Best of our wild blogs: 21 Oct 17

Abandoned nets on Pulau Semakau (18 Oct 2017)
Project Driftnet Singapore

Night Walk At MacRitchie Reservoir Park (20 Oct 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
Butterflies of Singapore

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Encountering wildlife in Singapore: Here are the dos and don'ts

Karen Lim AsiaOne 21 Oct 17;

Living in a concrete jungle like Singapore, we tend to forget that we are still surrounded by pockets of nature with wildlife such as boars, otters, monkeys and monitor lizards. Some wild animals even tend to pop up in our neighbourhoods too due to urbanisation.

While some animals may look cute and cuddly, not all of them are friendly.

On Thursday, a man in his 40s was injured by a wild boar at Hillview Avenue. He sustained cuts and lacerations on both legs. Other wildlife such as monitor lizards are known to be sighted in bizarre places in Singapore and crocodiles were spotted near Changi Beach too.

So what should you do if you cross paths with a wild animal ?

Besides applying common sense, here are some tips and advice from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).


Wild boars are unpredictable and can be dangerous, especially female ones that are protecting their young.

Keep a safe distance from it, do not try to feed it and move away slowly. Do not attempt to take a photograph as it may be provoked should the flashlight go off.


Most of the stray dogs are scared of humans and will stay out of your way, but some are known to approach and sniff you out. When that happens, do not run and stay calm, as it may give chase if you do so.

Instead, fold your arms and walk slowly in the opposite direction.

Do not stare at the dog as it may see it as a challenge and react aggresively. Most importantly, do not shout or make sudden movements to shoo it away, as it may think that it is in danger or that you want to play.


Monitor lizards are shy although they are seen quite frequently at neighbourhoods. Do not touch or chase them as they will attack when provoked or cornered.

Although monitor lizards kill their prey with their venom, this venom has a relatively mild effect on humans. If bitten, see a doctor immediately because the bite can be infected.


Monkeys here are considered a nuisance as they are known to enter housing areas in search for food.

They are also known to attack or bite, so if you do encounter monkeys, stop whatever you are doing, remain calm and quiet. Do not make sudden movements and do not maintain direct eye contact with the monkeys. If you're holding an object that is attracting them, discard it as soon as you can.

One thing not to do is to run or try to hit them. If you have a child with you, AVA suggests you put him or her on your shoulders to increase your perceived size, in order to deter the monkeys from approaching.

Keep away from the area until the monkeys have left.


Many people have spotted wild otters along the waterways of Singapore and most observe them from afar.

This is the wise thing to do, as otters can be protective of themselves and their young if they get cornered and cannot escape.

If you encounter an otter, do not attempt to touch it, chase or corner it. Taking pictures is okay as long as there is no flash photography. Do not feed them too as they can find their own food in the wild and their natural eating habits help to keep the ecosystem healthy.

Snakes are a common sight and there have been reports of snakes entering houses via the air-conditioning unit, drain pipes and even toilet bowls.

If you do see a snake in your house, stay calm and do not attack it with a broom or stick. Keep the children or pets away and close all the doors and windows, except those that lead outside. Leave an escape route for the reptile.

If you encounter a snake in an open area, cover it with a heavy blanket or towel. Place heavy things around the edge of the blanket or towel so that the snake cannot slip away. Go and get help either from AVA or ACRES.

If you see a snake in your garden, spray it gently with a water hose while keeping your distance. This will persuade the snake to leave the area.

And, if there's a snake in your drawer or behind furniture, leave it alone, move everyone away from the immediate area and most importantly, do not attempt to interact with it at all. Call for professional help, while keeping an eye on the snake from a safe distance.

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Heritage and nature abound at the Rail Corridor, parts of which will open by 2021

Audrey Tan Straits Times 21 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE - A walk down memory lane awaits visitors to a central stretch of the Rail Corridor by 2021, when a 4km portion of it is opened to the public.

Enhancement works along the stretch of the corridor between the Hillview area and the Bukit Timah Railway Station will start in 2018. This was announced by the National Parks Board (NParks) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Saturday (Oct 21).

The works will be done progressively in phases, but will be completed by 2021. Visitors to the Rail Corridor (Central) can expect to see existing railway heritage structures, such as the conserved steel truss railway bridge spanning Upper Bukit Timah Road and a track of steel girdle bridge across Hindhede Road.

They will also get to enjoy the greenery and wildlife in the area. Due to the proximity of the Rail Corridor (Central) to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, it is also rich in biodiversity. Animals spotted there include the Sunda scops owl and laced woodpecker, for example.

In 2016, the authorities conducted extensive consultations with residents, trail users, nature and heritage groups, to gather feedback on how they would like to shape the trail. Their suggestions include the conservation of heritage features to capture the railway's history, and for the Rail Corridor (Central) to have features that allow people to soak in the surrounding nature, such as viewing decks. There were also suggestions to have more community spaces.

Their ideas were taken on board, and URA and NParks are now exhibiting plans of the preliminary design for Rail Corridor (Central) at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Visitor Centre. The exhibition at the reserve will last until Oct 29, after which it will move to neighbouring constituencies, which could include Cashew and Ulu Pandan.

The 24km-long Rail Corridor stretches from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar. It was formerly a railway line used for commuting and transporting goods between Singapore and the rest of the Malay Peninsula. It belonged to Malaysia but was returned to Singapore in 2011 - providing an opportunity for the authorities to turn it into a space for the community.

Bird scientist David Tan about the bird life found along Rail Corridor

Rail Corridor (Central) is the first portion of the Corridor to open to the public, due to its accessibility. The stretch is bound by Hillview and King Albert Park MRT stations.

The Rail Corridor will also intersect an upcoming Coast-to-Coast Trail, one of two new initiatives announced by NParks on Saturday.

The Coast-to-Coast trail is a 36km-long route spanning Coney Island in the North-East to Jurong Lake Gardens in the West. It will take users through a variety of parks, park connectors and urban spaces. From end-2018, visitors can explore this trail via a mobile app or DIY trail guide.

The trail, like the Rail Corridor, will intersect the new Nature Park Network - the other initiative announced by NParks on Saturday.

