Best of our wild blogs: 9 May 13

Announcement: Chek Jawa Boardwalk outing on 1 June - LIMITED PLACES AVAILABLE from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Clownfish Catfight
from Pulau Hantu

Daurian Redstart Casting Pellets
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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New Terminal 5 likely to be Changi Airport's biggest terminal

Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid Channel NewsAsia 8 May 13;

SINGAPORE: Observers believe the new Terminal 5 at Changi Airport will most likely be the airport's biggest terminal, with the capacity to handle between 30 and 50 million passengers a year.

And they expect the new terminal to contribute to a more seamless travel experience for passengers.

With four terminals by 2017, Changi Airport will be able to cater to more than 85 million passengers every year.

But another passenger terminal could be built at a site in Changi East to cater to more demand.

The area is located between the existing runway two and runway three which is being planned for co-civilian use from 2020. To make way for this, it's understood that the existing Changi Coast Road will have to go or be diverted.

Given the large space, observers believe Terminal 5, slated to be ready by next decade, could have about twice the handling capacity of the current Terminal 2, which can handle about 23 million passengers a year. The new terminal will also help boost Singapore's competitive edge.

Mr Gary Ho, senior lecturer of Aviation Management and Services at Temasek Polytechnic, said: "The trend now in the world is to have mega terminals. If you look at our airport, it's old fashioned - one small terminal. If you look at the new airports like Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong they all have big mega terminals now, so our new T5 will be a mega-terminal. It would make sense to finally have a mega-terminal and for Singapore Airlines to finally be in one terminal instead of across two terminals."

With the national carrier at Terminal 5, each alliance of airlines such as Sky Team or One World could also operate out of dedicated terminals.

If so, aviation experts say this will contribute to a more seamless travel experience.

Mr Leithen Francis, Asia editor of Aviation Week, said: "Going forward, I think if we got more terminals, we are going to see Sky Team at one terminal, One World at another and Star Alliance at another. We are not going to have a situation which we see at the moment where some Star Alliance carriers are at Terminal 2 and some at Terminal 1, and some at Terminal 3, and they kind of spread around.

"Because there are going to be so many terminals, it is conceivable that each alliance will be able to get their own terminals, in which case the members of that alliance will be able to have their gates near one another. They will be able to have their lounges near one another so that the passengers will have a much more seamless experience when you fly in on one airline and you transfer to another, which is part of the same alliance. It will be seamless, it will be quick and it will be easy."

Terminal 5 is also expected to have more self-service facilities and bigger lounges.

Mr Francis added: "One big trend of course is - terminals are becoming more lifestyle destinations. There's a lot more retail, dining options at airport terminals, so Terminal 5 will be able to take all those trends into account.

"It helps with Changi Airport's efforts to compete, because if people know that their experience at Changi Airport is going to be a better experience than in any other airports than if they want to transit, then they will prefer to transit through Changi."

Observers say it may also be necessary to have a Skytrain to transit passengers to and from Terminal 5.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has said that rising middle income groups in India and China mean that these countries will be markets of importance in the coming years.

And within Southeast Asia, the dynamic economies of Thailand and Indonesia are also driving sustained growth in travel demand, and he said Changi Airport should be well-poised to benefit from growth in these markets.

- CNA/de

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New study shows importance of IUCN’s Red List of Ecosystems

IUCN 8 Mat 13;

A new global standard in assessing environmental risk, the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, has been trialled on 20 ecosystems spanning six continents and three oceans.

"By knowing which ecosystems are tracking well and which ones are in trouble, governments, industries and local communities will be well-positioned to make smart investment decisions for sustainable environmental management,” says David Keith, leader of the study, published in the Public Library of Science's journal, PLoS ONE.

The development of the new risk assessment method is seen as a major scientific breakthrough for consistent environmental reporting. Modelled on the influential IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems will identify if an ecosystem is vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. “For the first time, we have a risk assessment method that is applicable worldwide across terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems,” says co-author Emily Nicholson of the University of Melbourne.

