Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jun 14

Whirlwind of Island activities in July!
from wild shores of singapore

Sun 6 July 9 am: Guided Walk
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

The Amazing Frog Island, Round 2
from Peiyan.Photography

Pulau Sekudu (13 June 2014)
from Psychedelic Nature

Wild kids at Chek Jawa with the Naked Hermit Crabs
from wild shores of singapore

A Colony of Grey Pansy @ Mandai Track 15
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

ICCS Workshop 2014: registrants as of Sunday 1700h
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Spotted Box Crab @ East Coast Park
from Monday Morgue

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Malaysia: Amendments expected for Forest City Johor reclamation

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 30 Jun 14;

JOHOR BARU: SEVERAL major amendments to the original plan for the controversial Forest City project along the Johor Straits are expected as pressure mounts from environmental non-governmental organisations and concerns from Singapore.

The changes were proposed by Kuala Lumpur-based Asian Environmental Solutions Sdn Bhd (AES), which was appointed by project developer Country Garden Sdn Bhd to prepare a preliminary environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the mammoth project.

The proposed changes are aimed at cushioning the impact of the reclamation project on the surrounding environment.

In the preliminary report, one of the major changes proposed was to build two parallel water channels cutting across the island, created by reclamation work, almost in the shape of a right angle isosceles triangle.

The water channels, which will form part of the waterfront features, will also be parallel to the Johor Straits to encourage water flow.

A source close to the company told the New Straits Times that the changes were aimed at making the project more friendly to the Johor Straits, which separates Malaysia and Singapore.

“The main purpose of the water channels is to improve the hydrology of the straits, since there are concerns and worries that the reclaimed island may block or hamper water flow along it.

“With the water channels to be used as a mitigation measure, water flow is still possible, despite the presence of the reclaimed island,” said the source.

The water channel, which is 300m wide, could also serve as part of landscaping features on the reclaimed island, offering waterfront facilities.

Another proposal was to replant seagrass, since a lot of it had been destroyed following the reclamation work.

Seagrass is the food source of dugong and other marine life, found in abundance in the Johor Straits.

However, environmental NGOs doubted the effectiveness of replanting works, especially when the replanting zone was fronting the open sea.

A Malaysian Nature Society spokesman, who did not want to be named, said the survival rate of seagrass replanting was 10 per cent.

“Seagrass grows best in its natural environment, but not through replanting. If it is grown in an unsheltered area, the success rate is low,” said the spokesman.

Last week, the Forest City project became a focal point in Iskandar Malaysia after Singapore raised concerns about the controversial reclaimed island with Putrajaya.

Besides waiting for more details about the project, the republic had also expressed worries that the reclamation may affect the border of the two countries.

Johor Straits land reclamation project to be amended: Reports
Today Online 1 Jul 14;

JOHOR BARU — Several major amendments to the massive reclamation project in the Strait of Johor for a housing development near Singapore’s Second Link are expected, following concerns raised by Singapore and environmental non-government organisations (NGOs), the New Straits Times (NST) reported yesterday.

The changes were reportedly proposed by Kuala Lumpur-based Asian Environmental Solutions (AES), which had been appointed to prepare a preliminary environmental impact assessment report by Country Garden, the developer of the project.

The proposed changes in the preliminary report include replanting seagrass and building two parallel water channels, which will be 300m wide and almost in the shape of a right-angle isosceles triangle, across the reclaimed island. They are aimed at minimising the impact of the project on the surrounding environment, the NST reported.

“The main purpose of the water channel is to improve the hydrology of the straits, since there are concerns and worries that the reclaimed island may block or hamper water flow along it,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed source close to the AES as saying.

“With the water channels to be used as a mitigation measure, water flow is still possible, despite the presence of the reclaimed island,” the source added.

Another proposal was to replant seagrass destroyed in the process of reclamation work.

But environmental NGOs in Malaysia doubted that the replanting would be effective, noting that the survival rate of seagrass replanting was 10 per cent, the NST reported.

Last week, the local media reported that Malaysia’s Department of Environment had issued a stop-work order on the massive land reclamation project, pending further studies on its environmental impact.

Singapore had earlier expressed concerns about the possible transboundary impact from the reclamation work in the Strait of Johor and requested more information from the Malaysian government.

