Best of our wild blogs: 2 Jul 15

Checking out Changi
wild shores of singapore

Register for year-round beach cleanups at Changi, East Coast, Pasir Ris and Sembawang with NEA & PHC
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

What is biodiversity and why should we care?
Hantu Blog

Plant-Bird Relationship: 2. List of plants (version 2.0)
Bird Ecology Study Group

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More new plant species could emerge, thanks to Singapore herbarium

Scientists say discoveries of new flora have been possible because of a rich repository of records that sit in a herbarium at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia 2 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) announced the discovery of two new plant species in June, and experts say more species could emerge over the next few years.

This is despite Singapore's tropical flora already being one of the best researched in the world. Scientists have said such discoveries have been possible because of a rich repository of records that sit in a herbarium at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.


NParks' principal researcher of plant taxonomy Dr Jana Skornickova came across what she thought were different species of Hanguanas. But records contradicted her find, as they showed only one species, the Hanguana Malayana, existed. She and her team monitored the Hanguana plants at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve for three more years, until they flowered and bore fruits.

She then compared them to a dried Hanguana fruit specimen kept at the Singapore Botanic Gardens herbarium. The specimen had been collected by the Gardens' first director, Henry Ridley, in 1890.

"This is quite amazing because you can actually do it with the herbarium specimens from Henry Ridley's time,” said Dr Skornickova.

“We soaked specimens from 1890. All you do is take one fruit, put it in room temperature water overnight, and next day, you can easily peel off the pulp, you can take out the seed, excavate the seed because Hanguanas are unique in the plant kingdom by having a bowl shape to almost closed-bowl shape seeds, and you need to dig out the insides of the bowl to see everything. That's when we discovered that seeds are actually quite distinct in different species."

By comparing the seeds, two new Hanguana species were identified - the Hanguana rubinea and the Hanguana triangulata.

Dr Skornickova also realised that even though records stated only one Hanguana species existed before, she said Ridley knew there were more, just that he never got round to working on it. She pointed to a note he made on the specimen record, where he left the name as just Hanguana. The word “Malayana” is thought to have been added by another botanist.

Dr Skornickova said Ridley's records have helped scientists understand the extent of environmental changes in Singapore. Ridley found the species in three different locations. But the two new Hanguana species are now only found at the primary forest in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, which includes a trail along the MacRitchie Reservoir.

Last year, Dr Skornickova also discovered a new ginger species native to Singapore. She said more discoveries are likely as research on flora has now shifted back to alpha-taxonomy, which is the discipline of detecting and classifying new species.

But these discoveries have been made easier, thanks to the herbarium, which houses more than 750,000 dried specimens and 15,000 spirit collections of plants across Southeast Asia.

"Most of the botanists who work in Southeast Asia, they basically cannot skip the Singapore herbarium because of the historical collections here,” said Dr Skornickova. “Everyone who works for almost any plant group needs to refer back to the original materials by Henry Ridley. Basically the researcher has no choice but to come to Singapore. So in that sense, Singapore herbarium is really part of our national heritage."

Dr Skornickova added the herbarium has played a critical role in the understanding of Southeast Asian flora.

- CNA/xq

Two newly discovered plant species and other gems of Singapore's flora
Audrey Tan Straits Times 10 Jul 15;

For more than a century, 26 plant specimens tucked away in the Singapore Botanic Gardens suffered from a case of mistaken identity.

The flowering herbs had been mislabelled Hanguana malayana, a black-berried plant often found growing by water. Researchers at the Singapore Botanic Gardens discovered last month that the specimens were actually two different Hanguana species new to science and unique to Singapore - the Hanguana rubinea and Hanguana triangulata.

Here's a close-up look at the two newly-discovered plant species and other precious finds in Singapore's botanical landscape.

Plants found only in Singapore

Hanguana rubinea: One of two species of plants new to science discovered by researchers at the Singapore Botanic Gardens this year. It has ruby-red fruit, from which it gets its name. The plants are found only in primary forests in four areas - Bukit Timah, Mandai, MacRitchie and Seletar. Habitat disturbance is a major problem for this critically endangered species.

Hanguana triangulata: The other plant species new to science discovered this year. This white-berried herb is named for the sharply triangular shape of the stigma (female part of the flower). It is critically endangered and can be found only in primary forests in Bukit Timah and Seletar.

Zingiber singapurense: Discovered last year in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, this species of ginger has red and white flowers. It is named after Singapore's name in Malay - Singapura.

Bruguiera hainesii: This critically endangered mangrove tree native to Singapore is also known as the Eye of the Crocodile. It was first discovered here in 2003. Out of 200 such trees in the world, two were found on Pulau Ubin. But since then, they have been planted in various places, including Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Hoya caudata: This critically endangered climber has wiry stems only about 0.3cm thick. It was first documented in the Nee Soon Swamp Forest by researchers from the National Parks Board and National University of Singapore in 2012.