The network comprises 48km of trails and links up central nature areas, such as Chestnut and Windsor nature parks, as well as the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves. This network aims to provide another avenue for people to explore nature, while easing visitorship on the nature reserves, which are full of sensitive habitats that form the core bastions of Singapore's native biodiversity.

An old concrete bridge, an existing structure part of the Rail Corridor’s heritage, along the trail. The bridge was for people to cross the railway to reach a kampung. ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN
Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, was guest of honour at the launch of Rail Corridor (Central) preliminary plans on Saturday. "Singapore is a city in a garden that is committed to integrating greenery with our urban landscapes through careful, intentional planning," he said.

"These spaces do not serve merely as respite from our urban landscape; there is immense potential for these spaces to be a repository of shared memories and experiences, and to connect communities."

Parts of Rail Corridor to open by 2021 with enhanced offerings and amenities
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 21 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: By 2021, part of the 24km Rail Corridor from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands will be enhanced to give trail users a better experience.

This was announced by the government agencies spearheading the project, the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), on Saturday (Oct 21).

Landmarks along the 4km stretch from Bukit Timah to Hillview will be restored. For example, the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station will be converted into a heritage gallery and visitor centre, while the public can rest and refill their hungry stomachs at an F&B outlet at the nearby station master’s quarters.

NParks and URA said this is in response to feedback from the public, who noted there are currently no such amenities along the stretch.

Following the handover of the railway land from Malaysia-owned Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad to Singapore authorities in 2011, URA has been consulting the community to find out how the area could be improved to meet their needs.

In 2015, a Request for Proposal was awarded to a Japanese company Nikken Sekkei to develop a masterplan from the ideas. And last year, the community, again, was sought out to refine those ideas.

Some feedback include making the Rail Corridor more accessible for people with disabilities, as well as more bite-sized activities for those who only want to experience part of the long trail.

One proposal is to restore the Hillview bridge, which was removed in 2011, so the public can experience the entire corridor without having to get off the trail and cross the road to continue their journey. Infrastructure like bridges and steel tracks will also be strengthened and protected.

There will also be lookout points along the stretch, as well as biodiversity enhancements. Guided walks will also be organised to familiarise people with the trail. Enhancement works will commence next year, and will be completed in phases by 2021.

This stretch of the Rail Corridor will also be part of a new islandwide curated trail. The Coast-to-Coast Trail spans 36km, connecting Jurong Lake Gardens in the west to Coney Island Park in the northeast through a series of parks and via the Park Connector Network.

The Coast-to-Coast trail will intersect another new NParks initiative – the Nature Park Network.

It is a 48km trail that links up nature areas in central Singapore, like the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves. This aims to ease visitor pressure on nature reserves which are rich in biodiversity, while still allowing people to enjoy nature.

Channel NewsAsia understands that additional trails and connectors will be built to link up all the parks in the network.

From end 2018, visitors can explore the trail on their own using an app.

The public can share their thoughts at roving exhibitions, or online at until Dec 21.
Source: CNA/rw

Take a peek at plans for Rail Corridor by 2021
Audrey Tan Straits Times 22 Oct 17;

By 2021, visitors trekking a stretch of the Rail Corridor will have a walk down memory lane when a 4km portion of it is spruced up.

Enhancement works along the corridor between the Hillview area and Bukit Timah Railway Station will start next year and be done in phases, the National Parks Board (NParks) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said.

The stretch, named Rail Corridor (Central), will retain its rustic vibe, based on preliminary plans unveiled yesterday by NParks and URA.

Visitors will be able to soak in nature and take in sights of former railway structures, such as the old steel truss railway bridges.

The plans include amenities such as a heritage gallery-cum-visitor centre and community lawns, as well as a stopover point with some refreshments.

Visitors will also be able to spot wildlife, including birds like laced woodpeckers or striped tit-babblers, from viewing decks. The trail will be also be planted with understorey vegetation such as ferns and shrubs.

The preliminary plans for Rail Corridor (Central) are on display at an exhibition at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Visitor Centre till next Sunday. People can give their feedback on the plans online on the NParks website from now until Dec 21.

The plans were drawn up following consultations between the Government and residents, trail users, and nature as well as heritage groups last year.


These spaces do not serve merely as a respite from our urban landscape; there is immense potential for these spaces to be a repository of shared memories and experiences, and to connect communities.

MR DESMOND LEE, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development.
The agencies said yesterday that they will study the comments and improve the proposal before commencing works.

The 24km-long Rail Corridor stretches from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar. It was formerly a railway line used for commuting and transporting goods between Singapore and the rest of the Malay peninsula.

It belonged to Malaysia but was returned to Singapore in 2011 - providing an opportunity for the authorities to turn it into a space for the community.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, was guest of honour at the launch of the preliminary plans for Rail Corridor (Central).

"Singapore is a city in a garden that is committed to integrating greenery with our urban landscapes through careful, intentional planning," he said.

"These spaces do not serve merely as a respite from our urban landscape; there is immense potential for these spaces to be a repository of shared memories and experiences, and to connect communities."

Mr Wong Yuen Lik, a resident of Fuyong Estate, which borders the stretch of the Rail Corridor, welcomed efforts to spruce up the area.

"People should be able to visit the place for more than just the greenery," said the 46-year-old adventure consultant.

He hopes a heritage trail can be added within the Fuyong neighbourhood to showcase its history.

"Other than heritage structures, they should also be able to have a look at living history - the Fuyong Estate is the only residential estate located nearby," he said.

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Singapore's first long-span wind turbine installed at Semakau Landfill

Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's first long-span wind turbine was installed at Semakau Landfill on Friday (Oct 20).

At 14 storeys high and with three 10.5-metre long-span rotor blades, the turbine can produce enough energy to power 45 four-room HDB units a year, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) said in a press release.

The wind turbine is also sensitive enough to generate power with wind speeds as low as 3 metres per second and up to a maximum of 20 metres per second.

“The deployment of Singapore’s first wind turbine is a big milestone in the nation’s commitment in developing clean energy technologies for the region," said Professor Lam Khin Yong, NTU’s acting provost, chief of staff and vice president for research.

The new turbine is part of NTU's Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator – Singapore (REIDS) initiative at Semakau Landfill, in partnership with French multinational electric utility company ENGIE.

Under this initiative, "hybrid microgrids" will also be developed in the next few years, producing enough energy to power 100 four-room HDB flats for a whole year according to NTU.

