Best of our wild blogs: 1-3 Apr 17

15 April (Sat) - Free guided walk at the Pasir Ris Mangroves
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Pulau Semakau (North) still no seagrasses but corals ok
wild shores of singapore

Terumbu Pempang Tengah is alive!
wild shores of singapore

Tricksters of the Animal World
BES Drongos

Favourite Nectaring Plants #9
Butterflies of Singapore

Flew In Visitors (31 Mar 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

30 April: Income Eco Run 2017
Green Drinks Singapore

Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete metarete) @ East Coast Park
Monday Morgue

Read more!

Singapore’s Pulau Ubin a natural retreat from city life

GARY WALSH The Australian 1 Apr 17;

Pulau Ubin is an island 10 minutes from, and about 50 years behind, the Singapore most visitors know. While the city-state glories in its ultra-modern skyline, shopping malls and hi-tech image, Pulau Ubin remains a unique reminder of what Singapore used to be like.

The MRT railway to Tanah Merah station begins your journey. Then it’s a bus or taxi trip to Changi Point Ferry Terminal to wait for a bumboat driver to rustle up enough passengers to make it worthwhile starting his engine and chugging for 10 minutes across a crowded shipping channel to Pulau Ubin. Twelve people on board, at about $3 a pop, and we’re off, swapping a shoreline crammed with cookie-cutter housing blocks for one of sand, coral and mangroves framed by thick rainforest, steering a careful course between giant container vessels as aircraft landing at Changi Airport descend overhead.

From Palau Ubin’s long pier you walk straight into the island’s main village, the last true Malay kampung in Singapore, composed of a scattering of houses, a casual restaurant or two perched above the water, a couple of small general stores, an unprepossessing Chinese temple and a string of bicycle hire outlets. Cycling is the way to get around the island. There are hundreds of bikes for hire, priced from $8 to $15 for a day, and frankly it’s hard to tell the difference between the cheap and expensive ones. The newer bikes are higher priced, but they are all pretty clunky, so you need to check the brakes and tyres before renting a steed.

The key destination on the island is Chek Jawa Wetlands, about 4km from the village, and at first there is a paved road that runs past expansive lotus ponds and under a soaring canopy of trees. After a couple of kilometres the track becomes gravel and a fork takes you on to a circular track that leads to and from Chek Jawa. A cheerful chap hands out maps at a national parks outpost where bikes can be stored and then you walk, initially along a 100m pier that offers a view back at the dense tangle of mangroves and bush that lines the shore. If you need a break from the heat, there’s a quaint Tudor-style bungalow that doubles as a visitors’ centre and rest spot.

The real treat of Chek Jawa is the meandering 1.1km boardwalk that starts near the visitors’ centre and loops around the coastal forest, tracking the coral-strewn shoreline. It’s here that much of Pulau Ubin’s intriguing wildlife can be discovered. Some creatures are easy to see, such as the oriental-pied hornbill that nests above, while others are found only when you stand still and stare at the sand and rock beneath the walkway; there are countless tiny crabs scuttling about, sea stars, sand dollars and a bewildering variety of worms.

Along the boardwalk route is Jejawi Tower, a 20m-high observation post above the forest canopy that gives a panoramic view across the island and a sense of the immense rehabilitation work that has been done to turn Pulau Ubin from granite quarry to conservation exemplar over the past 40 years. Back on that bike, you will almost certainly come across cheeky long-tailed macaque monkeys, which loiter on the paths in search of food and trouble. And that snuffling and rustling in the bush is likely to be a wild boar, which are prolific on the island, especially close to Chek Jawa.

These encounters are entirely common, unlike the reported sighting of a tiger on Pulau Ubin in 1997, or the 1990 visit of some elephants that apparently swam across from neighbouring Johor in Malaysia for a daytrip. The path back to the jetty and the bumboat passes by old quarries that have become pretty lakes, and is shaded by immense bamboo trees that arch gloriously over the road, giving all that sweaty pedalling a sense of occasion.