Dr Jana Leong- Skornickova with a leaf from the Hanguana rubinea plant. The ginger plant specialist stumbled upon the new species while on a routine field survey at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve in 2012.


Pterospermum diversifolium: This tree native to Singapore was first documented in Pulau Ubin in 1890. It was rediscovered on the same island by NParks researchers in 2013.

Bulbophyllum singaporeanum: This orchid was first collected in 1896 by British botanist Henry Ridley. It was then presumed to be nationally extinct. But the orchid, recognised by its long green leaves and magenta and green flowers, was re-collected from Nee Soon Swamp Forest in 2009.

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Hot in Singapore, but not likely to get hazy for now

Samantha Boh Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Jul 15;

Singapore continues to swelter, with the hot, dry weather showing no signs of letting up.

The total monthly rainfall for this month is predicted to be 15 per cent to 45 per cent below average. Temperatures, on the other hand, are forecasted to be above average. Yesterday, a high of 34 deg C was recorded at Admiralty at 3.36pm.

But the silver lining, experts say, is that with relatively few fires spotted in Indonesia, the haze is unlikely to make a comeback for now.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite images, there were seven hot spots in Sumatra as of yesterday evening.

Isolated hot spots were detected in Borneo and Vietnam.

Residents in Karachi, Pakistan's financial capital, making use of a damaged water pipe to keep cool. A heatwave killed more than 1,000 people and sent 14,000 to hospital last week as temperatures hit 44 deg C, although the worst appears to be over.

Dr Erik Velasco, a research scientist at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology's Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modelling, said the low numbers mean that the risk of transboundary haze here is low.

The 24-hour PSI stood between 56 and 61 as of 8pm yesterday, which puts it in the low-moderate range. It is considered unhealthy when the 24-hour PSI crosses 100.

"And while there was haze in Riau, the wind did not bring it here," he added. A light haze is currently blanketing Dumai and several other cities in Riau .

Yesterday the Jakarta Post reported that poor visibility had disrupted flights at Dumai City's Pinang Kampai Airport over the last three days.

The National Environment Agency said last Friday that there will be an increased risk of transboundary haze here in the coming months, as the weather is expected to be drier and warmer than usual.

This is a result of the strengthening El Nino phenomenon.

Hot days with highs of up to 34°C in first half of July
Today Online 1 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — Expect several warm days with temperatures up to 34°C in the afternoon, thundery showers as well as slight haze in the first half of this month.

Short-duration thundery showers are likely on three to five days, mostly in the late morning and early afternoon, while thundery showers with gusty winds are expected on one or two days in the morning, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) today in its fortnightly outlook.

“Slightly hazy conditions can be expected on a few days, in particular in the early morning, due to the accumulation of particulate matter under light wind conditions,” said the MSS.

On average, the daily maximum temperature for July is 30.9°C, while the daily minimum temperature is 24.6°C.

July typically has the lowest average monthly rainfall each year at 158.6mm, and the rainfall for the first half of this month is likely to be below normal, added the MSS.

Last week, the MSS warned of drier and warmer over the next few months, and a higher possiblity of the haze returning, partly due to El Nino, which are likely to further develop in the months ahead. These conditions are expected to last from June till September or early October,

Last month, dry and warm conditions were experienced on most days, said the MSS. There were thundery showers on several days, with the highest daily total rainfall for June at 69mm on June 16, in the Jurong area. Most parts of Singapore received below-average rainfall. The central and eastern parts of Singapore around Whampoa and Marine Parade, respectively, saw the lowest rainfall recorded.

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Haze back in some parts of Malaysia

The Star 2 Jul 15;

PETALING JAYA: The air quality has wor­sened slightly in some places in Malaysia.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said that places like the Klang Valley and Nilai had moderate air quality due to small fires at local levels during the hot and dry weather.

As of 11am yesterday, the Air Pollution Index (API) of 15 areas recorded good air quality while another 31 areas had moderate air quality, he said in a statement.

“None of the areas recorded unhealthy air quality,” he said.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department said the hazy conditions might worsen in the next two months, if the dry season continued.

“Recent observations show that Malaysia might encounter moderate transboundary haze if the heatwave continues.

Transboundary haze is the movement of haze from one country to another, explains Dr Hisham Mohd Anip, a senior meteorologist from the department’s National Weather Centre.

He said there might be an increase in haze in Malaysia and neighbouring countries, even as far as north Australia, if the dry season progressed.

“Haze is normal in the month of June to August in Malaysia because we are in the southwest monsoon season, which is consi­dered a dry season,” he said.

Observations by the Meteorological Department also indicate that current temperatures are equivalent to a weaker version of the El Nino phenomenon.

“The intensity of this El Nino effect is predicted to increase from weak to moderate so the haze might worsen,” he added.

