Distribution of goldmining sites with significant change in forest cover (km2) in periods 2001–2006 and 2007–2013. Green dots represent an increase in forest cover, red dots represent a decrease in forest cover, and gray areas indicate no significant change in cover. Graphic: Alvarez-Berríos and Aide, 2015 / Environmental Research Letters

28 July 2015 (Institute of Physics) – A global “gold rush” has led to a significant increase of deforestation in the tropical forests of South America.

This is according to a study published in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, which has highlighted the growing environmental impact of gold mining in some of the most biologically diverse regions in the tropics.

Researchers from the University of Puerto Rico have shown that between 2001 and 2013, around 1680 km2 of tropical forest was lost in South America as a result of gold mining, which increased from around 377 km2 to 1303km2 since the global economic crisis in 2007.

Furthermore, around 90 percent of this forest loss occurred in just four areas and a large proportion occurred within the vicinity of conservation areas.

Number of gold mining sites with significant change in forest cover (p<0.05) and area (km2) of forest change (loss/gain). Histogram values indicate corresponding number of gold mining sites. Graphic: Alvarez-Berríos and Aide, 2015 / Environmental Research Letters

Lead author of the research Nora L. Álvarez-Berríos said: “Although the loss of forest due to mining is smaller in extent compared to deforestation caused by other land uses, such as agriculture or grazing areas, deforestation due to mining is occurring in some of the most biologically diverse regions in the tropics. For example, in the Madre de Dios Region in Perú, one hectare of forest can hold up to 300 species of trees.”

Driven by personal consumption and uncertainty in global financial markets, global gold production has increased to meet rising demand, increasing from around 2445 metric tons in 2000 to around 2770 metric tons in 2013.

Increased demand for gold has been paralleled by a dramatic increase in price — the price of gold increased from $250/ounce in 2000 to $1300/ounce in 2013.

This has stimulated new gold mining activities around the world and made it feasible to mine for gold in areas that were not previously profitable for mining, such as deposits underneath tropical forests.

This can lead to extensive forest loss and result in serious environmental and ecological impacts, caused by the removal of vegetation, the set-up of roads and railways for access and the creation of unorganised settlements. [more]

A Global Gold Rush Is Decimating South America's Tropical Forests

ABSTRACT: The current global gold rush, driven by increasing consumption in developing countries and uncertainty in financial markets, is an increasing threat for tropical ecosystems. Gold mining causes significant alteration to the environment, yet mining is often overlooked in deforestation analyses because it occupies relatively small areas. As a result, we lack a comprehensive assessment of the spatial extent of gold mining impacts on tropical forests. In this study, we provide a regional assessment of gold mining deforestation in the tropical moist forest biome of South America. Specifically, we analyzed the patterns of forest change in gold mining sites between 2001 and 2013, and evaluated the proximity of gold mining deforestation to protected areas (PAs). The forest cover maps were produced using the Land Mapper web application and images from the MODIS satellite MOD13Q1 vegetation indices 250 m product. Annual maps of forest cover were used to model the incremental change in forest in ~1600 potential gold mining sites between 2001–2006 and 2007–2013. Approximately 1680 km2 of tropical moist forest was lost in these mining sites between 2001 and 2013. Deforestation was significantly higher during the 2007–2013 period, and this was associated with the increase in global demand for gold after the international financial crisis. More than 90% of the deforestation occurred in four major hotspots: Guianan moist forest ecoregion (41%), Southwest Amazon moist forest ecoregion (28%), Tapajós–Xingú moist forest ecoregion (11%), and Magdalena Valley montane forest and Magdalena–Urabá moist forest ecoregions (9%). In addition, some of the more active zones of gold mining deforestation occurred inside or within 10 km of ~32 PAs. There is an urgent need to understand the ecological and social impacts of gold mining because it is an important cause of deforestation in the most remote forests in South America, and the impacts, particularly in aquatic systems, spread well beyond the actual mining sites.

Global demand for gold is another threat for tropical forests

Drought is causing saline water to intrude into rice fields in Rach Gia City, Kien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, during the summer of 2015. Photo: Tuoi Tre News

29 July 2015 (Tuoi Tre News) – The Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s biggest granary, home to a widespread network of rivers and canals, has been threatened by the rising level of salt water flowing into rice fields and farms.

