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Climate Change News

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Orangutans need key plants to survive (Anne Russon)

A study has identified key tree species that are resilient to climate change and support critically endangered apes.

Planting them could help future proof rainforests, which are a key habitat for orangutans, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature - IUCN.

Read more: Climate change: 'Future proofing' forests to protect orangutans

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Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia. (© Conservation International/photo by Koulang Chey)

For many people in developing countries, freshwater fisheries are their lifeline.

In Cambodia, for example, millions of people rely directly on the Tonlé Sap lake, the largest lake in Southeast Asia, for their food and income. But overfishing has depleted stocks of fish there, perpetuating poverty in one of the region’s poorest countries.

Read more: Protecting fisheries can fight poverty: study

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As far as bodies of water go, Cambodia is mostly known for the Mekong River. It provides fish and transport for millions of people and has become a romantic locale within Indochina.

Read more: https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/2182891/cambodias-tonle-sap-lake-where-fishermen-have-no-fish-and

Source: South China Morning Post | 20 January 2019

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A technique developed by a Jesuit priest is producing bumper crops – and reducing emissions of a grain responsible for 1.5% of greenhouse gases

Buathong Kukamjad from Warin Chamrap district with his large crop of jasmine rice, grown without flooding the soil. Photograph: John Vidal/The Guardian

The fragrant jasmine rice growing on the left side of Kreaougkra Junpeng’s five-acre field stands nearly five feet tall.

Each plant has 15 or more tillers or stalks, and the grains hang heavy from them. The Thai farmer says this will be his best-ever harvest in 30 years and he will reap it four weeks earlier than usual.

It is very different on the other side of the field. Here, Junpeng planted his rice in closely spaced clumps of 20 or more seedlings in shallow water just as he, his father and millions of other small farmers across south-east Asia have always done. He used the same seeds but the conventionally grown plants are wind-battered and thin, and clearly have fewer, smaller grains.

Junpeng is part of a pilot project to see if it’s possible to grow more rice with less water and fewer greenhouse gases. The dramatic difference between his two crops points a way to help the world’s 145 million small rice farmers, and could also greatly reduce global warming emissions from agriculture.

Read more: The miracle method for sustainable rice – and bigger harvests

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New partnership on drought preparedness further supports Cambodia in climate change preparedness and realizing the goals of Agenda 2030 and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

Read more: Cambodia, looking to the horizon, prepares for drought

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Intermediate egret

It was cold, dark and awfully quiet when we left a resort in San Simon on a bus to the nearby town of Candaba. It was 5:30 a.m. on February 2, the World Wetlands Day (WWD).

The bus stopped in the middle of a highway surrounded by rice paddies on both sides.

From an unexciting bus ride, we got to experience an adventurous ride on carabao sled, sitting down tight and holding on firmly to avoid falling after every curve. 

Read more: Saving Candaba swamp

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  • Critical to the health of rivers, shorelines, and forests globally, today only 150,000 square kilometers (57,900 square miles) of mangroves remain, down from 320,000 square kilometers (123,550 square miles) 50 years ago.
  • Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar are home to the largest mangrove forests in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, but rapid economic growth and illegal logging for fuelwood collection have damaged these forests.
  • Technical advancements such as floating mangroves, along with increased public awareness, do offer hope for the future of these trees in the region, as some are protected and recovering.

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — While Southeast Asia is known as one of the world’s fastest-growing economic regions, home to booming metropolises like Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and Kuala Lumpur, it also hosts some of the planet’s most vital ecological areas.

The Greater Mekong, which includes Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar, is key to this environmental vitality. According to the WWF, more than 2,200 new vertebrate and vascular plant species have been discovered in the region since 1997.

In the 1970s it was the most densely forested area on Earth. Since then, a third of that tree cover has been lost. Another third is expected to disappear by 2030. Urbanization, land use changes and agribusinesses such as palm oil and rubber have devastated forests, along with the wildlife species which rely on them for habitat.

The Greater Mekong is also home to one of the world’s major mangrove forest distributions, along with Central America and the southern United States, as well as the coastal tropics of West and East Africa.

Threats to the Greater Mekong’s mangroves

Mangroves live in brackish or salt water, and Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar, which have more than 8,400 kilometers (5,200 miles) of coastline, features significant forests of these trees. Cambodia, with 443 kilometers (275 miles) of coastline, has a mangrove area as well, though it has been seriously degraded. This is not uncommon.

Benno Böer, chief of natural sciences at UNESCO’s office in Bangkok, explained by phone that mangrove forests are largely shrinking everywhere they are found, with the exception of Eritrea, Abu Dhabi, and Australia.

A typical mangrove forest in Panama. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

Read more: Current threats and future hopes for the greater Mekong’s mangroves

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Ocean lovers are often left out of the bigger environmental discussions and so struggle to see how they can do their part to stop climate change.

But one organization, Sustainable Surf, is committed to changing all that by directly engaging the global surfing community to save and restore threatened mangrove forest ecosystems. Mangroves are five times more effective at sequestering carbon emissions than land-based trees. 

“Many people, including most ocean-minded individuals, inherently understand the real value of restoring coastal ecosystems as a way to protect our oceans, and ourselves. But they need an easier and more engaging pathway to get involved, and that’s why we’re launching project SeaTrees,” said Michael Stewart, co-founder of Sustainable Surf.