“Our goal is to assess all the ecosystems of the world by 2025 and IUCN will continue to do so for large geographical areas, such as continents and ocean basins. But our database is designed to also accommodate studies done at the level of a municipality, a country, or by ecosystem type, as illustrated in the case studies in the PLoS ONE article,” says Jon Paul Rodríguez, leader of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems project.

The remote mountain ecosystems of the Venezuelan Tepui are among those at least risk of collapse, according to the study. At the other extreme is the Aral Sea of central Asia, which collapsed during the 1980s and 1990s.

“The lessons from the Aral Sea assessment are sobering" says Richard Kingsford, Director of the Wetlands Centre and co-author of the study. "Not only were a host of species lost forever, but the ecosystem collapse led to socio-economic disaster."

The Aral Sea fisheries and shipping industry collapsed, while increasing respiratory and digestive illnesses and declining life expectancy are associated with dust storms generated from the dry sea bed.

Eight Australian ecosystems assessed in the trial fall between these extremes. Some of these ecosystems are already in rapid decline, while for others the threats are in the early stages and could more easily be addressed by policy and management decisions to maintain ecosystem diversity and functions.

"Sound environmental management is imperative to maintain functional ecosystems, their biological diversity and the ecosystem services upon which our economies and social wellbeing depends,” says Edmund Barrow, Head of IUCN’s Ecosystem Management Programme. "This is especially crucial for the developing world.”

The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems is expected to become a one-stop shop for economists, rural communities, local and national authorities, who can use these assessments to better manage the finite resources of our planet.

IUCN is seeking support to complete the global assessment of conservation status of the world’s terrestrial, freshwater, marine and subterranean ecosystems before 2025.

Notes to editors

An ecosystem refers to an area of land/water, the biodiversity that lives there and the associated physical environment (air, water, rocks etc.) that interact together. Examples of ecosystems include lakes, mountains, riverine systems and coral reefs.

For more information about the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, please visit:

Criteria for 'Red List' of Endangered Ecosystems Released
Becky Oskin Yahoo News 8 May 13;

With many of the world's ecosystems threatened or endangered by human activities like logging and urbanization, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published its criteria for a new "Red List" of endangered ecosystems today (May 8) in the journal PLOS ONE.

The list, which measures an ecosystem's risk of collapse, will be similar to the group's authoritative Red List of Endangered Species, which created internationally accepted criteria for assessing extinction risk.

"The Red Lists for species and ecosystems will together provide a more comprehensive view of the status of the environment and its biodiversity than either can on its own," said lead study author David Keith, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

"The Ecosystem Red List focuses on a high level of biodiversity, the habitats for species, as well as their interactions and dependencies, including food webs,” Keith told OurAmazingPlanet in an email interview. “These are difficult or impossible to address in Red List assessments of individual species, but very important for the functioning of ecosystems and the services that they provide to support our standards of living."

Through 20 case studies, Keith and an international team of biologists and conservationists designed criteria that could assess the health of all of Earth's varied ecosystems, from spring-fed limestone caves to sparkling coral reefs.

"This is really a unifying framework," said study co-author Richard Kingsford, also a professor at the University of New South Wales. "The most important thing here, from my point of view, is providing evidence that pushes governments to do things to protect these magnificent parts of the world."

Of the ecosystems examined in the case studies, the most endangered site was the Aral Sea. Drained by a massive irrigation project and further devastated by drought and pollution, the inland sea's ecosystem has collapsed — the equivalent of species extinction, the study concludes.The rest of the ecosystem threat categories mirror those for species: critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable and least concern.

North American ecosystems appearing in the case studies included Alaska's giant kelp forests; the Great Lakes' rare Alvar beaches, a legacy of glaciers grinding across the landscape; and Caribbean coral reefs.

