Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Food staples ( Cassava) at risk from climate change

From:Monash University

16 September 2009

Dr Ros Gleadow

Monash researcher Dr Ros Gleadow and her team have received international recognition for their research into the impact of climate change on food crops in the developing world.

The research has found that the leaves of cassava - a major staple food source for more than 500 million people - become more toxic when grown at higher levels of carbon dioxide. The edible tubers do not, but the yield is much smaller, which is potentially very serious.

Cassava belongs to a group of plants that produce chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides, which break down to release poisonous cyanide gas when they are crushed or chewed.

"The ability of people and herbivores, such as cattle, to break down cyanide depends largely on eating sufficient protein," Dr Gleadow said.

"Anyone largely reliant on cassava for food, particularly during drought, are at risk of developing konzo and other diseases through cyanide poisoning if the food is not properly processed."

Dr Gleadow said the 50 per cent or greater drop in tuber yield also caused concern.

"We need to start developing new cultivars now to be ready for the higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere in the coming 25 years," Dr Gleadow said.

"Reducing carbon emissions wouldn't be a bad idea either."

Dr Gleadow's team includes Tim Cavagnaro from Monash, Julie Cliff and Anabela Zacarias from Eduardo Modigliani University in Mozambique and John Evans and Howard Bradbury from ANU.

In addition to worldwide media attention, the peer-reviewed journal Plant Biology has published a paper on the research.

The research is funded by the Finkel Foundation, the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International and Marketing) and AusAID.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pacific leaders inspect climate change damage

From; Torres News Online

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Sunday, 30 August 2009 11:40

The impacts of climate change on Island communities in the Torres Strait were the focus of a recent visit by senior representatives of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

Visiting Boigu were: Back row: AOSIS representatives Mr Ronald Jumeau and Ms Dessima Williams, and Boigu Island Councillor and TSRA Board Member Cr Donald Banu; Front row: Mr Dave Hanslow (TSRA), TSRA Deputy Chairperson Ms Napcia Bin Tahal and Mr Andrew Ure (Department of Climate Change). Photos courtesy EMMA LOBAN, EMAJIN Images.

Visiting Boigu were: Back row: AOSIS representatives Mr Ronald Jumeau and Ms Dessima Williams, and Boigu Island Councillor and TSRA Board Member Cr Donald Banu; Front row: Mr Dave Hanslow (TSRA), TSRA Deputy Chairperson Ms Napcia Bin Tahal and Mr Andrew Ure (Department of Climate Change). Photos courtesy EMMA LOBAN, EMAJIN Images.

The visit by Ms Dessima Williams, Chair of AOSIS and the Permanent Representative of Grenada to the United Nations, and Mr Ronald Jumeau, the Permanent Representative of Seychelles to the United Nations, and Mr Andrew Ure, Australian Government Department of Climate Change, was hosted by the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Deputy Chairperson Napcia Bin Tahal, the Torres Strait Island Regional Council, and the Boigu Island community.
The delegates flew into the region following their participation in the recent Pacific Islands Forum held in Cairns.
TSRA Chair Mr Toshie Kris said the delegation’s visit helps to bring international attention to the diversity and strategic importance of this unique region and to the challenges and management priorities confronting the Torres Strait in the face of climate change as well as provided an opportunity to exchange information with other regions sharing similar experiences.
“The impacts of climate change are real and pressing issues for our region, and as a seafaring culture our concerns over sea level rise and climate change grow each year.
“We need to be aware of how our environment is changing, use the best available science in combination with traditional knowledge to understand future scenarios and work with policy makers at all levels both nationally and internationally to ensure our communities are equipped to make the necessary changes and build resiliency.”
The region is at significant risk from climate change through sea level rise, inundation causing flooding, erosion and weather events including storm surge and king tides.
A recent example was the effects in January in which elevated sea levels from Cyclone Charlotte in the Gulf of Carpentaria affected Torres Strait communities.  The event left many islands with devastating damage to infrastructure and housing, caused severe erosion and left behind a substantial repair bill.
The delegation visited Boigu Island, a community that is being heavily impacted by coastal inundation and flooding, and is highly exposed to potential sea level rise due to the island’s low elevation above sea level.
Mr Kris said key priorities of the region are to continue to work with researchers to establish a baseline understanding of the current conditions and develop modelling scenarios to determine the predicted impacts to better inform adaptation plans, as well as continue to carry out immediate works to reduce the effects. Strategies will need to address the range of potential impacts including changes to marine and terrestrial ecosystems, particularly that of increased ocean temperatures and acidification, altered seasonal weather patterns including increased air temperatures and changes to rainfall patterns which will affect water supplies and food production cycles, and increased health threats such as the spread of disease and heat stress in both people and animals.