The ocean-health innovation lab uses surf culture to sell a sustainable lifestyle to an audience all around the world. With SeaTrees, it will provide an online portal to surfers worldwide to calculate and offset their carbon footprint, then become ‘carbon positive’ by funding new mangrove trees.

“The goal is to plant one million trees on behalf of the global surfing community in 2019,” said Stewart, who plans to ride the same wave that advertisers have used for years to sell products using surf culture, celebrities, and events, but to promote conservation rather than consumption.

“Every corporation in the world that you can think of … They all use the imagery of surf and surf culture and coastal ecosystems to sell their products,” he said.

A November 2018 survey by leading surf magazine Stab found that the surfing community considers climate change to be the biggest challenge human’s face.

“The global surfing world is a US$14 billion business, and according to The World Surf League, there are 120 million surf fans out there in the world, so if we can engage 1 percent of them, we can plant one million trees,” said Stewart.

From endangered to endangering

Mangrove trees can store five times the amount of C02 as terrestrial trees and provide a range of other vital functions to protect life below water and on land.

“Mangroves are often underappreciated, but they are in fact super-ecosystems that are critical for food security, coastal protection, water quality, and climate regulation,” said Gabriel Grimsditch, a coastal ecosystem expert at UN Environment.

“Mangrove conservation and restoration are necessary for a healthier coastal environment and a sustainable future for hundreds of millions of people around the world,” he said.

Unfortunately, mangroves are being cleared at an alarming rate, with more than half of the world’s forests lost in the last 50 years. Making mangroves endangered also endangers all life on earth, because when the trees die, they release the carbon stored in coastal sediments.

According to a UN Environment report, emissions resulting from mangrove losses make up nearly one-fifth of global emissions from deforestation, resulting in economic damages of some US$6-42 billion annually.

“If we lose these things, we are not getting them back, and they go from being the most useful carbon sinks in the world to becoming huge carbon emitters because when they’re degraded, the carbon stored in mud is released back into the atmosphere,” said Stewart.

From surfing to offsetting

The first place to benefit from the SeaTrees project is the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in Myanmar, a country with almost 4,000 miles of coastline in the Indian Ocean.

“Mangroves are disappearing in Myanmar four times faster than anywhere else in the world,” said Stewart.

Reforestation projects in the park have led to five million new mangrove trees and hundreds of jobs for locals as well as support for thousands of families with living and educational resources.

Since 2015, 3.5 million mangroves have been planted in the park as part of a project led by Worldview International Fund to restore more than 2,000 hectares of degraded coastal forest.

Svein Rasmussen of Starboard, a Sustainable Surf partner, helps plant mangroves. SeaTrees aims to plant one million trees on behalf of the global surfing community in 2019. Photo by Sustainable Surf

The Thor Heyerdhal Climate Park has also driven the use of cutting-edge technology in blue carbon projects. This includes pioneering the use of aerial drones to enable rapid planting at scale in hard-to-access locations, engaging with a web-based transparent mapping platform and using digital blockchain financing to allow individuals to directly support ocean-focused conservation efforts.

Marketing a model park

In February 2018, UN Environment recognized the Thor Heyerdhal Climate Park as a potential world-changing, scalable model for rapid mangrove restoration throughout South-East Asia and globally, and in November the project gained the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) certification.

“It’s sort of the gold standard of certification for voluntary projects, and the climate park project became the very first VCS certified project in Asia,” said Stewart.

This makes it the largest mangrove reforestation project to receive this certification and be able to produce carbon credits for international markets, laying the market foundations for Sustainable Surf’s goal to be achieved.

“What we need to do is to help bring eyeballs and dollars so that this project can grow and fulfill its potential to grow another five million trees. Then, we have a model to hopefully replicate across Myanmar and the region,” said Stewart.

Through SeaTrees, ocean lovers can calculate and offset their climate impacts by investing directly in coastal wetland conservation Blue Carbon projects such as mangrove forests, salt marshes and seagrass ecosystems. Photo by Sustainable Surf

In early 2019, SeaTrees will support an initial planting of trees in the VCS-certified Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park and then launch an interactive online web portal to create a ‘surf forest’.

Through SeaTrees, ocean-minded people can calculate and offset their climate impacts, and ultimately become ‘climate positive’ by investing directly in coastal wetland conservation Blue Carbon projects such as mangrove forests, salt marshes, and seagrass ecosystems.

Blue Carbon projects selected for support on the SeaTrees platform will be chosen based on industry best practices for impact validation and certification, and for their ability to scale up their impact to meet the challenge ahead.

Sustainable Surf is one of many organizations that made its voluntary commitment at the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017 and has joined a community of ocean action brought together to save life below water by the next event in 2020.

“Now we can actually start not just operating in our silos and with our own projects, but seeing how they overlap and basically making community happen. We are being more than just the sum of our parts,” said Stewart. “That’s what I’m super excited about and thank you to the United Nations for making it happen.”

Source: UN Environment | 6 February 2019

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The clear and calm waters of Reisafjorden, in Norway’s Far North, have in recent years become the winter playground of the Scandinavian country’s killer whale population. (AFP pic)

NORWAY: Paying no attention to nearby divers, a killer whale and her calf hunting for food frolic in a snowy Norwegian fjord.

Read more: Climate change pushing killer whales to migrate north

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