Friday, December 30, 2011

News & Notes

                                                                            Copyright: Photos by Zaka Imam

New species of scorpion found in Telangana region  

WWF-India commissioned biodiversity survey of the Warangal Cotton project area in Andhra Pradesh state (India) has revealed a new species of scorpion. The new species measuring 66.53 belongs to the genus Heterometrus Ehremberg, 1828, and has been designated, Heterometrus telanganaensis, after the Telangana region from where it has been discovered. 

The new species differs from all other Indian species of the genus in being one of the smallest with a relatively short metasoma. Specimens were collected at Regonda, Warangal district, in September 2010, which did not match the known species reported earlier from the state. 

Study revealed its resemblance to the genus Heterometrus. Yet it differed in several aspects from all the known species from India. Specimens have been deposited in the collection of the Zoological Survey of India, Freshwater Biology Regional Center, Arachnid section, Hyderabad.

The species habitat Regonda is located in the semi-arid part of Warangal District. Heterometrus telanganaensis is a burrowing species whose burrows were found on a hillock surrounded by agricultural fields, constructed in a shady area. The individual burrows, 20 to 25 mm wide at the entrance, are about 150 mm deep. 

Scorpions are found in all continents except Antarctica. Adapted to a variety of habitats from grasslands and rainforests to deciduous forests, they are nocturnal (hunt at night) and their carnivorous diet consists of a variety of smaller creatures like insects, centipedes and spiders. Some of them display cannibalistic behaviour and eat other scorpions.

Besides this scorpion species, WWF-India’s field staff in Andhra have also reported many other new varieties of scorpions, spiders and geckos as well as range extensions for many snakes and lizards as part of the biodiversity studies in the Eastern Ghats.

WWF Capacity Building in Education for Sustainable Development 

Fulfilling the larger objective of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), WWF- India, WWF- Sweden and UNESCO have joined hands to build capacity for Sustainable Development in Education, in India.  

Supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the project 2-day workshops in four cities (Delhi, Kolkata, Bhopal and Raipur) in order to impart training to master trainers of NCERT, CBSE, SCERT and DIETS on the necessity of sustainable development. Follow-up 2-day workshops are also planned to be held in 2012.

WWF- India’s Environment Education Division has been running 8 model ESD schools in the tiger landscapes of Sunderbans, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh since 2008 in partnership with WWF Sweden.

University of Virginia Starts Conservation Program 

University of Virginia (UV) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in the US have established a partnership for graduate-level training and research aimed at developing conservation professionals to tackle some of the biggest conservation problems facing the US. 

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit organization, was created by Congress in 1984 and directs public conservation funding to pressing conservation needs and matches these with private funds to protect and restore America’s native wildlife species and habitats. 

Among the nation’s largest conservation organizations, the foundation has made 11,000 awards to more than 3,800 organizations, investing more than $2 billion for conservation, since 1984. The foundations “Keystone” program which applies a “business plan” approach to conservation by clarifying outcomes, obstacles, performance measures and costs, is being credited having great potential for success. 

UV and the foundation are collaborating on an applied conservation science program which assess various strategies for preserving biodiversity in threatened habitats, identify knowledge gaps, and institutional barriers, for more effective solutions.

“The challenge is to allow students to appreciate the depth of information needed to maintain healthy wild populations of important species of animals and their habitats, and, at the same time, gain a real-world impression of the complicated interface between law, policy, ecology and the environmental understanding needed for the sustainable management of biotic diversity,” Shugart said. “The program could potentially develop a new type of scholar – different from the specialists educated in a discipline who were the norm for an earlier generation of students.”

The programs designed will also take into consideration accelerating climate and environmental change and population growth. The program will feature courses jointly taught by U.V faculty members and the foundation staff, provision summer internships for U.V students at foundation project sites.

This partnership will lead to NFWF have a world-class research capability to better help preserve America’s natural resources, and the UV aiding real-time conservation measures to save the US fish, wildlife and fauna for future generations. The partnership is a “synergistic marriage that has Mother Nature smiling.”

Biodiversity in Ireland Under Threat

Ireland is faced by the treat to its native species for all the known reasons of biodiversity decline anywhere else in the world: pollution, over exploitation and introduction and spread of non-native species. 

The Environmental Protection Agency has brought out this threat in its report “Biochange”, published recently. This is the first comprehensive assessment of the impact of the changing environment on ecosystems in Ireland. 

The report identifies four main drivers of biodiversity loss caused by human activity – habitat destruction and fragmentation, the spread of non-native invasive species, pollution and over-exploitation of natural resources. 

Ireland’s wealth of biodiversity includes peatlands to woodlands, hedgerows, sand dunes and seas and includes animals and plants that depend on these habitats for survival. 

The economic implications of biodiversity loss are significant. In 2008, the European Commission reported that the value of annual loss in ecosystem services resulting from the cumulative loss of biodiversity is estimated to be €14 trillion globally by 2050.

At a national level, a recent study valued ecosystem services in Ireland at over €2.6 billion a year. The agriculture industry, for example, would not thrive without essential ecosystem services such as pollination by insects and soil conditioning by earthworms. 

