Current News - Ecology & Environment - Survey/Study/Report

Caribbean False Mussel Threatens Kerala's Coastal Waters

Recently, Kerala's coastal waters are facing a significant proliferation of the invasive Caribbean false mussel (Mytilopsis sallei), posing a threat to native clams and oysters vital for the state's fisheries, according to a report from the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Key Points:

  • Caribbean False Mussel: The invasive Caribbean false mussel, originally from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of South and Central America, has spread widely across Kerala's coastal waters.
  • IPBES Report: The 'Assessment report on invasive alien species and their control' from IPBES highlights the invasive species and its impact on Kerala's coastal ecosystem.
  • Possible Introduction: Ballast waters from ships and smaller fishing vessels may have introduced the invasive species to the Indian coast.
  • Cyclone Ockhi Impact: The report suggests that tropical cyclone Ockhi, which struck Kerala's coast in 2017, might have contributed to the spread of the invasive species by carrying it into new waters.
  • Local Name: Locally known as 'Varathan Kakka' (alien bivalve mollusc in Malayalam), this species has affected estuaries and mussel aquaculture farms across the state.
  • Fast Reproduction: Caribbean false mussels reproduce rapidly, are highly tolerant, and can even survive in freshwater environments.
  • Displacement of Native Species: They occupy similar habitats as native mussels and displace them significantly, causing mass displacement of native variants.
  • Control Challenges: Controlling the spread of the invasive species is considered nearly impossible at this stage.
  • Harvesting Approach: The only feasible approach to mitigate their impact is to harvest as many as possible to facilitate stock replacement of native species.

Kashmir's Unique Stag "Hangul" Sees Marginal Population Increase

Recently, a latest census on the Hangul, Kashmir's unique stag (the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir,) indicated a slight increase in its population after two years, bringing joy to wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists in the region.

Key Points

  • Recent Census Results: The latest biennial census conducted in April and recently released revealed that the Hangul population has risen to 289 from 261 in 2021, marking a 10% increase.
  • Protected Habitats: The last viable population of Hangul exists in the protected Dachigam National Park in Kashmir, where they grazed freely before the onset of militancy in 1989.
  • Monitoring and Research: The Department of Wildlife Protection (DWLP) has been consistently monitoring the Hangul population since 2004, involving research institutes, students, and NGOs.
  • Factors behind Population Stabilization: Three key factors contributed to the population's stability: protection of habitat, restricted human movement within the park, and the removal of a sheep breeding farm from inside the park.
  • Ongoing Challenges: While the Hangul population has stabilized, significant improvement remains a challenge due to various concerns.
  • Conservation Status: The Hangul is classified as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and enjoys protection under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.
  • Continued Threats: Habitat fragmentation, poaching, livestock grazing, predation, and ecological threats are ongoing challenges to the Hangul population.
  • Conservation Action Plan (CAP): A Conservation Action Plan aims to connect the former habitat areas of Hangul and requires approval to address population trends.

Oceans' Short-Lived Halogens

Recently, a study revealed that oceans play a crucial role in cooling the planet by releasing short-lived halogens such as chlorine, bromine, and iodine.

  • Significant Contribution to Cooling: Short-lived halogens, including chlorine, bromine, and iodine, released by the oceans contribute to cooling the planet. Currently, they contribute 8-10% of cooling, which could increase to 18-31% by 2100.
  • Amplification of Halogen Release: Human activities have amplified the release of short-lived halogens into the atmosphere. Pollutants, such as ozone, deposited on the ocean surface convert soluble halogens into insoluble ones, causing their release into the atmosphere.
  • Depletion of Ozone: Short-lived halogens lead to the depletion of ozone in the troposphere. This depletion reduces warming as ozone is a greenhouse gas that traps outgoing radiation.
  • Impact on Methane: Short-lived halogens have an opposite effect on methane. They increase methane's lifetime in the atmosphere by destroying hydroxyl radicals (OH), which break down methane. This leads to a warming effect due to increased methane levels.
  • Influence on Water Vapour and Aerosols: Short-lived halogens increase the levels of water vapour, a greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere, causing a warming effect. They also reduce the formation of cooling aerosols, resulting in a small warming effect.
  • Net Cooling Effect: Despite their influence on methane, water vapour, and aerosols, short-lived halogens compensate for warming by destroying ozone, resulting in a net cooling effect.
  • Regional Variations: Halogen emissions from the oceans vary across regions. Emissions are small over continents, larger in polar regions and in areas with higher ozone levels.
  • Anthropogenic Amplification: The cooling effect of chlorine, bromine, and iodine since the preindustrial era has increased by 61% due to the amplification of natural halogen emissions by human activities.

