Best of our wild blogs: 3 Jul 15



Corals, mangroves and seagrasses of Pulau Hantu
wild shores of singapore

Win a pair of tickets to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum by voting for your favourite specimen!
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Job Opportunity: Part Time Ushers/Helpers (NUS Students)
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Plant-Bird Relationship: 3. List of Birds
Bird Ecology Study Group

Threatened, Endangered, Going, Gone?
Singapore Bird Group


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Let's go island hopping

Itching for a quick getaway from the city? Forget Batam or Langkawi - LifeWeekend gives you the lowdown on seven of Singapore's idyllic offshore islands.
Gurveen Kaur Straits Times 3 Jul 15;

Join a guided shore walk at Sisters' Islands

Part of Singapore's first marine park which was established last year, Sisters' Islands are turning into a hot spot for the adventurous.

Slots on the National Parks Board's bi-monthly free guided walk to the islands are snapped up quickly after they are released online.

Introduced in August, the three- hour tours give the public a chance to get close to marine wildlife.

The common sea star, blue-spot nudibranch, octopus and five-spot anemone shrimp can be spotted during low tide in the area.

Corals and sponges abound too, such as the mushroom coral and pink puffball sponge.

The walks are planned according to the tides. It is best to visit during low tides of 0.4m and below.

IT manager Andy Lee, 41, attended the tour with two of his sons, aged 12 and 10, last year. He says: "The tour was like an outdoor classroom for my children as they learnt that Singapore is home to all these marine animals that once existed for them only in textbooks."

Dr Lena Chan, director of NPark's National Biodiversity Centre, says more than 1,000 people have participated in the walks.

Tours are capped at 45 people to minimise the impact on the intertidal marine environment.The next available tour date is Sept 2. Registration will open on Aug 1.

Dr Chan says there are plans to restore and enhance other marine habitats such as Changi Beach Park and Labrador Nature Reserve.

Other than during the guided walks, there are no regular ferry services to Sisters' Islands, which are close to 6ha in size combined.

To get there, one can charter a boat from companies such as Singapore Island Cruise operating out of Marina South Pier. Rentals start from $350 for a small boat that can take up to 12 passengers.

Legend has it that the islands were formed out of two orphaned sisters. After a pirate kidnapped the younger sister, the elder one swam after the boat and drowned. Grief- stricken, the younger sister jumped into the sea and drowned too.

The next day, two islands formed at the spot where they died and were henceforth known as Sisters' Islands.

Get rustic on Ubin

Hop on a bumboat from Changi Point ferry terminal and wind up transported to a very different Singapore - where dirt paths lead to hidden shrines and green havens.

Of all the offshore islands, Pulau Ubin is the most self-contained, with facilities catering to visitors and about 40 residents.

Get off the boat ($2.50 for one-way, 15-minute ride), and find yourself on the 10km-sq island where time has seemingly stood still. A handful of provision shops, seafood restaurants and bicycle rental stalls are near the pier.

Rent a bike to ride around for the whole day (from $6; the better quality bicycles, at $8, are recommended). You can also walk around.

Take it slow and you have a greater chance of spotting a monkey gnawing on fruits or a baby wild pig foraging in the forest.

For the adventurous, book a kayaking tour with outdoor adventures agency Asian Detours (www.ubinkayak.com, $74.50 for four hours). Paddle along the coast and enter the mangroves dotting the island.

Nearly every inch of the rustic enclave is covered in greenery. Explore the abandoned granite quarries (Ubin means granite in Malay). At Chek Jawa wetlands, get to know natural habitats including the mangroves, coastal forest and seagrass lagoon.

Take a walk along the coastal and mangrove boardwalks. Sign up for guided tours organised by the National Parks Board and nature groups, such as the Naked Hermit Crabs (nakedhermitcrabs.blogspot.sg). Venture out during low tide in search of marine life, like the knobbly sea star and peacock anemone.

Ubin's rich history lies in wait down sandy lanes. Just before the popular Ketam Mountain Bike Park, on the western end of the island, you will find a mysterious shrine dedicated to a German girl.

Its exact origins are unknown - ask Ubinites and they will say it has been around for decades. It was erected in honour of a nameless German girl said to have fallen to her death off one of the island's cliffs in 1896.

The original ramshackle yellow hut dating back to the 1970s, which housed the urn of the girl, has since been rebuilt into a small brick-and-mortar temple.

Devotees believe the girl's spirit has special powers, which could help them strike it rich, and a few worshippers can be found every now and then at the shrine.

Ubin residents are repositories of such island legends and more.

Ms Ivy Choo, 52, who sells drinks by the road on weekends, has lived on the island all her life. She says: "It's a different feeling here from the city, so take your time exploring. Before you know it, your stress will melt away."

Explore shrines and have a picnic at Kusu

In the ninth lunar month each year, thousands of devotees flock to Kusu Island to pray for good health, prosperity, fertility and happiness.

They make a beeline for the Da Bo Gong Temple, which houses two main Chinese deities: Tua Pek Kong (God of Prosperity) and Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy).

This year, the Kusu Pilgrimage takes place from Oct 13 to Nov 11.

Elsewhere on the island, a 152- step climb leads to three kramats or holy shrines of Malay saints. The site is dedicated to a pious man from the 19th century, Syed Abdul Rahman, his mother and his sister.