Hybrid microgrids combine renewable energy with conventional diesel- or gas-fuelled generation and energy storage capabilities, and aim to deliver clean, cost-effective electricity. These microgrids will integrate with various renewable energy sources such as solar, tidal, diesel and power-to-gas technologies, said NTU.

Each of the microgrids is expected to produce "stable and consistent power in the half-megawatt range, suitable for small islands, isolated residential areas, and emergency power supplies", the varsity added.

The first phase of the project saw the installation of a microgrid facility with more than 4,500 sq m of photovoltaic panels and a large-scale energy storage system.

This lithium-ion energy storage system can store up to 200kWh, similar to the monthly energy consumption of a two-room HDB unit, and will serve as a medium-term energy storage system.

The microgrids will eventually occupy more than 64,000 sq m - roughly nine soccer fields - of land. They can either be operated separately or function as a single power facility.

Managed by NTU’s Energy Research Institute, the REIDS initiative is expected to attract S$20 million worth of projects over the next four years, in addition to the initial S$10 million investment in infrastructure at the landfill.

Twelve new partners will be signing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with REIDS during the 2017 Singapore International Energy Week, which will be held from Oct 23 to Oct 27, to advance the development and eventual deployment of microgrid solutions in the region, said NTU.

These include strong industry representation from both technology providers Emerson, EDF and Keppel, as well as technology adopters such as Medco, an Indonesian power conglomerate, Adaro, an Indonesian coal mining company and Nortis, a Thai independent power producer, it added.

Standing tall at 14 storeys, wind turbine at Pulau Semakau is Singapore's largest
Lim Min Zhang Straits Times 20 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE - The Republic's largest wind turbine was unveiled at Semakau Island on Friday (Oct 20), marking the first time the renewable energy source is connected to the island's power grid.

The turbine comes with three 10.5m long-span roto blades that produce an electrical output rating of 100 kilowatts, which is enough to power 45 four-room HDB flats.

It is part of the region's first large-scale, offshore power grid system, called the Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator (Reids), an initiative by Nanyang Technological University.

The turbine is one of up to seven which will generate power for hybrid microgrids on the landfill south of Singapore, together with other sources such as photovoltaic (solar) panels, as part of Singapore's drive towards developing sustainable energy.

Said Professor Choo Fook Hoong of NTU's Energy Research Institute, which manages the initiative: "The role here is to look at renewable energy, integrating them into microgrids, so that it can benefit not only remote islands and villages (in the region), but also urban microgrids that will benefit Singapore in the longer term in terms of a more stable and resilient power supply."

The project, now in its second phase, is supported by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The first phase, which consisted of installing more than 4,500 sq m of photovoltaic panels, large-scale lithium-ion energy storage systems and a hydrogen refuelling station, has been completed.

NTU deploys Singapore’s first long-span wind turbine at Semakau Landfill

Although there is limited potential for wind turbines on the mainland, developing a mix of renewable energy sources is important because they each have their own advantages, said Prof Choo.

"When we look at renewable energy integration, we cannot rely entirely on photovoltaics because that will only work when the sun is out. Wind is different - you have wind at night as well... this allows us to have continuous power supply without having to increase the storage capacity, which is not that cheap today."

The turbine can generate power even with wind speeds as low as three metres per second, up to a maximum of 20 metres per second.

Several of the microgrids, which will eventually cover more than 64,000 sq m or about the size of nine football fields, will be built, and will produce enough energy each year to power 100 blocks of four-room HDB flats for the same period.

Long-span wind turbine at Semakau Landfill

International interest in the project has been growing, with 12 new partners expected to sign agreements with Reids at the Singapore International Energy Week next week (Oct23-27) to develop and eventually deploy microgrids in the region.

This means more than 20 companies that would have come on board, including founding members Engie, General Electric Grid Solutions and Schneider Electric.

Mr Goh Chee Kiong, executive director for cleantech at the Economic Development Board, said: "The strong presence of leading energy providers and adopters is testament to Reids' success in developing an ecosystem, to pilot and develop microgrid innovations from Singapore."

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Jurong households, businesses to have option of buying power from any retailer from April 2018

TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 20 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — About 108,000 households and 9,500 business accounts in Jurong will be the first to have the option of buying electricity from any retailer besides SP Group from April next year, in a soft launch of the liberalisation of the electricity market.

The option will be extended to the rest of Singapore in the second half of 2018, announced the Energy Market Authority (EMA) on Friday (October 20).

To help consumers compare prices across different electricity retailers, EMA will come up with an online platform by the second half of 2018 that shows the various price plans in the market.

Mr Ng Wai Choong, chief executive of EMA, said: “With competition, consumers stand to benefit from competitive pricing, enhanced service standards and innovative packages from electricity retailers.

“Consumers can be assured that the reliability of their electricity supply will not be affected by their choice of retailers, as they continue to receive electricity supply through the national power grid operated by SP Group.”

Households and businesses eligible for April’s soft launch will be notified by the EMA by March next year. These will comprise households and business premises with postal codes starting with 60, 61, 62, 63 and 64, which covers the Boon Lay, Tuas, Pioneer, Jurong East and Jurong West areas.

Jurong was chosen because its demographic is representative of the Singapore population, according to EMA.

It is not compulsory for consumers to switch electricity suppliers, stressed EMA, as they can stay with SP Group to buy electricity at the regulated tariff. Besides this, SP Group is also making wholesale electricity available to consumers, via half-hourly wholesale electricity prices, which could be cheaper depending on the time of day.

Since 2001, the electricity market has been progressively opened up, starting with businesses which could buy electricity from any licensed retailer.

According to EMA, there are 26 licensed electricity retailers but only 18 are active. Electricity retailers that wish to offer services to consumers during the soft launch or full launch would have to pass requirements set by EMA first. The requirements include, for example, the retailer’s operational readiness in terms of IT system, as well as the ability to comply with regulatory requirements to protect the interest of small consumers.

Retailers who meet EMA’s requirements will be notified by early March 2018 and can proceed to participate in the soft launch, said an EMA spokeman.

Electricity retailers Sunseap, Red Dot Power and Sembcorp are already selling plans to enterprise customers, and are intending to participate in the soft launch in Jurong.

