Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jan 13

from The annotated budak

kingfishers & herons @ seletar - Jan2013
from sgbeachbum

Lessons From Butterfly Mimicry 1 Feb 2013, Friday: 4pm @ LT20: Dr Krushnamegh Kunte on Natural Selection and Evolution
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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Helping crabs survive could pave way for farming

David Ee Straits Times 29 Jan 13;

FIRST, Singapore had SG Fish - locally farmed fish that Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan championed last month.

Now it could have SG Crab.

Researchers at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) have embarked on a two-year project to improve the survival rate of young mud crabs, whose adults go into what many consider to be Singapore's national dish - chilli crab.

They aim to make them sustainable enough so that they could be farmed here to supply local seafood restaurants - which currently rely on imports.

Singapore imported over 6,000 tonnes of crabs last year, according to figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. They did not have figures specific to mud crabs.

Resorts World Sentosa is committing $20,000 to the project through its Marine Life Fund, which supports marine conservation and research efforts.

The polytechnic's researchers will focus on optimising conditions for mud crab larvae survival, by removing nitrates - a product of their waste that accumulates in the water.

They intend to do this by introducing single-celled plants - called phytoplankton - into the water to absorb the nitrates as nutrients. TP aims to have this water recirculation system developed by early 2015.

This might then pave the way for interested farmers to farm mud crabs successfully in our waters, said the manager for aquaculture research at TP's School of Applied Science Wee Kok Leong.

At least four fish farmers have told him that they are keen to take on crab farming to diversify their businesses, he added.

"There are also a lot of people interested in continuing to consume mud crabs. It's a species that is very topical, very desirable, so it would have maximum impact if we do it well."

Seafood importers could also benefit from a cheaper local supply of crabs, he said.

Mr Alvin Tay, 56, who owns CJ Life Seafood Company, imports mud crabs from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines.

A kilo that cost $15 five years ago now costs close to $20, he said, adding that the lack of a local supply meant foreign exporters charge a premium.

He backed the idea of local crab farms to lower his costs, but was sceptical that farmed crabs would match the quality of imported wild-caught crabs.

"Quality is still the most important thing," he said.

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Indonesia: Killer Landslides Blamed on Rain, Logging

Jakarta Globe 28 Jan 13;

Torrential rains across Indonesia triggered a pair of fatal landslides in Sumatra and another one in Bogor on the weekend and prompted flood evacuations in parts of Kalimantan, reigniting debate over the causes for wet-season fatalities.

In the latest incident, seven people were killed and three injured in a landslide in Agam, West Sumatra, early on Sunday.

“Seven people were found dead and three others were injured ... and 18 were missing,” National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a text message, adding that 15 houses were buried by the landslide.

A day earlier, a landslide killed four workers at a drilling site belonging to state-controlled Pertamina Geothermal Energy in Kerinci, Jambi, the company said in a statement.

“The landslide killed four people, injured five people, and left one person missing. All victims were workers who were drilling,” the statement said.

In Bogor over the weekend, six people died in a landslide. The incident was triggered by torrential downpours, burying seven houses on a ravine in Cipayung, officials said.

“Some of the victims were found buried under ruins of buildings, and others were under the landslide,” said Budi Aksomo, an officer with the local BNPB office.

The identities of the victims in the three landslides had not been released as of late on Sunday.

Illegal logging blamed

The fatalities reveal the human cost of some of the problems that bedevil Indonesia’s development. Inadequate and poorly maintained infrastructure leaves city-dwellers vulnerable to floods, while failure to police rampant illegal logging leaves some rural communities exposed.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) on Sunday blamed the severity of recent landslides following flooding on illegal logging, which allowed the topsoil in the hilly areas to easily wash away with the rain.

T.M. Zulfikar, director of the Aceh unit of Walhi, said that if illegal logging is allowed to continue, “don’t be surprised to see even worse disasters unfold in the future.”

“The government must reforest the areas that are in critical condition, especially in upstream areas,” he added.

The heavy downpours have prompted havoc in parts of Kalimantan.

In Central Kalimantan’s North Barito district, floodwaters from the rain-swollen Barito River inundated more than 12,000 homes and 60 schools over the weekend.

