Best of our wild blogs: 2 Jul 14

Chek Jawa (14 June 2014)
from Psychedelic Nature

Butterflies Galore! : Peacock Royal
from Butterflies of Singapore

On the brink of extinction: Javan rhino has new enemy in invasive palm
from news by Morgan Erickson-Davis

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More than a quarter of a million dollars in assistance for fish farms

Channel NewsAsia 1 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: Almost all the fish farms which were affected by a plankton bloom earlier this year, have accepted the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) assistance package. The package includes the funding for restocking and purchase of equipment for the farm.

AVA says it has disbursed about S$256,000 in assistance so far.

90 per cent of the farmers are in the midst of restocking their farms. Their fish stock died after being deprived of oxygen due to plankton bloom.

One farm Channel NewsAsia visited tapped the assistance package to restock about 100,000 pieces of fish fingerlings. It is projected to produce about 17 to 20 tonnes of fish this year.

- CNA/ly

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Philippines: Bluemax’s lahar sand lauded

Business Mirror 1 Jul 14;

BLUEMAX Tradelink Inc.’s lahar sand export project in Zambales was highly commended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) local offices in Region 3 recently.

“Bluemax’s dredging and extracting of lahar sand along Bucao River channel, one of the main river systems in Zambales now heavily silted, was sort of like a miracle for the people of Botolan, Zambales, as it is expected to decrease more incidence of floods,” said Lormelyn Claudio, director of DENR Environmental Management Bureau Region 3.

“It will also deepen the channel and will provide passage for overflowing flood waters. This project is supposed to be the work of the national government with the participation of the local government, but now private companies like Bluemax assumes all cost related to dredging and desalting, agreeing that it is just right for the government to allow Bluemax to export the lahar sand because it doesn’t need to pay private contractors to do the job and even requires Bluemax to pay taxes from the sales of the sand. It is now a very good opportunity to solve our problem with lahar sand,” explained Claudio.

Claudio clearly explained the positive impact of the project and how it went through Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) review and evaluation pursuant to PD 1586.

For his part, Reynaldo Cruz, OIC of the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau Region 3, explained that Bluemax has obtained all the necessary legal procedures. “Their permit to export the lahar sand is regularly cleared by our office. Suffice to say that the whole operation is above board and legitimate,” said Cruz.

“The lahar is graded and exported by Bluemax to Singapore for its massive reclamation project meant to sustain its fast economic growth. The company was awarded the contract to provide lahar sand back in 2011,” said its president and CEO Clark Zapata.

“Before, Singapore used to import sand from other much nearer countries. But these countries stopped it due to lack of supply and issues. But blessing for us, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo left us an endless supply of lahar sand,” said Zapata.

When Mount Pinatubo erupted, endless tons of lahar sand were spewed out, thereby creating havoc up to this day in the provinces of Zambales, Pampanga, Tarlac and its surrounding areas. Whenever it rains, lahar would flow down from the mountains and would clog rivers, destroy properties and lives and bring down the local economies.

Bluemax Tradelink Inc., under Zapata, started the lahar exportation in Singapore in 2011 under the memorandum of agreement signed by Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Edejer Ebdane Jr. The removing and processing of lahar sand in different parts of Zambales were done for free.

“Bluemax is doing it practically for free to support the government and also the locals,” explained Zapata. “They used vast amounts of government funds just to remove and dredge lahar from their lands, now it’s the other way around.

“We are helping Singapore with their expansion requirements while we help improve the lives of our fellow Filipinos. We are turning deadly threats into opportunities, while helping the government earn and the Filipinos to have better lives in Zambales being the direct beneficiaries of the project.”

It also provided financial support to the socio-cultural and community programs of the local government of Botolan aside from providing employment to the locals and improving roads and other infrastructure of the province.

Aside from lahar exportation, Bluemax Tradelink is also involved in manganese ore mining.

Bluemax’s main office is at De la Rosa, Makati City, and some satellite offices in Zambales area.

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From despair to repair: Dramatic decline of Caribbean corals can be reversed

IUCN 2 Jul 14;

With only about one-sixth of the original coral cover left, most Caribbean coral reefs may disappear in the next 20 years, primarily due to the loss of grazers in the region, according to the latest report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report, Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012, is the most detailed and comprehensive study of its kind published to date – the result of the work of 90 experts over the course of three years. It contains the analysis of more than 35,000 surveys conducted at 90 Caribbean locations since 1970, including studies of corals, seaweeds, grazing sea urchins and fish.

