and even worse, not to burn forests in preparation for a plantation.”

The moratorium on new licences is also undermined, he said, by the ministries of agriculture and of mining and energy, which both have the right to issue licences for development. The protected area has been reduced from 69 to 64 million hectares.

“After we came out and said ‘this is the area that will be exempt from new licences,’ the agriculture ministry said ‘no, no, I have to have licences here,’ and then the mining ministry does the same thing, so it keeps on reducing.”

REDD+ origins

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been the driving force of the project, which is a key part of his plan to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020. While this target has been labeled unrealistic, this year he announced REDD+ would become a government agency and extended the moratorium on new logging licences for previously untouched areas.

Heru is leading the design of the new ministry with UKP4, and he said the president has decided on the minister, but will not make an announcement for several weeks.

Currently, REDD+ is run by a task force, and Heru says the formation of the ministry will give it greater power when dealing with Agriculture and Mining, both of which can currently override its environmental protection.

Doctoral candidate at the Australian National University Erik Olbrei said the peatlands in particular are extremely important globally, and need to be protected to keep global warming to the 2 degrees centigrade limit set by the United Nations Panel on Climate Change.

“Of 13 million hectares of peatland in Sumatra and Kalimantan provinces, only 4 percent remains in pristine condition,” Olbrei said. “Indonesia’s peatlands are one of the last endangered species, with oil palm and Acacia going up all over the place.”

Current problems

Heru is philosophical about the current state of REDD+, comparing it to another major effort involving all levels of government and NGOs.

“We faced similar problems when we were trying to reconstruct Aceh post-tsunami. It’s definitely unknown territory, it’s unprecedented. Everybody has their own constituents to report to, and their own standards,” he said.

Ambassador Traavik said it was not worthwhile using “good or bad” to describe REDD+’s progress.

“Some things are going really well, and some things are not going as expected. Overall, since 2010, the positive changes in some areas have been much bigger than he had hoped. The moratorium has been a big thing, the [increase] in public awareness in Indonesia has been a big change,” he said.

The Norwegian funding follows the global REDD+ model, which only allows for some startup money and then only once results are proven. From 2010 to mid-2013, the task force survived on the $30 million initial grant. An extra $20 million came when the president announced the creation of the agency.

“You might say we have gotten a lot of change for cheap, because we haven’t spent a lot of money yet. That is not something we’re happy about, because we would like to speed up the protection,” Traavik said.

A Human Rights Watch report entitled ‘The Dark Side of Green Growth’ details the problems associated with the forestry sector.

“A 2010 investigation by the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission] found that the Ministry of Forestry failed to accurately map forests, land use, and concession boundaries, and did not fairly allocate use rights. The KPK found that these weaknesses were central causes of persistent corruption and lost government revenue, as well as high levels of deforestation.”

As much as the corruption and inadequate policing of protected forest and peatland affects the success of REDD+, the mapping problems severely hinder the reporting and monitoring the task force can do. The discrepancy has been put at millions of hectares by the United Nations.

“The best map the Ministry of Forestry has is not good enough,” Heru said.

A group including members of the Norwegian mission, UKP4 and the United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia (Unorcid) is working on better monitoring methods for the program. Currently, work is being done on properly mapping the areas involved. The level of detail in maps of Central Kalimantan, among others, is still not detailed enough to determine whether revegetation efforts have been successful.

Heru explained this is one problem that could be solved using the “leverage” REDD+ will have as an agency.

“We will have greater access to the Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space’s satellite technology to map these forested areas.”

The future of REDD+

“One of the points to come out of Warsaw is saying that the coordinating agency for REDD+ will be the global implementing agency. That means the REDD+ agency we are creating here is the [global] agency for REDD+, which is excellent,” Heru said.

Another product of the Warsaw talks was to change the funding model of REDD+. Currently, it is solely results-based. As the Indonesian program shows, funding can be scarce when results are hard to measure. The proposal is to balance the funding between startup costs and rewards for success.

Ambassador Traavik said the funding model was right for the project — it encouraged action and kept motivation for success high.

Lead author on the HRW report Emily Harwell made clear the results-based funding was not always successful.

“When funding slows to a trickle, the results are not going to come,” she said.

Heru used analogy to describe the different starting points of countries in REDD+ programs, and why funding should be evenly spread.

“Some people are stranded on a small island, and they need to swim to the mainland before they can get started. Once they get in the water, there are sharks, so they must struggle even more to survive,” he said.

Traavik said the clearest indication REDD+ was getting through was the attitudes of people on the ground in Central Kalimantan.

“We visited some rubber-tappers in a village, and I asked them if they were worried about climate change. These guys said ‘Yes, we are very worried — the weather used to be predictable, we had rainy seasons, dry seasons, but never long droughts or long periods of flooding. Both those are happening much more often, so we are really worried about climate change,” he said

According to the Traavik one problem can easily be fixed — the name no one is going to remember.

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Philippines: Mangroves shielded Sagay islets’ residents

Carla P. Gomez Inquirer Visayas 29 Nov 13;

SAGAY CITY, Negros Occidental—With monster winds, Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”) roared through the mangroves off Sagay City’s three islets of Molacaboc on Nov. 8, shearing branches and blowing them every which way, but failing to bring down any of the hardy trees.

“The mangroves are still standing, but there are circles in the middle where the branches of the trees had been sheared … They helped save us from the fury of Yolanda,” Milane Desamparado said.

Desamparado, who lives on Molocaboc Diut but teaches at Molocaboc Integrated School on Molocaboc Daku, believes the mangroves growing on many parts of the islet are buffers against the wind and waves.

Roger Rochar, the school principal, can attest to that.

“I was in the house when [Yolanda struck] so I did not see the action in the mangrove area. But by the looks of it, places where there are no mangroves were the ones badly hit,” Rochar said.

Yolanda’s powerful winds toppled many houses and heaved 5-meter storm surges that destroyed fishing boats. But the three islets that compose Molocaboc village suffered no casualties, village chief Antonio Pasaylo said.

The mangroves that line the shorelines of Molocaboc Daku, Molocaboc Diut and Matabas shielded the residents against Yolanda’s wrath, although it was the evacuations before the typhoon arrived that saved lives, he said.

Nevertheless, the national government has recognized the defensive value of mangroves to coastal communities and is encouraging local governments to develop green walls of mangrove and beach forests as natural protection against storms.

“Mangroves are natural barriers against tsunamis [and] storm surges [and they] should not be destroyed,” Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said in Manila on Wednesday.

Paje announced a P347-million project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that would see 19 million mangrove seedlings and seedlings of other beach-forest trees like the talisay planted on 1,900 hectares of coastline.

Paje said most of the coastlines damaged by Yolanda were once mangrove swamps and beach forests and they were converted into settlements by informal settlers or for development.

“Had the mangroves in Leyte and Eastern Samar provinces not been decimated, the storm surge in those areas would have been dissipated by 70 to 80 percent,” Paje said.

Paje cited a study by the Department of Science and Technology that showed that the strength of an 8-m storm surge is concentrated within the lower 6 m, with only the upper 2 m having tidal power.

“The surge can destroy the leaves, but it cannot uproot the mangroves because they are so deeply rooted and strong,” Paje said.

The Molacaboc islets are found in the eastern part of Sagay, bound in the north by the Visayan Sea and in the south by the Tañon Strait.

The islets can be reached by boat in 20 to 45 minutes from the Vito and Old Sagay ports.

Molocaboc Daku has an area of 147 hectares and a population of about 1,600. It is 7 kilometers away from the mainland at Vito Sagay.

Molocaboc Diut has an area of 120 hectares and a population of about 600. It is connected to Daku by a footwalk.

Matabas is 80 hectares and it has a population of 250.

Pasaylo said Yolanda battered the islets for almost four hours starting at mid-morning on Nov. 8. Luckily, it was low tide.

“There was zero visibility. You could barely see a person a foot away. The winds roared like airplanes flying toward you,” he said.

Jose Dalisay, principal of Matabas Elementary School, said the mangroves on one side of Matabas served as pads against the rushing waves.

“I discovered that on the other side [where there were no] mangroves, the solid stone was destroyed by the big waves… . We attempted to plant mangroves in that area, but failed due to the waves. Mangroves for us are important to protect the entire island of Matabas,” Dalisay said.

Molocaboc village has 500 ha of mangroves, 100 ha of which have been reforested, according to Lilibeth Cordova, an environmentalist who works closely with the island communities.