Joha Rice

Recently, the Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST), an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology in India, undertook a research study to investigate the nutraceutical properties of Joha rice.

  • About Joha Rice: Joha rice is an aromatic rice variety grown in the Northeastern region of India and is believed to have potential health benefits, particularly in the management of diabetes.

Key Findings of the Study

  • Presence of Essential Fatty Acids: The research identified the presence of two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and linolenic acid (omega-3), in Joha rice.
  • These fatty acids are crucial for maintaining various physiological functions and have been associated with the prevention of metabolic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
  • Balanced Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3: Scented Joha rice exhibited a more balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids compared to non-scented rice varieties.
  • A balanced ratio of these fatty acids is important for maintaining optimal health, and Joha rice's composition suggests its potential to contribute to a balanced diet and aid in diabetes management.
  • Antioxidant-Rich Composition: Joha rice was found to be rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and phenolics. Bioactive compounds such as oryzanol, ferulic acid, tocotrienol, caffeic acid, catechuic acid, gallic acid, and tricin were identified in Joha rice.
  • These compounds possess antioxidant properties and have been associated with hypoglycemic and cardio-protective effects.
  • Potential Diabetes Management: The study revealed that Joha rice demonstrated effectiveness in lowering blood glucose levels and preventing the onset of diabetes in diabetic rats.
  • This suggests the potential of Joha rice as a nutraceutical for diabetes management.
  • Traditional Claims Validation: The research aimed to scientifically validate the traditional claims that consumers of Joha rice have a lower incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
  • While the study provided preliminary evidence supporting these claims, further research, including human trials, would be necessary for conclusive validation.

Groundwater Extraction Causes Earth's Axis Tilt: Study

In a recent study it’s revealed that groundwater extraction, specifically the pumping of groundwater from the Earth and its redistribution for human consumption and activities, has caused the Earth's axis to tilt approximately 80 cm (31 inches) to the east.

  • Groundwater Extraction: Approximately 2,150 billion tonnes of groundwater have been pumped and drained into the oceans between 1993 and 2010.
  • Earth's Axis Tilting: The pumping and movement of groundwater by humans has caused the Earth's axis to tilt nearly 80 cm to the east.
  • Groundwater Depletion in India: Groundwater depletion in India, particularly in north India, has been a significant concern, with 95% of India's groundwater depletion attributed to this region. Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat are identified as areas with critical or low groundwater levels.
  • Global Sea-Level Rise: The study identified groundwater pumping as one of the significant contributors to global sea-level rise, with approximately 2,150 billion tonnes of groundwater being pumped into the oceans.
  • Earth's Rotational Pole: The Earth's rotational pole, which is the point along which the planet rotates, experiences movement known as polar motion. Groundwater extraction influences this motion.
  • Role of Groundwater: While previous studies have acknowledged that the movement of water affects the Earth's rotation, the role of groundwater had not been considered until this study.
  • Impact on Sea-Level Rise: The study highlights that pumping groundwater is an additional factor contributing to rising sea levels, raising concerns about its impact on coastal areas.
  • Location of Groundwater Depletion: The location of groundwater depletion affects the drift of the Earth's axis. Midlatitude areas, such as northwest India and western North America, experience significant groundwater redistribution, impacting the axis drift the most.
  • Global Sea-Level Rise Contribution: Groundwater pumping contributed to a global sea-level rise of approximately 6.24 mm between 1993 and 2010, according to surveys conducted during the study period.

Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report 2023

On June 6, 2023, Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report 2023 was jointly released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report provides important insights into the progress and challenges related to Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7).

Key Findings

  • Impediments to SDG 7: Factors such as an uncertain macroeconomic outlook, high levels of inflation, currency fluctuations, debt distress in many countries, and lack of financing, supply chain bottlenecks, tighter fiscal circumstances, and soaring prices for materials are hindering the realization of SDG 7 globally.
  • Insufficient Progress in Universal Access to Electricity & Clean Cooking: The report highlights that universal access to electricity and clean cooking facilities in developing economies is progressing inadequately. Projections indicate that SDG 7 will not be achieved by 2030, particularly in terms of universal access to electricity and clean cooking.
  • Renewable Energy Growth: While the uptake of renewable energy (target 7.2) has increased since 2010, there is a need for substantial scaling up of efforts to meet the targets set by SDG 7. The current rate of improvement in energy efficiency (target 7.3) is falling short of the targeted increase of 2.6% annually between 2010 and 2030.
  • To compensate for the slower progress, the trend of improvement in energy intensity must exceed 3.4% globally from 2020 to 2030.
  • Decline in Financial Flows: Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, financial resources were more than a third lower since 2020 compared to the average of the previous decade (2010-2019). This decreasing trend in financial flows, coupled with concentration in a few countries, may delay the achievement of SDG 7, particularly for the least-developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states.
  • Global Access to Electricity and Clean Cooking: The global access to electricity increased from 84% in 2010 to 91% in 2021, with the number of people without electricity nearly halving during that period. However, the pace of growth slowed to 0.6 percentage points annually during 2019-21.
  • Access to clean cooking improved from 2.9 billion people in 2010 to 2.3 billion in 2021, but achieving universal access by 2030 remains a challenge.
  • Challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa: The report projects that if current trends continue, nearly six out of ten people without access to clean cooking in 2030 would be residing in Sub-Saharan Africa. The ongoing impact of COVID-19 and soaring energy prices may lead to a reversal in the transition to clean cooking, with an estimated 100 million people reverting to using traditional biomass.
  • Insufficient Share of Renewable Energy: In 2020, the share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption was only 19.1% (or 12.5% excluding traditional use of biomass), which is only slightly higher than the 16% recorded a decade earlier.
  • The report emphasizes the need for increased attention to enhancing renewables-based electricity supply in developing countries.

Climate Transition in India: Unequal Distribution of Costs and Benefits

Recently, a study conducted by researchers shed light on the unequal distribution of costs and benefits associated with the climate transition in India.

The key findings of the study are:

  • Adverse Effects Concentrated in Economically Disadvantaged States: The adverse effects of the climate transition are primarily concentrated in economically disadvantaged states in eastern India, including Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, and Bihar, which heavily rely on coal mining.
  • Widening Gap between Poor and Wealthy Regions: Without compensatory measures, the gap between poor and wealthy regions in India is likely to widen significantly as a result of the climate transition.
  • Impacts on Disadvantaged Regions: These regions would experience job losses, increased burden on poorer households, and pressure on energy-intensive industries.
  • Affluent States as the Main Beneficiaries: Conversely, comparatively affluent states would be the biggest winners from ambitious climate policies.
  • Importance of Short-Term Effects: Short-term effects play a decisive role in the enforceability of energy and climate policy measures.
  • Challenges to Political Process: The concentration of short-term losers in specific regions can pose significant challenges to the political process of implementing climate protection, as seen in Germany's struggle to phase out coal.
  • Need for New Social and Industrial Policies: The climate transition in India would require the implementation of new social and industrial policies to address regional resistance and competing interest groups.
  • Mitigating Adverse Effects: To support the climate transition and mitigate its adverse effects, various measures can be employed, including utilizing carbon price revenues, careful siting of fossil-free energy production, compensation payments for coal phase-out, and financial aid from Western industrialized countries.
  • Learning from Other Countries: Lessons can be learned from other countries such as South Africa, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where coal phase-out has been accompanied by financial aid from Western industrialized nations.

