Best of our wild blogs: 20 Mar 18

LTA set to update on environmental impacts of SI works – Straits Times
Love our MacRitchie Forest

GARDEN IN THE CITY (PART II): What are we doing to preserve what is left of biodiversity and greenery in Singapore?

Saving horseshoe crabs in Singapore
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

The Varied Diet of the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Chick
Singapore Bird Group

Read more!

Indonesia: Sperm whale stranded at Bungkulan Beach

Antara 20 Mar 18;

Illustration. A long whale measuring about 25 meters that once stranded in the coastal waters of Jangkar Village, Situbondo, East Java, beginning of March 2018. (ANTARA/Seno)

Singaraja, Bali (ANTARA News) - A sperm whale carcass, with a length of about 15 meters and a weight of 10 tons, was stranded at the Bungkulan Village Beach, Sawan Sub-District, Buleleng District, Bali.

"Hundreds of local people came to see the carcass of the female sperm whale stranded on the coast of Bungkulan Village Beach, Sawan Sub-district, Buleleng District, at around 09.30 a.m. local time," Resort Police of Buleleng AKP I Putu Aryana said here on Monday.

He stated that the giant sperm whale was a spectacular sight for the people, because they had not succeeded in rescuing or evacuating the large mammals.

The police and the local district government responded quickly on the news of the dead sperm whale being stranded on the beach with its skin peeled off and entrails scattered out.

Based on the results of the external examination conducted by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Buleleng District, with Iwan Setia Budi as a lecturer of Undiksha Singaraja, it was estimated that the sperm whale had died a week ago.

"This sperm whale died last week, which was evident from the opened abdomen of the whale, which was crumbled apart. The belly of the whale might have been eaten by sharks," he noted.

Responding to the anxiety of the local people, the officials will soon discard the carcass of the sperm whale in the middle of the sea to be drowned, due to the stinging odor emanating from the carcass.

AKP I Putu Aryana has confirmed the plan, in which the sperm whale will be drowned into the sea using fishing boats. *** 1 ***

Reported by Krishna Arisudana and IMB Andi Purnomo
Editor: Heru Purwanto

Read more!

Indonesia: Half of sea of trash in North Jakarta mangrove area removed

The Jakarta Post 19 Mar 18;

After two days of clearing the sea of trash at a mangrove area in Muara Angke, North Jakarta, nearly 50 percent of the 1,000 cubic meters of garbage has been removed to Bantargebang landfill in Bekasi, West Java, an official has said.

Video and images of the piles of garbage went viral last week and the city administration responded by deploying workers to clear the area by hand. The area had reportedly been cleared from garbage at the end of 2017.

The head of the Thousand Islands environmental sub-agency, Yusen Hardiman, said on Monday morning that about 34 tons of garbage in the mangrove area had been removed to the landfill with the help of nine trucks, four ships and two amphibious backhoes.

“When we started the cleaning [on Saturday], we could barely see the water in the area, but now we can see it,” Yusen said, as quoted by, adding that the 19 tons of garbage was removed from the area on Saturday and the remaining 19 tons of garbage was removed on Sunday.

Around 100 workers from the Thousand Islands environmental sub-agency, Public Facility Maintenance Agency and the Indonesian Military jointly cleared the mangrove area. (vny)

Read more!

Indonesia aims to tackle plastic waste

Andi Hajramurni The Jakarta Post 19 Mar 18;

Plastic waste polluting the ocean remained a major concern that must be addressed by all concerned parties, a minister said on Sunday.

At least 80 percent of plastic waste ended up in the ocean, carried through waterways like rivers, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said.

She cited a video posted by a tourist in Bali that went viral earlier this month that captured a sea of plastic waste at a popular tourist spot in Nusa Penida, Klunkung regency.

The video highlighted the waste problem that faces the country, which has been named the second biggest marine plastic debris polluter in the world, after China. An estimated 1.3 million tons of plastic waste is produced daily across the archipelago, creating a major threat to the ecosystems of the ocean.

To tackle the issue, the central government along with the Bali administration, and other related parties will discuss the matter with the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister.

“We are going to take the necessary steps to reduce the plastic waste in the ocean and beaches across Indonesia,” she said at Losari Beach, in Makassar, South Sulawesi during an event to commemorate National Waste Care Day on Sunday.

