Best of our wild blogs: 9 Dec 13

Families enjoying day out at Chek Jawa, 7 Dec, with the Crabs
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Butterflies Galore! : Pugnacious Lancer
from Butterflies of Singapore

Paradise Tree Snake
from Monday Morgue

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Malaysia floods: Orange-alert warning for Pahang, Terengganu lifted

LEVEL YELLOW: But rains will not stop and floods can still occur
New Straits Times 9 Dec 13;

THE orange-alert warning issued by the Meteorological Department in several parts of Pahang and Terengganu was lifted yesterday as the situation in flood-hit areas improved.

Its central forecast division director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said the warning was changed to yellow at 9am.

"Heavy rains subsided in Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang but it will take some time, at least another two or three days, for the water levels to go down."

Helmi said despite the change, people should still take the necessary precautions.

"These warnings are only based on rainfall patterns and not on the level of flooding," he said, adding residents could expect intermittent rain for the next few days.

"There will be no more episodes of heavy rain. Only moderate rain will persist this week, which may still cause floods in low-lying areas."

On Tuesday, the department issued a Level 2 orange warning for five areas in Pahang and Terengganu.

National Security Council secretary Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab assured there was adequate supply of food for evacuees.

"The situation is under control and the supply of food and essential items at relief centres will last for at least three to five days," he said, acknowledging that there had been an initial delay in the supply of food to several relief centres.

Thajudeen attributed this to a sudden and unforeseen rise in the number of evacuees as well as the disruption of transport facilities because of floodwaters cutting off roads.

"Two teams were deployed in Kemaman and Pahang, and another 10 are on standby if the need arises."

He said the council was cooperating with the police, Fire and Rescue Department, district office and other agencies to ensure flood relief operations were carried effectively,
"All the necessary equipment for rescue operations, such as four-wheel-drive vehicles, ambulances, helicopters and boats, are ready to move out any time."

The number of evacuees in the east coast decreased yesterday as flood waters abated. As of 8pm, there were 35,502 displaced people in Pahang, 22,617 in Terengganu and 226 in Kelantan.

Mercy Malaysia corporate communications manager Eyasmin Hameed said the organisation had set up a mobile clinic and distributed 1,000 hygiene kits to flood victims in Kuantan.

She said the mobile clinic was set up at Kolej Kemahiran Tinggi Mara on Thursday while the hygiene kits were distributed in collaboration with St John Ambulance Malaysia.

"We gave one hygiene kit for each family. Each kit accommodates the needs of five individuals and contains toiletries, combs, five slippers, nail-clippers and underwear for adults and children."

Eyasmin said Mercy Malaysia was also educating evacuees on the importance of cleanliness to avoid water-borne diseases from spreading.

Tenaga Nasional Bhd said yesterday it had restored power supply to all flood-affected areas as of 11am yesterday.

The situation in Johor improved yesterday because of good weather. Only 635 people were left at nine centres last night compared with 1,024 earlier in the afternoon.

Sunny weather brings relief to Johoreans as flood situation improves
Kathleen Ann Kili The Star 9 Dec 13;

JOHOR BARU: The flood situation in the state has improved with fewer than a thousand victims seeking shelter at nine flood relief centres as at 7am Monday.

A spokesman from the Johor flood operations centre said the number of victims dropped from 1,024 people on Sunday to 602 Monday.

He added that 125 families were still seeking shelter at a total of nine relief centres in three affected districts here, including Segamat, Pontian and Batu Pahat.

"Segamat recorded the highest number of victims with 484 people from 121 families evacuated to seven centres within the district," he said when contacted.

The other two relief centres were sheltering a total of 63 victims from 18 families and 55 victims from 12 families at Batu Pahat and Pontian respectively.

"We believe that the centres in Batu Pahat and Pontian can be shut down today (Monday) if the weather continues to be sunny there," he said.

He said that roads in between Segamat and Gambang was still closed due to floods.

He also assured that the State Welfare Department had sufficient food and water supplies besides other essential items to hand out to the victims.

Johor flood situation improves, roads reopened
Yee Xiang Yun The Star 8 Dec 13;

JOHOR BARU: The flood situation in Johor has improved and previously closed and sectioned roads have been reopened and are accessible by all types of vehicles.

As of 5pm Sunday, the Johor flood operations centre recorded a total of 1,024 from 274 families from three districts seeking relief at evacuation centres.