The IUCN group that developed the Red List of Ecosystems criteria plans to formally propose the framework to IUCN leadership this year. Funding is in place for listing ecosystems in the Americas, and the organization hopes to have a global list in place by 2025.

Development of ecosystem and species Green Lists are also underway — the carrot to the Red Lists' stick — to help the IUCN promote conservation by rewarding successes.

Here are the 20 case studies published today, from most to least endangered, with the ecosystem type noted if available.

Aral Sea — Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan: freshwater, collapsed
Raised bogs — Germany: critically endangered
Gonakier forests — Senegal River floodplain: freshwater, critically endangered
Cape Sand Flats — Fynbos, South Africa: terrestrial, critically endangered
Coorong lagoons — Australia: freshwater/marine, critically endangered
Karst rising springs — Southern Australia: freshwater, critically endangered
Coastal sandstone upland swamps — Australia: freshwater, endangered/critically endangered
Swamps, marshes and lakes in the Murray-Darling Basin — Australia: freshwater, endangered/critically endangered
Giant kelp forests — Alaska: marine, endangered/critically endangered
Caribbean coral reefs — Caribbean: marine, endangered/critically endangered
Seagrass meadows — Southern Australia: marine, endangered-critically endangered
German tamarisk pioneer vegetation — Europe: freshwater, endangered
Coolibah-Black Box woodland — Australia: freshwater/terrestrial, endangered
Tapia forest — Madagascar: terrestrial, endangered
Semi-evergreen vine thicket — Australia: terrestrial, endangered
Great Lakes Alvars — United States and Canada: terrestrial, vulnerable/endangered
Reed beds — Europe: freshwater, vulnerable
Floodplain ecosystem of river red gum and black box — southeastern Australia: freshwater, vulnerable
Tepui shrubland - Venezuela: terrestrial, least concern
Granite gravel fields and sand plains - New Zealand: terrestrial, least concern

Australia makes list of ecosystems in bad shape
Tom Arup The Age 9 May 13;

Murray-Darling Basin lakes and the Coorong lagoons in South Australia would be deemed critically endangered under a new global system to rank the conservation status of ecosystems in the same way as threatened species.

In a paper published in the journal PLoS ONE on Thursday, a team of international scientists will outline the proposed system, which would act as a companion to the global ''red list'' of threatened species managed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Under the new system, conservation ratings would be given to ecosystems - a collection of plants and animals that exist in an area of land or water that interact - from critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, near threatened and least concern.

Instead of deeming an ecosystem extinct, as in an animal, they would instead be classified ''collapsed''. Examples of ecosystems include coral reefs, forests and lakes.

The team studied 20 ecosystems around the world to test the ecosystem red list. Eight were in Australia, including the Coorong lagoons, the swamps, marshes and lakes of the Murray-Darling Basin, and coolibah-black box woodlands.

The researchers found one collapsed ecosystem among the 20 studied - the Aral Sea, in Central Asia. Once one of the largest lakes in the world, the Aral Sea was drained for irrigation in the 1960s and has since nearly disappeared
In Australia, the Coorong lagoons, near the mouth of the Murray, were found to be critically endangered.

Professor David Keith, of the University of NSW, a lead author of the paper, said the Coorong scored the rating because of the pace of fish species and vegetation decline, along with a rise in salinity, during the millennium drought between 2000 and 2010.

He said heavy rains in recent years had given Australia a second chance to better manage the lagoons.

The lakes, swamps and marshes of the Murray-Darling were deemed endangered to critically endangered, while coolibah-black box woodlands were classified endangered.

Professor Keith said the new ranking system was important because not enough was known about most of the world's plant and animal species.

''Globally, only 3 per cent of species have so far been assessed for their status; we don't know much about the remainder yet,'' he said.

''What the ecosystem assessment does is step back to a more general assessment that includes some consideration of all the species that are components of those systems.

''So it is a more general way of casting the net across a much wider set of biodiversity and the species that make up an ecosystem.''

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