Best of our wild blogs: 4 Jul 13

The trash-lined beaches of Pulau Ubin [Teo Kah Ming reports] from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Jobs: TMSI Marine Antifouling Research (deadline: 20 Jul 2013) from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

The adaptable kingfisher
from Life's Indulgences

Butterflies Galore! Malay Viscount
from Butterflies of Singapore

Australia terminates landmark REDD+ project in Borneo from news by Rhett Butler

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Clean-up operations continue at oil spill near Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal

Channel NewsAsia 3 Jul 13;

SINGAPORE: Operations to clean up an oil spill resulting from the collision between two foreign registered bulk carriers continued on Wednesday.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said nine craft were deployed on Wednesday for surveillance, containment and recovery.

As at 5pm on Wednesday, no significant patches of oil were sighted in the affected waters.

However, some oil stains were found along the rock bunds and sandy shoreline near Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.

The National Environment Agency is coordinating cleaning efforts along these affected areas.

The collision between South Korea-registered bulk carrier Oriental Pioneer and Bahamas-registered bulk carrier Atlantic Hero occured on Tuesday, about 6.6 kilometres southwest of the ferry terminal.

Vessel traffic in the Strait of Singapore and port waters remain unaffected.

Port operations are also not affected.

Members of the public can contact the of MPA's 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325-2488 to report any sighting of oil slick in Singapore’s waters or coastlines.

- CNA/xq

Oil spill following collision between Oriental Pioneer and Atlantic Hero -Update 2
MPA media release 3 Jul 13;

The cleaning up of the oil spill resulting from the collision between the South Korean-registered bulk carrier, Oriental Pioneer, and the Bahamas-registered bulk carrier, Atlantic Hero continued today.

Nine craft have been deployed today for surveillance, containment and recovery. As of 1700hrs, no significant patches of oil were sighted in the affected waters. However, some oil stains were found earlier today along the rock bunds and sandy shoreline near Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. The National Environment Agency is coordinating cleaning efforts along these affected areas.

Vessel traffic in the Strait of Singapore and port waters remain unaffected. Port operations are also not affected.

Members of the public can contact the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore's 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325-2488/9 to report any sighting of oil slick in our waters or coastlines.

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Measures in place to clear fallen trees: NParks

Straits Times Forum 4 Jul 13;

WE THANK Mr Ravi Govindan for his feedback ("Set up response team to deal with fallen trees"; June 20).

We have rapid response teams on motorcycles to deal with fallen trees or branches resulting from stormy weather. They are on standby with chainsaws to clear such obstructions on public roads quickly.

In the interest of public safety, we also respond to calls on our 24-hour helpline 1800-471-7300 even if the affected trees are managed by other agencies.

In instances where there are traffic accidents or injured people, other agencies such as the Singapore Civil Defence Force will be roped in to conduct rescue operations and provide medical aid.

During the intense storm on June 1, when a tree fell in the Sembawang Park area, our response team was dispatched immediately and arrived within half an hour of notification.

Fortunately, no one was trapped or injured.

Heavy load-bearing vehicles had to be deployed because of the unusually huge tree.

The road was completely cleared for traffic four hours later.

Within the park, our priority was to clear fallen trees and branches from public footpaths to ensure park users' safety.

As for the damaged park bench, we have since replaced it.

Oh Cheow Sheng
Director, Streetscape
National Parks Board

Set up response team to deal with fallen trees
Straits Times Forum 20 Jun 13;

ABOUT 20 trees in Sembawang Park were damaged and uprooted after a storm earlier this month. One tree fell on a cab, trapping the occupants and blocking the main access road to my estate.

No one was hurt, and the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force arrived fairly quickly but were both not equipped to solve the problem swiftly and efficiently.

It took half an hour to extricate the trapped people, some eight hours to remove the tree from the road and over a week to clear the damaged trees.

Now, almost three weeks on, damage to facilities such as park benches has still not been fixed.

It should not take this long to restore the park to its normal condition.

Police and SCDF resources should not be used to solve the problem because that is not their job but the National Parks Board's (NParks).

While NParks has done well in crafting a neat and beautiful Garden City, it has left untended the establishment of a quick and efficient process to reduce public inconvenience when trees cause damage and disrupt traffic and park life. This ranges from the actual work of making roads passable once more to proactively informing the public, who may be caught unawares.

