Best of our wild blogs: 17 May 13

Preparing for the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Singapore's Southern shores: got anything there meh?
from wild shores of singapore

Migratory birds, Bidadari and the threat to MacRitchie forest
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Random Gallery - Perak Lascar
from Butterflies of Singapore

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The Tricky Art of Saving Wild Species

Megan Gannon Yahoo News 17 May 13;

Some estimates put the planet on a pace to lose half of all species by the end of the century, and accordingly, conservation efforts in the United States have moved far beyond not shooting animals.

However it's not always clear if our new labors to save species are herculean or Sisyphean. The only hope for sustaining America's whooping cranes might be men dressed in white costumes flying ultralight aircraft. Rescuing a single humpback whale may inadvertently leave a unique butterfly habitat destroyed. To save endangered salmon, humans might find themselves hazing sea lions with firecrackers. The future of conservation looks more and more complicated as humans become entangled in the lives of animals, and people can't always tell if their efforts will ultimately be futile, or worse, do more harm than good.

In his new book "Wild Ones" (Penguin), which hit shelves today (May 16), Jon Mooallem tackles this maddening uncertainty through the eyes of people working with animals that have fallen victim to human whims — among them, birds dependent on people to survive, polar bears feeling the pressures of climate change, and butterflies boxed into a broken habitat. Mooallem, who is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, talked to LiveScience this week about his book and how to decide which species to save and why. The following is an interview, edited for length and clarity. [10 Species You Can Kiss Goodbye]

LiveScience: An underlying theme in your book seems to be that humans are uncomfortable with admitting how much power we have over other living things on the planet. Why do you think this is especially the case with animals?

Jon Mooallem: In just a very basic way, animals are the creatures we share the planet with. They're not like trees and rocks. They're not part of the scenery. They seem to have lives of their own going on, and that makes us really curious about them. And for a long time in human history, a lot of animals were also our competitors. We had to deal with predators. We were afraid of them, or we were trying to catch the same fish. Now we've evolved to a point where we really have so much of the planet on lockdown that even these rivals or these animals we've looked up to are under our control, and it's an incredibly uncomfortable thought. We shouldn't have that kind of purchase over these other beings.

LS: Some endangered species, like the Lange's metalmark butterfly featured in your book, are already living outside of their original context in the wild and, at this point, their extinction wouldn't seem to tear a big hole in the ecosystem. Is there an ultimate argument for saving a species even when their importance in the ecosystem is not so obvious?

JM: That gets at a core confusion in how we think about a lot of endangered species. Some of the arguments that we use to justify working to save these animals really aren't applicable and they really aren't the most powerful arguments either. Sometimes we try to make scientific arguments for species where it really comes down to a matter of emotion or even nostalgia. We'd like to preserve some of these things maybe because they're beautiful, maybe because we don't want to feel guilty about having exterminated them. I think those can be two really valid reasons for working very hard to save an endangered species. There's something gorgeous about trying to preserve something that we care about in an aesthetic sense or an emotional sense. Conservation, I find, doesn't really know how to talk through those arguments that well yet, and oftentimes people are wary of making them.

LS: Do you think revising our definition of wildness would change the way we look at animals and conservation?

JM: That's one of the real challenges right now, to figure out what it is we want to preserve when we say we want to preserve wilderness or wildness. The fact is that preserving a lot of species involves a kind of hands-on management that is completely at odds with our more romantic ideas of what wildness is. That doesn't necessarily mean that those projects aren't worth undertaking. I think it means we need to recalibrate our idea of what wildness is.

LS: You touch on how our emotional attachment to certain animals, like polar bears, colors the way we interact with them. Did you find yourself feeling sympathetic to any of your animal subjects?

JM: Amazingly, no. I was surprised by that. Doing reporting about wild animals actually involves very little exposure to actual animals. You always have to see the animal through the filter of the people who have access to it. I didn't write a book where I just wandered around the woods hoping to encounter a mountain lion. I went to the polar bear capital of the world in Manitoba to look at polar bears in a place where 10,000 tourists come every year to look at them. And in that context, I felt like the animals did become obscured somehow like they were part of the scenery — individual animals, in any case. When I went to the place where they were breeding endangered butterflies it was basically a ramshackle butterfly farm where the butterflies were in plastic deli containers on plants, so it was hard to form a one-on-one, gushy bond with the animals. [Endangered Beauties: Images of Polar Bears]

LS: Did any of your human subjects emerge as personal heroes for you?