The government has previously announced a commitment to redoubling its efforts to address the issue, proclaiming a target of reducing marine debris by 70 percent by 2025.

The government also urged the public to start implementing waste management strategies at home and to also significantly reduce the country’s dependence on plastic in daily life. A lack of awareness of waste management methods, as well as budget issues at the regional level, had contributed to the country’s prolonged waste problem, Siti added. (rin)

Read more!

Thai beaches to face strict rules to undo damage of tourism

AAP News.Com 18 Mar 18;

THE Thai government is planning to adopt drastic measures against increasing environmental damage caused by tourism on three popular islands in southern Thailand.

Starting in July, the government will ban fishing, fish feeding, anchoring on coral reefs, construction on the beach, and walking on the seabed on the islands, said Jatuporn Burutphat, director of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

The islands include Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Pha-ngan.

Koh Pha-ngan is known internationally for its regular Full Moon Parties and is visited by almost one million tourists a year, while Koh Samui welcomed more than 2.3 million tourists in 2016.

Thailand’s booming tourism industry, which accounts for up to 20 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, is seeing a continuous rise in the number of tourists each year.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has projected that 37.5 million tourists will visit Thailand in 2018, up from last year’s figure of 35.3 million.

“The amount of garbage and waste water on these islands is so big that it will become unbearable in the near future, and we have to think about the future,” said Jatuporn.

People found violating the bans can face up to one year in prison and a fine of 100,000 baht ($A4154), he said.

Smoking has also been banned on 24 beaches nationwide since February due to huge amounts of cigarette butts.

Read more!

Climate change threatens world's largest seagrass carbon stores

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Phys.Org 19 Mar 18;

In the summer of 2010-2011, Western Australia experienced an unprecedented marine heat wave that elevated water temperatures two to four degrees Celsius above average for more than two months. Researchers from the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) in collaboration with scientists from Australia, Spain, Malaysia, the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia became alert to major carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from the loss of seagrass meadows at Shark Bay—an internationally recognized World Heritage Area and one of the largest remaining seagrass ecosystems on Earth.

The loss of seagrass at Shark Bay after the 2010-2011 marine heatwave released up to 9 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over the three years following the event. This amount is roughly the equivalent to the annual CO2 output of 800,000 homes, two average coal-fired power plants or 1,600,000 cars driven for 12 months. It also potentially raised Australia's annual estimate of national land-use change for CO2 emissions by up to 21 percent.

ICTA-UAB and Edith Cowan University (ECU)-led international research has estimated that Shark Bay has the largest carbon stores reported for a seagrass ecosystem, containing up to 1.3 percent of the total carbon stored in seagrass soils worldwide.

Researchers initially mapped 70 percent of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014 and found a 22 percent loss of seagrass habitat as compared with the 2002 baseline, equivalent to a 1,100 km2 loss of meadows. "The widespread losses in the summer of 2010-2011 were unprecedented. The net loss of seagrass extent was accompanied by a dramatic shift in seagrass cover. What remained was sparser with 'dense' seagrass areas that had declined from 72 percent in 2002 to 46 percent in 2014," explains Ariane Arias-Ortiz, Ph.D. candidate at ICTA-UAB and first author of the work.

"This decrease is significant because seagrass meadows rank among the most intense CO2 sinks in the biosphere, giving them the name 'blue carbon ecosystems.' They take up and store CO2 in their soils and biomass through biosequestration. The carbon that is locked in the soils may remain there for millennia if seagrass ecosystems, which offer physical protection to these stocks, remain intact," says Professor Carlos M. Duarte, professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and co-advisor to the Ph.D. thesis of the lead author.

Dr. Oscar Serrano, ECU researcher and also a co-author adds "When you have an event such as the losses at Shark Bay, not only do you lose the benefits of CO2 uptake by seagrasses but also any carbon sequestered by the seagrasses is released back into the atmosphere as CO2 when the seagrasses decompose."

"Although seagrass meadows are amenable to restoration, more importantly, we should be looking at avoiding the loss of the seagrass carbon stores because CO2 emissions from degraded seagrass ecosystems greatly surpass the annual sequestration capacity of healthy meadows" concludes Arias-Ortiz.

"With climate change forecasted to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, the permanence of these carbon stores becomes compromised, further stressing the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing management actions to avoid adverse feedback on the climate system."

