Newsletter 207


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Newsletter 207

  1. 1. SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER207 t h issue, September 20, 2012 AMAZON: Development and Conservation, Which Way Forward? In this issue: By Gabriela Ramírez Galindo  Amazon: Development and Conservation concerns have gained important ground in policy decision making in the Amazon region, Conservation, Which Way but mainstream policy goals to stimulate food and energy supply still need to be more effectively Forward? harmonised with environmental policy, a CIFOR expert said ahead of the IUCN World Conservation  Climate Change: 8th Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministries of Congress which begins next week. the CPPS Country Members.  Conservation: Why Pablo Pacheco urged decision makers in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Biodiversity Increase From Global Warming is Not Good French Guiana, and Venezuela — the nations that share the five million square kilometre forest — to News. more aggressively address issues causing tension between economic growth and forest conservation  PERU: Environment Minister in the Amazon. Issues dominating the development agenda in the Amazon include agricultural Hails “Landmark” Mining Reforms. expansion (soybean crops and beef cattle), extraction of natural resources (timber, oil and gas and,  PARAGUAY: Damning Report most recently, minerals) and infrastructure development. of Science Met With Optimism.  Clean Energy: Spinach With “These different issues have been identified in one way or another in the policy debate about Silica Produces More Energy development and conservation in the Amazon, and significant progress has been made in different Than Solar Cells.  ARGENTINA/CHILE: Glacial sectors such as biodiversity conservation, forestry development or agricultural expansion. Thinning Rapidly Increasing. Nonetheless, these sectors still compete with each other and policies are not fully harmonised,” he  USAID: ICAA Announces the said. “This harmonisation can be improved through supporting policy innovations to tackle such Research Contest Winners. problems and sharing lessons learned on what works for forests and the people.”  SCIENCE: Gravitational Waves Spotted From White-Dwarf Pair. While agricultural expansion and the development of associated economic activities in the Amazon are justified by their contribution to state earnings and regional development, they have long-term Next events: social and environmental implications. Furthermore, large-scale investments often do not favour the wellbeing of local populations, and tend to negatively affect the integrity of the environment. September 29, 2012 World Heart Day “It is not justifiable for agribusiness to place October 15, 2012 Global Handwashing Day additional pressures on forests when there are October 23-24, 2012, Ecuador more suitable lands for agriculture elsewhere. International Congress on Some of these lands are degraded, but they may Innovation and Development be restored and be suitable for more intensive congresoinnovacion/ uses needed to meet market demands,” Pacheco October 31-November3, 2012, said. Maryland-U.S. Summit on the Science of Eliminating Health Disparities, Inequities in benefit sharing also need to be U.S.A. seriously addressed, said Pacheco, who heads November 12-15, 2012, Israel CIFOR’s research on globalised trade and Fourth International Conference on Drylands, Deserts and investment. Desertification: Implementing Rio+20 for Drylands and Read more at: Desertification conservation-in-the-amazon-which-way-forward/ Photo by longan drink (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. The information contained herein was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so. For questions or comments, please contact us at * Free translation prepared by REO staff.
