Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Importance of Adaptation magnified

by: Bruce Stutz

Summary: Veronique Carola

Today we are shifting from the ideology of mitigating carbon dioxide emissions to mostly making adaptation to climate changes a main priority for affected communities. With the rate of continuing C0² emission around the world, expectations that we could keep atmospheric C0² levels below the acceptable rate of 450 parts per million and global warming rate below 2º Celsius, has deviated some-what. In realising such, adaptation to climatic changes seems the next best option.

Adaptation measures would mean countries have to be prepared to deal with issues such as water scarcity, rising sea-level, the spread of diseases and the complication of preserving biodiversity. It is expected that wet regions will become wetter and dry regions drier which carries grave implications for agricultural productivity. ‘The key to coping would be to make farming as resilient as possible’, it is said.

Low lying countries are already suffering with sea-level rise. Coastlines that have been greatly altered over the century through development and agriculture surely have a weakened resistance to flooding and erosion, a fact that will be most prominent during storm surges. Restoration of mangrove ecosystems is one alternative to curb impacts.

Water borne diseases will be a major problem with areas likely to experience wetter seasons, and so are the regions likely to experience more flooding and contamination of water supplies. Studies at understanding the changes expected are best to be taken seriously, especially since these help us understand the options and identify the vulnerabilities.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Maldives’ disappearing coast prompts appeal to UN space agency

From :


Written by Jonathan Tirone / Bloomberg

Sunday, 07 June 2009 19:03

The Maldives, one of the nations most threatened by global warming, is appealing to the United Nations space agency to help the island country plan its defenses against rising sea levels.

“Beach erosion is the No. 1 problem for our country right now,” Environment Minister Abdulla Shahid said over the weekend in an interview in Vienna. The Indian Ocean nation of 385,000 people has had to relocate the populations of two of its 200 islands because of eroding beaches, he said.

The UN Office for Outer Space Affairs is meeting this week in the Austrian capital to help poorer nations get access to satellite imagery that can help them plan for environmental disasters and climate change.

Commercial photos from space, which normally cost $4,000 each, can be obtained through the UN for free, Shahid said.

The Maldives wants the images to plan sea walls and future population centers.

“The storm surges have become extreme, much worse than anything our people have seen in their lifetimes,” Shahid said.

One island lost a 1,200-foot (366-meter) long, 160-foot deep stretch of beach in the last two weeks, he said.

The Maldives is among a group of 43 low-lying nations demanding in international climate talks that developed countries slash their emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels to avert the worst effects of warming.

The Maldives lies 3 meters above sea level at its highest and is among the countries most threatened by rising sea levels caused by global warming. The government has already set up a sovereign wealth fund in case it needs to buy land abroad to resettle its civilians, President Mohamed Nasheed said on April 7.

Shahid said it would cost between $25 billion and $30 billion to build a sea wall around the island nation to mitigate against storm surges and rising sea levels.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Modelling future distribution of terrapins in seychelles

Will climate change affect terrapin (Pelusios subniger paritalis and P. castanoides intergularis) conservation in Seychelles? - P. Bombi, M. D’Amen, J. Gerlach & L. Luiselli
Abstract: We report a modeling study on habitat suitability and predicted distribution shifts of two species of Seychelles’s freshwater turtles (Pelusios castanoides and Pelusios subniger) under a climate change scenario. We utilized data from the entire species distribution for modeling habitat suitability of the two species under current and future climate conditions, by using the MAXENT algorithm. At the continental scale, it appeared that P castanoides will shift its range towards more coastal areas, whereas P. subniger will move towards more southern sites. In the Seychelles archipelago scale, habitat suitability for P. castanoides will decrease significantly, mainly in the interior areas of Mahé Island. On the contrary, the climatic conditions are predicted to remain suitable for P. subniger, which will enjoy a significantly increased habitat suitability in Seychelles.

