Best of our wild blogs: 20 Feb 15

CNY Day 1: Cyrene Reef
from wonderful creation and wild shores of singapore

Afternoon Walk At Venus Drive (18 Feb 2015)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Gardens by the Bay (14022015 & 18022015)
from Psychedelic Nature

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India: Fast rising sea levels in Sunderbans could trigger world's largest migration soon

Jayalakshmi K International Business Times 19 Feb 15;

Sea levels are rising more than twice as fast as the global average in the Sunderbans, a low-lying delta region comprising 200 small islands in the Bay of Bengal and inhabited by around 13 million impoverished Indians and Bangladeshis.

Scientists predict much of the region could be underwater in 15 to 25 years, forcing the largest ever human migration in history.

With a total 13 million inhabitants, the Sunderbans region is more populated than any island nation, reports AP.

"This big-time climate migration is looming on the horizon,'' said Tapas Paul, a New Delhi-based environmental specialist with the World Bank, which is assessing and preparing a plan for the Sunderbans region.

Already four islands have gone underwater and many others abandoned due to sea rise and erosion.

"The chance of a mass migration, to my mind, is actually pretty high. India is not recognizing it for whatever reason,'' said Anurag Danda, who leads the World Wildlife Fund's climate change adaptation programme in the Sunderbans.

"It's a crisis waiting to happen. We are just one event away from seeing large-scale displacement and turning a large number of people into destitutes.''

Thousands have already been left homeless.

Each year, the inhabitants build mud embankments to protect their crops from saltwater and animals. But each year the flooded rivers and monsoon wash away their efforts.

Dams and irrigation systems add to the problem as they block the sediments that build up river deltas.

Saltwater long ago claimed the five acres where Bokul Mondol once grew rice and tended fish ponds. His tiny hut sits at the edge of the water now.

This is the fifth mud hut he has had to build in the last five years as the sea creeps in.

A 2013 study by the Zoological Society of London found the Sundarbans coastline retreating at about 200 metres (650 feet) a year.

The Geological Survey of India says at least 210sq km (81 square miles) of coastline on the Indian side has been lost in the last few decades.

With no national plan to relocate residents of the Sunderbans, the West Bengal administration is seeking international help in addressing the imminent problem of relocation and protection of the region.

Bangladesh too is yet to do anything about the problem, besides building some dykes and barriers on some of the islands.

The Sundarbans (meaning beautiful forests) region is home to rare wildlife, including the world's only population of mangrove forest tigers.

A Unesco World Heritage Site, the Sunderbans spans over 20,000sq km in total, across India and Bangladesh. The Indian Sunderbans forms the largest tiger reserve and national park in India and is home to rare bird species like the Masked Finfoot, Mangrove Pitta and the Mangrove Whistler.

Part of the world's largest delta formed by the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, Sunderbans is also the world's largest estuarine forest.

The mangrove forests act as a natural buffer protecting India's West Bengal state and Bangladesh from cyclones.

Most scientists believe that the long-term solution is to encourage people to leave, so that the region naturally rejuvenates and the mangroves help capture sediments over time.

"We have 15 years ... that's the rough time frame I give for sea level rise to become very difficult and population pressure to become almost unmanageable,'' said Jayanta Bandopadhyay, an engineer and science professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

However, most of the residents who have been living on the land since the early 1800s are reluctant to leave. This is despite the rising water levels and tiger numbers. The region has around 200 tigers and tiger attacks have been on the rise.

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Global impact of debris on marine life studied

Science Daily 19 Feb 15;

Nearly 700 species of marine animal have been recorded as having encountered humanmade debris such as plastic and glass according to the most comprehensive impact study in more than a decade.

Researchers at Plymouth University found evidence of 44,000 animals and organisms becoming entangled in, or swallowing debris, from reports recorded from across the globe.

Plastic accounted for nearly 92 per cent of cases, and 17 per cent of all species involved were found to be threatened or near threatened on the IUCN Red List, including the Hawaiian monk seal, the loggerhead turtle and sooty shearwater.

In a paper, The impact of debris on marine life, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, authors Sarah Gall and Professor Richard Thompson present evidence collated from a wide variety of sources on instances of entanglement, ingestion, physical damage to ecosystems, and rafting -- where species are transported by debris.

Sarah Gall said: "The impact of debris on marine life is of particular concern, and effects can be wide reaching, with the consequence of ingestion and entanglement considered to be harmful. Reports in the literature began in the 1960s with fatalities being well documented for birds, turtles, fish and marine mammals."

In total, they found that 693 species had been documented as having encountered debris, with nearly 400 involving entanglement and ingestion. These incidents had occurred around the world, but were most commonly reported off the east and west coasts of North America, as well as Australia and Europe.

Plastic rope and netting were responsible for the majority of entanglements, with a high number of incidents affecting northern right whales, green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles, and the northern fulmar.

Plastic fragments were the highest recorded substance for ingestion, with the green sea turtle and northern fulmar again, the Laysan albatross, the Californian seal lion, the Atlantic puffin, and the greater shearwater among the worst affected species.

"We found that all known species of sea turtle, and more than half of all species of marine mammal and seabird had been affected by marine debris -- and that number has risen since the last major study," said Sarah. "And in nearly 80 per cent of entanglement cases this had resulted in direct harm or death."

The authors say that while only four per cent of cases involving ingestion were known to have caused harm, further study of sub-lethal impacts are needed, with areas of concern around the impact upon metabolism and reproduction.

Professor Richard Thompson, who is acknowledged as one of the world's leading experts on microplastics in the marine environment, said: "Encounters with marine debris are of particular concern for species that are recognised to be threatened, and with 17 per cent of all species reported in the paper as near threatened, vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, it is evident that marine debris may be contributing to the potential for species extinction."

Journal Reference: S.C. Gall, R.C. Thompson. The impact of debris on marine life. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.12.041

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