  2. 2. CLIMATE CHANGE: 8th Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministries of the CPPS Country Members*The 8th Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministries of the Permanent Commission for the South Pacific (CPPS according to its inititals in Spanish)was held on August 17, 2012, in the Galapagos Islands. This meeting included Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, and special invitees. Theceremony took place at the Galapagos National Park, where the foreign affairs ministries signed the "Compromiso deGalápagos" (Galapagos Compromise).This document recognizes the Southeast Pacific Ocean as a privileged space to promote peace, solidarity, cooperation, and integrationamong Pacific countries. Also, it declares the countries’ commitment to face the new challenges to achieve sustainable development, tofight together to mitigate climate change effects, and to strengthen action to struggle hunger and poverty, in order to contribute to foodsecurity in our countries.The "Compromiso de Galápagos" recognizes the important role of coastal communities, particularly fishing communities, by promoting their development to assure a sustainable management of marine environments and their resources. This document recognizes the problem of ocean pollution and its impact on ecosystems. It promotes initiatives to protect and preserve biodiversity to assure that present and future generations benefit from these ecosystems. At last, it contains an explicit commitment to strengthen the CPPS to pursue its new strate- gic orientation, aimed to generate a quantitative change in society and its relationship with the environment towards the 21th century, not only within the sovereignty zone and juris- diction of the member countries, but also within the Pacific Basin.Foreign Affairs Ministries of Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru signedthe “Compromiso de Galapagos”. Photo courtesy of the CPPS. Read more: Why Biodiversity Increase From Global Warming is Not Good News By Klint FinleyPeriods of the earths warming are associated with an increase in biodiversity, accordingto a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.While this may sound like good news, the timescales involved cancel out any benefitsthey might experience from the rising temperatures.The team behind the study, led by Dr Peter Mayhew at York University, examined theearths geological history and fossil records using improved data sets that looked at pat-terns of marine invertebrate biodiversity over the last 540m years. They found that biodi-versity increases over periods of warming in the earths climate with many new speciesemerging, although these are simultaneously accompanied by extinctions of existing spe-cies. Photo by Bas Boerman (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.Mayhew said: "What seems to be happening is that when we get a warming, this coincides with an upward shift in biodiversity in groupsof organisms. So it looks like warm periods are boosting the generation of new species and thats improving biodiversity. However a bitlater, and when I say a bit, I mean several millions of years later, you get extinctions occurring." "Its a kind of a mixed picture," headded." We get an improvement in diversity but we also get extinction in new groups. Its just that overall the origination tends to out-dothe extinction so biodiversity improves, generally."But Mayhew doesnt think this changes what we currently understand concerning the loss of species as a result of todays man-madeglobal warming. "I dont think that there is any good news here", says Mayhew. "If what we need for diversity to improve in these warmclimates is time for those organisms to evolve, then that time is going to be much longer than the lifetime of the human race. The lifetimeof a species tends to be 1-10m years in the record. So thats how long we can expect humans maybe to survive ... if we get a fair chance atlife. "But Im afraid its not good news in terms of what we might experience from global warming in the next few decades. Because obvi-ously extinction can happen rapidly, but speciation [the generation of new species] cant happen rapidly. So unfortunately were quitelikely, simply because of the rate of climate change today, to see extinctions occurring. And were unlikely to see the benefits that mightgo along with that, which is the generation of new species." Therefore despite of the possibility that climate change sceptics might takesthese latest findings to suggest that the current warming of the planet is a good thing, Mayhew is very clear about what should be takenaway from this study.Read more at:
  3. 3. PERU: Environment Minister Hails Landmark Mining Reforms By Jonathan Watts / Dan CollynsAfter a deadly wave of anti-mining protests, Perus congress will vote on re-forms aimed at restoring public confidence in the govern-ments efforts tomanage a lucrative and polluting rush for minerals that has made the coun-try one of the fastest growing economies in South America.There were 168 protests over natural resources in July, according to Perushuman rights ombudsman, La Defensoria del Pueblo, down from a peak of293 in 2009. Official figures shows 17 people have been killed in such con-flicts since President Ollanta Humala took office in July 2011, compared with191 who died in similar circumstances between 2006 to 2011 under hispredecessor, Alan García.The government is belatedly trying to strengthen oversight of mining pro-jects as it prepares for $50bn worth of investment in the sector over the next Photo by Lou Gold (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.decade. It will take a major step forward with the submission of an adminis-trative reform bill that will create a powerful new body to carry out environmental impact assessments.Read more: Damning Report of Paraguays Science Met With Optimism By Daniela Hirschfeld Paraguays investment in science is the lowest in South America, and has remained at the same proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) for a decade, according to a new report. However, insiders say there are signs of improvement that could lead to better times for science in Paraguay. The 2011 Science and Technology Indicators Report, published by the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) last month (19 August), shows that the pro- portion of Paraguays GDP dedicated to science and technology (S&T) is only 0.06 per cent. This is far lower than in other countries in the region: Argentina and Uruguay invest between 0.5-0.6 per cent and Brazil 1.2 per cent. "Investment has remained constant because successive governments didnt include — or didnt consider — re- search and innovation as a variable for change and development, due to [the govern- ments] short-term vision," Sergio Duarte, director of the National Incentive Program for Researchers (PRONII) at CONACYT, told SciDev.Net. The report shows that Paraguay actually has ten per cent fewer researchers than it did in 2001; furthermore, out of 1,039 researchers, only 225 are full-time, and just 177 have PhDs. The proportion of local patent applications by Paraguayan residents has remained the same for a decade (19 out 335 applications in 2011).Photo by Leigh Jay Temple. Under Creative CommonsLicense. Juan Carlos Rolón, research director at the National University of Asuncións faculty of engineering and CONACYTs former president, said the countrysscience investment is "insufficient". "We lack modern lab facilities, a good quality certification system and enough qualified re-searchers to make profound transformations in the research and development system," he said, adding that the country needs totriple current researcher numbers.The report comes in the wake of Paraguays recent suspension from two regional economic blocs, which have played an importantrole in boosting science in Paraguay through regional projects and financial support.Read more at:
  4. 4. CLEAN ENERGY: Spinach Bank Unveils 10-Year Environmental StrategyCLIMATE CHANGE: WorldWith Silica Produces More Energy Than Solar Cells* By Lisa Friedman Researchers of Vanderbilt University have developed a way to combine the photosynthetic protein of spinach with silica, the element that turns light into electrochemical energy. The result is an electrical current larger than the one generally registered by hybrid solar cells. This mix produces levels almost a thousand times higher that those we were able to reach by depositing protein in metals. “It produces also more tension” says David Cliffel, one of the authors of this study. Thus, if we continue to increase current levels, we will be able to reach in three years, a wide range of solar energy conversion technology. According to scientists, one hypothesis to succeed in this experiment is the adaptation ofPhoto by Zach Klein (flickr). Under Creative Commons License. silica electrical properties to help the protein. This is done by implanting atoms electrically loaded to alter element property.The next step is to create a silica solar cell which uses this property. A 2-meter high panel employing this technology could generate atleast 100 milliamps per volt. That is enough to supply various types of small electrical devices.More than 40 years ago, scientists discovered that proteins involved in photosynthesis continue to work even if they are from plants suchas spinach. They discovered also that their efficiency to generate electricity is 100% with regards to the 40% less obtained by using artifi-cial devices. Since then, researchers from all over the world have been using them to create more efficient solar cells.Read more at: Glacial Thinning Rapidly Increasing In South AmericaFor the last 40 years, scientists have monitored the growing and shrinking of the icefields in the southern most stretch of South America’s Andes Mountains, detecting anoverall ice loss as the climate warms. A new study, published in the September 5 is-sue of Geophysical Research Letters, finds that the rate of glacial thinning has in-creased by about half over the last dozen years in the Southern Patagonian Icefield,compared to the 30 years prior to 2000.The Southern Patagonian Icefield is located between Argentina and Chile in the Pata-gonian Andes. It is the world’s second largest contiguous extrapolar ice field.