There have been warnings about such a situation for years, but authorities in Vietnam have failed to work out measures to solve the issue.

Climate change has become more serious and its adverse impacts can be seen now in the region, not just in forecasts as before.

Many areas have no fresh water, and saline water has increased amid the rainy season. Other areas have experienced land subsidence along the banks of rivers.

During this month, which is part of the rainy season, many areas in the Mekong Delta have been ravaged by an increase of salt water in rivers and canals. More importantly, the areas had not been through such a situation for decades.

Hung Phu Commune in My Tu District of Soc Trang Province is one example.

Fruit trees have withered and aquaculture has been badly affected by the presence of saline water.

“We have never seen this situation in the area before,” said Vo Van Dep, who has 25,000 fish on his farms.

“Several days ago, aquatic plants floating along the river’s surface were faded. Now all my fish are suddenly dead,” he complained.

“We can treat it if a fish dies from diseases, but we give up when it’s gone because of water like this.

“It cost me VND160 million [US$7,400] to buy the young fish. They were to be harvested next month.”

Around 70 households raising fish in Hung Phu have suffered great damage caused by salt water.

In addition, 700 hectares of fruit gardens along the Quan Lo – Phung Hiep River have been badly affected, as locals cannot use the water from the river for irrigation.

Nguyen Hoang Co, vice head of the agriculture department of My Tu, said the salinity of water of the river has surged to 0.4 – 0.5 percent recently.

Local residents have had to bathe with saline water first and rainwater later to save fresh water.

Le Phuoc Dai, head of the irrigation network unit of Hau Giang Province, admitted that the sudden increase of saline water in recent days has hit hard many areas of Soc Trang and Hau Giang Provinces.

About 18,000 hectares of agricultural land in Hau Giang is now affected, he added.

The situation is even worse in Kien Giang, Ca Mau and Bac Lieu Provinces, which border the sea.

Farmers have fled from their rice fields to find other jobs in carpentry, sales, and others in cities.

Doctor Le Anh Tuan, vice head of the Research Institute for Climate Change under Can Tho University, explained that the intrusion of saline water into rivers in the Mekong Delta is the result of the low fresh water level in those rivers.

The upstream areas of the Mekong River in Laos and Thailand are now facing a severe drought, Tuan added.

It is forecast that rain will come to these areas by at least the middle of next month, so the intrusion of saline water in rivers in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta will be alleviated by that time, he said.

Salt water increasingly attacks Vietnam's Mekong Delta

In this map, areas where the fire season lengthened between 1979 and 2014 are shown with shades of orange and red. Areas where the length of the fire season stayed the same are yellow. Shades of blue show where the fire season grew shorter. Gray indicates that there was not enough vegetation to sustain wildfires. Graphic: Jolly, et al., 2015 / Nature Commmunications

By Adam Voiland
28 July 2015

(NASA) – A new analysis of 35 years of meteorological data confirms fire seasons have become longer. Fire season, which varies in timing and duration based on location, is defined as the time of year when wildfires are most likely to ignite, spread, and affect resources.

In the map above, areas where the fire season lengthened between 1979 and 2014 are shown with shades of orange and red. Areas where the length of the fire season stayed the same are yellow. Shades of blue show where the fire season grew shorter. Gray indicates that there was not enough vegetation to sustain wildfires.

The analysis, led by U.S. Forest Service ecologist Matt Jolly, focused on four meteorological variables that affect the length of fire season: maximum temperatures, minimum relative humidity, the number of rain-free days, and maximum wind speeds. A combination of high temperatures, low humidity, rainless days, and high winds make wildfires more likely to spread and lengthens fire seasons. Jolly and colleagues used data from NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Prediction Reanalysis, NOAA’s NCEP-DOE Reanalysis, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Interim Reanalysis.

The researchers found that fire weather seasons have lengthened across one quarter of Earth’s vegetated surface. In certain areas, extending the fire season by a bit each year added up to a large change over the full study period. For instance, parts of the western United States and Mexico, Brazil, and East Africa now face wildfire seasons that are more than a month longer than they were 35 years ago.

