Best of our wild blogs: 10 Sep 17

Night Walk At Old Upper Thomson Road ( 08 Sep 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Upside Down Butterflies Part 2
Butterflies of Singapore

June 2018: International Seagrass Biology Workshop (ISBW) in Singapore!

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Singapore faces more weather extremes as world warms

Experts' warning comes as weather events wreak havoc elsewhere
Audrey Tan Straits Times 10 Sep 17;

As with the rest of the world, Singapore, too, will face more extreme conditions as the world warms, experts told The Sunday Times as recent weather events continue to wreak havoc in the northern hemisphere.

Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, is hurtling its way through the Caribbean and will reach the Florida coastline today, where 5.6 million people have been ordered out of Irma's path. But in its wake, the hurricane has devastated communities and left at least 21 dead.

It follows tropical cyclones that have ripped across other parts of the world, such as Texas in the United States, Hong Kong and Macau. Last month, Typhoon Hato triggered Hong Kong's most severe typhoon 10 warning, and left at least 16 dead.

Singapore remains relatively insulated from such storms due to its location on the equator. "Tropical cyclones are very rare in our equatorial region as their formation requires a rotational force, which is not present along the equator," said a spokesman for the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS).

But the island will not be spared extended dry spells and warm periods, as well as flash floods.

"The concerns for Singapore would be increased frequency of droughts and flash flooding, due to increased rainfall over the years," said Assistant Professor Winston Chow, a weather researcher at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) geography department.

MSS statistics show a trend of increasingly intense rainfall in Singapore. The annual maximum hourly rainfall was about 80mm in 1980. Last year, it rose to 90mm.

Last year was also Singapore's hottest year, with the annual mean temperature rising to 28.4 deg C. In 2015, 1998 and 1997 - the three other warmest years here - the annual mean temperature was 28.3 deg C, according to MSS.

"The urban heat island effect and, increasingly, anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change, both contribute to higher temperatures in Singapore," said Dr Benjamin Grandey, a research scientist from the Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modeling at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.

The urban heat island effect refers to how city temperatures are higher than in rural areas, because of more heat released from buildings, roads and vehicles.

Dr Erik Velasco, an air quality scientist, said the changing characteristics of meteorological events happening around the world point to climate change. He said: "The warming effect of greenhouse gases emitted by burning fossil fuels, agriculture and deforestation, in addition to the growing urbanisation and lack of mitigation measures in many places, are responsible for the catastrophic consequences of such weather events."

NUS' Prof Chow noted Singapore has taken steps to reduce the impact of flash floods, droughts and heat waves by improving drainage to reduce flood-prone areas, developing weather-proof technologies like desalination and Newater, and cooling the island by growing urban green spaces such as rooftop gardens.

To protect against rising sea levels, the minimum land reclamation level in Singapore was raised from 3m to 4m above the mean sea level.

Research is also being carried out to protect food supplies from the effects of extreme weather events.

Associate Professor Adam Switzer, academic associate chair at the Nanyang Technological University's Asian School of the Environment, said the impact of typhoons on rice yields is being studied to "better prepare the region for potential rice losses from typhoons, sea level rise and floods".

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Republic Polytechnic team finds way to ‘clean’ incineration ash

LOUISA TANG Today online 9 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE — Fly ash produced from burning garbage could soon be used to make concrete, reducing the amount of waste that will have to be dumped in landfills.

A research team from Republic Polytechnic (RP) has come up with a new nano-silica product that “cleans” incineration ash, building on a similar product created in Europe to deal with waste management. Silica is a common mineral found in many materials, such as sand.

Last year, an average of 250 tonnes of incineration fly ash (IFA) and 1,350 tonnes of incineration bottom ash (IBA) were generated a day in Singapore’s four incineration plants.

While both types of ash contain toxic heavy metals such as zinc and lead, IFA has higher concentrations of such metals, and they tend to “leach out more”, or escape from the ash, said research project principal investigator Dr Goh Chee Keong.