“Patagonia is kind of a poster child for rapidly changing glacier systems,” said MichaelWillis, lead author and a research associate at Cornell University. “We are characteriz-ing a region that is supplying water to sea level at a big rate, compared to its size.” Photo by NASA.The Southern and Northern Patagonian Icefields are the largest icefields in the southern hemisphere excluding Antarctica. The results ofthis study show that the icefields are losing ice faster since the turn of the century and contributing more to the rising sea levels than everbefore. Previous studies showed that between 1970 and 2000 both icefields together raised global sea levels by an average of 0.042 milli-meters each year. Since 2000, that number increased to 0.067 millimeters on average per year – about two percent of total annual sealevel rise since 1998.Willis and his team focused on the Southern Icefield, which loses around 20 billion tons of ice every year, which is roughly 9,000 times thevolume of water stored by Hoover Dam annually. Over the last 12 years, the Southern Patagonian Icefield has lost enough water to coverthe entire United States with 2.7 centimeters of water. Combined the two fields lost enough to raise that level to 3.3 centimeters.To map the changing Southern Patagonian Icefield, Willis and his colleagues from the Center for Scientific Studies (CECs) in Valdivia, Chile,collected data from two separate satellite missions; NASA’s Advanced Spacebourne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER)and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM).ASTER is an imaging instrument onboard Terra, the flagship satellite of NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) which is used to create de-tailed maps of land surface temperature, reflectance and elevation. SRTM obtained elevation data on a near global scale to generate ahigh-resolution digital topographic database of Earth during an 11-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in February of 2000.The team compared 156 satellite images taken over a 12-year period from ASTER to data from the SRTM to map how the Southern Pata-gonian Icefield changed in height and overall size between February 2000 and March 2012.Read full article at:
  5. 5. USAID: ICAA Announces the Research Contest Winners*The Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon (ICAA) con-gratulates winners of scholarships for economic research proposalsto be applied to Andean Amazon conservation. The winners willreceive up to 15,000 US dollars to develop their proposals. In addi-tion, they will receive technical assistance and training in economictheory and environmental economic analysis during their researchperiods.The following research topics were prioritized: REDD+, climatechange and biodiversity, payments for environmental services, Photo courtesy of ICAA.analysis of investment projects for road or hydroelectric infrastruc-ture in areas relevant for biodiversity conservation and protected natural areas, gender, and analysis of negative economic incen-tives for biodiversity conservation (mining, hydrocarbons, agriculture).The following proposals won funding: Bolivia: Why Chestnut Collectors Fail Hunting Regulations?; The Case of the Manuripi Wildlife Reservation; Economic Assessment of Ecoturism Services in Municipal- Protected Natural Areas. Colombia: Analysis of REDD+ Opportunity Cost of Early Implementation in Sector Ariari-Guejar-Cafre; Perceptions Regarding Scar- city Among Fishermen From Different Generations of a Fish Market in the Colombia Amazon. Ecuador: Application of the Experimental Economic Game for Forest Resources Conservation in Kichwa Communities; Economic Assessment of Wildlife Hunting for Human Consumption and Illegal Trade in the Amazon. Peru: Assessment of the Escalera Mountain Range Regional Conservation Area.Read more at: Gravitational Waves Spotted From White-Dwarf Pair By Jason PalmerResearchers have spotted visible-light evidence for one of astronomys most elusive targets - gravitational waves - in the orbit of apair of dead stars.Until now, these ripples in space-time, first predicted by Einstein, have only been inferred from radio-wave sources. But a change inthe orbits of two white dwarf stars orbiting one another 3,000 light-years away is further proof of the waves that can literally beseen. A study to be reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters describes the pair.Gravitational waves were a significant part of Albert Einsteins general theory of relativity, which viewed space itself as a malleableconstruct, and the gravity of massive objects as a force that could effectively warp it.Catching sight of an actual gravitational wave, however, is a tricky business; their effects tend to be tiny and the have so far eludeddiscovery in Earth-bound experiments. But the wider Universe provides a laboratory in which the indirect effects of gravitationalwaves can be measured. Six-second switch. In principle, any two massive objects orbiting one another can emit gravitational waves, slowly losing the momentum of their orbits into the waves. The effect is to slightly change the size of the or- bits, and the time it takes to complete them. A measurement of a minuscule change in the or- bits of rapidly rotating neutron stars called pulsars garnered the 1993 Nobel Prize in physics.An artist’s conception of the white dwarf pair shows how they would radiate spirals of Read more at: waves. Photo courtesy of D.Berry/NASA/GSFC. environment-19408363