The authors attribute the longer season in the western United States to changes in the timing of snowmelt, vapor pressure, and the timing of spring rains—all of which have been linked to global warming and climate change. On the other hand, the easing of droughts in Western Africa and the Pacific coast of South America likely contributed to the shortening of fire seasons in those areas.

In some parts of the world, tough fire seasons have also become more frequent. “The map at the top of the page depicts steady trends in season length, while the map below shows changes in variability,” explained Jolly. “In other words, the map below shows where long seasons are becoming more frequent, even if they aren’t becoming steadily longer.”

This map shows the change in frequency of long fire weather seasons, 1979-2013. Graphic: Jolly, et al., 2015 / Nature Commmunications

While many of the same areas that saw fire seasons grow progressively longer also faced more frequent fires seasons, the two measures differed significantly in some areas. Australia, for instance, has not experienced an increase in the length of fire seasons. However, eastern Australia has seen the years with long and severe fire seasons become more frequent.

Overall, 54 percent of the world’s vegetated surfaces experienced long fire weather seasons more frequently between 1996 and 2013 as compared with 1979-1996, according to Jolly. This amounted to a doubling in the total global burnable area affected by long fire weather seasons. (For this calculation, “long fire season” was defined as a length that was one standard deviation above the historical mean.)

It is important to note that although the study shows many environments have become more prone to fires, it does not demonstrate that the wildfires burned more intensely or charred more acres. That’s because even with longer and more frequent fire seasons, other factors can affect whether fires occur and how they behave, such as: whether lightning or human activity ignites the fires; whether humans attempt to suppress them; and whether there is enough fuel to sustain them.


Further Reading

  1. Scientific American (2015, July 14) More Wildfires Burning More Forest May Become the New Normal. Accessed July 21, 2015.
  2. The Washington Post (2015, July 15) Scientists say the planet’s weather is becoming more conducive to wildfires . Accessed July 21, 2015.
  3. Missoulan (2015, July 20) Missoula study: Climate change increasing length of wildfire seasons worldwide. Accessed July 21, 2015.

 Longer, More Frequent Fire Seasons

Closed for business: Dr. Walter Palmer's dental practice abruptly closed on Tuesday morning, 28 July 2015. Signs outside the office read, 'Rot in hell' and 'There's a deep cavity waiting for you!' Photo: Getty Images

30 July 2015 (Daily Mail) – He was already the most hated man in America for killing Cecil the lion and now Dr. Walter Palmer is fast on his way to becoming one of the most wanted.

The Minnesota dentist has not been seen since he was identified as the killer of Africa's most famous lion and now the US Fish and Wildlife Service has begun its own hunt for the elusive Dr. Palmer after announcing it has opened an investigation into him.

The federal agency confirmed it has not spoken to him since he was identified as Cecil's killer on Tuesday and demanded the reviled hunter pick up the phone and contact them as a matter of urgency.

Indeed, since he was catapulted to global notoriety, married father-of-two Dr. Palmer has not been seen at his Minneapolis home and closed his Bloomington surgery at which he is the sole practitioner.

Dr. Palmer has not even been caught escaping the international outcry by relaxing in the Sunshine State at his Naples, Florida mansion.

Nor has he made a television appearance in an effort to limit the damage to his own livelihood and safety and the PR firm he hired to deal with the fallout split with him.

He has made only one terse public statement on the matter since Tuesday and in it effectively threw his two Zimbabwean guides under the bus. [more]

Where's Walter? Feds open investigation into dentist who killed Cecil the lion as White House says it will review petition to EXTRADITE the elusive hunter

Dr. Walter Palmer, Minnesota dentist who killed Zimbabwe's Cecil the lion just outside a national wildlife preserve, pictured on 23 July 2015. Photo: ReutersBy David Bailey, with additional reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Scott Malone, Sandra Maler, and Lisa Shumaker
30 July 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota (Reuters) – A Minnesota dentist's killing of Zimbabwe's Cecil the lion just outside a national wildlife preserve has unleashed death threats and a global firestorm of hate messages on social media.