For example, commuters did not know that the fallen tree had disrupted the bus service and were waiting at a bus stop down the road. I had to stop my car to inform them of the disruption.

According to NParks, more than one million trees have been planted in the 50 years since the national exercise began, that is, one tree to four residents. Each year, some 50,000 to 60,000 trees are planted.

Given the figures, NParks should establish its own emergency response team and set up a hotline that the public can call. This would ensure that the public does not have to rely on arbitrary help when problems arise.

Ravi Govindan

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Malaysia: Johor records highest dengue fatalities

Chuah Bee Kim New Straits Times 2 Jul 13;

WORRYING: Seven cases were reported over the past six months compared to only one case throughout last year

JOHOR recorded the highest number of deaths from dengue, with seven cases over the past six months, compared with only one reported throughout last year.

Based on statistics released by the National Dengue Operations Room, there were six deaths in Selangor and Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya in the same period.

Compared with the same period last year, however, the number of cases reported in Selangor showed a decrease as there were only 11 cases.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said that the number of dengue cases, compiled on a weekly basis, showed that it has reached a critical level, with 658 cases reported nationwide.

Dr Subramaniam said that the number this year has increased by 14 per cent compared to 575 cases last year.

"Since the beginning of the year until June 22, a total of 12,143 cases nationwide have been reported compared to 11,430 cases in the same period last year, recording an increase of 713 cases or 6.2 per cent," he said.

"Eight states showed an increase of cases, with Johor recording the highest increase at 88 per cent. Sarawak has 58 per cent, Sabah (41 per cent), Negri Sembilan (33 per cent), Perak (15 per cent), Kelantan (seven per cent), Perlis (two per cent) and Selangor (one per cent)," Dr Subramaniam said.

He urged the public to make sure that their homes and surrounding neighbourhood do not provide breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquito to breed.

"Health enforcement officers will be carrying out checks on homes to ensure that the premises is free of Aedes mosquitoes," he said.

Under the Destruction of Disease Bearing Insects Act 1975, any residential home found with the Aedes larvae would be issued a fine of RM100 while shop premises will be slapped with a RM500 fine. For construction and industrial sites, they will be fined RM1,000 each.

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Google rolls out new map to track haze across Singapore, Malaysia

Today Online 3 Jul 13;

SINGAPORE — Google has unveiled a map showing air quality in Singapore and Malaysia in near real-time for the first time, as the region begins to breathe easier after weeks of haze from fires in Indonesia.

The map ( which relies on air-quality data from government monitoring stations in Singapore and Malaysia, showed pollution levels in both countries within safe ranges today after hitting record hazardous levels last month. Information on air quality in Indonesia was not included because it was not readily available, Google said.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the map also makes use of data from a fire-tracking satellite of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States to map out hotspots as well as a NASA imaging satellite to show an overlay of the haze that still hangs over the region.

The map is Google’s first foray into the annual fires emanating from agricultural lands in Indonesia, although its crisis division has worked on similar ad-hoc projects in the past, including during the Japan tsunami and for wildfires in Australia.

Other organizations, such as the Washington-based World Resources Institute and Indonesian environmental groups, have released online maps showing hotspots data overlaid with partial maps of concession boundaries in Riau province on Sumatra island, where the majority of the fires are occurring this year. Fires in Riau are often started to cheaply clear land for use in the multibillion-dollar palm oil and pulpwood industries.

Riau experienced around 8,000 fires last month, about four times the usual amount, amid drier skies and indications of increasing land conversion on peatlands, where fires are more difficult to extinguish. Rain in the past week has subdued many of the blazes across the province, but experts warn that more are likely as the region enters the heart of the dry season in the coming weeks.

Google says it plans to keep its map up for the duration of the fires and haze. AGENCIES

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Aceh quake kills at least 22 people, injures hundreds - report

Thin Lei Win Reuters 3 Jul 13;

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An earthquake that struck the northern tip of Indonesia's Sumatra island has killed at least 22 people, injured 210 and damaged thousands of buildings, the Jakarta Globe reported.

The injured are being cared for in regional hospitals and community health centres, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of data at the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, told the Globe. Damaged buildings include houses, mosques and government offices, he said.