Online Link:

Note:The first paper in a special climate change issue of Phelsuma is now available on-line.  This paper describes the modelling of future distributions of terrapins in Seychelles:

We anticipate that future papers in this issue will cover predictions of climate change, impacts of sea-level rise and effects on different species in Seychelles, Reunion, Madagascar and hopefully other islands.

Dr. Justin Gerlach
Scientific Co-ordinator - Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles
133 Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge CB1 7BX, UK
Affiliated Researcher - University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Tidal nesting won't survive rising sea


By Judy Benson

Published on 6/5/2009

Stonington - Professor Chris Elphick leaned down to part some emerald tufts of salt meadow cord grass, exposing a rounded mat of gray, dried blades beneath, like a tiny upturned basket.

In a secret pocket such as this, he explained, a little brown, white and yellow bird with a whisper-soft song, some very unique behaviors and a most precarious future builds its nest.

”The first 20 nests are hard to find,” Elphick, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, said. “Then you start learning some tricks. You get an eye for how the birds behave when they're near their nests.”

He pointed to a wisp flying low over the marsh, at the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area. It quickly disappeared into a patch of marsh elder. With just that glimpse, Elphick knew he had spotted a salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrow, an unassuming and previously little-known species he's devoted much of the last seven years to studying. As concerns about climate change and associated rising seas have grown, Elphick's work has taken on an increasing practical urgency, because the research has shown these birds are one of the most vulnerable species in the Northeast.

”He's done groundbreaking work,” said Patrick Comins, director of bird conservation for Audubon Connecticut.

Because up to one-third of the entire world population of this sparrow makes the Connecticut shoreline its home for mating, nesting and fledgling in spring and summer, Elphick's research has been done entirely at 45 salt marshes on the state's shoreline. Of those, he said, the three most important sites are Great Island in Old Lyme, Hammonasset State Park in Madison and the East River marsh in Guilford. After that comes Barn Island. Spring high tides over the last few weeks are an especially critical time.

”There are probably 200 to 300 of them here,” Elphick said, toting spotting scope and binoculars as he walked one of the paths between the marshes at Barn Island. “At the other three sites, there are probably a couple of thousand. This is a bird Connecticut has a lot of responsibility for, in a global sense.”

Victim of its nesting habits

No other bird species, Elphick contends, attunes mating and nesting around the spring high tides like this sparrow. Because the success of its offspring depends on getting the timing just right, any change in sea levels, no matter how slight, can make all the difference. That means that as climate change causes seas to swell, more water will flood the salt marshes where the birds nest than they have adapted to withstand.

”This species is doomed, even with modest sea-level rise projections, without drastic action,” Comins said. “I believe this species is the one most likely to go extinct in Connecticut in our lifetime” if nothing is done to save it.

”Almost every talk I give these days I mention the impact of climate change on the salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrow.”

Not recognized as a distinct species until 1995 - before that it was erroneously lumped with the Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow - the salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrow now commands the interest not only of Elphick and his graduate assistants, but of policymakers and wildlife experts concerned about the effects of climate change. Elphick's expertise has been called on by the state Department of Environmental Protection panel examining how wildlife is being affected by climate change and what steps the state should take to protect critical habitats.

”They live in a narrow band along the coast. For a bird that's a very small geographic range,” Elphick said. “They're so vulnerable to sea-level rise, because the difference between a good spot for a nest and a bad spot can be just a few centimeters.”

In other words, a sparrow that nests under a tuft of grass growing at a slightly higher elevation than another will see its eggs survive spring flooding, while a nest in the other may not.

Salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrows, Elphick said, build their nests high enough to be out of the water at low and mid-tide, but low enough to be concealed from predators. For one phase of his research, his team placed heat sensors on nests. By monitoring temperature changes, they were able to conclude that eggs in a nest can withstand being under water at high tide for 60 to 90 minutes. The mother bird must return by then to rewarm the eggs, or they will drown.