JM: I found something heroic in almost everyone in the book. Maybe not a storybook form of heroism, where you see an obstacle and you work very hard and you surmount it. It's more like a Zen heroism, where you see an obstacle and you try to surmount it, and you realize that it's going to be much more complicated and perhaps never-ending, and you still try to surmount it anyway. I think that there's a real nobility in that. I think the people at Operation Migration — the nonprofit that flies ultralight aircraft in front of whooping cranes to teach them to migrate — I think that they're a really exaggerated example of that in the sense that they're spending all fall on the road and trying to get these birds to Florida amid tons of very idiosyncratic frustrations, but somehow they're still able to wake up in the morning at dawn and check the wind and see if it's a good day to fly. I think, not just in terms of being a conservationist but in terms of being a human being, there's some really valuable lessons to be learned there. [The 10 Most Incredible Animal Journeys]

LS: Did you have a different idea about how this book was going to turn out when you started writing it?

JM: I don't know that I had expectations that were upended or anything like that. I will say I was pretty amazed at how much chance played into the stories of these people and the stories of these animals. When you scratch the surface of a lot of these recoveries and try to figure out, 'How do we get to this point where there's only 40 some-odd butterflies on a piece of land?' or 'How did this project get so elaborate that we have men in costumes flying airplanes in front of birds?' — when you try to trace back those histories and bring them up to the present you realize there isn't any grand design. The endangered species are so reliant on humankind right now that simple things like when a committed lepidopterist who's working to save the butterflies suddenly gets a rash and he has to give up his work — little accidents like this, little freak occurrences, have humungous repercussions for the animals themselves.

LS: After immersing yourself in this world for a while, do you have any recommendations for conservationists or do you see any problems that they are going to need to confront in the near future?

JM: Conservation is a national project. Under the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws, it's a project that our government has taken on and thinks there's going to have to be some really substantive policy talks about how that work is going to move forward. Just from a sheer funding standpoint, there's going to be some difficult decisions to make as a lot of the threats against these species continue to ramp up, and the work gets even more involved and in some cases more futile. I don't know at this point that I have policy talking points because I think the problem right now is that we're just not asking the right questions in a lot of cases. It's not a matter of having the right answers but basic questions like, Why are we saving this particular creature? Are we saving it because we want it to be part of this ecosystem, or are we saving it more for aesthetic reasons? What happens when the needs of an endangered species conflict with the needs of a person on the same land? I think we just need a clearer sense of what our priorities actually are and why we're doing what we're doing before we can go about trying to do it better.

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Accommodate natural greenery, don't remove it

Straits Times 17 May 13;

I REFER to Dr Wee Yeow Chin's letter ("Wild growth alone won't make S'pore a global eco-city"; May 8).

The satellite study (The Gardens' Bulletin Singapore, 2011) I referred to in my commentary ("Wild greenery makes S'pore a global eco-city"; May 1) states that out of the 29 per cent of "spontaneous" or "non-managed" greenery, scrubland comes to only 6 per cent, with "the majority (21 per cent)... secondary forest of various kinds".

Given the 5 per cent within the nature reserves, this still leaves about 16 per cent unprotected. Relative to the small size of Singapore, this remaining unprotected greenery is "massive".

The National Parks Board's (NParks) reforestation programme in the nature reserves mentioned by Dr Wee is highly laudable. This is to rectify severe fragmentation within the boundary, but this is a different, although related, issue from the increasing isolation of nature reserves in the wider ecological context that I have emphasised.

Dr Wee states that if "natural greenery is removed and replaced with trees and parks, biodiversity will be compromised", but biodiversity will improve over time as the plants mature. This merely whitewashes the damage that has occurred. And if allowing for the subsequent growth of "natural greenery" will improve the biodiversity loss, why remove the natural greenery in the first place?