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Indonesia: Haze disrupts flights at Dumai airport

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 1 Jul 15;

A decrease in visibility due to haze over Dumai city, Riau, has disrupted flight schedules at Pinang Kampai Airport for the last three days.

Airport head Catur Hargowo said that visibility of only 2 kilometers on Tuesday had forced an aircraft operated by Transnusa to postpone landing for about 30 minutes from its scheduled arrival of 8:30 a.m. local time.

“It’s fortunate that the departure scheduled for 9:30 a.m. for the same aircraft was not disrupted by haze,” Catur told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, adding that low visibility only occurred in the morning and normal visibility of 4 kilometers eventually returned later in the day thanks to wind.

The same flight delays also occurred on Monday and Sunday.

“Pilots only take off when the visibility in Pinang Kampai is 4 kilometers as required by the standard operating procedures,” Catur said.

He added that other airports in Pekanbaru and in many major cities in Indonesia could accommodate landing with visibility of only 700 meters because of supporting equipment including runway lights and radar.

In Pinang Kampai, pilots depended only on runway markers and the control tower’s guidance due to the absence of additional equipment, he added.

Catur, however, said that haze had not affected passenger numbers.

He expressed hope that the government would extinguish the land fires soon, both in Dumai and neighboring regencies, so that haze would no longer disrupt flights.

“The haze in the meantime only causes delays, but if nothing is done about it, more serious conditions will prevail next week meaning we may be forced to close down the operation of the airport,” said Catur.

Riau Provincial Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edwar Sanger said that apart from Dumai, mild haze had also affected Pekanbaru, Bengkalis, Pelalawan and Rokan Hilir. The haze also came partly from neighboring provinces.

“Forest and land fires also hit Jambi and South Sumatra provinces. The haze is reaching Riau thanks to the wind,” Edwar said, adding that efforts to extinguish the fires were continuing.

Based on data collected by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Pekanbaru station from the Terra and Aqua satellites, two hotspots were detected in Dumai on Tuesday.

Other hotspots were found in the neighboring regencies of Bengkalis, Siak, Rokan Hilir and Meranti Islands.

“In total there were 45 hotspots across Riau with the biggest number of hotspots of 17 found in Pelalawan regency,” the station’s data and information section head Slamet Riyadi said.

Of the 45 hotspots, Slamet said, 27 were indicated as fire spots with a reliability level of over 70 percent. Of the fire spots, 13 were in Pelalawan, 11 in Bengkalis, two in Dumai and one in Indragiri Hulu.

Slamet blamed the situation on a lack of rain and high air temperatures.

Islands in focus: Air quality, visibility continue to drop in Riau
The Jakarta Post 2 Jul 15;

Haze from land and forest fires in Riau covering the province over the past several days has resulted in declines in air quality and visibility in a number of regions.

On Wednesday, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency’s (BMKG) Pekanbaru station, for example, detected 60 hotspots in nine regencies and municipalities across the province. Visibility in Pekanbaru, the province’s capital city, meanwhile, was recorded at only 1 kilometer, compared to Dumai’s 7 km and Pelalawan and Rengat’s 3 km.

“The drop in visibility in Pekanbaru has been followed by a decline in air quality. The Air Pollution Standard Index (PSI) board in the city shows that the current air quality is categorized as unhealthy, as the index has reached beyond 100 on the pollutant standards index [PSI],” the station’s data and information section head Slamet Riyadi said.

Declining visibility around the Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru on Wednesday morning also led to the rerouting of Citilink flight QG 936 from Jakarta to Pekanbaru to Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Riau Islands.

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Indonesia: Researcher identifies 52 species of reptiles in W Sumatra

Antara 1 Jul 15;

Padang (ANTARA News) - A researcher of reptiles Salvator Fakhrul Reza successfully identified 52 species of reptiles such as snakes, lizards and turtles around Karamuntiang Hills, Padang city, West Sumatra province.

"The 52 species include three orders and 12 families of reptiles," Reza said here on Wednesday.

He mentioned that the three orders of reptiles were lizards (sauria), snakes (serpentes), and turtles (testudines).

Of the 52 species of reptiles identified, as many 32 were serpentes.

Some species included in the order were Sumatran cobra (Naja sumatrana), python (Python reticulatus), and green snake from the Viperidae family, among others.

The second-largest order comprised 15 species of sauria such as geckos, giant geckos, and lizards.

In addition, the testudines order included the two families of Geoemydidae and Trionychidae, Reza stated.

"Besides the reptiles, Karamuntiang Hills has 18 species of frogs, more than 150 species of birds, and 10 species of rodents, as well," he pointed out.

Furthermore, a biologist from Andalas University, Wilson Novarino, noted that apart from the reptiles, the area around Karamuntiang Hills often serves as a resting place for Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris).

During a certain period, he added, the endangered animal often enters the biology forest areas of Andalas University, leaving behind footprints or caught passing by on cameras.

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