Monday, November 28, 2011

Biodiversity hotspot


Biodiversity hotspot
A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region that is both a significant reservoir of biodiversity and is threatened with destruction.

The term biodiversity hotspot specifically refers to 25 biologically rich areas around the world that have lost at least 70 percent of their original habitat.

The remaining natural habitat in these biodiversity hotspots amounts to just 1.4 percent of the land surface of the planet, yet supports nearly 60 percent of the world's plant, bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian.

Hotspot (geology)
In geology, a hotspot is a location on the Earth's surface that has experienced active volcanism for a long period of time.

Hotspots were thought to be caused by a narrow stream of hot mantle convecting up from the mantle-core boundary called a mantle plume, the latest geological evidence is pointing to upper-mantle convection as a cause.

This in turn has re-raised the antipodal pair impact hypothesis, the idea that pairs of opposite hot spots may result from the impact of a large meteor.

Geologists have identified some 40-50 such hotspots around the globe, with Hawaii, Reunion, Yellowstone, Galapagos, and Iceland overlying the most currently active.

Biodiversity or biological diversity is the diversity of life.

There are a number of definitions and measures of biodiversity.

Biodiversity is commonly identified at three levels.

First there is genetic diversity, which is the diversity of genes within a species.

There is a genetic variability among the populations and the individuals of the same species.

Secondly there is species diversity, or diversity among species in an ecosystem.

"Biodiversity hotspots" are excellent examples of species diversity.

Third there is ecosystem diversity, diversity at a higher level of organization, the ecosystem.

This has to do with the variety of ecosystems on Earth.

Conservation biology
Conservation biology is the protection and management of biodiversity that uses principles and experiences from the biological sciences, from natural resource management, and from the social sciences, including economics.

Put another way, conservation biology is the scientific study of the phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biological diversity.

Seedbanks store seeds as a source for planting in case seed reserves elsewhere should be destroyed

Old-Growth Rainforests Must Be Saved for Tropical Biodiversity

Recent studies on man-made impacts- the main causes of tropical forests degradation leading to a marked decrease in biodiversity in affected areas. The following report was featured in SCIENCE DAILY. (Greensleeves)


ScienceDaily (Sep. 14, 2011)

A team of researchers from Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, the UK and the USA has carried out a comprehensive assessment to estimate the impact of disturbance and land conversion on biodiversity in tropical forests. In a recent study published in Nature, they found that primary forests -- those least disturbed old-growth forests -- sustain the highest levels of biodiversity and are vital to many tropical species.

Rampant rates of logging and agricultural expansion have transformed the world's tropical forests, leaving little remaining primary forests unaltered by humans. The value of these rapidly expanding degraded and converted forest landscapes is hotly debated, and was the subject of the study.

"Some scientists have recently argued that degraded tropical forests support high levels of biodiversity," says Luke Gibson, the lead author from the National University of Singapore (NUS). "Our study demonstrates that this is rarely the case," he adds.

Drawing on information from 138 scientific studies spanning 28 tropical countries, Gibson and his colleagues compared biodiversity in primary forests to that in regenerating forests and forests degraded by logging and converted to agriculture. Overall, biodiversity values were substantially lower in disturbed forests.

"There's no substitute for primary forests," says Gibson. "All major forms of disturbance invariably reduce biodiversity in tropical forests," he adds.

Selective logging, in which machinery is used to extract a limited number of trees from the forest, appears to be the least harmful human disturbance. "As selective logging is rapidly expanding throughout the tropics, ecological restoration of such areas might represent an effective strategy to alleviate threats to biodiversity," says Lian Pin Koh of ETH Zurich.

Parks, however, will remain a critical conservation strategy in protecting the world's remaining primary tropical forests. "We urgently need to expand our reserves and improve their enforcement," says Tien Ming Lee, co-lead author at the University of California, San Diego. "Effective reserves have the added benefit of reducing overall carbon emissions," adds Lee.

However, many of these tropical parks are far from secure. "A growing number of reserves are being degraded, downsized, if not entirely degazetted, so holding on to the last remaining large tracts of primary forests within existing reserves will be a crucial part of the conservation mission this century," says Carlos Peres of the University of East Anglia.

Compared to Africa and the Americas, the authors found that tropical forests in Asia suffered the greatest loss in biodiversity. "Southeast Asia, representing most of the Asian studies, emerged as a conservation hotspot and must be one of our top priority regions," suggests Lee. Not surprisingly, Southeast Asia has the lowest remaining forest cover, highest rates of deforestation, and the highest human population densities among all major tropical regions.

This study was initiated by the late Professor Navjot Sodhi, a conservation ecologist at NUS, who devoted his career to studying the biodiversity crisis in Southeast Asia and around the planet.

With the global population projected to surpass 9 billion by 2050, tropical forests will face increasing threats posed by human-driven land-use changes. "Human populations are exploding and very few areas remain untouched by the expanding horizon of human impacts," says Gibson, who was mentored by Professor Sodhi. "It is therefore essential to limit the reach of humans and to preserve the world's remaining old-growth rainforests while they still exist. The future of tropical biodiversity depends on it," he concludes.

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Major Ecological Study On Borneo's Deforested Landscapes Launched

Science Daily featured the following report on one of the world's largest ecological studies in the rainforest state of Sabah in Malaysia....


ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2011)
A giant-scale experiment on deforestation, biodiversity and carbon cycling has got underway in the spectacular forests of Sabah, a Malaysian state on the tropical southeast Asian island of Borneo. Scientists hope the results will help guide the management and conservation of remaining rainforests in tropical Asia.

One of the largest ecological studies in the world, encompassing 8000 hectares (an area larger than Manhattan), the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project is led by researchers at Imperial College London and was officially launched this week by the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Over the next ten years, scientists from Malaysia and the UK will be studying how deforestation and forest fragmentation alter the ability of this tropical landscape to support a unique diversity of life. They will also be investigating the impact of agricultural development on the ecosystem's ability to absorb carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas. This is the first time an experiment of this magnitude, nature and influence has been attempted, more than doubling the size of previous experiments conducted over the last 30 years.

The SAFE Project involves distinguished researchers from Imperial, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. It is supported by the UK Royal Society's South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) and a generous donation of 30 million Malaysian ringgit (about £6.1 million) from the Sime Darby Foundation in Malaysia.

Project leader, Dr Robert Ewers, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London said: "The potential impact of the SAFE Project is global and far-reaching. The findings of this study will help scientists to design landscapes that maintain agricultural production at least cost to biodiversity."

In an area that has been gazetted for conversion to plantation for the last 20 years, the scientists will take advantage of a planned and government-approved oil palm conversion to make experimental changes to the forest, among the world's most biodiverse tropical ecosystems, to create a fragmented forest that closely resembles recently developed land.

Professor Andrew Balmford from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge said: "The end goal we are aiming for is to understand how a tropical rainforest functions, and how that functioning changes when you place the forest under pressure from humans. We can get answers to these questions by controlling how exactly the forest is disturbed, under experimental conditions. Careful observation of how the ecosystem becomes disrupted when it is damaged will tell us a tremendous amount about how it functions when it is left alone."

The SAFE Project consists of four interconnected projects. The first of these will scrutinise differences in ecosystem function and species' persistence in the forest as it is incrementally damaged by light and heavy logging, becomes fragmented, and is eventually converted into an oil palm plantation.

The second will investigate how managed deforestation, which often leaves isolated fragments of forest of different sizes and in different locations within a plantation, can be designed to minimise the ecological damage caused by converting forests to agriculture.

A third is focussed on the role of forest fragments in protecting water supplies and biodiversity in the streams that pass through forests and plantations.

And the fourth project will quantify how the carbon cycle of the forest changes as it is converted and fragmented, and how the resilience of this carbon cycle to climate change can be maximised.

Professor Yadvinder Malhi, Director of the Centre for Tropical Forests at the University of Oxford said:
"The concept of a 'natural ecosystem' is fast disappearing in many regions of the tropics as humans modify the world at an
ever-accelerating rate, meaning much of the forest biodiversity and ecosystem services must now persist and be protected in human-modified landscapes. The SAFE Project is conducting one of the world's largest ecological experiments to understand the myriad ways in which logging, deforestation and forest fragmentation cause release of greenhouse gases, and modify the functioning and climate sensitivity of remaining tropical rainforest. How can we maximise the carbon retention and climate benefits of remaining tropical forests in a human-modified landscape, benefits we urgently need to maintain in our struggle to avoid dangerous climate change?"