Rising water levels, which reached as high as two meters, forced 1,300 families to flee their homes and seek refuge at government shelters or with relatives. But many others chose to stay put for fear that their homes will be looted if they leave.

In East Kalimantan, the government of Balikpapan on Sunday warned residents to prepare for extreme weather, including torrential rains and strong winds, over the next two months.

Balikpapan city spokesman Sudirman Djayaleksana said that while the administration had been preparing for the worst, people should also be alert to avoid casualties.

“We call on people to stay home, and avoid dangerous places such as rivers, hills and forests. Those who live in such areas should always be on alert to be evacuated,” he said.

Sudirman said that the administration had coordinated with police and the military so that they could quickly deploy their officers in case of emergency.

“We have identified 20 areas most prone to landslide. We hope there will be no more casualties,” he said.

Poor sewage

Experts say that many cities across the country lacked effective sewage systems, a problem that meant they were particularly vulnerable to high water levels during the rainy season.

Trisakti University urban planning expert Yayat Supriyatna said on Sunday that cities need to gradually overhaul their sewage systems to cope with the growing population and burgeoning economy. This would involve increasing the size of catchment areas converted into housing areas.

The growing debate over preparations for the wet season follow a spate of fatalities linked to the inundation.

Heavy rains in Jakarta this month has resulted in 32 deaths and, at their peak, forced nearly 46,000 people to flee their inundated homes. The floods also exposed problems in the city’s transportation system, with several key roads under water and the TransJakarta bus network unable to operate for most of a day.

In West Sumatra last month, a 61-year-old woman an her two granddaughters were killed when a landslide buried a house in South Solok, several hours after heavy rain hit the area.

On the same day, heavy rain also triggered a landslide and floods in the West Sumatra districts of Pasaman, Agam and Tanah Datar.

Aceh has also been hit by flooding and landslides that have killed several people in the past year.

In March 2012, a flash flood in the Sumatran province’s Tangse district killed 11 people. The flood-prone area sits within a river basin.

Seismic threat

In West Java last month, two miners were killed when landslide swept away a village along the bank of Cipanengah River in Cisolok, an area near Mount Buleud, an active volcano.

The Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center said at the time that the area had medium to high levels of seismic activity, making it prone to earthquakes that loosened the soil, amplifying the impact of landslides.

In Balikpapan last May, a woman and three children died and three others were injured after a landslide brought down a hillside home.

The massive floods that triggered the landslide had paralyzed the city, leaving many roads in the city inundated after more than seven hours of heavy rain.

Flights from the city’s Sepinggan Airport were also disrupted.


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Industry key to conserving forests as demand for wood projected to triple by 2050

WWF 28 Jan 13;

Frankfurt, Germany — By 2050, rising population and demand, as well as an increase in use of wood for bioenergy, could triple the amount of wood society takes from forests and plantations per year, according to the latest instalment of WWF’s Living Forests Report. The report, presented today at the international paper conference Paperworld in Frankfurt, projects paper production and consumption may double in the next three decades, and overall wood consumption may triple.

“A scenario of tripling the amount of wood society takes from forests and plantations needs to motivate good stewardship that safeguards forests – otherwise we could destroy the very places where wood grows,” says Rod Taylor, Director of WWF’s Global Forest Programme. “Wood, if sourced from well managed forests or plantations, is a renewable material with many advantages over non-renewable alternatives. The key challenge for forest-based industries is how to supply more wood products with less impact on nature. This challenge spans the whole supply chain, from where and how wood is grown and harvested to how wisely and efficiently it is processed, used and reused.”

WWF’s forest conservation target is zero net deforestation and forest degradation by 2020, which means no overall loss of forest area or forest quality. The target requires the loss of natural forests to be reduced to near zero, down from the current 13 million hectares a year, and held at that level indefinitely.

“WWF’s research suggests that it is possible to achieve zero net deforestation and forest degradation while sustaining a vibrant wood products industry that meets people’s needs,” says Emmanuelle Neyroumande, Manager of WWF International´s global pulp and paper work. “But the longer we delay our actions the more difficult and costly the solutions will be. We need wiser consumption, more efficiency, responsible forestry practices, good governance and more transparency.”