It is possible to stay overnight on the island, but I’m content with a few hours at Chek Jawa and in the main village. For those with more time, there is a fish farm, Chinese and Muslim cemeteries and more wilderness to explore, and a chance to convince yourself that Singapore can do renewal and rehabilitation just as well as it can do reclamation.

Read more!

Why sustainability is key to keeping the haze away

SIMON TAY and CHEN CHEN LEE Today Online 3 Apr 17;

The skies over Singapore in the past 12 months have mostly been free of haze pollution. This is a relief from the prolonged bouts of haze and extensive fires in 2015, and the record-high 400PSI that hit Singapore in 2013.

Efforts by the Joko Widodo administration in Indonesia to tackle the fires at source are one reason for the improvement. Wetter weather conditions have also played a major part in the good results. But the weather is changing, and not all for the better.

This year, experts predict the conditions will be drier than normal and fear that the extreme dry weather phenomenon called El Nino will return as early as July. Concerns arise, therefore, that severe fires will break out across plantation and forestry concessions across Indonesia, causing a return of the haze. Efforts to prevent that are being made. On Dec 1, Mr Widodo signed into law a blanket ban on the cultivation of carbon-rich peatland across the country.

In anticipation of dry conditions this year, Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) is already doubling up efforts to support the prevention of fires at the local and provincial level. BRG’s priority areas lie in Riau, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, provinces which have experienced extensive drainage of peatlands, thereby increasing their susceptibility to fires. At the same time, the Singapore authorities continue to investigate a number of Indonesian-based companies for possible fires and haze in 2015.

Critically, the assistance from different levels of the Indonesian government will also be needed, particularly in cases where cooperation from companies is lacking.

More broadly, the need is to address the root of the problem by steering the value chain of agroforestry products towards greater sustainability.

It is not just dry weather that causes the haze. The haze is a terrible manifestation of various unsustainable practices that plague the plantation sectors across the region.

Small-scale growers are often reported to use fires for land clearance because they see little other choice. Many suffer low productivity and small margins, and also lack of access to the right machinery and financing.

Sustainability also goes beyond the environment — labour and social issues must be duly addressed. Recently, Singapore-listed company Wilmar International, which has committed to a ‘‘No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation’’ policy, was accused by Amnesty International of child labour and other labour abuses in Indonesia.

At around the same time, commodity trader Olam International came under fire for the alleged clearing of rainforests in Gabon. The pressure is growing for large agribusinesses to play an active role in addressing the environmental and social concerns on the ground or risk compromising their standing and profits.

The global value chain links back to the financial sector and the financiers behind some agroforestry companies have not been spared the spotlight.

Greenpeace has accused HSBC bank of financing companies that are allegedly responsible for forest destruction. In response, the bank in February issued a new ‘‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’’ policy to re-emphasise the strict conditions attached to financing of palm oil companies. Among others, HSBC customers will now have to commit to protect natural forest and peat by the end of June this year, and show evidence that these commitments have been independently verified by December 2018.

In fact, a broader and more important shift is under way. Different actors in the value chains who were previously part of the problem are now becoming part of the solution. A central pillar of this will be information and transparency. Banks and investors are increasingly integrating environmental, social and governance considerations in their due diligence, making corporate disclosure on sustainability issues more critical than ever to build trust and confidence.

Frameworks to facilitate such information disclosure are emerging. Last year, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures outlined a set of recommendations for voluntary and consistent climate-related disclosures, thereby helping companies to better align with investors’ expectations.

Similarly, a growing number of companies in the agroforestry sector are placing more emphasis on “traceability” so they can prove how they source their products to prefer the growers who adopt more sustainable practices. Technology is a key enabler for better information.

Increasingly, high-tech drones have been used to map and monitor land use and support the intensification of yields, especially in remote areas.

Mobile applications to collect farmer data are another innovation, allowing small-scale growers to make more informed decisions about their use of fertiliser and pesticide so that they too can move to both greater sustainability and productivity.