About 200 people protested on Wednesday outside the suburban Minneapolis office of Walter Palmer, 55, calling for him to be extradited to Zimbabwe to face charges.

Palmer, an avid big game hunter, said in a statement on Tuesday he regrets killing Zimbabwe's most famous lion on July 1. He said he had hired professional local guides who secured hunting permits and believed the hunt was legal.

Cecil, a rare black-maned lion, was lured out of Hwange National Park using a bait and was wounded with a bow and arrow, and not shot dead until 40 hours later.

Cecil was fitted with a GPS collar for a research project by scientists from Oxford University and was one of the oldest and most famous lions in Zimbabwe.

Palmer temporarily closed his office in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Tuesday as criticism grew of his killing of Cecil and negative business reviews flooded Google and Yelp. […]

A small memorial of stuffed animals stood in the entry door to the building that houses Palmer's dental practice. Signs taped to the door said "Rot in Hell" and "Palmer there is a deep cavity waiting for you!"

Demonstrators called for Palmer's arrest and asked people not to use his dental practice.

A combination photo shows Zimbabwean safari operator Honest Ndlovu (R) and fellow countryman and hunter Theo Bronkhorst waiting to appear in Hwange magistrates court, 29 July 2015. Philimon Bulawayo / REUTERS

"Walter, you are a murderer, you are a terrorist," said Rachel Augusta, a Minneapolis resident and mentor coordinator at the Animal Rights Coalition, which organised the protest.

Even Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton weighed in.

"It's an iconic lion," Dayton, a Democrat, told reporters. "To lure the animal out of the preserve, I don't understand how anybody thinks that's a sport. I just think it is horrible."

Palmer, who has not been charged, has been under official scrutiny for his hunting in the past. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to a federal charge of lying to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent about a black bear hunt in Wisconsin two years earlier. Palmer was sentenced to one year probation fined $2,938.

He had been accused of killing a bear outside his permitted zone and then hauling it back 40 miles (64 km) inside to register it with authorities. [more]

U.S. dentist who killed Zimbabwe's Cecil the lion draws threats, protests

Aerial view of five elephant carcasses laid out on the dusty earth of Tsavo West National Park, the remains of a family. The gruesome scene, found on 28 July 2015 sparked a huge coordinated effort, led by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), to catch the killers. Photo: Big Life Foundation / Kenya Wildlife Service


It’s the kind of discovery that stops everything: five elephant carcasses laid out on the dusty earth of Tsavo West National Park, the remains of a family. The gruesome scene, found on Tuesday morning (July 28) has sparked a huge coordinated effort, led by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), to catch the killers.

Big Life's rapid response and dog units immediately joined KWS on the poachers' tracks, and we can report that there has already been some success. Due to the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation, we will release a full update at an appropriate time. Until then, know that there is a team of dedicated people who are not resting in pursuit of those behind this horrendous act.

Big Life Foundation

By Morgan Winsor
29 July 2015

(IBT) – Kenyan wildlife authorities Wednesday arrested two suspected poachers in the slaughter of five elephants in Tsavo National Park. But a major manhunt was still underway to catch the rest of the killing gang after the carcasses of a female adult and four young adult elephants were found with their tusks missing, Agence France-Presse reported.

The five elephants were killed in Tsavo West National Park, which covers about 3,500 square miles and harbors some 11,000 pachyderms including rhinos, hippos, and elephants. The reserve is near the border with Tanzania and is Kenya’s largest elephant sanctuary.

"The suspected gang is believed to comprise … four Tanzanians who operate across the Tanzania-Kenya border assisted by some Kenyans from the local area. They are believed to have used motorbikes to escape with the tusks," the Kenya Wildlife Service, which operates the park, told AFP. […]

The combined Tsavo parks saw the elephant population plummet from more than 60,000 in the early 1970s to fewer than 6,000 in the late 1980s. The establishment of the Kenya Wildlife Service and an international ivory trade ban in 1989 have helped slowly revive Tsavo’s elephant population, but there has been an unprecedented rise in poaching across the African continent since 2009.

“Elephants are now faced with the gravest threat to their survival in modern history,” U.K. charity Save the Elephants says on its website.