Victims still seeking shelter at 17 centres in the state include 489 evacuees from 122 families in Segamat, 414 victims from 110 families in Pontian and 121 victims from 42 families in Batu Pahat.

Centres in other previously affected districts like Ledang, Kota Tinggi, Kluang, Kulaijaya, Mersing and Muar have since closed down as flood waters receded.

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Saving the ecosystem: Engineered Wetlands - a sustainable solution for mangrove depletion

Farhan Anwar The Express Tribune 9 Dec 13;

KARACHI: To preserve mangroves, we need to do more than just plant them – we need to address the reasons for their decline and achieve a long-term solution.

The social, economic and environmental importance of the mangrove forests and their threatened status in Pakistan is well-established. Most of the conservation projects that have been initiated so far have focused on planting mangroves and raising awareness among the communities. While planting additional mangroves may contribute to a short-term increase in the vegetation cover, a failure to tackle the underlying reasons for their decline would mean that long-term benefits are not achieved.

Major threats to the mangrove forests include pollution, human exploitation and lesser availability of fresh water in the crucial mixing zones where the mangroves survive. To redress this negative development, we need viable measures to remove these threats.
One such measure is to use the opportunities provided by nature – using wetlands as a ‘pollutant filter’ to cleanse polluted domestic sewage. Along the Karachi coastline and beyond, most of the mangroves have been cleared to make way for boating marinas. The dense mangrove cover is now only available across the coastline in the creek system.
Ecotone wetlands
One possible approach to sustainably protect these threatened mangrove ecosystems could be the development of ‘Ecotone Wetlands’ or artificial wetlands along the coastline. The sewage of the village can be collected and transferred to a specially designed wetland, where some species of indigenous sub-semi arid forest variety that can be used for fodder orfuel wood are planted. The sewage can be channelled sub-surface into the wetland to provide nutrients to the plantations and thus a unique combination of marine plus terrestrial and natural plus constructed ‘Ecotone Wetland’ can be operated.

With the availability of alternative sources of fuel wood and fodder, a reduction in pollution load, the mangroves will benefit. The local community, particularly women, who can be the main focus of the capacity-building process, will be trained in sustainable resource use.
Ecological engineering

The project will be based on the concept of ‘Ecological engineering’, which relies on the nature’s ability to self-design a self-sustaining ecosystem. Even within Karachi, such an experiment can be done along the backwater areas. This will also help treat sewage and can be extended to create a recreational facility. Since such a project offers an integrated approach, the community can also benefit along with the ecosystem.

A major cause of diseases in such coastal communities is improper sanitation. Once sewage is collected, transferred and treated, and then disposed off in a proper manner, the neighbourhood’s condition will improve. Subsequently, the health of these residents and their savings will also get better. Another short-term improvement that the residents will see is an improvement in financial condition as they will find employment in the project to develop this ‘Ecotone Wetland’. This will reduce the level of exploitation of the mangrove ecology. Since the mangroves act as nurseries for a variety of aquatic life, especially shrimps, the survival of the mangroves indirectly gets translated into financial benefits for the fishing community, as well.

The writer is an urban planner and runs a non-profit organisation based in Karachi city focusing on urban sustainability issues. He can be reached at,

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Arctic thaw tied to European, U.S. heatwaves and downpours: study

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 5 Dec 13;

A thaw of Arctic ice and snow is linked to worsening summer heatwaves and downpours thousands of miles south in Europe, the United States and other areas, underlying the scale of the threat posed by global warming, scientists said on Sunday.

Their report, which was dismissed as inconclusive by some other experts, warned of increasingly extreme weather across "much of North America and Eurasia where billions of people will be affected".

The study is part of a drive to work out how climate change affects the frequency of extreme weather, from droughts to floods. Governments want to know the trends to plan everything from water supplies to what crops to plant.

But the science of a warming Arctic is far from settled.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, experts in China and the United States said they could not conclusively say the Arctic thaw caused more extreme weather, or vice versa.

But they said they had found evidence of a relationship between the two. Rising temperatures over thawing snow on land and sea ice in the Arctic were changing atmospheric pressure and winds, the report said.

The changes slowed the eastward movement of vast meandering weather systems and meant more time for extreme weather to develop - such as a heatwave in Russia in 2010, droughts in the United States and China in 2011 and 2012, or heavy summer rains that caused floods in Britain in 2012, the paper added.

