Best of our wild blogs: 7 Aug 13

The post-National Day Mangrove Cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang – join us on our 6th year on Saturday!
from Otterman speaks

“Debris ingestion by sea turtles is a global phenomenon of increasing magnitude” from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Additional Flypast at Singapore National Day Parade Preview
from Bird Ecology Study Group

More power to rainwater harvesting in Singapore!
from Water Quality in Singapore and More recognition to grey water recycling!

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Green Corridor being cleared of graffiti, illegal parking and pools of water

Lip Kwok Wai and Leong Wai Kit Channel NewsAsia 6 Aug 13;

SINGAPORE: In the months that land formerly lining the Malaysian-owned railway became the Green Corridor, problems have sprouted in some areas.

There were reports of graffiti on pillars, illegal parking near Tanglin Halt, and puddles forming in some spots.

The Land Transport Authority said it has arranged for contractors to re-paint the pillars.

Those caught leaving graffiti will be handed over to the police.

As for the puddling issue, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said heavy usage coupled with wet weather can result in certain stretches becoming muddy.

It is working with the relevant authorities to improve the drainage system along the corridor to ensure the area won't become a breeding site for mosquitoes.

To deter illegal parking, SLA has installed concrete blocks and bollards to prevent the entry of vehicles.

Some volunteers said they plan to patrol the Green Corridor and inform the authorities if they see anything amiss.

- CNA/fa

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Threats to Sharks Destabilize Entire Ecosystems

Fear of tiger sharks, for instance, helps protect seagrass from being over-grazed, which in turns pulls CO2 out of the atmosphere and provides a habitat for fish and shellfish
Michael Heithaus and Inside Science Minds Guest Columnist
Scientific American 7 Aug 13;

This story was originally published by Inside Science News Service.

(ISM) -- Throughout most of the world sharks are in trouble. Big trouble. In some areas, with adequate management, shark populations have stabilized, but likely at levels far below what they were decades ago. In the rest of the world, shark fishing continues to be a major threat to many species. Recent estimates suggest that around 100 million sharks are taken by fisheries every year.

Because of their slow growth – sharks may take a decade or more to reach maturity – and low rate of reproduction – many species have fewer than a dozen young a year – this rate of catches is unsustainable. The decline of sharks will continue.

Why should we care? What will that mean for the oceans and even for fisheries targeting species other than sharks? We know from studies on land that when large predators are removed, entire ecosystems can be destabilized. That can be bad for animals and people. If similar things happen in the oceans, we not only need to think about halting declines of sharks, we will probably need to find ways to rebuild their numbers.

The attention that the Discovery Channel's Shark Week brings to these animals is great, but that attention needs to extend beyond the first week of August for these predators and the places they live to recover and eventually thrive.

For the past fifteen years, my colleagues and I have been trying to figure out how important tiger sharks are in the aptly named Shark Bay, Western Australia. Why travel halfway around the world? Quite simply, to study sharks in a place where their ecosystem is relatively untouched. Also, because Shark Bay features some of the world’s largest seagrass beds. Seagrass is important because it provides a habitat that supports populations of fish and shellfish that people rely on. It also helps to combat climate change by pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. By working in Shark Bay we can understand the role of sharks and what might happen to Shark Bay and its seagrass if tiger sharks were to disappear. It also lets us predict what might happen in other places where sharks have been overfished.

In Shark Bay, we have worked not only on sharks, but on their prey — including dolphins, sea turtles and sea cows — as well as the wider ecosystem. Our findings demonstrate that tiger sharks are critical to the Shark Bay ecosystem. But not in the way you might think. It turns out that the fear of sharks – by the sea cows and sea turtles that eat the seagrass – helps protect the seagrass from being over-grazed.

Here is how it works: Tiger sharks like to hunt in shallow waters in the bay; a perfect place for seagrass to grow. To avoid becoming a shark snack, turtles and sea cows generally avoid these areas. The seagrass can grow into a lush habitat that provides shelter for small fish and shellfish that will grow up into species people want to catch. In areas that sharks don’t frequent, seagrass is heavily grazed and does not support big populations of fish and shellfish. That means that if we were to lose tiger sharks from the bay, the seagrass likely would be grazed down all over.