The three islets are part of the 32,000-ha Sagay Marine Reserve where massive mangrove reforestation, regeneration of corals and marine habitat and a strict ban on illegal fishing have long been in force.

Former Sagay Mayor Alfredo Marañon Jr., now governor of Negros Occidental province, launched the marine sanctuary in the 1970s.

When he was a congressman, he authored Republic Act No. 9106, which called for the establishment and management of Sagay Marine Reserve. The law was enacted on April 14, 2001.
In Molocaboc, 85 percent of the residents rely on fishing for their livelihood, and they practice sea ranching.

By creating an artificial habitat on the seabed using used tires and large rocks, fishermen draw fish to their miracle hole and, in three to four months, harvest about 20 kilos of fish, Pasaylo said.

Desamparado said Yolanda’s winds began to hit Molocaboc Diut, where she lives, at 4 a.m., followed by a fog-like darkness that engulfed the place. By 9:30 a.m., the islet felt the full force of the typhoon.

“If you attempted to get out of your house, you had to crawl to avoid being blown away,” she said.

Earlier, many people sought refuge in stronger houses, but even some concrete houses were “pulverized,” Desamparado said.

“We were lucky Yolanda did not land at night and the tide was low, or we could have been washed out to the sea,” she said.

“Our mangroves took the brunt. Some were uprooted while the branches of the rest were broken,” she said.

Desamparado now believes that “it is important for islets like ours to have mangroves because they help mitigate the gravity of a typhoon.”

Haide Rublico, principal of Molocaboc Diut Elementary School, said four buildings of her school were damaged, but those in the area shielded by mangroves sustained no damage.

Mangroves also helped cushion the blows of Yolanda on Suyac Island, according to Melanie Mermida, secretary of Suyac Island Eco-Tourism Association and Suyac Island Fishermen’s Association.

Some of the houses were damaged, but no one died, Mermida said.

The 1.8-ha Suyac islet, 3 km from mainland Sagay, has a population of 782 and a 4-ha mangrove area.

Suyac Island Mangrove Eco-Park, where one can walk on a path through century-old mangroves, is a tourist destination, though it is temporarily closed for repairs.—With a report from DJ Yap

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China's Guangdong carbon market, world's second biggest, to start in December

Kathy Chen and Stian Reklev PlanetArk 28 Nov 13;

Guangdong, China's most populous province with more than 100 million people, is to launch a carbon permits market next month that will be the world's second biggest after the European Union.

China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, has pledged to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by up to 45 percent by 2020. Shanghai launched a carbon market on Tuesday and Beijing follows on Thursday.

The scheme in heavily industrialized Guangdong will cap carbon dioxide emissions from 202 companies at 350 million tons for 2013, according to a statement on the website of the provincial Development and Reform Commission.

Most permits, including 97 percent of what emitters get, will be handed out free on December 10, but the local government will also auction 29 million permits for this year from mid-December, it said, without giving a specific date.

The Guangzhou-based China Emissions Exchange will then launch a secondary market for permits by the end of December.

Among the firms covered by the scheme, which will dwarf the markets in Australia and California, are state-owned power companies Datang, Huaneng and Shenhua, along with manufacturers and petrochemical firms.

Opening bids for the auctioned permits should be made at 60 yuan ($9.85), the government said, but the Guangdong emissions trading scheme does not have a formal floor price.

Carbon permits on the Shenzhen market, China's first, ended at 72.76 yuan on Tuesday while those in Shanghai made their debut the same day at 27 yuan.

Beijing's market will be around a quarter the size of the Guangdong scheme in terms of CO2 covered.

Further markets are due to open in Hubei province and the cities of Chongqing and Tianjin in 2014.

The permits auctioned in Guangdong will include 10.5 million for the quotas of the 202 emitters. The rest are from a reserve of 38 million permits set aside to cover new entrants and various "adjustments", the local government document said, without offering further detail.

Guangdong will keep the level of auctioned permits at 3 percent of quotas next year but from 2015 some 10 percent will be sold.

In total, the seven pilot markets in China will regulate around 700-800 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, roughly equal to the annual emissions of Germany, and will cover areas accounting for nearly a third of China's gross domestic product.

The regional markets are meant to generate valuable experience as central government is planning a national trading scheme later in the decade.

(Reporting by Kathy Chen and Stian Reklev; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Nov 13

Green Drinks Singapore turns 6 today!
from Green Drinks Singapore

Fri, 29 Nov 2013, 1.00am @ CR1: Kimberly Carlson on “Oil palm plantations alter stream ecosystem function in Borneo” from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Butterflies Galore! : Great Eggfly
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Expand Istana’s green refuge

Liew Kai Khiun Today Online 28 Nov 13;

The Prime Minister’s Facebook post about a surprise visit by a barn owl has attracted significant public interest, with 27,100 “likes” and 1,790 “shares” of the post.

This is perhaps a hearty response to his remarks: “The Istana grounds are a green refuge for many species of birds and animals. We should preserve and create many such green spaces all over our island, so that in our urban environment, we can enjoy the natural flora and fauna of Singapore.”

Originally a nutmeg plantation before it was converted into Government House in 1867, the Istana possesses both the built and natural heritage of Singapore.

The lush 43ha Istana premises are like an oasis in the heart of the dense city centre. It has tropical and heritage trees as well fruit plants, which were home to 75 bird species, including the endangered hornbills, 25 butterfly species and 23 dragonfly species, according to the 2006 wildlife census.

As natural vegetation is expected to shrink after the redevelopment of military training grounds and other forested areas such as Bukit Brown and Bidadari, it is perhaps timely to consider expanding the Istana’s natural landscape to mitigate the loss.

Like the appropriation of several golf courses in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s draft Master Plan 2013, the Government could convert the Istana’s nine-hole golf course into a mini-forest that could serve as a bigger green lung within the city centre.

A golf course is associated with exclusivity and extravagance in land-scarce Singapore. A lusher Istana, with a larger wildlife sanctuary and botanical repository, would reflect a more progressive and environmentally conscious vision of Singapore as a liveable, loveable place for man and nature.

PM's visitor a real hoot
Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE - A stray barn owl paid a surprise visit to the Prime Minister's office in the Istana on Wednesday morning.

The bird had most probably flown into the building during the night and was found perched "comfortably high up out of reach" when he went to his office in the morning, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

Personnel from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and Jurong Bird Park were called in to help, he added.

The 30cm-tall bird was caught and released safely into the grounds behind the Prime Minister's official residence at the Istana, Sri Temasek.

"The Istana grounds are a green refuge for many species of birds and animals," PM Lee said in his post, which has attracted more than 24,000 likes and some 1,500 shares.

"We should preserve and create many such green spaces all over our island, so that in our urban environment, we can enjoy the natural flora and fauna of Singapore."

The AVA said it received a call from an Istana staff member at around 11am on Wednesday.

Together with staff from Jurong Bird Park and the Istana, the owl was caught "using nets, scissor lift and poles".

"The bird was checked when caught and was found to be uninjured and in good health," the AVA said in a statement.

The barn owl, which has a heart-shaped face and a speckled chest, is one of nine species of owls that have been recorded here.

An urban dweller that feeds on rodents like rats, it can be seen in places such as those under bridges and in buildings.

"The Istana is a good place for a barn owl as it is a green lung in the city," said wildlife consultant and nature guide Subaraj Rajathurai, 50.

"The bird was probably out hunting when it flew into an open window."

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Plant more fruit trees in forests to keep monkeys away

Thomas Lee Chee Chee Today Online 28 Nov 13;

On the issue of the monkey menace, especially in landed housing estates, animal welfare groups feel that one of the problems lies with these residents leaving leftover food exposed.

It is not uncommon, however, to see groups of monkeys rummaging through rubbish bins provided by the waste collector. My uncle who lives near a nature reserve has to keep watch over his papaya and banana trees whenever his dogs bark at approaching monkeys.

Perhaps a possible solution is for animal welfare groups to work with relevant agencies to plant and maintain more fruit trees in the forest. Until these mature and bear fruits, there could be a designated part in nature reserves where fruits are provided to the monkeys.

For the immediate future, culling is necessary to control the monkey population. Sterilisation could also be helpful. No amount of change in human behaviour would lessen the problem.

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Philippines to rehab mangroves and natural beach forests as storm surge defence

DENR to allot P347M for Visayas mangrove rehab
Ellalyn De Vera Manila Bulletin 27 Nov 13;

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be allocating P347 million for the rehabilitation of mangroves and natural beach forests in Eastern Visayas as it will serve as the first line of defense against storm surge in the future.

DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said the P347 million will finance the restoration of mangrove and natural beach forests in the coastal areas of Eastern Visayas region, particularly Leyte province, which was devastated by typhoon “Yolanda” last November 8.

“Tacloban City (in Leyte) is a major concern given its being a major population center, but the undertaking will cover practically the entire eastern seaboard of Eastern Visayas,” Paje said.

Other areas covered by the coastal rehabilitation plan are Dulag town in Leyte; municipalities of Guiuan, Llorente and Balangiga in Eastern Samar; and the town of Basey in Samar.

He said the main objective is to restore the region’s degraded coastal forests to make its coastlines less vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as storm surge.

“It is clear in the law that we cannot allow people to build houses in areas for mangroves and beach forest,” Paje said, as he referred to Presidential Decree No. 1067, also known as the Philippine Water Code.

Article 51 of said water code states that “banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three meters in urban areas, 20 meters in agricultural areas and 40 meters in forest areas, along their margins are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.”

Citing a study by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Paje said the “strength of an eight-meter storm surge is concentrated within the lower six meters with the upper two meters as only having tidal currents.”

“The surge can only destroy the leaves, but it cannot uproot the mangroves because they are so deep- rooted and strong that they will regrow in time,” Paje said.

He also stressed that mangroves are natural barriers against tsunamis, storm surge and other wave action, and therefore, should not be destroyed.

“Had the mangroves in Leyte and Eastern Samar not been decimated, the storm surge in those areas would have been dissipated by 70 to 80 percent of its strength,” he explained.

Under the DENR plan, some 19 million seedlings and propagules from mangrove trees and beach forest species like Talisay will be planted over 1,900 hectares of coastline under the National Greening Program.

Paje said that about 80 percent of the allocation will be used for the government’s cash-for-work program for typhoon survivors, who will take part in seedling production, planting site preparation, actual planting and maintenance of mangrove and beach forest areas.

“Restoring the coastal forests in Eastern Visayas will set the foundation for the reconstruction and recovery of both coastal communities and urban areas in the province,” Paje explained.

“We will design it properly and have it approved by concerned local government units,” he added.

He also said that the establishment of “coastal green belts” will be done in clusters to allow fisher folk access to the shorelines, as well as other sustainable activities like ecotourism and coastal management

He said the budget proposal is awaiting approval by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

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Malaysia: Sabah’s endangered species much sought after

Stephanie Lee The Star 28 Nov 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s exotic wildlife species are treasures sought by international collectors and smugglers, going by the millions of ringgit of seizures over the years.

These animals, many being endangered and protected species, are also being smuggled for their meat, among other purposes.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, however, said the Government was doing its best to prevent smuggling and illegal hunting of endangered species in the state.

“Our efforts have led to the capture of poachers and smugglers over the years, as well as seizure of protected animals and meat, including pangolin meat, worth millions of ringgit,” he said when launching the Wild Animal Rescue Network (WARN) conference here.

“This is an indication we are being targeted for our animals,” he added.

Masidi said there were many private collectors and exotic food lovers who would pay hefty sums of money to get their hands on these animals, be it for their meat or for other uses.

“Looking at our biodiversity, I’m sure that Sabah is a fertile ground for the smugglers,” he added.

Masidi said that WARN, a non-governmental organisation that aims to reduce and prevent the smuggling of endangered and protected animals, had commended Sabah for its animal protection and smuggling prevention efforts.

“In fact, Sabah is said to be among the best in Asia in this field ” he added.

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Marine plastic pollution: the threat pervading Australia's waters

Disposable packaging is breaking down into tiny particles, posing a danger to marine and human life, shows research
Oliver Milman 27 Nov 13;

The waters around Australia are riddled with more than 4,000 tiny pieces of plastic per square kilometre, posing a threat to marine life and humans, new research has found.

The study, conducted by the University of Western Australia and CSIRO, found the vast majority of plastic particles were polyethylene and polypropylene, used to create disposable packaging, such as water bottles, and fishing equipment.

Researchers took seven voyages along Australia’s coastline, finding plastic concentrations were heaviest near Sydney and Brisbane, although the remote region of south-west Tasmania was also inundated with plastic, potentially swept in by the Antarctic current.

Overall, Australia is judged to have a plastic contamination level similar to the Caribbean Sea, but lower than the Mediterranean Sea. Australia, the research notes, uses nearly 1.5m tonnes of plastic a year, with only 20% of it recycled.

The study warns that plastics, if ingested by fish, “can affect the health of food webs, which include humans as an apex predator”.

Julia Reisser, lead author of the report, told Guardian Australia she was surprised to see such large quantities of plastics in Australian waters.

“Since the 1970s, we’ve been aware of the issue of plastic pollution when it comes to large vertebrae animals such as turtles and seabirds, but these particles are also affecting the little fish and plankton,” she said.

“We know that plastic is ingested by a broad range of organisms. What concerns me most is that these plastics are loaded with pollutants, such as fertilisers, because the plastic acts as a sponge for other things.

“This can be transferred via small fish to bigger fish and then us. It impacts the whole food chain. There has been research that shows toxins from plastics are causing tumours on the livers of some fish.”

Reisser said the true number of plastic particles is likely to be far higher than 4,000 pieces per square kilometre, due to the difficulty in counting extremely small pieces. Most of the particles found by Reisser measured less than 5mm across.

“The long-term solution is to decrease plastic waste, which involves the decrease in production of throwaway packaging,” she said. “Clean-up ideas are also welcome, although it won’t be a solution. There are lots of complex things that need to happen, including the Australian government helping create international laws to stop the dumping of plastics in the oceans.”

The issue of rubbish being dumped into the ocean was highlighted in October by an Australian sailor, who described parts of the Pacific Ocean as “dead” as he dodged debris for thousands of kilometres on a journey to Japan.

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Shellfish Growers Feeling Economic Hit as Ocean Acidifies

Julia Roberson Yahoo News 28 Nov 13;

Julia Roberson directs Ocean Conservancy's ocean acidification program. She contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Numerous studies have revealed the effects of changing ocean chemistry on marine life, and many of the findings are disturbing. However, as Katherine Gammon reported in her Oct. 2012 LiveScience article "Oysters' Future Imperiled as Oceans Acidify," the harmful effects of acidification on bivalve species such as oysters, clams and mussels are happening now, and have been happening for a while.

A few years ago, oyster growers operating in waters off the U.S. West Coast began experiencing devastating losses of juvenile oysters — up to 80 percent of their typical harvest — due to increasingly corrosive seawater. These oysters were not able to extract enough calcium carbonate to build their shells. Cold water is naturally low in calcium carbonate, so the effects of more acidic seawater have been documented first in the Pacific Ocean. The effects of acidification have also recently been felt by Maine clammers on the U.S. East Coast, who are reporting weaker shells, due, in part, to more acidic waters.

The good news is states are beginning to take action to help people who earn their living in the shellfish business. When West Coast growers suffered a devastating harvest loss, funding was made available to develop monitoring systems that enabled these businesses to tackle acidification. In late August 2013, California announced a West Coast science panel that builds on the efforts of Washington State to respond to ocean acidification. In June 2013, the Maine legislature passed a resolution identifying acidification as a major threat to Maine's economy and culture.

And last month, the XPRIZE Foundation announced its next major competition, the Wendy Schmidt Global Ocean Health XPRIZE competition for the best ideas for better, cheaper, more accessible sensors to monitor ocean acidification. Once developed, these sensors will bolster existing efforts by U.S. states and the shellfish industry to monitor what's changing in seawater, as well as how fast it's changing.

Shellfish growers are now seeking support from national policy makers. Representatives of the Pacific and East Coast shellfish growers associations, Margaret Pilaro Barrette and Bob Rheault, together with other growers, met recently with members of the U.S. Congress and officials from President Barack Obama's administration. Barrette and Rheault described the escalating threat to shellfish and requested that Congress fully fund much-needed research under the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act.

For more on the damaging effects of ocean acidification on shellfish, watch the video.

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Nov 13

City in a Reef: my feedback on the Draft Master Plan 2013
from wild shores of singapore and on Singapore's artificial shores: Reefs! and Mangroves! and Seagrasses!