Popular among couples hoping to conceive, the shrines have walls filled with scribblings of four-digit numbers by devotees desperate to strike 4D.

Visit the island outside of the pilgrimage period and the 8.5ha island is a quiet refuge.

Kusu Island, which means tortoise island in Hokkien and is home to more than 100 tortoises, is among three islands - including Lazarus and St John's islands - served by a ferry service that is run by Singapore Island Cruise. The ride takes about one hour.

The ferry leaves from Marina South Pier daily. Timings vary, so check the website (www.islandcruise.com.sg) for the schedule.

Several pavilions line Kusu Island. On a Sunday afternoon, fewer than 10 groups of visitors were there. Tourists poke around the religious sites, while couples colonise the most secluded pavilions at the far ends. Families let the children loose in the open space or swimming lagoon.

Beware, though, of the island's monkeys, eager to get their paws on your belongings.

For IT manager Michael Vincent Pozon, 39, who was at the island with his wife and their two children aged nine and six for the first time last Sunday, it makes a good family day-trip destination with its many shelters and benches, and drinks for sale at the temple.

They were at St John's and Lazarus islands earlier in the day. He says: "It's too hot at the beach at Lazarus and there were no facilities. Here at Kusu Island, it is convenient to have a picnic and laze by the lagoon."

Trek nature trails on Sentosa

Ask any Singaporean about Sentosa's attractions and Universal Studios Singapore or Fort Siloso might roll off their tongues.

But ask about Mount Imbiah and Mount Serapong nature reserves and you will likely be met with blank stares.

The two gazetted nature reserves span more than 40ha - making up 10 per cent of Sentosa's total space.

The island is also home to 31 Heritage Trees, a title conferred by NParks on mature trees with historical or ecological significance. Majestic beauties such as the Tembusu and Angsana trees add grandeur to the landscape.

So the next time you head to the island, add a nature trail to your itinerary.

Of the two nature reserves, Mount Imbiah is more accessible and safer to wander into without a guide. The dense foliage at Mount Serapong makes for rough passage, even for the adventurous, and it is best to contact Sentosa if you are keen to test the route at the eastern end of the island.

At Mount Imbiah, visitors can soak up the fresh air under more than 30 species of trees. Examples include the Silverback, named for its leaves with silvery undersides, and the Palaquium obovatum, not found in mainland Singapore, with its leathery leaves and reddish- brown bark.

If you are lucky, you might spy peacocks stealthily crossing pathways or magpie robins rustling the canopy.

At the foot of the nature reserve is a natural spring, Siloso Spring, one of the main water sources supporting plant life on the island.

There are two man-made waterfalls too: Tempinis Cascade and Imbiah Falls.

Along the way, next to the MegaZip Adventure Park, stands a piece of history harking back to the 1880s - the dilapidated Mount Imbiah Battery.

To get to Mount Imbiah, take the Sentosa Express and alight at Imbiah Station. Make your way to Imbiah Lookout.

Or you can also alight at Imbiah Lookout station, part of the new cable-car line, and head towards MegaZip Adventure Park to connect to the Imbiah Trails.

The Sentosa authorities decline to share more on Mount Serapong as they prefer visitors to contact them directly to check out the nature reserve.

Also known as Cement Hill because of its vast concrete surfaces, Mount Serapong once served as a military post in the late 19th century. Traces of gun batteries and underground tunnels still stand.

For senior arborist Daniel Seah, 60, who has worked on Sentosa since 1978, the nature reserves trump the island's more popular man-made sights.

He says: "I like Imbiah Battery and the Alstonia Scholaris heritage tree best, as they bring back memories of my youth when I ventured to places many have not been before."

•Go to www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle for more photos and a video of the offshore islands.

Scuba dive at Hantu

Despite its name, Pulau Hantu, which means "ghost island" in Malay, is far from eerie.

Calm waters, white sand and a rich bounty of coral reefs have made the island an increasingly popular haunt with divers. After all, it is a closer alternative to known diving spots in the region such as Tioman Island and Langkawi.

Founder of marine interest group The Hantu Bloggers, Ms Debby Ng, has been diving in the waters of Pulau Hantu for more than a decade.

Ms Ng, 33, says: "Pulau Hantu is a unique relic of Singapore's natural heritage. Since we began our work in 2003, more people have become interested in the island. We believe that people have not visited our southern shores simply because they did not know they existed."

The group also runs volunteer- guided monthly dive trips to the island that cost $150, excluding dive gear rental. Divers can sign up on its website (www.pulauhantu.sg).

Beneath the murky waters off Pulau Hantu lies more than 100 species of corals, as well as bamboo sharks, clown fishes, sea stars, seahorses and turtles.

For non-divers, the main draw would be a small mangrove area and swimming lagoons. Facilities such as toilets, shelters and picnic areas are available on the island too.

Legend has it that ancient Malay warriors once fought to their deaths on the islands and their ghosts now linger there.

Pulau Hantu is made up of two islets - Hantu Besar (Big Ghost) and Hantu Kecil (Little Ghost). Both have shelters and picnic areas for visitors, while Hantu Besar also has two swimming lagoons and a public toilet with fresh water.

At low tide, it is possible to walk across the lagoon between the two islands and some of the corals can be seen too.

Check the National Environment Agency website for tidal predictions before setting off.

There are no regular ferries to the island so the best way to get there is to hail a boat from West Coast Pier.