"The study contributes to a growing body of evidence that ... the melting Arctic has wide-ranging implications for people living in the middle latitudes," lead author Qiuhong Tang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences told Reuters.


Sea ice in the Arctic shrank to a record low in 2012 and the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists says it could almost vanish in summers by 2050 with rising greenhouse gas emissions.

But some scientists said other factors, including the usual vagaries of weather or changing sea temperatures, may explain some recent extremes rather than changes in the Arctic.

"The jury is still very much out," James Screen, an expert at Exeter University in England, said of efforts to see if there is a link between a melting Arctic and extremes further south in the northern hemisphere.

Some evidence in Sunday's study was "plausible ... but far from conclusive," he said, adding that some of the data were not statistically significant and might be random variations.

"For people on the streets, what really matters is whether the extremes are changing or not. But from the scientific perspective we want to understand why," he said. Better understanding is vital to make reliable predictions.

In September, the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists raised the probability that most global warming since 1950 has a human cause - mostly gases released by burning fossil fuels - to 95 percent from 90 in a previous assessment in 2007.

James Overland, of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said many extremes studied were in the past decade, too short to know for sure if they were enhanced by Arctic ice and snow melt or not.

"Sceptics remain unconvinced that Arctic/mid-latitude linkages are proven, and this work will do little to change their viewpoint," he wrote in a comment in Nature Climate Change.

Still, he said there was a high potential for an Arctic influence, given the outlook for a further thaw.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle)

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Ancient farming seen curbing extinctions of animals, plants

Reuters Yahoo News 9 Dec 13;

OSLO (Reuters) - Ancient farming practices, such as raising fish in rice paddies in China or Aboriginal Australian fire controls, will get a new lease of life under plans to slow extinctions of animals and plants, experts said on Monday.

Turning to traditional farming is seen as a way of limiting what U.N. studies say is the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago, driven by a rising human population that is wrecking natural habitats.

A 115-nation group seeking to protect the diversity of wildlife, which underpins everything from food supplies to medicines, will look at ways to revive and promote indigenous peoples' practices at talks in Turkey from December 9-14.

"Indigenous and local knowledge ... has played a key role in arresting biodiversity loss and conserving biodiversity," Zakri Abdul Hamid, founding chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), told Reuters.

The idea is partly to compare traditional farming around the world and see if the practices can be used in other nations.

Among ideas, raising fish in the waters of rice paddies, a practice used in south China for 1,200 years and in some other Asian nations, can reduce pests. Most modern rice paddies are not used to raise fish.

Farming the two together "reduces by 68 percent the need for pesticides and by 24 percent the need for chemical fertilizer compared with monocultures", an IPBES report said. Pesticides often kill many more species than those targeted.

And in countries including Australia, Indonesia, Japan and Venezuela, traditional burning of small patches of countryside can create a mosaic of firebreaks that prevents the spread of devastating blazes in the dry season, it said.


Small fires mean that wildlife can get out of harm's way more easily than in a big fire, reducing risks of extinctions.

In Australia, such protection generates carbon credits for Aborigines by slowing deforestation - a source of up to a fifth of man-made greenhouse gases blamed for causing global warming.

In June, Australia's Indigenous Land Corporation said it sold 25,000 tonnes of carbon credits for savannah burning, the first such open market sale, to Chevron for more than $A20 ($18.20) a tonne.

Trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities, from the air as they grow and release it when they burn or rot.

Sam Johnston, an Australian expert at the U.N. University's Institute for Advanced Studies, said carbon markets might be used elsewhere. "We've found almost identical conditions in parts of Africa and Latin America," he told Reuters.

Other examples of traditional knowledge include pits dug on Tanzanian hillsides to collect rainfall in the rainy season to limit erosion, or weather observations by Inuit people in the Arctic to complement satellite data about melting ice.

And many Pacific island communities safeguard fish stocks around coral reefs, for instance by declaring some areas sacred sites that are then off limits to fishing.

Anne Larigauderie, incoming executive secretary of IPBES, said indigenous peoples often felt ignored by government planners. "There is a great need for recognition and acceptance of their knowledge," she said.

Other efforts to slow extinctions include creating more protected areas and enforcing laws on wildlife protection.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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