The amount of metals in the ash is not high enough to offset the cost of extracting them, he added.

Hence, to stabilise the heavy metals in the ash, the RP team mixes its nano-silica product with the ash. The silica nanoparticles then bind and trap the heavy metals — a process that is about 20 to 30 per cent more efficient than current methods, Dr Goh said.

By doing so, the metals will not leach out of structures that are made of concrete containing treated IFA, when it rains. Such leaching could result in the toxic metals contaminating rainwater that runs into the reservoirs, which poses a serious health risk.

Treated IFA is considered to be a greener alternative to sand and cement, which are traditionally used to make concrete. The cement manufacturing industry is one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas.

The four-man RP team, who completed their research in January after three years, tapped the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) Environment Technology Research Programme grant scheme for their project.

First launched in 2009, the scheme aims to help Singapore-based companies and researchers develop and commercialise advanced technologies for making better use of waste.

The team has filed for a patent for their nano-silica product, and is in talks with several firms to explore how they can use it in their industry operations.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the NEA said that the RP project has shown positive results.

However, since it is a lab research project, further study will be required to produce the product “on a commercial scale for it to be viable, and to develop and optimise an integrated continuous process for the chemical stabilisation of incineration ash, and to recycle the water to minimise its usage,” it added.

Apart from being a greener alternative, the RP team noted that using treated IFA to make concrete will reduce pressure on the Semakau Landfill — Singapore’s only landfill that is expected to be filled up by 2035 — where all incinerator ash and non-incinerable waste are currently disposed of.

Waste generation in Singapore has increased steadily from 7.67 million tonnes in 2015 to 7.81 tonnes last year, said the NEA.

Dr Goh said the treated incineration ash produced by his team is expected to comply with current European standards.

The NEA added that it is working on the development of environmental guidelines for the use of IBA in land reclamation and construction.

Treated IBA has been used successfully in trials for road pavement construction in Singapore, while a S$15 million recovery facility to salvage metals from IBA opened in Tuas in 2015.

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Malaysia: Sea turtle conservation: Guardians of Pantai Pasir Panjang

Nuradzimmah Daim New Straits Times 10 Sep 17;

LUMUT: It was a beautiful night to go on a motorcycle ride, with the sky full of stars, to the beach.

But you had to go through a 20-minute journey in an oil palm plantation with uneven paths and nothing to accompany you, apart from the sound of the engine and the light from your machine.

Meet Nurul Fadzly Mohd Yusof, better known as Matli among villagers, who has been religiously going to Pantai Pasir Panjang in Teluk Senangin, Lumut, to collect green turtle eggs to be delivered to the Segari turtle conservation centre.

Such is the dedication showed by the 33-year-old, who is doing his part to save the endangered species. He says he only spends three nights at home on any given month.

“If I don’t do it, who will? I have a few youth here helping me.

“Most nights, I go there to check the 58 nests identified along the 10km beach.

“We ride together on a motorcycle and park near the beach. From there, we take a slow walk and check the nests.”

Fadzly and his team would make sure that there would be at least one person standing by at the beach for fear of illegal turtle egg harvesters.

“If we don’t go to the beach and collect the eggs, they might get stolen by wild animals, like lizards, or unscrupulous individuals who either aim to sell them in the black market or consume them.

“We normally keep the eggs in a container and send them to the Segari Turtle sanctuary some 20km away the next day,” he told the New Sunday Times, adding that his routine starts from 10pm till dawn.

Upon discovering a nest with eggs, he would carefully collect and place them in a container.

“If it gets too late, I would mark the nest and catch a snooze nearby to make sure no one comes to steal them.

“As soon as dawn comes, I will collect the eggs and send them to the sanctuary,” he said.

He said there were nights when he would use his boat instead, taking less than five minutes from Kampung Teluk Senangin to the beach.