Javan Myna caught by a Plantain Squirrel
from Bird Ecology Study Group

cuckoo @ east coast parkway, singapore 24Nov2013
from sgbeachbum

Butterflies Galore! : Malay Lacewing
from Butterflies of Singapore

The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 28 - Methods for detecting and surveying tropical carnivores from Raffles Museum News

Mangrove ecosystems being obliterated in Myanmar
from news by Rhett Butler

Not all mangroves are created equal: new map reveals carbon storage hot-spots from news by Tiffany Roufs

Consumer report uncovers why people buy rhino horn news by Tiffany Roufs

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Have We Saved the Sharks?

Reports of dramatic declines in shark fin soup consumption may be too good to be true
David Shiffman Scientific American 26 Nov 13;

“In China victory for wildlife conservation as citizens persuaded to give up shark fin soup.” This October 19 headline in the Washington Post was one that marine conservationists had been waiting decades to read—and the story inside delivered, reporting a 50 to 70 percent decrease in consumption of the delicacy over the last two years in China. Demand for shark fin soup is one of the largest drivers of the global shark overfishing crisis that has resulted in one in six species of sharks, skates, and rays being evaluated as Threatened by the IUCN Red List. Given that demand for shark fin soup comes overwhelmingly from China, the reported decrease in consumption there would mean a major reprieve for sharks. But a closer look at the situation suggests that all is not as it seems.

Shark fin dealers attribute the reported steep decline in demand to conservationist’s campaigns in Asia aimed at educating consumers and distributors about the environmental cost of the prized dish. Indeed, many conservation nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been educating the public in China about the environmental cost of shark fin soup: San Francisco-based NGO WildAid utilizes Chinese celebrities such as basketball star Yao Ming to educate people about the inhumane and unsustainable fishing methods that support shark fin soup; SharkSavers, a New York City–based organization, has a “Finished with Fins” campaign that aims to get hotels and restaurants to voluntarily remove the soup from their menus. Another environmental campaign, led by Hong Kong–based activist and photographer Alex Hofford, is working to get airlines to refuse to carry shark fins into Hong Kong. Shark fin dealers have blamed this operation—which so far has led to full bans in transporting shark fin from Emirates, Asiana Airlines, Korean Airlines, Qantas and Air New Zealand—for decreased sales. “We want to put a stranglehold on the supply chain of shark fin imports to Hong Kong. And create noise,” Hofford says. “And it’s working.”

Cultural changes among young people are often cited as a reason for declining consumption. A survey of Hong Kong residents run by the Hong Kong–based Bloom Association, a conservation NGO, found that “66 percent said they were uncomfortable with the idea of eating an endangered species, and more than three quarters said they would not mind if it was removed from [wedding] banquet menus.”

Some conservationists attribute the reported declines in shark fin soup consumption to government attempts to curb public perception of luxury usage among government officials. The Hong Kong government’s own, more recent policy, motivated both by conservation and similar efforts to not appear extravagant, has yet to make an impact.

But could any of these factors really account for such a rapid decrease in shark fin soup consumption in China? Many experts interviewed for this piece were skeptical. For every hotel or restaurant that has taken the “I’m Finished with Fins” pledge, hundreds have not. Hofford reported that his campaign has yet to hear back from 21 airlines. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of shark fins are transported into China by sea, not air (although Hofford did note that the shipping company Evergreen Line is no longer transporting shark fin. Government officials make up only a small portion of the soup-eaters, so a change in their dining habits cannot explain such a decline either. And the same Bloom survey that found that many citizens would not mind if shark fin soup were removed from banquet menus also found that 89 percent of Hong Kong citizens had eaten the soup in the last year. Additionally, shark fin trade expert Shelley Clarke of Sasama Consulting said, “a China-led antismuggling campaign from October 2011 to March 2012 that was said to have effectively shut down the international trade,” probably only temporarily curbed consumption.

Customs data do show a significant decline in unprocessed shark fin imports into Hong Kong in recent years. Historically, most fins were imported into Hong Kong before being shipped to mainland China for processing and distribution. If this were still the case, then reduced imports into that port would in fact be indicative of overall reduced consumption. Changing economic conditions in China, however, are likely to have altered this supply chain (pdf). Clarke says, "the historical pattern of shark fins being imported by Hong Kong traders and then shipped over the border for processing has been shifting gradually toward direct import into the mainland since the early 2000s.” If many more fins than usual are simply being imported directly into China, then reduced imports into Hong Kong do not necessarily mean reduced consumption.

In 2012, in accordance with the Brussels-based World Customs Organization guidelines, Hong Kong changed their customs codes for shark fins. A report in the South China Morning Post mentioned that in 2012 “a large quantity of fins were recorded against a previously rarely used code and omitted from the total figure reported.” This reclassification could easily be at least part of the reason for a reported drastic reduction in reported shark fin imports.

The best available evidence, then, fails to support the claim that shark fin soup consumption in China has declined 50 to 70 percent in the last two years. But even if demand for the soup does eventually fade away, that shift will not assure the survival of sharks. The shark overfishing crisis is multifaceted and has arisen from a lack of management for many shark fisheries, inconsistent and incomplete regulations between fishing nations, and too many sharks of many species being killed for a variety of reasons including meat, cartilage and liver oil as well as incidental bycatch. Many scientists, conservation activists and fisheries managers continue to work on the larger, more complex problems facing sharks and, despite encouraging progress, they are not yet ready to declare “mission accomplished.”

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Australia under fire for failing to protect threatened animals

Ecologist says Australia has a 'dreadful' track record in planning, monitoring and responding to threats to endangered species
Oliver Milman 26 Nov 13;

Australia is failing to protect its endangered species due a “dreadful” track record in planning, monitoring and responding to threats, a group of leading conservationists has warned.

A paper published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment states that monitoring is a “critical part” of effective species conservation, but that “many species are being monitored until they go extinct”.

“Management intervention should be triggered when it becomes apparent that a monitored species is in decline,” the paper said. “Most conservation monitoring programs lack pre-planned interventions and a clear statement about how the information derived from monitoring will help to conserve the species.”

Professor David Lindenmayer, an ecologist at the Australian National University and one of the paper’s authors, told Guardian Australia that the conservation situation in Australia was “dreadful” when compared to other countries.

“In the vast majority of cases, we don’t even do the monitoring,” he said. “We roll out billion dollar environmental programs and don’t even measure whether they are successful or not.

“Both sides of politics have been completely derelict in this area. There isn’t enough monitoring as it’s the last thing to get funding and the first thing to get cut. When it is done, it’s done unbelievably badly and there are no trigger points to intervene.”

According to Lindenmayer’s study, of 122 recovery plans for 191 Australian species, only five made reference to monitoring programs with defined interventions to prevent an animal becoming extinct.

The failure to properly deploy these trigger points – for when population or habitat shrinks, or if disease is introduced – has led to the extinction of the Christmas Island bat, as well as the virtual wiping out of the quokka, greater glider and several species of Queensland-dwelling frogs.

Elsewhere in the world, a failure of monitoring and intervention has placed severe threats upon the Sumatran rhino and Iberian lynx, as well as the extinction of the west African black rhino.

“We need to take action and do it early, otherwise these animals end up in captive breeding programs which are often a colossal waste of money,” said Lindenmayer.

“In the case of the Leadbeater’s possum in Victoria, there are maybe 2,000 left and the trajectory has been distinctly downwards for some time. Around five years ago was the time to log the forests less as it was a severe threat that was robustly shown with science. But nothing has been done.

“People think monitoring is expensive, but it only need be 5% to 10% of the conservation budget. We don’t have to monitor everything – we can do it smartly, in a well-targeted way.”

Australia has one of the worst extinction rates for mammals in the industrialised world, with the Department of Environment currently listing 188 species as endangered or critically endangered.

The Coalition government has said it wants a more “business-like” approach to species conservation, pledging to introduce a threatened species commissioner to stem the flow of losses.

A spokesman for Greg Hunt, the environment minister, told Guardian Australia there was a “lack of focus on outcomes around threatened species” under the previous Labor government.

“It has been frustrating to see numerous plans on threatened species that have sat on the shelf to gather dust,” he said.

“The ultimate goal of implementing a threatened species commissioner is to reduce the number of species on the threatened species list by targeting areas where we can make a difference.”

Lindenmayer said it was “too early to judge” whether the Coalition would improve matters, but added that the threatened species commissioner role needed clout for it to succeed.

“If you’re the threatened species commissioner, you’re going to have to tell the Victorian government to log the central highlands far less and not put cattle in alpine grazing areas,” he said. “You’ll also have to tell the Tasmanian government to control sugar gliders, because they are chewing their way through swift parrots.

