Best of our wild blogs: 5 Jan 14

Mating Black-winged Kites
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Night Walk At Venus Drive ( 03 Jan 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Life History of the Common Three Ring
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Malaysia: Pahang ready for second wave of floods

M. Hamzah Jamaluddin New Straits Times 5 Jan 14;

MEASURES IN PLACE: Sounding sirens among steps to be taken, says state secretary
KUANTAN: SEVERAL measures have been introduced to ensure that the evacuation of flood victims and the distribution of aid in Pahang will be carried out smoothly in the event of a second wave of floods this month.

State Natural Disaster Relief Committee chairman Datuk Seri Muhammad Safian Ismail said police and the Information Department would deploy their vehicles and sound sirens to warn the public if their areas would be flooded.

"Based on weather forecasts, the second wave of floods is predicted to occur between New Year's Eve and Monday (tomorrow). Our main focus will be Sungai Isap and Cenderawasih here," he said yesterday.

Safian, who is also state secretary, said the area here had been divided into several areas. They would each be handled by a specific agency to ensure that there were no overlapping roles and confusion among the agencies involved.

He said the area along the left side of Jalan Gambang to Kampung Ubai would be handled by the army, Bukit Rangin and Permatang Badak (Fire and Rescue Department), town centre and Cenderawasih (Civil Defence Department), Beserah to Kemaman border (Royal Malaysian Navy and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency) and Kampung Padang to Sungai Lembing (police).

"The agencies will also prepare meals for the flood victims," he said, adding that the new approach only involved Kuantan because of the high number of complaints received during the first wave of floods last month.

As for the other districts, he said existing standard operating procedures would be carried out with some improvements, including early warning.

He said new relief centres had already been identified in Indera Mahkota here to shelter flood victims.

"If a school is turned into a relief centre, the administration staff and teachers will help distribute aid to flood victims while Kuantan Municipal Council staff will assist the Welfare Department at other buildings."

For other districts, he said the Village Security and Development Committees would help distribute aid as usual.

He said the Drainage and Irrigation Department and the local authorities had also cleaned the drainage systems in their areas, including here, where more than 30,000 people were evacuated during the first wave of floods.

On claims that the irrigation system here could not cope with heavy rains during the monsoon season, Safian said the 940mm rainfall recorded between Dec 2 and 3 last year would require three new rivers within the town areas to effectively channel the water to the sea and avoid massive flooding.

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Scientists Uncover Hidden River of Rubbish Threatening to Devastate Wildlife

Science Daily 2 Jan 14;

Thousands of pieces of plastic have been discovered, submerged along the river bed of the upper Thames Estuary by scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Natural History Museum.

The sheer amount of plastic recovered shows there is an unseen stream of rubbish flowing through London which could be a serious threat to aquatic wildlife. The findings, published online in Marine Pollution Bulletin, highlight the cause for concern, not only for ecosystems around the river but for the North Sea, in to which the Thames flows.

Using nets designed to catch Chinese mitten crabs, Royal Holloway and the Natural History Museum scientists documented rubbish collected during a three-month trial. More than 8,000 pieces of plastic were collected, including large numbers of cigarette packaging, food wrappers and cups, but more than a fifth of waste was made up of sanitary products.

Dr Dave Morritt, a Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology at Royal Holloway and co-author of the study says: "The unusual aspect of the study is that these nets are originally designed to trap fish and crabs moving along the river bed, so we can see that the majority of this litter is hidden below the surface. This underwater litter must be taken into account when predicting the amount of pollution entering our rivers and seas, not just those items that we can see at the surface and washed up on shore. The potential impacts this could have for wildlife are far reaching: not only are the species that live in and around the river affected, but also those in seas that rivers feed into."

The waste collected for the study is only a small snapshot of the volume of litter which may exist at the bottom of the Thames. Plastic bags and other large items were unlikely to get caught in the small nets so the true extent of the problem is still unknown.

Dr Paul Clark, a researcher, at the Natural History Museum and co-author of the study says: "All of this waste, which was mostly plastic, was hidden underwater so Londoners probably don't realise that it's there. Plastic can have a damaging impact on underwater life. Large pieces can trap animals but smaller pieces can be in advertently eaten. This litter moves up and down the river bed depending on tides. The movement causes the pieces of plastic to break down into smaller fragments. These are small enough to be eaten by even the smallest animals, which are in turn eaten by larger fish and birds. Once digested, plastic can release toxic chemicals which are then passed through the food chain. These toxic chemicals, in high doses, could harm the health of wildlife."

Scientists are increasingly pressing for changes to both policy and consumer behaviours, as the dangers of plastics become more apparent.

David Morritt, Paris V. Stefanoudis, Dave Pearce, Oliver A. Crimmen, Paul F. Clark. Plastic in the Thames: A river runs through it. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.10.035

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Australia saw hottest year on record in 2013

BBC 4 Jan 14;

Australia experienced its hottest year on record in 2013, officials have said.

Temperatures were 1.2C above the long term average, the warmest since records began in 1910, the Bureau of Meteorology said in its annual report.

The year also saw a record-warm winter that led into the most devastating fires in Sydney since 1968, it said.

The warming in Australia was consistent with global climate trends, where rising temperatures were influenced by greenhouse gases, it added.

According to the bureau, all but one of the last 10 years have had warmer-than-average temperatures in Australia.

"The Australian region warming is very similar to that seen at the global scale, and the past year emphasises that the warming trend continues," the bureau said in its annual climate statement.

The report listed significant climate events in 2013, including "the most destructive fires in the Sydney region since at least 1968", which were affected by "a record-warm and dry winter and an early spring".

Neil Plummer, from the bureau, told broadcaster ABC: "Most of the warming has occurred since around 1950, and that's consistent with the global pattern."

He said that figures from the bureau, and other bureaus around the word, provided a "body of evidence that we're all seeing a warming over Australia and a warming world".

The news will likely add to criticism from environmentalists that the new conservative government is not doing enough to tackle climate change, the BBC's Jon Donnison in Sydney reports.

Ministers recently cut funding for a number of organisations carrying out research into global warming, and the government has also pledged to abolish a carbon tax which makes the country's biggest polluters pay for the amount of greenhouse cases they produce, our correspondent adds.

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