Best of our wild blogs: 4-5 Feb 17

Round Ubin survey for oil spill impact and long-term monitoring
wild shores of singapore

Butterfly Photography 101 - Part 5
Butterflies of Singapore

Close Encounter With A Green Chafer Beetle (03 Feb 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Almost 900kg of rubbish cleared from Lim Chu Kang mangrove

Zhaki Abdullah Straits Times 4 Feb 17;

The number 888 may be auspicious to some, but not for the 67 volunteers who dredged up rubbish from the Lim Chu Kang mangrove yesterday.

On the eighth day of Chinese New Year, they collected 888kg of rubbish from the mangrove as part of cleanup efforts organised by International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.

In various Chinese languages, the number eight sounds like the word "prosperity".

But there was nothing prosperous about the rubbish collected. It ranged from small items such as drinking straws and plastic cups, to larger items such as tyres, water drums and even a motorcycle helmet.

One of the organisers, Mr N. Sivasothi, said that while beaches at places such as East Coast Park are cleaned regularly, non-recreational areas such as the Lim Chu Kang mangrove receive less attention.

The group has been regularly cleaning the mangrove since 1992.

An earlier effort had turned up more than a tonne of rubbish.

In September and October last year, the group also picked more than 13,000kg of rubbish from coasts along the island.

Mr Sivasothi, 50, a senior lecturer with the biological sciences department at the National University of Singapore (NUS), said that mangroves in the region hold a wealth of biodiversity.

He said that "just looking around, I can see at least 12 species of trees" at the Lim Chu Kang mangrove, and, given previous efforts, he is hopeful that more will be done to protect them.

"Mangrove trees were planted at Pasir Ris," Mr Sivasothi said. "The mangrove at Sungei Buloh was turned into a nature reserve, and now that has been extended to Kranji. So I think it can be done."

Yesterday's cleanup drew a diverse crowd, from NUS students to visitors from as far away as India and Serbia.

The youngest volunteer was three-year-old Elizabeth Lim, who was there with her parents.

Her father, Mr Adrian Lim, said: "We feel it's important to let her get her hands dirty and expose her to the importance of protecting the environment early on."

The 40-year-old programme manager takes part in about four coastal cleanups a year. He said: "People should know that there's all this nature right in our backyard, but there's also all this trash."

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Water monitor lizard spotted on Upper Serangoon Road during peak hour

Melissa Zhu Channel NewsAsia 4 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: Motorists along Upper Serangoon Road on Friday evening (Feb 3) had to make their way around an unusual roadblock - a huge water monitor lizard lying across more than half a lane.

A Facebook Live video posted at 5.18pm showed the reptile sprawled on the road, unmoving, for about a minute, while cars manoeuvred around it.

The man who took the video, who wanted to be identified only as "Mr Lim" said he spotted a "black shadow" on the road before the exit to the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway. As it was raining at the time, he said he initially thought that the object was rubbish or fallen branches.

It was only when he saw the lizard's head move that he realised what it was.

Mr Lim added that he was able to take the video as he had stopped at a red light, near the reptile, but moved on when the lights changed.

Another witness, who wanted to be identified as "Mr Foo", told Channel NewsAsia that the lizard - which he took to be a crocodile at first - was alive when he passed it, and that he saw it slowly moving to the side.

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan told Channel NewsAsia that members of the animal rights group went to the scene, but could not find the water monitor lizard.

Mr Kalai added that the group saw photos that showed the lizard upside down, suggesting that it could have been run over by a vehicle.

"This part of Upper Serangoon Road is close to adjacent nature areas - mainly Upper Serangoon River and Punggol Park. The lizard probably got stranded trying to cross the road," he said.

Mr Kalai said that Acres would continue to monitor the situation to see if it would get further calls about the lizard. He also urged members of the public to call Acres at +65 9783 7782 if they saw wild animals in distress.

"However, when spotted on roads, time is of the essence. If possible and it is safe, members of public can try and divert traffic while waiting for our arrival. This will ensure the safety of the animal and drivers or riders."

The water monitor is the most common monitor lizard found in Singapore and can grow as long as three metres, according to NParks' website, which added that the reptiles can be found in forests and mangrove swamps, as well as man-made canals.

