Best of our wild blogs: 5 Oct 18

Are there more tree species in Bukit Timah than the whole of North America?

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Indonesia: 3.8 million run risk of tsunami threat

Antara 4 Oct 18;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Some 3.8 million Indonesians run the risk of tsunami threat, Chief of the Information Data and Public Relations of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated on Wednesday.

"We only have 30-40 minutes to save ourselves. Hence, tsunami mitigation is important," he noted at a press conference related to a powerful magnitude 7.4 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami in Central Sulawesi Province.

When a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which triggered a 36-meter-high tsunami, struck the island of Flores on December 12, 1992, and left about 2,600 people dead and missing, the time span between the earthquake and the tsunami was only five minutes, he noted.

The time span is relatively short since tsunamis in Indonesia have local characteristics. This means the source of the earthquake triggering a tsunami is found around the Indonesian territory, he noted.

"The eastern part of Indonesia is more vulnerable. However, lack of research, infrastructure facilities, awareness, and tsunami mitigation (remain a problem)," he pointed out.

He remarked that 2,243 people were killed when a tsunami measuring 50 to 100 meters high engulfed the Maluku provincial capital of Ambon in 1674.

"Between 1629 and 2018, Central Sulawesi bore witness to 176 large and small tsunamis," he noted.

Meanwhile, 148.4 million of the 265 million population of Indonesians run the risk of earthquake threat.

A magnitude 7.4 earthquake rocked Palu City and Donggala District in Central Sulawesi last Friday (Sept 28). The earthquake was centered 27 kilometers northeast of Donggala at a depth of 10 kilometers.

Reporting by Dewanto Samodro
Editing by Suharto, Fardah Assegaf
Editor: Heru Purwanto

Geology agency to map Indonesia`s disaster-prone areas
Antara 4 Oct 18;

Head of the Geology Agency at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Rudy Suhendar. (ANTARA /Sigid Kurniawan)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Head of the Geology Agency at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Rudy Suhendar, said the agency is trying to map Indonesia`s territories with high disaster potentials.

"Basically, from Sumatra, Java, Bali, Nusa Tenggara, and Maluku to Papua, all of them have the potentials for disasters, commonly earthquake because they are located on a long fault line," Suhendar said here Wednesday.

However, according to him, the intensity of earthquake is different between one area and another depending on the geological conditions of each place. People are expected to monitor the fault lines and find out if their area is directly traversed by the faults.

"The map on fault lines can be seen on the geology page of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. If we know these fault lines in advance, disaster mitigations can be done; for instance, by not building houses with heavy materials," he stated.

Suhendar explained that time, location, and magnitude of an earthquake cannot be predicted. "So far, what can be predicted from an earthquake is its maximum magnitude, potential, and intensity," he explained.

"Regarding the earthquake and tsunami that occurred in Palu and Donggala, let us all pray there would be no more major earthquakes. However, people are expected to remain vigilant about aftershocks. People should also keep following the directives from authorized institutions and not believe any news from unclear sources," Suhendar added.

The cause of earthquakes in Indonesia comes from subduction zones and active faults on land. The subduction zones stretch from west of Sumatra Island, south of Java Island, south of Bali, and Nusa Tenggara and turn to Maluku Islands to form sea trenches.

Subduction zones can also generate to form tsunami.

The active faults on lands include the Sumatran Fault, which extends from north to south on Sumatra Island. In Java Island, there are Cimandiri Fault, Lembang Fault, Baribis Fault. and Opak Fault.

"Besides that, there are Flores Back Arc Faults in North Nusa Tenggara Islands, Palu-Koro Fault in Central Sulawesi, Tairura-Aiduna Fault, Sorong Fault, and others," he noted.

Earthquake still cannot be predicted. However, there are some efforts that can be made, including delineating active tectonic areas that generate earthquakes, estimating the return period of the earthquakes, determining the parameters of each earthquake, and calculating maximum potentials.

The Geology Agency continues to make efforts to mitigate disasters by mapping areas that have been hit by tsunami. The maps are presented in maps of earthquake- and tsunami-prone areas.

The Map of Disaster-Prone Areas of Earthquakes and Tsunamis are routinely socialized to all local administrations.

Regarding the earthquakes that hit Central Sulawesi province, the Geological Agency has made the Map of Earthquake-Prone Areas of Central Sulawesi, Map of Earthquake and Tsunami-Prone Areas of Palu Bay, and Microzonation Map of Palu Earthquake.

