Best of our wild blogs: 24-25 May 14

7 Jun (Sat) evening: Free guided walk at the Pasir Ris mangroves from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

mangrove balloon @ berlayar creek 23May2014
from sgbeachbum

Night Walk At Old Upper Thomson Road (23 May 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Nesting of the Green Imperial-pigeon
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterfly of the Month - May 2014
from Butterflies of Singapore

Sunny day at Chek Jawa with the Naked Hermit Crabs
from wild shores of singapore

from The annotated budak

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Demand for environment impact studies grows

Feng Zengkun and Grace Chua The Straits Times 24 May 14;

The concept is simple: Before you build something, study how it will affect the environment and its surroundings in detail.

While this may sound obvious, "environmental impact assessments" or EIAs have become more widespread in Singapore only in recent years.

The most high-profile EIA is an upcoming one commissioned by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to study how the Cross Island MRT Line, to be completed in 2030, will affect the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Though the line's alignment has yet to be finalised, nature groups have called for the protection of the reserve and are concerned about the possibility of the train line being built through it.

Design and consultancy firm Aecom said "Singapore becoming denser" has led to the growing demand for such studies. "Certain developments will cause some impact on neighbouring properties or on nature areas," said Mr Mark Vergara, its country director for the environment business line.

He estimated that demand for EIAs has risen about 50 per cent compared to two to three years ago and said Aecom's "top client" has been the Government.

Nominated MP Faizah Jamal, who champions EIAs, said: "There is more consciousness now of their importance, especially after the LTA's eight-month engagement with nature groups on the Cross Island Line."

A Ministry of National Development spokesman said: "Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) planning process, all development proposals are comprehensively assessed by relevant agencies before approval is given."

Reviewing agencies include the URA, LTA, National Parks Board, national water agency PUB, Maritime and Port Authority, National Environment Agency and Agri- Food and Veterinary Authority. They evaluate the impact on issues like the environment, traffic, and maritime navigation.

"Some of the proposals may require further studies to better understand their impact on the surroundings," the spokesman added. "In particular, EIAs are required for major development proposals if they are near sensitive areas such as nature reserves."

Activists would like legislation for EIAs to standardise when they are carried out and how rigorous they need to be. The Nature Society's environmental law and policy coordinator Vinayagan Dharmarajah said that would "force industry to up its game and give people a sense of ownership".

Ms Natalia Huang, 32, whose firm conducts animal studies for EIAs, said Singapore could follow Australia, where they have "Level 1 and Level 2 fauna assessments".

"This reflects the size, the anticipated impact, public sensitivity and previous knowledge of biodiversity" of the site.

Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law director Lye Lin-Heng said the Government "should consult the public, some of whom may have very specialised knowledge", to make well-informed decisions.

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Singapore haze advisory panel meets for first time

Channel NewsAsia 23 May 14;

SINGAPORE: The first meeting of the International Advisory Panel on Transboundary Pollution (IAP-TP) took place between Thursday (May 22) and Friday (May 23), as the country braces for another haze season in the coming dry months.

The panel comprises of eight international law experts, including co-chairs Professor S. Jayakumar and Professor Tommy Koh.

It is expected to advise the Singapore Government on trends and issues under international law relating to transboundary pollution and providing recommendations it could adopt to tackle the issue.

Four eminent experts, including two from Indonesia, will support the panel's deliberations.

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Friday (May 23) after the meeting: "Transboundary haze is a recurring problem which has affected our region and Singapore for decades. If haze re-occurs during the dry season in the next few months, it may be worsened by the higher probability of an El Nino weather pattern this year.

"The IAP-TP has an important role to study and advise the Singapore Government on the possible options and practical steps available under international law that Singapore can take to resolve this issue. I look forward to receiving the IAP recommendations soon.”

The advisory panel will present a report to the Government when ready, but no time frame was announced.

- CNA/do

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Malaysia: 'Eating turtle eggs is dangerous'

New Straits Times 25 May 14;

MALACCA: People should stop eating sea turtle meat and eggs as they pose a health risk, said Fisheries Department deputy director-general (development) Datuk Ismail Abu Hassan.

He said contrary to belief that sea turtle eggs were nutritious and could boost fertility, they contained a high amount of cholesterol.

Sea turtle eggs, he said, had four times more cholesterol than chicken eggs.

"Research showed that sea turtle meat contains a high level of heavy metals, which could cause health problems," he said in Muara Sungai Duyong here yesterday.

Ismail said efforts must be made to safeguard the endangered species.

He said the state government was monitoring a hawksbill landing and nesting habitat in Pulau Upeh, now in a critical state as a result of sea reclamation works.

He warned developers to comply with the law to avoid damaging surrounding areas.

"We will ask the state authorities, including the land and mineral office and economic planning unit, to make sure developers follow designs for their project."

Pulau Upeh is the largest hawksbill turtle nesting ground in Peninsular Malaysia and the second largest in the country.

