Monday, January 30, 2012

Appeal to end Dynamite Fishing ~ Reef Check Malaysia

Dear fellow divers,

I am writing to you on behalf of Reef Check Malaysia. As you might already know, last year RCM launched a fish bomb reporting system to collect much needed data on fish bombing incidents. We would first of all like to extend our gratitude to those of you who have been keeping us up to date with reports.

The purpose of my email today is to appeal for your help. It is imperative that we work together to put an end to this terrible practice as soon as we can. Especially now that we’re starting to get a better idea of the situation, which is not a pretty one I have to add. The rate of degradation at some sites is quite shocking to be honest. I have included below the content of 2 emails that were sent to us in the last week which hopefully will paint a picture of the severity of the problem.

So please do make use of our reporting system if you hear a fish bomb explode while you are diving. It is easy and won’t take more than 2 minutes. All you have to do is fill up an online form at or text us at 010 3636013 and we’ll do the rest.

We have to take action now, before it is too late.

With thanks,

Aaron Tam

Communications Officer

Reef Check Malaysia Bhd

03 2161 5948

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The following emails were sent to RCM regarding Fish Bombing around Mantabuan Island. The second message is a part of the reply that the same diver sent after the response from the first.

  1. “I have been scuba diving at Mantabuan island a few weeks ago and also for a second time today and am shocked the degradation of the coral reef between these two trips. It is very evident that a significant amount of coral bombing has recently occurred at the dive sites resulting in the severe damage of several large coral bommies and coral encrusted rocks. The impact of the blast has also damaged nearby soft corals and the surrounding reef. Many dead fish could also been seen on the reef throughout the day.

I understand that coral bombing/fish blasting is an illegal activity within the park and I ask why these practices are still occurring? I have dived most of the islands in the Tun Sakaran Marine Park and in my opinion Mantabuan has the most beautiful and diverse coral reef of all. These destructive practices not only damage the reef forever but will also have a knock on effect of a reduction of tourist numbers. If there is no reef left, there will be no fish and therefore no divers in the future. I see that there is a currently a big push to save sharks in Sabah but they will only return to the reef if it is healthy and contains enough prey to support a shark population. It is therefore extremely important that the coral reefs in this area are protected for future generations.”

2. “I visited Mantabuan again today and am extremely sorry to report that the situation has gotten much worse. On one dive alone there must have been thousands of dead fish on the reef and several new areas had been bombed since I was there a few days ago. Two extremely loud explosions were also heard whilst I was on the first dive. On the final dive a newly dead turtle was seen with a large crack in its shell. I can only think that this occurred as a result of bombing as the turtle was surrounded by dead fish. All the divers were shocked by the sad sights experienced today and could not believe that the practice of fish bombing exists in Sabah.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

What Can Be Done to Slow Climate Change?

Source: ScienceDaily, 12th Jan, 2012

A new study led by a NASA scientist highlights 14 key air pollution control measures that, if implemented, could slow the pace of global warming, improve health and boost agricultural production.

The research, led by Drew Shindell of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, finds that focusing on these measures could slow mean global warming 0.9 ºF (0.5ºC) by 2050, increase global crop yields by up to 135 million metric tons per season and prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year. While all regions of the world would benefit, countries in Asia and the Middle East would see the biggest health and agricultural gains from emissions reductions.

"We've shown that implementing specific practical emissions reductions chosen to maximize climate benefits would also have important 'win-win' benefits for human health and agriculture," said Shindell.

The study was recently published in the journal Science.

Shindell and an international team considered about 400 control measures based on technologies evaluated by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. The new study focused on 14 measures with the greatest climate benefit. All 14 would curb the release of either black carbon or methane, pollutants that exacerbate climate change and damage human or plant health either directly or by leading to ozone formation.

Black carbon, a product of burning fossil fuels or biomass such as wood or dung, can worsen a number of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. The small particles also absorb radiation from the sun causing the atmosphere to warm and rainfall patterns to shift. In addition, they darken ice and snow, reducing their reflectivity and hastening global warming.

Methane, a colorless and flammable substance that is a major constituent of natural gas, is both a potent greenhouse gas and an important precursor to ground-level ozone. Ozone, a key component of smog and also a greenhouse gas, damages crops and human health.

While carbon dioxide is the primary driver of global warming over the long term, limiting black carbon and methane are complementary actions that would have a more immediate impact because these two pollutants circulate out of the atmosphere more quickly.