Would it not be better ecologically to accommodate the natural greenery as much as possible, as I have advocated with the creation of 20 new parks?

Dr Wee mentioned Bukit Batok Nature Park - a good example of creating a park by not destroying all or most of the existing natural greenery (mainly secondary forest) and starting from scratch.

Concerning NParks' commendable hornbill conservation project, it was in 2006 that an artificial nest on Pulau Ubin was used by oriental pied hornbills. But they were already using natural cavities in 1994, when they were first sighted there. The use of natural cavities was also recorded in Changi. Hornbills have been sighted around patches of forest and mangrove in Pasir Ris and Sungei Buloh before the setting up of nesting boxes there, showing that the presence of natural greenery as sources of food and cover contributes importantly to the dispersal of these hornbills.

It is noteworthy that the appearance of wild hornbills on Pulau Ubin after a long hiatus happened around the early 1990s, when the island was largely becoming wild with the phasing out of agriculture. Without the nestboxes, the appearance and dispersal of the hornbills in Singapore would have proceeded anyway, but at a slower pace and in smaller numbers.

Ho Hua Chew (Dr)

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Marina expressway ready by year-end

Structural works done, including undersea tunnel
Royston Sim Straits Times 17 May 13;

FINISHING touches are being applied on the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE), which is on track to open by the end of this year.

All structural works have been completed on the 5km, $4.3 billion highway, including a 420m undersea tunnel.

The bulk of electrical and mechanical systems has been installed and contractors have begun testing and commissioning those systems, a process that will take about five months.

This update on Singapore's 10th expressway was given by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew after he visited the MCE control centre yesterday. It will be a key link connecting expressways in the east and west, he said.

"The MCE will offer commuters a direct and high-capacity link to the new downtown at Marina Bay, and is therefore a critical development that supports Singapore's growth as a financial hub."

It will connect East Coast Parkway (ECP) and the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) with the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE).

With five lanes each way, it can carry 10,000 vehicles an hour in each direction and replace the ECP as the main route for motorists travelling across the various expressways. Designed with a top speed of 80kmh, the MCE will link to the KPE, which has a maximum speed of 70kmh.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it is assessing whether to raise the KPE speed limit to match that of the MCE.

After the MCE opens, a portion of the ECP after Benjamin Sheares Bridge will be downgraded to an arterial road, with traffic lights and crossings, that connects to the Central Business District (CBD).

Currently, the Marina area is split in half by the ECP. The downgraded portion of the ECP will be named Sheares Avenue.

The LTA will readjust several Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries to cover the new road connections created by the MCE.

Gantries currently on the to-be-downgraded part of ECP, like the one in Ophir Road, will be removed and replacements installed on the MCE.

Motorists will continue to pay the existing ERP charges when they use the MCE or ECP to enter the CBD. For instance, it costs between 50 cents and $5 now to pass through the gantry on the ECP after Fort Road from 7.30am to 9.30am on weekdays.

Mr Lui noted the challenging engineering obstacles posed by the MCE. "Since much of the MCE is built on reclaimed land, engineers had to contend with soil condition that, I am told, is almost like peanut butter."

Some 13.1ha of land was reclaimed for the project and the largely soft clay ground had to be improved to stabilise it.

Deep and wide excavations posed another challenge.

The average excavation width was 60m, wide enough for more than 15 traffic lanes, while tunnels went as deep as 25m - the equivalent of an eight-storey building.

In all, 4.3 million cubic m of soil was excavated, about half a kilometre of earth stacked on a football field.

The MCE will have a total of nine entry and exit points to the ECP, Marina Boulevard, Central Boulevard and Maxwell Road. There are provisions for another five access points in Marina East.

Marina expressway to open at end of year

Nine new gantries in CBD will be put up to replace the seven which will be removed
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 17 May 13;

SINGAPORE — When the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) opens at the end of this year, it will be able to carry 10,000 vehicles per hour each way, thus promising motorists a smoother commute to the new downtown at Marina Bay.