To help promote transparency and the adoption of best practices, non-governmental organisations (NGOs)and non-profit research institutions can play a critical role.

Dialogue across sectors is essential during this time of change in the policy and the priorities of the sector. Governments, large growers and their key customers and financiers need to be brought to the table together.

Equally important, gaps in the value chain need to be identified so that small-scale growers can participate and collaborate in the move towards sustainability, rather than oppose it.

Achieving sustainable value chains is clearly not the sole responsibility of any stakeholder and neither should it be. Instead, a concerted, collaborative effort founded on access to quality information is needed to prevent the haze and other crises from returning to the region.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Simon Tay and Chen Chen Lee are respectively, Chairman and Director (Policy Programs) at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). The SIIA is holding the 4th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on “Inclusive Collaboration: Working Together for Sustainable Value Chains” on Thursday.

Read more!

HDB farmers in a concrete jungle

Samantha Boh, The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Apr 17;

MyTurf is a fortnightly series that aims to tell the untold stories of our neighbourhoods. In this latest instalment, The Straits Times catches up with high-rise farmers and takes a look at the vegetables, fruits and herbs they grow along their HDB corridors and in their homes.

Whoever says you need a big plot of land to be a farmer has never met Ms Kit Yong, 56.

Like 80 per cent of the population, she lives in an HDB flat.

But tell her that you have a craving for the sweet and sour passion fruit and she might tell you to pick one right off a vine outside her flat if the fruit is in season.

The real estate agent grows more than 20 types of vegetables, herbs and fruits - from chye sim and kale to rosemary and passion fruit - along the 20m stretch of corridor outside her Tampines home.

Ms Yong, who estimates she has 80 pots of plants, is a member of a growing community of individuals passionate about farming within an urban setting.

Community gardens, started by the National Parks Board through the Community in Bloom movement, now number close to 1,000.

Residents are turning plots of land beside HDB blocks into vegetable and fruit patches.

Many residents have, however, taken up a trickier form of farming that comes with the challenges of limited space and variable sunshine: high-rise farming.

They grow their crops along HDB corridors, like Ms Yong, with some extending their gardens into their homes where they set up racks of pots along their balconies and window grilles.

This breed of HDB farmers is also tech-savvy. Over the years, Facebook groups such as Urban Farmers (Singapore) and SG Container Gardening and Vertical Farming have sprouted up.

Avid gardeners turn to them for tips from experienced farmers whom they call "shifu", Mandarin for "master".

There are also virtual marketplaces for exchanging or buying and selling seeds.

Every day, requests for advice on growing specific types of plants and ways to get rid of pests flood the groups' walls.

Although it started only in 2012, Urban Farmers (Singapore) now has more than 8,100 members.

Ms Yong joined the group about two years ago.

She shares photos of her harvest there.

She describes gardening as a "journey" which requires a lot of patience.

"A long time ago, even my cactus would die," she said, a surprise considering the state of her corridor garden today.

The Penang native, who moved to Singapore in the 1980s, started out planting ferns and flowers.

But as her concerns about the use of pesticides grew, she decided to grow her own vegetables and fruits about 10 years ago.

She has since grown lettuce, kale, chye sim and even avocado, just to name a few.

"I find peace and happiness in watching my plants grow," she said.

Her daily ritual is to spend about 15 to 20 minutes watering her plants in the morning before dashing off to work, and then giving them the "pampering" they need at night.

This involves checking for pests, trimming off excess stems and so on.

"Instead of going to the supermarket at the last minute for groceries, you can just go out to the garden, take what you can find and cook that," she said.

Her neighbours love her garden too and would use the herbs she grows.

Being able to eat the vegetables that you have grown yourself is one of the perks that another HDB farmer, Ms Wendy Toh, 44, likes the most about farming.

Ms Toh, who does Internet marketing, started her own edible garden three years ago, largely because her daughter Jessie, now six, loves munching on raw vegetables.

She now has about a dozen different types of vegetables growing in her home.