Prices vary, depending on the cost of fuel, but expect to pay at least $17 for the 45-minute journey.

The boat will pass through an immigration checkpoint, so identification is required in the form of one's identity card or passport.

You can also charter a boat if you prefer a cushier ride. Prices start from $400 for a boat that can hold up to 12 passengers.

Chill at St John's, Lazarus

Formerly a quarantine centre for cholera-stricken immigrants in the 1870s, St John's Island, 6.5km south of mainland Singapore, has been transformed into a place to escape the city bustle.

With its swaying coconut trees, swimming lagoon and grassy knolls for picnics or beach barbecues, the island - an anglers' favourite - offers a rustic getaway.

To get to the 39ha island, take a ferry from Marina South Pier, which also stops at Kusu Island. A round trip costs $18 for an adult and $12 for a child.

Holiday bungalows and camps are available for those who want to stay overnight. Managed by the Sentosa Development Corporation, a night's stay starts from $53.50 during non-school holidays.

Do not expect first-class amenities at the island, however. The toilets and showers, for example, are spartan.

Connected by a short causeway to St John's Island is Lazarus Island, a hidden oasis for beach junkies.

The beach extends towards the southern end of Seringat Island, although to a visitor's untrained eye, it is one long stretch of sand.

The 47ha island is a 10-minute stroll from St John's. There, young people somersault off yachts docked at sea. Couples snuggle close to each other on the sand. Families with pets in tow gambol on the near pristine sand.

In the late 19th century, the island housed several inmate confinement sheds, only to be abandoned after a prisoner escaped. It is unclear why it was renamed Lazarus Island from Pulau Sakijang Pelepah, or Island of One Barking Deer and Palms.

A regular to the isle is Mr Kevin Steppe, 40, who discovered the sanctum eight years ago when he went for a sail on a friend's yacht. He now sails to the island nearly every month in his sailboat.

The Singapore Management University lecturer, who teaches information systems, says: "My friends and I used to be the only ones here. Nowadays, there are easily 10 other groups on weekends."

According to Sentosa Development, which manages the islands, annual visitorship has doubled since 2010, to 40,000 last year.

Be warned: There are neither toilets nor dustbins in the area, so visit the loo and discard any rubbish at St John's before you stroll to Lazarus Island.

Ms Valencia Chia, 21, who was at Lazarus Island for the first time on Sunday, says it is a better alternative to the beaches on Sentosa or at the East Coast.

The university student, who was there with a friend, says: "It's much more peaceful here as not many people know about it yet."

Her only gripe? "The ferry ticket prices are quite steep, compared with those to Pulau Ubin."

Explore in comfort

Dress comfortably

Keep cool in T-shirts, tank tops and shorts. Take along a cap and sunglasses.

Wear sturdy walking shoes and have a pair of flip-flops for the beach.

Pack the necessities

Take along water, tissue paper, wet wipes and insect repellent . Slap on sunscreen. You may want to pack a picnic basket as with the exception of Pulau Ubin, the islands have few eating stalls.

Plan in advance

Check ferry schedules for trips to and from St John's, Kusu and Lazarus islands to avoid long waits at the pier or being stranded after the last ferry has left. Check the weather forecast before heading out.

Throw a yacht party

Charter a yacht, berth at an island and spend the day there or onboard. Operators that offer charters include SingExperience (yachtrental.com.sg), Yacht Charter Singapore (www.yachtcharter.sg) and MarineBookings (www.marinebookings.com).

Rentals start from $590, depending on the size of the boat (10 to 150 people) and which island you are going to.Some operators offer extras, such as rental of fishing and kayaking gear, or karaoke.


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Choa Chu Kang bird deterrent trial showing positive results: AVA

AVA has been using a gel substance along the ledges of a block of flats in Choa Chu Kang, and it says the gel has been successful in deterring birds from roosting there.
Sara Grosse, Channel NewsAsia 2 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: A trial involving the use of a gel substance to deter birds from roosting has been successful so far, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore on Thursday (Jul 2).

Residents of a block of flats at Choa Chu Kang, where the trial is taking place, are also happy with the current situation, added AVA.

Since February 2015, rows of containers with a gel substance have been placed along the ledges of Block 755, Choa Chu Kang North 5. The gel is made up of a natural extract, meant to deter birds from roosting - which is a common complaint of residents.

There were 100 cases of feedback on bird-related nuisance from the Choa Chu Kang area in 2014, said AVA. But so far this year, AVA received just 10 cases of feedback on bird-related nuisance from Choa Chu Kang.

Said AVA’s Executive Manager of Animal Management (Operations) Department Janet Chia: "When they are going about their night activities, they feel affected by the noise (the birds) are generating. Another thing is that, some of the birds soil the ledges. And it also created a smell nuisance for them."

In May, AVA surveyed residents in the block on the trial. A majority of them found the bird-control method to be effective. Some of them said they want the gel to be a permanent feature.

AVA said it will continue to monitor the trial.

"If it is effective and suitable, in terms of feasibility to deploy at most of the locations with such bird issues, we will work with relevant stakeholders to see how we can deploy this at other sites," said Ms Chia.

AVA said it takes a multi-pronged approach to manage the bird population in Singapore. This means coordinating with Town Councils, Government agencies and the public.

Besides the gel, AVA also uses of a range of measures to address the bird nuisance. These include enforcement against pigeon feeders and selective pruning of trees to temporarily deter birds from roosting.