To conduct the study, researchers used satellite imagery processed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions of Western Australia, in situ sampling from 50 sites and soil modelling to make their calculations of potential CO2 release.

While the Shark Bay Marine Reserves Management Plan 1996-2006 offers protections against local threats such as overfishing and nutrient inputs from industry, agriculture and tourism, there is currently nothing in place to deal with global threats, such as heat waves."We need to advance our understanding of how seagrass ecosystems, especially those living close to their thermal tolerance limit, will respond to threats from global change, both those from direct pressures and those from interactions with local pressures," said Prof. Paul Lavery ECU researcher and co-author.

"We have seen how quickly losses can occur, and once destroyed, the capacity of seagrass meadows to recover is limited and slow, and largely depends on the arrival of seeds or seedlings."

Plans for future catastrophes might include removing seagrass detritus to prevent phytoplancton blooms and growth of algae, which consume oxygen in the water column and attenuate light. If seagrasses are lost, impacted areas could be restored through reseeding and repopulation with genetically more resilient types of seagrass.

More information: A marine heatwave drives massive losses from the world's largest seagrass carbon stocks, Nature Climate Change,

Read more!

Australia: New coral bleaching outbreak in NT a worrying sign of our warming oceans

Selina Ward The Conversation 20 Mar 18;

An outbreak of coral bleaching has been reported over the summer in Gang Gurak Barlu National Park on the Cobourg Peninsula, 60km northeast of Darwin, homeland of several clans of the Iwaidja-speaking Aboriginal people of Western Arnhem Land.

As no formal monitoring or assessment program is in place for these reefs, it’s impossible to gauge the full severity and extent of the bleaching. However, this video from Black Point on the Cobourg Peninsula contrasts the healthy reef in 2015 and the bleached reef in 2018.

The Northern Territory has unique marine ecosystems which are largely untouched and sit in waters receiving flow from untamed rivers. There are extensive coral reefs with abundant breeding turtle populations, saltwater crocodiles and sharks.

In January this year, the water temperature between the Northern Territory and Papua New Guinea reached what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calls Alert Level 2 – its highest alert for the risk of bleaching and subsequent coral death.

This is an indication of the duration and intensity of a warming event, measured in “degree heating weeks” – the number of degrees above the average summer maximum temperature, multiplied by the number of weeks. Alert Level 2 indicates at least eight degree heating weeks.

This is not the first time coral bleaching has been seen in the NT. Severe bleaching was recorded in seas off Arnhem Land during the global bleaching event in 2015-16.

Increases in sea surface temperature cause mass bleaching events. The bleached corals have lost most of the single-celled algae, called zooxanthellae, that live and photosynthesise inside the coral cells and provide the corals with most of their energy.

The Great Barrier Reef also suffered severe bleaching in 2016. This resulted in 67% mortality in its northern sections, dwarfing the effects of previous bleaching events in 1998 and 2002.

Bleaching patterns tell a story

The bleaching patterns of these three events were tightly correlated with degree heating weeks within geographic areas, with the 1998 and 2002 events having prominent effects in the southern areas.

In 2016 the highest degree heating weeks were recorded on the northern stretches of the Great Barrier Reef, where the most severe bleaching occurred. Southern areas experienced temperatures close to average, partly due to cooler water from Cyclone Winston.

In 2017 the Great Barrier Reef experienced another bleaching event that affected northern and central areas. This event was particularly disturbing, as it followed 2016 and, unlike 1998, 2002 and 2016, it was not an El Niño year.

It is vital that reefs have time to recover between bleaching events if they are to avoid becoming degraded. For corals that survive being bleached, full recovery takes time. Reproductive output can be reduced for extended periods, resulting in less successful recruitment.

This, often combined with the increased competition from algae and soft corals, means that replacement of corals that do not survive bleaching events can be slow. Even fast-growing corals require 10-15 years to return to their prebleaching size.

Recent analysis has shown that the intervals between bleaching events across the globe have decreased substantially since the 1980s. The median period between bleaching events is now six years. One reason for this is that temperatures in La Niña conditions (when we expect lower temperatures) are now higher than those of El Niño conditions in the 1980s.

This is further evidence that if we continue on our current path of rapidly increasing emissions, it is increasingly likely that bleaching events will occur annually later this century, as predicted by coral scientists last century.