“You will need to be able to say these things as that’s what the science tells us. The role will need to be endowed with the balls to take on whatever state and territory and ensure that changes are made.”

Experts: do more to save species
CEED Science Alert 27 Nov 13;

Three leading Australian environmental scientists have called for a substantial change to the way the world responds to wildlife that is going extinct.

In a paper provocatively entitled “Counting the books while the library burns”, the researchers produce evidence that many wildlife programs round the world are monitoring species to the point of extinction – often without taking the necessary action to save them.

Professor David Lindenmayer and Dr Maxine Piggott of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and the Australian National University, and Assoc. Professor Brendan Wintle of CEED and the University of Melbourne warn in the journal Frontiers of Ecology that some conservation programs are standing by and watching species die out.

Their work, funded through Australia’s National Environmental Research program (NERP), highlights the growing challenge of saving almost 20,000 endangered animals, birds and reptiles from extinction – and proposes a new action plan.

“Of the 63,837 species assessed worldwide using the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List criteria, 865 are extinct or extinct in the wild and 19,817 are listed as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable to extinction,” the researchers say. “Since the start of the 21st century alone, at least 10 species of vertebrates are known to have gone extinct, although this is likely to be a substantial underestimate.”

Prof. Lindenmayer says that monitoring is vital to effective conservation, to understand the ecology as well as the numbers of a species – but monitoring alone is not enough, especially if it shows the species is in decline.

The team’s study cites 34 cases – mainly mammals and amphibians – from all around the world where the species became locally or totally extinct while it was being monitored. Examples include the Channel Island Fox, the Vancouver Island Marmot, the West African Black Rhino and the Christmas Island Pipistrelle bat.

They also used the case of Booderee National Park, in NSW, where the greater glider – which was originally quite common, underwent a disastrous decline and disappeared totally in 2007. This followed the local extinction of the yellow-bellied glider in the same park in the 1980s.

“The original monitoring plan for Booderee did not include trigger points for action – maybe because of lack or resources or uncertainty over why these animals were becoming extinct. But on the basis of this experience we feel it is possible to include triggers in many future conservation monitoring programs,” Prof. Lindenmayer says.

The team is now recommending a new approach be adopted globally:

• All conservation monitoring programs should contain well-defined trigger points for pre-planned action
• Management intervention should occur when it becomes clear that a monitored species is in decline
• Conservation science should document and learn from cases where there was a failure to save a species.

“We have drawn attention to some cases where a species was monitored passively until it suffered local, regional, or global extinction due to the absence of a pre-planned intervention program,” the team say.

“This is not meant as a criticism of ecological or conservation monitoring, since these are critical for understanding the ecology of a species, determining its threat status, and evaluating conservation options. However, our analysis indicates that many existing conservation monitoring programs are not as effective as they could be at collecting information and prompting relevant actions.”

In future, they recommend, all monitoring programs should be designed to trigger specific management action designed to save the species at risk.

The Environmental Decisions Hub is funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program (NERP). The Hub’s research aims to assist Australian governments in their environmental management and decision making.

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David Cameron to tackle illegal wildlife trade with global summit

Fifty heads of state invited to London summit, which will aim to halt surging demand for elephant and rhino products
Share 71
Damian Carrington 26 Nov 13;

David Cameron will host the highest level global summit to date on combating the illegal wildlife trade in London.

The summit next February, to which 50 heads of state have been invited, aims to tackle the $19bn-a-year illegal trade in endangered animals, such as elephants and rhinos, by delivering an unprecedented political commitment along with an action plan and the mobilisation of resources.

The Prince of Wales and his son the Duke of Cambridge, who will both attend the summit, have previously highlighted the strong links between wildlife poaching, international criminal syndicates and terrorism and threats to national security. "We face one of the most serious threats to wildlife ever, and we must treat it as a battle – because it is precisely that," said Prince Charles in May.

Elephant ivory and rhino horn are worth more than illegal diamonds or gold, and the proceeds have used by rebel groups in African countries, such as al-Shabaab in

Somalia and the Lords resistance army in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Heads of state from many African countries are expected to attend and the countries where the products are sold, including China and Vietnam, will be represented, though the level of representation is not yet finalised.

The summit will be chaired by foreign secretary William Hague and environment secretary Owen Paterson. In September, Hague called the illegal trade "absolutely shocking" and said it was an "issue that affects us all." Paterson visited Kenya this month and saw elephants killed by poachers. He will visit China with Cameron next month.

The level of wildlife crime has soared in recent years, driven by demand form the rapidly expanding middle classes in Asia who value tiger, elephant and rhino products as status symbols.

In South Africa 13 rhinos were killed in 2007, but the tally to date in 2013 is 860. 2012 was the worst year for ivory seizures, with the equivalent of the tusks of 30,000 elephants confiscated.

There have also been efforts to tackle the popularity of shark fin soup in Asia, which is one of the reasons that around 100m sharks are killed annually.

Wildaid, a group that uses donated advertising to change public attitudes, has run a campaign on state TV in China featuring movie star Jackie Chan and basketball legend Yao Ming. against shark fin soup.

Prince Charles and William also visited London Zoo on Tuesday for a meeting with the conservation alliance United for Wildlife, whose seven member organsiations include the zoo, WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The royals discussed how new technology, such as drones, is being used to fight poaching, and toured the zoo's new tiger enclosure.

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Red List for Birds 2013: Number of Critically Endangered birds hits new high

Martin Fowlie BirdLife International 26 Nov 13;

The number of bird species listed as Critically Endangered has reached an all-time high with the release of this year’s Red List for birds by BirdLife International.

White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi, a secretive and unobtrusive sub-Saharan bird, is the latest species to join the growing list of those on the very edge of extinction. Destruction and degradation of its high altitude wet grassland habitat, including wetland drainage, conversion for agriculture, water abstraction, overgrazing by livestock and cutting of marsh vegetation, have driven it to this precarious state. Urgent action is now needed in both Ethiopia and South Africa to better understand the species’ ecology and to address these threats and save it from extinction.

“Almost 200 species of bird are now in real danger of being lost forever”, said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s Director of Science, Policy and Information. “They are being hit on multiple fronts. Habitat loss, agricultural changes, invasive species and climate change are the principle threats. Without these problems being addressed the list will continue to grow.”

Critically Endangered is the highest risk category of the IUCN Red List of threatened species, comprising those that are facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola has declined catastrophically over recent years due to uncontrolled trapping in its wintering grounds in southern China and South-East Asia. This once-common species, which was listed as Least Concern as recently as 2000, has been uplisted three times in the past decade alone, and is now considered Endangered – just one step away from becoming the next addition to the Critically Endangered list.

However, there is also good news and real signs that conservation action works.

Two species of albatross - one of the most threatened of the planet’s bird families – are now considered to be at a lower risk of extinction after increases in their populations.

“Black-browed and Black-footed Albatrosses have both been downlisted to lower Red List categories”, said Andy Symes, BirdLife’s Global Species Officer. “There is still some way to go, but this gives us great hope for turning around the fortunes of other albatrosses.”

“Bycatch in fisheries is the main threat, and efforts are underway in many longline and trawl fleets worldwide to reduce the numbers killed. If we can keep this up, there is real hope that the Black-browed and Black-footed Albatross will set a trend for the future.”

On the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues, two species – Rodrigues Fody Foudia flavicans and Rodrigues Warbler Acrocephalus rodericanus – have also been downlisted as a result of conservation action. Habitat protection and reforestation, spurred by the need for watershed protection, have been key to the recovery of these species, aided by the recent absence of catastrophic cyclones. Although much reforestation has involved exotic trees, native ecosystem rehabilitation has been started at some sites. These are fenced to exclude grazing animals and woodcutters, exotic plants removed and native species replanted, and there has been an accompanying public awareness campaign.

“This year’s Red List is a mix of good and bad news, but once again it shows that conservation groups around the globe are succeeding in saving species and preventing extinction – and these committed efforts now need to be greatly scaled up”, concluded Dr Bennun.

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Six found trespassing on state land

An anti-littering volunteer, five students and some fishermen were questioned by the police at a stretch of beach near the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Nov 13

An anti-littering volunteer and five students who went to Tanah Merah to do research and clean up a stretch of the beach have landed in hot water with the authorities.

They were stopped and questioned by the police for trespassing on state land, and are now waiting to hear if they will be prosecuted.

