Mangroves play key carbon storage role in Singapore

While occupying less than 1% of land here, they store equivalent of 3.7% of CO2 emissions in 2010
Samantha Boh Straits Times 8 Jan 16;

Mangroves may cover just 960ha or less than 1 per cent of Singapore, but that is enough for them to store 450,571.7 tonnes of carbon.

This is equivalent to the annual per capita emissions of 621,089 people, local scientists have found.

This amount is also equivalent to 1,652,096 tonnes of stored carbon dioxide (CO2) or 3.7 per cent of Singapore's national CO2 emissions in 2010.

This ability to soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store high densities of it has gained mangroves a growing prominence globally for their significant role in protecting the earth from the upheavals of climate change.

On top of that, they act as nurseries for crabs, prawns and fishes, and protect coasts against storms and floods.

Mangroves also store more carbon than any other ecosystem, only second at times to peat swamps, said Assistant Professor Daniel Friess, who co-led the mangrove study by a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore's geography department.

The study, done in late 2014, is a first in calculating the total amount of carbon stored in mangroves across the island and was published in international journal Urban Ecosystems last November.

Its findings give a snapshot of the carbon stock in Singapore mangroves, said Prof Friess. "It reminds us that despite their small size, mangrovesare important on a national scale.''

Using data collected between 2012 and 2014, his team collated the figures from upscaling biomass measurements and extrapolated soil samples that went a metre deep by using data from satellite imagery.

The biomass measurements and soil samples were collected from mangroves in places such as Sungei Buloh, Pulau Ubin and Pulau Semakau.

Prof Friess said the carbon stored in Singapore's mangroves was surprisingly high.

Still, it might be an underestimate as the soil of mangrove forests, which is where they store most carbon, can go as deep as 3m.

The soil samples taken for the study, however, went only 1m deep.

He also noted that other inter-tidal ecosystems like seagrass, and even unvegetated ones, such as sandbars and mudflats, also store carbon. But they store less.

A study done on Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin found that seagrass stored 138 tonnes of carbon per hectare, while mudflats stored 143 tonnes and sandbars, 124 tonnes.

The mangroves there, on the other hand, stored 497 tonnes per hectare.

The study also notes that Singapore appears to hold more carbon per hectare than average cities with a population of two to six million.

When compared with other cities in the region, Singapore's carbon density is higher than the estimates for cities in Vietnam and North Korea and is similar to those in Seoul, South Korea.

Singapore once had about 7,500ha of mangroves. But land reclamation and reservoir construction have destroyed as much as 90 per cent of it.

In fact, deforestation destroyed 2 per cent of South-east Asia's mangroves between 2000 and 2012, totalling more than 100,000ha. Often, they were cleared to make way for rice and oil palm plantations.

"This has big implications because they store so much carbon. If you destroy the mangrove forest, you release that carbon, which becomes a big issue when we talk about climate change emissions," said Prof Friess.

"But if we protect mangroves or restore mangroves or increase mangrove cover, they are one of the best ways to offset and mitigate climate change because they soak up so much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."

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Two stalls granted licences to sell ready-to-eat raw fish dishes

The National Environment Agency received 10 applications for the sale of ready-to-eat raw fish dishes as of Jan 8, and is reviewing them.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 8 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) has approved two applications by stalls for the sale of ready-to-eat raw fish dishes, it said in a joint statement with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Friday (Jan 8).

The two stalls are Lye Bo Congee at Block 120 Bukit Merah #01-27 and Rui Ji Stall at Block 120 Bukit Merah #01-61. Both licencees applied to use raw salmon from approved sources for such dishes.

NEA and AVA said they received 10 applications in total, and are reviewing the applications for the other seven licences after one licensee withdrew its application.

On Dec 5, 2015, authorities imposed a ban on on the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes, after tests by NEA and AVA showed that freshwater fish have "significantly higher" bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to present higher risks of infection.