"All parties must be alert and ready to face earthquakes and tsunami that could take place in any place and at any time. Spatial planning should be made by considering the disaster potentials, and all buildings and infrastructures must consider seismic aspects. These are some of the mitigation efforts to reduce risks of geological disasters," he pointed out.

Reporting by Afut Syafril Nursyirwan
Editing by Libertina, Yoseph Hariyadi
Editor: Heru Purwanto

Mt. Gamalama in North Maluku erupts, residents told to stay away
The Jakarta Post 4 Oct 18;

The Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center (PVMBG) has raised the status for Mount Gamalama in North Maluku to caution -- the second after normal in the four-level national volcano alert system -- on Thursday following an eruption at 11:52 a.m. local time.

The eruption, which saw a-250 meter column of ash spew from the mountain’s crater, had been preceded by at least eight tremors, said the PVMBG.

“We suggest that residents and visitors steer at least 1.5 kilometers clear of the volcano,” the agency said in a statement, adding that residents living near rivers around the mountain should also be cautious of potential lava flows.

Three volcanoes are currently active in Indonesia, namely Mt. Anak Krakatau in Lampung, Mt. Soputan in North Sulawesi and Mt Gamalama. Mt. Soputan erupted on Wednesday morning, while Mt. Anak Krakatau erupted more than 150 times on Tuesday. (vny)

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Myanmar torches $1.3m of illegal wildlife parts

AFP Yahoo News 4 Oct 18;

Elephant skins, clouded leopard remains and tiger bones were among a $1.3 million haul of illegal wildlife incinerated Thursday in Myanmar's first ever public event of its kind against the illicit trade.

Trafficking and selling endangered animals is rampant across Myanmar, especially in border areas which serve as a key hub in the $20 billion a year global wildlife trade.

Much of the demand is fuelled by a long-held belief in neighbouring China that rare animals have medicinal value.

Elephant parts -- including chunks of skin -- are the most lucrative for poachers in Myanmar.

Thursday's ceremony in the capital Naypyidaw saw 850 kilograms of seized contraband set ablaze, including elephant ivory, tiger bone and skin, antelope antlers and pangolin scales.

"Rare wildlife including Myanmar's elephants, tigers, bears and pangolins are the natural heritage of our country," Nyi Nyi Kyaw, director general of the Forest Department, said in a statement.

He noted an alarming increase in elephant poaching by gangs who have moved from southern Myanmar into the northern and western regions of Rakhine -- a migratory path for wild elephants to Bangladesh.

The Forest Department would "take action" and confiscate their weapons whenever possible, he added, saying new forensic kits to identify fingerprints from seized ivory would help the crackdown.

Myanmar faces an uphill battle against poachers who rake in cash from its long unregulated wildlife trade, a business which thrives in the lawless eastern periphery and border regions.

Sapai Min of WWF Myanmar said the government is making "good progress in the struggle against wildlife crime", and pointed to the increase of rangers patrolling poaching hotspots.

But critics say the government has shown a lack of political will to tackle a sophisticated network of criminals who are thought to be armed and funded by powerful "kingpins" in China.

Edwin Wiek of Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand said the burning ceremony was timed to coincide with a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Russia.

"More important for me is the people involved with the confiscation of the $1.3 million (of wildlife parts) -- who were these people, have they been found guilty or fined or given jail terms?" he said.

"If that is the case, then that would show a real change of policy."

Myanmar is a signatory to CITES, which means that hunting wildlife is illegal in the country.

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‘Terror being waged on wildlife', leaders warn

National and conservation leaders say the annihilation of nature is a dangerous ‘blight on humanity’, ahead of major summit
Damian Carrington The Guardian 4 Oct 18;

Humanity is waging a war of terror on wildlife across the globe, according to the head of a world-leading research institute who was previously a counter-terrorism expert for the UK government.

Dominic Jermey, director general of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), also spent years in Afghanistan supporting the fight against terror, until leaving his post of UK ambassador in 2017. “Coming to ZSL, I have a front-row seat on a different kind of war: the war on wildlife,” he said in an article for the Guardian. “[It is] a war with catastrophic impacts on people and animals.”

“While war and terror atrocities make daily headlines, the horrors being waged on wildlife slide under the radar,” said Jermey, ahead of a global summit on tackling the illegal wildlife trade in London in October.

Other leaders are urging rapid action, with Gabon’s president, Ali Bongo, calling the crisis “a blight on humanity” and UK environment secretary Michael Gove saying the “massive global problem” needs the same scale of international response being taken to fight climate change.