The loss of seagrass would be bad news for fish and fishermen – and maybe even for turtles and sea cows! It also could result in the loss of a large amount of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere that would no longer be stored by seagrasses. There is evidence that the loss of sharks is hurting seagrass in some places.

In Bermuda and the Indian Ocean, where shark populations have declined, increasing populations of sea turtles are causing entire seagrass beds to virtually disappear. And it isn’t just in seagrass ecosystems where sharks are important. Recent studies point to the possibility that healthy coral reefs need sharks, too.

Luckily, many countries have begun to recognize that sharks can draw tourists. The associated economic benefits of shark tourism can outpace the income from fishing for sharks. There also has been a growing realization that if we don’t slow down shark fisheries, they will disappear. This has led some countries to adopt fishing quotas aimed at keeping sharks at sustainable population levels.

Other countries have gone further. Shark sanctuaries – where they are protected from being fished - have been declared throughout the waters of a number of countries around the world. This kind of precautionary approach is vital to protecting and restoring shark populations while scientists work to learn more about their potentially critical role in coral reef and other marine ecosystems.

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2012 Broke Climate Records, New Report Says

Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet LiveScience 6 Aug 13;

2012 was a year of climate records, from temperatures to ice melt to sea level rise, a newly released report on the state of the global climate says.

Even though natural climate cycles have slowed the planet's rising temperature, 2012 was one of the 10 hottest years since 1880, according to the report released today (Aug. 6) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

One reason the world's warming is slower in recent years is because of recent La NiƱa conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which cause atmospheric and ocean temperatures to cool, said Tom Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center during a news teleconference."There are a number of factors that cause climate to vary from year to year, but when you look back at long-term trends, temperatures have been increasing consistently," he said.

But in the Arctic, surface temperatures rose twice as fast in the past decade as lower latitudes, said Jackie Richter-Menge, a report co-author and research civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "The Arctic continues to be a region where we have some of the most compelling evidence of the fact that global temperatures are warming," she said.

A strong and persistent southerly airflow in spring 2012 contributed to the Arctic's record warmth, Richter-Menge said. The effects included a record-low summer ice pack extent in the Arctic Ocean, and surface melting across 97 percent of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Richter-Menge said researchers are also seeing long-term changes, such as more coastal vegetation growing in the Arctic tundra and rising permafrost temperatures.

"The near records being reported from year to year are no longer anomalies or exceptions," Richter-Menge said. "They have become the norm for us and what we expect to see in the near future."

Ice melt from Greenland and glaciers elsewhere are contributing to sea level rise, according to the climate report. In the past year, sea level rose a record 1.4 inches (35 millimeters) above the 1983 to 2010 average, said Jessica Blunden, a climatologist at NOAA's Climatic Data Center and lead editor of the report. "It appears ice melt is contributing more than twice as much as warming waters," she said during the teleconference. As the ocean warms, water expands, contributing to sea level rise.

The annual State of the Climate report compiles climate and weather data from around the world and is reviewed by more than 380 climate scientists from 52 countries. The report can be viewed online.

The planet hit several records or near records in 2012, the report said. These include:

Record ice loss from melting glaciers. 2012 will be the 22nd year in a row of ice loss.
Near-record ocean heat content, a measure of heat stored in the oceans. When the ocean holds more heat than it releases, its heat content increases.
Record sea level rise of 1.4 inches above average.
Record-low June snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere. The June snow cover has declined 17 percent per decade since 1979, outpacing the shrinking summer Arctic sea ice extent by 4 percent.
Record-low summer Arctic sea ice extent. Sea ice shrank to its smallest summer minimum since record-keeping began 34 years ago.
Record-high winter Antarctic sea ice extent of 7.51 million square miles (19.44 million square kilometers) in September.
Record-high man-made greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. In 2012, for the first time, global average carbon dioxide concentrations hit 392 parts per million and exceeded 400 ppm at some observation sites. The number means there were 400 carbon dioxide molecules per 1 million air molecules.

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