- CNA/mz

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Bringing clean water to villages in India, the Singapore way

From building toilets to basic homes, some Singapore outfits are transforming the lives of communities in India, as profiled in the documentary Finding Singapore.
Desmond Ng Channel NewsAsia 4 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE – Living in Singapore, Marcus Lim never wanted for water. But when he arrived in India, he found that people had to walk for hours to collect water, which might be in short supply or, worse, contaminated.

Then there are the sanitation issues related to this lack of water and poor water quality - diseases like cholera, and poor crop harvests.

Said Mr Lim: “For me growing up in Singapore, I knew the value of water from an intellectual perspective. But I have never really experienced what it feels like to be short of water.”

Mr Lim and his India-born partner Stanley Samuel, as co-founders of Ecosoftt, decided to help villages in India with their water problems.

Headquartered in Singapore, Ecosoftt is a social enterprise that deals with decentralised water management. It is one of more than 100 water companies that have built up expertise across the water and wastewater treatment sectors in Singapore – and a number are now venturing abroad to help other communities.

The works of intrepid people and enterprises that are applying the lessons of Singapore’s development to impact communities elsewhere - specifically, India and Rwanda - are the subject of a Channel NewsAsia two-part documentary, Finding Singapore (premiering Tuesday, Feb 5, 8pm).


In 2015, Ecosoftt helped to tackle a drought in the hamlet of Rampur Tola, near the city of Jabalpur. The plan was to give the villagers some degree of water security.

The company designed a water management system that was built by the community.

From having to walk for hours to get water, now every household had their own tap. New toilets and bathrooms were constructed, and they were connected to a sewage network system. Treated waste-water was then reused for gardening, landscaping, irrigation and other purposes.

Mr Lim said: “What gave me the greatest joy was that at the end of the project, the villagers came to us and said that now they have toilets, they have water, they have a safe place to bathe.

“And I was like, wow, you know, it’s such a basic thing that you could give to people and this would complete their lives.”

The company is currently working to help clean up one of India’s famous rivers, located in the holy city of Omkareshwar which is home to one of the most sacred Hindu temples in the land.

The city has a population of about 10,000 but the number of visitors goes up exponentially during major festivals - along with the quantum of sewage.

Ecosoftt built the city’s first sewage treatment plant last June, one of five facilities that will treat the sewage before it flows to the river.

These social impact projects have become a strategic part of its business. Said Mr Lim: “It is about providing technologies, expertise, human capital and financial resources to where they are most needed - which are communities that are facing water and sanitation and environmental challenges.

“You can’t get more challenging than that.”


While Ecosoftt is tackling the water situation in India, two other Singapore-based outfits are addressing its problems of sanitation and homes.

The World Toilets Organization, headed by founder Jack Sim, is collaborating with local partners to provide safe and affordable sanitation to the rural population.

billionBricks, a non-profit organisation, has developed portable, insulated tents to protect the homeless and vulnerable from the extreme weather in India.

Founder Prasoon Kumar, a New Delhi native who moved to Singapore 10 years ago, said: “Singapore does a lot of experiments, a lot of new thinking... There’s a huge community which supports new ideas.

“At the end of the day, a lot of the things we’re doing requires a huge amount of mental strength and I think Singapore provides us that basis for strength.”

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Indonesia: Riau gets forest fire squad ready to crack down on field burners

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 4 Feb 17;

In anticipation of drought this year, the Riau provincial administration has prepared a forest fire emergency team comprising thousands of personnel from the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Environment and Forestry Ministry team Manggala Agni, civilian volunteers and firefighting teams from private companies.

Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi “Andi” Rachman said during an outdoor ceremony attended by all personnel at his office that the event was held to serve as a reminder to all public and private companies in Riau to stop slash-and-burn activities when opening a new field. “All personnel on this team are united in their effort to enforce the law on field burners,” he said. “Remember, I’m serious, don’t ever burn fields.”

He said the concerted effort to prevent forest fires had begun last year. Andi said forest fires had begun in 1997 in Riau and reappeared, but were curbed last year. Fewer hot spots were detected in 2016, with only 17 percent of the figure in 2015.

“We are determined to maintain the success this year. That’s why I declared an emergency forest fire status from Jan. 24 to April,” he went on.