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

How to discuss climate change with your uncle during the holidays

If your holiday dinner conversation turns into a debate over global warming, here are a few tips for staying cool while standing up for science.

Most people know better than to bring up politics, religion or climatology in polite company. It's a recipe for arguments, or at least for awkwardness.

But when families get together for big holiday meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas, that recipe is often dusted off anyway. And whether it's your nephew demonizing the Tea Party, your niece deifying Tim Tebow, or your aunt and uncle arguing about polar bears, no one wants squabbling to overshadow gobbling at a holiday feast.

Still, not all taboo topics are the same. Fuzzier issues like politics and religion are often sensitive, since they're largely matters of opinion and faith. But climate science is a little different, thanks to the "science" part. It's one thing to bite your tongue while a relative rants about taxes or morality, but what if the conversation turns to coral bleaching or glacier loss? Is it worth risking an argument to set the record straight?

In most cases, probably not. It's not like your relative is addressing the United Nations, and you might just come off as uptight and self-righteous for trying to squelch dissent. If your uncle had two glasses of wine and wants to grumble about Al Gore, you're probably better off letting him. Otherwise, you could just end up convincing him even further that environmentalists want to control his life.

But that's not to say you should never speak up for science at family gatherings. Polite enlightenment is possible; it just requires being knowledgeable and confident without seeming nitpicky or condescending. And even if you can do that, it still depends on your audience, which may have little patience for a science lesson.

If you decide it's worth the risks, though — maybe your uncle can be open-minded, or you know your cousin will back you up — here's a quick guide for explaining climate change without raining on everyone's parade:

1. Don't blow hot air: Whether you're debating your uncle or a stranger, it helps to know what you're talking about. Doing your homework will help ensure you always have a response ready without resorting to hyperbole. Below are a few examples of claims you might hear from a climate-change denier, along with a rebuttal to each (and links to more comprehensive lists). If you want a cheat sheet, consider printing out this guide or loading it on your smartphone for easy reference.

•"There's no evidence of global warming, and computer models are unreliable."
Scientists don't need computer models to tell them global warming is under way. For that, they can look to surface-temperature records, satellite data, ice-sheet borehole analysis, measurements of sea-level rise and sea-ice extent, and observations of permafrost loss and glacier melting. Computer models are helpful for predicting future climate patterns, and they're becoming increasingly accurate, but they're hardly the only evidence we have.

•"Global temperatures stopped rising in 1998."
This argument has lost some steam lately, especially since 2005 and 2010 tied as the hottest years on record. But it was never very convincing to begin with, since it implies that only a linear year-to-year rise indicates a trend. 1998 was hot, but it's considered an outlier because a strong El Niño skewed it even hotter. This graph shows yearly variability of global temperature anomalies (thin line) as well as as the "smoothed" average (bold line) from 1880 to 2010:

•"Glaciers are actually growing."
There are about 160,000 glaciers on Earth, and since scientists can't monitor them all collectively, they study groups of "reference glaciers." According to the World Glacier Monitoring Service, the average reference glacier has lost 12 meters (39 feet) of water-equivalent thickness since 1980. Some glaciers are stable, and a few are even growing, but many that provide key freshwater supplies are melting at an alarming rate. As glaciologist Bruce Molnia told MNN in 2010, warming affects low-elevation glaciers first, since temperatures are cooler in the mountains. "The lower the elevation of origin, the more dire the time period when the glacier will be affected," Molnia said.

•"The climate has changed before, so we can't be blamed for changing it now."
Earth's climate has changed lots of times without human help, but does that really mean humans are incapable of changing it? As Skeptical Science points out, that's "like arguing that humans can't start bushfires because in the past they've happened naturally." When the climate changed eons ago, it was because something made it change — extra sunshine warmed it up, volcanic clouds cooled it down. We know carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, and we're now releasing those gases at a record pace. And the main problem is that modern-day climate change is happening faster than in the past, potentially outpacing some species' ability to adapt.

•"Global warming is good for humans."
CO2 does help plant growth, and warmer weather can initially boost crops in northern regions. But this view ignores widespread, long-term dangers in favor of scattered, short-term benefits. Climate change encourages extreme weather — including longer droughts in some places and bigger storms in others — that can decimate crops, and it also helps some pests expand their range. Global warming poses too many threats to list here, but they include: the loss of fisheries and marine ecosystems to ocean acidification; the loss of coastal communities to rising seas; the loss of freshwater supplies due to melting glaciers; and increased conflict due to droughts, floods and famine.

For a full list of responses to these and other climate claims, check out this 2009 report by the University of Oregon's Climate Leadership Initiative, this guide for "How to talk to a climate skeptic" by journalist Coby Beck, and this list of arguments and myths by Skeptical Science. A wealth of information about climate change can also be found at NOAA's as well as and

2. Don't be insulting:
There's no going back from ad hominem attacks. Don't treat your uncle like he's dumb, and don't be rude or condescending. Admit it when you don't know something; give your uncle credit when he's right. This will help your credibility, and maybe even help prevent a holiday fracas with your family.

3. Cite your sources:
No one expects you to bring a bibliography to Thanksgiving but it would help if you could at least rattle off a few reputable sources of your information. That shouldn't be too hard, since most major scientific organizations around the world have reached a consensus that global warming is real and human activity contributes to it. NOAA, NASA and the EPA are good places to start, as is the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which, coincidentally, is holding a big climate summit next week in South Africa). Be respectful of your uncle's sources, too, but if he brings up "Climategate," feel free to point out it's been debunked.

(UPDATE: As MNN's Karl Burkart reports, a new campaign dubbed "Hackergate" has just surfaced two years after Climategate. Nothing revelatory has emerged from the newly leaked emails so far, but if your uncle wants to press the issue, just remind him that climate change has been confirmed by far more scientists than the ones who wrote these emails — and they haven't actually been discredited, either.)

4. Don't mix science and politics:
Climate change will never be solved without broad, coordinated political action, but that doesn't mean it needs to start at your dinner table. Opposition to climate science is largely born from deeply entrenched political attitudes about government regulation, so subjects like cap and trade are often even more sensitive than the polar ice caps. Try to keep the conversation light-hearted, or at least civil, and steer it away from politics if you can.

5. Take a break:
Your family is a captive audience during a holiday meal, so don't bore them with endless bickering. Even if your uncle wants to keep debating solar flares and the heat-island effect, spare your relatives and suggest continuing the discussion later, maybe via email so you can both provide links to your sources.

However you decide to handle a climate-change denier at the dinner table, don't forget the reason you're both sitting there. Holiday meals are a celebration of family and friends, and you shouldn't let a scientific debate kill the good vibes. It's a smart strategy to apply elsewhere, too — if you can explain global warming without losing your cool, you might give environmentalists everywhere something to be thankful for.

For a more detailed read on the above:

A Fifth of Global Energy Could Come from Biomass Without Damaging Food Production

ScienceDaily (Nov. 25, 2011) — A new report suggests that up to one fifth of global energy could be provided by biomass (plants) without damaging food production.

The report reviews more than 90 global studies. It has been produced by the Technology and Policy Assessment function of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), which addresses key controversies in the energy field, and aims to provide authoritative and accessible reports that set very high standards for rigour and transparency.

A debate has been raging about the role biomass could play in the future energy system: some say it could play a major role in fuelling the planet, others argue it risks an environmental disaster. To get to the heart of the controversy, UKERC scientists at Imperial College London have undertaken the first systematic review of the evidence base.

The report finds that the main reason scientists disagree is that they make different assumptions about population, diet, and land use. A particularly important bone of contention is the speed with which productivity improvements in food and energy crop production can be rolled out.

"If we make the best use of agricultural residues, energy crops and waste materials then getting one fifth of current global energy supply from biomass is a reasonable ambition," says Dr Raphael Slade, the report's lead author and a Research Fellow at Imperial College London. The report finds that getting more than this is technically possible but requires assumptions about food production and changes in diets that look increasingly challenging, especially as people in Asia and Latin America begin to adopt a high meat western diet as incomes rise.