- CNA/ek


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More streets to go car-free, become temporary public spaces

A new initiative will provide seed funding of up to S$5,000 and support for proposals to turn streets into public spaces.
Channel NewsAsia 2 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: More streets are set to go car-free and be turned into temporary public spaces in a new initiative launched by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Launched on Thursday (Jul 2), the Streets for People initiative will provide support for new proposals to turn streets into public spaces. Successful applicants may receive up to S$5,000 in seed funding, and support such as safety barriers and signage for the car-free zone. URA will also facilitate consultation with relevant government agencies.

Proposals can be submitted for short-term or regular, temporary car-free zones for the community and public to enjoy the public space. They will be assessed on three key criteria - location, timing, and activities. Applicants must also operate or reside within the proposed area and have their plans supported by the local community, URA said.

The weekend car-free zones at Circular Road, Haji Lane and Ann Siang Hill have been a great success, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan noted.

“As the streets get closed off, they come alive with activities: tables and chairs spilling onto the roads, diners enjoying a leisurely cuppa, youngsters hanging out at quirky boutiques, and tourists soaking up another aspect of Singapore,” he wrote in a blogpost.

More communities have been coming forward to initiate similar projects, he said.

Mr Khaw cited a recent community-led initiative at Everton Park, where a quiet back lane was converted into a vibrant street festival. “Many residents were pleasantly surprised to discover the community space and enjoyed many of the activities such as free haircuts, face-painting and kampung games,” he said.

The car-free zones have generally benefited businesses, but they are not without road blocks.

"For it to be closed on weekends - it does help, because it allows higher traffic flow," shared Ms Jamie Lin, owner of The Last Piece, an establishment at Kampong Glam.

The Public House owner Alvin Phua agreed: "It certainly improves the atmosphere, our business and the mood of everybody."

But according to Mr Bryan Foo, head chef at Ramen Bar Suzuki, the lack of parking space can lead to lost business: "Drivers come here for the atmosphere, and when they can't find parking space, they choose to go elsewhere."

Orchard Road is another area that has gone car-free, with its monthly Pedestrian Night now extended till the end of the year. Organisers said that there are lessons to be learnt, as the first six editions created lots of buzz but did not necessarily translate to more sales.

"What we have not done well is to synergise with our in-mall activities, and bring business back to the stakeholders," said Mr Steven Goh, executive director of the Orchard Road Business Association. "There's been feedback that not all our stakeholders benefited from street closure activities like these. So our first six months, we over-planned our activities and didn't synergise with our stakeholders' activities."

The next series of Pedestrian Nights on Orchard Road, which start on Saturday, will focus on highlighting retail deals. Some malls plan to get crowds through the doors by extending business hours, and having pop-up stores. Some business owners have also said they are considering taking their wares to the streets on Pedestrian Night to capitalise on the buzz.

- CNA/cy


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Indonesia: Rampant crime threatens Indonesia's forests

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 3 Jul 15;

Recent data from the government has shown that rampant environmental crime in Indonesia is posing an extraordinary threat to the country’s ecological sustainability.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry revealed on Thursday that it is currently handling 169 cases of environmental crime, spanning from Aceh to Papua and including offences such as illegal logging, wildlife trafficking, poaching and waste dumping.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are still many other cases [unreported or still in process],” the ministry’s law enforcement director-general, Rasio Ridho Sani, told reporters after a press briefing at his office in Jakarta.

Of these 169 cases, 10 of them are administrative, while 25 are disputes and 134 are crimes.

“These numbers do not represent the whole country as this is just the data from seven units out of 77,” Rasio said.

He highlighted some major disputes to demonstrate the sheer volume of state losses caused by environmental crime.

For example, the case of wildfires destroying 20,000 hectares of vegetation at Ogan Komering Ilir regency in South Sumatra, allegedly caused by PT Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH).

The government estimated a Rp 2.7 trillion (US$203 million) loss as a result of the fires and are seeking to be reimbursed, and also demanding that the Palembang state court order the company to rehabilitate the damaged land at an estimated cost of Rp 5.3 trillion. That trial continues.

Forest fires are a major driver of climate change. According to the World Resource Institute (WRI), greenhouse gases (GHGs) from forest and peatland fires in Riau contributed to 27 percent of all GHGs emitted from Indonesia in 2009.

Forestry-related crimes still dominate legal cases handled by the ministry, with 90 cases having occurred from 2014 to 2015, consisting of 59 illegal logging cases, 27 wildlife trafficking cases, 20 encroachment cases, five forest fires and two illegal gold mining cases.

“In terms of progress, there are 34 preliminary investigations going on, 10 full-blown investigations, six cases on trial and eight just completed,” the ministry’s forest security and protection director, Istanto, said on Thursday.

He admitted that many of the verdicts were far below what the ministry aimed for.

An example is the hunting of critically endangered black macaque monkeys, also known as yaki, in North Sulawesi, where 12 monkeys were recently killed.

The small monkey is protected under Law No. 5/1990 on the conservation of natural resources and the ecosystem, yet a penchant for the taste of the yaki’s flesh among the people of North Sulawesi is pushing the protected primate toward extinction.

The population of the crested black macaque is between 4,000 and 5,000 in the province.