Lead researcher on the EPA report, Dr Steve Waldren, said relatively small actions can bring big benefits. “By ensuring that small fragments of habitat are protected in developed areas and by conserving hedgerows in agricultural lands we can take some immediate positive steps towards halting biodiversity loss,” he said. 

The report highlights that much remains to be done to create an awareness of the importance of biodiversity and that biodiversity conservation makes good economic sense. Easy-to-access information was identified as being crucial to halting biodiversity loss. As part of the biochange project, a database of Irish living organisms has been created which currently documents some 16,000 Irish species. 

A native of southeast Russia, zebra mussel, is a freshwater mussel which arrived into Ireland in 1994 attached to the hulls of boats brought in from either Britain or the Netherlands, where it was already widely found. It has now spread by deliberate and accidental introductions to other areas. 

The mussels are filter feeders, and so increase water clarity, which is thought to be the reason they are deliberately introduced into lakes by anglers. However, they have a negative impact on fish populations because they alter the natural ecosystem that provides food for juvenile fish.  

Zebra mussel also causes an increase of plant growth around lake margins. They have caused a decline in native freshwater mussel by attaching to their shells and “smothering” them. The zebra mussel is also responsible for causing blockages to freshwater intake pipes and boat engines. 

Not a native to Ireland, the grey squirrel was deliberately introduced in 1911, and since then has spread to about 20 counties. It is larger and more adaptable to the available food source than the native red squirrel, whose decline can be directly correlated to the rise in the grey squirrel population. 

ADB funds biodiversity conservation 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided a 7.96 million USD loan to help the central province of Thua Thien-Hue conserve its biodiversity.

The project is estimated to cost 8.83 million USD, of which 487,000 USD will be sourced from the province’s budget and the rest of 410,000 USD will be contributed by the project’s beneficiaries. It will be carried out in 10 communes in the mountainous districts of Nam Dongand A Luoi. The project is designed to enhance institutional

and community capacity in managing the biodiversity corridor; restore the biodiversity corridor, protect the ecosystem and sustainably manage natural resources; and improve livelihood and infrastructure for local residents.
Tamil Nadu Launches Biodiversity Conservation Project

Continuing its attempt for an increased green cover in the state, Chief Minister Jayalalitha has ordered to implement Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project.

 The Rs. 686.28 crore new project, planned with financial assistance from Japanese International Cooperative Agency (JICA), would be implemented in eight years between 2011-19 in forest areas not covered under the state’s earlier afforestation schemes, according to government press release. 

The project is in continuation with the state government’s earlier collaboration with JICA – Tamil Nadu Afforestation Project- II, which is coming to an end in 2012-13, it said.

A high level authority headed by Chief Secretary would decide the functions of the project, which would focus on biodiveristy conservation, increasing the natural resource base, institutional capacity development and consulting services, it said.

As part of this scheme, elephant pits will be dug in Dharmapuri, Erode, Dindigul and Tirunelveli districts at a total cost of Rs 5.19 crore, to avoid man-animal conflict in these areas, it said. 

Filmmakers connect with nature for WWF

Earlier this month at New Delhi, the WWF awarded the two winners of its short film competition “Life. Nature. You. Make the Connection” launched in the context of WWF’s 50th anniversary celebrations at a film festival.  

The award presentation was followed by the screening of the winning entries and a panel discussion that broadly dealt with 'Environmental Filmmaking’.

WWF objective was to looking for films that would inspire people to value and protect their natural environment. The winner of the jury’s prize “The Runner” is a film by Neil Losin and Nathan Dappen that focuses on breaking down the distinction between the man-made world and the natural one.

The other winner “Life, Nature, You” is a film by Myles Thompson. This film encourages people to connect with nature, starting with places or things which are close by, in this case, a small patch of grass in a back yard.  

Human-induced Global Warming  

The Indian Ministry of Environment & Forests had published early this year (January 2011) two discussion papers entitled “Contribution of Changing Galactic Cosmic Ray Flux to Global Warming” and “Galactic Cosmic Rays, Low Clouds and Global Warming”.  

The papers examined the issue relating to contribution of changing galactic cosmic rays and low clouds to global warming. Papers report that there exists strong evidence to show that the radiative forcing component due to the decrease in primary cosmic ray intensity during the last 150 years is 1.1 Watt per square meters, which is about 60% of that due to Carbon dioxide increase.  

The papers suggest that the future prediction of global warming presented by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change requires relook in view of the effect due to long term changes in the galactic cosmic ray intensity.  

The Government is of the view that more studies are required at global level to enhance understanding of the issue. (Source: PIB/20.12.11)
om of Form
Pledge on Emission Cut 

The results of a recent study on comparison of developed and developing country pledges under the Cancun Agreements conducted by Stockholm Environment Institute indicate that developing country pledges amount to more mitigation on an absolute basis, than developed country pledges.

During the climate change talks held under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, India has consistently called upon the developed country parties to raise their ambition to a level that is consistent with science.  

India has insisted that equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) should remain the basis of new arrangements that aim to enhance actions of all parties under the Convention. These arrangements will be finalized in 2015 with a view to implement the arrangements from 2020.  

The Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, gave this information in a written reply to a question in the upper house of Parliament. (Source: PIB/20.12.11)

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