The forestry ministry’s director of forest fire mitigation, Raffles Brotestes Panjaitan, said Friday his office had deployed 400 Manggala Agni personnel to Riau. “Our ministry also provides 217 trail motorbikes, portable pumps, hoses, fireproof suits and two operational vehicles for the TNI to support the forest fire mitigation,” he said. (evi)

Riau steps up vigilance on fires
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 6 Feb 17;

Facing a higher risk of forest fires as a result of a prolonged dry season, Riau province administration will deploy a special team of over 1,000 personnel to prevent “annual” disastrous haze that is caused by slash-and-burn practices.

On Friday, 1,500 personnel from the military, police, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and members of several related organizations gathered in Pekanbaru to ensure the joint operation’s preparedness.

Riau Governor Arsyad Juliandi Rachman said the gathering also aimed to warn individuals or companies operating in the province to not clear new forest areas with burning methods.

“All the elements of forest fire mitigation, including the government, law enforcers, and other officers will unite and work together to take firm action against perpetrators. We are very serious about this. No one should attempt to burn the forest.”

“Preventive measures should be taken as early as possible. We have no excuse not to act immediately because all the necessary facilities and tools are available.”

He said early prevention, as well as good cooperation between all stakeholders had proven effective to prevent the disastrous haze that occurred annually in Riau since 1997, bar last year when the number of hotspots decreased to 17 percent compared to the previous period.

“We hope last year’s success in preventing forest fires can be achieved again. We have declared Riau’s status as being on high alert. All institutions should contribute and work together,” Arsyad added.

BNPB head Willem Rampangilei said last year’s haze could be prevented partly due to La Nina and a humid dry season. “The situation is different this year because the dry season has gone on longer [than usual].”

“For this year, the period when the province will be most prone to forest fires is February and June. We should be able to anticipate this.”

He also reminded companies involved in the forestry and plantation industries to contribute in preventing the forest fires. “The forest area that needs to be monitored is very large, and we have a limited budget and personnel to do the monitoring by ourselves. Therefore, we all should work together,” he said.

“The agency will provide two helicopters by the end of this month, which could be used to monitor the forest area. We need helicopters to access areas that are affected by fire or to prevent fires from [spreading],” Willem further said.

(Read also: Indonesian government remains vigilant on forest fires)

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has also prepared 400 Manggala Agri group personnel, supported by hundreds of members from other groups, to help tackle the fire problem.

“The ministry also donated 217 motorcycles, fire-proof clothes, as well as two operational vehicles to support the early prevention measures,” said the ministry’s director for forest fire control, Raffles Brotestes Panjaitan.

Maj. Gen Lodewyk Pusung, commander of Bukit Barisan, also reiterated his squad’s readiness, saying that 1,500 personnel were available, and if more were needed, another 1,200 could be deployed from North Sumatra. Any small-scale slash-and-burn practices should be immediately stopped, he said.

Lodewyk further said his squad had learned from incidents in previous years, and had prepared new strategies to combat against any burning practices happening.

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Indonesia needs to rejuvenate palm oil plantations

Andi Abdussalam Antara 4 Feb 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - With some 11.6 million hectares of plantations, Indonesia needs to rejuvenate its palm oil trees to maintain its position as the worlds largest crude palm oil (CPO) producer.

The country needs to rejuvenate its palm oil plantations to increase its CPO production, as in the midterm, the Industry Ministry has accorded priority to increasing investment in the palm oil processing industry that needs raw material.

Hence, anticipatory efforts must be undertaken to meet the need for raw material for the production of about 40 million tons of CPO by 2020.

However, as the plantations are old, there has been a downward trend in CPO production. Bayu Krisnamurthi, president director of the Palm Oil Plantation Fund Managing Board (BPDP), had stated last month that CPO exports fell two percent by volume in 2015, while production dropped by about seven percent.

"At the end of 2015, palm oil fruit production fell due to the El Nino-induced drought in 2015. Exports fell two percent by volume, as production dropped by seven percent," Krisnamurthi, who has recently stepped down from the post of BPDP president director, noted.

In 2015, Indonesias CPO production had reached 32.5 million tons, with exports reaching 26.4 million tons. The export value went down from US$21.1 billion in 2014 to $18.6 billion in 2015.

Indonesias exports of CPO and its derivatives fell by five percent to 25.1 million tons in 2016, from 26.4 million tons in 2015. However, its production also dropped by three percent to 34.5 million tons in 2016, from 35.5 million tons in the previous year.