“We arrested four people [for hunting and killing the monkeys] and they have been sentenced to one year in prison,” said the head of North Sulawesi Natural Resources Conservation Agency, Sudiyono.

Rasio said that all people, especially law enforcers, needed to understand that these crimes were extraordinary ones.

“Environmental crime involves every kind of crime, from causing state losses to harming people’s wellbeing,” he said. “With the crimes becoming more complex, organized and harmful, we have to prepare more robust law enforcement entities at a regional level. We don’t know the form yet,” he admitted, but said it had to happen.

According to the ministry’s environmental dispute settlement director, Jasmin Ragil Utomo, law enforcement at regional level was still weak because many regional law enforcers are reluctant to file lawsuits in court.

“First, they are reluctant because suing someone costs money. Furthermore, they are confused about where to put the money returned by convictions as it falls into the category of non-tax state income. Regions’ incomes are generally only taxes and fees,” he said on Thursday.

At the moment, agencies handling environmental law violations are still split as regional governments have agencies that handle environment and forestry separately, just like the central government used to have until President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo decided to merge the forestry ministry and the environment ministry last year.

“Now that [that] merger has been finished, we can focus on similar agency mergers at regional level. We have talked with the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry about this plan and hopefully we can execute it this year,” said Rasio.


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CO2 emissions threaten ocean crisis

A major report warns life in the seas will be irreversibly changed unless CO2 emissions from industrial society are drastically cut
Roger Harrabin BBC 3 Jul 15;

Scientists have warned that marine life will be irreversibly changed unless CO2 emissions are drastically cut.

Writing in Science, experts say the oceans are heating, losing oxygen and becoming more acidic because of CO2.

They warn that the 2C maximum temperature rise for climate change agreed by governments will not prevent dramatic impacts on ocean systems.

And they say the range of options is dwindling as the cost of those options is skyrocketing.

Twenty-two world-leading marine scientists have collaborated in the synthesis report in a special section of Science journal. They say the oceans are at parlous risk from the combination of threats related to CO2.

They believe politicians trying to solve climate change have paid far too little attention to the impacts of climate change on the oceans.

It is clear, they say, that CO2 from burning fossil fuels is changing the chemistry of the seas faster than at any time since a cataclysmic natural event known as the Great Dying 250 million years ago.

They warn that the ocean has absorbed nearly 30% of the carbon dioxide we have produced since 1750 and, as CO2 is a mildly acidic gas, it is making seawater more acidic.

It has also buffered climate change by absorbing over 90% of the additional heat created by industrial society since 1970. The extra heat makes it harder for the ocean to hold oxygen.

'Radical change'

Several recent experiments suggest that many organisms can withstand the future warming that CO2 is expected to bring, or the decrease in pH, or lower oxygen… but not all at once.

Jean-Pierre Gattuso, lead author of the study, said: “The ocean has been minimally considered at previous climate negotiations. Our study provides compelling arguments for a radical change at the UN conference (in Paris) on climate change”.

They warn that the carbon we emit today may change the earth system irreversibly for many generations to come.

Carol Turley, of Plymouth Marine Laboratory, a co-author, said: “The ocean is at the frontline of climate change with its physics and chemistry being altered at an unprecedented rate so much so that ecosystems and organisms are already changing and will continue to do so as we emit more CO2.

“The ocean provides us with food, energy, minerals, drugs and half the oxygen in the atmosphere, and it regulates our climate and weather.

“We are asking policy makers to recognise the potential consequences of these dramatic changes and raise the profile of the ocean in international talks where, up to now, it has barely got a mention.”

The scientists say ocean acidification is likely to impact reproduction, larval survival and feeding, and growth rates of marine organisms - especially those with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons.

Dangerous path

The authors say when the multiple stressors work together they occasionally cancel each other out, but more often they multiply negative effects.

The experts say coastal protection, fisheries, aquaculture and human health and tourism will all be affected by the changes.

They warn: “Immediate and substantial reduction of CO2 emissions is required in order to prevent the massive and effectively irreversible impacts on ocean ecosystems and their services”.

Professor Manuel Barange, director of science at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said: “Climate change will continue to affect ocean ecosystems in very significant ways, and society needs to take notice and respond.

“Some ecosystems and their services will benefit from climate change, especially in the short term, but overall the impacts are predominately negative.

“Negative impacts are particularly expected in tropical and developing regions, thus potentially increasing existing challenges in terms of food and livelihood security.

"We are allowing ourselves to travel a uniquely dangerous path, and we are doing so without an appreciation for the consequences that lie ahead."

World must cut pollution to save marine life, study warns
Kerry Sheridan AFP Yahoo News 3 Jul 15;

Miami (AFP) - If left unchecked, global warming will cause irreversible damage to marine life in the world's oceans, forcing fish to search for cooler waters and destroying valuable coral reefs, an international study said Thursday.

Keeping global average temperatures within two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures is the only way to stave off the worst effects of climate change on the Earth's oceans, which provide 90 percent of the planet's habitable space, said the study in the journal Science.

The findings are based on the Ocean 2015 Initiative, which examined the latest studies on how climate change is projected to affect oceans, marine life and hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services they provide each year.

"All the species and services we get from the ocean will be impacted," said co-author William Cheung, associate professor at the University of British Columbia.

The team considered a business-as-usual scenario, and compared that to the effect of introducing big cuts in carbon dioxide emissions in order to keep temperature rise below two degrees Celsius by 2100, as outlined by the Copenhagen accord.