Resilience of reefs

The 2016 bleaching event demonstrated that areas with good water quality and controlled fishing were not protected from bleaching during this temperature anomaly. However, local conditions can be vitally important for recovery in previously bleached areas and to maintain healthy populations prior to bleaching events.

Unfortunately, climate change is not only causing higher temperatures but also increased intensity of storm and cyclone damage, sea level rise and ocean acidification. So we need resilient reefs to cope with these additional challenges.

We can increase the resilience of reefs by improving water quality. We can do this by reducing sediment and nitrogen and phosphorus input and other toxins such as coal dust, herbicides and pesticides, alongside regulating fishing pressure and protecting as many areas as possible.

New management approaches urgently needed
The beautiful reefs of the Northern Territory and the Great Barrier Reef need to be protected. If we wish to enjoy Australia’s reefs in future decades, it is vital that we change our management priorities.

State and federal governments need to give these areas the priority they deserve through marine parks and ranger programs, and regulation of potentially harmful activities. Water quality needs to be funded in a serious manner. Industrial developments, such as port expansions, need to be evaluated with protection of reefs as a primary concern.

Reducing emissions dramatically is crucial to slowing all the climate change effects on reefs. Australia can lead by example by rapidly moving away from fossil fuels and opening no new coal mines.

Read more!

Water shortages could affect 5bn people by 2050, UN report warns

Conflict and civilisational threats likely unless action is taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs
Jonathan Watts The Guardian 19 Mar 18;

More than 5 billion people could suffer water shortages by 2050 due to climate change, increased demand and polluted supplies, according to a UN report on the state of the world’s water.

The comprehensive annual study warns of conflict and civilisational threats unless actions are taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs.

The World Water Development Report – released in drought-hit Brasília – says positive change is possible, particularly in the key agricultural sector, but only if there is a move towards nature-based solutions that rely more on soil and trees than steel and concrete.

“For too long, the world has turned first to human-built, or ‘grey’, infrastructure to improve water management. In doing so, it has often brushed aside traditional and indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches,” says Gilbert Houngbo, the chair of UN Water, in the preface of the 100-page assessment. “In the face of accelerated consumption, increasing environmental degradation and the multi-faceted impacts of climate change, we clearly need new ways of manage competing demands on our freshwater resources.”

Humans use about 4,600 cubic km of water every year, of which 70% goes to agriculture, 20% to industry and 10% to households, says the report, which was launched at the start of the triennial World Water Forum. Global demand has increased sixfold over the past 100 years and continues to grow at the rate of 1% each year.

This is already creating strains that will grow by 2050, when the world population is forecast to reach between 9.4 billion and 10.2 billion (up from 7.7 billion today), with two in every three people living in cities.

Demand for water is projected to rise fastest in developing countries. Meanwhile, climate change will put an added stress on supplies because it will make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier.

Drought and soil degradation are already the biggest risk of natural disaster, say the authors, and this trend is likely to worsen. “Droughts are arguably the greatest single threat from climate change,” it notes. The challenge has been most apparent this year in Cape Town, where residents face severe restrictions as the result of a once-in-384-year drought. In Brasília, the host of the forum, close to 2m people have their taps turned off once in every five days due to a unusually protracted dry period.

By 2050, the report predicts, between 4.8 billion and 5.7 billion people will live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month each year, up from 3.6 billion today, while the number of people at risk of floods will increase to 1.6 billion, from 1.2 billion.

In drought belts encompassing Mexico, western South America, southern Europe, China, Australia and South Africa, rainfall is likely to decline. The shortage cannot be offset by groundwater supplies, a third of which are already in distress. Nor is the construction of more dams and reservoirs likely to be a solution, because such options are limited by silting, runoff and the fact that most cost-effective and viable sites in developed countries have been identified.

Water quality is also deteriorating. Since the 1990s, pollution has worsened in almost every river in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and it is expected to deteriorate further in the coming two decades, mainly due to agriculture runoffs of fertiliser and other agrochemicals that load freshwater supplies with nutrients that lead to the growth of pathogens and choking algae blooms. Industry and cities are also a significant problem. About 80% of industrial and municipal wastewater is discharged without treatment.

Crucially, the report emphasises a shift away from watershed management towards a wider geographic approach that takes in land use in distant areas, particularly forests. Although farmers have long seen trees as a drain on water supplies, the authors recognise more recent studies that show vegetation helps to recycle and distribute water. This was apparent in the São Paulo drought of 2014-15, which the city’s water authorities and scientists have linked to Amazon deforestation.