"The more bio-energy you want the harder it becomes to reconcile demand for food, energy and environmental protection" says Slade. Replacing all fossil fuels with biomass would be equivalent to all of global agriculture and commercial forestry combined, and would only be possible if we can grow more food on less land.

Technical advances could be the least contentious route to increased bio-energy production, but policy will need to encourage innovation and investment. A renewed focus on increasing food and energy crop yields could deliver a win-win opportunity as long as it is done without damaging soil fertility or depleting water resources. The report highlights the potential for policy to promote learning by encouraging development of sustainable biomass now, rather than waiting for the definitive answer on the ultimate potential.

"The main mistake is to think of this as all or nothing. There's plenty of scope for experimentation to make sure we get it right," says Dr Slade.

Energy is an essential input into global agriculture, and the interactions between these two areas need to be better understood. The report stresses the need for scientists working on food and agriculture to work more closely with bio-energy specialists to address challenges such as water availability and environmental protection. If biomass is required to play a major role in the future energy system the linkages between bio-energy and food production will become too important for either to be considered in isolation.

Bioenergy may need to play a part in a future low carbon energy mix," says Dr Ausilio Bauen, Head of Bioenergy at Imperial College's Centre for Energy Policy and Technology. "Ensuring bio-energy, food and forests don't compete for land won't be straightforward. But, if we use land more productively, and make better use of available plant material, we should be perfectly capable of producing bio-energy, feeding a growing population, and conserving the environment all at the same time."

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Friday, November 18, 2011

World's oceans in peril

Climate change is causing our oceans to become increasingly acidic, threatening to alter life as we know it. - Dahr Jamail
Source : Aljazeera (dated 16th Nov, 2011)

"From a climate change/fisheries/pollution/habitat destruction point of view, our nightmare is here, it's the world we live in."

This bleak statement about the current status of the world's oceans comes from Dr Wallace Nichols, a Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences. Al Jazeera asked Dr Nichols, along with several other ocean experts, how they see the effects climate change, pollution and seafood harvesting are having on the oceans.

Their prognosis is not good.

Dr Nancy Knowlton is a marine biologist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Her research has focused on the impact of climate change on coral reefs around the world, specifically how increasing warming and acidification from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have affected oceans.

While she is unable to say if oceans have crossed a tipping point, Dr Knowlton offered this discouraging assessment, "We know it's bad and we know it's getting worse, and if we care about having coral reefs, there's no question we have to do something about CO2 emissions or we won't have coral reefs, as we do now, sometime between 2050-2100."

Since at least one quarter of all species of life in the oceans are associated with coral reefs, losing them could prove catastrophic.

"Coral reefs are like giant apartment complexes for all these species, and there is intimacy," Dr Knowlton explained. "If that starts breaking down, these organisms, which include millions of species around the world, lose their homes. Even if they aren't eating coral, they depend on it."

CO2 is the main greenhouse gas resulting from human activities in terms of its warming potential and longevity in the atmosphere, and scientists continually monitor its concentration.

In March 1958, when high-precision monitoring began, atmospheric CO2 was 315.71 parts per million (ppm). Today, atmospheric CO2 is approaching 390 ppm.

350 ppm is the level many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments say is the safe upper limit for CO2 in the atmosphere.

"You see evidence of the impact of climate change on the oceans everywhere now," Dr Nichols said. "The collapsing fisheries, the changes in the Arctic and the hardship communities that live there are having to face, the frequency and intensity of storms, everything we imagined 30 to 40 years ago when the environmental movement was born, we're dealing with those now … the toxins in our bodies, food web, and in the marine mammals, it's all there."

Bleak scenario
The Zoological Society of London reported in July 2009 that "360 is now known to be the level at which coral reefs cease to be viable in the long run."

In September 2009 Nature magazine stated that atmospheric CO2 levels above 350 ppm "threaten the ecological life-support systems" of the planet and "challenge the viability of contemporary human societies."

In their October 2009 issue, the journal Science offered new evidence of what the earth was like 20 million years ago, which was the last time we had carbon levels this high. At that time, sea levels rose over 30 metres and temperatures were as much as 18 degrees C higher than they are today.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, carbon emissions have already risen "far above even the bleak scenarios."

Oceans absorb 26 per cent (2.3bn metric tonnes) of the carbon human activities released into the atmosphere annually, according to a 2010 study published by Nature Geocience and The Global Carbon Project.

Unfortunately, global carbon emissions, rather than slowing down in order to stem climate change, are continuing to increase.

At a 2008 academic conference Exeter University scientist Kevin Anderson showed slides and graphs "representing the fumes that belch from chimneys, exhausts and jet engines, that should have bent in a rapid curve towards the ground, were heading for the ceiling instead".

He concluded it was "improbable" that we would be able to stop short of 650 ppm, even if rich countries adopted "draconian emissions reductions within a decade".

That number, should it come to pass, would mean that global average temperatures would increase five times as much as previous models predicted.

According to the National Climate Data Centre in the US 2010 was the warmest year on record. September 2011 was the 8th warmest September on record since 1880. At 15.53°C, August's global temperature is 0.53 C higher than the 20th Century average for that month.

Even if CO2 emissions were completely stopped immediately, ongoing impacts from climate change would take centuries to stop.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a study in 2009 showing that a new understanding of ocean physics proved that "changes in surface temperature, rainfall, and sea level are largely irreversible for more than a thousand years after carbon dioxide emissions are completely stopped".

Increasing acidification
Many factors concern Knowlton and Nichols, but one in particular, the increasing acidification of the oceans has been gaining more attention as of late.

Historically, oceans have been chemically constant, but less than 10 years ago oceanographers were shocked when researchers noticed the seas were acidifying - 30 per cent more acidic - as they absorbed more of the carbon dioxide humans have emitted into the atmosphere, a process that Britain's Royal Society has described as "essentially irreversible."

The oceans are already more acidic than they have been at any time in the last 800,000 years. At current rates, by 2050 it will be more corrosive than they have been in the past 20 million years.

Acidification occurs when CO2 combines with seawater to form carbonic acid.

Sarah Cooley, a marine geochemist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, wrote this about acidification:

"As CO2 levels driven by fossil fuel use have increased in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, so has the amount of CO2 absorbed by the world's oceans, leading to changes in the chemical make-up of seawater. Known as ocean acidification, this decrease in pH creates a corrosive environment for some marine organisms such as corals, marine plankton, and shellfish that build carbonate shells or skeletons."

Already ocean pH has slipped from 8.2 to 8.1, and the consensus estimate is that the pH will drop to 7.8 by the end of this century.

Acidification has been the research focus of biological oceanographer Dr Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez with the National Oceanography Centre at Britain's University of Southampton. She has researched how phytoplankton, which are the major contributors to sinking carbon in the oceans, are able to absorb carbon now and into the future when human impact on the atmosphere is changing the chemistry of the oceans and how this will affect the oceans ability to sink carbon in the future.

"The oceans are becoming more alkaline now and this will affect marine life and marine animals and plants," Iglesias-Rodriguez told Al Jazeera. "The chalk producing calcifying organisms are introducing chalk into these increasingly acidic conditions, and it is dissolving."

These chalk produced by these organisms traps and stores carbon, so when increasing acidification decreases the amount of calcium carbonate, it decreases the ocean's ability to store carbon.

"Calcification affects fisheries because many fish's diet is based on these organisms, so this has food security impacts as well," added Iglesias-Rodriguez. "The changes we are seeing now are happening faster than they have for 55 million years. The worry is that these organisms may not be able to keep up with these changes."

In this kind of environment, shellfish cannot produce thick enough shells. By 2009, the Pacific oyster industry was reporting 80 per cent mortality for oyster larvae due to the corrosive nature of the water.

"Acidification has the potential to change food security around the world, so I think it's incumbent upon the entire world to recognise this and deal with it," Cooley told Al Jazeera.

Cooley said that less developed countries that are more dependent on seafood will have less to eat as acidification progresses, and they will be forced to migrate somewhere where there is a better food supply.

Further complicating the situation, rising sea levels, also caused by climate change, will affect migration patterns from island nations as well.

In addition to food security issues, increasing acidification will also cause coral reefs to be degraded, which will affect tourism, coastal protection, and heritage values of coastal regions.

Prof Matthias Wolff is a fisheries biologist and marine ecosystem ecologist working for Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology, as well as a research professor and professor at university of Bremen, Germany.

