Best of our wild blogs: 14 Apr 16

Protecting Living Exhibits of Rich Biodversity
IPS Commons

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Malaysia: Hot season putting the heat on coral reefs


PETALING JAYA: The prolonged heatwave is making it hot underneath the sea surface and the possibility of a mass coral bleaching still remaining a concern, says an ecologist.

Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) marine ecologist Prof Madya Dr Zainudin Bachok said that at the moment some spots had begun bleaching due to the high temperatures.

“And, with the sea surface temperature slowly rising, there is potential for mass bleaching.”

During the last severe El Nino in 2010, Dr Zainudin said the sea surface temperatures in several islands such as Pulau Payar, Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Redang, Pulau Tioman, Pulau Sibu, Pulau Tinggi and Labuan averaged at 29°C between March 29 and April 12.

“The amount of rain this year for March and April is very little compared to previous years. And if this continues and the water temperature rises to 31°C or 32°C, there is high potential for mass bleaching,” he said in an interview yesterday.

“But, it is predicted that the bleaching will not be as severe as in 2010 when about 30% of the coral reefs in Malaysia died.”

However, Marine Parks Department director-general Datuk Dr Sukarno Wagiman is not taking the problem lightly, saying that the department has formed a Coral Bleaching Technical Committee to review and update the coral bleaching response plan.

Dr Zainudin, who is also UMT’s Institute of Oceanography and Environment deputy director, said by combining satellite data and community-based monitoring network, possible bleaching events could be identified earlier before a task force carried out monitoring and investigation surveys.

“Once a report is prepared from the surveys, all stakeholders are informed as to how they can adapt to the bleaching problems and manage human activities to reduce human stresses upon the reefs.”

Human stresses refer to water pollution, plastic trash, coastal developments, sedimentation, sewage water, long fishing nets, fish bombing and physical contact from snorkellers and divers.

“This is only a short term action plan, but the first and foremost cause of mass coral bleaching is greenhouse gases that cause climate change and everyone can take steps to reduce them,” said Dr Zainuddin.

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Malaysia: Rainfall down but will be better next two months

The Star 14 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: Rainfall has drastically reduced between 20% and 60% in parts of the country as Malaysians suffer through the hot and dry weather brought on by El Nino.

The good news, however, is that rainfall is expected to return to normal levels over the next two months with some states getting slightly more than average – between 50mm and 400mm.

“The effect of a stronger El Nino was felt throughout the country with a new record for average rise in temperature set in January this year, surpassing the record set in January 1998,” said a report in the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry’s website.

It stated that most parts of the country experienced a rise of between 0.5°C and 2°C rise in temperature with hotter and drier weather affecting the northern peninsula and the East Coast.

Also affected were parts of Sabah and Sarawak.

The report added the hot and dry weather would gradually taper off during the inter-monsoon over the next two months, with average temperatures dropping 1.5°C and 1.7°C.

The temperature in several parts of the country yesterday was Prai (35°C), Kota Baru (33°C), Ipoh (36°C), Cameron Highland (23°C), Petaling Jaya (34°C), Kota Kinabalu (30°C) and Sarawak (32°C).

Kedah to seed clouds for seven days in quest for rainfall
MASRIWANIE MUHAMADING New Straits Times 13 Apr 16;

LANGKAWI: Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah said the state would wait another week before deciding on the next course of action to tackle the current heat wave and dry spell, which may include water rationing.

In adopting a wait and see approach, Bashah expressed hope that there would be rainfall.

"We hope that the cloud seeding exercise will be able to induce rain and raise the water levels at all five dams in the state.

"We will see how things will turn out within these seven days.

"Hopefully there is no need for the government to impose water rationing," said Bashah who was met at the Langkawi District Office here where he chaired the weekly state executive council (Exco) meeting.

The cloud seeding exercise in Kedah which began today will continue for seven consecutive days.

It is conducted by the Meteorology Department at various locations throughout the state especial at water catchment areas and dams.

Cloud-seeding successful in Perak, efforts to be continued in targeted areas
BERNAMA New Straits Times 13 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Cloud-seeding carried out yesterday to counter the haze and water crisis produced some rain at certain targeted areas.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau said one operation lasting two hours was carried out in Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas, Sabah at 2 pm.

He said two other operations based at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang were carried out in the peninsula from 2 pm till 5.45 pm with the cooperation of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

“The targeted areas were Pedu dam and Muda dam in Kedah and Bukit Merah dam in Perak,” he said in a statement here.