The results show that the Caribbean corals have declined by more than 50% since the 1970s. But according to the authors, restoring parrotfish populations and improving other management strategies, such as protection from overfishing and excessive coastal pollution, could help the reefs recover and make them more resilient to future climate change impacts.

“The rate at which the Caribbean corals have been declining is truly alarming,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme. “But this study brings some very encouraging news: the fate of Caribbean corals is not beyond our control and there are some very concrete steps that we can take to help them recover.”

Climate change has long been thought to be the main culprit in coral degradation. While it does pose a serious threat by making oceans more acidic and causing coral bleaching, the report shows that the loss of parrotfish and sea urchin – the area’s two main grazers – has, in fact, been the key driver of coral decline in the region. An unidentified disease led to a mass mortality of the sea urchin in 1983 and extreme fishing throughout the 20th century has brought the parrotfish population to the brink of extinction in some regions. The loss of these species breaks the delicate balance of coral ecosystems and allows algae, on which they feed, to smother the reefs.

Reefs protected from overfishing, as well as other threats such as excessive coastal pollution, tourism and coastal development, are more resilient to pressures from climate change, according to the authors.

“Even if we could somehow make climate change disappear tomorrow, these reefs would continue their decline," says Jeremy Jackson, lead author of the report and IUCN’s senior advisor on coral reefs. "We must immediately address the grazing problem for the reefs to stand any chance of surviving future climate shifts.”

The report also shows that some of the healthiest Caribbean coral reefs are those that harbour vigorous populations of grazing parrotfish. These include the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the northern Gulf of Mexico, Bermuda and Bonaire, all of which have restricted or banned fishing practices that harm parrotfish, such as fish traps and spearfishing. Other countries are following suit.

“Barbuda is about to ban all catches of parrotfish and grazing sea urchins, and set aside one-third of its coastal waters as marine reserves,” says Ayana Johnson of the Waitt Institute’s Blue Halo Initiative which is collaborating with Barbuda in the development of its new management plan. “This is the kind of aggressive management that needs to be replicated regionally if we are going to increase the resilience of Caribbean reefs.”

Reefs where parrotfish are not protected have suffered tragic declines, including Jamaica, the entire Florida Reef Tract from Miami to Key West, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Caribbean is home to 9% of the world’s coral reefs, which are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Caribbean reefs, spanning a total of 38 countries, are vital to the region’s economy. They generate more than US$ 3 billion annually from tourism and fisheries and over a hundred times more in other goods and services, on which more than 43 million people depend.

This video, featuring the report's lead author Jeremy Jackson, explains the significance of the report:

Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012

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India Gets Lowest June Rain in 5 Years as El Nino Looms

Prabhudatta Mishra and Swansy Afonso Bloomberg News 1 Jul 14;

India, the world’s second-biggest rice, sugar and cotton grower, recorded the lowest June rainfall since 2009 amid predictions for an El Nino that previously caused droughts and cut crop output, the state forecaster said.

The country got 92.4 millimeters (3.6 inches) of rain last month, or 43 percent less than the average between 1951 and 2000, the India Meteorological Department said yesterday on its website. The monsoon has made no progress over India’s western and central regions since June 15.

With 90 percent of India getting deficient rains, sowing of crops from rice to corn, soybeans and cotton has been delayed, hampering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to rein in inflation and revive growth from near a decade low. An estimated 833 million people out of the 1.2 billion population depend on agriculture for their livelihood and the sector accounts for 14 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

“The rainfall pattern has gotten distorted this year, and it will have some impact on agricultural productivity,” Dharmakirti Joshi, chief economist at Crisil Ltd., S&P’s local unit, said by phone from Mumbai. “If rains revive in July and August, then you can make up for it because you have a window for late sowing till July 15. It is a risk to food inflation but not an unmitigable risk.”

Inflation Impact

Consumer inflation gains in India slowed to 8.28 percent in May, a three-month low, official data show. That compares with 8.34 percent in Pakistan and 2.5 percent in China. Food makes up about 50 percent of India’s consumer-price inflation basket.

Monsoon rainfall will be 7 percent below average this year as the El Nino emerges, the meteorological department predicts. In 2009, the last time India experienced the event, rainfall was 22 percent below the 50-year average, reducing food-grain output and more than doubling inflation from the previous year, official data show. The seasonal showers are the main source of irrigation for the nation’s 263 million farmers because about 55 percent of crop land is rain dependent.