The key for change will be agriculture, the biggest source of water consumption and pollution. The report calls for “conservation agriculture”, which would make greater use of rainwater rather than irrigation and regularise crop rotation to maintain soil cover. This would also be crucial to reverse erosion and degradation, which currently affects a third of the planet’s land, a different UN study found last year.

Perhaps the most positive message of the report is that the potential savings of such practices exceed the projected increase in global demand for water, which would ease the dangers of conflict and provide better livelihoods for family farmers and poverty reduction.

Nature-based solutions can be personal – such as dry toilets – or broad landscape-level shifts in agricultural practices. The report contains several positive case studies that show how environments and supplies can improve as a result of policy changes. In Rajasthan, more than 1,000 drought-stricken villages were supported by small-scale water harvesting structures, while a shift back towards traditional soil preservation practices in the Zarqa basin in Jordan are credited with a recovery of water quality in local springs.

The authors stress the goal is not to replace all grey infrastructure, because there are situations where there is no other choice, for example in building reservoirs to supply cities with water. But they urge greater take-up of green solutions, which are often more cost-effective as well as sustainable. They also encourage more use of “green bonds” (a form of financing that aims to reward long-term sustainable investments) and more payments for ecosystem services (cash for communities that conserve forests, rivers and wetlands that have a wider benefit to the the environment and society).

Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of Unesco, which commissioned the report, noted two-thirds of the world’s forests and wetlands have been lost since the turn of the 20th century – a trend that needs to be addressed.

“We all know that water scarcity can lead to civil unrest, mass migration and even to conflict within and between countries,” she said. “Ensuring the sustainable use of the planet’s resources is vital for ensuring long-term peace and prosperity.”

The World Water Forum is the biggest single gathering of policymakers, businesses and NGOs involved in water management. It is being held in the southern hemisphere for the first time, and is expected to draw 40,000 participants.

Among them are indigenous and other grassroots activists who believe the event is too close to government, agriculture and business. They are staging an alternative forum in Brasília that puts greater emphasis on community management of water as a free public resource.

World needs 'greener' water policies as demand rises: UN
Laure FILLON, AFP Yahoo News 19 Mar 18;

Paris (AFP) - Governments should focus on "greener" policies to improve the supply and quality of water as climate change and a growing global population threaten the water security of billions, the United Nations said on Monday.

In its 2018 World Water Development Report, the UN calculated that an estimated 3.6 billion people -- nearly half the global population -- live in areas where water can be scarce at least one month per year.

And this number could rise to 5.7 billion by 2050, the report warned.

"If we do nothing, some five billion people will be living in areas with poor access to water by 2050," said UNESCO Director General, Audrey Azoulay, at the presentation of the report in Brasilia.

"This report proposes solutions that are based on nature to manage water better. This is a major task all of us need to accomplish together responsibly so as to avoid water-related conflicts," she said.

Global water use has increased by a factor of six over the past century "and continues to grow steadily at a rate of about one percent per year," the report said.

And use is expected to rise significantly due to population growth, economic development and changing consumption patterns, among other factors.

"The vast majority of the growing demand for water will occur in countries with developing or emerging economies," the report said.

At the same time, the global water cycle was intensifying due to climate change, "with wetter regions generally becoming wetter and drier regions becoming even drier."

- 'Ecosystem-friendly' -

So-called "grey" or man-made water infrastructure -- such as reservoirs, irrigation canals and treatment plants -- were no longer sufficient to meet these challenges, said the report's editor-in-chief, Richard Connor.

There is increasingly limited room to build more reservoirs because of silting, environmental concerns and restrictions, as well as the fact that in many developed countries the most cost-effective and viable sites had already been used, the UN argued.

"In many cases, more ecosystem-friendly forms of water storage, such as natural wetlands, improvements in soil moisture and more efficient recharge of groundwater, could be more sustainable and cost-effective than traditional grey infrastructure such as dams."

"Nature plays a unique and fundamental role in regulating the different functions of the water cycle," Connor said.

Nature-based solutions "can act as regulator, cleaner and water supplier".

The report said that green solutions were already showing great potential.

