Best of our wild blogs: 10 Jul 15

Whale in Singapore!
wild shores of singapore

Beyond an ID guide: "Marine Life and Natural History of the Coral Triangle"
wild shores of singapore

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People-centric approach needed for effective urban planning, says expert


SINGAPORE — When the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail terminal in Jurong is ready, it could bring about a much bigger transient commuter population in the area, and with it, implications on how to manage emergencies involving a crowd that includes travellers and workers who may be entering Singapore for the first time.

Such a scenario is one example of how urban planners must take a people-centric approach, and understand how the same built environment can impact different groups of people differently, or impact people differently over time. This is one way of ensuring that urban planning is effective, said Professor David Chan, director of the Behavioural Sciences Institute at Singapore Management University.

Elaborating on the Jurong example, Prof Chan said: “They are less familiar with the physical surroundings of the station than the regular commuter living in Singapore. So, the physical layout and urban forms in the surrounding area must be aligned with contingency plans for incident management during train disruptions.”

Emphasising that research and development should go beyond technical solutions and include social and behavioural sciences, Prof Chan, speaking at the Urban Sustainability R&D Congress today (July 9), said liveability is about people’s evaluations, experiences and encounters when they interact with their physical and social environments.

“That is why we need to better understand how people think, feel and act in different settings, and how these thoughts, emotions or behaviours may differ between groups or change over time. This means having social and behavioural scientists working alongside urban planners, architects, engineers and physical scientists to enhance people’s well-being and quality of life in urban settings,” he said.

There is also the need to anticipate how needs and wants may change over time and across demographic groups. “So, as we go around with our housing planning, (planting) of trees, don’t just take needs and wants reported in surveys as given. Think about how it can change, the different demographics, and how environmental change can actually influence people’s expectations,” he said.

For instance, the idea of living underground may meet some resistance as a result of Chinese superstitions, but a population can change in their beliefs with each successive generation, he said.

“You should ask the question, no matter how technical your study (or) project is: Can (I) actually make people have a more positive attitude about their life and living, as well as the experiences that they encounter?” he said.

While people can move between cities in a country, Prof Chan said Singapore is in a unique position where people who want a change of living environment would have to leave the country.

“Whether it is NParks, HDB or URA, what we can do better now is to create more emotional attachment and rootedness to the country for both citizens and non-citizens,” he said.

The two-day Urban Sustainability R&D Congress continues tomorrow.

Urbanisation specialist lists what it takes for S'pore to grow
Nikita Mathur The Business Times AsiaOne 10 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE - Singapore has done well to invest in its infrastructure and plan its land use, and may wish to look to other global cities for ideas on how to map its path for future growth, a senior fellow at Urban Land Institute (ULI) Europe said on Wednesday.

Mr Greg Clark said that, even as Singapore evolved into a model for urban development, urbanisation - the growth of populations in urban areas, away from rural ones - was taking place across the world.

Today, there are widespread concerns over how problems in growing cities can be tackled, he said, listing those Singapore will need to confront in order to continue growing.

Among those he listed were affordability (a by-product of success) and the polarisation of incomes.

Singapore will also have to address issues of crowding and rising expectations, along with the raising of investment rates and diversifying sources of capital.

Other areas that will need tending are the role of non-governmental partners, the calibre and reputations of the country's knowledge institutions, and the establishing of an innovation economy, as well as Singapore's role within urbanisation in Asia and the emerging Asian system of cities.

Mr Clark, an economist, social and political scientist who is a published author on city development and business investment issues, was speaking at an engagement session hosted by ULI, an independent, global, non-profit group that advocates responsible land use and the creation of thriving, sustainable communities worldwide.

On the issue of "densification" of cities, he noted that Singapore has taken forward the idea of a decentralisation by creating secondary centres outside the city centre "while retaining the DNA of the city".

He also noted that Singapore was very diversified, in that it is a centre for knowledge creation, science and R&D, but is also a corporate hub, a banking and financing centre and a visitor economy.

