Archive for the 'forests' Category

Glacier Hazards and Risk Mitigation

“Pakistan is located at the junction of the world’s three largest mountain ranges— Karakorum, Himalayas and Hindu Kush. The region has a total coverage area of 3500 sq.km and Pakistan hosts 8 out of 14 highest peaks of the world. A large part of the area remains covered by piles of snow round the year. Scientists and climate advocators call the region the Third Pole outside of the polar region.

An inventory study conducted by International Center for Integrated Mountain Development(ICIMOD) in the five Hindu Kush-Himalayan(HKH) countries of Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, has identified a total of 15,003 glaciers, covering an area of about 33,344 sq.km, and 8,790 glacial lakes, of which 203 have been identified as potentially dangerous

 

Baltoro Glacier, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, retrieved from DeviantArt

In 2005 water Resource Research Institute (WRSI) of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) in collaboration with ICIMOD prepared a glacial inventory, identifying 5218 glaciers with an average coverage area of 15041 sq.km. The study has recorded 2420 glacial lakes of which 52 were identified as potentially dangerous.

Outburst floods of such glacial lakes pose great threat to the downstream low lying areas. The northern and north western parts of Pakistan, mostly Chitral in KPK district and Gilgit Baltistan are hosting these larger glaciers. As climate change intensifies, risk and frequency of Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOF) is expected to increase in future. Many other research papers have also indicated that the glaciers in Karakorum and Himalayas which also have a regional sharing with central Asian region is susceptible to climate change, and these glacier are going through rapid changes.”

Read more: Dardistan Times

China’s water squeeze worsens as wetlands shrink 9 pct

Photo retrieved from: www.reuters.com

“China’s wetlands have shrunk nearly 9 percent since 2003, forestry officials said on Monday, aggravating water scarcity in a country where food production, energy output and industrial activity are already under pressure from water shortages.

China has more than a fifth of the world’s population but only 6 percent of its freshwater resources, and large swathes of the nation, especially in the north, face severe water distress.

Since 2003, wetlands sprawling across 340,000 sq. km. – an area larger than the Netherlands – have disappeared, officials of China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA) told reporters.

“The investigation shows that China is facing various problems with wetlands protections,” Zhang Yongli, vice director of the forestry body, told a news conference, adding that loopholes in protection laws imperil the shrinking wetlands.

The lost wetland areas have been converted to agricultural lands, swallowed by large infrastructure projects or degraded by climate change, the forestry administration said.

Wetlands lost to infrastructure projects have increased tenfold since the government’s last survey in 2003, Zhang added.”

Read more: Reuters

 

Megadrought in US Southwest: A Bad Omen for Forests Globally

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“Across the West, “megafires” have become the norm. With climbing temperatures, after a century of fire suppression, the total area burned has tripled since the 1970s, and the average annual number of fires over 10,000 acres is seven times what it was then. Fighting and suppressing fires costs more than $3 billion a year, not to mention lives lost. So understanding what, if anything, can be done to reduce intense forest fires has assumed an urgent priority.

Currently suffering the worst drought in the U.S., New Mexico has emerged as a “natural experiment” in megadrought, a laboratory for understanding drought’s deep history in the region — and what might lay in store in an era of rapid, human-caused warming.

With a highly variable climate, the Southwest boasts perhaps the best-studied megadrought history in the world. It’s the home of dendrology, the science of studying tree-rings, first developed at the University of Arizona. The pronounced seasonality of hot summers followed by cold winters produces well-defined rings, while archaeological fascination with Southwestern cultures — Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and other sites where ancient peoples flourished and disappeared — has supported the collection and study of centuries of tree-ring data. Temperate-zone trees lay down wider rings in wet years, which narrow or vanish during drought. What’s more, rings can be precisely dated, with sets matched against each other, revealing burn scars and patterns of climate, precipitation, drought stress, and tree mortality.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

Waldo Canyon Fire: 20 Percent Of Soil So Severely Burned It Is Likened To ‘Moonscape’

Photo retrieved from: www.huffingtonpost.com

“The Waldo Canyon Fire, the most destructive wildfire in state history, burned so hot that wildfire experts say that nearly 20 percent of the total 18,247 acres (29 square miles) consumed by the blaze was burned so severely that no living vegetation was left on the surface nor root systems left below the surface to a depth of about 4 inches, The Associated Press reports.

The Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) assessment team determined that 3,375 acres or about 5 square miles was determined to be damaged so badly, left so baren after the blaze ripped through the area that it was likened to moonscape, U.S. Forest Service hydrologist Dana Butler said.

BAER broke the burn severity of the soils and watersheds into three levels, besides the nearly 20 percent severely burned, the group found the remainder of the area to be 41 percent low or unburned severity (7,586 acres) and 40 percent moderate severity (7,286 acres), according to InciWeb.org

Read more: Huffington Post

The Belo Monte Dam: An Environmental Crime

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“Meanwhile, three thousand kilometres north, and unbeknownst to most participants at Rio +20, the Brazilian government is carrying out an objectionable project: a series of dams in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. The Belo Monte and Madeira Dam complexes are already underway. They are part of a larger scheme known as the Integrated Regional Infrastructure for South America (IIRSA), supported by Brazil’s Accelerated Growth Programme (PAC). The Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) has publicly committed to funding up to 80% of the project. The ultimate objective is to create a trans-Brazilian system of waterways to connect through Peru and Bolivia, to transport raw material exports to China, Japan and North America.