"The condition of the future ocean depends on the amount of carbon emitted in the coming decades," said the study.

"Immediate and substantial reduction of CO2 emissions is required in order to prevent the massive and effectively irreversible impacts on ocean ecosystems and their services that are projected" with business-as-usual scenarios.

Unless changes are made, "fish will migrate away from their current habitats 65 percent faster, resulting in changes to biodiversity and ecosystem functions," said the study, led by Jean-Pierre Gattuso of the French National Center for Scientific Research.

Over time, the ocean will become less capable of absorbing carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

Such pollution leads to rising acidification and harms marine life.

Sea level rise, loss of oxygen in the waters and disease are also top threats linked to pollution.

Even though recent research has suggested certain types of corals may be able to adapt to warming waters, the study said it was "doubtful that corals will be able to adapt quickly enough to maintain populations under most emissions scenarios, especially where temperature keeps increasing over time."

Researchers said their findings should help inform the global climate talks being held in Paris later this year.

According to Phillip Williamson, science coordinator of the UK Ocean Acidification (UKOA) research program, the paper gives a "powerful and succinct summary" of science that is already well known to experts, "but it's good to have the evidence brought together."

Williamson, who was not involved in the study, pointed out that even the two-degree Celsius scenario was not a cure for the world's waters.

"Even the stringent emissions scenario for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is not without risks," he said.

"Knowing that such risks might only be 'moderate' rather than 'severe', still gives considerable cause for concern."

Ocean life facing a corrosive future - new report
IUCN Press Release 2 Jul 15;

The ocean moderates human-induced global warming but at the cost of profound alterations to its physics, chemistry, ecology and ecosystems services. These are the findings of a report published today in Science by the Oceans 2015 Initiative and co-authored by IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Marine Vice Chair, Dan Laffoley.

The report evaluates and compares two scenarios under two potential carbon dioxide emissions pathways over this century. Both carry high risks to vulnerable ecosystems, such as warm-water corals and mid-latitude bivalve species (molluscs), but a business-as-usual scenario was projected to be particularly devastating with a high risk of widespread species mortalities.

Lead author, Jean-Pierre Gattuso, Senior Scientist at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France), hopes that the findings of the report will generate the political will to enforce meaningful cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, stating "The oceans have been minimally considered at previous climate negotiations; our study provides compelling arguments for a radical change at COP21 (the UN climate summit in Paris in December)".

Driven by 40% increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), the oceans have already undergone a series of major environmental changes in terms of ocean warming, ocean acidification and sea level rise. Whilst the report finds that emissions cuts in line with the Copenhagen Accord target of less than 2 degrees temperature rise by 2100 would ensure moderate impacts to all but the most vulnerable of species, failure to achieve this goal would lead to high impacts on all the marine organism groups considered. These include high-value species such as corals and finfish as well as pteropods (shell-bearing zooplankton) and krill that form the base of the oceanic food chain.

The report singles out ocean acidification as one of the highest risks with the biggest impacts; shellfish, corals and zooplankton are particularly at risk. "Signs of ocean acidification have now been detected in both hemispheres," warns Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme. "Once thought to be a problem for the future, acidification is already having economic repercussions today and, if carbon emissions continue to grow, these are set to grow rapidly."
What can be done?

Beyond the stringent emissions cuts needed to meet the Copenhagen Accord target, the authors stress the need for recognition of the ocean's important role in climate regulation and acknowledgement of its particular vulnerability. "Any new climate regime that fails to minimise ocean impacts will be seen as incomplete and inadequate,” says Laffoley. "Implementation of further Marine Protected Area networks and investment in coastal ecosystem restoration are two important ways to ensure the ocean can remain resilient and can continue to regulate the Earth's climate."


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Best of our wild blogs: 2 Jul 15



Checking out Changi
wild shores of singapore

Register for year-round beach cleanups at Changi, East Coast, Pasir Ris and Sembawang with NEA & PHC
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

What is biodiversity and why should we care?
Hantu Blog

Plant-Bird Relationship: 2. List of plants (version 2.0)
Bird Ecology Study Group


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More new plant species could emerge, thanks to Singapore herbarium

Scientists say discoveries of new flora have been possible because of a rich repository of records that sit in a herbarium at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia 2 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) announced the discovery of two new plant species in June, and experts say more species could emerge over the next few years.

This is despite Singapore's tropical flora already being one of the best researched in the world. Scientists have said such discoveries have been possible because of a rich repository of records that sit in a herbarium at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

DISCOVERING NEW SPECIES

NParks' principal researcher of plant taxonomy Dr Jana Skornickova came across what she thought were different species of Hanguanas. But records contradicted her find, as they showed only one species, the Hanguana Malayana, existed. She and her team monitored the Hanguana plants at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve for three more years, until they flowered and bore fruits.

She then compared them to a dried Hanguana fruit specimen kept at the Singapore Botanic Gardens herbarium. The specimen had been collected by the Gardens' first director, Henry Ridley, in 1890.

"This is quite amazing because you can actually do it with the herbarium specimens from Henry Ridley's time,” said Dr Skornickova.

“We soaked specimens from 1890. All you do is take one fruit, put it in room temperature water overnight, and next day, you can easily peel off the pulp, you can take out the seed, excavate the seed because Hanguanas are unique in the plant kingdom by having a bowl shape to almost closed-bowl shape seeds, and you need to dig out the insides of the bowl to see everything. That's when we discovered that seeds are actually quite distinct in different species."