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) volunteer Marcus Tay, 31, told The Sunday Times he was there last month conducting a usual site recce when the police stopped him for trespassing.

The group of five students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and several fishermen, who were also on the same stretch of beach, were questioned as well.

Mr Tay said he had seen anti-trespassing signs in the area but did not think they applied to where the group was.

"We've been cleaning up this area since 2010, and every time we go, we inform the National Environment Agency (NEA) so they can dispose of the rubbish we collect," he said.

The police confirmed that they have investigated Mr Tay and five students for wilful trespassing at the site on Oct 6. A spokesman said the matter had been referred to the Attorney-General's Chambers.

She said uninhabited coastal lands such as that Tanah Merah stretch had been used by smuggling syndicates to bring in contraband and illegal immigrants.

"These criminal elements often masquerade as members of the public, such as fishermen, to evade detection," she added. More importantly, she said, terrorist groups may exploit any vulnerability and deploy similar modus operandi to infiltrate the country.

In a joint statement with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the NEA, the police said fences and signs have gone up at prominent points along the coast to indicate areas that are out of bounds to the public, and more such signs went up in September this year.

But Mr Tay and NUS biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, who supervises the five students, said they had not been told before that the area was out of bounds.

Mr Sivasothi, who is also co-ordinator for the ICCS group, said he intends to seek clarification from the SLA about access to other state land that the volunteers clean, including at Lim Chu Kang, Pasir Ris and Selimang beaches, and the Sungei Pandan, Kranji East and Lim Chu Kang mangroves.

"The volunteers just want to help, and their enthusiasm needs opportunities and space," he said. "And if we don't do it, marine trash accumulates on our shores and hurts marine life."

The police said members of the public should approach the relevant authority for permission to enter restricted land, and such requests will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Under the law, any person who wilfully trespasses on state land without a satisfactory excuse can be fined up to $1,000.

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 Nov 13

“Every little bit adds up” – an encouraging two minute video to “Keep Our Waterways Clean” from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Dance of the Harlequin
from Bird Ecology Study Group

hawk cuckoo @ east coast parkway, singapore 24Nov2013
from sgbeachbum

Leatherback sea turtle no longer Critically Endangered
from news by Jeremy Hance

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Governments urged to put in place plans to resolve environmental problems

Lynda Hong Channel NewsAsia 25 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has urged governments to put in place long-term master plans and policies to help resolve global environmental problems.

Speaking at the Responsible Business Forum on Monday, Dr Balakrishnan said: “Without that regulatory certainty, climate change and global warming or transboundary haze at the regional level will not be resolved. Because at the end of the day, as companies, you all know how to make money.

“But one key thing which you demand from government is - tell me your rules, be certain, be stable.”

He added that governments must also be able to execute the plans and policies, including prosecuting businesses and individuals who flout the rules.

Having attended the UN climate talks in Poland recently, Dr Balakrishnan said he is pessimistic that the talks will eventually help to cut global carbon emissions. And that is partly due to the lack of political will to drive efforts.

- CNA/ms

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Indonesia: Asia Pulp and Paper criticized by WWF for tiger habitat loss

The Jakarta Post 24 Nov 13;

An environmental NGO has said natural forest clearance conducted by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and its supplier companies has affected the endangered Sumatran tiger.

World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia communication coordinator Desma Murni said in Jakarta on Sunday there were many forestry timber concession areas that overlapped with the habitat of the Sumatran tiger – most of them in areas not yet entitled to legal protection.

“As the concession holder, from the very beginning APP has not shown responsible conduct by felling trees in areas identified as the habitat of the protected species,” she said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Desma said the Sumatran tiger was the only tiger sub-species left in Indonesia. Based on 2004 official data, she said, only around 400 Sumatran tigers could be found in their natural habitat and the number continued to decline due to excessive land clearing.

“If we continue to let this happen, the Sumatran tiger as a top predator will go extinct,” said Desma.

She said APP may no longer conduct forest clearance activities in the area. However, according to Eyes on the Forest (EoF) reports, as of April, the pulp and paper industry had continuously carried out natural forest clearance even after it signed a commitment to stop clearing natural forests.

Desma said most of APP’s industrial forest permit (HTI) concession areas, particularly in Sumatra, were located in peat lands, which used a drainage system as a water management system.

The company’s new forest conservation police (FCP) has indicated it will continue and/or carry out high conservation value (HCV) and high carbon stock (HCS) studies in areas that are both still heavily covered with forests and can produce natural timber.

“In fact, as we know, most of APP’s HTI concession areas have been cleared and converted into acacia plantations. It’s very unlikely there will be an evaluation of natural forests as stipulated in the HCV and HCS study plans,” she said.

Desma added the safety of Sumatran tigers and their existence in both the Kerumutan and Pulau Muda blocks remained a question due to APP’s lack of transparency in tackling human and animal conflicts. (ebf)

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Red List reveals conservation successes, but extinctions continue apace

Habitat destruction and human development causing decline of thousands of species, IUCN conservation thinktank warns
Damian Carrington The Guardian 26 Nov 13;

The blue-tongued forest giraffe, the national symbol of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is on the brink of extinction, according to the latest update to the Red List of threatened species. The stripy-legged creature, which appears on Congolese banknotes and is actually a species of okapi, has become another victim of the DRC's long-running war. But surveys reveal that conservation efforts have had a positive effect on ocean-roaming leatherback turtles and albatrosses, while a Californian fox has returned from the edge.

"This Red List update shows some fantastic conservation successes, from which we must learn," said Jane Smart, a director at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which compiles the list.

"However, the overall message remains bleak. With each update, whilst we see some species improving in status, there is a significantly larger number of species appearing in the threatened categories. The world must urgently scale up efforts to avert this devastating trend," she added.

The Red List now contains assessments of 71,500 species, including all mammals, birds and amphibians. The latest update added more than 1,000 species. Of the species understood well enough for a judgment to be made, more than a third are under threat. About half of known reptiles have been assessed and a third of fish, but only a fraction of invertebrates, plants and fungi.

Habitat destruction, hunting and the introduction of alien predators as a result of human activity are causing the greatest mass extinction of species on Earth since an asteroid strike wiped out the dinosaurs 65m years ago.

The shy forest giraffe is confined to the fast-disappearing and militia-filled forests of DRC, and its population is plummeting as its meat is prized. "It is revered in Congo as a national symbol but, sadly, DRC has been caught up in civil conflict and ravaged by poverty for nearly two decades," said Noëlle Kümpel, co-chair of the IUCN Giraffe and Okapi specialist group.

The animal, which has a prehensile blue tongue and zebra-like stripes on its behind, is extremely difficult to protect in an area rife with elephant poachers and illegal mining. In a notorious incident in 2012, armed rebels attacked the headquarters of the DRC's Okapi Wildlife Reserve and killed seven people and all 14 captive animals.

Other species whose prospects are plunging include the white-winged flufftail, a secretive African wetlands bird threatened by agriculture. "People treat wetlands as wasteland that needs to be drained," said Craig Hilton-Taylor, manager of the IUCN's Red List unit in Cambridge.

Assessments have been added for 24 Caribbean skinks – a type of lizard – but it may already be too late. "We went to look for them, but there is no trace," said Hilton-Taylor. Many may already be extinct, having fallen prey to mongooses that were themselves introduced to tackle an earlier alien predator: rats.

Among birds, the martial eagle – a sub-Saharan bird of prey – is struggling as it is shot and poisoned by farmers. Its numbers have plummeted by 60% in 20 years.

The decline of many species is linked to human development, but Hilton-Taylor warned that many people depended on wildlife. He highlighted bees and other pollinators believed to be declining globally. The IUCN has added assessments of 83 bumblebees and hundreds more are to follow. "Without pollinators, many food crops would not grow," he said.

Another example is aloe plants: "Virtually every aloe is used medicinally – if these species go extinct, then in poor countries, they have lost their source of primary healthcare."

A report in 2010 concluded that environmental destruction costs the world's economy trillions of dollars a year.

The recovering species highlighted have all benefited from conservation action. Leatherback turtles, a global species, have been plagued by the ease with which their beach-laid eggs can be poached and by being drowned in industrial fishing nets. Beach protection has led the Atlantic population to double in two years, although the Pacific population remains in severe decline.

Another ocean species that roams for thousands of miles, the albatross, has seen some recovery after action against long-line fisheries. The extended lines of multiple baited hooks attracted and ensnared many thousands a year. The black-browed albatross, centred around the Falkland Islands, and the black-footed albatross, concentrated around the Hawaiian chain, have moved down to "near threatened" status.