While waiting for the magic to happen, Fadzly said he would sometimes go fishing.

How is the number of nestings significant to turtle conservation efforts?

Fadzly said turtles, being a shy species, were very selective of where they laid eggs and would always return to their homes.

“This means that if they have laid eggs here, they will definitely come back the next season.

“However, if there are too many disturbances, like development or a dirty environment, they will be discouraged from doing so. That’s when we see a decline in the population.

“So, it is crucial to protect these beaches, not only from poachers, but also from being overly developed,” he said.

Survival hinges on human action
AINA NASA New Straits Times 10 Sep 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Humans are the biggest threat to the survival of turtles, as their meat, eggs and shells are consumed and their habitats destroyed to make way for development.

Conservationist and Friends of the Sea Turtles Education and Research (Foster) president Alexandar Yee said turtles had survived for 150 million years, but development threatened their existence.
“Threats to turtles can be classified as natural and human-related.

“Natural threats include beach land erosion, predators like monitor lizards and dogs preying on their nests, and rising sea levels.

“Human threats include advancements in fishing technology, development in coastal areas, increase in leisure activities around nest areas and turtle consumption,” he told the New Sunday Times.

Under Yee’s leadership, Foster started a turtle hatchery programme some four years ago, doing its part to ensure turtles made it to their natural habitat unscathed.

Yee said the threats to turtles were not only exclusive to a certain location in Malaysia, but were the same elsewhere in the world.

He stressed that humans were the largest threat to turtles, and that development had stressed the environment and other species.

“Laws and regulatory action will only slow down the extinction of other species.

“Human eating habits are a factor, as people eat turtle eggs and meat. Turtle shells are also used as ornaments.”

Yee said promotion of development, including beachfront land, was a main reason sea turtle habitats were being destroyed.

Fishing, he said, was also now done on a huge scale, with more harvests and in a shorter time frame.
Commercial fishing nets are known to capture turtles and destroy corals, the animal’s natural habitat.

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Indonesia: Five named suspects in Jambi land, forest fires

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 9 Sep 17;

The Jambi Police have named five people as suspects during their investigation into seven land and forest fire cases, which occurred from January to August.

Jambi Police spokesperson Comr. Wirmanto Dinata said three out of the seven cases were handled by the Tebo Police while two cases were investigated by the Batanghari Police. The East Tanjungjabung Police and the Muarojambi Police handled one case each.

Three land and forest burners were named suspects by the Tebo Police while two others were declared suspects by the Muarojambi Police and the East Tanjungjabung Police.

“They were all named individual suspects. There has been no corporation named suspect in the land and forest fire cases,” Wirmanto said on Friday.

He said three case reports handled by the Tebo Police and another report tackled by the East Tanjungjabung Police were all still under investigation. Meanwhile, the investigation by the Muarojambi Police had been completed, in which both suspect and evidence had been handed over to prosecutors.

“Two reports handled by the Batanghari Police are still in the investigation stage and no one has been declared as a suspect,” said Wirmanto.

Fires reported in the seven dossiers cover 6.5 hectares of land, of which 2.5 ha is located in Tebo and another 2 ha is in Batanghari. East Tanjungjabung and Muarojambi has 1 ha each.

“We are calling on all land owners and companies not to clear land using slash and burn methods. We will impose tough sanctions on anyone found guilty of committing such illegal practices,” he said. (ebf)

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Indonesia: Police apprehend suspected elephant killer

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 9 Sep 17;

The Tebo Police’s Fox Team personnel have arrested SR, 40, who is suspected to have killed an elephant in Semambu village, Sumay district, Tebo regency.

The perpetrator was arrested at his parents’ house in Rimbo Illir district, early on Saturday.

“He was apprehended after the police’s Fox Team received a report on the killing of an elephant recently,” Jambi Police spokesperson Adj.Sr.Comr. Kuswahyudi Tresnadi said on Saturday. He referred to a special team established by the Tebo Police’s Criminal Investigation Unit (Satreskrim) to tackle wildlife crimes.