"Plankton, organisms that produce much of the carbon in the sea and coral, are dying off," he told Al Jazeera. "So people believe that CO2 level may double from the pre-human times to more than 400-500 ppm by the end of the century, which would be a unique situation in history. This would have a tremendous effect on these organisms that would affect the whole ecosystem."

Cooley points out that while some species will benefit from increasing acidification, others like corals and molluscs will suffer, along with others that are pH sensitive that cannot control their intercellular biology as well.

"We think there will be shifts in ecosystems, and the current array of species present in an ecosystem is going to shift and there will likely be a new dominant species," she said. "Past studies have shown us that any real decrease in species in an ecosystem can be a bad thing. On land, we see that monoculture fields are really susceptible to a virus or bug. So if acidification decreases diversity, it creates a less stable system in the future. We're anticipating, if things go as they are going now, we really could be seeing some profound shifts in what we know and what we currently benefit from."

Myriad problems
In addition to climate change and acidification, there are many other problems that concern scientists as well.

"Probably every sea turtle on the planet interacts with plastic at some point in its life" [GALLO/GETTY]

"Marine pollution, this is a big issue," Dr Iglesias-Rodriguez said, "There is this idea that oceans have unlimited inertia, but the effect of nano-particles of plastic getting into marine animals and the food chain and these are affecting fish fertility rates, and this effects food security, and on coastal populations. Pollution is having a huge impact on the oceans, and is urgent and needs to be dealt with."

Dr Nichols describes the crisis of the oceans as a three-fold problem.
"We're putting too much in, in all forms of pollution, we're taking too much out by fishing, overfishing, and bi-catch, and we're destroying the edge of the ocean - these places where there is the most biodiversity like reefs, mangroves, sea grass, etc."

Nichols said he finds plastic on literally every beach he visits across the globe, and added, "Probably every sea turtle on the planet interacts with plastic at some point in its life."

Nichols believes that, rather than the polar bear, sea turtles should be the "poster species" for climate change.

"The sex of sea turtles is temperature dependent, so as temperature warms more males are produced, cooling produces more females, and obviously you need the right mix to maintain numbers," he explained, "We're seeing some eggs literally cooking on beaches now because the temperature has moved out of the tolerable range."

Prof Wolff explained another issue complicating the situation.

"The oceans warm up, and this affects spatial distribution of fish," he explained, "Those needing colder waters need to migrate and change the distribution, other fish can extend their distribution greatly when the water warms, so now they can reach polar regions where they weren't before. So there is a great change in distributional patterns of the resources of the fisheries to be expected in the future."

Wolff points to Greenland fisheries as an example of how an area warms up, there are longer periods for fish production, while in other areas like Brazil and Indonesia, productive areas are shrinking and there will be a great decrease in fishing potential.

"This is already happening," said Wolff.

Dr Knowlton is concerned about how increasing ocean temperatures are causing the bleaching of coral reefs.

Bleaching causes a lot of problems for corals, because if it's severe and prolonged the algae starves to death because the amount of nutrition coral needs is not there," she said. "The 1998 El Nino bleached 80 per cent of the corals in the Indian Ocean and 20 per cent of them died."

She is concerned by the fact that high temperature events like the 1998 El Nino are becoming increasingly common, and added, "We've been having bleaching for close to 30years now."

Like others, Knowlton sees poor water quality from pollution, overfishing and other problems that are causing ocean conditions to become increasingly unfavourable for corals.

She believes if there is not a major shift to correct the pollution problem, the next 10 years are going to be bleak.

"Increasing numbers of dead zones and collapsing fisheries," Knowlton says is what we can expect, "Then ultimately the collapse of these deep ecosystems that are dependent on things like coral reefs."

Despite these grave concerns, Knowlton feels there is something that can be done.

"Even though the long term prognosis with business as usual is pretty grim, we know there are smaller areas where reefs are protected and those are very healthy, and we can reduce local stresses and that builds resilience in ecosystems."

Prof Wolff pointed out that, while more than 75 per cent of fish stocks are overfished or already depleted, there are a number around the globe that are regenerating.

"Increasing numbers of dead zones and collapsing fisheries," Knowlton says is what we can expect, "Then ultimately the collapse of these deep ecosystems that are dependent on things like coral reefs."

"In 2009 we saw that more than 50 per cent of overfished areas are being rebuilt because they responded to the situation of heavy over-exploitation, so I'm a little more optimistic than many other scientists. By reducing fishing, we can allow the stocks to rebuild."

But he believes that in order for this to happen, we need to create more protected areas in the oceans.

According to Wolff, roughly 10 per cent of our lands are protected, but far less than 1 per cent of oceans are protected.

"We need to aim for 10 to 20 per cent of oceans being protected, because that is what is needed to maintain ecosystem functioning and to rebuild the stocks," he said.

Wolff has been working in the Galapagos Islands on conservation, and cites them as an example of what can happen with protected areas, since there has been no fishery there since 1998.

"If you go diving there you see an abundance of large fish and sharks, which I've never seen anywhere else, you see 200 to 300 sharks in one dive," he said. "To me, this is a promising example of the way we need to go. We need more money for this than for subsidies for fisheries, which is ridiculous. Right now, they are getting as much money as we'd need to manage protected areas of 15 per cent of the oceans."

Nichols believes it is no longer about trying to avert disaster, but more along the lines of mitigating the problems that are already upon us.

"I think we're in it right now," he said, "So it's not about, here's how much time we have. The clock in many ways has already run out. We're still growing our use of fossil fuels, we're not even in a mode of trimming them down, same with our use of plastic and the plastic pollution generated from it. There's more conversation about this than ever, but it's not translating into societal change or evolution."

Nichols makes his point by way of example of ocean types.

"If ocean 1.0 is the pristine natural ocean, 2.0 is the ocean we have now under the petroleum product regime of 100 years of use, and 3.0 is the future ocean," he said. "It can either be a dead ocean, or we can come up with some very innovative solutions that right now people aren't even talking about."

He said we can come up with new ways of getting food from the oceans that don't involve long line fishing and bottom trawling, as well as eliminating packaging and taking a zero-waste approach to consumer goods, both of which he says are possible, "if we can muster the political and personal motivation."

"We could have a healthy ocean in 50 years if we make some bold moves, it wouldn't be 1.0 or 2.0, but it would be a cleaner from a more responsible set of actions for how we get energy from the oceans and how we use them as a source of food."

If that is not done, then we most likely will face a future predicted in a 2008 report co-authored by NASA's James Hansen, a leading climate scientist, titled, Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?

"Humanity today, collectively, must face the uncomfortable fact that industrial civilisation itself has become the principal driver of global climate," reads the report, "If we stay our present course, using fossil fuels to feed a growing appetite for energy-intensive lifestyles, we will soon leave the climate of the Holocene, the world of prior human history. The eventual response to doubling pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 likely would be a nearly ice-free planet, preceded by a period of chaotic change with continually changing shorelines."

Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Climate Change Causing Massive Movement of Tree Species Across the West

The following report from SCIENCE DAILY keeps tabs on the devastating effects of climate change on the habitats of both flora and fauna on planet earth. Is there no end to the onslaught that is endangering their natural habitats resulting in our wildlife to continue dwindling in numbers and facing total disappearance in the very near future? Can we make a difference and bring about a change in the way we live our lives and in the ways we treat our forests and environment? (GREENSLEEVES)

Here's the research report in full:

ScienceDaily (Nov. 3, 2011)
— A huge "migration" of trees has begun across much of the West due to global warming, insect attack, diseases and fire, and many tree species are projected to decline or die out in regions where they have been present for centuries, while others move in and replace them.

In an enormous display of survival of the fittest, the forests of the future are taking a new shape.

In a new report, scientists outline the impact that a changing climate will have on which tree species can survive, and where. The study suggests that many species that were once able to survive and thrive are losing their competitive footholds, and opportunistic newcomers will eventually push them out.

In some cases, once-common species such as lodgepole pine will be replaced by other trees, perhaps a range expansion of ponderosa pine or Douglas-fir. Other areas may shift completely out of forest into grass savannah or sagebrush desert. In central California, researchers concluded that more than half of the species now present would not be expected to persist in the climate conditions of the future.

"Some of these changes are already happening, pretty fast and in some huge areas," said Richard Waring, professor emeritus at Oregon State University and lead author of the study. "In some cases the mechanism of change is fire or insect attack, in others it's simply drought.