On the 16th of June 2012, protesters stormed the construction site of the Belo Monte Dam. They dug a channel through the earth coffer dam, chanting ‘Free the Xingu.’ They lay on the dam, their bodies spelling out the words ‘Pare Belo Monte:’ Stop Belo Monte.

These dams are already impacting the livelihoods of local communities, threatening the cultural identities of indigenous tribes and devastating the environment.

The Madeira Dam complex should serve as a warning of what we can expect from Belo Monte, and the other dams. The Madeira complex will consist of four dams: the Santo Antonio and Jirau which are already under construction, the Cachuela Esperanza Dam on the Beni River near Riberalta, Bolivia which is nearly ready for construction and the Guajará-Mirim Dam on the Madeira River upstream from Abunã, which is in the planning stages. Very little is being admitted publicly about these last two dams.”

Read more: International Rivers

 

Water Shortage Pushing Leopards Into ‘Man’s Territory’-Mumbai

Photo retrieved from: www.nbtvlive.com

“Explaining the reason behind leopards abandoning their natural habitat and encroaching upon ‘man’s territory,’ Vijay Hinge, district forest officer (planning), says the Western Ghats — where Nashik is located — are surrounded by dams and water bodies. The ample supply of water in the 4km-stretch around canals and rivers fed by the dams gives rise to natural vegetation. At Nashik, the Godavari river has helped in the growth of sugarcane and orchid fields. Since they can find easy prey like foxes, birds, rabbits and frogs in sugarcane fields, leopards make them their home. But in times of water shortage and when sugarcane has been harvested — as is the case now — leopards have no option but to venture out of their new habitat in search of food and water.

Leopard sightings in residential areas have been on the rise in recent years. From 2004 to March 2012, Nashik residents have had at least 10 confrontations with leopards. Sightings and attacks in sugarcane fields or at the borders of the jungles have been more frequent.”

Read more: DNA

 

Salt Threatens Massive Mangrove Forest

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“However, as a recent report by Dr. Md. Mizanur Rahman warns, these mangroves are in trouble. They face rising temperature, rising seas, silt and pollution washing down from deforested areas in the Himalaya, and pressures from aquaculture activities around the Sundarbans.

They are also being assaulted by rising salinity, brought by the formerly fresh rivers and streams that feed them. As agriculture increases in the region, water levels drop, minerals accumulate, and salinity rises. Brackish water is also expanding underground.

“Predictions from Sundarbans territory show that salinity may be double over the next few decades posing risks for survival of flora in Sundarbans,” writes Rahman.

He continued, “Natural vegetations of such areas are being destructed causing major changes in landscapes and biodiversity. Destruction of remaining natural habitats in core areas, buffer zones and corridors are also occurring. Most of the coastal districts already face severe salinity problems, with saline water pushing up to 250 km inward during the dry season.”

According to Rahman, Sundari trees and nypa palms are declining, changing the makeup of the ecosystem.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

Belo Monte Insurer Dropped from Sustainability Index

Photo retrieved from: www.latindispatch.com

“The construction of the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon region of Brazil has come under heavy criticism because of the impact the dam may have on the environment and local residents. Experts anticipate that it will have adverse effects on the Amazon rainforest, particularly on species diversity, and hence also on the livelihoods of the indigenous inhabitants. Due to its involvement in this project, Munich Re has been excluded from the Global Challenges Index (GCX). By agreeing to provide cover for the construction phase of the project, the reinsurer violated the GCX’s strict environmental regulations.

Investors in general have started to realize that large dams in the Amazon are so destructive, so high-risk, that even lavish public subsidies and huge insurance policies can’t cover up what is clearly a bad investment.  In fact, investments in massive dams such as Belo Monte may actually be drawing investment away from other sectors which could really benefit the public, reported this Bloomberg Markets Magazine story in April.

Investing in mega-dams in the Amazon is not only weakening Brazil’s standing as a player in international environmental sustainability and threatening the government’s compliance with international covenants such as ILO169.”

Read more: International Rivers

Coastal California Fog Carries Toxic Mercury, Study Finds

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“Yet over time, the researchers’ analysis suggests, significant amounts of methylmercury could be deposited along the coastline, nearly all of it from fog during the rainless summer months. “This toxic form of mercury is basically raining down in a place where redwood forests, for example, are collecting a lot of fog precipitation,” Dr. Weiss-Penzias said in a telephone interview.

Mercury
, a neurotoxin, occurs naturally in air, water and soil, and coal releases it when it is burned. Bacteria in soil and sediments convert mercury to methylmercury, which is both organic and soluble in water — a potent combination, Dr. Weiss-Penzias said. “It can be in water, taken up by organisms, stored in fatty tissues and cross the blood-brain barrier,” which prevents most other toxins from entering the brain, he explained.

When animals higher up in the food chain eat smaller organisms, they take up methylmercury, too. Moving up the food chain, methylmercury concentrations increase, in a process known as bioaccumulation.”

Read more: The New York Times