Sunseap and Red Dot Power said their customers have seen about 20 per cent cost savings as compared to their bills with SP.

One of them is Chi-x, which operates three data centres here. The company’s chief executive officer Lim Hong Zhuang said the company’s electricity bill has been halved since it switched to Sunseap in 2016.

“I was enticed to switch because of the cost savings, and also because I wanted to try out renewable energy,” said Mr Lim, whose data centres’ power consumption hits an average of 120,000 kilowatt hours every month.

“The switchover was also quite seamless. Someone came over to change our power meter and that was it.

“I signed a two-year contract, but I will stay with Sunseap unless some other provider — or even SP — offers a more attractive price plan.”

Sembcorp said it is looking to “roll out a number of targeted pricing plans to suit different consumers with different needs”.

This will include a plan with a fixed percentage discount off SP’s tariffs, a monthly fixed rate plan, as well as flexible “Peak & Off Peak” plans with lower electricity prices during off-peak timings, it said.

Sunseap told TODAY it is looking at various plans too — including one with a clean energy component.

Its spokesman added: “We are planning to launch a variety of plans that are customised to the customers’ needs. Among the aforementioned plans are our fixed price plans and discount off tariff plans.

“We will also be offering plans with a clean energy component for customers who would like to do their part for the environment.”

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New rules to improve Singapore's industrial energy efficiency from Oct 1, 2018

RACHEL MUI Business Times 20 Oct 17;

TO improve the energy efficiency of electric motors and industrial facilities in Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will be introducing new requirements from Oct 1, 2018.

These requirements are part of the enhancements to the Energy Conservation Act (ECA) and will help Singapore achieve its pledge under the Paris Agreement on climate change to reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Based on energy use reports submitted by ECA regulated companies, electric motors accounted for about 80 per cent of the companies' electricity consumption in 2015. These motors are found in almost every industrial appliance that involves crushing, mixing or refrigeration.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) categorises motors into four energy efficiency classes, namely Standard (IE1), High (IE2), Premium (IE3) and Super Premium (IE4). To align with international standards, the minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for motors in Singapore will be set at the premium level from October next year.

This will lead to inefficient motors being phased out, enabling companies to reduce their carbon footprint and enjoy cost savings from lower electricity consumption, the NEA said in a press release on Friday.

Furthermore, to encourage firms to design energy efficient facilities, the agency will require companies investing in new facilities, or major expansions that are designed to consume 54 tera-joules (TJ) or more of energy annually, to review the facility design for energy efficiency, identify economically feasible energy efficiency opportunities, and report their findings to the NEA.

These companies will also be required to install measurement instruments for key energy-consuming systems, and report energy use and performance indicators based on measured data in their ECA submissions, the NEA said.

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Malaysia: Sg Kinabatangan folk roped into forest restoration project

The Star 21 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Local communities living along the nation’s second longest waterway, the Sungai Kinabatangan, are being roped in to help in a forest restoration project aimed at tackling climate change.

Villagers living around the Batu Putih area will be involved in the restoration of degraded riparian reserves or forests along riverbanks about the size of 2,500 soccer fields.

The land belongs to state-owned firm Sawit Kinabalu Sdn Bhd.

Sabah Chief Conservator of Fo­­rests Datuk Sam Mannan said under the project funded by the European Union, local native tree species such as bangkang kuning, sapat and payung payung would be planted in the riverbank forests.

He said the three-year project would cost about RM3,000 per hectare.

The project is among the eight memoranda of understanding (MoU) the department will be inking with various agencies and NGOs at the 9th Heart of Borneo conference here on Oct 24-25.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman is scheduled to launch the conference.

One MoU is with the state Wildlife Department and WWF Malaysia on the setting up more forest corridors in Sabah’s interior for the movement of migratory animals including elephants and orang utan.

Another is with the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency for the setting up of a remote sensing application system and database for the planning, management and monitoring of Sabah forests.

There will also be a deal with state-owned Yayasan Sabah and the Sabah Environmental Trust to start an enforcement and monitoring team for the Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon conservation areas.

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Indonesia: Sold for a song - caged bird trade driving songbirds to extinction

The forest birds captured for their tuneful voices
Victoria Gill BBC Oct 2017;

Lush green blankets of vegetation drape over Java's steep mountains.

But these dense rain forests - on Indonesia’s most crowded island - are rapidly falling silent.

Tuneful songbirds that used to give the mountains a unique melody are being caught and sold.

Indonesians are obsessed with birds. Bird-singing competitions are national events.

But this is threatening to drive the songbirds to extinction.

An almost luminous emerald Javan green magpie raises comical, Groucho Marx eyebrows quizzically - cocking its head.

With a bright orange beak and black bandit mask plumage, it looks for all the world like a cartoon character.

The garish look helps camouflage the bird in its natural home in the rainforest. But its voice is not so discreet.

It announces its presence by barking out a loud, eclectic range of calls - from rhythmic trills of increasing pitch, to high squeaks and low, raucous squawks. Often, all are performed in combination.

I am not watching this bird in the mountain forests of Java - its natural home, but in a high-security aviary.

Once, it had been stolen for its song.

Today, it is under lock and key in a yard patrolled by two large dogs and surrounded by a tall, spiked fence.

This is for its own protection.

No-one has reported seeing a wild Javan green magpie in its natural habitat for several years. Conservationists think the number remaining in the wild is vanishingly small - perhaps as low as 50.

The bird - a tropical relative of the crows and magpies so familiar across much of Europe - is now a poster child for what conservationists are calling the songbird crisis.

Almost 50 different species of songbirds are native to Indonesia.

They used to be a common sight, but now they are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

For 19 of those species, the sad irony of their slide towards oblivion is that they are trapped in the wild to supply markets, because there is a national adoration, an obsession, with pet songbirds.

They are a status symbol - even a cultural requirement.

Owning a caged bird, for some, is a high-value ticket to prizes worth tens of thousands of US dollars - the top prize for national bird-singing competitions.

That is why - while forests rapidly fall silent - almost any species can be found crammed into bird markets in the bustling capital Jakarta, and across the country.

Singers for sale

Pramuka Market in Jakarta is said to be the largest wildlife market in Asia, and possibly the world.

The open-sided, multi-storey concrete structure is several storeys high, with walkways and stalls packed with cages - large and small.

