Local fisheries thrive due to Somali piracy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Tuesday, 11 May 2010 13:09

The Somalian piracy problem has garnered some very negative headlines during the past couple of years. In essence, what the media highlights is the economic damage these pirates cause and how they have emerged as powerful mobsters, that lead lavish lifestyles. Yet these aspects only provide a narrow perspective on this quite complex problem. For example, one question that is seldom asked is the origins of these pirates. Leading experts in global terrorism believe the original motives of the pirates were tightly linked to protect local fishing grounds from foreign fishing fleets. This excerpt is from a story run by Times magazine


Ever since a civil war brought down Somalia’s last functional government in 1991, the country’s 3,330 km (2,000 miles) of coastline — the longest in continental Africa — has been pillaged by foreign vessels. A United Nations report in 2006 said that, in the absence of the country’s at one time serviceable coastguard, Somali waters have become the site of an international “free for all,” with fishing fleets from around the world illegally plundering Somali stocks and freezing out the country’s own rudimentarily-equipped fishermen. According to another U.N. report, an estimated $300 million worth of seafood is stolen from the country’s coastline each year. “In any context,” says Gustavo Carvalho, a London-based researcher with Global Witness, an environmental NGO, “that is a staggering sum.”

In the face of this, impoverished Somalis living by the sea have been forced over the years to defend their own fishing expeditions out of ports such as Eyl, Kismayo and Harardhere — all now considered to be pirate dens. Somali fishermen, whose industry was always small-scale, lacked the advanced boats and technologies of their interloping competitors, and also complained of being shot at by foreign fishermen with water cannons and firearms. “The first pirate gangs emerged in the ’90s to protect against foreign trawlers,” says Peter Lehr, lecturer in terrorism studies at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews and editor of Violence at Sea: Piracy in the Age of Global Terrorism. The names of existing pirate fleets, such as the National Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia or Somali Marines, are testament to the pirates’ initial motivations.

Failing the biodiversity challenge PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Thursday, 06 May 2010 05:24

Efforts to slow down biodiversity loss are failing big-time. That is the conclusions drawn from a recent study, conducted by a huge 45-person team of scientists, thats just been published in the journal Science.


In 2002, world leaders promised through the Convention on Biological Diversity to achieve "significant reductions by 2010" in the global loss of biodiversity. This target was later included in the United Nations Millenium Development Goals, as a direct acknowledgement that biodiversity loss has negative impacts on human livelihoods and societal development.

Fast-forward to 2010 and the International Year of Biodiversity and most conservationists will tell you that we're far from meeting these targets. Until recently these doom and gloom statements haven't been anchored in any real global assessment. Rather, they've simply been based on the extrapolation of some local and regional examples.

recent study, led by Stuart Butchart from the UN Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (Unep-WCMC) and BirdLife International, evaluated the trends in 10 indicators of the planet’s biodiversity. These included things like the global status of vertebrate populations and the global cover of key ecosystems such as forests and coral reefs. The authors also investigated how human pressure on biodiversity had changed (e.g. the exploitation of fish stocks) and how societal responses (e.g. the extent of protected areas and economic aid aimed at biodiversity protection) had evolved during this period of time.


The South African fynbos ecosystem; a biodiversity hotspot, but for how long more? Photo by Jerker Lokrantz/azote.se


When little can be too much: Small-scale fishing and the vulnerability of coral reefs. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Thursday, 22 April 2010 21:00

The world´s coral reefs are being ravaged by a range of human pressures, including climate change, pollution and overfishing. As a result, a substantial number of the worlds reefs are rapidly losing live coral cover. The implications of this coral loss are staggering, not only for associated reef fish, but also for the continued flow of ecosystem services like tourism, fisheries and coastal protection. Coral degradation can be a tough nut for managers to crack, especially if coral loss is associated with a phase shift to another community state that is dominated by another bottom-living organism. The classic example of a coral reef phase shift is the dramatic transition from coral dominance (52% coral cover, 4% macroalgal cover) to macroalgal dominance (2% coral cover, 92% algal cover) which occurred on Jamaican reefs in the 1980s as a result of the synergistic impacts of overfishing, hurricane damage and disease. Similar examples of coral-macroalgae phase shifts have been observed across the Caribbean region, throughout the Eastern-Pacific, Indian Ocean and on the Great Barrier Reef. This "alternative" reef state are problematic for managers since they can be long-lasting and difficult to steer back to a coral-dominated state.