Retail food establishments that wanted to sell such dishes could only use saltwater fish intended for raw consumption following the ban, while food stalls in hawker centres, coffeeshops, canteens and food courts, as well as food establishments providing catering services were required to stop the sale of all ready-to-eat raw fish fishes using saltwater fish until they could comply with the practices required for such dishes.

A spike in Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections reported last June prompted authorities to look into the link between raw fish and the GBS bacteria. The ban came into effect after results of the probe were released.


NEA and AVA said they take about "two to three weeks" to approve a retail food establishment to sell ready-to-eat raw fish dishes after all necessary documents have been submitted.

"These include documentation on the quality of RTE raw fish by their suppliers and evidence of proper cold chain management," the statement said. NEA and AVA added that the premises of the food outlet will be inspected to ensure it complies with necessary hygiene requirements for separate processing, handling and story of ready-to-eat raw fish from other raw foods intended for cooking.

NEA and AVA said retail food establishments are advised to submit their applications to sell ready-to-eat raw fish early, in light of the upcoming Chinese New Year season.

- CNA/dl

Two stalls receive approval to sell ready-to-eat raw fish dishes
AsiaOne 8 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) has approved the applications of two food stalls to resume selling ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes, it said in a joint statement with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Friday (Jan 8).

The two stalls are - Lye Bo Congee at Block 120 Bukit Merah #01-27 and Rui Ji Stall at Block 120 Bukit Merah #01-61. They had applied to use raw salmon from approved sources.

NEA and AVA received 10 applications in total, and are reviewing the applications for seven other licenses. One licensee had withdrawn its application.

The authorities said that it takes around two to three weeks for assessment and approval once the necessary documents have been submitted.

The statement added that the premises of the food outlet will be inspected to ensure it complies with necessary hygiene requirements for the separate processing, handling and storage of RTE raw fish from other raw foods meant for cooking.

The authorities had imposed a ban on Dec 5, 2015, on the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes. Tests found that these fish contained higher bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to pose higher risks of infection.

Following the ban, many fishmongers suffered a severe drop in business.

Fishmonger Yew Wing Fatt, 48, told The New Paper that he was lucky if he sold 200kg of fishe. Before the ban, Mr Yew's stall had a steady stream of customers who would buy more than 800kg of fish daily.

Man hospitalised after eating sashimi; NEA says eatery has no food hygiene lapses
AsiaOne 7 Jan 16;

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Thursday (Jan 7) that it has conducted an investigation after a man claimed that he was hospitalised from eating sashimi at a local sushi outlet.

In a Facebook post on Dec 30 last year, user Randall Heng warned his family and friends against eating raw food.

He said that he consumed about 20 slices of sashimi at Sushi Express located at Seletar Mall.

Mr Heng later suffered a fever that "edged over 40 degrees" which also caused him to "shiver until (his) lips turned purple."

A photo of a hand connected to an intravenous drip accompanied the Facebook post.

In addition, the man noted that some of the sashimi slices had "traces of blood on them" and that he placed them back onto the conveyor belt.

The Straits Times reported that NEA conducted an inspection of the food outlet's premises on Jan 2 and found no food hygiene lapses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that Mr Heng has been discharged from the hospital and that his illness was not linked to a Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection.

In the wake of a spike of GBS infections in the country last year, local authorities imposed a ban on ready-to-eat raw fish dishes prepared using freshwater fish in December.

There were 360 cases of the bacterial infection which killed three people and caused several others to lose part of their limbs. A man also fell into a coma after contracting meningitis triggered by the infection.

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Malaysia: Bringing back the mangroves in Sabah

The Borneo Post 8 Jan 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Sungai ISME is just a small 1.5 km river but its name signifies a special bond between Malaysia and Japan via a joint cooperation in the restoration of degraded mangroves in Sabah.

The river, a tributary of Sungai Loboh near Kampung Padas in Sandakan district, was named after a non-profit and governmental scientific society based in Okinawa, Japan – the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystem (ISME).