Hence, the government is committed to rejuvenating the countrys palm oil plantations.

"Our concern is how to accelerate the palm oil replanting program. This is an urgent priority for the new management of BPDP to realize soon," Chief Economic Minister Sofjan Djalil informed several relevant ministers who met on Wednesday (Feb 1) to discuss the election of the new management of BPDP.

BPDP is in charge of managing palm oil plantation funds for the development of the countrys palm oil plantations based on policies outlined by the Finance Ministry.

In the meantime, the Industry Ministry is committed to developing the countrys palm oil processing industry as part of the implementation of the national downstream palm oil development policy in the agriculture sector.

According to Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto, who issued a directive to participants of a national palm oil meeting recently, palm oil is expected to contribute to the national economy through increasing the commoditys added value, export performance, worker absorption, peoples prosperity, and contribution to state revenues.

"The upstream and downstream palm oil industry is one of the important and strategic economic sectors," Minister Hartarto remarked on Thursday (Feb 2).
Based on the Indonesian Plantation Statistics in 2016, palm oil plantations played a significant role in providing jobs for workers. A total of 5.7 million people work in this sector, comprising 2.2 million small-scale farmers.

Currently, Indonesia is estimated to have 11.6 million hectares of palm oil plantations. Of this total, some eight percent are managed by state companies, 49 percent by private CPO industries, and 43 percent belong to small farmers. The livelihood of about 16-20 million people depends on upstream and downstream palm oil businesses across Indonesia.

In the long run, the Industry Ministry is encouraging the palm oil processing industry to utilize the latest technology, so that it will produce various downstream products, such as super edible oils, golden nutrition, bioplastics, biosurfactants, and green fuels.

Minister Hartarto pointed out that in order to boost the development of the palm oil downstream industry, the government has, since 2012, applied a fiscal policy instrument thorough the imposition of a progressive export tax and a plantation fund-raising policy since 2015.

With the implementation of these policies, the export ratio of upstream products since 2013 has shifted from 70 percent to 30 percent, while on the other hand, the export ratio of downstream palm oil products has increased from 30 percent to 70 percent.

Based on data at the Indonesian Palm Oil Company Association, the palm oil industry contributed $18.1 billion in foreign exchange earnings to the state.
Indonesias CPO market is expected to continue to grow in the main export destinations of India, China, Pakistan, and countries in the Middle East, among others.

Palm oil plantations could serve as a regional and international economic power in the agricultural sector through various innovations and breakthroughs by the government and private sector.

In 2013, the global CPO imports had reached $42.7 billion. Of this amount, Indonesia had contributed some $17.3 billion, or about 43.68 percent of the global demand, while Malaysia had supplied $14.9 billion, or about 36.4 percent.(*)

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Indonesia: Poor Deterrent Blamed for Rising Wildlife Crimes

Over 100 Sumatran orangutans are smuggled out of Indonesia every year. (Antara Photo/Yiari/Heribertus)
Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 3 Feb 17;

Jakarta. Indonesia's anti-money laundering agency, the PPATK, has claimed that wildlife crime offenders keep coming back to the game in Indonesia due to poor deterrent for such a serious crime.

Not that the government is not aware of the issue, especially of the fact that wildlife crimes carry a maximum penalty of only a two-year imprisonment.

The government is now proposing a revision of its Law No. 5/1990 on Biodiversity and Its Ecosystem so that wildlife crime offenders could be sentenced to more than five years in prison and given a penalty of more than Rp 100 million ($7,500).

The agency has also pointed out that wildlife crime cases in Indonesia are often tied to money laundering.

"Environmental crime is a type of crime that is often associated with money laundering. It's usually tied to cases of fraud, forgery, violence or corruption," Beren Rukur Ginting of the Financial Transactions Report and Analysis Center (PPATK) said in a statement on Friday (03/02).

Beren said wildlife crimes should not be taken lightly, in fact, they are classified as a type of organized crime and often involve transnational transactions.

According to a research by the Environmental Education Network in 2014, the country loses Rp 9 trillion annually from illegal wildlife trade, with wildlife crimes ranked as the third largest type of crime behind drug and human trafficking.

"Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade are the main catalysts for the extinction of Indonesia’s endemic animal species in Sumatra," Anwar Purwoto, the Sumatra director of WWF Indonesia, said.