She regularly grows red spinach, kale and lettuce by hydroponics, mostly against the window in her living room which gets the most sunlight at her Tanjong Pagar flat.

These days, she grows enough to feed five people at dinner two to three times a week, and expects to be self-sufficient in about three months.

Her hobby has evolved into a family affair.

Often, her daughter and 10-year-old son, Caleb, will help her water and harvest the vegetables, and turn them into salads or smoothies.

"They always ask if I have watered the plants, and they will get upset if I have already done it and ask why I didn't wait for them," said Ms Toh, with a laugh.

Becoming a successful farmer requires tenacity, said the farmers.

Music teacher Sylvia Chua, 52, killed at least six pots of rosemary and three pots of lavender before realising she had been watering them wrong.

"At first, I thought it was just the weather, then I learnt from other farmers that these plants cannot be watered too much and they can't retain water well," said Ms Chua, who now grows them well alongside other herbs such as coriander and basil along her Marine Parade flat's corridor.

Ms Toh said she almost gave up farming because of tomatoes: Despite the enormous amount of effort she put in, including fertilising the soil with coffee grounds and egg shells, the plant failed to bear fruit.

"Eventually, I realised I did not have enough sun and decided to give my plants away, all 10 of them, and focus on others instead," she said.

Ms Yong, too, recalled her failure at growing zucchini.

But ask these farmers how much they have spent on their gardens and they will say they do not keep track.

"If you do, you will start wondering if you are spending too much," said Ms Yong.

"I prefer to just enjoy the fruits of my labour."

Read more!

Malaysia: Eight Keningau landslide victims still not found

Bernama New Strait Times 2 Apr 17;

KINABATANGAN: Eight people missing in a landslide in Kampung Sungai Labau, Sook, Keningau at noon yesterday, have yet to been found.

The search and rescue (SAR) operation today was adjourned at 6pm.

Kinabatangan District police chief Supt A.Sahak Rahmat said the operation would continue tomorrow at 7.30am involving the police, Civil Defense Force and Fire and Rescue Team.

Eight people comprising four males and four females were missing in the landslide which occurred at 12.19 pm, crashing onto three of the eight homes of the workers of the Seng Fo oil palm plantation.

According to initial reports, the eight victims were identified as Asma,36, Ana,16, Titiwana,12, Alisan,8, (all female), Sabril,10, Alan,11, Johati,11, and Azril,6 (all male)

The three victims who survived the incident were Jalikah Malingkul,50 (female), Abdul,50 (male) and Joshnam Bin Abdul,18, (male).

Sahak said the SAR team had to travel three hours by boat via Sungai Kuamut from Kampung, Tongod to get to the scene of the incident.

The SAR team from Keningau was unable to reach the incident area as the road via Nabawan was impassable as the bridge connecting the road to the location had been damaged. -- Bernama

Seven missing after landslip
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 3 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Seven people, including five children, from a family are missing after a landslip swept away their wooden house into a river.

The five are two 13-year-old boys and three eight-year-olds whose gender are not yet known.

The rest are two 17-year-old girls.

During the incident on Saturday, they were with four others at a wor­ker’s quarters in an oil palm estate when the landslip struck and carried away their home into the river.

Two adults and two other children – a boy and a girl – were rescued by villagers who saw them clinging to debris in the river.

The landslip in Kampung Alitang, Tongod, some 200km from here, had struck along the Crocker Range in Central Sabah after heavy rains in the area since March 30.

Yesterday, rescuers from central Tongod and the interior Sook district, off Keningau, were still struggling through difficult terrain to reach the scene of the tragedy.

Sabah Public Defence Department director Kol Mulliadi Al-Hamdi Ladin said it had received a distress call from the estate owner at about 12.20pm on Saturday and a team was mobilised to the area.

“However, we are still not able to enter or reach the place as the bridge linking the estate has been damaged,” he said.

He further added that those involved were believed to be Filipino workers and their fa­milies.

“Updates will be given when we have them,” said Kol Mulliadi.