Some are filled with dozens of birds, piled on top of one another. Some of the highest-value birds have ornate cages of their own.

But it is the sheer volume that is striking.

Cages hang like a chaotic array of Christmas tree baubles.

The sellers hand-feed birds with long, skinny spoons that they poke through narrow gaps between cage bars.

Some use hoses to shower their birds in fresh water.

Walking through the market, it feels too crammed, noisy and overwhelming to make any reliable assessment of how many, and what kinds of birds are here.

But Andrew Owen from Chester Zoo in the UK is here regularly, with his team of Indonesian and international colleagues, in an attempt to do just that.

The most thorough study, published by the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic in 2015, found almost 20,000 birds for sale in a single day, in three of Jakarta’s bird markets.

Most of those were caught from the wild. Many were protected species, and being sold in violation of Indonesian law.

“Indonesia has a really high number of bird species, and there are more than 140 threatened species,” Owen says.

“Some of them are protected under Indonesian law, and we may well see some of those here today.”

Pramuka Market’s director Ajie Ruslan, who shows us around, simply says his market does not sell endangered birds.

But Owen has seen protected species up for sale here.

And while he and his colleagues would like to see enforcement to prevent illegal trade, the problem is now about scale.

It is wider than just a lack of official protection for a small group of threatened species.

“When the price of a popular bird goes up, because it is getting very rare, the trappers will move on to another species as a substitute. So then that gets targeted,” says Owen.

“It’s a vicious circle. We have to record everything here and not try to get too upset, but it’s hard when you see birds that should be flying free in the forest sitting here in little cages.

“Many of them have very short, sad lives.”

Javan green magpies are high on the list of endangered species. They were formally listed as critically endangered. Occasionally, they show up in the markets.

“A new, trapped bird turning up in the market is one of the few ways we have to confirm that there are still wild populations,” says Owen. “They’re so difficult to find in the forests now.”

The bird I watched in the conservation aviary was found for sale in a market in the West Javan city of Bandung.

At her new home at the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre, the bird has been named Jimat - the Indonesian word for mascot - by centre manager Anais Tritto.

“We received word that there was a Javan green magpie in the market there in December 2014,” she says.

She and her team needed photographic evidence, so they sent someone to the market with a camera.

“The pictures showed a bright blue magpie - not the normal colour for this species.

“But when they’re kept in cages, their colour changes from green to bright blue.”

The birds literally fade as they survive in a cage on an inadequate diet.

In the wild, they naturally dye themselves bright green by eating lots of green insects that contain a yellow pigment called lutein.

“In the market, the bird only receives commercial pellets, brown crickets and mealworms, so they fade to blue,” says Tritto.

Finally, a team from Cikananga was dispatched to Bandung, to confiscate the bird.

“After the bird was moved to our aviaries, and received a diet supplemented with lutein, little by little after moulting, she came back to her original colour,” says Tritto.

Dawn raid

Even the high fences and locked aviaries of Cikananga have been targeted by bird trappers looking for the rarest birds to sell.

A few months before Jimat’s rescue and her arrival at Cikananga, the bird keepers walked through the gates in the morning to find the place strangely quiet.

“You normally hear so much noise in the morning - it’s like a contained dawn chorus,” Jonathan Beilby from Cikananga explains.

“They realised that all the aviaries on one side had been ripped open and dozens of birds had been stolen.

“The robbery focused on black-winged mynas - they took 140 birds.

“One of those might fetch 1.5m rupiah - over $100 - which is more than a month’s wages for some people.”

The team was devastated.

Cikananga is home to the rarest of the rare, such as the critically endangered magpies and mynas - as well as rufous-fronted and Sumatran laughingthrushes.

Every pair of these birds provides the prospect of a stronger future for each species.

Before they’re introduced to a potential mate, every bird is genetically screened to work out which males and females are most biologically compatible. They are then carefully monitored.

Years of this painstaking conservation work was wrecked in one night by that break-in.

It meant, though, that by the time Jimat arrived to join the other 60 Javan green magpies that the thieves had left behind, the aviaries had received a security overhaul.

CCBC is now surrounded by a high, metal fence. Guard dogs patrol the outer yard and a CCTV network covers every enclosure, providing 24-hour coverage.

That also allows the team here to monitor the nests - keeping a close watch over eggs and precious chicks.

The team thinks the robbers might not have known that the magpies were in the block of aviaries just next door to the ones they raided. If they had, they would almost certainly have taken those birds, too.

“Everyone who keeps songbirds wants a magpie,” says Chester Zoo’s Andrew Owen.

“They’re used as teacher birds, because they have such a complex repertoire of songs.”

As the birds instinctively try to out-sing one another, they pick up new sounds and put together repertoires that will earn them a higher score from an expert judge.

Singing for money

Heri Pranoto is one of these passionate, competitive bird-owners.

As he shows me up to the large, open terrace of his home, we pass one ornate wooden bird cage in the hall, containing a white-rumped shama.

Another two are hanging up outside on the terrace, with another shama and a black-and-white oriental magpie-robin.

Both species are now bred in captivity in huge numbers - such is their popularity in the bird-singing competition world.

He has five birds in the house. The one in the hallway is a five-time winner of the President’s Cup - a major, national bird-singing competition, where the top prize is one billion rupiah, about $80,000 (£60,500).

Today, Pranoto is helping to manage a competition run by the PBI - a bird breeding association of which he is a member.

PBI represents some of the upper echelons of the bird-singing world and runs its own competitions.

It has set up a small competition with white-rumped shamas and lovebirds - another of Java’s favourite avian singers.

It is a relatively small event - the prize money is only a few hundred US dollars.

Entrants arrive at the arena with their birds’ pristine cages covered up - many carrying special bird-cage backpacks, or with more than one birdcage strapped to a moped.

Six judges stand around the cages listening to the birds - which instinctively sing when they see one another. The birds are scored in three categories - tone, volume and performance.

The atmosphere is jovial - but be in no doubt, people are here to win.

Men - and almost everyone here is male - puff on cigarettes as they survey the competition. Owners signal, click and whistle to their birds to encourage them.

Tony Sumampau has arranged our invitation to the event. He is a wealthy and influential friend of the bird breeders association.