The arrest occurred after Satreskrim personnel at the Tebo Police received a report on the killing of a Sumatran elephant in Sumay district, around 200 kilometers from the downtown of Jambi city.

After they checked the accuracy of the report, the Fox Team personnel moved to search for the perpetrator. SR was apprehended without making any attempt to resist the arrest. He is now being detained by the Tebo Police for further investigation. (ebf)

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Indonesia: LIPI, Kopassus team up for biodiversity exploration

Theresia Sufa The Jakarta Post 9 Sep 17;

Scientists from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences’ (LIPI) Biology Research Center and the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) have joined hands to explore the biodiversity of forests across Indonesia during this year’s Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) expedition.

The 2017 NKRI Papua South Corridor Exhibition aims to discover new species of flora and fauna.

LIPI deputy chairperson for Biodiversity Sciences, Enny Sudarmonowati, said many islands Indonesian islands were rich with biodiversity that has yet to be documented.

She added that the involvement of Kopassus in the mission had reassured participating scientists of their safety and allowed them to enter areas that were difficult to reach.

“We have conducted joint exploration activities with Kopassus personnel in forests in Maluku, Papua, Sulawesi, Sumatra and Sumba [East Nusa Tenggara],” Enny said on Thursday during a public expose of the results of LIPI’s biology research projects.

The event is part of the Bioresources Science Week Fair held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of LIPI’s Biology Research Center.

“We have found many rare and unique plants that can potentially be used as herbal medicine or ornamental plants. One of the rare plants is an orchid species in Maluku, which is currently being identified by orchid scientists at the Bogor Botanical Gardens,” Enny said.

The Papua South Corridor Expedition is the seventh NKRI expedition. (ebf)

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Indonesia: Protection of coral reefs still needed

Pewarta: Andi Abdussalam Antara 10 Sep 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia, which is home to some 10-25 percent of the worlds coral reefs, still needs to increase public awareness on protecting its coral reefs for the preservation of its marine ecosystem and fishery resources.

Ultimately, the livelihoods of millions of fishermen residing in the coastal areas depend on resources gathered from the reefs.

Indonesias coral reefs continue to bear the brunt of different human activities or natural causes, such as the rising temperature.

Hence, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) has reminded various parties of the importance of protecting coral reefs in various regions, as it is vital to the preservation and sustainability of the nations marine ecosystem.

"Efforts to maintain the marine ecosystem should start from coral reefs," Director General of Sea Spatial Management of the KKP Brahmantya Satyamurti Poerwadi remarked in Jakarta on Friday (Sept 8).

To this end, he said, constantly improving the quality of coral reefs and seagrass beds in the Indonesian waters holds the same significance as ensuring the potential and preservation of fishery resources.

The KKPs Directorate General of Sea Space Management also emphasized the importance of creating large areas for coral reefs, so that they cannot be destroyed but be fully preserved.

Based on the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPIs) data, the latest measurement results through satellite mapping show that Indonesias coral reefs are spread across 25 thousand square kilometers, or some 10 percent of the worlds coral reefs.

According to the monitoring conducted by 1,064 observation stations in 108 locations in Indonesia, some 6.39 percent of the coral reefs at 68 sites are still in a very good condition; 23.4 percent at 249 places are in a good state; 35 percent in 373 spots, fairly good; and 35.15 percent at 374 sites are in a bad condition.

According to LIPIs analysis, the unfavorable conditions are due to bleaching as a result of the rising sea temperature triggered by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Coral reefs are also damaged due to other human activities, such as transportation or fishing using trawls.

In some areas, environmentalists regretted the recurrence of coral reef destruction as had occurred in the Karimunjawa waters, Jepara District, in Central Java by coal barges.