New York, for example, has protected the three largest watersheds that supply water to the city since the late 1990s through forest preservation programmes and paying farmers to take on environmentally friendly practices.

"Disposing of the largest unfiltered water supply in the US, the city now saves more than $300 million (245 million euros) yearly on water sea treatment and maintenance costs," the UN said.

Another example was China's "Sponge City" project to improve water availability.

By 2020, China plans to build 16 pilot projects across the country with the aim of recycling 70 percent of rainwater through greater soil permeation, retention and storage, water purification and the restoration of adjacent wetlands.

- Feed more people -

"These solutions are cost-effective" and not more expensive than traditional systems, said Connor.

The UN pointed to estimates that agricultural production could be increased by about 20 percent worldwide if greener water management practices were used.

In addition to improving water availability and quality, "it is possible to increase agricultural production per hectare with better water management" and thus feed more people, said Stefan Uhlenbrook, programme coordinator at the UN World Water Assessment Forum.

"Green" infrastructure also helps fight erosion, drought and flood risks while boosting soil quality and vegetation.

And indigenous peoples could be involved in implementation, something which was not the case in "grey" infrastructure," the report said.

At the moment, however, only "marginal" use was made of such nature-based solutions.

"Accurate figures are not available", but investments in these techniques "appear to be less than one percent... of total investment in infrastructure and water resource management," according to the report.

They "are often perceived as less effective" because they are less visible, Connor said.

Read more!

Climate change soon to cause mass movement, World Bank warns

140m people in three regions expected to migrate before 2050 unless environment is improved
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 19 Mar 18;

Climate change will result in a massive movement of people inside countries and across borders, creating “hotspots” where tens of millions pour into already crowded slums, according to the World Bank.

More than 140 million people in just three regions of the developing world are likely to migrate within their native countries between now and 2050, the first report on the subject has found.

The World Bank examined three regions, which between them account for 55% of the developing world’s population. In sub-Saharan Africa, 86 million are expected to be internally displaced over the period; in south Asia, about 40 million; and in Latin America, 17 million.

Such flows of people could cause enormous disruption, threatening governance and economic and social development, but the World Bank cautioned that it was still possible to stave off the worst effects.

“Climate change-driven migration will be a reality, but it does not need to be a crisis, provided we take action now and act boldly,” said John Roome, a senior director for climate change at the World Bank group.

He laid out three key actions governments should take: first, to accelerate their reductions of greenhouse gases; second, for national governments to incorporate climate change migration into their national development planning; and third, to invest in further data and analysis for use in planning development.

Within countries, the effects of climate change will create multiple “hotspots”: made up of the areas people move away from in large numbers, and the areas they move to.

“Local planners need to make sure the resources are made available, and to make sure it takes place in a comprehensive and coordinated manner,” said Roome.

Globally, many tens of millions more are expected to be similarly affected, creating huge problems for national and local governments. Nearly 3% of the population was judged likely to move owing to climate change in the areas studied – a proportion that might be repeated elsewhere.

Migration between countries has previously taken the spotlight, with its potential for cross-border conflicts, but internal migration may cause as much disruption, putting pressure on infrastructure, jobs, food and water resources.

The 140 million figure extrapolates from current trends, but could be reduced if changes are made. If economic development is made more inclusive, for instance through better education and infrastructure, internal migration across the three regions could drop to between 65 million and 105 million, according to the report. If strong action is taken on greenhouse gas emissions, as few as 30 million to 70 million may migrate.

Climate change is likely to most affect the poorest and most vulnerable, making agriculture difficult or even impossible across large swaths of the globe, threatening water resources and increasing the likelihood of floods, droughts and heatwaves in some areas. Sea level rises and violent storm surges are also likely to hit low-lying coastal areas, such as in Bangladesh.

Kristalina Georgieva, the chief executive of the World Bank, in her introduction to the report published on Monday, said: “There is growing recognition among researchers that more people will move within national borders to escape the effects of slow-onset climate change, such as droughts, crop failure and rising seas.

“The number of climate migrants could be reduced by tens of millions as a result of global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and with far-sighted development planning. There is an opportunity now to plan and act for emerging climate change threats.”

Read more!

Biodiversity crisis summit kicks off in Colombia

Joaquin Sarmiento, with Florence Panoussian in Bogota
AFP Yahoo News 18 Mar 18;

Medellín (Colombia) (AFP) - A comprehensive, global appraisal of mass species extinction -- and what can be done to reverse it -- kicked off in Colombia's second-largest city Saturday, with more than 750 experts in attendance.