"We can't predict exactly which tree (species) will die or which one will take its place, but we can see the long-term trends and probabilities," Waring said. "The forests of our future are going to look quite different."

Waring said tree species that are native to a local area or region are there because they can most effectively compete with other species given the specific conditions of temperature, precipitation, drought, cold-tolerance and many other factors that favor one species over another in that location.

As those climatic conditions change, species that have been established for centuries or millennia will lose their competitive edge, Waring said, and slowly but surely decline or disappear.

This survey, done with remote sensing of large areas over a four-year period, compared 15 coniferous tree species that are found widely across much of the West in Canada and the United States. The research explored impacts on 34 different "eco-regions" ranging from the Columbia Plateau to the Sierra Nevada, Snake River Plain and Yukon Highlands.

It projected which tree species would be at highest risk of disturbance in a future that's generally expected to be 5-9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by 2080, with perhaps somewhat more precipitation in the winter and spring, and less during the summer.

Among the findings:
•Some of the greatest shifts in tree species are expected to occur in both the northern and southern extremes of this area, such as British Columbia, Alberta, and California.

•Large declines are expected in lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruce, and more temperate species such as Douglas-fir and western hemlock may expand their ranges.

•Many wilderness areas are among those at risk of the greatest changes, and will probably be the first to experience major shifts in tree species.

•Some of the mild, wetter areas of western Oregon and Washington will face less overall species change than areas of the West with a harsher climate.

•More than half of the evergreen species are experiencing a significant decrease in their competitiveness in six eco-regions.

•Conditions have become more favorable for outbreaks of diseases and insects.

•Warming will encourage growth at higher elevations and latitudes, and increased drought at the other extremes. Fire frequency will continue to increase across the West, and any tree species lacking drought resistance will face special challenges.

"Ecosystems are always changing at the landscape level, but normally the rate of change is too slow for humans to notice," said Steven Running, the University of Montana Regents Professor and a co-author of the study. "Now the rate of change is fast enough we can see it."

Even though the rate of change has increased, these processes will take time, the scientists said. A greater stability of forest composition will not be attained anytime soon, perhaps for centuries.

"There's not a lot we can do to really control these changes," Waring said. "For instance, to keep old trees alive during drought or insect attacks that they are no longer able to deal with, you might have to thin the forest and remove up to half the trees. These are very powerful forces at work."

One of the best approaches to plan for an uncertain future, the researchers said, is to maintain "connective corridors" as much as possible so that trees can naturally migrate to new areas in a changing future and not be stopped by artificial boundaries.

Also collaborating on the research was Nicholas Coops at the University of British Columbia. The work has been supported by NASA, and the study is being published in two professional journals, Ecological Modelling and Remote Sensing of Environment


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Monday, November 14, 2011

Environmental watchdog makes scientific expedition in Tambunan

Much has been said about the importance of water - a natural resource that we should protect and conserve in light of climate change. Polluted waterways is one of the main worries for many developing countries. Even developed nations are not exempted.
Efforts have been made and continue to be made to safeguard this precious commodity from contaminations and further destruction.

It is heartening to read about these efforts that are taking place all over the planet and the following is one of them which was reported in THE STAR on 14th Nov, 2011 (GREENSLEEVES)

KOTA KINABALU: A scientific expedition was made to an important water catchment area deep in Sabah’s interior to ensure it is well preserved and continues to be a pristine source of life.

Environmental watchdog WWF-Malaysia made the trip with Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to the Liwagu sub-catchment area in Tambunan, about 80km from here from Nov 10 to today.

The main objective of the expedition was to gather information that contributes towards building critical knowledge for supporting the management of the sub-catchment area and the natural resources within it.

The expedition included surveys and investigations, as well as identification and establishment of sampling and research plots for future data collection.

“UMS is very excited to work with WWF-Malaysia and we believe we can complement each other in terms of expertise, skills and resources,”

said UMS’ Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation director Dr Abdul Hamid Ahmad.

The collaboration between WWF-Malaysia and UMS will continue beyond the expedition and will extend throughout further research undertakings in the Liwagu sub-catchment area in the future including in documentation and distribution of research findings.

“This expedition will be an interesting one as this will be WWF-Malaysia’s first scientific expedition that focuses on upland catchment area in Sabah,” said WWF-Malaysia freshwater coordinator Daria Mathew.

The Liwagu sub-catchment in Tambunan has been WWF-Malaysia’s project area since January last year and will end by December 2012. It is fully funded by HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd.

This project site focuses on sustainable management of freshwater resources and water catchment.

Its core targets are to improve the protection and sustainable management of freshwater resources, enhance management, conservation and restoration of wildlife in the area as well as to enhance the capacity and participation of local communities in catchment and natural resources management.

About WWF-Malaysia:
WWF-Malaysia (World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia), the national conservation trust, currently runs more than 75 projects covering a diverse range of environmental protection work. Since 1972, WWF-Malaysia has worked on important conservation projects, from saving endangered species such as tigers and turtles, to protecting our highland forests, rivers and seas. We also undertake environmental education and advocacy work to achieve conservation goals. By conserving our natural resources, WWF-Malaysia is helping to protect our livelihoods, food and water supply, thus securing our good quality of life and our children’s bright future. We thank our supporters whose donations enable our conservation work. If you would like to donate to WWF-Malaysia or learn more about our projects, please call: +603-78033772 or visit our website at:

Click and read about this effort as it appeared in THE STAR.

Protecting nature's nomads

I have just read an online news article from the local tabloid regarding the annual migratory birds from the cold regions in the northern hemisphere to warmer areas in the south in search of food and warmth. When the south gets too cold , the cycle repeats itself and the birds embark on the return journey to the north. This natural phenomenon, which occurs annually, has been the factor that keeps our animal species alive and continue to flourish on this planet throughout the ages.

To many of us, this instinct for survival remains a mystery still. It is as though the birds and animals have an inborn radar built in their respective systems. Otherwise, how do we explain their sense of direction and the innate trait that is characteristic of the animal kingdom? Modern day science has attempted to find answers to their natural behaviour and have answered our many questions but more remains to be learned from the wonders that now surround us.

The following article is an in-depth study on the subject by ACHIM STEINER as it appeared in the Aljajeera, dated 13th Nov, 2011. It shows the impacts of man-made factors and climate change in the paths of migratory birds and animals and how vulnerable these defenseless creatures can become. At the end of it all, will they win the battle but lose the war? (GREENSLEEVES)

Migratory patterns of 10,000 species are being destroyed by barriers, habitat degradation, pollution and climate change.

For the elephants that are returning to southern Angola, after herds were devastated during the country's civil wars, the battle is far from over.

Old land mines, sown during the decades of conflict that ended in 2002, are threatening the lives and limbs not only of people, but also of the growing elephant populations that are crossing into Angola from northern Botswana on ancient migration routes that continue into Zambia. Mines are a particularly stark example of how humans interfere with migratory journeys that have linked breeding and feeding sites across the globe for millennia.

Up to 10,000 animal species are thought to migrate. Yet, increasingly, air, water and land routes are being destroyed by barriers, ranging from roads, fences, dams and power lines to unsustainable hunting or fishing practices, habitat degradation, pollution and climate change.

One example is the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, found in the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia. Barriers to its migration range from entrapment in fishing nets to conditions caused by gold mining and dam building.

Likewise, someone strolling through Norway's Fennoscandia region in the 1900s would have marvelled at the abundance of Lesser White-fronted Geese, which then numbered in the thousands. Today, only 20-30 breeding pairs remain - the result, according to the World Wildlife Fund, of the drainage of wetlands in countries such as Greece, and of hunting along the bird's migration routes.

In North America, one of the world's fastest land animals, the Pronghorn antelope, faces obstacles such as highways and fencing. The harsh winter in 2010 left herds stranded and hungry, blocked by fences while they burned up their fat reserves searching for ways through. Similarly, in South Africa, 12 per cent of Blue Cranes, South Africa's national bird, and 30 per cent of Ludwig's bustards are dying annually in collisions with a growing number of power lines.

Climate change is also having a severe impact on the world's most peripatetic animals. Migratory species, from Monarch butterflies to humpback whales, are suffering as a result of shifts in temperature and the disruption of the traditional timing, abundance and location of food sources.