Rescuers from Keningau first res­ponded to the case as the incident had taken place close to the district border although it is in Tongod.

Read more!

Malaysia: Perhilitan seizes endangered animals from online illegal wildlife traders

LOH FOON FONG The Star 1 Apr 17;

CHERAS: As many as 50 protected animals and birds were seized in raids carried out by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan).

Seven people were detained in the raids for supplying wildlife through illegal online businesses and another four were detained for poaching.

Among the 49 animals seized in three raids on March 27 were leaf monkeys (lotong cengkong), civets (musang), Asiatic leopard cats (kucing batu), Indian star tortoises and hill myna (burung tiong mas) while a dead barking deer was seized on March 29 from four poachers, said Perhilitan.

"The department has been monitoring them (the illegal traders) and we believe we have crippled a major syndicate that trades wildlife in Peninsular Malaysia through social media," said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said this in a press conference Saturday to announce Perhilitan's Ops Taring V enforcement operations.

Seven nabbed for selling protected animals online, 49 animals rescued
FAISAL ASYRAF and ESTHER LANDAU New Straits Times 1 Apr 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Seven individuals have been arrested by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) on Monday for smuggling and selling protected animals online.

During the operation in Sentul, Ampang and Seremban, Negri Sembilan, Perhilitan also rescued 49 protected animals including leaf monkeys, asian palm civets, asiatic leopard cats, Indian Star tortoise, and hill myna birds.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the suspects have exploited the social media by getting involved in illegal wildlife trading.

He said the first arrest was made on a 46-year-old Pakistani man in Sentul, here. He was found with two boxes that contained three leaf monkeys on his motorcycle.

In a second raid, a 36-year-old woman was arrested at her house in Ampang, here.

The enforcement officers found in her house three asian palm civets, seven leaf monkeys, and six asiatic leopard cats. She did not possess any licence to keep the protected animals.

In the third raid, Negri Sembilan Perhilitan enforcement officers nabbed five individuals at a parking lot near Senawang toll plaza in Seremban.

Officers, upon checking two cars belonging to them found 28 Indian Star tortoises and two hill myna birds.

He said they too did not have any licence to keep the protected wildlife animals.

Read more!

Indonesia: 27 missing, feared dead, in East Java landslide

Wahyoe Boediwardhana The Jakarta Post 2 Apr 17;

At least 27 people are feared to be buried after a 100-meter-high hill collapsed on Saturday morning during heavy rains in a hamlet in Ponorogo regency, East Java.

The Ponorogo Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) reported that the landslide, which took place at 8 a.m., buried 23 houses in the area and injured dozens of people.

The 27 missing people also include workers who were harvesting ginger on the slopes of the hill during the incident. The landslide buried the affected area up to five meters in depth.

“We had four excavators standing by in the area to support the evacuation,” BPBD official Setyo Budiono said on Saturday.

(Read also: Rapid mine expansion in East Java may risk environment)

Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa, meanwhile, asked the Ponorogo regional administration to immediately relocate locals in the affected area, saying that the location was a disaster-prone area that could not be used as residential site.

Khofifah said the landslide was caused by a lack of area for land cover and environmental degradation. She added that other causes of the landslide included the decrease in the number of water infiltration areas and the farming system, which did not operate in line with environmental conservation efforts.

“We need to raise citizens’ awareness about natural disasters,” she said as quoted by (rdi/hwa)

At least 27 people missing in landslides in E. Java
Antara 2 Apr 17;

Ponorogo (ANTARA News) - At least 27 people were still missing feared dead until Saturday afternoon in a landslide in the regency of Ponorogo, East Java.

The landslides, triggered by heavy rain, buried a number of houses in the villages of Banaran on Saturday morning (April 1st).

"There are still 27 people missing," head of the Ponorogo Disaster Control Agency (BPBD) Sumani said in the village of Banaran.

Sumani said there were 17 people injured and now being treated at a local health center.

The landslides hit when most of the people were harvesting ginger in the fields and other were still in their houses, Sumani said.