Deputy of the Indonesia Coralreef Action Network Amiruddin stated during a meeting with Commission B of the Central Java Provincial Legislative Assembly in Semarang on Monday (Sept 9) that more than 1,660 square meters of coral reefs in the Karimunjawa waters were damaged by barge activities.

Meanwhile, environmentalist Gabriel Mahal reported alleged damage to coral reefs in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, caused by sea transportation or tourist transportation vessels.

Mahal said several vessels operating in Labuan Bajo are damaging the coral reefs and affecting the marine habitat.

Despite efforts being made to conserve resources, illegal activities detrimental to coral reefs still continue unabated. These activities are disadvantageous for fishermen.

The Peoples Coalition for Fishery Justice highlighted three key issues causing coral reef damage in Indonesia: illegal fish-catching equipment, coastal reclamation, and mining activities.

The widespread use of trawlers and explosives in the past played a significant role in destroying life in the coral reefs, which are the living habitats of highly profitable coral and ornamental fish species.

When the coral reefs are not healthy, it will affect the number of fish species. Destructive trawlers are still often used despite adequate policies being issued to ban them.

As one of the six Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) countries, Indonesia has to preserve its coral reefs, as its fishermen have to face the fact that over 35 percent of Indonesias coral reefs are reportedly damaged.

The CTI countries are host to the worlds largest coral reef resources, which sustain the lives of over 120 million people living in the coastal areas of Indonesia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands.

In Indonesia, some 60 million people live along the coastline and entirely depend on the coral reefs for their livelihoods. With such a condition, it is understood that Indonesia is vulnerable to the degradation of coral reefs on which it is highly dependent.

Hence, as part of Indonesias commitment to the CTI, the country in 2010 declared a part of its territorial waters as marine resources conservation areas.

As part of its concrete steps in collaboration with five other CTI countries to preserve the marine resources, Indonesia has set a target of designating up to 20 million hectares as conservation areas by 2020.

The country has 13 million hectares of conservation area. In late 2010, the KKP minister had inaugurated a marine conservation area in Nusa Penida, Bali, in a bid to protect the marine and coastal life as well as to encourage sustainable marine tourism. (*)

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Phillipines: Is the Department of Public Works and Highways killing coral reefs?

Renowned marine biologist Wilfredo Licuanan describes the Department of Public Works and Highways as ‘the No. 1 destroyer of the country’s reef system’
Aie Balagtas See Philippine Daily Inquirer 10 Sep 17;

He might get into trouble for it, renowned marine biologist Wilfredo Licuanan himself admitted, but he just had to say it: “The No. 1 destroyer of coral reefs in the Philippines is the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).”

By exposing and eroding the topsoil into the sea when the agency builds roads and bridges, the DPWH has been steadily destroying the country’s coral reefs, said Licuanan, who has at least 30 years’ worth of marine studies under his belt.

The Philippines lies at the apex of the coral triangle and is considered the richest place on earth in terms of marine biodiversity.

To help update policies affecting the country’s marine ecosystem, Licuanan and four other scientists launched a three-year nationwide assessment of the reefs starting July 2014.

By June 2017, the team has covered 200 sites in 31 provinces where most corals are found.

The preliminary result, which was the subject of Licuanan’s talk yesterday, showed that “the corals are disappearing and reefs are having fewer organisms.”

‘Obsolete’ studies

The last nationwide assessment was done 40 years ago, and according to Licuanan, some of the methods being used to nurse the corals back to health, including coral gardening, have not been enough to reverse or slow down their decline. Policies on marine ecosystem were also based on “obsolete” studies, he added.

In fact, Licuanan said, all the coral reefs placed under “excellent” category 40 years ago are gone, while about 90 percent of country’s reefs are now under “poor” or “fair” conditions.

Road building projects

Aside from unmanaged coastal development, blast fishing and overfishing, massive coral bleaching caused by climate change, and typhoon damage, Licuanan cited another reason behind the decline of the country’s coral reefs: road building projects that ignore problems arising from soil erosion.