The 5km-long expressway links the East Coast Parkway (ECP) and Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) with the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE). It will have a total of nine entry and exit points to the ECP, Marina Boulevard, Central Boulevard and Maxwell Road. Nine new gantries in the Central Business District (CBD) will be put up to replace the seven which will be removed.

During a visit to the new expressway’s operations control centre yesterday, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew gave the assurance that “motorists using these affected stretches of roads will not be crossing more ERP gantries than today”.

There will also be no changes in ERP charges or operating hours. Currently, gantries on the ECP in the direction towards Changi operate during evening peak hours between 6pm and 8pm, while those in the direction towards the city operate during the morning peak hours between 7.30am and 9.30am.

Built at a cost of S$4.3 billion, the MCE is Singapore’s 10th and most expensive expressway. With parts of it being constructed on recently reclaimed land in the 1970s and 1980s, engineers had to employ extensive ground improvement work to deal with and stabilise difficult soil conditions consisting of soft clay. It is also one of the Land Transport Authority’s most challenging projects, with large-scale excavations of up to 120m wide and 27m deep.

While 3.6km of the expressway will be underground, it also includes a 420m-long undersea tunnel — the first in Singapore — that runs parallel to the Marina Barrage.

This was another challenge as engineers had to ensure that temporary walls were strong enough to withstand the force of the discharge from the barrage as the undersea tunnel was being constructed.

Mr Lui said the LTA has completed all structural work for the MCE, and the tunnel is now being fitted with electrical and mechanical systems. “The MCE is on track to open by the end of the year,” he added.

With its opening, a stretch of the ECP after Benjamin Sheares Bridge will be converted into a network of normal arterial roads to serve Marina South — an area currently split into two unlinked sections by the ECP.

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Indonesia: Raids intensified on illegal hunting in Bengkulu

Antara 16 May 13;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - The Bengkulu Natural Resources Conservation Center said it will intensify raids on illegal hunt for wild life in the province.

The number of forest rangers from the center will be increased to launch raids on illegal hunts, which are growing rampant in the province lately , center head Anggoro Dwi Sujianto said here on Thursday.

The officers mostly in plain clothes would be sent to areas known to be illegal hunting grounds in the province, Anggoro said.

He said the hunting grounds are mainly in the regencies of North Bengkulu, Mukomuko, and Kaur and other areas bordering on forests.

The new illegal business surfaced after the Kepahiang police seized and foiled an attempt to sell tens of wild life species including scaly anteaters and snakes to a neighboring province on Monday night.

The Kepahiang police have set free the wildlife again in the Natural Tourism Park of Seblat in the regency of North Bengkulu.

Chief of the Kepahiang district police Adj. Sr. Comr. Sudarno said 25 scaly anteaters and ten of snakes were confiscated from traders.

The traders Sah (46) and Zak (50) from the regency of North Bengkulu told their investigators that they bought the wildlife from hunters.

They said they paid Rp325,000 for each of scaly anteaters to be sold at Rp375,000 . The prices of the snake varied depended on the size.

The two suspects admitted they had been long in the business selling wildlife to buyers in neighboring province.

The two offered Rp5 million for the officers arresting them to settle and not to process the case but their offered was rejected, Sudarno said.


Editor: Jafar M Sidik

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Malaysia: Perils behind fish bombing

Roy Goh New Straits Times 17 May 13;

EDUCATIONAL IMPACT: Raising awareness of its threat among students through drama

SEMPORNA: A DRAMATIC step was taken to teach students here about the dangers of fish bombing recently.

A drama competition with "anti-fish bombing" as the main theme was held in the district here to raise awareness on its impact.

Some 200 students from five schools participated in the competition, which was organised by World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) and supported by a group of volunteers who call themselves Green Semporna.

Team Nakoba from SMK Tagasan took top honours with their sketch titled "Loving Sea", followed by Team Humagad and Team Sahasa, both from SMK Datu Panglima Abdullah.

Present were representatives of Sabah Parks, which is working with WWF-Malaysia in the fight against destructive fishing, including fish bombing, one of the biggest threats to marine resources in the region.

WWF-Malaysia Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Eco-region programme manager Robecca Jumin said the competition was held to raise awareness of the impact of fish bombing that continues to destroy marine resources and highlight the importance of marine protection.

