Best of our wild blogs: 17 Oct 13

Sunday 20 Oct Morning Heritage Walk
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

2 Nov (Sat): Biography of E. J. H. Corner by his son
from wild shores of singapore

Bidadari, a sampler - 15Oct2013
from sgbeachbum

Cloudless at sea
from The annotated budak

Juvenile Malaysian Hawk-cuckoo Eating Flower
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Spotted Black Crow
from Butterflies of Singapore and Butterflies Galore! : Darky Plushblue

Dyera costulata – the Jelutong
from lekowala!

June fires concentrated in peatlands, burned 1,500 sq km in Sumatra
from news by Rhett Butler

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Thailand: Phuket hosts workshop on understanding and strengthening resilience to coral bleaching events

The Phuket News 16 Oct 13;

PHUKET: The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Prince Songkla University, WWF – Thailand and SEEK are jointly organizing a series of coral workshops on the ecological, social and economic impacts of coral bleaching on the local reefs, and options for responding to bleaching events.

The two workshops in Thailand will be held in Pattaya and Phuket on 14 and 16 October 2013 respectively. These workshops are part of a regional initiative that includes Malaysia and Indonesia, and are funded through grants from the Asia-Pacific Network and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Dubbed the “worst coral die-off since 1998,” the mass coral bleaching events in 2010 were unprecedented and resulted in very high mortality rates to many reefs. Post-bleaching survey shows that the bleaching impact have not been uniform and differ both at regional and local scales. Management interventions were imposed and effectiveness needed to be assessed.

From data analysis carried out in 2010, it was determined that the diving industry in Thailand is estimated to bring in $US 600 million a year to the Thailand economy, and generate a further US$ 2 billion a year in non-market benefits. And the costs of bleaching in 2010 were estimated to be US$ 50-75 million for three countries.

Dr. Sean Pascoe, Dr. Heidi Schuttenberg and Dr. Scott Heron, experts from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in United States, respectively, and several local coral researchers will be sharing the results of the surveys and interviews carried out in 2010 as well as facilitating the workshops. Ecological impacts of coral bleaching as well as the socio-economic aspects of the local dive operators will be presented.

“These workshops, particularly the discussion sessions, are an important avenue to raise awareness on the coral bleaching phenomenon as well as in strengthening the interactions among stakeholders to facilitate decision-making at the local and national levels,” says Dr. Heidi Schuttenberg, the Principal Investigator, who also oversees the planning and the executing of the project in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Invited stakeholders include coral reef researchers from Universities, NGOs and dive operators in both Andaman and the Gulf of Thailand.

“Through the workshops, we hope to instill greater awareness among the stakeholders about the impacts of coral bleaching as well as to collaboratively develop sound methodologies to guide work and proper management actions during future bleaching events,” adds Pinsak Surasvadi, director at DMCR who hosts the workshop.

For further information, please contact Petch Manopawitr at 0891811444 or email

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Australian scientists plan to relocate wildlife threatened by climate change

Endangered species vulnerable to rising temperatures to be shifted in contentious move considered ‘last resort’ by scientists
Oliver Milman 17 Oct 13;

Australian researchers have developed the “first rigorous framework” on how to relocate animals displaced due to climate change.

The study, conducted by academics from four Australian universities and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), devised a formula on how to decide whether to relocate a species, which species to prioritise for reintroduction and where and how to move them.

The work follows a request by the International Union for Conservation of Nature for a new process to assess species relocation.

Rising temperatures are expected to have a significant impact on Australian species, with the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warning that a 2C-4C rise in average temperatures will wipe out 21%-36% of Australia's butterflies, while the loss of nearly half of appropriate habitat in Queensland will spell doom for 7%-14% of reptiles, 8%-18% of frogs, one in 10 birds and 10%-15% of mammals.

Tracy Rout, of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland and co-author of the relocation study, told Guardian Australia that moving species was a contentious one among scientists.

“There’s lots of debate in science whether it is a good idea at all,” she said. “This is the most quantitative study on the most important judgments we need to know.”

The key values fed into the formula are the status of the animals to be moved, the prospects of the animals at a new site and their impact on existing species in the new area.

“We’ve ended up with an equation that basically looks at the benefits versus the cost, ecologically speaking,” said Rout. “This should be very helpful in making the judgment whether to move a species, but there also needs to be value judgments taken by the decision-maker.”

Rout said that the process of relocating threatened species is already underway, with plans to move the western swamp tortoise from its rapidly drying habitat on the fringes of Perth. There are also proposals to move the endangered mountain pygmy possum, which is considered vulnerable to warmer temperatures.

“Climate change will have a huge impact on a lot of species in Australia and where there is no other solution to mitigate the situation, relocation will be a last resort,” said Rout. “I don’t see it being used very widely, but there needs to be a proper formula to it.”

