Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tigers lose their home as a result of Sea Level Rise

From The Times of India

Sunderbans study links straying tigers with vanishing greens

17 Jan 2009, 0638 hrs IST, Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay, TNN

KOLKATA: Why are incidents of man-tiger conflict on the rise in the Sunderbans? Rising sea levels, a diminishing prey base and the vanishing Hetal (Phoenix paludosa) are the most likely reasons why tigers are straying into human habitat in the only mangrove habitat for the big cats.
A Botanical Survey of India (BSI) study finds that in the Sunderbans, Hetal is increasingly being replaced by Chhat Garan (Ceriops). "Sunderbans tigers love Hetal bushes, as they find them ideal not only for camouflaging, but also for their smell and thickness," said a BSI official.
Repeated incidents of tigers straying into villages in the Sunderbans led experts to hold a brainstorming meeting on Thursday. The meeting witnessed heated arguments on the methodology adopted in replenishing the prey base by releasing 100 deer in the Sunderbans. Experts suspect that all the deer released had died, as they were not acclimatized to the new terrain. "Ideally, deer should have been bred. Only the next generation of deer could have been released in the forest," said an expert.
The meeting, convened by chief wildlife warden S B Mondal, decided on conducting an in-depth month-long survey by an expert committee to decide on remedial measures to be adopted by the forest department.
"The expert committee will study the prey base by WWF (World Wildlife Fund for Nature) and change of habitat vegetation by BSI. We will again meet to discuss the recommendation for an effective implementation methodology," said Sundarban Tiger Reserve (STR) field director Subrata Mukherjee. The meeting was attended by senior officers of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), BSI, and faculty of the department of zoology and oceanography, Calcutta University.
"We will have an in-depth study on how the vegetation is undergoing rapid changes in the Sunderbans, one of the most biodiversity-sensitive zones in the world," said Dr H K Debnath, principal investigator of BSI's Lead Institute. "Tigers in the Sunderbans consider Hetal bushes their homes. If suddenly these bushes are not there, they might feel homeless. We need to study that. If necessary, we need to undertake plantation drive of certain species of mangroves to maintain biodiversity."
The oceanography experts will assess the impact of rising sea level. "The rising sea level might have badly affected tiger habitat. The tigers might be forced to leave the islands," said a forest department officer.

Study Warns of Threat to Coasts From Rising Sea Levels

By CORNELIA DEAN

Published: January 16, 2009  by New York Times

Sea level rise fueled by global warming threatens the barrier islands and coastal wetlands of the Middle Atlantic States, a federal report warned on Friday.

The report, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Geological Survey and other agencies, is one of a series examining the potential effects of a rising sea level on the nation’s coasts.

The rise in sea level is accelerating, the report said, because warmer water occupies more space and because of runoff from melting inland glaciers and ice sheets. The Middle Atlantic States are particularly vulnerable because the rates of rise are “moderately high” there, the region is subject to storms, it is densely populated and much of its infrastructure is in low-lying areas.

The report, which is available at climatescience.gov, says that in the 20th century, rates of erosion in the region varied from 2.4 millimeters to 4.4 millimeters a year, or about a foot over 100 years. In the future, the report said, “it is virtually certain” that coastal headlands, spits and barrier islands will erode faster than they have in the past.

If sea level rises at a rate of seven millimeters a year or about two feet per century, “it is likely that some barrier islands in this region will cross a threshold,” and begin to break up, the report said. The islands forming the Outer Banks of North Carolina are particularly threatened.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations climate effort, estimated in its most recent report that sea level might rise by about as much as two feet by 2100. Many experts regard the estimate as optimistic.

Even a modest acceleration of sea level rise will have a negative effect on the region’s coastal wetlands, the report says, adding, “It is likely that most wetlands will not survive” a two-foot rise.

In natural environments, wetlands survive rises in sea level by shifting inland to higher ground. But in the Middle Atlantic States, the report notes, valuable infrastructure like buildings and roads stands in their way.

The report said public officials should consider the vulnerability of coastal areas and take action when necessary, for example, by limiting development in vulnerable areas. But it noted that there was great uncertainty about the timing and extent of the effects of sea level rise and that the region had conducted “only a limited number of analyses and resulting statewide policy revisions” to address the issue.