She explained that the coral concentration in the Semporna Priority Conservation Area is the largest in Malaysia, and the rich mix of habitat types and ecosystems provides a high level of biodiversity.

"Healthy ecosystems are important for fisheries and tourism, two key income generators for Sabah.

"The drama competition is part of a series of WWF-Malaysia's efforts to instil in our younger generation the awareness and importance of marine resources.

"They are our future leaders and from young, they should be conscious of the role they play as custodians of the rich natural resources that Semporna has," Jumin said.

"The dependency of Malaysia on fisheries and other coral reef resources has increased over time. However, 97 per cent of reefs in Malaysia are under threat of overfishing, including destructive fishing, land-based pollution and unsustainable tourism development."

Semporna has the largest percentage of coral cover in the country. Coral reefs play an important role in the fisheries and tourism sectors. The beauty and diversity of the coral reefs attract thousands of tourists from all over the world, and the number of tourist arrivals has put increasing pressure on marine resources.

Last year, a total of 2.88 million tourists were reported to have visited Sabah.

This has highlighted the value of tourism as a key income resource as well as highlighted the need to focus on sustainable tourism and protection.

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In Vietnam, Rhino Horns Worth Their Weight in Gold

Marwaan Macan-Markar Jakarta Globe 15 May 13;

Bangkok. At first glance, the poster appears to be a typical advertisement for an African safari: a large rhinoceros set against a rugged, open terrain. Then you take a closer look and realize something is amiss.

A cluster of human hands has replaced the two horns that distinguish this African animal from the single-horned Indian and Javan rhino. A message over the creature’s head reads: “Rhino horn is made of the same stuff as human nails. Still want some?”

Produced jointly by the wildlife watchdogs TRAFFIC and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), these posters are soon to appear on the walls of public places in major Vietnamese cities including the capital, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City.

Offices, apartment buildings and even airports are all set to become sites in the campaign to end the illegal international trade in rhino horns that is threatening the ungulate to extinction.

Experts say there is no better place than this Southeast Asian nation of 87 million to drive this stark message home.

Vietnam has long been singled out by international groups monitoring the illicit wildlife trade for the dramatic rise in domestic demand for African rhino horns.

Close to 290 of the 20,000 rhinos left in South Africa have been killed for their horns since the beginning of this year, according to conservationists worried that such a deadly spree could see the death toll match the record number of 668 rhinos killed by poachers in 2012.

“We are in the midst of a rhino poaching crisis,” Mark Jones, a British veterinarian who heads the London-based Humane Society International, told IPS, adding that Vietnam has recently emerged as the main market for rhino horns.

The spike in demand has been shaped by a belief among locals that has taken root over the past five years: that rhino horn has special medicinal powers, including the ability to treat cancer, cure hangovers, and act as an aphrodisiac.

According to Naomi Doak, coordinator of the Greater Mekong Program at TRAFFIC, the graphics for the new campaign poster were developed after experts realized that a “large proportion of the Vietnamese public” were not aware that rhino horn, a mass of agglutinated hair, is comprised of keratin, the same basic substance that constitutes human finger and toenails.

She hopes that bringing this fact to light will make people “think twice before consuming rhino horn.”

Yet driving home this message will be “a long and difficult campaign,” Doak admitted in an interview with IPS. “With very few penalties and consequences people really aren’t that concerned about the impacts the consumption of rhino [horn] has either on the animals or on people.”

A status symbol

To understand what wildlife protection groups are up against, one need only take a stroll through Hanoi’s famed Old Quarter, a colorful network of 36 streets where crafts and local products have been hawked for centuries.

Here, shops specializing in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) attract scores of customers seeking remedies made from wild animal parts, including rhino horn.

In his latest documentary “Bad Medicine, Illegal Trade in Rhinoceros Horns”, conservationist and filmmaker Karl Amman traces the routes of illegal traffickers from the Africans wilds to the streets of Vietnam, where “rhino horns have also become a status symbol,” he said.

This explains why gold, once the favorite gift among the communist-ruled country’s expanding class of wealthy citizens, has been dethroned by rhino horns, which currently fetch $65,000 per kilogram.

