Best of our wild blogs: 19 Dec 14

Wild Otter sighting in Botanical Gardens!
from My Nature Experiences

Dirty Demons and Delicate Crabs
from Hantu Blog

Singapore Bird Report – November 2014
from Singapore Bird Group

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Malaysia: A five-fold rise in disaster victims

RAHIMY RAHIM The Star 18 Dec 14;

GOMBAK: More than half a million Malaysians were affected by disasters in the past 10 years, according to the World Disasters Report 2014.

This represented a five-fold increase from 103,168 people between 1994 and 2003 to 532,851 people between 2004 and 2013.

However, the report, Focus on Culture and Risk, noted that the number of people killed in the country due to disasters decreased from 660 to 310. It revealed that floods, which accounted for 44% of deaths, were the most frequent natural disasters in the world last year. Storms, which caused 41% of deaths, were the second.

The two deadliest natural disasters last year were Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in November and killed 7,986 people, and a flood caused by monsoon rain that claimed 6,054 lives in India.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Asia-Pacific zone director Jagan Chapagain said Malaysia was lucky that it was not situated in a disaster-prone area, as almost 90% of natural disasters happened in the region.

“Malaysia can play a big role in supporting other South-East Asian countries as it assumes the chairmanship of Asean in 2015,” he told a press conference at the International Islamic University Malaysia here after releasing the report.

“I hope that it can show huge leadership to neighbouring countries as it also holds a seat in the United Nations Security Council in handling and coordinating humanitarian aid during natural disasters.”

He said international aid agencies should consult local communities hit by natural disasters before introducing any development or humanitarian aid programme.

“We always get feedback from the community first as we want to be accountable and we want to change the hand-out mentality to the empowerment mindset,” Chapagain added.

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UN sends team to clean up Sunderbans oil spill in Bangladesh

Thick tar clogging 350 sq km of delicate mangrove forest and river delta, home to endangered Bengal tigers and rare dolphins

Agence France-Presse The Guardian 18 Dec 14;

The United Nations said on Thursday it has sent a team of international experts to Bangladesh to help clean up the world’s largest mangrove forest, more than a week after it was hit by a huge oil spill.

Thousands of litres of oil have spilt into the protected Sundarbans mangrove area, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins, after a tanker collided with another vessel last Tuesday.

A team from the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) has arrived in the capital Dhaka to support Bangladesh’s “cleanup efforts of the oil spill in the Sundarbans”, a statement from the UN said.

Experts have slammed authorities for failing to organise a proper clean-up effort of the oil spill, which has now spread 350 sq km (135 sq m) inside the delicate mangrove forest area.

Until now, the forest department was relying on villagers and fishermen to scoop up the thick tar from the water and river banks with sponges and pans.

The UN team, sent in response to a request from Bangladesh, will help in the ground work in coordination with the government and will also conduct an assessment and advise on recovery and risk reduction measures.

The European Union and United States, Britain and France are supporting the UN effort.

The UN expressed concern over the disaster, urging Dhaka to impose a “complete ban” on the movement of commercial vessels through the 10,000 sq km ( 3,850 sq m) forest that straddles the border between Bangladesh and India and is home to a number of rare animals including the endangered Bengal tigers and Irrawaddy dolphins.

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Tropical deforestation threatens global food production

Chris Arsenault, Reuters Yahoo News 18 Dec 14;

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tropical deforestation in the southern hemisphere is accelerating global warming and threatening world food production by distorting rainfall patterns across Europe, China and the U.S. Midwest, a study released on Thursday said.

By 2050, deforestation could lead to a 15 percent drop in rainfall in tropical regions including the South American Amazon, Southeast Asia and Central Africa, the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change said.

Much of the logging taking place is to clear land for agriculture. This can cause a vicious cycle, increasing global warming, lowering food production on farms which in turn leads to growers cutting down more trees for farmland, experts say.

"When you deforest the tropics, those regions will experience significant warming and the biggest drying," Deborah Lawrence, a University of Virginia professor and the study's lead author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Removing trees and planting crops releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. At the same time, deforested areas are also less able to retain moisture, immediately altering local weather patterns.

The study said if current deforestation rates persist in South America's Amazon rainforest, the region's soy production could fall by 25 percent by 2050.

Logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Thailand could also have consequences in other parts of the world, leading to more rainfall in Britain and Hawaii and less rainfall in southern France and the U.S. Midwest region, the study said.

Globally, levels of deforestation are increasing slowly, Lawrence said.

Brazil has brought rates down in a "wonderful success story", she said, while the situation in Indonesia's tropical forests has worsened.

Complete tropical deforestation could lead to a 0.7 degree rise in world temperatures, on top of the impact from greenhouse gases, doubling global warming since 1850.

"Tropical forests are often talked about as the 'lungs of the earth,' but they're more like the sweat glands," said Lawrence.

"They give off a lot of moisture, which helps keep the planet cool. That crucial function is lost – and even reversed – when forests are destroyed," she added.

(Reporting By Chris Arsenault)

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Climate change could cut world food output 18 percent by 2050

Chris Arsenault, Reuters Yahoo News 18 Dec 14;

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Global warming could cause an 18 percent drop in world food production by 2050, but investments in irrigation and infrastructure, and moving food output to different regions, could reduce the loss, a study published on Thursday said.

Globally, irrigation systems should be expanded by more than 25 percent to cope with changing rainfall patterns, the study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters said.

Where they should be expanded is difficult to model because of competing scenarios on how rainfall will change, so the majority of irrigation investments should be made after 2030, the study said.

"If you don’t carefully plan (where to spend resources), you will get adaptation wrong," David Leclere, one of the study’s authors, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Infrastructure and processing chains will need to be built in areas where there was little agriculture before in order to expand production, he said.

International food markets will require closer integration to respond to global warming, as production will become more difficult in some southern regions, but new land further north will become available for growing crops.

Based on the study's models, Leclere expects production to increase in Europe, while much of Africa will remain dependent on imports.

If climate change is managed correctly, food production could even rise 3 percent by 2050, the study said, as a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a fertilizing effect on plants.

Managing water resources is expected to be the biggest challenge for farmers steming from climate change.

Water "may become dramatically scarcer much earlier than previously thought", Michael Obersteiner, another study co-author, said in a statement.

(Reporting By Chris Arsenault; Editing by Tim Pearce)

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