Kenya’s elephant population stands at about 38,000 nationwide. Wildlife conservationists and experts have warned African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a few decades, the Guardian reported. [more]

Kenya Elephant Poaching: Suspected Poachers Arrested For Tsavo National Park Killings

The recalibrated Greenland record (black line) calculated from the combined Cariaco-Greenland chronology (Table S4) was used to generate a 500-year running window calculating the coefficient of variation (δ18O CV) to highlight periods of likely rapid environmental change, highlighting the impacts at the onset and ending of interstadials, and relationships to the megafaunal transition events. The timing of interstadials is shown according to the recalibrated Greenland record, with the pink bars below representing the error margins (1 sd) for the estimated onset of GI events in the GICC05 chronology. Graphic: Cooper, et al., 2015 / Science Magazine

By Laura Geggel
25 July 2015

(LiveScience) – The mighty megafauna of the last ice age, including the wooly mammoths, short-faced bears and cave lions, largely went extinct because of rapid climate-warming events, a new study finds.

During the unstable climate of the Late Pleistocene, about 60,000 to 12,000 years ago, abrupt climate spikes, called interstadials, increased temperatures between 7 and 29 degrees Fahrenheit (4 and 16 degrees Celsius) in a matter of decades. Large animals likely found it difficult to survive in these hot conditions, possibly because of the effects it had on their habitats and prey, the researchers said.

Interstadials "are known to have caused dramatic shifts in global rainfall and vegetation patterns," the study's first author Alan Cooper, director for the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said in a statement emailed to Live Science.

Temperature drops during the Late Pleistocene showed no association with animal extinctions, Cooper said. Instead, only the hot interstadial periods were associated with the large die-offs that hit populations (local events) and entire species of animals (global events), he said.

Ancient humans also played a role in the megafaunal extinction, albeit a smaller one, he said. By disrupting the animals' environments, human societies and hunting parties likely made it harder for megafauna to migrate to new areas and to refill areas once populated by animals that had gone extinct, he said. […]

They examined DNA from dozens of megafaunal species that lived during the Late Pleistocene, combing through more than 50,000 years of DNA records for extinction events. The ancient DNA not only told them about global extinction events, but also local population turnovers, which occur when a group of animals dies and another population of animals moves in to replace them. [Wipe Out: History's Most Mysterious Extinctions]

They then compared the data on megafauna extinction with detailed records of severe climate events, which they gathered from Greenland ice cores and the sedimentary record of the Cariaco Basin off Venezuela.

"By combining these two records, we can place the climate and radiocarbon dating data on the same timescale, thereby allowing us to precisely align the dated fossils against climate," Cooper said. "The high-resolution view we gained through this approach clearly showed a strong relationship between warming events and megafaunal extinctions." […]

"In many ways, the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and resulting warming effects are expected to have a similar rate of change to the onset of past interstadials, heralding another major phase of large mammal extinctions," Cooper said.

In addition, humans have disrupted the habitats and surrounding areas of many wild animals, making it challenging for species to migrate or shift ranges to places where they would be better adapted to deal with climate change, he said. […]

"This study is a bit of a wake-up call," said Eline Lorenzen, an assistant professor of paleogenetics at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. "Here we have empirical evidence — based on data from a lot of species — that rapid climate warming has profoundly impacted megafauna communities, negatively, during the past 50,000 years.

"It doesn't bode well for the future survival of the world's megafauna populations.” [more]

Mighty Mammoths Fell Prey to Rapidly Warming Earth

ABSTRACT: The mechanisms of Late Pleistocene megafauna extinctions remain fiercely contested, with human impact or climate change cited as principal drivers. Here, we compare ancient DNA and radiocarbon data from 31 detailed time series of regional megafaunal extinctions/replacements over the past 56,000 years with standard and new combined records of Northern Hemisphere climate in the Late Pleistocene. Unexpectedly, rapid climate changes associated with interstadial warming events are strongly associated with the regional replacement/extinction of major genetic clades or species of megafauna. The presence of many cryptic biotic transitions prior to the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary revealed by ancient DNA confirms the importance of climate change in megafaunal population extinctions and suggests that metapopulation structures necessary to survive such repeated and rapid climatic shifts were susceptible to human impacts.