Illegal hunting and the destruction of wild habitat has resulted in the start of what many scientists consider the sixth mass extinction of life to occur in the Earth’s four-billion-year history. Over 80% of all mammals and half of plants are thought to have been lost since the rise of human civilisation.

Wildlife crime harms both people and animals, said Jermey: “The annihilation of wildlife by organised criminal gangs is violent, bloody, corrupt and insidious. It robs communities of their resources, their independence, their opportunities and their dignity. And we are all losers as the creatures with which we share this planet are pillaged to extinction.” One hundred million sharks are killed every year, mostly for their fins, and 20,000 African elephants for their ivory, he said.

Losses have been greatest in recent decades, Jermey said, with a 58% decline in wildlife since 1970: “That’s like losing the entire [human] population of Asia from the world.” The London gathering of leaders is a critical opportunity, he said: “This is our moment for action.”

The UK government is hosting the summit, which will be the biggest yet, and aims to ramp up action against wildlife traffickers and build momentum towards a critical meeting of world nations at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020.

Gove said: “It is a massive global problem. The world, collectively, has taken action to set ambitious goals to deal with climate change, and I think we need to show a similar level of ambition when it comes to making sure we safeguard wildlife and biodiversity. It will be difficult to explain to our children and grandchildren if we don’t take action.”

Among the projects being supported by the UK are training for customs officers to tackle the trade in pangolins, the world’s most trafficked animals, creating forest-friendly cocoa plantations in Liberia and protecting Sumatran tiger habitat in Indonesia.

A major UN-backed report in March found that human destruction of nature is rapidly eroding the world’s capacity to provide food, water and security to billions of people and poses risks on the same scale as global warming.

Bongo, who will be among the heads of state attending the summit, said: “The illegal trafficking of wildlife is a blight on humanity. This trade – estimated to be worth some £17bn pounds per year – is big business, run by ruthless networks. My country, Gabon, is on the frontline of the battle to end this trade.”

He said the Elephant Protection Initiative in Africa had grown from five nations in 2014 to 18 now and was not only focused on anti-poaching, but also developing sustainable livelihoods for those living alongside wildlife: “We need to convince farmers who live alongside elephants, and whose crops are often damaged by them that these animals can be creators, not just destroyers, of economic wealth.”

Zac Goldsmith MP, appointed as UK government champion for the summit, said: “It matters in and of itself when you lose iconic species, when you see whole ecosystems being annihilated, but it matters in a very direct way to humans as well. If you wipe out ecosystems, you plunge people into awful poverty.”

“We have seen great initiatives but are going backwards not forwards, which is the depressing reality,” he said. “This is why this conference is so important.”

Tony Juniper, executive director at WWF-UK said: “The destruction of nature and disappearance of our wildlife is one of the greatest threats facing the human race. And it’s not just about the extinction of rhinos or tigers on the other side of the world. It’s about the disappearing birds, butterflies and other animals on our own doorsteps.”

Gove said action was needed in the UK: “There is much more we need to do. In my lifetime we have seen a retreat of wildlife in the UK. That is why we are taking steps in our new agriculture bill and our 25-year environment plan to reverse that.”

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From London to Shanghai, world's sinking cities face devastating floods

Threat to major population centres is increasing as planners fail to prepare for impacts of global warming, report says
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 5 Oct 18;

London, Jakarta, Shanghai and Houston and other global cities that are already sinking will become increasingly vulnerable to storms and flooding as a result of global warming, campaigners have warned ahead of a landmark new report on climate science.

The threat to cities from sea level rises is increasing because city planners are failing to prepare, the charity Christian Aid said in the report. Some big cities are already subsiding – the ground beneath Shanghai, for instance, is being pressed down by the sheer weight of the buildings above – and rising sea levels resulting from global warming will make the effects worse.

The cities named in the report are sinking for a variety of reasons. Jakarta is thought to be subsiding by 25cm a year largely because of groundwater extraction, and Houston is sinking as the oil wells beneath it are depleted. Bangkok’s skyscrapers are weighing it down, while London is slowly sinking for geological reasons: Scotland is slowly rebounding after having been weighed down by glaciers during the last ice age, which is pushing southern England downwards like a see-saw.

The warning comes as the world’s leading climate scientists meet this week in South Korea to finalise a comprehensive study setting out whether and how the world can avoid temperature rises of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body of scientists convened by the UN, has been asked to examine the consequences of such a rise and assess what progress can be made to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The world has already warmed by roughly 1C from pre-industrial levels, and sea levels could rise by 40cm if that increases to 1.5C, previous science from the IPCC has suggested. Sharp brakes on greenhouse gas production are expected to be needed to halt the rise.