Rescue team could not remove the thick masses of earth and rock to make evacuation of victims, as heavy equipment was not yet available, he said.

A number of sets of heavy equipment were still on the way to the location, he said.

"Hopefully the equipment would arrive here tonight and we would be able to evacuate any bodies believed buried under the thick soil on Sunday morning," he said.

Minister provides Rp1.34 billion to help landslide victims in Ponorogo
Antara 2 Apr 17;

Ponorogo, E Java (ANTARA News) - Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa has provided aid worth Rp1.34 billion to help victims of a landslide that hit Ponorogo District, East Java Province, on Saturday morning.

Minister Khofifah visited the victims and cecked a public kitchen set up to feed villagers displaced by the natural disaster, on Sunday morning.

According to data from an emergency command post, 28 people were missing and feared buried, three survived, and 32 homes were buried.

At least 17 people were injured and rushed to a local health center following the landslide.

Of Rp1.34 billion, Rp420 million would be used to compensate families who lost relatives due to the landslide. Meanwhile, each injured victim would receive Rp5 million.

Incessant downpour since Friday evening triggered the landslide which occurred in Banaran village, Pulung Sub-district, Ponorogo District, on Saturday at around 6 a.m. local time.

The landslide hit when most of the people were harvesting ginger in the fields and other were still in their houses.

Search and rescue efforts are going on to find more victims. (*)

Minister suggests relocation of Ponorogo landslide victims
Antara 2 Apr 17;

Ponorogo, E Java (ANTARA News) - Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa has suggested relocation of victims of a landslide that hit Ponorogo District, East Java Province, on Saturday morning.

"An option for most areas prone to landslides is relocation," Minister Khofifah said when visiting victims of the landslide in Wagir Kidul, Pulung Sub-district, here, Sunday.

To support the relocation plan, the district administration must allocate a plot of land, she said, adding that relevant ministries will build houses for the victims, and the Social Affairs Ministry will provide furniture and other equipment, as well as social allowances.

She said environmental degradation could trigger landslides, therefore, tree planting activities in arid areas should be intensified.

Incessant downpour since Friday evening triggered the landslide which occurred in Banaran village, Pulung Sub-district, Ponorogo District, on Saturday at around 6 a.m. local time.

The landslide hit when most of the people were harvesting ginger in the fields and other were still in their houses.

The landslide buried 32 homes and displaced over 200 villagers. Three survivors were found on Saturday.

Rescues resumed the search efforts on Sunday morning and found two bodies. The number of missing people is still 26.

The landslide injured 17 people, who are now being treated at a local health center.(*)

26 still unaccounted for after landslide in Ponorogo
Antara 1 Apr 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - One person has been found dead and 26 others still unaccounted for after a landslide hit Ponorogo, East Java, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said here on Saturday.

"It is believed that 26 people are still buried in the landslide," BNPB spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told newsmen.

He stated that a search-and-rescue team, consisting of military, police, disaster mitigation personnel, health service workers, volunteers, and community members were still struggling to find the victims.

The landslide in Tangkil hamlet in the village of Banaran, Pulung sub-district, occurred at 8am. A stretch of around 800-meter-long earth slid from a height of around 20 meters damaging 23 houses underneath where around 50 people lived.

Sutopo noted that some of the people were rescued, and 17 of them were now being treated in Pulung healthcare center.

Incessant rains have fallen in the area for the past few days, causing cracks on the hilly land. Upon seeing signs of danger, some villagers left at night but returned in the morning.

On Friday night, a heavy rain fell, but no landslide was reported that night, he remarked. (*)

Read more!

Climate change: global reshuffle of wildlife will have huge impacts on humanity

Mass migration of species to cooler climes has profound implications for society, pushing disease-carrying insects, crop pests and crucial pollinators into new areas, says international team of scientists
Damian Carrington The Guardian 30 Mar 17;

Global warming is reshuffling the ranges of animals and plants around the world with profound consequences for humanity, according to a major new analysis.