He owns and manages a successful safari park called Taman Safari, and says he now wants to invest profit from that business into helping save Java’s wild birds.

“In Java, to truly be a man,” he says, “it is said that you should have a house, a wife, horses - or transport - a weapon and a bird.

“Then you are real Javanese.”

Sumampau, and the people at the head of the bird-breeding association, understand that owning birds is so deeply-rooted in local culture that it is pointless to fight the trade in the name of conservation.

Instead, they aim to encourage sellers to learn how to breed the birds that people want in captivity - to supply the trade sustainably and preserve the wild.

“This association has already banned wild-caught birds from its events,” says Sumampau. “We now want to encourage other associations to do the same.”

Silent forests

For now, though, the dwindling pockets of forest habitat in Java are unsafe for wild birds.

Habitat is being destroyed by encroaching civilisation. More remote areas, once safe for wildlife because they were difficult to reach, are becoming more accessible.

To understand what drives poaching and trapping here, I went to visit Mount Malabar, a protected forest and the focal point of a mission by the organisation Conservation International (CI) to bring another victim of the pet trade back to the wild.

Here, CI is running a project to release endangered Javan gibbons which have been rescued from the pet trade.

The trade in primates is still a threat to endangered ape species in Indonesia, but this site and the work here provide a glimmer of hope for the gibbons.

A released male and female - both of which were rescued and rehabilitated - have just had a baby. It is the first born in the wild here.

Part of Conservation International’s success is its work with former hunters and trappers, like Uwas, my guide on a trek to spot the newly wild gibbon family.

“I used to hunt here, so I know this forest,” says Uwas.

“I would catch any birds - from big to small birds. Anything that lives in this forest.”

Uwas shows me how to build a small bird trap from just a few twigs and some string.

It is a spring-loaded device that snatches up a bird’s legs in a loop.

Trappers’ methods are adapting quickly, though. Surveys carried out here and in other areas of forest habitat, show that larger numbers of birds are being targeted by increasingly high-tech methods.

Chester Zoo’s Andrew Owen has seen evidence of bird-trappers using large mist nets - where metres of netting are strung up to capture anything that flies.

Uwas no longer hunts, because he is now able to channel his knowledge of the forest into his new role monitoring and protecting the gibbons - including patrolling for any sign of illegal hunting in the protected parkland of Mount Malabar.

“It was not my main job to hunt,” says Uwas.

“I would just do it when I had no work and needed money.

“When I started to work here, I realised how important these animals and the forest are - for all of us.”

But many do not have the opportunity of a new job in conservation.

Thirty million Indonesians still live in poverty - and trapping is a guaranteed income, because demand is still so high.

Many in Indonesia are feeling the positive effects of their growing economy, and there is more disposable income - income that is used to buy birds.

A safe haven?

The aim for the future of the birds at Cikananga is to move beyond life in a cage. The team hopes ultimately to release the birds bred here into the wild.

But their attempts to find somewhere safe to do this have so far been unsuccessful.

Even with the ranger patrols, trapping still happens in Mount Malabar’s forests.

And the green hills and agricultural land close to Cikananga itself - still peppered with trees - looks like good habitat upon first viewing. But surveys have found trappers to be active in the area.

This is where Tony Sumampau comes in.

Taman Safari, his park in the hills between the towns of Bogor and Sukubumi, is 260 hectares of highly forested land.

While the jungle fairground that is the safari park is in the centre, there is still a large area of undeveloped forest.

So he is using his own land to provide a safe home for the critically endangered black-winged myna.

So far, 15 birds born and bred in the aviary at Taman - tucked away from the animal shows and selfie-snapping tourists - have been released into the forest.

There is enough space and plenty of trees for the birds to nest, feed and breed. And because it is Sumampau’s own land, he is able to protect it.

“We have been working with the local community here to encourage them not to buy wild-caught birds.”

It is one small pocket of success - the birds released here have not been targeted by trappers.

And Sumampau’s ultimate goal - with this encouragement of bird-breeding - is to “flood the market with captive-bred birds”. So people will be able to buy the birds easily and keep them in their homes.”

Because, he says, with bird-ownership so ingrained in Javanese culture, they will “never be able to stop people from wanting to own birds”.

A new generation

At Cikananga, the team hopes that Java’s children can become the future custodians of their environment.

Ade Imansyah, an education officer at the centre, visits local schools regularly to talk to the children about the wildlife that is - or should be - on their doorstep.

Here, in these upland villages, a few hours from the chaos of the city, most of the children have parents who farm.

Birds, he explains to the attentive children, are not just pretty, feathered singers. They’re also natural pest-controllers - feeding on insects that eat the crops.

“I hope they will understand the benefit of wild animals and birds for them, for their parents, for their agriculture,” says Imansyah.

Birds like Jimat - one of the few remaining members of her species - face a future under lock and key in the secure Cikananga aviaries.

The determined team there have years of work ahead to keep these birds safe and to breed them in captivity.

Jimat herself has just been introduced to a new mate in the hope that she will raise some precious Javan green magpie chicks.

If any patch of forest can be made safe, they might once again fill the mountains with the alluring, complex song that made them such a target.

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Indonesia: Government to Phase Out Mercury Use in Small-Scale Mining

The government will ban the use of mercury in small-scale gold mines by 2018. (Reuters Photo/Jose Cabezas)
Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 20 Oct 17;

Jakarta. The government will ban the use of mercury in small-scale gold mines by 2018, an official at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said on Friday (20/10).

"The ban on mercury use will be prioritized as a national program, as has been urged by the president," the ministry's environmental pollution control department secretary Ade Palguna said.

Ade said the government has been concerned about the serious environmental and health damages from mercury use. For many miners, however, it is still the quickest way to process gold.

Yuyun Ismawati, environmental activist and co-founder of BaliFokus said the devastating effects of mercury poisoning were first observed in 1986, 30 years after a factory in Minamata, Japan, dumped the metal into the city's bay, contaminating fish and shellfish.

"After years of eating the contaminated seafood, residents began to show symptoms of the so-called Minamata disease," Yuyun said.

The House of Representatives ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury in October. The treaty, which aims to protect human health and the environment from emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds, will also check the metal's export and import.

A social campaign for the ban on mercury use will be introduced by the ministry in cooperation with the United States Embassy in Jakarta. According to Ade, an immediate action is needed not only to mitigate the already existing mercury pollution, but also to prevent it.