The trend looks bad. But some countries are taking action. Since the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals entered into force in 1983, its membership has grown steadily to include 116 countries in Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. To date, the CMS has concluded agreements and memoranda of understanding to conserve more than 26 migratory species.

Economic considerations of conservation
Thanks to the CMS, Papua New Guinea and Mozambique, for example, recently agreed on cooperative arrangements to conserve migratory dugongs, animals once thought by seafarers to be mermaids. Likewise, a 20-year agreement has recently helped to increase the number of harbour seals in the Wadden Sea, shared by Germany and the Netherlands.

Protecting migratory species benefits not only the animals concerned, but humans as well. A ten-year program to restore and conserve seven million hectares of wetlands in China, Iran, Kazakhstan and Russia has improved conditions for the critically endangered Siberian crane, as well as drinking-water supplies, inland fisheries and carbon storage.

Austin, Texas, is home to the world's largest urban colony of migratory bats, which live underneath the city's central Congress Avenue Bridge. On summer nights, hundreds of people visit to witness the bats emerge for their nightly feed. Not only do the bats act as natural pest controllers, consuming up to 4,000 mosquitoes each per night; they also underpin a local tourism industry that generates an estimated $10 million a year.

On November 20-25, the CMS will hold its tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Bergen, Norway. Among other success stories, the participants can cite the example of the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau. Many shark species are now at high risk, owing to growing consumption of their fins, which are widely believed to boost sexual potency and enhance general health. But Palau is helping to reverse this trend.

Two years ago, Palau became the first country to declare its coastal waters a shark sanctuary - scientists estimate that shark-diving tours now generate around eight per cent of the country's GDP, and that a single shark generates revenues from ecotourism amounting to €1.9 million ($2.6 million) over its lifetime.

Nature should never be prized merely for its economic value. But, in a world of competing demands and limited resources, economic considerations can help to tip decisions in favour of conservation rather than degradation. This kind of strategic thinking can help to ensure that the world's 10,000 migratory species continue their journeys, so that future generations can also marvel at these nomads of the natural world.

Achim Steiner is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Program.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

A version of this article was first published on Project Syndicate.

You can also click and read the original article here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

5 ways to help your pet live longer

We take a breather today and take a listen to some good and helpful advice on caring ways to show our love for all our animal companions. Our responsbilities towards them do not end with just providing them with one or two meals a day but much more. They are creatures with souls and have emotions and feel love, pain and rejection/approval just like you and I. If we love our own children we try as much as possible to provide them with all things necessary towards their upbringing. Our animal companions probably don't need as much as a human child but still, we are morally obligated to provide for their basic needs... plus, a huge dose of love and hugs!(GREENSLEEVES)

BY: Sarah D Bunting (SHINE, Yahoo) dated 11th Nov, 2011

We all want our pets to live long, healthy lives – and we'd all do just about anything to ensure that our cats and dogs can stay with us as long as possible. What five things can you do to keep your pet safe, happy, and by your side longer? We've listed them below, and chances are, you're probably on top of them already.

But one hint may surprise you…

Keep your furry friend indoors
Staying inside, or at least on a leash, protects your pet from all kinds of dangers. Indoor living shields cats from infectious diseases; digestive upset caused by snacking on poisonous plants or other foreign objects; fights with other cats, dogs, wild animals, or mean humans; and speeding cars.

And as pets age, they can't regulate their body temperatures as effectively, making them more prone to serious weather-related ailments like heat stroke if they're outdoors too long.

Of course it's fine to walk your dog, and the occasional (closely supervised) feline foray into the yard isn't the end of the world. But it's particularly important for cats to do their toileting inside; that way, the humans can monitor them for signs of tummy upset, urinary-tract issues, and so on.

Putting a "catio" in your window for bird-watching purposes, and planting cat grass in pots, can bring the outside in -- without compromising Fluffy's health.

Watch his weight
Obesity in dogs and cats causes the same serious health problems that it does in humans – high blood pressure, breathing problems, diabetes, and joint pain. It's not easy to put a portly pet on a diet, but NOT doing so could shorten his lifespan (and from a practical – and more selfish – standpoint, you really don't want to have to give a cat daily insulin injections).

If your dog or cat is on the spherical side, enlist your vet's help to change his diet. Invest in new toys for your cat that will get him more active, and try switching from "free feeding" to controlled portions at specific meal times. Take dogs for longer or more frequent walks, and get strict about table scraps and extra biscuits.

Aging pets who have maintained normal weights for years may start to plump up as their metabolisms slow down. Changing your senior dog or cat's regular food to a formula that's higher in protein and lower in fat may help, and dogs may benefit from "nutriceutical" supplements. Again, consult with your vet.

Don't skip vet appointments
It's tempting to bail on the vet if your pet seems healthy – the exams, shots, and treatments can add up to a big yearly bill if you don't have pet insurance. But our pets can't tell us when they don't feel quite right, or whether that diarrhea is a passing thing or a symptom of something more serious. The vet CAN tell you – sometimes just by looking into your dog's eyes!

As your pet ages, you may need to bring her in more frequently – every six months, instead of every year – for senior-wellness check-ups. Your vet is trained to spot conditions and concerns you can't see, and catching geriatric diseases or cancer early is the best way to find a treatment that time – quality time – to your pet's life.

Dental health is overall health
Most of these tips are common sense – but the importance of taking care of your pet's teeth may come as a surprise. It's the most common major health problem affecting cats and dogs, actually; the bacteria from dental and gum disease can travel elsewhere in their bodies, causing more serious issues.

With that said, we understand that you feel ridiculous brushing your cat's teeth. (And your cat feels even more ridiculous.) But it might seem less absurd if it adds years to your kitty's life. Check your pet's teeth and gums about once a week, if you can. Feed kibble and treats that promote dental health, and keep an eye out for signs of dental or gum disease, including bad breath, lethargy, decreased appetite, weight loss, and facial swelling. Call the vet if you think your cat or dog is having trouble eating due to mouth or tooth pain.

And yes, brush your pet's teeth – using specially formulated brushes and pastes, not "people products." Some pets grow to love the fish-flavored toothpaste; others will fight you tooth and nail. (Forgive the pun.) Even if it's a battle, remind yourself that it's worth fighting – bad teeth can reduce your dog's lifespan 2-4 years in some cases.

Spay and neuter your pets
Spaying or neutering your pet doesn't just prevent overpopulation. It can protect your pet down the line from various reproductive cancers – of the prostate and ovaries, for instance. And some studies have shown that fixed pets live longer than "intact" pets, although scientists aren't quite sure why.

We all love an adorable pile of puppies – but coo at pictures online, and get your pet spayed or neutered.

Even more tips for pet longevity!

1) Cat-proofing your house :

(2) 7 Tips to keep doggie brains youthful:

(3) Ensure older pets get enough to eat & drink

You can read the original text of this posting by clicking on it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Huge Alaska storm passes, leaves widespread damage

Further to our recent posting, dated 9th Nov, on the impending Alaskan Storm, here is a special news report on the aftermath as seen through the pages of Associated Press dated 11/11/11. (GREENSLEEVES)


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A massive storm that battered Alaska's western coast with hurricane-strength winds and towering sea surges has passed out of the region in a much weaker state, but it left behind widespread damage and worries that a man may have been swept out to a churning sea.

So far, 37 communities have reported some form of damage, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the state's emergency management agency. Most of those communities have opened emergency community shelters, Zidek said.

The strongest storm to hit the state's western coast in almost four decades also left behind tales of human endurance.

In one remote village that lost heat and power early Wednesday, about 20 vehicles lined up along an airstrip and used their headlights to guide in a plane carrying repair workers.

Other residents there came together and did traditional Eskimo dances used during whaling season to seek good weather.

On Thursday, rescuers searched for a 26-year-old man who authorities said may have been washed into the Bering Sea during the storm.

Kyle Komok, of Teller, was last seen at 4 p.m. Wednesday as he headed toward a jetty where waves were cresting as high as 10 feet, Alaska State Troopers said.

Komok's sister, Maggie Christofferson, of Kodiak, told The Associated Press that her brother is an experienced mechanic.

"We're hoping he's just stuck somewhere, and we're just praying that he's safe."

Emergency responders called the storm an epic event that displaced residents, flooded the shoreline, ripped up roofs and knocked out power in many villages.