Another success is the island fox, which had been lost from some of the southern Californian islands on which it lived, but has staged a remarkable comeback. A captive-breeding and reintroduction programme was accompanied by vaccination against canine diseases, which had decimated numbers. Golden eagles, which prey on the fox, were also relocated as part of the plan.

"The trend is that things are generally getting worse," said Hilton-Taylor. "But it is possible to turn things around, and do it quickly."

Forest giraffe joins growing number of threatened species
IUCN 26 Nov 13;

The Okapi – a national symbol of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as the “forest giraffe” – and the sub-Saharan White-winged Flufftail – one of Africa’s rarest birds – are now on the brink of extinction, according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Two species of albatross, the Leatherback Turtle and the Island Fox native to California’s Channel Islands are showing signs of recovery.
A total of 71,576 species have now been assessed, of which 21,286 are threatened with extinction.

The update highlights serious declines in the population of the Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), a close relative of the giraffe, unique to the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The species is now Endangered, only one step away from the highest risk of extinction, with numbers dwindling across its range. Poaching and habitat loss, as well as the presence of rebels, elephant poachers and illegal miners, are the principal threats to its survival.

“The Okapi is revered in Congo as a national symbol – it even features on the Congolese franc banknotes,” says Dr Noëlle Kümpel co-chair of the IUCN SSC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group and manager of ZSL’s range-wide okapi conservation project. “Sadly, DRC has been caught up in civil conflict and ravaged by poverty for nearly two decades, leading to widespread degradation of Okapi habitat and hunting for its meat and skin. Supporting government efforts to tackle the civil conflict and extreme poverty in the region are critical to securing its survival.”

According to the update, almost 200 species of bird are now Critically Endangered, facing the highest risk of extinction. The White-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi), a small, secretive bird which occurs in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, is the latest species to join this category. Destruction and degradation of its habitat, including wetland drainage, conversion for agriculture, water abstraction, overgrazing by livestock and cutting of marsh vegetation, have driven it to this precarious state. Urgent action is now needed to better understand the species’ ecology and to address these threats.

Although the global population of the Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) - the largest of all living turtles – has improved from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable, the species continues to face serious threats at a subpopulation level. Leatherbacks are a single species, globally comprising seven biologically and geographically distinct subpopulations. The Northwest Atlantic Ocean Leatherback subpopulation is abundant and increasing thanks to successful conservation initiatives in the region. In contrast, the East Pacific Ocean subpopulation, which nests along the Pacific coast of the Americas, and the West Pacific Ocean subpopulation, found in Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, are both in severe decline due to extensive egg harvest and incidental capture in fishing gear. Targeted conservation efforts are needed to prevent their collapse.

This IUCN Red List update also brings good news for some of the species assessed. Two species of albatross - one of the most threatened of the planet’s bird families – are now at a lower risk of extinction due to increases in their populations. The Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys) has moved from Endangered to Near Threatened and the Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) has moved from Vulnerable to Near Threatened. By-catch in fisheries is the main threat to these species.

The Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis), previously Critically Endangered, has also improved in status and is now listed as Near Threatened. Found on six of the California Channel Islands off the coast of southern California, four Island Fox subspecies suffered catastrophic declines in the mid 1990s mainly due to disease and predation by non-native species, such as the Golden Eagle. All four subspecies have now recovered or are approaching recovery. This is mainly due to successful conservation work of IUCN Member the U.S. National Park Service, which included captive breeding, reintroduction, vaccination against canine diseases and relocation of Golden Eagles.

“This IUCN Red List update shows some fantastic conservation successes, which we must learn from, for future conservation efforts,” says Jane Smart, Global Director, IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group. “However, the overall message remains bleak. With each update, whilst we see some species improving in status, there is a significantly larger number of species appearing in the threatened categories. The world must urgently scale up efforts to avert this devastating trend.”

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Yellow-breasted bunting 'endangered' as Guangdong diners refuse to stop eating it

Li Jing South China Morning Post 25 Nov 13;

It's a delicacy sold for a few dozen yuan amid hushed tones in certain markets and restaurants in Guangdong province. Sellers turn away customers who do not speak the local dialect - anyone caught can be fined as much as 100,000 yuan (HK$126,400).

Despite the threat of penalties, the market for yellow-breasted bunting, a migratory bird that flies from Europe to China for the winter, thrives on the mainland. Conservationists say poaching to supply the demand is a leading cause of the sharp decline in the protected species' numbers over the past decade.

The bird was today listed as endangered by the main global body that categorises the survival status of the planet's species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The union has two higher categories - critical and extinct in the wild - before a species is deemed extinct.

Guangdong made the bird a key protected species in 2001 - at a time when the union had it listed in its lowest category of "least concern".

But its numbers appear to have fallen rapidly. Experts are unsure exactly how many are left, but BirdLife International, a conservation group headquartered in Britain, has cited one study published in 2009 that estimates there were no more than about 10,000 migrating in China every season.

Another study published last year estimated the species' numbers had dropped by at least 70 per cent in European Russia in the decade to 2010.

Often known as "rice birds", the yellow-breasted bunting is a popular delicacy in southern China, especially Guangdong, where locals believe eating the animal can boost their sexual vitality and detoxify their bodies.

"The very rapid recent population decline in the yellow-breasted bunting is believed to be primarily driven by trapping at migration and, in particular, wintering sites in southern China and Southeast Asia," said Andy Symes, global species officer with BirdLife.

The birds usually flocked and roosted in large numbers in reed beds, making them vulnerable to poachers' nets, he said.

"They are mostly taken for food … [The practice] was formerly thought to be restricted to a small area of southern China, but has now become more widespread and popular owing to increasing affluence" among mainlanders, Symes said.

The deterioration or loss of their winter habitats due to changing agricultural practices could also be driving down numbers, Symes said.

The Guangzhou Daily reported last week yellow-breasted bunting was still sold discreetly at certain restaurants and markets in Dongguan, at an average price of 30 to 45 yuan.

"The birds are available when local people ask for them," said Tian Yangyang, a campaigner with Beijing-based environmental group Nature University.

"Information about such shops is spread by word of mouth among locals. But the dealers get suspicious and turn down outsiders who do not speak the local dialect. It then only becomes more difficult to uncover the illegal behaviour."

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China to launch two new carbon trading exchanges

David Stanway PlanetArk 26 Nov 13;

China will launch two new pilot carbon trading schemes this week in Beijing and Shanghai as it strives to cut soaring rates of greenhouse gas, reduce choking smog and determine the best system for a nationwide roll-out.

China, the world's biggest source of climate-changing carbon emissions, is under domestic pressure from its population to counter air pollution and has pledged to cut the 2005 rate of CO2 emissions per unit of GDP growth by 40-45 percent by 2020.

As U.N.-led climate talks stumbled in Warsaw last week, the country's chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua was keen to push the country's CO2 cutting credentials, challenging developed nations to match the efforts being made by China to tackle global warming.

The new platforms, which will force industrial firms to buy credits to cover any CO2 they emit above allocated quotas, also underscore Beijing's commitment to "market mechanisms" to slow emissions growth, in line with an ambitious raft of reforms outlined earlier this month.

"It is definitely a move in the right direction, but there are concerns about activity -- these are pilot schemes and are used as a learning experience, and local governments might not be particularly concerned by volumes," said Shawn He, a climate lawyer with the Hualian legal practice in Beijing.

Trading is likely to start slowly as the government treads cautiously and tries to learn lessons from Europe, where an excess of credits has left carbon prices in the doldrums.

Hualian's He said there were concerns how effective the pilot schemes would be, as no binding carbon caps would be imposed on enterprises and there were no legal means of forcing them to participate.


China's government hopes climate targets will help meet other policy goals on pollution, sustainable development and industrial restructuring.

The pilot markets would not only allow China to reduce CO2 but would also help "upgrade industries", Xie said in Warsaw last week.

Officials have suggested carbon credits could provide a financial incentive to close down inefficient steel or cement plants. Closures would free up the carbon credits to sell on the market.

The schemes are expected to draw in some of the country's largest companies, including leading steelmaker Baoshan Iron and Steel in Shanghai. The Beijing exchange will include oil giant Sinopec's Yanshan refinery, coal miner Shenhua Group and giant utilities like Huaneng.

While the fines for noncompliance are minimal, Hualian's He acknowledged the state-owned companies are expected to participate fully given political pressure to take part and the close relationship with local governments.