The shallow quake, which was only 10 kms deep, struck 188 km southeast of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Aid agencies are scrambling to reach the affected area but “blocked roads and landslides have hampered relief efforts to reach the worst hit children and their families”, Save the Children said in a statement.

The children’s charity placed the death toll higher, at 25 deaths including seven children.

“The earthquake happened just a couple of hours before sunset, making it hard for rescue workers to find many still stuck under the rubble,” Ricardo Caivano, director for Save the Children in Indonesia, said in the statement.

“We are especially concerned about children in remote villages that have not been reached by rescue workers, as reports indicate that hundreds of homes have collapsed with entire villages flattened.”

The sprawling Indonesian archipelago is on the Pacific's "Ring of Fire" and is regularly affected by earthquakes.

In 2004, a magnitude 9.1 quake struck Aceh, triggering huge tsunami waves which killed more than 230,000 people in 13 countries around the Indian Ocean.

42 Reported Dead in Aceh as Rescue Crews Search Earthquake Wreckage
JG/Nurdin Hasan, AFP/Fikri Ramadhavi & SP/Muhammad Hamzah Jakarta Globe 3 Jul 13;

The death toll in Indonesia’s Aceh province climbed to 42 on Wednesday after yesterday’s 6.2-magnitude earthquake triggered landslides and collapsed homes in this disaster-prone region, a local hospital head said.

Rescue crews rushed on Wednesday to pull victims from landslides in Bener Mariah district where at least 14 died and hundreds were injured in Tuesday’s quake. Local hospitals were flooded with 43 patients on Wednesday, while an additional 61 sought treatment at community health centers, Rusli M. Saleh, deputy regent of Bener Meriah regent, said.

“Officials along with local people and volunteers keep searching for victims in the ruins and landslides,” Rusli said.

Province-wide, the death toll from the earthquake reached 42 by Wednesday night, Syahrul, head of Zainoel Abidin Hospital in Banda Aceh, said.

Some 300 people camped out overnight in open spaces, such as football fields, as the area was hit by strong aftershocks, Fauzi, an official from the local disaster agency, told AFP.

He said many were in desperate need of food.

“There were strong aftershocks last night and people didn’t want to go back home, so they stayed in the open overnight, but we don’t have enough tents,” said the official. “We have a power outage now and communications are unreliable.”

In nearby Central Aceh, some 17 people were reported dead, including at least six children killed when a mosque collapsed during a Koran reading session, district disaster agency head Subhan Sahara said.

Rescuers dug all night with an excavator through the rubble of the mosque looking for more children believed to be trapped but no more bodies had as yet been found, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Most houses in the village had collapsed and residents were digging through the remains of the buildings with their bare hands to search for their belongings, the reporter said.

Bodies of the dead were laid out and covered in blankets at a makeshift emergency health post in the village.

“This is the biggest earthquake we’ve ever had here,” Subhan told AFP. “People are still frightened, especially after the aftershocks last night. Nobody dared to stay at home. Everyone slept on the roads or in car parks.

“The earthquake triggered many landslides. People could not get out of the area because of fallen trees and mounds of earth blocking roads.”

The death toll is expected to rise as rescue crews continue to comb the region for missing people, Subhan said. More than 1,600 homes were reportedly flattened in the quake.

The main hospital in the district was overwhelmed and tents had been set up outside to treat the flood of patients, he said, adding that food and water were in short supply.

Military, police and local government officials were trying to head to affected areas by ground and in aircraft but some roads were blocked by landslips, the national disaster agency said.

The agency dispatched a helicopter from neighboring Riau province to assist in rescue efforts, while an air force plane was also deployed to assess the damage.

Rescue workers stand outside a partially collapsed building in Blang Pancung Village, Central Aceh district, Indonesia, on July 3, 2013. (EPA Photo/Hotli Simanjuntak)

Rescue workers stand outside a partially collapsed building in Blang Pancung Village, Central Aceh district, Indonesia, on July 3, 2013. (EPA Photo/Hotli Simanjuntak)

The earthquake knocked out power and cell phone service in much of the two disaster zones leaving residents, many with missing relatives, unable to reach loved ones.

“My cell phone battery is almost out,” said Bakhtiar Gayo, of Takengon, Aceh Tengah district. “We can’t charge our cell phone.”

Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah visited the affected areas with Aceh Police chief Insp. Gen. Herman Effendi and several other officials. The governor helped coordinate disaster relief and met with the earthquake’s victims.

The Aceh Disaster Mitigation Office (BPBA) sent two trucks of instant noodles, bottled water and rice to the region, handing out the supplies at various aid points scattered throughout the districts.

“This is only temporary aid,” said Miftah, a logistics officers with the BPBA. “If there is more accurate data on the aid needed, we will deliver it again.”

The 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck 35 kilometers southwest of Redolong, Bener Meriah, on Tuesday. The quake occurred at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers, shaking homes as far away as Malaysia.People ran outside in the provincial capital Banda Aceh as the quake — some 320 kilometers away — shook houses, and in Medan city to the south of the province.

Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, is regularly hit by quakes. The huge quake-triggered tsunami of 2004 not only killed tens of thousands in the province, but also many in countries around the Indian Ocean.

In April last year an 8.6-magnitude quake struck 431 kilometres off Banda Aceh, prompting an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami alert.

Five people died and seven were injured in Aceh in the quake and following aftershocks.

In September 2009 a major earthquake near Padang city on Sumatra killed more than 1,000 people.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.


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Biofuel crop mix 'not favourable for environment'

A report by the European Environment Agency found benefits vary significantly depending on the source of crops
Rayhan Uddin 3 Jul 13;

When sourced from agricultural residues or waste, bioenergy is more efficient than fossil fuels both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on ecosystems. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The current mix of crops used for energy are "not favourable to the environment", according to a report published on Wednesday by the European Environment Agency. It said that the environmental benefits of such bioenergy vary significantly depending on the source of crops.

When sourced from agricultural residues or waste, bioenergy is more efficient than fossil fuels both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on ecosystems. But growing crops for energy has knock-on environmental impacts such as deforestation, the EEA warned.

The report comes as the EU continues to debate a plan cap the percentage of biofuels made from food crops, with a final vote due to occur on 10 July.

Proponents say the cap is needed because of environment concerns over the EU's biofuel policy – which sets a target of 10% of transport fuels coming from biofuel by 2020, but the proposed cap has come under fierce criticism from biodiesel companies and farmers. The industry says the EU is destroying a booming £14bn sector while farmers feel demand is being taken away from them at a time of increasing volatility in global food prices.

Hans Bruyninckx, director of the European Environment Agency, said "We see huge potential for bioenergy in the transition of the energy system that will occur over the coming years, but our research shows that this potential must take into consideration resource and climate efficiency. For example, food crops and other first generation pathways are a particularly inefficient use of biomass."

Most of the environmental impacts cited in the EEA report are a result of deforestation, draining of peatlands and other land clearance for biofuels, together known as indirect land use change (ILUC).

The report notes that adverse environmental effects associated with ILUC, such as an increase in carbon emissions or reduction in biodiversity, currently fall outside of the EU bioenergy policy framework, and believes that this needs to be addressed.

Friends of the Earth Biofuels campaigner Kenneth Ritcher said: "This report is a stark warning to lawmakers about the urgent need to differentiate between the types of bioenergy, based on their real impact on climate change. If the European parliament is serious about cutting emissions it must support proposals next week to penalise biofuels that increase emissions through deforestation."

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UN: 2001-2010 decade shows faster warming trend

John Heilprin Associated Press Yahoo News 3 Jul 13;

GENEVA (AP) — Global warming accelerated since the 1970s and broke more countries' temperature records than ever before in the first decade of the new millennium, U.N. climate experts said Wednesday.

A new analysis from the World Meteorological Organization says average land and ocean surface temperatures from 2001 to 2010 rose above the previous decade, and were almost a half-degree Celsius above the 1961-1990 global average.

The decade ending in 2010 was an unprecedented era of climate extremes, the agency said, evidenced by heat waves in Europe and Russia, droughts in the Amazon Basin, Australia and East Africa, and huge storms like Tropical Cyclone Nargis and Hurricane Katrina.

Data from 139 nations show that droughts like those in Australia, East Africa and the Amazon Basin affected the most people worldwide. But it was the hugely destructive and deadly floods such as those in Pakistan, Australia, Africa, India and Eastern Europe that were the most frequent extreme weather events.

Experts say a decade is about the minimum length of time to study when it comes to spotting climate change.