Shindell and his team concluded that these control measures would provide the greatest protection against global warming to Russia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, countries with large areas of snow or ice cover. Iran, Pakistan and Jordan would experience the most improvement in agricultural production. Southern Asia and the Sahel region of Africa would see the most beneficial changes to precipitation patterns.

The south Asian countries of India, Bangladesh and Nepal would see the biggest reductions in premature deaths. The study estimates that globally between 700,000 and 4.7 million premature deaths could be prevented each year.

Black carbon and methane have many sources. Reducing emissions would require that societies make multiple infrastructure upgrades. For methane, the key strategies the scientists considered were capturing gas escaping from coal mines and oil and natural gas facilities, as well as reducing leakage from long-distance pipelines, preventing emissions from city landfills, updating wastewater treatment plants, aerating rice paddies more, and limiting emissions from manure on farms.

For black carbon, the strategies analyzed include installing filters in diesel vehicles, keeping high-emitting vehicles off the road, upgrading cooking stoves and boilers to cleaner burning types, installing more efficient kilns for brick production, upgrading coke ovens and banning agricultural burning.

The scientists used computer models developed at GISS and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, to model the impact of emissions reductions. The models showed widespread benefits from the methane reduction because it is evenly distributed throughout the atmosphere. Black carbon falls out of the atmosphere after a few days so the benefits are stronger in certain regions, especially ones with large amounts of snow and ice.

"Protecting public health and food supplies may take precedence over avoiding climate change in most countries, but knowing that these measures also mitigate climate change may help motivate policies to put them into practice," Shindell said. The new study builds on a United Nations Environment Program/World Meteorological Organization report, also led by Shindell, published last year.

"The scientific case for fast action on these so-called 'short-lived climate forcers' has been steadily built over more than a decade, and this study provides further focused and compelling analysis of the likely benefits at the national and regional level," said United Nations Environment Program Executive Director Achim Steiner.

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Note : The above story is reprinted from materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center


Source: SCIENCE DAILY, 3rd Jan, 2012

Climate Change Models May Underestimate Extinctions: Animals and Plants Could Be On a Collision Course Created by Climate Change

Predictions of the loss of animal and plant diversity around the world are common under models of future climate change. But a new study shows that because these climate models don't account for species competition and movement, they could grossly underestimate future extinctions.

We have really sophisticated meteorological models for predicting climate change," says ecologist Mark Urban, the study's lead author. "But in real life, animals move around, they compete, they parasitize each other, and they eat each other. The majority of our predictions don't include these important interactions."

Plenty of experimental studies have shown that species are already moving in response to climate change, says Urban, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut. For example, as temperatures rise over time, animals and plants that can't take the heat are moving to higher altitudes where temperatures are cooler.

But not all species can disperse fast enough to get to these more suitable places before they die off, Urban says. And if they do make it to these better habitats, they may be out-competed by the species that are already there -- or the ones that got there first.

With coauthors Josh Tewksbury and Kimberly Sheldon of the University of Washington, Urban created a mathematical model that takes into account the varying rates of migration and the different intensities of competition seen in ecological communities. The goal was to predict just how successful species within these communities would be at shifting to completely new habitats.

Their results showed that animals and plants that can adjust to climate change will have a competitive advantage over those that don't.

Animals with small geographic ranges, specific habitat needs and difficulty dispersing are likely to go extinct under climate change, their model shows. Further, these animals are more likely to be overrun by other species that can tolerate a wider range of habitats.

"When a species has a small range, it's more likely to be out-competed by others," Urban says. "It's not about how fast you can move, but how fast you move relative to your competitors."

Urban likens this scenario to a train traveling up a mountain on a track. If each boxcar -- representing a species -- travels at the same speed, they will likely all reach the top eventually. But in reality, each car can move at a different speed, creating a collision course.

"There's always a car in front of you and a car behind," explains Urban. "When you introduce the ability to move at different speeds, they're constantly bumping into one another, even running each other over. It's a recipe for disaster."

Importantly, the authors speculate that current predictions of biodiversity loss under climate change -- many of which are used by conservation organizations and governments -- could be vastly underestimating species extinctions.

Tropical communities, for example, which often have many species living in small areas, could be among the hardest hit by climate change. Urban says this is a first step toward making climate change predictions of biodiversity more sophisticated.

"This is a first step -- to include in our models things that we know are true, like competition and dispersal," says Urban. "Knowing these things, can we predict which species might be most at risk?"

Urban's paper was published in the Jan. 4 online edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation.

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