Best of our wild blogs: 2 May 15

One hour of Herps: Jagah Duty at BTNR
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Destination Singapore: A Birder’s Gateway to the Jungles of Southeast Asia – Part 3
Singapore Bird Group

Morning Walk At Venus Drive (01 May 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Read more!

Haze Tracker site gives easy access to key info

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 2 May 15;

To get news and information about the haze, you can now go to the Haze Tracker website.

Created by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) with the help of software firm Tech+Art, the site will host the institute's original content on the topic, as well as articles and studies from research institutes, non-government groups and media outlets.

The SIIA said the goal is to give concerned citizens easy access to useful information.

"We also hope the one-stop portal will help analysts, journalists, activists and policymakers in their work," it said.

The site also directs people to an online research mapping tool developed by the National University of Singapore's Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing.

With this tool, you can view a map of the region, and overlay data such as satellite images and locations of hot spots detected by the satellites.

Hot spots are areas of high temperature on the ground, and indicate where there could be fires.

Users can also superimpose a concession map that identifies which firms are responsible for various land plots in Indonesia.

But the SIIA acknowledged the map might be out-of-date as it relies on 2010 data from Indonesia's forestry ministry.

It noted: "Some member countries in ASEAN have decided against making public their official concession maps due to sovereignty concerns.

In countries such as Indonesia, the central authorities are still in the process of consolidating an accurate and up-to-date map."

While the Government and non-government groups have created haze websites as well, researchers said Haze Tracker is "nice and friendly".

Dr Erik Velasco from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology said the materials were well-presented.

"It could work as a serious and independent reference for people to learn more about the haze," the research scientist said, but noted that researchers and analysts would appreciate more technical and scientific reports.

Read more!

Wildlife decline may lead to 'empty landscape'

Helen Briggs BBC 1 May 15;

Populations of some of the world's largest wild animals are dwindling, raising the threat of an "empty landscape", say scientists.

About 60% of giant herbivores - plant-eaters - including rhinos, elephants and gorillas, are at risk of extinction, according to research.

Analysis of 74 herbivore species, published in Science Advances, blamed poaching and habitat loss.

A previous study of large carnivores showed similar declines.

Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University, led the research looking at herbivores weighing over 100kg, from the reindeer up to the African elephant.

"This is the first time anyone has analysed all of these species as a whole," he said.

"The process of declining animals is causing an empty landscape in the forest, savannah, grasslands and desert."

Prof David Macdonald, of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, was among the team of 15 international scientists.

"The big carnivores, like the charismatic big cats or wolves, face horrendous problems from direct persecution, over-hunting and habitat loss, but our new study adds another nail to their coffin - the empty larder," he said.

"It's no use having habitat if there's nothing left to eat in it."

According to the research, the decline is being driven by a number of factors including habitat loss, hunting for meat or body parts, and competition for food and resources with livestock.

With rhinoceros horn worth more than gold, diamonds or cocaine on illegal markets, rhinos could be extinct in the wild within 20 years in Africa, said the researchers.

The consequences of large wild herbivore decline include:
=Loss of habitat: for example, elephants maintain forest clearings by trampling vegetation
=Effects on the food chain: large predators such as lions, leopards, and hyena rely on large herbivores for food
=Seed dispersal: large herbivores eat seeds which are carried over long distances
=Impact on humans: an estimated one billion people rely on wild meat for subsistence while the loss of iconic herbivores will have a negative impact on tourism

The biggest losses are in South East Asia, India and Africa.

Europe and North America have already lost most of their large herbivores in a previous wave of extinctions.

Read more!

Limiting global warming to 2 degrees 'inadequate', scientists say

Laurie Goering Reuters Yahoo News 1 May 15;

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Holding global warming to a 2-degree Celsius temperature rise – the cornerstone of an expected new global climate agreement in December – will fail to prevent many of climate change's worst impacts, a group of scientists and other experts warned Friday.

With a 2-degree temperature hike, small islands in the Pacific may become uninhabitable, weather-related disasters will become more frequent, workers in many parts of the world will face sweltering conditions and large numbers of people will be displaced, particularly in coastal cities, the experts warned.

The 2-degree goal is "inadequate, posing serious threats for fundamental human rights, labor and migration and displacement" the experts said in a series of reports commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 20 countries chaired by the Philippines.

Some group members, particularly Pacific island states, have previously asked for a lower temperature target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"The reports underscore just how much difference even half a degree of additional heat makes for people's lives, for working conditions and for the movement of people," Mary Ann Lucille Sering, who heads the Philippines Climate Change Commission, said in a statement.

"How can we possibly subscribe to more than double current warming given what less than 1 degree Celsius has entailed?"

The Philippines has suffered from a series of devastating typhoons in the past few years, and "arguments not to strengthen our aims (on curbing climate change) start to wear thin," she said.

According to scientists, rising temperatures - which have so far jumped less than 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times - are already bringing an increase in the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters around the world.

Those disasters, combined with sea level rise related to rising temperatures, threaten to put coastal cities at risk and lead to more displacement and migration "with devastating consequences," said Walter Kaelin of the international Nansen Initiative on disaster- and climate-induced displacement.

"The effects of climate change on human mobility are a global reality that keeps growing in complexity and proportion," Kaelin, who formerly represented the U.N. Secretary-General on the rights of the internally displaced, said in the report.

He suggested a review of the 2-degree climate goal is needed.

John Knox, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment who led the production of the report, also said a 2 degree Celsius or higher rise in global temperature presented too high a risk.

"Even moving from one to two degrees of warming negatively affects the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights," he said, and will make it more complicated for countries to "respect, protect and promote human rights."

In December, negotiators from countries around the world will meet in Paris to agree a new global pact to curb additional climate change and deal with its impacts. Part of that agreement will include a decision on whether the current goal of holding global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius is adequate.

Measurements of existing climate-changing emissions, and emissions reductions pledges already in place by governments, suggest the world is currently on a path toward a 4-degree Celsius rise in temperature by 2100, scientists say.

(Reporting by Laurie Goering; editing by Ros Russell)

Read more!