"The longer we handle the impacts of mercury, the higher costs we will have to bear," he said.

Mercury is known to cause health problems, which may occur after many years from exposure. They include brain damage, kidney, skin and eye problems, and dysfunctional neurological development in children.

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Thailand: Bangkok's secret weapon in war against floods

CU Centenary Park's unique role as an additional rainwater drainage basin points towards a greener solution to the capital's frequent deluges
Bangkok Post 21 Oct 17;

When the torrential rains of Oct 13 caused heavy flooding in Bangkok, several parts of the city were swamped, including Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park in Sam Yan. However, as the park slowly filled with water, Kotchakorn Voraakhom, the landscape architect who designed the project, remained unconcerned. She even expressed her satisfaction in a Facebook post that the park had finally delivered on one of its purposes -- the detention of flood water.

"The CU Centenary Park is designed to serve as a (monkey cheeks) water-detention area for the community. We need more of this flood detaining space in the city," said Ms Kotchakorn, a 38-year-old architect who received a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from Chulalongkorn University, before earning her master's degree in the same discipline from Harvard University.

Located between Chula Soi 9 and Banthat Thong Road, the park occupies 30 rai of land in one of the city's prime business areas. Surrounded by shophouses and the university campus buildings, the park is half a kilometre from Mahboonkrong Shopping Complex (MBK) and Siam Square.

"I thought a lot about the park and what it might mean in relation to Chulalongkorn University in this context. As a designer, I did not just want to create a space that only glorified the university," said Ms Kotchakorn.

"So I thought about what role the park could play within the community. Then, I thought about climate change as well as the flood problems that Bangkok suffers. I came up with an idea to create a park that could serve as both a public space and also a water management asset," said Ms Kotchakorn, who has designed several high-profile projects such as the green roof of the Siam One Shopping Complex and the new landscape project for Thammasat University, and also several smaller yet equally noteworthy projects such as the swimming pool facility at the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand under The Royal Patronage of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit in Bangkok.

Five years ago, she won the design competition for the CU Centenary Park project, which was commissioned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the university. Instead of creating a typical public park festooned with decorative trees, the architect chose sloping wetlands to allow the naturally porous earth to detain excess rainwater. Vetiver grass and other water plants were planted to help purify the wastewater, and a water tank added to store water for use in the dry season. Porous concrete allows water to drain underground as much as possible and an earth-based gutter system decorated with flowers and small trees was selected as an alternative to a hard concrete gutter.

Despite its utility, the park was primarily created with the public in mind. It has a walkway for people to stroll along, benches for them to sit and relax on and an underground function room built beneath an ornate garden. The park also provides fixed exercise bicycles for health and fitness. These bicycles, however, serve a dual purpose as the energy generated from people pedalling contributes to the power needed to help oxygenate the wetlands.

"The idea was to make use of natural ecology to manage water. Personally, I think our city has been placing too much hope on engineering solutions, such as flood drainage pipes, which will never be sufficient. Thus, we need to create more green space like this park to help absorb floodwater."

Ms Kotchakorn admitted the park might not be a solution in itself to the problems caused by the area's mass deluges, "But the park can help lessen the severity of floods and afford more time to city drainage officials, while the wetlands can help to treat the dirty water so that it can be stored and used later in the year. Hopefully the park is serving as a pilot scheme to show how green spaces can be adapted to provide ecological solutions to the flooding. Just imagine if we had many more public spaces like this, contributing to effective water drainage, in every nook and cranny of the city."

Opened in March this year, the Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park is the first park in the city designed to show that public parks can help authorities with flood management.

Currently, CU Centenary Park is the only public park in Bangkok designed with water management in mind. Most of the other parks in Bangkok are on flat land and designed to grow trees and decorative plants, according to Danai Thaitakoo, a lecturer in landscape architecture at Chulalongkorn University.

"Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) does not consider public parks or green areas as natural infrastructure that can help the city manage water," said Mr Danai, who has created flood-detention areas at Chulalongkorn University by altering the surface used and landscape of parking space in pilot projects near the Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Engineers.

Mr Danai said few people understand what flood detention is. "Sometimes, university personnel call me worried that my projects may end up submerging their parking lots! People are afraid to see flood water, they don't want to get their feet wet," he said.

In the old days, Bangkok residents were more at ease with flooding and were happy to wade through it to go about their daily business. The original ecosystem of the city, which is part of a low-lying alluvial plain, was able to cope as excessive water drained naturally. Known as the "Venice of the East", Bangkok had many canals, orchards, trees and green areas which helped to effectively detain floodwater. Now many of those areas have been replaced with concrete surfaces. Fruit and vegetable plantations that would happily soak up the water are gone while housing estates, condominiums and networks of roads keep continue to proliferate.

Mr Danai said many cities around the world, such as in the Netherlands or Singapore, that face the threat of flooding have already enlisted the aid of the natural ecosystem to help them with water management. For example, a project called "Room for the River" in the Netherlands has relocated concrete dykes inland and reduced the scale of concrete infrastructure to give more room to natural flood plains around the country's rivers. In Singapore, authorities redesigned the area around the Kallang River to introduce natural elements such as green areas and flood plains to help in times of heavy rainfall.

Mr Danai said Bangkok could use such examples as models upon which to base the development of its own strategy to combine nature with nous in the pursuit of effective solutions to its own frequent deluges.

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World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceans

Baher Kamal IPS 20 Oct 17;

"Oceans: our allies against climate change. How marine ecosystems help preserve our world." Credit: FAO

ROME, Oct 20 2017 (IPS) - With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main buffer against climate change.

The 30 countries – all members of UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s #CleanSeas campaign – account for about 40 per cent of the world’s coastlines–they are drawing up laws, establishing marine reserves, banning plastic bags and gathering up the waste choking their beaches and reefs.

The populous nations of East and South-East Asia account for most of the plastic trash entering the global ocean, UNEP reports, adding that in order to address this menace at its source, Indonesia has pledged to reduce its generation of plastic trash by 70 per cent by 2030, while the Philippines plans new laws targeting single-use plastics.