"Huge profits are made from the sale of endangered animals’ body parts. The money goes to the poachers, ring leaders, taxidermists, exporters and eventually to the buyer."

Statistics from WWF Indonesia indicate that the country’s endemic animals have suffered terribly from wildlife crimes, with eight tonnes of ivory from Sumatran elephants sold in the past 10 years, over 100 orangutans smuggled out of the country annually and more than 2,000 slow lorises illegally sold in Java every year or snuck out of the country.

About 2,000 pangolins are also exported illegally every month, and over a million turtle eggs sold in markets all over the country every year.

But online marketplaces are quickly becoming the most popular platform for illegal wildlife trade.

"74 orangutans have been reported to be sold online, and 15 tigers were found to have been sold via a Facebook page," Anwar added.

In an effort to stem wildlife crimes, WWF Indonesia and Indonesia's Ministry of the Environment and Forestry held a two-day workshop in Medan, North Sumatra, starting on Thursday, to push for stricter law enforcement on wildlife crimes and their supply chains.

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Vietnam: IUCN launches wetlands project

Vietnam News Service 4 Feb 17;

HCM CITY – The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched a regional project to enhance the resilience of wetlands in Lower Mekong countries on the occasion of World Wetlands Day (February 2).

Funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), and to be implemented until 2020, the project builds climate resilience by harnessing the benefits of wetlands in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Việt Nam.

Mekong WET will help the four countries address their commitments to the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, and to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

With wetlands featured as a key ecosystem, the project also supports governments in implementing their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) under the Convention on Biological Diversity and pursuing their commitments on climate-change adaptation and mitigation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

There are a total of 28 Ramsar sites (wetlands of international importance) in the four Mekong WET countries. The project will develop management plans, with a focus on climate-change adaptation and resilience building, in 10 selected Ramsar sites, and improve regional collaboration on transboundary wetlands management.

This will include the sharing of best practices, as well as capacity building for 150 wetland management staff and 300 community representatives.

The project also aims to share lessons and approaches with an additional 18 Ramsar sites, as well as a number of potential or proposed new sites in the four Mekong WET countries.

Wetlands, like marshes, rivers, mangroves, coral reefs and other coastal and inland habitats, have many important functions, including the regulation of water flows, the provision of clean water and carbon storage.

In the Lower Mekong region, millions of people rely on wetlands for their survival.

In recent decades, infrastructure development, increased deforestation, expansion of irrigated agriculture and increasing urbanisation have resulted in the depletion of spawning and feeding grounds for fish, shrinking wetland habitats, and reduction of water quality.

Farmers are increasingly affected by saltwater intrusion, landslides and flash floods, which are intensified by climate change.

In line with this year’s World Wetlands Day theme “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction”, Mekong WET emphasises the important role of healthy wetland ecosystems in reducing disaster risk.

Wetlands act as natural buffers by mitigating land erosion, the impact from floods, tsunamis and landslides, and by storing large amounts of water, thereby reducing peak flood flow during the wet season, while maximising water storage during the dry season.

In another important development, the region received a boost with the establishment of the Indo-Burma Ramsar Regional Initiative (IBRRI) in December 2016.

With IUCN Asia acting as the secretariat for the initiative, IBRRI aims to support the effective implementation of the Ramsar Convention in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Việt Nam by supporting the coordinated implementation of the Ramsar Convention’s Strategic Plan.

IBRRI will play an important advisory role in the implementation of Mekong WET and other wetlands-related projects in the region.

“IBRRI and Mekong WET will not only help to improve regional collaboration on transboundary wetlands management but also help raise awareness that wetlands bring multiple benefits to society,” said Jake Brunner, head of Indo-Burma Group for IUCN. — VNS

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Threat of poisonous algae growing on Great Barrier Reef

"If the algae overtake the coral we have a problem which contributes to reef degradation, on top of what we already know with coral bleaching," said researcher Guillermo Diaz-Pulido.
Brooks Hays UPI 3 Feb 17;

An addition to bleaching, coral could face the threat of encroaching poisonous algae as CO2 levels in the ocean rise. Photo by Griffith University
Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The future of the Great Barrier Reef looks increasingly precarious. Researchers in Australia have identified a new threat -- not bleaching, but encroaching algae.