"For all cities, the thing is to match population size with the infrastructure platform that you have, so that people can live well and at the same time, to have the right population for the activities you want to perform internationally," he said.

ULI is supported by members representing the entire spectrum of real estate development and land use disciplines.

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S$6m awarded to four research programmes on energy efficiency

The projects focus on air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems and will take around two to three years to complete.
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 9 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will be awarding S$6 million to four research projects on improving the energy efficiency of buildings, announced Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee at the Urban Sustainability R&D Congress on Thursday (Jul 9).

The projects focus on air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems, which account for a major part of a building's energy consumption, and will take around two to three years to complete.

The amount was awarded under the authority's second grant call for the Energy Innovation Research Programme for Building Energy Efficiency.

BCA will also be launching the inaugural smart building technology research and development call, which aims to develop solutions for smart, green and healthy buildings. The call for proposals is open to the research community, including researchers in universities and Singapore-based companies.

It comes under the authority's Green Buildings Innovation Cluster programme, launched in September 2014, which has up to S$18 million allocated for research and development grant calls and collaboration projects.

The research community can also apply for the second call for proposals under the Land and Liveability National Innovation Challenge, which offers up to S$10 million for each project.

The challenge was launched by the Ministry of National Development and National Research Foundation in 2013. It seeks innovative solutions to improve the cost-effectiveness of underground developments, and the comfort and well-being of residents, such as those to reduce ambient temperature and noise levels of housing estates.

"Research and development has helped us overcome many challenges of the past, but more can and needs to be done, as we continue to face new challenges as we develop and grow," said Mr Lee. "For a small city-state like ours, this is especially key as no other country will face the pressures of urbanisation and scarcity of resources as keenly as we do."

"Smart building systems, according to some studies, can save as much as 20 per cent of the energy that is consumed in our buildings, and of course smart building systems can also help to make our buildings healthier and occupants more productive," added Mr Tan Tian Chong, group director for research at Building and Construction Authority.


One of the four winning projects of the Minister for National Development's Research and Development Award was a system that could reduce energy needed by airconditioners by up to 35 per cent.

In the prototype, air is passed through membranes, where moisture is removed. The device also passes the air through a water-based cooling system that does not contain chemicals harmful to the environment.

Assistant Professor Ernest Chua, from National University of Singapore's Faculty of Engineering, explained: "If the indoor air is really humid, then the chilling system, the air-con system so to speak, has to take up a lot of energy to remove that moisture.

"But with this system, it basically de-couples the moisture-removal process and the cooling process, so the cooling system now is much more efficient because it does not have to remove the moisture from the air."

Asst Prof Chua also said care was taken to ensure the materials used are cost-efficient.

"This is a very low-cost manufactured membrane, so if you want to manufacture in terms of a couple of thousand pieces, we do not anticipate that the costs are going to be heavy," he said.

He added that large-scale testing is being carried out now and the system is expected to be available in the market in one to two years' time.

More than 700 people are expected to attend the two-day congress, including researchers, industry professionals and public agencies.

- CNA/ek/xq

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Indonesia: Javan rhino population declines in TNUK

The Jakarta Post 8 Jul 15;

The population of the Javan rhinoceros, which was earlier estimated at 60 rhinos, has declined as four rhinos had died in the period between 2011 and 2014, says Ujung Kulon National Park (TNUK) center head Mohammad Haryono in Serang, Banten, on Tuesday.

Based on monitoring conducted by TNUK by using 100 video camera traps from January until December, 2014, the current population of the Javan rhino is around 57, consisting of 31 males and 26 females, Antara news agency reported on Tuesday.

“This is not an ideal composition, which should be one male for every four females. This has caused slow population growth,” Haryono said in a public meeting about the Javan rhinoceros population monitoring result in 2014 organized by the TNUK center and attended by acting Banten Governor Rano Karno at the Banten gubernatorial office in Serang.

Regarding the causes of death, Haryono said they had likely died of diseases, other natural factors or by being killed by animals of prey, such as jungle dogs.