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Thailand: Phuket battered by coastal erosion

Phuket Gazette 25 May 14;

PHUKET: Officials yesterday expressed deep concern about the rate of coastal erosion, especially at Bang Tao Beach and coastal areas inside Sirinath National Park on Phuket’s west coast.

The issue was raised at a meeting chaired by Phuket Vice Governor Sommai Prijasilpa yesterday at The Metropole Phuket hotel in Phuket Town.

Coastal erosion has ravaged areas in all six provinces along the Andaman Coast, said Somsri Arvakait, Director of Policy and Management for Coastal Areas at the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR).

“In addition, areas in nine provinces in the upper reaches of the Gulf of Thailand have suffered extensive coastal erosion, as well as eight provinces in lower areas of the gulf,” she said.

Tanet Munnoy, chief of the DMCR Region 5 office based in Phuket, reported that sections of Bang Tao Beach and coastal areas inside Sirinath National Park were the worst hit on the island.

“Coastal erosion has been a problem for years. We have been studying it, but we simply are not sure how best to counter it,” he said.

The battle against coastal erosion has plagued seafront communities and resort owners in the region for years.

In March, Krabi villagers built bamboo barriers 500 meters long in front of a fishing village to protect against it (story here).

Last year, waves two meters high caused damage along 13 kilometers of beachfront at Bang Niang Beach in Phang Nga, forcing at least one hotel owner to set up sandbags to protect against the sea and prompting the local mayor to call for help from the Phang Nga Governor (story here).

In 2012, constant pounding by waves battered a seawall to pieces at Surin Beach in Phuket (story here).

In 2011, local businessmen and restauranteurs at Rawai Beach raced to repair a seawall after a large section of sidewalk plunged into the sea (story here).

Mr Tanet told the Phuket Gazette that the DMRC was to meet again soon to discuss possible strategies to defend against the erosion.

“However, at this stage we don’t know when or where that meeting will be,” he said.
- See more at:

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Carbon loss from tropical forests 'underestimated'

Matt McGrath BBC News 22 May 14;

The amount of carbon lost from tropical forests is being significantly underestimated, a new study reports.

In addition to loss of trees, the degradation of tropical forests by selective logging and fires causes large amounts of "hidden" emissions.

The slow moving process has remained almost invisible to satellite observations in the Amazon.

Researchers say degradation in Brazil causes additional emissions equivalent to 40% of those from deforestation.

The research is due to be published in the journal Global Change Biology.

The rapid removal of trees in the Amazon rainforest has been a significant source of global carbon emissions for many decades.

It is said to account for around 12% of human induced greenhouse gases, roughly the equivalent of both agriculture and transport.
Grounded assessment

But the estimates of these losses have relied mainly on satellite observations to count the missing trees.

Scientists have long been aware that the human impact on the rainforest is a slow process and that carbon is being lost even though the satellites show the tree cover is still intact.

This new study attempts to overcome these limitations by using on-the-ground assessments. Over 70,000 trees were measured and over 5,000 soil samples were taken in an effort to get an accurate picture of the impact of degradation.

"It's been completely overlooked," said lead author Dr Erika Berenguer from Lancaster University.

"When we talk about deforestation, we completely remove the forest and all that carbon is lost."

"When you talk about degradation it is more cryptic. Chunks of the forest are affected but when you look from the satellite image you still see trees, you just don't know the condition, and that is why it is overlooked."

Degradation is slow moving and the researchers acknowledge it is hard to measure. They believe that this is one of the reasons that it has been underestimated.

Another factor is that in Brazil much of the degraded forest is in private hands, meaning that researchers have to work with a large numbers of landowners to assess the losses.

The team believe their study is the most accurate picture yet of the scale of emissions from this source. They believe that in 2010 this amounted to 54 billion tonnes, around 40% of the carbon loss from deforestation in the Amazon.

"It is mainly fires that escape from burning pasture, selective logging and edge effects," said Dr Berenguer.

"These edge effects happen when you fragment a forest, when it is close to a pasture, that border is subject to higher temperatures, higher winds and the forest starts dying out from the edge toward the core."

The scientists believe that degradation is having an impact on global emissions of carbon as forests in Indonesia and Africa are all subject to similar processes. Existing efforts to tackle the problem they say, are simply not effective.

"The take-home message from this report for me is the need for better management of tropical lands, with strict controls on selective logging to avoid unnecessary damage to the forest," said Dr Simon Lewis, a forest scientist at University College London, who wasn't involved with the study.

"This needs to be joined together with fire management, to avoid fires getting near tropical forests."

Monitoring for degradation has been attempted in Brazil in the past but was discontinued after a number of years. The researchers believe that it is crucial not only to increase the accuracy of carbon counts but to ensure that future attempts to limit activities that encourage degradation are enforced.

But Dr Berenguer believes that researchers and consumers have a role to play as well.

"I would like to see the scientific community paying more attention to it, it is difficult work but we can't overlook it anymore.

"I would urge the general public to pay attention to their shopping, they can lead to these high levels of emissions by buying uncertified timber."

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