Through a series of experiments and observations, researchers were able to measure the effects of rising CO2 levels on algae behavior. Their findings -- detailed in the journal Scientific Reports -- suggest algae, like a weed, will continue to outcompete and overtake coral as CO2 levels rise.

"This is a major step forward in understanding how seaweeds can harm corals and has important implications for comprehending the consequences of increased carbon dioxide emissions on the health of the Great Barrier Reef," Guillermo Diaz-Pulido, a professor of environmental sciences at Griffith University, said in a news release.

As CO2 levels rise, algae's chemical weapons become more potent. The poisons weaken coral and aid the algae's territorial conquest.

"What we've discovered is that some algae produce more potent chemicals that suppress or kill corals more rapidly. This can occur rapidly, in a matter of only weeks," explained Mark Hay, from the Georgia Institute of Technology. "If the algae overtake the coral we have a problem which contributes to reef degradation, on top of what we already know with coral bleaching, crown of thorn starfish outbreaks, cyclones or any other disturbance."

If CO2 emissions continue unabated, researchers believe the Great Barrier Reef could become entirely overrun -- killed off -- by algae by the end of the century. What's more, scientists found the most potent algae is a common brown algae species found across the globe.

"That's a problem because if these algae take advantage of elevated CO2 in seawater that's even more a matter of concern," Diaz-Pulido said. "The scale of the problem is so big removing a bunch of seaweed from the reef isn't going to do much because it just regrows and regenerates, so I think the way to address this really is to reduce the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere."

Rising carbon emissions could kill off vital corals by 2100, study warns
Destructive seaweeds found in reefs worldwide will grow more poisonous and eventually take over in the fight for space
Joshua Robertson The Guardian 3 Feb 17;

The destruction of coral reefs worldwide could accelerate as rising carbon emissions help coral-killing seaweeds grow more poisonous and take over, according to researchers.

A Griffith University study on the Great Barrier Reef has shown how rising CO2 emissions trigger more potency in chemicals from common “weed-like” algae that poison corals as they compete for space.

The study, conducted on Heron Island with reef and chemical ecology experts from the University of Queensland and the US, predicts that “business as usual” emissions would significantly harm vital corals by 2050 and kill them off by 2100.

The researchers said their findings, which shed new light on the competitive advantage seaweeds enjoyed over corals in seawater with rising carbon concentrations, had global implications as one of the most damaging seaweeds was found in reefs worldwide.

And the futility of trying to remove seaweeds that had the ability to regrow meant the problem could be tackled only by cutting carbon emissions, they said.

Guillermo Diaz-Pulido, a Griffith University associate professor, said the research was “a major step forward in understanding how seaweeds can harm corals and has important implications for comprehending the consequences of increased carbon dioxide emissions on the health of the Great Barrier Reef”.

Scientists previously knew that increased carbon in the atmosphere – which is absorbed by oceans, making them more acidic – affected the behaviour of seaweed.

But the study’s co-author Mark Hay, a professor from the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the discovery here was that greater carbon concentrations led to “some algae producing more potent chemicals that suppress or kill corals more rapidly”, in some cases in just weeks.

“If the algae overtake the coral, we have a problem which contributes to reef degradation, on top of what we already know with coral bleaching, crown of thorn starfish outbreaks, cyclones or any other disturbance,” Hay said.

Diaz-Pulido said a common brown algae species found in reefs worldwide was shown to be among those that caused the most damage.

“That’s a problem because if this algae takes advantage of elevated CO2 in seawater that’s even more a matter of concern,” he said.

Diaz-Pulido said the “scale of the problem is so big, removing a bunch of seaweed from the reef isn’t going to do much because it just regrows and regenerates”.

That is in contrast to human interventions on other coral threats such as the crown of thorns starfish, where local eradication programs have had success.

Diaz-Pulido said his conclusion was that “the way to address this really is to reduce the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere”.

The research at Heron Island, a coral cay north-east of Gladstone at the southern end of the reef, used underwater reef experiments and outdoor lab studies.

“For the algae to grow they need light and CO2, just like any other plant, and because algae in the future would be exposed to much more CO2 in seawater we wanted to know to what extent the CO2 would affect some of the things algae do, the physiology and the interaction with animals,” Diaz-Pulido said.

The study was published on Thursday in the Nature journal’s Scientific Reports, and involved collaboration with Peter Mumby, a University of Queensland professor.

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