Malaysia media reports had said that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also wrote to his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak about the issue, after two diplomatic notes on the matter were sent to Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry in May.

A third note was handed to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mr Wahid Omar, when he visited Singapore recently, the reports said.

The Forest City project involves creating a 1,817-hectare island almost three times the size of Ang Mo Kio and the construction of luxury homes. The project, which includes a 49ha tourist hub and recreational facilities, is expected to take 30 years to complete.

Earlier reports had said the reclamation work for the tourist hub began in early March and was expected to be completed by the end of the year. AGENCIES

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Singapore to get even hotter and wetter

Weather considered extreme today could well become the norm, with temperatures rising by as much as 3 deg C to 4 deg C and heavy storms becoming more frequent and intense.
Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Jun 14;

Tropical countries such as Singapore will be a lot hotter and wetter by the turn of this century if climate change predictions come to pass.

Weather considered extreme today could well become the norm, with temperatures rising by as much as three to four degrees Celsius and heavy storms becoming more frequent and intense.

Singapore already has one of the hottest tropical rainforest climates on earth.

"Equatorial Singapore will not just be warmer than it is now, but warmer than anywhere on earth with year-round rainfall," ecologist Richard Corlett warns in the first State of the Tropics report by Australia's James Cook University (JCU), which is launched today in Myanmar, Singapore and Australia.

Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore were among 11 international universities that helped to develop the report's framework and review the final product, targeted at policymakers, researchers and others.

Tropical regions are typically those where the mean temperature of the coolest month is above 18 deg C, with a small annual range of temperature.

The report's focus on the tropics reflects how this is a critical zone of population and economic growth, with an impact on the rest of the world, said JCU media and communications head Richard Davis.

The university plans to update the report every five years.

Professor Corlett, who is with the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Yunnan, told The Sunday Times there is a need for more research in several areas, and Singapore could play a lead role in this.

One area is developing better climate models, something which the Centre for Climate Research Singapore is currently doing. South-East Asia's climate is particularly complicated, with a varied mix of land and sea. Another is conducting experiments on how various species react to sustained higher temperatures.

Professor Stephen Lansing, co-director of NTU's Complexity Institute, said Singapore has the research expertise to model how tropical cities might behave as they grow, or to work out how to cut emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from ricefields in Bali, for example.

In the report, JCU researchers say climate change is making the earth's tropical regions creep gradually towards the poles at a rate of about 1.25 to 2.5 degrees of latitude every quarter-century - or between 138km and 277km.

This will have significant consequences for a number of issues, as well as for people and ecosystems.

Almost half the people in the tropics are already vulnerable to water stress. So if the region expands as temperatures rise and rainfall patterns shift, even more could be at risk.

An expanded tropical region could increase the habitat for disease-carrying insects. But other plants and animals could face extinction if they cannot move or adapt as warm places become warmer.

NTU and NUS representatives, including NTU president Bertil Andersson, are among experts who will discuss the report at Marina Bay Sands today.

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Malaysia: Wetter days and less haze this week, says weatherman

yuen meikeng The Star 30 Jun 14;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians will likely get a slight reprieve from the blistering heat as more rain is expected to fall this week.

The Meteorological Department said residents, especially those in peninsular Malaysia, could expect more wet days then.

“With the forecast of more rain in the peninsula, the hazy weather is likely to improve. However, the situation is also dependent on the source of the haze,” a department official said when contacted yesterday.

He said it was difficult to determine when the haze would clear up completely because it depended on the wind direction and the existence of haze sources.

However, the department forecast that the average temperature could shoot up to as high as 36°C until September due to effects of the El Nino phenomenon.

The average maximum temperature in June is 33.6°C in the peninsula and 32.8°C in Sabah and Sarawak.

The department advised the public to drink more water during the hot season and stop all kinds of open burning as it would worsen the haze.

Air quality readings have shown that there have been clearer skies compared to the past few days.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said there were no areas which had unhealthy air quality yesterday.

“Some 26 areas recorded good air quality while another 24 areas had moderate readings at 9am,” he said in a statement yesterday.

This was an improvement from Friday’s readings, which showed that 17 areas had good air quality while 34 others recorded moderate levels.