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Four out of five UK children 'not connected to nature'

Research from the RSPB measures the extent to which children are in touch with the natural world

Adam Vaughan 16 Oct 13;

Two young boys are putting the finishing touches to their twig-lined den, next to a welly-clad girl who has discovered a toad hiding by a tree. Several children are busy fishing for worms, while others are scooping up bird feathers as part of their treasure hunt.

Yet these children, playing at a "forest school" in a south-east London park, are an endangered species, according to the first ever national measurement of the extent to which children are in touch with the natural world. The three-year research project by the RSPB, published on Wednesday, shows that according to the conservation group's scoring system, four out of five children in the UK are not adequately "connected to nature".

The study, which saw 1,200 children aged 8-12 years questioned on how strongly they agreed or disagreed with 16 statements such as "I enjoy touching animals and plants", "being outdoors makes me happy" and "humans are part of the natural world", suggests that girls have a better connection with nature than boys. It also found children in London had a stronger connection than those in Wales.

The study follows a major stock-take of the state of Britain's nature, published in May, which found that the majority of UK species are declining, and one in three have halved in number in the past five decades. Conservationists linked the decline in wildlife to the disconnect between children and the natural world. "Nature is in trouble, and children's connection to nature is closely linked to this," said Dr Mike Clarke, the RSPB's chief executive.

He added: "This report is groundbreaking stuff. Millions of people are increasingly worried that today's children have less contact with nature than ever before, but until now there has been no robust scientific attempt to measure and track connection to nature among children in the UK, which means the problem hasn't been given the attention it deserves."

Hugh Dames, who runs the forest school in Mayow park in Lewisham, was not too surprised by the findings. "I've had children who hated to get their hands dirty, who are frightened by wood lice. But by the end of just one session, they're happily playing in the mud, looking for worms and creepy crawlies."

Dames said he had been inspired by his previous work with schools and thinking about what he wanted to teach his daughter upon becoming a father 18 months ago. "If they [children] understand nature, they will value it and will take more care of it when they get older. If you're not engaged with it, you're not going to feel any need to safeguard it. I think outdoor learning is the only way to do that," he said.

The RSPB team worked with researchers at the University of Essex to devise a meaningful way of defining a connection to nature, concluding in the report that it was "enjoyment of nature; having empathy for creatures; having a sense of oneness with nature; and having a sense of responsibility for the environment."

Based on the polling, they then ranked a child's connection to nature on a scale of the lowest, -2, to the highest, +2, and considered 1.5 a "realistic and achievable" target based on children who visit RSPB nature reserves. The percentage of UK children over the 1.5 score was 21%, while girls were at 27% compared to boys at 16%. Scotland had the highest percentage over 1.5, at 27%, falling to 25% in Northern Ireland, 24% in London, 21% in England and 13% in Wales.

Suzanne Welch, education manager at the RSPB, said she could only speculate on the reasons behind the surprising finding that Welsh children were less connected than those in London. "Might it be that there are lot of accessible green spaces in London? Children in the countryside can be quite isolated with small local roads and no pavements. Access might be quite difficult in rural areas." She said that more work was needed to find out why, but she said it showed "just being in the countryside doesn't make you connected to nature."

The issue will be back in the spotlight next week, with the premiere of Project Wild Thing, a film exploring why children spend less time playing outdoors and interacting with nature. David Bond, the film's director, and a father of a six-year-old girl and four-year-old boy, said the RSPB report's findings sounded "absolutely spot on" from his work making the film, which included a visit to Eltham school, in London, where most of the children he spoke to had "other priorities" than the outdoors.

"What's important about that study to me is not the percentage but that finally it's being measured, and according to this measurement system we have a problem," he told the Guardian. "And I've got a bad feeling in a year's time it will get worse." He cited what he called well-founded fears from parents over traffic and misplaced fears over "stranger danger" as two of the culprits. Children were spending too much time on screens, such as TVs and iPads, he said, but cautioned "technology is not really a problem in itself. It's a much more fundamental commercialisation of childhood."

The RSPB said its polling created a baseline which it hopes to use to measure how children's connection to nature changes in the future. The polling was done face-to-face by TNS for 1,088 British children aged 8-12 years old, and by Ipsos Mori for 112 children of the same age in Northern Ireland.

Just one in five children connected to nature, says study
Matt McGrath BBC News 16 Oct 13;

Large numbers of children in Britain are missing out on the natural world, a study from the RSPB suggests.

The three-year project found that only 21% of children aged 8-12 were "connected to nature".

Girls were much more likely than boys to be exposed to the great outdoors, while children in Wales had the lowest score across the UK.

The RSPB says that a perception among some adults that nature is dangerous or dirty could be holding children back.

There has been an increasing amount of research in recent years underlining the lack of contact and experience with nature among modern children.