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UN Report Makes Economic Case for Conservation of Indonesia’s Forests

Daniel Waldroop Jakarta Globe 9 Jul 15;

Jakarta. The United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia, or UNORCID, published a new study on the value of Indonesia’s forests this week, advocating that greater conservation was crucial to Indonesia’s economic success.

The report, “Forest Ecosystem Valuation Study,” was formally presented at a press conference on Wednesday to Nur Masripatin, director general for climate change control, on behalf of the minister of the environment and forestry.

Pavan Sukhdev, a UN Environmental Program goodwill ambassador who led the study, described the report as a “snapshot” of Indonesia’s forests.

“The report itself is not the goal of our work. The report documents what we have done to understand the value of ecosystem services across five provinces in Indonesia,” he said.

It also serves as an attempt to bring quantitative economic analysis to a subject that often puts its stock in the ideals of environmentalism rather than hard numbers.

“In addition to their ecological, cultural and spiritual value, forests play a critical role in sustaining national economies and supporting livelihoods through the ecosystem services and employment opportunities they provide,” said Achim Steiner, a UN under-secretary-general and executive director of the UNEP.

Compiled from a number of pre-existing papers as well as original research, the report focuses on the contribution of Indonesia’s forests to three areas: poverty alleviation, food security, and the transition to the green economy.

UNORCID estimates that 1.5 percent of Indonesia’s GDP comes directly from its forests, but emphasizes that the true value is even greater.

The report found that Indonesia’s rural poor, a group that has been stubbornly cut off from the nation’s average GDP growth of more than 5 percent over the last 15 years, remain highly dependent on forest ecosystems. Almost 80 percent of the incomes for the rural poor can be attributed directly to forest services, according to the study.

The logic of conservation, the report claims, is tied to economic growth as much as environmental values.

But not all were convinced. An audience member at Wednesday’s press conference disputed whether the conservation of Indonesia’s forests was as beneficial to Indonesia as it was to the rest of the world.

“We’ll help the world – if it also helps us,” he argued.

Sukhdev responded that his “objective is to change our understanding of what constitutes development.”

“To me, a reduction in income in the hands of farmers because the forest level has gone down and the fresh water level has gone down is not development,” he said.

The importance of the economic power of Indonesia’s forest resources was echoed by Nur of the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

“It is our hope that the results of this study will help Indonesia to achieve its green goals, through REDD+ implementation, by increasing awareness among politicians, at the national and subnational level,” she said.

But it will take more than awareness for Indonesia to maintain its forests. The report estimates that $600 million is needed to preserve the more than 160 million hectares of forest cover.

Satya Tripathi, the director of UNORCID, argued that it was well worth the cost.

“The cost of depleting the country’s natural resources has not only damaged the long-term prospects of economic growth, but the economic growth that Indonesia has now is at serious risk until we all work together,” he said.

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Global trends show seabird populations dropped 70 percent since 1950s

UBC research shows world's monitored seabird populations have dropped 70 percent since the 1950s, a stark indication that marine ecosystems are not doing well.
University of British Columbia ScienceDaily 9 Jul 15;

Michelle Paleczny, a UBC master's student and researcher with the Sea Around Us project, and co-authors compiled information on more than 500 seabird populations from around the world, representing 19 per cent of the global seabird population. They found overall populations had declined by 69.6 per cent, equivalent to a loss of about 230 million birds in 60 years.

"Seabirds are particularly good indicators of the health of marine ecosystems," said Paleczny. "When we see this magnitude of seabird decline, we can see there is something wrong with marine ecosystems. It gives us an idea of the overall impact we're having."

The dramatic decline is caused by a variety of factors including overfishing of the fish seabirds rely on for food, birds getting tangled in fishing gear, plastic and oil pollution, introduction of non-native predators to seabird colonies, destruction and changes to seabird habitat, and environmental and ecological changes caused by climate change.