This is “more than gold, gram for gram,” according to Jones. Though the weight of rhino horns vary, an individual horn can fetch up to $150,000.

The pressure on Vietnam to curb the demand for illegal rhino horns is expected to grow following the resolutions passed in March at the Bangkok meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The strong language at this 16th global gathering of 178 member countries fell just short of imposing sanctions on Hanoi.

The Vietnamese government, meanwhile, has consistently denied allegations that it is a major market in this global trade.

It often points an accusing finger at its powerful northern neighbor, China, which is also under scrutiny for boosting the illegal wildlife trade, particularly the demand for tiger parts.

But activists have proof and are not prepared to remain silent.

Do Quang Tung, deputy director of CITES Vietnam, who headed his country’s delegation to the Bangkok talks, told a Vietnamese newspaper in late March, “From 2004 until now, 13 [individuals] involved in rhino trafficking were arrested, with a total of 150 kg of rhino horns.”

Two of these cases, he said, occurred in early 2013.

“Illegal trade in rhino horns involves highly organized, mobile and well-financed criminal groups, mainly composed of Asian nationals based in Africa,” a report published by TRAFFIC and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) revealed early this year.

“These networks have recruited pseudo-hunters including Vietnamese citizens, Thai prostitutes and proxy hunters from the Czech Republic and Poland to obtain rhino horns in South Africa,” added the report.

“Pseudo-hunting has significantly reduced as a result of a decision to prevent nationals of Vietnam from obtaining hunting licenses and changes to South African law in April 2012.”

Another embarrassment for Vietnam has been scandals involving its diplomats at the South African mission who were accused of smuggling rhino horns in 2006 and 2008.

When confronted about these incidents at the recent CITES meeting in Bangkok, a Vietnamese government official said that the errant diplomats had received “punishment” for their actions.

Hopes are running high that the impending poster campaign will do its part to educate the public and bring an end to the thriving trade. But it will take more than two animal rights groups to halt rising demand.

Nguyen Thuy Quynh, of WWF Vietnam, told IPS, “We are seeking support and cooperation from many businesses, celebrities, universities, international organizations and mass media who all have an important voice in reaching and influencing the community.”

Inter Press Service

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Contribution of forests to food security and nutrition needs more attention

FAO 16 May 13;

16 May 2013, Rome - Governments, civil society and the private sector should ensure and strengthen the contributions of forests, trees and agroforestry systems to food security and nutrition, participants in the first-ever International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition (13-15 May), organized by FAO, said yesterday.

Globally, millions of people depend on forests for their livelihoods - directly through the consumption and sale of foods harvested in forests, and indirectly through forest-related employment and income generation, forest ecosystem services, and forest biodiversity.

Forest foods, such as leaves, seeds, nuts, honey, fruits, mushrooms, insects and other forest animals, have been important components of rural diets for millennia. An estimated 2.6 billion people rely on fuelwood, including charcoal, for cooking their food.

Incentives for small-scale forest producers

The conference participants agreed that small-scale forest producers should be encouraged to strengthen their involvement in agroforestry, tree‐growing, small‐scale wood processing and the provision of ecosystem services.

Microfinance loans to small and medium-sized forest enterprises in many cases have resulted in gains in family incomes and better health, nutrition and quality of life in rural areas, especially when microloans are given to women.

Improved access to trees and land

The potential economic and environmental gains from secure land tenure are substantial, and tree tenure can also lead to fundamental improvements in land management. The conference stressed the need for improving access rights to trees and land to create significant incentives for farmers to engage in agroforestry, for example, by applying the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, which were recently adopted by the Committee on World Food Security.

Forest ecosystem services foster food production

The conference highlighted the essential role of ecosystem services provided by forests and trees to agricultural production, which include protecting water and soil resources, contributing to soil development processes, including increasing soil fertility, regulating climate and providing habitat for wild pollinators and predators of agricultural pests.