For paper in particular, the Living Forests Report outlines a variety of solutions:

More recycling in countries with low recovery rates: Even with higher global paper consumption in the future, society would need less virgin material than today if recycling rates increased. A 2020 scenario shows that an increase of paper production by 25 per cent could still require less virgin fibre input if the current global level of 53 per cent recycled fibre use is increased to 70 per cent. Paper recovery rates vary greatly between countries. Therefore, efforts to increase recycling in countries with low recovery rates and high consumption growth have particular potential to reduce pressure on natural forests.

Resource efficiency and fairer consumption patterns: More efficient processing and manufacturing can help produce more products with a given amount of wood. Also, the current consumption patterns of rich nations (10 per cent of the world’s population consuming 50 per cent of the world’s paper) cannot sustainably be followed by developing countries. Richer nations can reduce wasteful paper use, while poorer nations need more paper for education, hygiene and food safety.

Plantations to reduce pressure on natural forests: Even with more frugal use and greater recycling and efficiency, net demand for wood is likely to grow. Maintaining near zero loss of natural forests after 2020, without significant reductions in consumption, would require up to 250 million hectares of new tree plantations by 2050, which is nearly double the amount of plantations today. Therefore, well-managed plantations, particularly on currently degraded land, contributing to restore ecosystems, will play an increasingly important role.

Well-managed forests: Growing demand will also certainly push production further into natural forests. The report indicates that by 2050 up to 25 per cent more forests might be commercially harvested than today. Forest certification will continue to be an important tool to improve forest management practices via a market driven mechanism.

The energy challenge: By 2050, annual wood demand for energy could reach 6-8 billion m3, which would require more than twice the wood removed for all uses today. This clearly poses a challenge for sustainable land-use planning. WWF sees an important role for bioenergy to provide diverse alternatives to fossil fuels, plus new incomes and increased energy security for rural communities. However, for these benefits to be realized, its use must be carefully planned, implemented and monitored for environmental and social sustainability. Badly managed bioenergy production can destroy valuable ecosystems, undermine food and water security, harm rural communities and prolong wasteful energy consumption.

Humanity will likely use more wood in more ways in the coming decades. Given the massive projected increase in wood and paper demand, forest-based industries are key to conserving forests. For wood to play a positive role in a “green” economy based on renewable resources, production forests need to be managed to the highest ecological and social standards, and the use and recovery of wood products must become more efficient.

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Big cities' heat can change temperatures a continent away: study

Deborah Zabarenko PlanetArk 29 Jan 13;

The energy big cities burn - mostly coal and oil to power buildings, cars and other devices - produces excess heat that can get into atmospheric currents and influence temperatures thousands of miles (km) away, a new study found.

The so-called waste heat that leaks out of buildings, vehicles and other sources in major Northern Hemisphere cities makes winters warmer across huge swaths of northern Asia and northern North America, according to a report published on Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

That is different from what has long been known as the urban-heat island effect, where city buildings, roads and sidewalks hold on to the day's warmth and make the urban area hotter than the surrounding countryside.

Instead, the researchers wrote, the excess heat given off by burning fossil fuels appears to change air circulation patterns and then hitch a ride on air and ocean currents, including the jet stream.

The burning of fossil fuels also sends climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

But study author Aixue Hu of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado said in a statement that the excess heat generated by this burning in cities could change atmospheric patterns to raise or lower temperatures far afield.

Some remote locations heat up by as much as 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C) as a result, the study said. But some parts of Europe cool off a bit, especially in autumn, because of the way urban waste heat changes atmospheric circulation.

The impact on global mean temperature is negligible, because the total amount of waste heat from human activities is only about one-third of one percent of the total amount of heat carried across high latitudes by air currents and oceans.

But this waste heat from cities and the way it moves around could help explain why some places are warmer in winter than climate computer models predict, the researchers said, and suggested that these models be adjusted to take this effect into account.

"We have seen this global warming of the high-latitude regions over the last 50 years," the study's lead author, Guang Zhang of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said by telephone. "But the computer models to date have not been able to account for all the warming observed."

By adding the influence of big cities' waste heat to their computer simulations, the researchers were able to find a likely cause for all that extra warmth, Zhang said.

(Reporting By Deborah Zabarenko)

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