ISME is currently involved in the second-phase of the collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) to carry out mangrove rehabilitation project in the State since 2011.

Sungai ISME is also part of the 26.5 hectares (ha) of mangroves encroached by oil palm plantations in six locations in Sandakan district. The total area of degraded mangrove that have been rehabilitated under the first phase of the SFD-ISME project is 150 ha.

Dr Joseph Tangah, a Senior Research Officer of SFD’s Forest Research Centre in Sepilok, said the mangrove planting in Sandakan involved Sg Lalasan, Sg Batang, Tg Pisau, Samawang and Sg Luboh.


Tangah, who is also the project leader for mangroves rehabilitation in Sabah, elaborated further that planting was most extensive at Sungai Lalasan (12 ha), followed by Sg Batang (5.5 ha) and Tanjung Pisau (4.5 ha).

Sabah has about 338,000 ha of mangroves vegetation within the State’s 30 Forest Reserves (FR) (Class V), the largest being the Kuala Bonggaya and Kuala Labuk FR (56,441 ha).

The other is the 43,759 ha at Trusan Kinabatangan, which form part of the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama wetland Ramsar site.

Dr Tangah pointed out the total mangrove forest in Sabah account for 60 percent of Malaysia’s total and 7.6 percent of the global mangroves.

In July 2010, a delegation from the ISME headed by Prof Shigeyuki Baba, visited the SFD in Sandakan to discuss on the implementation of a mangrove rehabilitation project in Sabah.


The visit led to the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the two organisations in November 2010 in Kota Kinabalu to carry out the first phase (2011-2014) of the mangrove rehabilitation project.

Funded by Tokyo-based conglomerate Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd, the project is implemented by SFD with technical guidance from ISME.

The conglomerate has been implementing its Mangrove Planting Project since 1999, in several Asian countries including Bangladesh, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Phillipines, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Sabah is the first state in Malaysia to have such collaboration on mangrove restoration with an international agency such as ISME,” Dr Tangah told Bernama.

The main objective of the collaborative project is to replant 50 ha of degraded mangroves annually in Sabah.


The project also involves the development of cost effective methods for mangrove rehabilitation with the available funds from ISME, whereas planting areas are located within forest reserves under the jurisdiction of SFD.

Dr Tangah said the first phase of the SFD-ISME joint effort has successfully planted more than 150 ha of degraded mangrove forests in 14 project sites located in five forestr reserve districts state wide.

They are Sungai Gum-Gum & Sungai Loboh FR and Sibyte FR in Sandakan, Padas Damit FR in Beaufort, Kuala Bonggaya & Kuala Labuk FR in Beluran and Sandakan and Kuala Tingkayu FR in Kunak.

“The successful completion of the first phase (2011-2014) has led to an extension of the project for another five more years (2014-2019).

“With community participation in the project activities, there is greater awareness that mangroves are important eco-system that needed to be restored,” he said.


To achieve the same objectives, SFD will strive to improve on its mangrove outreach program through environmental education that will bring people into direct contact with the mangrove system.

A Project Steering Committee (PSC) for the SFD-ISME collaborative project has been formed and is headed by SFD Director Datuk Sam Mannan and co-chaired by Prof Shigeyuki Baba, who is also the executive director of ISME.

Silviculture procedures have been developed by the PSC for areas encroached by oil palm, degraded riverine mangroves and areas disturbed by shrimp pond.

For example the Sungai Garama and Sungai Klias in Padas Damit FR, Beaufort, on the West Coast of Sabah were chosen for the project because their river system were important habitats for proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), silver langur (Trachypithecus cristata) and fireflies.

An area of 22 ha encroached by oil palm plantation at Sungai Mattanggar in Beluran was rehabilitated in 2013 by a local contractor employed and supervised by SFD with technical advice from ISME. Local residents also participated through employment by the appointed contractor.


Dr Tangah added despite of the vast areas of mangroves forests in Sabah, they were under increasing pressure due to economic development, including conversion to aquaculture, agriculture and urban land uses.

