Best of our wild blogs: 26 May 14

Some dead fishes seen at Sungei Buloh
from wild shores of singapore

A visit to Greenleaf forest
from My Nature Experiences

From Lornie to Venus
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Call of the female Oriental Pied Hornbill
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Singapore's biodiversity on the Evolutionary Biology Lab's resources from wild shores of singapore

Mayan Cichlid @ Sungei Buloh
from Monday Morgue

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Experts warn of long period of haze

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 25 May 14;

SINGAPORE: The haze that is expected to hit Singapore in the coming months could go on for as long as three months, experts have warned.

This is similar to what the Republic experienced in 1997, they said.

Prolonged hazy skies could happen if a strong El Nino effect sets in, compounded by the already-started illegal land clearing by farmers in Sumatra.

El Nino is a phenomenon which causes severely dry weather and high temperatures in this region.

According to environmental reports, there were more than 3,000 hotspots in Sumatra at the peak of the haze crisis in March alone.

This compared to about 2,700 in June last year.

The next dry season will occur between June and October, and experts are concerned illegal land clearing in Sumatra will result in large-scale fires.

"If they deliberately set fires to clear land, particularly if it's land being cleared illegally, they are not going to listen to anyone who tells them not to start the fire," said Mr Faizal Parish, Director of Global Environment Centre, a non-governmental organisation based in Malaysia.

"They won't take immediate action to put out the fire. The problem (in Sumatra) is the need for active enforcement on the ground."

Worse, the March fires have not yet been put out completely.

Mr Parish said: "(About) 90 per cent of smoke and haze is coming from peat. Fires can remain burning underground for months and then come back up to the surface during dry periods.

"So, sometimes when there's rain, the surface fire goes out but is still smouldering on the ground. A few days later, or a week later, the fire can re-emerge again from underground to the surface."

Mr Parish said the fires deep within the peat smouldered for as long as six months between 1997 and 1998.

That was also the year strong El Nino conditions set in.

How warm a particular stretch of the Pacific Ocean is could provide an indication of an El Nino pattern.

Experts say the sea surface temperatures have to consistently be 0.5 degrees Celsius above a long-term average for an El Nino season to be declared and this part of the Pacific Ocean has been exceeding these thresholds since April.

In Singapore, experts say 1997 was also characterised by the lowest annual rainfall measured in the Republic since 1948.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow from the National University of Singapore's Geography Department said: "In June, July and August, we should be experiencing South West Monsoon or summer monsoon conditions where wind direction comes from the south or south west.

"You still have rainfall occurring. But what happens during El Nino is that while the wind conditions more or less remain the same, you can expect less rainfall to happen. On top of that, you would expect higher-than-normal temperatures during the season as well."

Professor Chow said if there are intense fires in Sumatra, the prevailing wind direction would fan the smoke and particulate matter towards Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia.

- CNA/ir

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Corals go spawning, but El Nino may turn them white

Whole colonies of coral releasing eggs and sperm, in an orgiastic ritual that occurs every April.
Chew Hui Min MyPaper AsiaOne 26 May 14;

SINGAPORE - It's an orgy in Singapore waters that occurs every April.

In a ritual triggered by the light of the full moon, corals release their eggs and sperm during mass spawnings that have been described as aquatic symphonies.

The spectacle resembles an underwater snowstorm, with billions of little pink bundles bursting out from the corals in synchrony.

A few weeks ago, from April 18 to 20, a team of observers, including Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin, witnessed the love fest in dusk dives off Pulau Satumu.

In a Facebook post, the minister described his "first night dive" as "fascinating".

This year, the corals were fairly productive, spawning up to 70 per cent of the levels seen in 2010. Later that year, the reefs took a beating from a mass coral bleaching event.

For research purposes, 2010 serves as a reference year as the spawning was robust, said Karenne Tun, deputy director at the National Biodiversity Centre.

This year, at least 25 species were seen spawning, she said.

But with a 50 per cent chance of El Nino developing this year, marine biologists here are on the alert for a possible coral bleaching.

The phenomenon occurs when corals under stress lose their colour and turn white.

In May to July 2010, water temperatures in the area exceeded the bleaching threshold of 31.15 deg C. Just a tiny bump in temperature for about a month resulted in the death of nearly 5 per cent of the corals here.

Fearing another mass coral bleaching this year, the National Parks Board (NParks) has placed temperature loggers in the sea to assess the risks.

It also relies on a network of volunteers who dive in local waters to report any signs of bleaching.

Still, corals here have proved to be tough, said Dr Tun. Mortality rates following the bleachings seen in 1998 and 2010 have been lower than those suffered by other reefs in the region.

"We have a lot of optimism because our corals are quite resilient," Dr Tun told My Paper.

"If a bleaching event comes, we won't be able to control it, but we will monitor our reefs to understand how different species respond. This will help us develop management plans to safeguard the more vulnerable species."

One option could involve moving a representative sample of a sensitive species, if the bleaching is as severe as it was in 2010.

Marine biologists and conservationists here are no strangers to relocating corals, with at least five major coral transplant projects having been conducted so far.

Since late last year, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has been moving some 1,600 coral colonies from the Sultan Shoal to the southern St John's and Sisters' Islands.

The shoal will be affected by the development of a new Tuas Terminal, as MPA works to consolidate Singapore's container port activities in Tuas.

The corals relocated earlier in the year are doing well, Dr Tun said.

Over the years, techniques have been refined, and migrated corals now enjoy a better chance of survival, said reef ecology expert Chou Loke Ming.

In the 1990s, a relocation project from Pulau Ayer Chawan to a site off Sentosa saw two thirds of the corals die off but, today, the survival rate is around 70 to 80 per cent.

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Indonesia: Batam to have two botanical gardens

Antara 25 May 14;

Batam, Riau Islands (ANTARA News) - Batam City, Riau Islands Province, will have two botanical gardens having different functions, to be located respectively in Nongsa Sub-district and Galang Island.

A botanical garden measuring 86 hectares would be developed in Nongsa as a conservation area for various flora species, and a center for research, recreation, and informal education, Ilham Eka Hartawan a spokesman of the Batam Authorities, said here on Sunday.

Another botanical garden to be set up in Galang Island was meant to preserve historical remnants of the former Vietnamese refugees camp there, he added.

"The large of Galang botanical garden will not be more than 10 hectares. We have submitted the proposal in 2000. However, we will review the plan to see whether it is still relevant to develop the botanical garden," he said.

The ex-camp of Vietnamese refugees on Galang Island, which is part of the Batam territories, has attracted domestic and foreign tourists who are interested in history.

The local administration has preserved and improved the infrastructures and facilities existing on the island since 2013 for touristic purposes.

Batam Mayor Ahmad Dahlan recently said that botanical gardens were expected to attract more tourists to visit the city.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI)s exploration team found 283 species of flora in Batam, including a giant orchid known as "sugarcane" orchid, Candan (Aquilaria hirta), rattan, meranti (Shorea), Bintangur (Calophyllum insularum), and kruing (Dipterocarpus retusus).

Editor: Ella Syafputri

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