“Imagine (how the DPWH crew) would cut a portion of the hill to build the road. The lower portion of the road cut would be asphalted, but the upper portion, which is soil, would be left exposed,” Licuanan said.

The exposed soil eventually erodes, especially during landslides, and the silt is deposited to the sea. Once the silt hits the corals, the marine creatures die “in a matter of hours,” he explained.

Just rocks

To make matters worse, Licuanan said, the DPWH has engineers who are unaware that corals are live sea creatures essential to food production and a healthy marine ecosystem.

Blame it on the education system that requires only licensed engineers to teach engineering students, he added.

“Some engineers think corals are just rocks,” Licuanan said.

The recent assessment, which aims to give the public “a snapshot of the current state of Philippine reefs,” could be used to craft policies and amend laws not only to prevent the death of coral reefs, but also to repair the damaged ones.

It takes thousands of years for coral reefs to form and its current conditions could not be solved overnight, Licuanan said.

“We cannot save all these reefs, but we can do something about it. We need to involve everyone. The scientists cannot do it alone. We need the local community, the management and the politicians working on these things,” he added.

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One of world's largest marine parks created off coast of Easter Island

Rapa Nui protection area, about same size as Chilean mainland, will protect up to 142 species, including 27 threatened with extinction
Arthur Neslen The Guardian 9 Sep 17;

One of the world’s largest marine protection areas has been created off the coast of Easter Island.

The 740,000 sq km Rapa Nui marine park is roughly the size of the Chilean mainland and will protect at least 142 endemic marine species, including 27 threatened with extinction.

An astonishing 77% of the Pacific Ocean’s fish abundance occurs here and recent expeditions discovered several new species previously unknown to science.

Apex predators found in the conservation zone include scalloped hammerhead sharks, minke, humpback and blue whales, and four species of sea turtle.

Matt Rand, the director of the Pew Bertarelli ocean legacy project, which campaigned for the park, said: “This marine reserve will have a huge global significance for the conservation of oceans and of indigenous people’s ways of life.

“The Rapa Nui have long suffered from the loss of timber, declining ecosystems and declining populations. Now they are experiencing a resurgence based on ensuring the health of the oceans.”

Plans for the marine park were first announced at a conference in 2015, at which the former US president Barack Obama declared his “special love for the ocean” in a video message.

The plans were confirmed in a speech by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet on Saturday.

The marine park’s creation was enabled by a 73% vote in favour of the conservation zone from Easter Island’s 3,000 Rapa Nui population in a referendum on 3 September, after five years of consultations.

Extractive industries and industrial fishing will be banned inside the reserve, but the Rapa Nui will be allowed to continue their traditional artisanal fishing on small boats, using hand lines with rocks for weights.

Ludovic Burns Tuki, the director of the Mesa del mar coalition of more than 20 Rapa Nui groups, said: “This is a historic moment – a great and beautiful moment for the Rapa Nui, for the world and for our oceans.

“We think this process can be an example for the creation of other marine reserves that we need to protect our oceans – with a respect for the human dimension.”

After the creation of a comparable marine protection area around the nearby Pitcairn Islands last year, proposals for a reserve in the Austral Islands’ waters could soon create a protected area of more than 2m sq km. This would have a unifying potential for the Polynesian people, according to Burns Tuki.

“The ocean is very important to us as a source of food, but the Polynesians were great navigators and the ocean also represents our mother,” he said. “It enables us to move with a double canoe between the different islands. It gives us everything.”

As global warming takes hold, some scientific papers suggest that marine reserves may also help mitigate climate change and provide a vital carbon sink. The deep, clear and cool waters around Easter Island are also a resilient area for coral reefs.

Marcelo Mena, Chile’s environment minister, said: “This marine protected area adds to the legacy of President Bachelet and the 1.5m sq km of protected areas created by this government.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has called for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected, but only about 1.6% has so far been covered by marine protection areas.

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