Under the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, governments pledged to hold warming to no more than 2C, with an aspiration not to surpass 1.5C, based on previous IPCC advice. The new IPCC report, to be published on Monday, is expected to show that remaining within the 1.5C limit is still possible but only with strong action to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

Christian Aid, one of many organisations publishing studies to coincide with the IPCC’s judgment, looked at the consequences of a 1.5C rise for a selection of eight major cities around the world. The report concludes that poor development choices are exacerbating cities’ vulnerability to weather shocks.

Kat Kramer of Christian Aid, who wrote the report, said: “These global metropolises may look strong and stable, but it is a mirage. As sea levels rise, they are increasingly under threat and under water.”

Dozens of the world’s biggest cities are built in coastal areas and near major rivers, making them vulnerable not just to sea level rises but also to storm surges, which can send high seas inland and past maritime defences. The UK and the Netherlands experienced such a storm in 1953, when high tides and a storm surge inundated coastal regions. If similar weather were to strike today, the damage could be much greater despite sea defences, because of rising sea levels and the increased severity of storms that is likely to result from climate change.

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Scientists say halting deforestation 'just as urgent' as reducing emissions

Protecting and restoring forests would reduce 18% of emissions by 2030 and help to avoid global temperature rise beyond 1.5C
Oliver Milman The Guardian 4 Oct 18;

The role of forests in combating climate change risks being overlooked by the world’s governments, according to a group of scientists that has warned halting deforestation is “just as urgent” as eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

Razing the world’s forests would release more than 3 trillion tons of carbon dioxide, more than the amount locked in identified global reserves of oil, coal and gas. By protecting and restoring forests, the world would achieve 18% of the emissions mitigation needed by 2030 to avoid runaway climate change, the group of 40 scientists, spanning five countries, said in a statement.

“We must protect and maintain healthy forests to avoid dangerous climate change and to ensure the world’s forests continue to provide services critical for the well-being of the planet and ourselves,” the statement reads.

The intervention comes as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gathers in South Korea ahead of Monday’s release of an eagerly awaited report on how the world can avoid warming of 1.5C (2.7F) beyond pre-industrial levels, an aspirational target of the landmark Paris climate deal in 2015.

It is expected the report will focus on required changes to the energy system, rather than forests. “In responding to the IPCC report, our message as scientists is simple: Our planet’s future climate is inextricably tied to the future of its forests,” the scientists’ statement pointedly concludes.

Trees and other vegetation currently absorb around a quarter of the CO2 humans are adding to the atmosphere, softening the potential impact of climate change.

While the world won’t lose all of its trees, large tracts of tropical forests, which hold a vast amount of carbon, are still being lost in the Amazon, central Africa and Indonesia. Warming temperatures are also fueling huge fires in forests in higher latitudes, as witnessed this summer when much of northern Sweden was aflame.

“The forest piece of the conversation is often lost and I don’t think the IPCC report will highlight it enough,” said Deborah Lawrence, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and a signatory of the statement. “We almost take forests as a given but we lose forest every year, which means we are diminishing them as a carbon sink.

“Deforestation has been massively reduced in the Amazon, but that hasn’t happened elsewhere. As countries get more peaceful in Africa we could lose more tropical forests, which really worries me.”

The IPCC’s report is expected to mention the need for as-yet unproven technology to burn vegetation and bury the resulting emissions underground or directly suck carbon from the air as a way to meet the 1.5C target.

The statement by Lawrence and other scientists warns the former strategy, known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (Beccs), is untested and risks wiping out huge areas of rainforest in order to make way for plantation timber for energy.

“It breaks my heart to think we’d lose half our tropical forests for plantations just to save ourselves,” Lawrence said. “It’s horrifying that we’d lose our biodiversity to avert climate change. Losing tropical forests is not somehow cheaper than putting up wind farms in the US or Sahara.”

Lawrence said a steep drop in emissions to zero by 2040 would negate the need for “negative emissions” technology that would damage forests’ ability to suck up carbon, maintain local water supplies and weather patterns and provide a home for a riot of birds, mammals, insects and other creatures.

“We will have a hotter, drier world without these forests,” Lawrence said. “There needs to be an international price on carbon to fund the protection of forests. And countries with tropical forests should maintain large chunks of forests to stabilize rainfall for agriculture and keep a predictable regional climate.”

The prospects for averting at least 1.5C of warming appear dim, however, with a co-author of the upcoming IPCC report warning last week the world is “nowhere near on track” to meet its Paris commitments.

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