Forested wetlands and mangrove forests help protect coastal areas from flooding, thereby increasing the stability of food production in coastal lands. Forests also play vital roles in riverine and coastal fisheries, which are often particularly important to poor communities. Mountain forests provide vital ecosystem services, particularly "blue" fresh water for downstream forests and dependent communities.

Intersectoral cooperation

According to the conference recommendations, it is essential to ensure that relevant sector policies, including those on agriculture, forests and trees, as well as food security and nutrition, are coordinated across sectors, and that all stakeholders, from forest‐dependent communities to ministries, are actively involved in their development and implementation.

More than 400 participants attended the conference, including governments, civil-society organizations, local communities, donors and international agencies from more than 100 countries.

Conference participants further encouraged FAO to promote the conference recommendations to the next sessions of the Committee on World Food Security and the Committee on Forestry, as well as to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) to be held at FAO headquarters in Rome on 19-21 November 2014.

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Climate change threatens global fish stocks

Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation Science Alert 16 May 13;

Ocean warming has already affected global fisheries in the past four decades, a new international study has found, driving up the proportion of warm-water fish being caught and posing a threat to food security worldwide.

The new study, conducted by researchers from the University of Tasmania’s specialist Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and the University of British Columbia and published in the journal Nature, warned that climate change adaptation plans were needed immediately.

“We have demonstrated that climate change impacts have already been operating for several decades. Many people think that climate change impacts are some futuristic and speculative thing which we can defer thinking about, but this study shows it is here and now and has already impacted global ocean life that we depend on,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr Reg Watson, Professor of Fisheries and Ecosystem Modelling and a Research Scientist at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.

The researchers analysed data on the species of fish being caught and their preferred ocean temperature in 52 ocean ecosystems between 1970 and 2006.

They identified “an increasing dominance of catches of warmer waters species at higher latitudes and a decrease in the proportion of catches of subtropical species in the tropics.”

“Such changes in catch composition have direct implications for coastal fishing communities, particularly those in tropical developing countries, which tend to be socioeconomically vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” the authors warned in their paper.

“Continued warming in the tropics to a level that exceeds the thermal tolerance of tropical species may largely reduce catch potential in this region.”

Australia at risk

David Booth, Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Technology, Sydney, said the authors of the study used the best data available on the temperature preferences of nearly 1000 fish species and changes in their catch distribution over 30 years to show a strong link with climate change increases in ocean temperature.

“In particular, tropical fisheries may lose significant numbers of species and see declining catch rates as a results of climate change temperature rises. Australia has over half of its fishing area in tropical waters and is one of the countries at risk,” said Professor Booth, who was not involved in the study.

“Much of the tropical Pacific and Indian ocean islands have subsistence fisheries that rely on fish as part of local diet and protein uptake. Climate change sea temperature rise will affect them most of all.”

The new study was one of the first on a global scale to show how climate change sea surface temperature rise will affect fish distributions, Professor Booth said.

Professor Jessica Meeuwig, Director of the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Marine Futures (Oceans Institute), said the study provided compelling evidence for the effects of climate change on fisheries catches.

“It is also an elegant use of one of the few global data sets we have for the ocean: fisheries data,” said Professor Meeuwig, who was not involved in the study.

“Recognising that the species targeted by fisheries are under pressure from climate change means that our approach to the exploitation of these species needs to be extremely conservative, erring on the side of under- rather than over-exploitation and opening new fisheries only with great caution.”

The results of this study ring a significant warning bell with respect to many Australian endemic southern fishes, including blue gropers, Professor Meeuwig said.

“These cold water species will have difficulties shifting southward as subtropical species move in given the lack of appropriate shallow water habitat off the continental shelf.”

Global problem

James Smith, Research Fellow in Fisheries at University of New South Wales said the new study “cleverly uses existing catch data to explore range shifts on a global scale.”

“This large-scale data confirms the many local and single-species studies showing range shifts in fish species,” said Dr Smith, who was also not involved in the study.

“The findings are sound, and may in fact underestimate the problem, given that it doesn’t take into account small spatial shifts in fishing effort, as fishing grounds shift to follow the shifting fish.”