The process of gauging the full extent of the damage will begin soon, officials said Thursday. They noted some of the hardest-hit communities are in areas where winter daylight comes late in the day and mornings are in pitch darkness, which slowed down inspections.

Another storm stepped in to replace the tempest, but forecasters said the new storm was much weaker and expected to begin dying down later Thursday. It brought winds ranging from 20 to 40 mph, said National Weather Service meteorologist Don Moore.

In comparison, the storm that pounded the Bering Sea coast this week carried gusts of nearly 90 mph and created tides as high as 10 feet above normal.

Though far less powerful, the new storm contributed to already high water levels and kept them from receding as quickly, Moore said.

Communities hard hit include the northwest Alaska villages of Point Hope, built on a large gravel spit, and Kivalina, one of the most eroded communities in the state.

Point Hope Mayor Steve Oomittuk said the strong winds downed three or four power lines and blew away several shacks. Also, water lines busted, flooding some homes in the Inupiat Eskimo community of about 700 people.

About 550 had taken shelter at the village school, which has its own generator, during the worst of the storm. The community had been without electricity and heat since early Wednesday.

By Thursday evening, about 100 people were left in the school and three-quarters of the community had the power back on, Oomittuk said.

Oomittuk said the community lined up about 20 cars at the airstrip to light up the runway Thursday morning. It was still dark at 10 a.m. when a plane carrying electricians arrived.

"The mood of the community, they're happy because they're going home," Oomittuk said. "We say when we need the weather to change to out liking we have an Eskimo dance. Last night we had a good dance to have the weather calm down."

Among those seeking shelter at the school was Nellie Sears, the school librarian. She said every classroom was full of residents seeking shelter.

For a while there was a warning Wednesday that the barreling storm could get worse. So villagers started performing the traditional Eskimo dances they do during whaling season, when they are seeking good weather. Just before 10 p.m., they got word that the warning had been canceled, Sears said.

"We dance to get help," she said.

Kivalina, 75 miles down the coast, got a "good surge from the ocean," said village spokeswoman Colleen Swan. But mornings are very dark and the extent of flooding was not immediately known beyond water washing over the village dump site and onto the beach, she said.

She later toured the area and said there was no damage to the dump even though water reached a part of it. She said the beach was stressed and the ice lagoon cracked by the huge waves clocked in at 25 mph. At first glance, the village escaped with minimal impact.

"People were looking around and I think a lot of them are totally relieved," she said. "We're very thankful it did not get bad enough to flood the village. Not knowing was the worst."

Most of the community's 460 residents, including those nearest the ocean and lagoon, were evacuated to the school.

Swan said the door of a community building was ripped off during the storm's fury. When she awoke Thursday morning, there was a quiet stillness.

"The moon is out. It's very beautiful," she said Thursday morning. "It is very calm, as if nothing ever happened."

The storm battered the oceanfront homes in the tiny village of Shaktoolik, but structures appeared to have been spared, said Michael Sookiayak, a planner for the Shaktoolik tribal council.

There has been no preliminary reports of major damage here in Shaktoolik," he said Thursday morning. "Of course, that might change over the course of a day."

Sookiayak is among those who live on the oceanfront.

"I think the worst part for me and my family ... was watching the waves come up closer and closer to the houses on the ocean side of the community," he said.

The waves crested over the 2009 storm line, which is just a few feet from the homes, Sookiayak said.

A few families evacuated to the school, including Sookiayak's children, but he rode out the storm Wednesday at home.

"I think this storm tested the will of the people in Shaktoolik," he said. "There was a lot of anxiety in the community."

Still of concern is a little spit of land about three miles from the community surrounded by a river on one side and the ocean on the other, separated by just a few feet.

Sookiayak said officials haven't yet had a chance to survey the area.

"And if that ocean erodes into the river, then we basically become an island," he said.


Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen contributed to this report.

Tree-planting activity to celebrate the Year of Forest

Source : Metro, The Star dated 11th Nov, 2011

NETS Printwork Sdn Bhd and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) joined hands recently in the efforts to preserve the environment through the “Plant-A-Tree with Meeco” campaign in conjunction with the International Year of Forest 2011.

This community activity was arranged to inspire people to recognise their responsibilities and play their part in conserving the environment.

The tree-planting event was one of the signature activities promoted by Meeco — Nets’ special eco-force agent who was appointed to recruit supporters to embrace a green makeover.

The primary objective of this event was to support the research to generate new value in wood resources.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the climate benefits of sustainably-managed forests coupled with the production of sustained yield of fiber from the forest, could make a significant contribution in reducing atmospheric carbon.

With that in mind, Nets invited the corporate sector and the general public to contribute a seedling for Mother Earth. The response was welcoming, with over 110 participants taking part in the tree-planting activity.

The participants gathered at the entrance of the botanical gardens before they were led through a 1km path before reaching a large shaded hut called the “Climber House”, where they registered their participation and complimentary T-shirts were handed out.

A FRIM officer gave them a brief on the species of tree that they were about to plant (chengal).

Added information on the tree species were also shared, such as its maximum height, age, and its conservational status as being ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, and its uses for boats, pillars, and bridges.

Participants were also taught planting techniques, such as how to dig up the earth to a proper depth to place the tree without suffocating the roots.

After the tree-planting, the participants were treated to refreshments and goodie bags courtesy of Nets.

A creative sport was also planned to encourage participants to create an innovative item using limited resources like waste paper, boxes and plastic bottles.

Participants were divided into several groups and the “Best Eco-Innovative Prize” was awarded to Group 3 for designing a “green suit” equipped with body armour, a helmet and a sword.

The panel of judges included Nets Group of Companies corporate sustainability director Teh Leong Sim, Dua Space dance theatre managing director and choreographer Anthony Meh and Hideaki Fashion Studio principal consultant Hideaki Lim. Nets also received a “Friends of FRIM” , a testament of its dedication and commitment to sustainable solutions.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Australia passes landmark carbon price laws

Source: Reuters
Link :

Putting a price on emissions is one of the biggest economic reforms in a decade, giving impetus to global climate talks.

Australia's parliament has passed landmark laws to impose a price on carbon emissions in one of the biggest economic reforms in a decade, giving new impetus to December's global climate talks in South Africa.

The scheme's impact will be felt right across the economy, from miners to LNG producers, airlines and steel makers and is aimed at making firms more energy efficient and push power generation towards gas and renewables.

Australia accounts for just 1.5 per cent of global emissions, but is the developed world's highest emitter per capita due to a reliance on coal to generate electricity.

Tuesday's vote is a major victory for embattled Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who staked her government's future on what will be the most comprehensive carbon price scheme outside of Europe despite deep hostility from voters and the political opposition.

The scheme is a central plank in the government's fight against climate change and aims to halt the growth of the country's growing greenhouse gas emissions from a resources-led boom and age-old reliance on coal for power generation.

It sets a fixed carbon tax of A$23 ($23.78) a tonne on the top 500 polluters from July 2012, then moves to an emissions trading scheme from July 2015. Companies involved will need a permit for every tonne of carbon they emit.

"Today marks the beginning of Australia's clean energy future. This is an historic moment, this is an historic reform, a reform that is long overdue," Finance Minister Penny Wong told the upper house Senate as she wrapped up the marathon debate.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Alaska braces for "epic" storm; evacuations begin

Further to our recent postings on how climate changes have been affecting global weather patterns - here's the latest news for reference. (GREENSLEEVES)

Source: Reuters dated 9th Nov, 2011

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - An "epic" storm was bearing down on western Alaska on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said, warning that it could be one of the worst on record for the state.

The storm, moving inland from the Aleutian Islands, was expected to bring hurricane-force winds with gusts up to 100 miles per hour, heavy snowfall, widespread coastal flooding and severe erosion to most of Alaska's west coast, the National Weather Service said.

"This will be an extremely dangerous and life threatening storm of an epic magnitude rarely experienced," the service said in a special warning message.

Nome and the rest of the Seward Peninsula, a section of land that juts out toward Siberia, were expected to be the hardest-hit areas, said Andy Brown, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

Powerful storms in the North Pacific and Bering Sea are common this time of year, but this event is unusual because of its trajectory, Brown said.

"It's going very far north," he said.

Officials in Nome issued an evacuation order late on Tuesday for people living along Front Street, a beachside avenue that serves as the finish line for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and for other low-lying areas in town.