El Nino, which can roil world agricultural markets as farmers contend with drought or too much rain, may be established by September, according to climate models surveyed by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. Forecasters from the U.S. and the United Nations are also warning an El Nino will occur.

Climate models indicate the weather event is likely to develop by spring, which starts in September, and there’s a 70 percent chance of the pattern this year, the Australian bureau said on its website today.
Tackling Shortages

The monsoon covered Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, parts of Haryana, Punjab and some more areas of Uttar Pradesh today, India’s weather bureau said today. Conditions are favorable for advance of the monsoon into more parts of Madhya Pradesh, remaining parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and New Delhi during the next 48 hours, it said.

The government should take steps to tackle any shortage of food items caused by inadequate rains and import lentils and edible oils, Crisil’s Joshi said.

“It now behooves all policy makers, at the center and the state, to start planning for the worst,” Saugata Bhattacharya, a Mumbai-based economist at Axis Bank Ltd., said in an interview to Bloomberg TV India yesterday. “The budget should now start to be leveraged for providing relief in the worst-hit districts, both by way of subsidies and movement of stocks.”
Selling Rice

Modi’s government has pledged to tackle price gains by offloading 5 million tons of rice, about a quarter of its state stockpiles, at subsidized rates and cracking down on food hoarders. It will also help states to import pulses and cooking oils if needed and set minimum export prices for potatoes, according to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Farmers planted rice in 2.2 million hectares as of June 27, down from 3.6 million hectares a year earlier, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Sowing of oilseeds has dropped 47 percent to 479,000 hectares, while the area under cotton has slumped 48 percent to 2.9 million hectares, ministry data showed.

“We will watch the progress until the first week of July before deciding the next course of action,” Agriculture Commissioner J.S. Sandhu, said by phone from New Delhi.

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South Florida sea level rise needs urgent action: task force

David Adams PlanetArk 2 Jul 14;

South Florida's coastal real estate may become uninsurable as the sea level rises unless Miami's county government takes urgent action, a task force said on Tuesday.

"We believe that without a professionally well thought out adaptation plan in place, we risk losing insurability and financial support for our future," the Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force concluded in a report.

Sea level rise is "a measurable, trackable and relentless reality," task force Chairman Harvey Ruvin, a longtime environmentalist and the Miami-Dade county Clerk of the Courts, wrote in the report's introductory letter.

"It's happening, and we are ground zero," he added in an interview, noting the vulnerability to climate change of low-lying southeast Florida, with a population of 5.7 million.

Climate change is already impacting Florida coastal communities, which could see a 2-foot rise in sea level by 2060, the United States Geological Survey has warned.

Florida had recorded 5-8 inches of sea level rise in the last 50 years, a panel of officials and scientists testified at a Senate hearing on Miami Beach in April.

The task force, which submitted its report on Tuesday, was created by the county commission in July 2013 to assess the potential impacts of sea level rise for future development planning.

The task force made six major recommendations for the county, from the hiring of engineers to vet the county's physical structures such as flood control barriers and pump stations, as well as exploring methods to limit flood damage and saltwater intrusion.

The task force also recommended working with the insurance industry to develop long-term risk management solutions.

"We have to bring the insurance industry into the planning process, otherwise the taxes that will be coming will be punitive and prohibitive," said Ruvin, noting that the re-insurance industry is in the process of moving from historical data to predictive data to make its risk calculations.

Using predictive scenarios, the task force noted that the reinsurance firm Swiss Re estimated the expected losses for southeast Florida from severe weather ranged from $17 billion, or 8.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2008, to $33 billion or 10 percent of GDP in 2030.

However, Swiss Re calculated about $30 billion of the total expected loss in 2050 could be avoided if a comprehensive plan for adaptation were implemented, the task force noted.

"This is a call to action," said Nichole Hefty, head of the county's Office of Sustainability. "There is a growing awareness that we need to make our infrastructure more resilient."

Despite the urgency the task force said it was "optimistic" that South Florida has a viable future.

"I don't want to sound Doomsday-ish. We do have time and the human species has a great capacity for adaptation," said Ruvin. "But we need to realize it's happening, we can't bury our heads in the sand, because pretty soon we will be swimming," he added.

(Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Richard Chang)

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