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Melting Glaciers Cause One-Third of Sea-Level Rise

Stephanie Pappas Yahoo News 17 May 13;

The world's glaciers lost 260 gigatons of water each year between 2003 and 2009, making these rivers of ice responsible for almost a third of sea-level rise in that time, new research finds.

The study, to appear tomorrow (May 17) in the journal Science, used multiple methods to pin down estimates of how much ice is lost from glaciers. The results suggest that on-the-ground measurements yield estimates that are too extreme, but some satellite methods don't go far enough.

"There was a large amount of uncertainty in how much these glaciers were contributing to sea-level rise prior to this study," lead researcher Alex Gardner, a professor of geography at Clark University in Massachusetts, told LiveScience. "What our study provides is a really strong estimate for what the glacial contribution was over this time." [Ice World: Gallery of Awe-Inspiring Glaciers]

Observing ice

Sea-level rise is caused by melting ice from glaciers as well as from the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctic ice sheet. Sea levels also go up as the oceans warm, because warm water takes up more space. Teasing out the influence of each factor can be tricky.

In November, an international group of researchers published a study in Science estimating the loss of ice from polar ice sheet melt. That research determined that ice lost from Antarctica and Greenland is responsible for a fifth of the 2.2 inches (5.59 centimeters) of sea-level rise since 1992.

"What they did for the ice sheets, we've done for the glaciers," Gardner said.

In many ways, glaciers are even tougher to track than ice sheets. They're scattered across the globe, many in inaccessible spots. Before 2002, all scientists could do was trek out on the ice, make measurements, track changes, and then extrapolate those changes to glaciers they couldn't observe directly.

In 2002 and 2003, however, NASA launched two satellite missions to give a better view of Earth's melting ice. The first, GRACE (or Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), uses two satellites that measure the Earth's gravity field. These satellites can detect changes in the gravity field that occur when a glacier loses or gains a lot of ice.

A second mission, ICESat (Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite), ran until 2009 and measured, among other things, Earth's elevation across the globe. These elevation measurements also captured changes in ice thickness.

Bringing it all together

Gardner and his colleagues compared the data from these satellite missions directly. The two have different strengths, he said. GRACE, for example, is not sensitive enough to tell the difference between ice lost from ice sheets and ice lost from glaciers right next door to ice sheets — which include about 30 percent of the world's glaciers.

For large regions, Gardner said, GRACE and ICESat's measurements are nonetheless in close agreement. In contrast, in icy regions of less than about 1,900 square miles (5,000 square kilometers), the satellite measurements didn't agree as clearly.

That lack of agreement is because GRACE doesn't always catch melt in small glaciers, which are often in mountainous regions surrounded by lakes and groundwater.

"What if the glaciers are melting but the lake is filling?" Gardner said. "GRACE sees that nothing happened, because no mass was actually removed from that region."

The upside, Gardner said, is that in large icy areas, GRACE and ICESat provide strong measurements of melt. In spots dotted with smaller glaciers, ground observations turn out to be more accurate.

The 260 gigatons of water lost per year was more than would be expected from previous satellite estimates, which were limited in scope. But the loss was less than would have been expected from extrapolating just from ground measurements, likely because glaciers that are closer to civilization and therefore easier to observe may be melting more rapidly than remote glaciers, Gardner said.

Future melt

Antarctic glaciers lost the least ice overall, the researchers found, because spots on the continent melting rapidly were offset by other regions gaining ice. Glaciers in the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, coastal Greenland, the southern Andes and high-mountain Asia were vanishing rapidly, however. Glaciers alone were responsible for about 0.3 inches (0.71 millimeters) of sea-level rise per year between 2003 and 2009, the researchers concluded. The glacial melt represents about 30 percent of the sea-level rise in that time period. [8 Ways Global Warming is Already Changing the World]

Now that it's clear that ground observations weren't providing good estimates, scientists need to go back to their old observational data to try to figure out how to use it to come up with better global estimates of previous glacier melt, Gardner said. Knowing what happened in the past is important for understanding what will come in the future. The current study can't say precisely what future climate change has in store.

"All we know is that every region on Earth right now, regardless of any additional warming, is losing glacial mass to the oceans," he said. "We anticipate that the rate will increase with additional warning."

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