At least three other communities were housing residents in local shelters as of Tuesday afternoon, said Bryan Fisher, chief of operations for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

But long-distance evacuations from the remote region were not considered feasible, Fisher told a media briefing in Anchorage.

"Air traffic will not be flying in the weather that we're expecting in the next 24 to 48 hours," he said.

Posing an additional threat is the lack of sea ice off northwestern Alaska, forecasters said.

The last time a storm of a similar magnitude was sent in the same northward direction was 1974, but the sea surface was much more frozen then, Brown said.

"History tells that the sea ice helps subdue the storm surge," Brown said. "With no sea ice there, we could see the full brunt of that 6- to 9-foot storm surge."

Arctic sea ice this year reached the second-lowest coverage since satellite records began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

"Forty years ago, a big storm like this would come through and the sea ice would act as sort of a buffer," said Mark Serreze, director of the Snow and Ice Data Center.

"The Bering Sea has and always will have these strong storms. What is different now is their potential destructiveness as you lose the sea ice cover," he added.

Federal, state and local agencies were making emergency preparations in advance of the storm. The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management set up an incident command, with numerous agencies coordinating responses.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it has staged helicopters in the region and sent a cutter to prepare for emergency responses, with a special focus on the crab-fishing fleet.

Numerous government agencies have set up an incident command, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Nome, with 3,600 residents, is one of the largest cities in western Alaska. The communities spread along the coastline are mostly traditional Native settlements, with a few hundred to a few thousand inhabitants, and no roads linking communities.

Although the region is sparsely populated, the storm presents significant dangers, Alaska Senator Mark Begich said in a written statement.

"I realize we are in a remote part of the country, but many people and communities are in harm's way," Begich said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Johnston)

(This story corrects the spelling of Bryan Fisher)

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Peoples Agreement - On the Rights of Mother Earth

Source :

This is an extract from 'The Peoples Agreement' taken from the publication 'From Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cochabamba, Cancun and to Durban: will Africa be incinerated'. The document is a tool for popular education and mobilisation. It contains four documents relevant to the climate change negotiations: 1. The Peoples Agreement, 2. Copenhagen Accord, 3. Kyoto Protocol, 4. Cancun Agreement.

The World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth took place in April 2010 in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba after the 15th United Nations Conference of Parties (COP15) climate meetings in Copenhagen during December 2009. The event was attended by around 30,000 people from over 100 countries and issued the The Peoples Agreement, an extract of which is reproduced below.

Today, our Mother Earth is wounded and the future of humanity is in danger. If global warming increases by more than two degrees Celsius, a situation that the 'Copenhagen Accord' could lead to, there is a 50 per cent probability that the damages caused to our Mother Earth will be completely irreversible. Between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of species would be in danger of disappearing. Large extensions of forest would be affected, droughts and floods would affect different regions of the planet, deserts would expand, and the melting of the polar ice caps and the glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas would worsen.

Many island states would disappear, and Africa would suffer an increase in temperature of more than three degrees Celsius. Likewise, the production of food would diminish in the world, causing catastrophic impact on the survival of inhabitants from vast regions in the planet, and the number of people in the world suffering from hunger would increase dramatically, a figure that already exceeds 1.02billion people.

The corporations and governments of the so-called 'developed' countries, in complicity with a segment of the scientific community, have led us to discuss climate change as a problem limited to the rise in temperature without questioning the cause, which is the capitalist system.

We confront the terminal crisis of a civilizing model that is patriarchal and based on the submission and destruction of human beings and nature that accelerated since the industrial revolution.

The capitalist system has imposed on us a logic of competition, progress and limitless growth. This regime of production and consumption seeks profit without limits, separating human beings from nature and imposing a logic of domination upon nature, transforming everything into commodities: water, earth, the human genome, ancestral cultures, biodiversity, justice, ethics, the rights of peoples, and life itself.

Under capitalism, Mother Earth is converted into a source of raw materials, and human beings into consumers and a means of production, into people that are seen as valuable only for what they own, and not for what they are.

Capitalism requires a powerful military industry for its processes of accumulation and imposition of control over territories and natural resources, suppressing the resistance of the peoples. It is an imperialist system of colonization of the planet.

Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life. It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. And in order for there to be balance with nature, there must first be equity among human beings.

We propose to the peoples of the world the recovery, revalorization, and strengthening of the knowledge, wisdom, and ancestral practices of Indigenous Peoples, which are affirmed in the thought and practices of 'Living Well', recognizing Mother Earth as a living being with which we have an indivisible, interdependent, complementary and spiritual relationship.

To face climate change, we must recognize Mother Earth as the source of life and forge a new system based on the principles of:

- Harmony and balance among all and with all things;

- Complementarity, solidarity, and equality;

- Collective well-being and the satisfaction of the basic necessities of all;

- People in harmony with nature;

- Recognition of human beings for what they are, not what they own;

- Elimination of all forms of colonialism, imperialism and interventionism;

- Peace among the peoples and with Mother Earth;

The model we support is not a model of limitless and destructive development. All countries need to produce the goods and services necessary to satisfy the fundamental needs of their populations, but by no means can they continue to follow the path of development that has led the richest countries to have an ecological footprint five times bigger than what the planet is able to support.

Currently, the regenerative capacity of the planet has been already exceeded by more than 30 per cent. If this pace of over-exploitation of our Mother Earth continues, we will need two planets by the year 2030. In an interdependent system in which human beings are only one component, it is not possible to recognize rights only to the human part without provoking an imbalance in the system as a whole.

To guarantee human rights and to restore harmony with nature, it is necessary to effectively recognize and apply the rights of Mother Earth. For this purpose, we propose the project for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, in which it's recorded that:

- The right to live and to exist;

- The right to be respected;

- The right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue it's vital cycles and processes free of human alteration;

- The right to maintain their identity and integrity as differentiated beings, self-regulated and interrelated;

- The right to water as the source of life;

- The right to clean air;

- The right to comprehensive health;

- The right to be free of contamination and pollution, free of toxic and radioactive waste;

- The right to be free of alterations or modifications of it's genetic structure in a manner that threatens it's integrity or vital and healthy functioning;

- The right to prompt and full restoration for violations to the rights acknowledged in this Declaration caused by human activities.

The 'shared vision' seeks to stabilize the concentrations of greenhouse gases to make effective the Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which states that 'the stabilization of greenhouse gases concentrations in the atmosphere to a level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic inferences for the climate system.'

Our vision is based on the principle of historical common but differentiated responsibilities, to demand the developed countries to commit with quantifiable goals of emission reduction that will allow to return the concentrations of greenhouse gases to 300 ppm, therefore the increase in the average world temperature to a maximum of one degree Celsius.

Emphasizing the need for urgent action to achieve this vision, and with the support of peoples, movements and countries, developed countries should commit to ambitious targets for reducing emissions that permit the achievement of short-term objectives, while maintaining our vision in favour of balance in the Earth's climate system, in agreement with the ultimate objective of the Convention.

The 'shared vision for long-term cooperative action' in climate change negotiations should not be reduced to defining the limit on temperature increases and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but must also incorporate in a balanced and integral manner measures regarding capacity building, production and consumption patterns, and other essential factors such as the acknowledging of the Rights of Mother Earth to establish harmony with nature.

Developed countries, as the main cause of climate change, in assuming their historical responsibility, must recognize and honour their climate debt in all of its dimensions as the basis for a just, effective, and scientific solution to climate change. In this context, we demand that developed countries:

- Restore to developing countries the atmospheric space that is occupied by their greenhouse gas emissions. This implies the decolonization of the atmosphere through the reduction and absorption of their emissions.

- Assume the costs and technology transfer needs of developing countries arising from the loss of development opportunities due to living in a restricted atmospheric space;

- Assume responsibility for the hundreds of millions of people that will be forced to migrate due to the climate change caused by these countries, and eliminate their restrictive immigration policies, offering migrants a decent life with full human rights guarantees in their countries;

- Assume adaptation debt related to the impacts of climate change on developing countries by providing the means to prevent, minimize, and deal with damages arising from their excessive emissions;

- Honour these debts as part of a broader debt to Mother Earth by adopting and implementing the United Nations Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

The focus must not be only on financial compensation, but also on restorative justice, understood as the restitution of integrity to our Mother Earth and all its beings.