He said another operation based at Bayan Lepas International Airport was carried out at 1.45 pm till 4.55 pm, using a private aircraft and the flare method.

“The targeted areas were Timah Tasoh dam in Perlis; Ahning dam, Pedu and Muda dams in Kedah and Bukit Merah dam in Perak.

“The operation managed to produce rain in areas around the Bukit Merah dam in Perak,” he said, adding, cloud seeding would continue today. -- Bernama

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Malaysia: Forest fire ravages most of Binsuluk reserve

The Star 14 Apr 16;
KOTA KINABALU: Forest fires damaged more than half of the 12,196ha Binsuluk peat swamp reserve over the past several weeks.

Inter-monsoon rains since Friday finally doused the fires, which started in early April and razed some 8,000ha of the area, said Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan.

The burnt-out areas will regenerate naturally but it will take time, he said, adding that the area was not suitable for any type of development due to its peat swamp characteristics.

Any development effort there would be a disaster, he said.

Binsulok and the nearby 3,630ha Klias reserve are the last remaining peat swamp forests in Sabah.

Firemen and the department’s Forest Rangers have been battling to put out the fires in Binsuluk, which were triggered by the prolonged dry spell since March.

Beaufort district officer Mohd Shaid Othman said there was also the possibility that the fires at Binsuluk could have been set off by poachers hunting for deer and other wildlife.

He said they were, however, leaving it to the police to carry out their probe into the matter.

Big drop in Johor open burning cases
YEE XIANG YUN and NABILA AHMAD The Star 13 Apr 16;

JOHOR BARU: There has been a big drop in the number of open burning cases in Johor in the first three months of the year despite the heatwave.

Until the end of March, 610 cases of open burning were recorded compared to 2,721 during the same period last year.

Most of the cases were forest and bush fires, which totalled 421, followed by burning of rubbish (85) and open burning at farms (55).

Johor Fire and Rescue Department director Othman Abdullah attributed the drop to joint efforts by his department and local authorities, including the Land Office.

"Enforcement efforts also singled out repeat offenders where the land owner was issued warning letters if open burning was found in the same location.

"So far, the Land Office issued four warning letters to land owners in Muar, Kempas in Johor Baru and Lepau in Pengerang," he said when opening the "Bomba with the Media" course at the department's headquarters here on Wednesday.

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Malaysia: Move will help prevent pollution in the sea off Pontian

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 14 Apr 16;

PONTIAN: Johor will gazette the 550km shoreline stretching from Tanjung Piai to Kukup Island here as the Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) to prevent pollution in the sea off Pontian.

Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the move was deemed necessary as commercial vessels anchoring along the international boundary of Tanjung Pia and Kukup Island have been identified to cause pollution

He said most of them would discharge oil and other waste into the sea off Pontian while waiting for their turn to enter the Singapore Port.

Mohamed Khaled said legal action could not be taken against them now as the illegal activities were conducted along the international line of the Straits of Malacca.

“But Johor has to pay the price for their actions,’’ he said during a press conference at the unveiling of the post box placed at the southernmost part of mainland Asia in the Tanjung Pia National Park here.

Mohamed Khaled said Johor had already discussed the issue with Singapore and Indonesia and would submit the papers by the Johor National Parks Corporations and Marine Department to the International Maritime Organisation headquarters in London in October.

There are more than 10,000 commercial vehicles passing through the Tanjung Piai and Kukup Island area yearly.

Johor’s PSSA will place Malaysia as the first country in South-East Asia to gazette the area between two and three nautical miles off limit for illegal waste dumping by vessels.

“The illegal disposing of waste by the vessels are damaging our mangrove areas in Pontian,’’ he said.

Mohamed Khaled said the mangrove areas were vital in preventing erosion along the coastline as they were also the natural buffer zone for tsunami and the breeding grounds for marine life.

Presently, there are 11 PSSA locations in the world – Great Barrier Reefs and Torres Strait in Australia, Archipelago of Sabana-Camaguey in Cuba, Colombia’s Malpelo Island and Florida Keys in the United States, Wadden Sea in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

Others are Peru’s Paracas National Reserve, Western European Water covering Belgium, French, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, Canary Island in Spain, Ecuador’s Galapagos Archipelago and Baltic Sea in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden.

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