Rising temperatures on land and sea are increasingly forcing species to migrate to cooler climes, pushing disease-carrying insects into new areas, moving the pests that attack crops and shifting the pollinators that fertilise many of them, an international team of scientists has said.

They warn that some movements will damage important industries, such as forestry and tourism, and that tensions are emerging between nations over shifting natural resources, such as fish stocks. The mass migration of species now underway around the planet can also amplify climate change as, for example, darker vegetation grows to replace sun-reflecting snow fields in the Arctic.

“Human survival, for urban and rural communities, depends on other life on Earth,” the experts write in their analysis published in the journal Science. “Climate change is impelling a universal redistribution of life on Earth.”

This mass movement of species is the biggest for about 25,000 years, the peak of the last ice age, say the scientists, who represent more than 40 institutions around the world. “The shifts will leave ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in their wake, radically reshaping the pattern of human wellbeing … and potentially leading to substantial conflict,” the team warn. “Human society has yet to appreciate the implications of unprecedented species redistribution for life on Earth, including for human lives.”

Climate change driven by human greenhouse gas emissions is not just increasing temperatures, but also raising sea levels, the acidity of the oceans and making extreme weather such as droughts and floods more frequent. All of these are forcing many species to migrate to survive.

“Land-based species are moving polewards by an average of 17km per decade, and marine species by 72km per decade” said Prof Gretta Pecl at the University of Tasmania in Australia, who led the new analysis.

There are many documented examples of individual species migrating in response to global warming and some examples of extinctions. But Pecl said: “Our study demonstrates how these changes are affecting ecosystems, human health and culture in the process.”

The most direct impact on humans is the movement of insects that carry diseases, such as the mosquitoes that transmit malaria shifting to new areas as they warm and where people may have little immunity. Another example is the northward spread in Europe and North America of the animal ticks that spread Lyme disease: the UK has seen a tenfold rise in cases since 2001 as winters become milder.

Food production is also being affected as crops have to be moved to cooler areas to survive, such as coffee, which will need to be grown at higher, cooler altitudes, causing deep disruption to a global industry. The pests of crops will also move, as will their natural predators, such as insects, birds, frogs and mammals.

Other resources are being affected, with a third of the land used for forestry in Europe set to become unuseable for valuable timber trees in the coming decades. Important fish stocks are migrating towards the poles in search of cooler waters, with the mackerel caught in Iceland jumping from 1,700 tonnes in 2006 to 120,000 tonnes in 2010, prompting a “mackerel war” with neighbours in whose waters the fish had previously been.

The benefits to humans being provided by species, and the complex ecosystems they live in, are also at risk. Mangroves, for example, are migrating polewards in Australia and in the southern US, meaning the storm protection and fish nurseries provided are being lost in some places.

The shifting of animals and plants into new areas can sometimes lead to drastic changes, as those areas have not evolved with the incomers and lack natural defences. In Australia’s seas, kelp forests are being destroyed by an influx of tropical fish that eat them, threatening the important rock lobster trade.

The scientists also warn of feedback effects that can exacerbate climate change, citing the poleward spread of bark beetles in northern hemisphere forests. The beetles attack trees that may already be weakened by warmer, drier conditions, leading to more severe pest outbreaks and tree deaths. This in turn provides more fuel for forest fires, releasing more planet-warming carbon dioxide.

“Climate-driven species redistributions shouldn’t only be a concern for conservation biologists – they should worry everyone,” said Nathalie Pettorelli, at the ZSL Institute of Zoology in the UK, and one of the analysis team. “The world as a whole isn’t adequately prepared to handle the range of issues emerging from species moving across local, national, and international boundaries.”

She said plans to cope with climate change urgently needed to take these issues into account and said everyone could play a part in collecting much needed data on shifting species. “Citizen science can really help,” she said, with people reporting when they see new species in a region and some schemes are already set up.

Read more!

Japanese fleet returns from Antarctic hunt with 333 whales

MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Yahoo News 1 Apr 17;

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's whaling fleet returned home Friday after killing 333 whales in the Antarctic, achieving its goal for the second year under a revised research whaling program.