From 1971 to 2010, global temperatures rose by an average rate of 0.17 degrees Celsius per decade. But going back to 1880, the average increase was .062 percent degrees Celsius per decade.

The pace also picked up in recent decades. Average temperatures were 0.21 degrees Celsius warmer this past decade than from 1991 to 2000, which were in turn 0.14 degrees Celsius warmer than from 1981 to 1990.

Natural cycles between atmosphere and oceans make some years cooler than others, but during the past decade there was no major event associated with El Nino, the phenomenon characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Much of the decade was affected by the cooling La Nina, which comes from unusually cool temperatures there, or neutral conditions.

Given those circumstances, WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud says the data doesn't support the notion among some in the scientific community of a slowdown, or lull, in the pace of planetary warming in recent years.

"The last decade was the warmest, by a significant margin," he said. "If anything we should not talk about the plateau, we should talk about the acceleration."

Jarraud says the data show warming accelerated between 1971 and 2010, with the past two decades increasing at rates never seen before amid rising concentrations of industrial gases that trap heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse.

By the end of 2010, the report shows, atmospheric concentrations of some of the chief warming gases from fossil fuel burning and other human actions were far higher than at the start of the industrial era in 1750. Carbon dioxide concentrations measured in the air around the world rose 39 percent since then; methane rose 158 percent; and nitrous oxide was up 20 percent.

World suffered unprecedented climate extremes in past decade: WMO
Alister Doyle PlanetArk 4 Jul 13;

World suffered unprecedented climate extremes in past decade: WMO Photo: NASA
Earth's airglow is seen with an oblique view of the Mediterranean Sea area, including the Nile River with its delta and the Sinai Peninsula, in this October 15, 2011 NASA handout photograph taken by a crew member of Expedition 29 aboard the International
Photo: NASA

The world suffered unprecedented climate extremes in the decade to 2010, from heatwaves in Europe and droughts in Australia to floods in Pakistan, against a backdrop of global warming, a United Nations report said on Wednesday.

Every year of the decade except 2008 was among the 10 warmest since records began in the 1850s, with 2010 the hottest, according to the study by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The number of daily heat records far outstripped lows.

It said many extremes could be explained by natural variations - freak storms and droughts have happened throughout history - but that rising emissions of man-made greenhouse gases also played a role.

"Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far-reaching implications for our environment and our oceans, which are absorbing both carbon dioxide and heat," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement.

The study said damaging extremes included Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, floods in Pakistan in 2010, droughts in the Amazon basin, Australia and East Africa and a retreat of Arctic sea ice.

Deaths from extreme events totaled 370,000 people, up 20 percent from the 1990s, the Geneva-based WMO said, though the world population also rose sharply over the period, from 5.3 billion in 1990 to 6.9 billion in 2010.

The jump in the death toll was caused mainly by a heatwave in Europe in 2003 which killed 66,000 and a heatwave in Russia in 2010 in which 55,000 people died.

However, casualties from storms and droughts fell, partly because of better preparedness for disasters.

The study said that 44 percent of nations recorded the highest daily maximum temperature of the past half-century in the decade 2001-10 but only 11 percent reported a new low.

It also said that the decade "continued an extended period of accelerating global warming" with average decadal temperatures 0.21 degree Celsius (0.4 F) warmer than 1991-2000, which was in turn 0.14 C warmer than 1981-1990.


Other reports have found that the rate of temperature rises has slowed this century.

"Global mean surface temperatures have not increased strongly since 1998" despite rising greenhouse gas emissions, according to a draft report by the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists due for release in September.

Some experts say the apparent rise from the 1990s is magnified because a volcanic eruption in the Philippines in 1991 dimmed sunlight and cut temperatures.

The WMO also said it was hard to link any individual extreme events to climate change rather than to natural variability.

However, warmer air can hold more moisture, raising risks of downpours - the study said that 2010 was the wettest year since records began. And sea levels have risen about 20 centimeters in the past century, increasing risks of storm surges.

One 2004 study, for instance, said that climate change had at least doubled the risks of the European heatwave in 2003.

Peter Stott of the UK Met Office who led that study said scientists were now trying to see if there was a human fingerprint behind other extremes in 2012, such as Superstorm Sandy or drought in Australia.

"You can't just take a record-breaking event and say 'that's climate change'," he said.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

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