In the first phase, credits will be distributed to member firms free of charge, meaning participants will face additional costs only if they exceed their quotas and have to buy.

The Beijing platform is expected to force bigger polluters to buy more credits in coming years.

China is set to launch seven pilot carbon trading schemes in total, with one already in operation in the southeast city of Shenzhen. Another platform will be established for the province of Guangdong before the end of the year, and another three are due to go into operation in Hubei province and the cities of Tianjin and Chongqing next year.

Officials have said China's policy on emissions markets has been to "let a hundred flowers bloom" and see which one works best before a nationwide scheme is established.

Each regional-level platform has ambitions to dominate nationwide trade, with the Shenzhen platform already branding itself as the China emissions exchange and hoping its early start will give it an advantage.

"We don't know how all the schemes will develop but if I have to choose one I would look to Shanghai -- it is the most commercially friendly and active city in the country and is where market mechanisms will work the best," said He.

(Additional reporting by Kathy Chen; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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Team flocks to collect dead birds for research

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times 26 Nov 2013;

Have you spotted a dead bird? Then undergraduate David Tan is your man.

The 24-year-old promises to "drop everything and rush down" to collect the carcass.

The self-proclaimed snatcher of dead birds explained in a widely shared Facebook post earlier this month why he is a bag man for science.

His work is part of a wide-ranging new effort here to understand bird evolution, conservation and disease, and how this relates to and impacts humans.

And no bird is too common for the cause.

"While mynahs and sparrows might seem common and worthless", future research projects may require DNA extracts from their carcasses, he said.

He is part of the Avian Genetics Laboratory at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Set up in January, it aims to build up a repository of winged creatures' genetic material to better understand their evolution and ecology.

The lab's freezer is full of local species such as the Japanese sparrowhawk and red-legged crake, and the researchers have so far amassed records of more than 50 species.

The lab's head, Assistant Professor Frank Rheindt, said the data could be used to identify species in danger of extinction due to poorer genetic diversity, which could help guide conservation efforts.

Dr Rheindt, who is with the university's Department of Biological Sciences, said a large part of the lab's analyses has become feasible only in recent years due to technological advances that allow genes to be sequenced faster and more cheaply.

The 36-year-old has been studying birds for more than a decade, including at Harvard University before he came to NUS.

"When I finished my PhD at the University of Melbourne in Australia in 2008, I had worked for five years on two genes for 80 birds," he said. That is about one-millionth of a bird genome.

"With enough funding, my students could now do whole genomes in one afternoon."

Remarkably, the team is doing its work without sacrificing a single live bird.

The team collects flesh samples from the dead birds and gets blood from live birds in the field through a tiny prick on the underside of a wing.

Dr Rheindt told The Sunday Times that the impact of human activity on nature can be tracked by studying samples of the same bird species across time.

The researchers also study dead and living birds across the region to find out how they may have evolved, and to better understand their travel and mating patterns.

In Singapore, examining the same species across green pockets allows them to gauge how successful eco-links are - and which birds are on an extinction clock.

Dr Rheindt explained that the country's rapid development after the Japanese Occupation led to fragmented habitats. Trapped in small spaces, some birds may have bred within their own families.

"It's extinction with a time lag. It takes a few decades for everyone in the little patch to become cousins." Once that happens, the genetic defects start to pile up as the in-breeding continues, until the offspring are either stillborn or have disabilities and die soon after birth.

This may explain why some species such as the white-bellied woodpecker, which has not been seen for almost a decade, may have become extinct here, he said.
"We call some species 'the living dead'. They may be alive but they are functionally dead because their offspring will become unviable."

Another reason to make sure the birds have high genetic diversity is to protect people.

"A healthy biodiversity could mean that fewer birds are susceptible to the same disease, which could lessen the risk of the disease jumping over to humans," he said.

The lab's partners at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School are researching this issue. The Avian Genetics Laboratory's work for the school follows strict safety guidelines and is done in coordination with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the National Parks Board.

He added that bird flu has been around for a long time, even though recent chicken-rearing practices for the meat and egg trade may be increasing the instances of it crossing over to people.

Call Mr Tan on 9176-8971 if you spot a dead bird.

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U.N. talks limp towards global 2015 climate deal

Stian Reklev and Susanna Twidale PlanetArk 25 Nov 13;

Almost 200 countries on Saturday kept alive hopes for a global deal in 2015 to fight climate change after overcoming disputes on greenhouse gas emissions cuts and aid for poor nations at a meeting widely criticised as lacking urgency.

Governments agreed that a new deal in 2015 would consist of a patchwork of national offers to curb emissions, and would blur a 20-year-old distinction between the obligations of rich and poor nations.

The two-week meeting also set up a new Warsaw International Mechanism to help the poor cope with loss and damage from heatwaves, droughts, floods, desertification and rising sea levels - although rich nations refused to pledge new cash.

Still, many said Warsaw had fallen short of what was needed.

"We did not achieve a meaningful outcome," said Naderev Sano, a Philippines delegate who had been fasting throughout the meeting to urge action in sympathy with victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 5,000 people.

No major nation offered tougher action to slow rising world greenhouse gas emissions and Japan backtracked from its carbon goals for 2020, after shutting down its nuclear industry in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.


Environmentalists walked out on Thursday, exasperated by lack of progress. Rich nations are preoccupied with reviving their weak economies rather than climate change.

"The actions that have been agreed are simply inadequate when compared with the scale and urgency of the risks that the world faces from rising levels of greenhouse gases, said Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics.

The negotiators agreed that a new global deal, due to be agreed in Paris 2015 and to enter into force from 2020, would be made up of what they called "intended nationally determined contributions" from both rich and poor nations.

Until now, rich nations that have emitted most greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution have been expected to take the lead with "commitments" to cut emissions while the poor have been granted less stringent "actions".

"In the old system you had this firewall between commitments and actions, now there is one word for all," European Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said. "There are many ways to Paris that would be more beautiful and faster."

The Warsaw deal called on those nations able to do so to put forward their plans by the first quarter of 2015 to give time for a review before a summit in Paris at the end of the year.

Under the last climate pact, the Kyoto Protocol, only the most developed countries were required to limit their emissions - one of the main reasons the United States refused to accept it, saying rapidly growing economies like China and India should also take part.

Until Saturday, the only concrete measure to have emerged in Warsaw after two weeks was an agreement on new rules to protect tropical forests, which soak up carbon dioxide as they grow.

Developed nations, which promised in 2009 to raise aid to $100 billion a year after 2020 from $10 billion a year in 2010-12, rejected calls to set targets for 2013-19.

A draft text merely urged developed nations to set "increasing levels" of aid.

(Additional reporting by Nina Chestney and Michael Szabo; Writing by Alister Doyle; Editing by Andrew Roche)

U.N. agrees multi-billion dollar framework to tackle deforestation
Stian Reklev PlanetArk 25 Nov 13;

U.N. negotiators on Friday agreed rules on financing forest projects in developing nations, paving the way for multi-billion dollar investments from governments, funding agencies and private firms in schemes to halt deforestation.

The agreement on "results-based" funding for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) was a rare breakthrough at the climate talks in Warsaw, where negotiators are struggling to make progress in discussions on emissions cuts and climate change aid.

The deal was "another big step forward", said Ed Davey, the British minister for energy and climate change.

Under the new rules, the fledgling Green Climate Fund will play a key role in channeling finance for projects to host governments, who in turn must set up national agencies to oversee the money.

Money will flow into host-country coffers when they can prove they have reduced carbon emissions without harming local communities or biological diversity.

Nations also agreed rules on how to measure and verify the emissions cuts from forest projects.

Deforestation has played an increasingly important role in climate negotiations, because the loss of forests accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions that scientists blame for global warming.

The Norwegian government has already paid out $1.4 billion in bilateral deals with nations such as Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guyana and Indonesia. The World Bank, the Global Environment Facility and a growing number of private-sector firms have also launched projects.

The governments of Britain, Norway and the United States earlier this week allocated $280 million to a World Bank-led fund operating REDD projects.

But a common set of rules for projects will provide regulatory certainty and draw more funds from investors, observers say.

"This sends a positive signal to national governments and to funding agencies," said Rosalind Reeve, a forestry expert with the Ateneo School of Government.

The framework will be formally adopted along with other decisions at the Poland talks, which delegates expect will run over time and might not be concluded until Sunday morning.

(Additional reporting by Susanna Twidale; editing by David Evans)

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