“Based on the latest assessment of forest cover of Sabah in 2008, about 3,300 ha or approximately 0.97-1 percent of the total mangrove Forest Reserves has been illegally encroached and exploited,” he said.

For the record, mangroves in Sabah can be classified into various forest types, which are dominated by one or two tree species (true mangrove) and can be found in the seaward zone.

The SFD-IME mangrove rehabilitation project promises a new lease of life for mangrove areas in Sabah, that was once on the verge of disappearing from the landscape.

The presence of marine life, birds and small animal species such as monkeys, monitor lizards and snakes indicate that the ecosystem to has been restored along with the mangrove.

“It’s very interesting to see that villagers living in the vicinity are now able to return to catch fish, crab or collect seashell,” Tangah said, adding that the 150 ha of formerly degraded area now covered with healthy young mangroves species. -BERNAMA

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Indonesia: Vice president chairs meeting on peatland

Antara 7 Jan 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Vice President Jusuf M. Kalla chaired a meeting on peatland management at his residence here on Thursday.

The meeting, attended by several high-ranking officials, discussed the governments plan to restore peatland areas, according to Husain Abdullah, a spokesman of the vice president.

Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Minister of National Development Planning/Chairman of the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) Sofyan Djalil, and Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa were among those attending the meeting.

Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Ferry Mursyidan Baldan, Chairman of the Financial Services Authority (OJK) Mulyaman Hadad, and Head of the Presidential Staff Teten Masduki were also present during the discussion.

The meeting was likely to discuss a plan to set up a peatland restoration agency.

Kalla had earlier remarked that the government would adopt measures to prevent forest fires and to restore the peatland areas burnt during the forest fires last year.

"Both forest fires and burnt peatland areas have to be dealt with simultaneously," Kalla pointed out on October 26, 2015.

The government will organize an international conference on peatland management to find solutions to peatland fires.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Panjaitan had earlier stated that it would take some three to five years to restore the burnt peatland areas.(*)

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Raging bushfire devastates Australian town

A large bushfire is burning out of control in the Western Australia town of Yarloop, destroying nearly half of the town's homes.
Channel NewsAsia 8 Jan 16;

PERTH: A "catastrophic" bushfire has burnt through an historic town in Western Australia, razing 95 homes and leaving three people unaccounted for, officials said Friday.

The out-of-control blaze 110km south of Perth more than doubled in size in 24 hours and has now burned through 53,000 hectares (130,000 acres), with a third of the town of Yarloop destroyed.

"I believe we've had what I would suggest [are] catastrophic losses within Yarloop," the state's Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Wayne Gregson told reporters.

"It appears that we've lost around 95 houses, a number of structures within the town site including some of the historical buildings."

Gregson said three or four people had minor injuries as a result of the blaze, which was fanned by strong winds, but added: "Sadly we have three people unaccounted for from Yarloop." Yarloop has a population of 500-600 with an estimated 250 homes.

Aerial footage showed houses reduced to just their brick fireplaces, leaving only blackened ground and the burnt-out shells of vehicles. Yarloop resident Ron Sackville told 6PR radio there was "very little" left.

"I look around 360 degrees and everything is burnt to a cinder. The fire was horrendous," he said. Another resident described the overnight emergency -- initially triggered by a lightning strike - as like the town was being hit by "fireballs".

"It was crazy. One fireball after another. The wind... it was unbelievable," Alex Jovanovich told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"It's devastating," he said of the damage. "There's bugger all left. The hall is gone. I believe the pub's gone. The workshops are gone. The old hospital is gone. I think the church is gone."

Hundreds of firefighters were battling the blaze, which has prompted evacuations and an emergency warning for nearby towns and surrounding areas.
"You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. There is a threat to lives and homes," an official warning said.

Bushfires are a common feature of Australia's summer, with four people dying in November in Esperance in Western Australia's far south, and another two perishing in South Australia. "The fire is still uncontrolled, it is still very, very unpredictable," Gregson said.