Seabirds tend to travel the world's oceans foraging for food over their long lifetimes, and return to the same colonies to breed. Colony population numbers provide information to scientists about the health of the oceans the birds call home.

Albatross, an iconic marine bird that lives for several decades, were part of the study and showed substantial declines. Paleczny says these birds live so long and range so far that they encounter many dangers in their travels. A major threat to albatross is getting caught on longline fishing hooks and drowning, a problem that kills hundreds of thousands of seabirds every year.

"Our work demonstrates the strong need for increased seabird conservation effort internationally," said Paleczny. "Loss of seabirds causes a variety of impacts in coastal and marine ecosystems"

Seabirds play an important role in those ecosystems. They eat and are eaten by a variety of other marine species. They also transport nutrients in their waste back to the coastal ecosystems in which they breed, helping to fertilize entire food webs.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, is the first to estimate overall change in available global seabird population data. It is a collaboration between UBC researchers Paleczny, Vasiliki Karpouzi and Daniel Pauly and Edd Hammill, a lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney in Australia.

Journal Reference:

Michelle Paleczny, Edd Hammill, Vasiliki Karpouzi, Daniel Pauly. Population Trend of the World’s Monitored Seabirds, 1950-2010. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (6): e0129342 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129342

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U.S. forecaster sees El Nino likely into Northern Hemisphere into spring

Chris Prentice PlanetArk 10 Jul 15;

A U.S. government weather forecaster on Thursday again extended its El Nino outlook, projecting an 80 percent chance that the much-watched conditions will continue into the Northern Hemisphere's early spring of 2016.

The Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, said in its monthly report that it saw the likelihood that El Nino would last through the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2015-16 at more than 90 percent.

There has been a growing consensus among forecasters for a strong El Nino, a weather pattern that can roil crops and commodities prices.

Last month, the CPC said El Nino was likely to last through the winter.

Across the contiguous United States, the effects of El Nino are likely to remain minimal through the summer and increase into the late fall and winter, the CPC said.

To read the full CPC report, click:

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Lisa Von Ahn)

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Seas could rise 6 meters even if governments curb warming: study

Alister Doyle Reuters 10 Jul 15;

Sea levels could rise by at least six meters (20 feet) in the long term, swamping coasts from Florida to Bangladesh, even if governments achieve their goals for curbing global warming, according to a study published on Thursday.

Tracts of ice in Greenland and Antarctica melted when temperatures were around or slightly higher than today in ancient thaws in the past three million years, a U.S.-led international team wrote in the journal Science.

And the world may be headed for a repeat even if governments cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to a United Nations goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

"Present temperature targets may commit Earth to at least six meters sea level rise," the authors at the Past Global Changes project wrote. Some greenhouse gases can linger for centuries in the atmosphere.

Such a thaw would threaten cities from Beijing to London, and swamp low-lying tropical island states.

Lead author Andrea Dutton, of the University of Florida, said it could take many centuries for a six-meter rise, despite some ancient evidence that more rapid shifts were possible.

"This is a long-term projection. It's not going to happen the day after tomorrow," she told Reuters.

The United Nations' panel of climate scientists said in 2013 that global warming could push up world sea levels by 26 to 82 cm (10 to 32 inches) by the late 21st century, on top of a 19 cm gain since 1900.

Thursday's study, based on studies of everything from ancient ice to fossil corals, said sea levels rose by between six and nine meters in a warm period about 125,000 years ago when temperatures were similar to those of today.

Ocean levels gained between six and 13 meters 400,000 years ago when temperatures were up to about 1C warmer than present.

And in a warm period three million years ago, sea levels were also at least six meters higher than now. The ancient shifts were probably linked to natural variations in the Earth's orbit around the sun.

Last year, some scientific studies indicated that parts of West Antarctica's ice sheet had already passed a "tipping point", and were locked in an unstoppable long-term thaw.

"Tipping is not just a theoretical possibility, it is a reality," Ricarda Winkelmann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research told a science conference in Paris.

(Additional reporting by Laurie Goering in Paris; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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