Palanivel said 16 hot spots were detected in the country on Saturday with one each in Selangor and Johor, two in Pahang, eight in Sabah and four in Sarawak.

“One hot spot was detected in Sumatra based on 18 satellite images issued by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre in Singapore,” he said.

At press time, most areas in Malaysia showed horizontal visibility readings of over 8km.

Palanivel said the Open Fire Prevention Action plan had been activated since February to curb the haze situation in the country.

As of Saturday, the Department of Environment recorded 3,973 cases of open burning in the country, whereby 840 were in forest areas and 1,271 in agricultural land.

“Of these, 276 cases had been compounded while warning notices were issued in 87,” he said, adding that 43 investigations for burning offences were opened for prosecution.

Moderate air quality in 10 places
New Straits Times 29 Jun 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Air quality was moderate in 20 places in the country as at 10 am today, according to the Department of Environment (DoE).

Among these places identified on the DoE website were Nilai (with an Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 85), Port Klang (80), Shah Alam (74), Petaling Jaya (71), Kemaman (70), Putrajaya (67) and Cheras (63).

Air quality was good in many other places nationwide, according to the website.

An API reading of between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; between 51 and 100, moderate; between 101 and 200, unhealthy; between 201 and 300, very unhealthy and over 301, hazardous.

Members of the public can refer to the DoE portal at to find out the API reading for their areas.


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Indonesia overtakes Brazil in forest losses despite moratorium

Reuters 29 Jun 14;

WASHINGTON/OSLO (Reuters) - Indonesia has for the first time surpassed Brazil in clearing tropical forests and losses are accelerating despite a 2011 moratorium meant to protect wildlife and combat climate change, scientists said on Sunday.

Indonesia's losses of virgin forests totalled 60,000 sq kms (23,000 sq miles) - an area almost as big as Ireland - from 2000-12, partly to make way for palm oil plantations and other farms, a study said. And the pace of losses has increased.

"By 2012, annual primary forest loss in Indonesia was estimated to be higher than in Brazil," where clearance of the Amazon basin has usually accounted for the biggest losses, the scientists wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Deforestation in Indonesia in 2012 alone was 8,400 sq kms (3,200 sq miles) versus 4,600 sq kms (1,800 sq miles) in Brazil, which has managed to reduce losses in recent years, it said.

"We need to increase the law enforcement, the control in the area itself," said Belinda Margono, lead author of the study at the University of Maryland and who also works as an official at the Indonesian forestry ministry.

"The rainforests are the lungs of the planet. You have lungs to breathe and if you get rid of the lungs, the planet's going to suffer," said Matthew Hansen, a co-author of the report at the University of Maryland.


Indonesia imposed a moratorium on forest clearance in 2011, partly to slow losses that are ruining habitats of orangutans, Sumatran tigers and other wildlife. Norway has also promised $1 billion to Jakarta if it slows forest losses.

"It seems that the moratorium has not had its intended effect," the scientists wrote.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for causing global warming, as they grow and release it when they are burnt or rot. By U.N. estimates, deforestation may accounts for 17 percent of all man-made greenhouse gases.

Other studies have also found large forests losses in Indonesia but Sunday's findings focus only on the most important virgin forests, excluding plantations that can re-grow quickly.

Norway, whose $1 billion pledge is part of a plan to slow climate change around the world, said the findings strengthened reasons for the programme.

"The partnership constitutes a strong financial incentive," Gunhild Oland Santos-Nedrelid, a Norwegian environment ministry spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail. Oslo wants conservation to be economically attractive to landowners, rather than logging.

She said forest losses in Indonesia may increase in coming months, with drought raising risks of fires.

So far, Norway has paid almost $50 million to Indonesia to help set up new institutions to reduce deforestation, she said. Indonesia will only start to get large amounts of money if monitoring proves a slowdown in deforestation.

Norway, rich from North Sea oil and the most generous donor for preserving tropical forests, has a similar $1 billion project with Brazil and other smaller programmes with nations including Guyana and Tanzania.

(Writing by Alister Doyle, with reporting by Andrea Beasley and Robert Muir; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

New study shows Indonesia's disastrous deforestation
Richard INGHAM AFP Yahoo News 30 Jun 14;

Satellite images have found that Indonesia's ancient forests, a cradle of biodiversity and a buffer against climate change, have shrunk much faster than thought, scientists said on Sunday.