Human Addiction To Plastic Bags

Humanity’s unhealthy addiction to throwaway plastics bags is a particular target, the UN environment agency warns, while informing that countries including Kenya, France, Jordan, Madagascar and the Maldives have committed to banning plastic bags or restricting consumers to re-usable versions for which they have to pay. See: Plastic No More… Also in Kenya

“Legislation to press companies and citizens to change their wasteful habits is often part of broader government strategies to foster responsible production and consumption – a key step in the global shift toward sustainable development.”

According to UNEP, Belgium and Brazil, for instance, are both working on national action plans to curb marine pollution. Costa Rica has embarked on a five-year strategy to improve waste management that includes a push to reduce the use of plastics.

Eight Billion Tonnes of Plastic… A Year

The flow of pollution means detritus such as drink bottles and flip-flops as well as tiny plastic fragments including micro-beads used in cosmetics are concentrating in the oceans and washing up on the most remote shorelines, from deserted Pacific islets to the Arctic Circle, the UN specialised body informs.

“Humans have already dumped billions of tonnes of plastic, and we are adding it to the ocean at a rate of 8 million tonnes a year,” UNEP warns, adding that as well as endangering fish, birds and other creatures who mistake it for food or become entangled in it, plastic waste has also entered the human food chain with health consequences that are not yet fully understood.

It also harms tourist destinations and provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying diseases including dengue and Zika.

The #CleanSeas campaign aims to “turn the tide on plastic” by inspiring action from governments, businesses and individuals on ocean pollution. See also: UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic

Pollution is the theme of the 2017 United Nations Environment Assembly, which is meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from 4 to 6 December.

The Main Buffer against Climate Change

Another UN agency reminds that while it is well known that forests, especially rainforests, are key allies in the fight against climate change as they absorb greenhouse gas emissions, oceans are the earth’s main buffer against it.

In fact, about 25 per cent of the greenhouse gases that we emit actually gets absorbed by the oceans, as does over 90 per cent of the extra heat produced by human-induced climate change, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports.

“However, oceans are also one of the most affected by it.”

According to the Rome-based UN agency, human activities are resulting in acidification and increasing water temperatures that are changing our oceans and the plant and animal life within them.

More Plastic than Fish?

The UN estimates that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 – with over 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 260,000 tonnes currently floating in the world’s oceans. Meanwhile, harmful fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing are estimated to be as high as 35 billion dollars.

Coral reefs and coastal environments in tropical regions, including mangroves and salt marshes, are in particular danger, warns the UN food and agriculture agency.

“These ecosystems store much of the carbon, which then remains in the oceans for hundreds of years, and are thus one of our “allies” against climate change.”

However, since the 1940s, over 30 per cent of mangroves, close to 25 per cent of salt marshes and over 30 per cent of sea-grass meadows have been lost.

“Right when we need them the most, we are losing these crucial ecosystems.”

Did You Know That…

FAO tells some key facts about the oceans:

— The ocean has it all: from microscopic life to the largest animal that has ever lived on earth, from the colourless to the iridescent, from the frozen to the boiling and from the sunlit to the mysterious dark of the deepest parts of the planet.

— The ocean is the largest ecosystem on earth and provides 99 per cent of the living space for life. It is a fascinating, but often little explored place.

— The ocean affects us in many different ways. It provides us with an important source of food and other natural resources. It influences our climate and weather, provides us with space for recreation and gives us inspiration for stories, artwork and music.

— The list of benefits we get from the ocean is almost endless! But we are also affecting the ocean.

— Overfishing is reducing fish populations, threatening the supply of nutritious food and changing marine food webs.

— Our waste is found in massive floating garbage patches and plastics have been found from the arctic to the bottom of the deepest places in the ocean.

— Climate change and its related impacts, such as ocean acidification, are affecting the survival of some marine species.

— Coastal development is destroying and degrading important marine habitats. Even recreation is known to impact marine habitats and species.

— We need a clean and healthy ocean to support our own health and survival, even if we don’t live anywhere near it.

Now you know! It would good to also remember that humankind managed to survive over millions and millions of years… without plastic!

Five ways the oceans help fight climate change and its effects:

1. Trapping carbon: Mangroves, coral reefs, salt marshes and sea-grasses make up just 1 per cent of the ocean’s seabed, but they contain between 50-70 per cent of the carbon stored in the oceans.
- Like forests, marine ecosystems take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and trap them, some of it for thousands of years. As such, these ecosystems are known as “blue carbon sinks.”

2. Reducing coastal erosion: Overtime, waves carry away sediment from the shore. When this happens more quickly or forcefully, for example because of large storms, it has the potential of causing major damage to homes and coastal infrastructure.
- Sea grasses may look like our grass fields on land, but they are actually flowering plants that live in the salty environments of the sea floor and help hold sediment in place. Salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs also help in slowing erosion and protecting shorelines.

3. Protecting marine life and biodiversity: Coral reefs occupy less than 0.1 per cent of the world's ocean surface, yet they provide a home for at least 25 per cent of all marine biodiversity. Often popular tourist attractions, coral reefs are the least secret of the ocean’s secret weapons. They draw people in to observe the wealth of marine life that they host.
- However, coral reefs are delicate ecosystems that are increasingly strained by human activity. Careless tourism, water pollution, overfishing, rising temperature and acidity are all damaging these ecosystems, sometimes beyond repair.

4. Forming barriers to storms: Mangroves, salt-tolerant shrubs or small trees that grow in saline water of coastal areas, create barriers to destructive waves and hold sediments in place with their underwater root systems. This protects coastal communities in times of cyclones or other tropical storms.
- In fact, scientists concluded that mangroves could have reduced the damages caused by the 2008 Nargis cyclone in Myanmar, where parts of the coastline had lost up to 50 per cent of its mangrove cover.

5. Slowing down destructive waves: Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides. Salt marshes are well-known for protecting the coast from soil erosion.
- However, they are also an effective defence against storm surges and devastating waves. Salt marshes can reduce wave sizes by up to 20 per cent.
- As the waves move through and around these marshes, the vegetation quells the force of the water and buffers the effects of these waves on coastal communities, FAO reports, adding that once viewed as wastelands, salt marshes can rival tropical rainforests in terms of biologically productive habitats, as they serve as nurseries and refuges for a wide variety of marine life.

SOURCE: FAO’s Guide to the Ocean

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