UCI and Singapore researchers find source of 2015 Southeast Asia smoke cloud


Irvine, Calif. - Smoke from widespread fires in Indonesia in the summer and fall of 2015 hung heavily over major urban centers in Southeast Asia, causing adverse health effects for millions of people. The afflicted could not have known that the polluted air they were breathing contained carbon from plants that were alive during the Middle Ages.

During the prolonged conflagration, which was triggered by an El Nino-driven drought, scientists collected smoke particles on the campus of the National University of Singapore and sent the samples to their colleagues at the University of California, Irvine. UCI's researchers dated the isotopes of the particles' carbon atoms, finding them to have an average age of 800 years.

Combining this analysis with atmospheric modeling of the wind-driven movement of smoke plumes in fall 2015, the team sleuthed out the source of the harmful cloud: smoldering peat on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The findings were published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our research shows that almost all of the smoke emissions originated from the burning of Holocene-aged peat," said first author Elizabeth Wiggins, a postdoctoral research fellow at NASA's Langley Research Center who led the study as a Ph.D. candidate in Earth system science at UCI, graduating in 2018. "Although this peat has functioned as a massive terrestrial carbon storage reservoir over the last several thousand years, it is now a significant source of carbon to the atmosphere."

Read more!

Singapore, Netherlands ink environment and water management agreement

Junn Loh Channel NewsAsia 21 Nov 18;

AMSTERDAM: Singapore and the Netherlands on Wednesday (Nov 21) signed an agreement to enhance cooperation on environmental and water management.

This is the first time the two countries are signing a memorandum of understanding in the area of both environment and water.

Apart from aiming to facilitate knowledge exchange and expertise in the area of water management, the deal will look to support industry efforts to develop technologies and capabilities in water production, including through joint implementation of demonstration projects between the private and public sectors.

It also focuses on enhancing capabilities in four areas: Integrated water resource management, circular economy, climate change, and pollution prevention and control.

Read more!

Indonesia: Rising environmental concern over plastic waste polluting Indonesian seas

Fardah Assegaf Antara 20 Nov 18;

Jakarta, (ANTARA News) - The carcass of a 9.5-meter-long sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) washed ashore the Kapota isle, Wakatobi District, Southeast Sulawesi, on November 19, 2018.

Researchers of the Wakatobi Fisheries and Maritime Community Academy were shocked to find 5.9 kilograms of plastic waste in the whale`s stomach, including flip-flops and 115 drinking cups.

The giant mammal had ingested 750 grams of 115 plastic cups, 140 grams of 19 hard plastic, 150 grams of four plastic bottles, 260 grams of 25 plastic bags, six pieces of wood weighing 740 grams, two flip-flops of 270 grams, a 200-gram nylon sack, and over a thousand pieces of raffia string weighing 3,260 grams, Laode Ahyar, an official of the Wakatobi National Park, informed an Antara correspondent in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, on November 20, 2018.

Read more!

Surge in marine refuges brings world close to protected areas goal

Reserves cover more than five times area of US, says report, but enforcement is often poor
Jonathan Watts The Guardian 19 Nov 18;

A record surge in the creation of marine protected areas has taken the international community close to its goal of creating nature refuges on 17% of the world’s land and 10% of seas by 2020, according to a new UN report.

Protected regions now cover more than five times the territory of the US, but the authors said this good news was often undermined by poor enforcement. Some reserves are little more than “paper parks” with little value to nature conservation. At least one has been turned into an industrial zone.

More than 27m square kilometres of seas (7% of the total) and 20m sq km of land (15% of the total) now have protected status, according to the Protected Planet report, which was released on Sunday at the UN biodiversity conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Read more!