By comparing the seeds, two new Hanguana species were identified - the Hanguana rubinea and the Hanguana triangulata.

Dr Skornickova also realised that even though records stated only one Hanguana species existed before, she said Ridley knew there were more, just that he never got round to working on it. She pointed to a note he made on the specimen record, where he left the name as just Hanguana. The word “Malayana” is thought to have been added by another botanist.

Dr Skornickova said Ridley's records have helped scientists understand the extent of environmental changes in Singapore. Ridley found the species in three different locations. But the two new Hanguana species are now only found at the primary forest in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, which includes a trail along the MacRitchie Reservoir.

Last year, Dr Skornickova also discovered a new ginger species native to Singapore. She said more discoveries are likely as research on flora has now shifted back to alpha-taxonomy, which is the discipline of detecting and classifying new species.

But these discoveries have been made easier, thanks to the herbarium, which houses more than 750,000 dried specimens and 15,000 spirit collections of plants across Southeast Asia.

"Most of the botanists who work in Southeast Asia, they basically cannot skip the Singapore herbarium because of the historical collections here,” said Dr Skornickova. “Everyone who works for almost any plant group needs to refer back to the original materials by Henry Ridley. Basically the researcher has no choice but to come to Singapore. So in that sense, Singapore herbarium is really part of our national heritage."

Dr Skornickova added the herbarium has played a critical role in the understanding of Southeast Asian flora.

- CNA/xq


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Hot in Singapore, but not likely to get hazy for now

Samantha Boh Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Jul 15;

Singapore continues to swelter, with the hot, dry weather showing no signs of letting up.

The total monthly rainfall for this month is predicted to be 15 per cent to 45 per cent below average. Temperatures, on the other hand, are forecasted to be above average. Yesterday, a high of 34 deg C was recorded at Admiralty at 3.36pm.

But the silver lining, experts say, is that with relatively few fires spotted in Indonesia, the haze is unlikely to make a comeback for now.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite images, there were seven hot spots in Sumatra as of yesterday evening.

Isolated hot spots were detected in Borneo and Vietnam.

Residents in Karachi, Pakistan's financial capital, making use of a damaged water pipe to keep cool. A heatwave killed more than 1,000 people and sent 14,000 to hospital last week as temperatures hit 44 deg C, although the worst appears to be over.

Dr Erik Velasco, a research scientist at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology's Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modelling, said the low numbers mean that the risk of transboundary haze here is low.

The 24-hour PSI stood between 56 and 61 as of 8pm yesterday, which puts it in the low-moderate range. It is considered unhealthy when the 24-hour PSI crosses 100.

"And while there was haze in Riau, the wind did not bring it here," he added. A light haze is currently blanketing Dumai and several other cities in Riau .

Yesterday the Jakarta Post reported that poor visibility had disrupted flights at Dumai City's Pinang Kampai Airport over the last three days.

The National Environment Agency said last Friday that there will be an increased risk of transboundary haze here in the coming months, as the weather is expected to be drier and warmer than usual.

This is a result of the strengthening El Nino phenomenon.

Hot days with highs of up to 34°C in first half of July
Today Online 1 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — Expect several warm days with temperatures up to 34°C in the afternoon, thundery showers as well as slight haze in the first half of this month.

Short-duration thundery showers are likely on three to five days, mostly in the late morning and early afternoon, while thundery showers with gusty winds are expected on one or two days in the morning, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) today in its fortnightly outlook.

“Slightly hazy conditions can be expected on a few days, in particular in the early morning, due to the accumulation of particulate matter under light wind conditions,” said the MSS.

On average, the daily maximum temperature for July is 30.9°C, while the daily minimum temperature is 24.6°C.

July typically has the lowest average monthly rainfall each year at 158.6mm, and the rainfall for the first half of this month is likely to be below normal, added the MSS.

Last week, the MSS warned of drier and warmer over the next few months, and a higher possiblity of the haze returning, partly due to El Nino, which are likely to further develop in the months ahead. These conditions are expected to last from June till September or early October,

Last month, dry and warm conditions were experienced on most days, said the MSS. There were thundery showers on several days, with the highest daily total rainfall for June at 69mm on June 16, in the Jurong area. Most parts of Singapore received below-average rainfall. The central and eastern parts of Singapore around Whampoa and Marine Parade, respectively, saw the lowest rainfall recorded.


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Haze back in some parts of Malaysia

The Star 2 Jul 15;

PETALING JAYA: The air quality has wor­sened slightly in some places in Malaysia.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said that places like the Klang Valley and Nilai had moderate air quality due to small fires at local levels during the hot and dry weather.

As of 11am yesterday, the Air Pollution Index (API) of 15 areas recorded good air quality while another 31 areas had moderate air quality, he said in a statement.

“None of the areas recorded unhealthy air quality,” he said.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department said the hazy conditions might worsen in the next two months, if the dry season continued.

“Recent observations show that Malaysia might encounter moderate transboundary haze if the heatwave continues.

Transboundary haze is the movement of haze from one country to another, explains Dr Hisham Mohd Anip, a senior meteorologist from the department’s National Weather Centre.

He said there might be an increase in haze in Malaysia and neighbouring countries, even as far as north Australia, if the dry season progressed.