President Juan Manuel Santos opened the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) meeting in Medellin by stating that protecting biodiversity is "as important as fighting climate change."

Hundreds of scientists and government envoys are gathering at the event, which runs through March 26, to finalize details on five monumental reports designed to inform global policymaking into the future.

"Today the world is at a crossroads," added IPBES president Sir Robert Watson.

"The historic and current degradation and destruction of nature undermine human well being for current and countless future generations."

Compiled over the last three years, the reports will provide the most up-to-date picture of the health of the world's plants, animals and soil.

- 'Immensely ambitious' -

The diagnosis will be unveiled in two parts.

First, on March 23, the IPBES will release separate assessments for the four regions into which it has divided the world -- the Americas, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia.

Then on March 26 a report will be released focusing on the global condition of soil, which is fast being degraded through pollution, forest-destruction, mining, and unsustainable farming methods that deplete its nutrients.

The evaluations took 600 volunteer scientists three years to complete, and includes summaries of data taken from about 10,000 scientific publications.

The end product covers the entire Earth apart from Antarctica and the open oceans -- those waters beyond national jurisdiction.

Host Colombia claims it has the world's largest variety of birds and orchids, and is second only to Brazil in terms of overall species diversity.

Paradoxically, decades of Colombia's internal conflict have preserved fragile habitats in no-go zones of the country, whose mountainous topography supports 311 different ecosystems.

But 1,200 Colombian species are listed as threatened, due partly to pollution and forest-destruction caused by illicit drug production.

More than just a portrayal of doom and gloom, the latest assessments will include projections for future recovery or decline, and "suggestions for action," IPBES executive secretary Anne Larigauderie told AFP.

"An immensely ambitious challenge lies ahead of us this week," she said Saturday.

The expert panel, she said, had compiled five assessment reports, each about 600-900 pages long and condensed into a 20-30 page "summary for policymakers."

These summaries must be officially adopted in Medellin before being sent to IPBES member states to guide policymaking in areas that affect biodiversity -- everything from transport and infrastructure to farming, water management and education.

The reports however are not prescriptive. "We hope that this will help inform policy decisions to stem the loss of biodiversity and the fundamental services it provides us with," chief scientist Tom Brooks of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature told AFP.

Following the opening formalities late Saturday, delegates will hunker down for days of intense, "word-by-word" negotiations on the five summary documents.

The drafts in their current form will be presented to a joint IPBES meeting on Sunday, after which delegates will meet in five groups -- one for each report.

Governments will have a final chance to request changes to the wording of the summaries. If the scientific authors disagree, a compromise must be found through negotiation.

The whole process has cost about $5 million (four million euros).

This complex drafting process, Larigauderie said, is crucial to get as many governments as possible on board, for a better chance of them adopting biodiversity-friendly policies as a result.

Read more!

Tonnes of garbage cleaned up from Galapagos coast

AFP Yahoo News 18 Mar 18;

Quito (AFP) - Officials at Ecuador's Galapagos National Park say they have collected 22 tonnes of garbage since January off the coasts of the pristine archipelago, some of it from as far away as Asia.

The coastal garbage cleanup is aimed at studying "the possible arrival of invasive species in the waste swept in by the ocean currents," the Park said in a statement late Saturday.

The Galapagos, the Pacific archipelago of volcanic islands that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, are located about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador.

The bulk of the garbage reaches the island shores "from the coasts of Central and South America, and even from the Asian continent," the statement said.

The national park, created in 1959, protects 97 percent of the islands' land surface.

The Galapagos has an especially high concentration of endemic species, including giant tortoises and penguins. In 1978 UNESCO classified the islands as a World Heritage Site.

A marine reserve spanning 138,000 square kilometers (53,280 square miles) was also established.

And a 38,000-square-kilometer marine sanctuary in which all fishing is banned was set up between two of the islands. Those waters are home to the world's highest concentration of sharks.

Most of the garbage comes from outside as Ecuador has a strict limit on visitors, and only 26,000 people live on the four inhabited islands.

Galapagos authorities limit construction, promote the use of renewable energy sources, and have banned plastic bags to protect the unique environment of the islands.

Read more!