The Fisheries Agency said the five-ship fleet finished its four-month expedition without major interference from anti-whaling activists who have attempted to stop it in the past.

Japan says the hunt was for ecological research. Research whaling is allowed as an exception to a 1986 international ban on commercial whaling. Opponents of the Japanese program say it's a cover for commercial whaling because the whales are sold for food.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that Japan's Antarctic whaling program should stop because it wasn't scientific as Tokyo had claimed. Japan conducted non-lethal whaling research in the Antarctic in 2015, and revised its program in 2016 by reducing the catch quota to about one-third of what it used to kill.

"It was great that we have achieved our plan. We will steadily continue our research toward a resumption of commercial whaling," Fisheries Agency official Shigeto Hase said at a welcome ceremony in Shimonoseki, home port for the fleet's mother ship, Nisshin Maru.

Officials said the whalers used parts of the whales to determine their age, nutrition, and reproductive conditions. Opponents say such studies can be done using non-lethal methods.

Kitty Block, executive vice president of Humane Society International, an animal protection group based in Washington D.C., said Japan is needlessly killing whales every year. "It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end," she said in a statement.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries as a source of protein and cheaper alternative to other meats. Its whale catch has fallen in recent years in part because of declining domestic demand for whale meat. Protests by the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd have also contributed to the decline.

Critics say it's a dying industry, but Japan's government has spent large amounts of tax money to sustain the whaling operations, saying it's a Japanese cultural tradition that must be preserved.

Japan kills more than 300 whales in annual Antarctic hunt
Whaling fleet returns to port after slaughtering hundreds of minke whales, in defiance of moratorium on hunting and global criticism
Agence France-Presse Yahoo News 31 Mar 17;

A Japanese whaling fleet returned to port on Friday after an annual Antarctic hunt that killed more than 300 of the mammals, as Tokyo pursues the programme in defiance of global criticism.

The fleet set sail for the Southern Ocean in November, with plans to slaughter 333 minke whales, flouting a worldwide moratorium and opposition led by Australia and New Zealand.

The fleet consisted of five ships, three of which arrived on Friday morning at Shimonoseki port in western Japan, the country’s Fisheries Agency said.

More than 200 people, including crew members and their families, gathered in the rain for a 30-minute ceremony in front of the Nisshin Maru, the fleet’s main ship, according to an official of the Shimonoseki city government.

In a press release, the agency described the mission as “research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea”.

But environmentalists and the International Court of Justice (IJC) call that a fiction and say the real purpose is simply to hunt whales for their meat.

Anticipating the fleet’s return, animal protection charity Humane Society International called for an end to Japanese whaling. “Each year that Japan persists with its discredited scientific whaling is another year where these wonderful animals are needlessly sacrificed,” said Kitty Block, the group’s executive vice-president.

“It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end.”

Japan also caught 333 minke whales in the previous season ending in 2016 after a one-year hiatus prompted by an IJC ruling, which said the hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as science and ordered Tokyo to end it.

Under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to which Japan is a signatory, there has been a moratorium on hunting whales since 1986.

Tokyo exploits a loophole allowing whales to be killed for “scientific research” and claims it is trying to prove the population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting.

But it also makes no secret of the fact that whale meat ends up on dinner tables and is served in school lunches.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and their meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-second world war years, when the country was desperately poor. But consumption has dramatically declined in recent decades, with significant proportions of the population saying they “never” or “rarely” eat whale meat.

In response to the ICJ ruling, Japan’s 2014-15 mission carried out only “non-lethal research” such as taking skin samples and doing headcounts.

Past missions have been hampered by a confrontational campaign on the high seas by environmentalists Sea Shepherd. A fisheries agency official said that the whalers this time faced “no obstructive behaviour threatening safety of the fleet and crew members” by the group.

He attributed that partially to Japan dispatching patrol ships to protect the fleet.

Read more!