“Haze is normal in the month of June to August in Malaysia because we are in the southwest monsoon season, which is consi­dered a dry season,” he said.

Observations by the Meteorological Department also indicate that current temperatures are equivalent to a weaker version of the El Nino phenomenon.

“The intensity of this El Nino effect is predicted to increase from weak to moderate so the haze might worsen,” he added.


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Indonesia: Haze disrupts flights at Dumai airport

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 1 Jul 15;

A decrease in visibility due to haze over Dumai city, Riau, has disrupted flight schedules at Pinang Kampai Airport for the last three days.

Airport head Catur Hargowo said that visibility of only 2 kilometers on Tuesday had forced an aircraft operated by Transnusa to postpone landing for about 30 minutes from its scheduled arrival of 8:30 a.m. local time.

“It’s fortunate that the departure scheduled for 9:30 a.m. for the same aircraft was not disrupted by haze,” Catur told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, adding that low visibility only occurred in the morning and normal visibility of 4 kilometers eventually returned later in the day thanks to wind.

The same flight delays also occurred on Monday and Sunday.

“Pilots only take off when the visibility in Pinang Kampai is 4 kilometers as required by the standard operating procedures,” Catur said.

He added that other airports in Pekanbaru and in many major cities in Indonesia could accommodate landing with visibility of only 700 meters because of supporting equipment including runway lights and radar.

In Pinang Kampai, pilots depended only on runway markers and the control tower’s guidance due to the absence of additional equipment, he added.

Catur, however, said that haze had not affected passenger numbers.

He expressed hope that the government would extinguish the land fires soon, both in Dumai and neighboring regencies, so that haze would no longer disrupt flights.

“The haze in the meantime only causes delays, but if nothing is done about it, more serious conditions will prevail next week meaning we may be forced to close down the operation of the airport,” said Catur.

Riau Provincial Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edwar Sanger said that apart from Dumai, mild haze had also affected Pekanbaru, Bengkalis, Pelalawan and Rokan Hilir. The haze also came partly from neighboring provinces.

“Forest and land fires also hit Jambi and South Sumatra provinces. The haze is reaching Riau thanks to the wind,” Edwar said, adding that efforts to extinguish the fires were continuing.

Based on data collected by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Pekanbaru station from the Terra and Aqua satellites, two hotspots were detected in Dumai on Tuesday.

Other hotspots were found in the neighboring regencies of Bengkalis, Siak, Rokan Hilir and Meranti Islands.

“In total there were 45 hotspots across Riau with the biggest number of hotspots of 17 found in Pelalawan regency,” the station’s data and information section head Slamet Riyadi said.

Of the 45 hotspots, Slamet said, 27 were indicated as fire spots with a reliability level of over 70 percent. Of the fire spots, 13 were in Pelalawan, 11 in Bengkalis, two in Dumai and one in Indragiri Hulu.

Slamet blamed the situation on a lack of rain and high air temperatures.

Islands in focus: Air quality, visibility continue to drop in Riau
The Jakarta Post 2 Jul 15;

Haze from land and forest fires in Riau covering the province over the past several days has resulted in declines in air quality and visibility in a number of regions.

On Wednesday, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency’s (BMKG) Pekanbaru station, for example, detected 60 hotspots in nine regencies and municipalities across the province. Visibility in Pekanbaru, the province’s capital city, meanwhile, was recorded at only 1 kilometer, compared to Dumai’s 7 km and Pelalawan and Rengat’s 3 km.

“The drop in visibility in Pekanbaru has been followed by a decline in air quality. The Air Pollution Standard Index (PSI) board in the city shows that the current air quality is categorized as unhealthy, as the index has reached beyond 100 on the pollutant standards index [PSI],” the station’s data and information section head Slamet Riyadi said.

Declining visibility around the Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru on Wednesday morning also led to the rerouting of Citilink flight QG 936 from Jakarta to Pekanbaru to Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Riau Islands.


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Indonesia: Researcher identifies 52 species of reptiles in W Sumatra

Antara 1 Jul 15;

Padang (ANTARA News) - A researcher of reptiles Salvator Fakhrul Reza successfully identified 52 species of reptiles such as snakes, lizards and turtles around Karamuntiang Hills, Padang city, West Sumatra province.

"The 52 species include three orders and 12 families of reptiles," Reza said here on Wednesday.

He mentioned that the three orders of reptiles were lizards (sauria), snakes (serpentes), and turtles (testudines).

Of the 52 species of reptiles identified, as many 32 were serpentes.

Some species included in the order were Sumatran cobra (Naja sumatrana), python (Python reticulatus), and green snake from the Viperidae family, among others.

The second-largest order comprised 15 species of sauria such as geckos, giant geckos, and lizards.

In addition, the testudines order included the two families of Geoemydidae and Trionychidae, Reza stated.

"Besides the reptiles, Karamuntiang Hills has 18 species of frogs, more than 150 species of birds, and 10 species of rodents, as well," he pointed out.

Furthermore, a biologist from Andalas University, Wilson Novarino, noted that apart from the reptiles, the area around Karamuntiang Hills often serves as a resting place for Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris).

During a certain period, he added, the endangered animal often enters the biology forest areas of Andalas University, leaving behind footprints or caught passing by on cameras.
(T.KR-LWA/INE/KR-BSR/B003)


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