- AFP/rw

Bushfire kills two in Australia’s south west; more towns evacuating
Two people have been killed, at least one other remains unaccounted for and more than 121 buildings have been destroyed by a bushfire that continues to burn out of control in Western Australia, police said on Saturday.
Channel NewsAsia 9 Jan 16;

PERTH: Two people have been killed, at least one other remains unaccounted for and more than 121 buildings have been destroyed by a bushfire that continues to burn out of control in Western Australia, police said on Saturday (Jan 9).

The remains of two men were found by authorities searching burnt-out buildings in the historic timber milling town of Yarloop, 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital, Perth, which was destroyed by the fire on Thursday, police confirmed. The men, both believed to be in their 70s, haven't been formally identified.

A state of emergency has been declared and residents evacuated from five nearby towns in the major beef and dairy farming area. Dairy farmers near the fire have been forced to dump thousands of litres of milk since Thursday as road closures prevent tankers being able to reach farms and power cuts prevent production.

Holiday makers in nearby coastal resorts have also been evacuated by ferry as exit roads remain cut and damaged by the fire.

The fire, ignited by a lightning strike on Wednesday, has now burned through some 67,000 hectares (166,000 acres) of land, is uncontained and has a 222 km perimeter. Firefighters have flown in from New South Wales to relieve fatigued local crews.Another large fire in the state's south east, west of the town of Esperance, is also burning out of control and threatening homes.

Wildfires are an annual summer event in Australia, but rising temperatures have prompted some scientists to warn that climate change could increase the length and intensity of the summer fire season.

Four people were killed in a series of bushfires sparked by lightning in Western Australia in November and more than 100 homes were destroyed in fires on Christmas Day in Victoria.Australia experienced its fifth hottest year on record in 2015, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, which has been keeping statistics since 1910.

- Reuters

Towns devastated as firefighters battle huge Australia bushfire
Two people have died and more than a hundred homes have been destroyed in a huge bushfire, Australian authorities said Sunday, as firefighters battled to tame the out-of-control blaze.
Channel NewsAsia 20 Jan 16;

Perth (Australia) - Two people have died and more than a hundred homes have been destroyed in a huge bushfire, Australian authorities said Sunday, as firefighters battled to tame the out-of-control blaze.

The inferno -- which has razed about 71,000 hectares (175,000 acres) in Western Australia state -- is the most recent in a series of bushfires that have kicked off a hot summer season, with the latest deaths lifting the national toll to eight.

The two bodies were found in burnt-out houses in Yarloop, a historic mill town some 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of Perth that has been devastated by the bushfire -- one of the worst to hit the region in recent years.

The bodies are believed to be those of two missing men aged 73 and 77, Western Australia Police told AFP.

"It's just another day of catastrophe, isn't it?" local shire president Tania Jackson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation after news of the men's deaths.

"Each day that has gone by seems to bring worse news. It's devastating."

The bushfire -- which is entering its fifth day after reportedly being started by a lightning strike -- has destroyed 143 properties including 128 homes in Yarloop, the state's Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) told AFP.

The blaze has a perimeter of about 226 kilometres and has yet to be contained, but the 250 firefighters battling the flames were hoping to take advantage of the cooler weather on Sunday.

"Overnight and today, favourable conditions came in and it's a lot cooler here today and that has allowed firefighters to gain more ground on the fire and to increase containment lines," a DFES spokeswoman told AFP.

DFES said several towns in the region remained under threat.

"Unless you are ready and prepared to actively defend your property, evacuate to the south via the South Western Highway if safe to do so," it said in an emergency warning.

"The fire remains uncontained and is not yet controlled."

- 'Difficult bushfire season' -

Western Australia's Premier Colin Barnett said the event had been declared a natural disaster, a measure that gives residents access to greater financial support, adding that the "damage bill is going to be very significant".