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In some cases it is perceived as a dirty or unsafe thing, and that's an attitude that won't help a young person climb a tree”

Sue Armstrong-Brown
Some have argued that this is having a negative impact on their health, education and behaviour.

In 2012, the National Trust published a report on the phenomenon of "nature deficit disorder", though it is not recognised as a medical condition.

Gender difference
The RSPB says its new study is the first to quantify the scale of British children's exposure, or lack of it, to the natural world.

They came up with a definition of what "connected to nature" actually means and then developed a questionnaire with 16 statements designed to assess the level of connection among children.

Some 1,200 children from across the UK were asked to agree or disagree with these statements. Only 21% of children in the UK had a level of connection with wildlife and the natural world that the RSPB believes should be realistic and achievable for all youngsters.

This "realistic and achievable" value is based on the average scores of children visiting RSPB sites or who are junior members of the organisation.

One interesting finding was the gender difference. While 27% of girls were at or above the "realistic and achievable" target, only 16% of boys were at the same level.

"We need to understand these differences," Sue Armstrong-Brown, head of conservation at the charity, told BBC News.

"Whether boys and girls are scoring differently on different questions, are girls more empathetic to nature than boys for instance? We need to analyse the data to find that out."

The report also highlighted significant regional differences. Only 13% of children in Wales achieved the basic level of exposure, compared with almost twice this number in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Urban beats rural
The average score for London was higher than the rest of England. Overall urban children had a slightly higher connection than those living in rural areas.

According to Sue Armstrong-Brown, the attitudes of adults may be having a significant effect on children.

"There is definitely an attitude out there, in some cases, that nature is not perceived as interesting or engaging. In some cases it is perceived as a dirty or unsafe thing, and that's an attitude that won't help a young person climb a tree."

The RSPB hopes that its study will be taken up by government as one of the indicators on the state of children's wellbeing.

Sue Armstrong-Brown believes that improving the natural connection for children is not only good for the youngsters, it is crucial for the future of nature conservation in this country.

"If we can grow a generation of children that have a connection to nature and do feel a sense of oneness with it, we then have the force for the future that can save nature and stop us living in a world where nature is declining," she said.

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Business urged to do more to save oceans: World Bank study

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 17 Oct 13;

Businesses should play a bigger role in helping to save depleted fish stocks as part of efforts to prevent irreversible damage to the oceans, a World-Bank backed report said on Wednesday.

The study, by 21 experts including government ministers, academics, conservationists and company leaders, said policies for protecting the oceans from over-fishing, pollution and climate change were often ineffective and fragmented.

It recommended more public-private partnerships involving companies, governments, local communities and others to protect ecosystems that are the main source of protein for a billion people, mainly in the developing world.

"A paradigm shift is needed in how we use and conserve ocean resources to address current inadequacies," the report said.

The panel, set up by the World Bank, is one of several groups trying to find ways to deal with threats to the oceans. A separate Global 0cean Commission, for instance, is looking at how to safeguard the high seas, outside national jurisdictions.

There have been many failures despite past calls for action; a U.N. summit in Johannesburg in 2002, for instance, set a goal, set to be missed, of restoring world fisheries to health by 2015.

The 29-page report provides an outline for action for a group of 140 nations who have signed up to seek solutions to the problems.

"It is vital to have the CEOs of major seafood companies around the table," Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, chair of the panel and director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in Australia, told Reuters by telephone.

He said that better management would make it easier to apply lessons from one part of the world elsewhere.

"The same problems that are occurring for coral reefs in Thailand are occurring in Tanzania," he said. "This is about creating that platform where you could swap ideas and develop technologies as a global community."


Chris Lischewski, President and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, North America's biggest branded seafood company, said businesses were often wrongly seen as "the bad guys" in ocean management.

"Sustainable fisheries is key to our future," Lischewski, who is also a member of Wednesday's panel, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

He said Bumble Bee Foods, which has a turnover of about $1 billion, worked with conservationists, for instance, to ensure that the tuna it sells is only caught from sustainable sources.

And he said the company was working with countries including Fiji, Mauritius and Colombia and would soon announce a new partnership with "a group of coastal countries".

Last week, an international report by a group of scientists also warned the oceans were suffering a "deadly trio" of threats from global warming, declining oxygen levels and acidificiation.

And a report by the U.N.'s panel on climate change said last month that land and ocean surface temperatures had warmed by about 0.9 degree Celsius (1.6 F) since the late 19th century, almost half way to a 2 C (3.6 F) ceiling set by almost 200 governments to prevent dangerous change.

Wednesday's report did not look at costs of implementing recommendations. "Regardless of what we do, fish is going to cost more in the future," Lischewski said, saying the world population was rising and many fish stocks were at maximum yields.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; editing by Patrick Graham)

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