Artisanal fisherman in Zanzibar. Photo by Jerker Lokrantz/azote.se

Managing for coral reef resilience has been promoted as building insurance against degradation and decreasing the likelihood of reefs undergoing shifts to such undesirable states. Resilience has been a great theoretical and communicative tool for understanding these dynamics and mobilizing conservation initiatives and has recently been the basis of developing early warning signals and/or operational indicators of resilience that can help managers predict whether or not a reef can absorb disturbances and rebuild itself.

Testing the "friendly" in "wildlife-friendly" palm oil PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Sunday, 18 April 2010 08:06


The ongoing controversies surrounding the palm oil industry is something we at sdupdate have previously reported on. In essence, this export-driven industry has been expanding rapidly in the past decades, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia. This growth has come at the expense of lowland rainforests and their associated biodiversity. Studies indicate that the loss of animal species in these areas is among the sharpest in the world. Other consequences is the release of greenhouse gases and the contamination of nearby water sources. The other side of the coin, however, has been highlighted by economists that argue that palm oil can be a positive force in lifting a large chunk of the Indonesian population out of poverty.


Loading oil palm fruit from plantations in Malaysia. Photo by Tom Hermansson Snickars/Azote


The (sad) state of European waters PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Saturday, 27 March 2010 14:54


The European Environment Agency is producing a series of '10 messages for 2010', aimed at providing a short assessment on a specific ecosystem or issue related to biodiversity in Europe. This is a timely campaign, seeing that it’s the International Year of Biodiversity. Four of the “messages” are currently available to download on the EEA website, and deal with “climate change and biodiversity”, “protected areas”, “freshwater systems” and, most recently, “marine ecosystems”.

Shrimp trawlers at the North Sea coast of Holland. Photo by Jerker Lokrantz/Azote

Why biodiversity matters to the poor - new report PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fredrik Moberg   
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 10:56

From farmer-led conservation of different rice varieties in Vietnam to the development of a tool that helps companies in developing countries to manage the risks and opportunities arising from their dependence and impact on ecosystems. These are two of a wide range of cases presented in a recent report, “Contributing to resilience”, which summarises the main results and experiences from the five year long SwedBio Collaborative Programme.

Adding diversity to green roofs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Friday, 19 March 2010 16:27

Roof gardens are becoming an increasingly common feature of urban and suburban skylines. Not only do they make for a great garden party, but they also help in making a city more environmentally friendly. Garden roofs have been shown to offset heat and decrease water runoff during rainstorms. These ecosystem services can directly contribute to lower building energy use and potential economic savings.

Green roof in Manhattan. Photo: Alyson Hurt/Creative commons

In the latest issue of the open access journal PloS One, a group of Canadian researchers investigated how the delivery of services from roof gardens relates to the type of plants grown in them. In essence, they looked if a diverse set of plant functional groups (e.g. grassesshrubs, succulents and forbs) would enhance roof cooling and water capture. They found that mixtures containing three or five different fucntional groups, simultaneously optimized several green roof ecosystem functions, and outperformed monocultures. This are fascinating results, that mirror the substantial body of evidence showing positive relationships between functional diversity and the provision of ecosystem services in natural and agricultural systems.

So it seems that ecosystem services from green roofs can be improved by planting certain functional groups in combination. These improvements, and the continued popularity of green roofing can directly contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Palm oil plantations and bundles of ecosystem services PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 11:14


There’s been a recent string of interesting reports on the BBC website concerning the palm oil industry in Indonesian Borneo. Palm oil is an extremely cheap source of vegetable oil and a common ingredient in a range of consumer goods such as soap, margarine and biscuits. In Indonesia, the palm industry has rapidly grown to become a pillar of the countries economy; it’s now valued at $7.7 billion and ranks as the nations third largest export earner.

This expansion, not surprisingly, has been associated with a range of negative environmental and social impacts. The draining of ancient peat lands to make way for palm oil has lead to massive amounts of trapped methane and carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere and the pollution running off from plantations can damage water supplies. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is also critical to the industry, identifying the illegal clear-cutting of rainforests to accommodate palm oil plantations as a main driver in the decimation of Orangutan populations in the area. In fact, it appears that some of the large players in the palm oil industry, e.g. Duta Palma Group, are involved in the illegal logging of high conservation lands and deep peat lands (but read their response). Additionally there are several cases of local communities, especially indigenous people, which feel that their land rights are literally bulldozed by oil palm companies.


Sun setting over an abandoned palm oil plantation in Borneo. Photo: Tom Hermansson Snickars/Azote

Sun setting over an abandoned palm oil plantation in Borneo.

Photo: Tom Hermansson Snickars/Azote.se


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