Abrupt warming events drove Late Pleistocene Holarctic megafaunal turnover

A firefighter and a cow confront a wall of flame during the massive Rim wildfire near Yosemite in 2013. Photo: CNN

By Chad T. Hanson and Dominick A. Dellasala
23 July 2015

(The New York Times) – In the fall of 2013, shortly after fire swept across 257,000 acres of forest and shrub lands near Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada, Republicans in the House of Representatives approved a bill that would have suspended environmental laws to increase logging in our national forests in the name of fire prevention and “restoration.”

Fortunately, the legislation never made it out of Congress. But it is fire season again in the West and, predictably, House Republicans have struck again, passing a similar measure, almost entirely along party lines, that all but gives away public forests to logging companies. A similar bill promoted by three Western Republicans is now before the Senate.

Just as they did in 2013, supporters of this legislation are using the public’s fear of forest fires to advance their agenda. They argue that overgrown and “unhealthy” forests raise the risk of wildfires, and that the government has been hampered by litigation and environmental reviews from allowing timber companies to thin forests to reduce the risk of fire.

Accordingly, this legislation would allow more logging on federal lands, including clear cutting, by exempting some logging from environmental reviews entirely, limiting oversight in other cases and making it much more difficult to challenge harmful logging projects in court.

The legislation is rooted in falsehoods and misconceptions.

Some of the bill’s supporters claim that environmental laws regulating commercial logging have led to more intense fires. But, as we saw in the 2013 fire near Yosemite, known as the Rim Fire and one of the largest in California history, commercial logging and the clear-cutting of forests do not reduce fire intensity.

In the case of the Rim Fire, our research found that protected forest areas with no history of logging burned least intensely. There was a similar pattern in other large fires in recent years. Logging removes the mature, thick-barked, fire-resistant trees. The small trees planted in their place and the debris left behind by loggers act as kindling; in effect, the logged areas become combustible tree plantations that are poor wildlife habitat.

The bill’s supporters also argue that increasing logging and clear-cutting will benefit wildlife. But decades of forest ecology research strongly link the logging of both unburned and burned forests to the declines of numerous wildlife species, most notably the imperiled spotted owl. [more]

More Logging Won’t Stop Wildfires

The 2015 drought in Bang Pla Ma district, in Thailand's Suphanburi province, is forcing impoverished Thai farmers deeper into debt and heaping fresh pain on an already weak economy. Photo: AFP

BANG PLA MA, Thailand, 9 July 2015 (AFP) – Ms Ranong Rachasing would normally be in her fields at this time of the year, toiling in ankle-deep water to make her rice paddies bloom through knowledge honed by years of cultivating Thailand's most celebrated export.

Now the wizened 57-year-old's fields lie fallow, baking under a blazing summer sun.

"This year is worse than any other. There has been no rain, so there is no water. It is the most severe drought I've ever seen," she said while standing in a cracked field in Bang Pla Ma district, Suphanburi province, a two-hour drive north of Bangkok.

Thailand's vital rice belt is being battered by one of the worst droughts in living memory with the prospect of a dismal main harvest.

Water levels in some of the major reservoirs are at their lowest levels in 20 years, prompting the ruling junta to call on farmers in the Chao Praya river basin to delay sowing crops.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has also ordered officials to clear irrigation channels, dig more ground wells and employ cloud-seeding technology to create artificial rainfall. But the wet season has yet to arrive in earnest. [more]

Thailand's vital rice belt drying up

19 July 2015 (CCTV) – A devastating drought is delaying the growing season for Thailand farmers to plant their paddy fields. Taps are running dry, roads are collapsing, and soldiers are guarding canals and waterways. CCTV’s Martin Lowe filed the report from Thailand.

  • Thailand’s Chao Phraya river – which supplies drinking water to Bangkok – is turning salty as low flows allow the sea to flood upstream.
  • Nevertheless every household in the capital has been urged to store at least 60 liters of drinking water in case the worst happens.
  • A third of the country has water rationing – with many areas declared drought disaster zones.