Between 2000 and 2012, Indonesia lost around 6.02 million hectares (14.4 million acres or 23,250 square miles) of primary forest, an area almost the size of Sri Lanka, they reported.

Primary or ancient forests are distinguished from managed forests, which are plantations of trees grown for timber and pulp.

The researchers found that primary forest loss accelerated during the period under review, reaching an annual 840,000 hectares by 2012 -- nearly twice the deforestation rate of Brazil, which was 460,000 hectares in the same year.

"Indonesia's forests contain high floral and faunal biodiversity, including 10 percent of the world's plants, 12 percent of the world's mammals, 16 percent of the world's reptile-amphibians and 17 percent of the world's bird species," said the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Extensive clearing of Indonesian primary forest cover directly results in habitat loss and associated plant and animal extinctions."

Deforestation is also a blow to the fight against climate change, as ancient trees store more carbon emissions from the atmosphere than new ones do, and for a longer period, thus mitigating global warming.

The research, led by geographer Belinda Margono of the University of Maryland, looked at long-term satellite images.

During 2000-2012, total forest cover in Indonesia retreated by 15.79 million hectares, of which 6.02 million, or 38 percent, was primary forest, the investigation found.

Distinguishing between primary and managed forest is vital in the campaign to preserve biodiversity and combat climate change, the paper said.

"It is critically important to know the context of forest disturbance, whether of a high-biomass natural forest or a short-cycle plantation," it said.

"Similarly, the clearing of natural forest has very different implications on the maintenance of biodiversity richness."

It noted that in 2010, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) put Indonesia's overall forest loss at 310,000 hectares per year from 2000-2005, and 690,000 hectares annually from 2005-2010.

Indonesia itself, in a report to the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2009, estimated forest loss of 1.1 million hectares annually from 2000-2005.

Margono's study found the biggest losers were lowland and wetland forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan, where trees are typically chopped down by loggers for use in farming.

In other islands or island groups -- Papua, Sulawesi, Maluku, Java and Bali and Nusa Tenggara -- primary forest cover fell back only slightly or remained stable from 2000-2012.

Greenpeace Criticizes SBY Over ‘Trashing’ of Indonesia’s Rainforests
Harry Pearl Jakarta Globe 30 Jun 14;

Jakarta. Greenpeace has described a recent study that shows Indonesia has the highest rate of deforestation in the world as “an urgent wake up call” and has called on the country’s next president to recognize “development does not mean destroying forests.”

Yuyun Indradi, a forest campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, made the comments following a report published in science journal “Nature Climate Change” on Sunday, which said Indonesia had surpassed Brazil when it came to annual loss of tropical forests.

Of more concern, the article said deforestation was increasing despite President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono implementing a moratorium on logging in 2011 that aimed to protect wildlife and combat climate change.

“Forest destruction is driving Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions, pushing animals like the Sumatran tiger to the edge of extinction, and creating the conditions for Southeast Asia’s devastating forest fires and haze wave,” Yuyun said.

The article in “Nature Climate Change” said that in 2012 Indonesia lost 840,000 hectares of forest compared to 460,000 hectares in Brazil. It also said Indonesia’s primary forest loss was 6 million hectares between 2000 and 2012 and it increased on average by 47,600 hectares per year over the period.

Yuyun said it was clear that Indonesia’s forest moratorium had not worked. “Law enforcement is weak and even the country’s national parks are being logged — but now is a critical time for action,” he said.

Indonesia’s two presidential candidates Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto will discuss food, energy and environment in the final presidential debate on Sunday.

Yuyun said whoever was elected on July 9 had to recognize that “development does not mean destroying forests, but creating responsible land use practices.”

“This means strengthening the forest moratorium to protect all forests and all peatlands, and respecting the rights of local communities,” he said.

Greenpeace also called on corporations working in Indonesia to play their part to halt deforestation.

“Industrial plantation companies are trashing Indonesia’s forests for commodities like palm oil and pulp paper which go into products on supermarkets around the world,” Yuyun said. “The scale of the problem demands action from government and corporations.”

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