Early Slowdown of Antarctic Deep Ocean Currents

Recently, a new research revealed that deep ocean currents in Antarctica are slowing down much earlier than previously predicted.

Key findings of the research are:

  • Early Slowdown: Deep ocean currents in Antarctica, known as the overturning circulation, are slowing down earlier than predicted, with a 30% slowdown observed over the past three decades.
  • Cause: The slowdown is attributed to the melting of Antarctic ice, which is disrupting the formation of Antarctic bottom water, a dense and oxygen-rich water mass that drives the overturning circulation.
  • Reduced Supply of Oxygen: The decline in Antarctic bottom water formation reduces the supply of oxygen to the deep ocean, leading to a decrease in deep ocean oxygen levels.
  • The reduction in oxygen-rich bottom water allows warmer, oxygen-depleted waters to replace it, further reducing oxygen levels in the deep ocean.
  • Impact on Deep-Ocean Organisms: The slowdown in the overturning circulation and declining oxygen levels have significant implications for marine life, as even small changes in oxygen can impact deep-ocean organisms' behaviour and habitat availability.
  • May Intensify Global Warming: The slowdown may also intensify global warming as the overturning circulation transports carbon dioxide and heat to the deep ocean, and reduced ocean storage capacity leads to more carbon dioxide and heat remaining in the atmosphere.
  • Increase in Sea Levels: The reduction in Antarctic bottom water reaching the ocean floor increases sea levels due to thermal expansion of warmer waters.

ITF Transport Outlook 2023 report

On May 24, 2023, the ITF Transport Outlook 2023 report was launched at the International Transport Forum (ITF) Summit in Leipzig, Germany.

Key Findings

  • Decarbonization Potential: The transport sector has the potential to reduce its CO2 emissions by about 80% over the next 25 years compared to 2019 levels if decisive action is taken to decarbonize transportation.
  • Paris Agreement Goals: Decarbonization of the transport sector can contribute to achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, particularly in limiting the global temperature increase to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • Policy Mix: A mix of policies is needed to promote sustainable choices in transportation. This includes investing in public transport infrastructure, supporting modes of transport with higher occupancy or load factors, and encouraging more compact cities.
  • Infrastructure Investment: Decarbonization of transport can reduce the need for investment in core infrastructure, such as roads, railways, and ports, compared to a business-as-usual scenario. This could potentially save governments globally $4 trillion on road maintenance and investment.
  • Cost-Competitive Technologies: Scaling up cost-competitive technologies and fuels is crucial to achieving significant emissions reductions in the transportation sector.
  • This includes the adoption of technologies that enable people and goods to be transported with far fewer emissions.
  • Lower Investment Requirements: Contrary to common belief, achieving ambitious decarbonization goals in transport is not necessarily more expensive.
  • The report suggests that the total capital investment needs for core infrastructure in road, rail, airports, and ports would be 5% lower with ambitious decarbonization policies compared to business as usual.

Health for All: Transforming Economies to Deliver What Matters

On May 23, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the "Health for All: Transforming economies to deliver what matters" report during the 76th World Health Assembly.

Key Findings

  • Reorienting economies: The report emphasizes the need to restructure economic activity to prioritize health for all. It advocates for health to be at the heart of government decision-making and private sector collaboration.
  • Valuing Health: The report calls for new economic metrics that measure and value what truly matters in terms of health outcomes and well-being. It highlights the importance of considering social and environmental factors in economic assessments.
  • Financing Health: The report proposes viewing health for all as a long-term investment rather than a short-term cost. It recommends exploring innovative financing mechanisms to ensure sustainable funding for essential health services.
  • Promoting Innovation: The report underscores the need to advance health innovation for the common good. It emphasizes the importance of fostering collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources to address global health challenges.
  • Strengthening Public Sector Capacity: The report emphasizes the significance of building robust and dynamic public sector capacity to achieve health for all. It highlights the role of effective governance and strategic investments in strengthening health systems.
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