Water rationing takes place in almost a third of Thailand

26 July 2015 (VietNamNet Bridge) – At the same time these storms and floods are wreaking havoc on the country’s infrastructure and economy as they devastate dikes, canals, livestock, and thousands of hectares of crops annually.

"We have to quicken our actions on mitigation, reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and adaptation," said Hoang Van Thang, deputy minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) at a recent conference in Hanoi.

Many have often talked about Vietnam becoming a ‘food bowl’ for Asia, but climate change is a major threat to food security and complicates productivity of a variety of different plants, Thang said.

Most notably, rice output will be reduced by 405.8 kilo per hectare due to the impact of climate change by 2030 and a whopping 716.6 kilo per hectare by 2050 if drastic measures on seeds and cultivation methods are not undertaken.

Over recent years, greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural industry have spiked and in response the government is working with a range of industries and companies on a number of adaptation strategies aimed at reducing them by 20% through 2020.

Vietnam faces more variability in rainfall, prolonged droughts and a greater incidence of extreme weather events Thang said, adding that farmers and poor people are most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.

Jong Ha Bae, chief representative of the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Vietnam in turn said Vietnam is now better placed to meet the challenges brought about by climate change following a three-year Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) program.

The three year European Commission funded CSA project obtained remarkable results as a result of close collaboration with MARD, research institutes, local experts and provincial authorities.

The project, which closed last month, was a complicated and costly project that encouraged farmers to abandon or lessen reliance on methods that increase greenhouse gas emissions and transition to alternative more environmentally friendly methods.

Some analyses have shown that the CSA project will help reduce methane emissions (CH4) in Vietnam by 25%-30% and increase rice productivity by 3-5% by 2020.

For her part, the Director of the Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute reported that untreated animal manure is contaminating Vietnam’s water supply.

A typical industrial livestock farm collects urine and manure in large cesspools and they commonly leak the Director said.

Full of ammonia, phosphorus, nitrogen, and potentially drug resistant bacteria, leakage seeps into waterways and groundwater, causing high chemical oxygen demand (COD – the main measure of organic compounds in water) and eutrophication.

According to the director, a project for constructing and operating biogas tanks and converting the urine and manure to gas used for cooking to reduce this water pollution is proving quite effective. [more]

Rice crops dwindle as a result of climate change

A Mombasa resident walks by the decorative elephant tusks located on Moi Avenue in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa. The monument was defaced by activists on 3 October 2014, who smeared it with dripping red paint and the phrase, 'Mombasa Not 4 Ivory Export'. Photo: Kevin Odit

By Briana Duggan
25 July 2015

(PRI) – Tourists visiting Kenya’s steamy coastal city of Mombasa will likely pose in front of what is perhaps the city’s most iconic symbol, two giant arches made of aluminum and designed to look like elephant tusks. Given to the city by Britain’s Princess Margaret in 1956, the structure was meant to celebrate Kenya’s abundance of wildlife. But today it has become something of an ironic emblem of the city.

Last year, activists defaced the sculptures, smearing them with dripping red paint and the phrase, “Mombasa Not 4 Ivory Export.”

Relative to its neighbors, Kenya has been lauded internationally for its anti-poaching initiatives. The country imposed a strict new wildlife act that imposes life sentences or heavy fines for poaching. With the help of international donors, the Kenya Wildlife Service recently opened a wildlife forensic and genetics laboratory to aid in wildlife crime prosecution. However, even with these advancements, Kenya has one serious weakness.

The port of Mombasa, the country’s largest coastal city, is the single most active ivory trafficking hub in Africa, funneling ivory from East and Central Africa on its way, overwhelmingly, to Asian markets. This trade through Mombasa has increased in recent years, leading to a grim statistic: Since 2009, studies estimate the port of Mombasa has funneled the ivory of 25,000 elephants.

The ivory passing through Mombasa has been labeled as decorating stones, declared as peanuts, and stashed with tea leaves. It has been intercepted in Singapore, Thailand and at the Kenyan port, sometimes in quantities of 1,000 pounds or more.

Experts say the level of sophistication required to move such large quantities over such long distances indicates the involvement of organized crime. [more]

Kenya's Mombasa port is the highway through which Africa's poached animal products pass


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