Yarloop residents spoke of how the bushfire tore through their town in just seven minutes, as aerial footage showed blackened ground, burnt-out shells of vehicles and houses reduced to brick fireplaces.

"During the day, the hills were very dark and smoking," dairy farmer Joe Angi told the ABC on Saturday.

"But the wind picked up just on dark and she's just come down from the hills, straight down, flat out. It was tumbling over itself like a wave of fire."

Bushfires are common in Australia's hotter months, with four deaths in Western Australia last November. Another two people perished in neighbouring South Australia state in the same month.

DFES commissioner Wayne Gregson warned that the worst of the bushfire season was yet to come.

"There is still another 10 or more weeks to go in what is predicted to be a difficult bushfire season," Gregson told Perth's The Sunday Times.

"Late January to early February is traditionally the most intense summer period, when we can experience hot weather with dry winds and seasonal lightning."

Australia's worst firestorm in recent years devastated parts of the southern state of Victoria in 2009, destroying thousands of homes and killing 173 people.

- AFP/jb

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Hydro dam boom threatens a third of the world's freshwater fish

Plans to build huge dams in the Amazon, Mekong and Congo could devastate freshwater biodiversity in these tropical river basins, say ecologists
John Vidal The Guardian 8 Jan 16;

One third of the world’s freshwater fish are at risk if dozens of large hydroelectric dams are built in the Amazon, Congo and Mekong basins, aquatic ecologists have warned.

Very few dams have so far been built in the basins of the world’s three great tropical rivers because of their remoteness and vast catchment areas. But rising demand for clean electricity in burgeoning tropical cities, and new roads to areas once considered impossible to access, has led to plans for over 450 dams for the three mega-diverse river basins.

If the dams are built, tropical freshwater biodiversity, which is at its most diverse in the three river basins, could be devastated, say the authors.

“Large dams invariably reduce fish diversity and block movements that enable migratory species to complete their life cycles. This may be particularly devastating to tropical river fisheries where many species migrate hundreds of kilometres,” said the team of 39 American, Brazilian and European authors in the journal Science.

They dismiss many of the arguments put forward by dam builders that better designed fish passages incorporated into major dams allow species to move freely up rivers.

“Dam proposals continue to tout fish passages as the principal means for minimising impacts on migratory species. They have proved unsuccessful and even harmful. Large dams delay and attenuate seasonal food pulses, reducing fish access to floodplain habitats that are an essential nursery area and feeding grounds,” the paper said.

They also argued that governments and planners have failed to assess the true benefits and costs of large hydropower projects. “An estimated 75% of large dams suffer cost overuns. Economic projections frequentlyexclude or underestimate the costs of environmental mitigation, as in the the case of the $26bn (£18bn) spent by China to moderate the ecological impacts of the Three Gorges dam.”

In the Amazon basin, the authors said, 334 dams have been proposed which together could devastate fisheries and lead to deforestation.

“The impacts would extend far beyond the direct effects on rivers to include forced relocation of human populations, and expanding deforestation associated with new roads. The Belo Monte dam [being built on the Xingu River in the state of ParĂ¡, Brazil], would be the world’s third largest but may set a record for biodiversity loss.”

The Congo has far fewer proposed dams, but the Inga Falls, a 14km stretch of the river where it drops 96 metres near the coast, has greater hydropower potential than any other river on earth. “Planned dams at the Inga Falls could harness 83% of the river’s annual discharge and could divert water and substantially reduce flow for miles downstream,” the study said.

Six large dams have been built on the Upper Mekong river, mainly in China, since the mid 1990s, but there are now plans for 11 more on the main river and 88 on its tributaries in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. These, said the paper, could affect food supplies across the region.

“Without more careful assessment and planning, negative ecological, social, and even monetary impacts will accompany construction of new hydropower in the world’s tropical rivers,” the authors concluded. “Species extinctions and basin-wide declines in fisheries and other ecosystem services are certain to accompany new hydropower in the world’s mega diverse tropical rivers.”

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