A deep-sea trawl by marine scientists has come up with hundreds of species of zooplankton – from tiny shrimp-like creatures and swimming worms to flying snails and pulsing jellyfish.
They added that the vast environmental changes brought about by the process will increase droughts and sandstorms over the rest of the country, and devastate many of the world’s greatest rivers, in what experts warn will be an "ecological catastrophe".
The plateau, says the academy, has a staggering 46,298 glaciers, covering almost 60,000 square miles. At an average height of 13,000 feet above sea level, they make up the largest area of ice outside the polar regions, nearly a sixth of the world’s total.
The glaciers have been receding over the past four decades, as the world has gradually warmed up, but the process has now accelerated alarmi?gly. Average temperatures in Tibet have risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 20 years, causing the glaciers to shrink by 7 per cent a year, which means that they will halve every 10 years.
Prof Dong Guangrong, speaking for the academy – after a study analysing data from 680 weather stations scattered across the country – said that the rising temperatures would thaw out the tundra of the plateau, turning it into desert.
He added: "The melting glaciers will ultimately trigger more droughts, expand desertification and increase sand storms." The water running off the plateau is increasing soil erosion and so allowing the deserts to spread.
Sandstorms, blowing in from the degraded land, are already plaguing the country. So far this year, 13 of them have hit northern China, including Beijing. Three weeks ago one storm swept across an eighth of the vast country and even reached Korea and Japan. On the way, it dumped a mind-boggling 336,000 tons of dust on the capital, causing dangerous air pollution.
The rising temperatures are also endangering the newly built world’s highest railway, which is due to go into operation this summer. They threaten to melt the permafrost under the tracks of the £1.7bn Tibetan railway, constructed to link the area with China’s northwestern Qinghai province.
Perhaps worst of all, the melting threatens to disrupt water supplies over much of Asia. Many of the continent’s greatest rivers – including the Yangtze, the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Mekong and the Yellow River – rise on the plateau.
In China alone, 300 million people depend on water from the glaciers for their survival. Yet the plateau is drying up, threatening to escalate an already dire situation across the country. Already 400 cities are short of water; in 100 of them – including Beijing – the shortages are becoming critical.
Even hopes that the melting glaciers might provide a temporary respite, by increasing the amount of water flowing off the plateau – have been dashed. For most of the water is evaporating before it reaches the people that need it – again because of the rising temperatures brought by global warning.
Yao Tandong, head of the academy’s Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Research Institute, summed it up. "The full-scale glacier shrinkage in the plateau regions will eventually lead to an ecological catastrophe," he said.
A Greenpeace report, published to coincide with a U.N. meeting in Brazil on biodiversity, said that 40 percent of the world’s oceans should be placed in nature reserves.
Just 0.6 percent of the oceans are protected reserves at present, compared with 12 percent of the world’s land, according to U.N. data.
While that protection is put in place, trawling along the ocean bottom should be banned, Greenpeace said.
"An immediate U.N. moratorium on high seas bottom ?rawling is essential to stop the destruction of deep-sea life whilst a global network of marine reserves is established," professor Callum Roberts of York University said in a Greenpeace statement.
The U.N. meeting in Curitiba, Brazil, which lasts until the end of March, will discuss ways to expand protection both on land and at sea to slow the accelerating rate of extinction of animals and plants caused by human activities.
The meeting will discuss the principle of extending marine protection, but will not reach a formal agreement.
The United States is not a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international conservation agreement signed by the 188 countries which are meeting in Brazil.
Greenpeace also urged better protection of forests, saying its satellite maps showed that intact forests covered less than 10 percent of the world’s land area, threatening thousands of species of animals and plants.
The figure is the second highest on record, 6% higher than the previous 12 months.
Deforestation was worst in the state of Mato Grosso where vast swathes of land have been cleared to grow crops.
The loss of 26,000 sq km means almost a fifth of the entire Amazon has now been chopped down.
On this occasion, just under half of the deforestation occurred in Mato Grosso, where trees have been replaced with soya fields.
Last year exports of soya, mostly to China and Europe, propelled Brazil to a record trade surplus.
But campaigners say exports are being put ahead of the environment.
In a statement, Greenpeace called the governor of Mato Grosso the "king of deforestation".
He himself is one of the world’s largest soya producers.
Responding to the figures, the government points out that it has increased satellite surveillance of threatened areas and created some of the largest environmental reserves in Brazilian history, but so far there is little to show for it.
The broader fear among environmentalists is that a shrinking Amazon will soon become a net polluter of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide as its absorbing properties are reduced and more and more felled trees are burned.
Fifty thousand ships and 14.5 million tourists visit the region every year.
Other concerns center on the rising tide of household and industrial wastes contaminating the land, underground freshwater supplies and coastal waters. For example, only 13 per cent of the population of Saint Lucia is connected to the sewage system.
Dwindling quantities of freshwater for drinking and agriculture is a worry in many islands. Some countries in the eastern Caribbean, like Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Saint Kitts and Nevis, are already officially listed as "water scarce".
Tourism in the form of luxury hotels and golf courses can intensify the problems unless carefully managed. Tourist resorts use on average of five to ten times more water than similar residential areas in the Caribbean.
Climate change may, among its many potential impacts, aggravate water shortages. Experts are predicting that rainfall in the eastern Caribbean will decline by 4 per cent in the coming years unless drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions occur.
Global warming is also likely to affect agriculture in the region. Bananas, a key crop, are very thirsty plants and are prone to Black Sigatoka disease under dry conditions.
An estimated 70 per cent of the Caribbean?s population lives in cities, towns and villages located in vulnerable low-lying coastal areas threatened by rising sea levels and increasing frequency and intensity of storms and hurricanes. In 2004, several of the Caribbean small island developing States experienced severe devastation, the loss of thousands of lives and millions of dollars in damages because of intense hurricanes.
Meanwhile, alien invasive species, transported to the region in ships? ballast waters or in imports such as horticultural products, may also threaten the existence of native and often unique plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth.
The Dominican Republic, with an estimated 186 known alien species, has the highest number of invaders followed by Puerto Rico, 182; the Bahamas, 159; and Jamaica, 102.
Alien species may increase the number of native or endemic species already threatened with extinction as a result of habitat loss, deforestation and the clearance of land for farming and urbanization.
Currently Jamaica has, at 254, the highest number of threatened animal and plant species in the Caribbean followed by Cuba with 225.
These are among the findings from a series of reports released by UNEP on small island developing States around the world.
The reports, an international effort involving scientists and collaborating centers across the world, cover the Caribbean and the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean and small island developing States.
"This agreement will help solidify our national partnership to protect drinking water supplies and local water quality through promoting change in the way these waste water systems are managed," said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Ben Grumbles. "I am pleased to formally recognize the contributions these partners make to achieve results in protecting public health and improving water quality."
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) is a first step in implementing EPA?s program that works cooperatively with national organizations that represent septic system practitioners and the public. These systems are used in nearly 25 percent of homes across the country and used in about one-third of all new housing and commercial development. When properly sited, designed and maintained, these systems are capable of producing high quality wastewater. However, decentralized systems are the second greatest threat to groundwater quality, second only to leakage from underground storage tanks. It is estimated that nation-wide, 10 to 20 percent of decentralized systems are not adequately treating wastewater due to inadequate site location, design and maintenance.
The program strategy that accompanies the MOU identifies EPA?s vision, mission and actions to improve the performance of decentralized wastewater treatment systems. The MOU and the strategy are intended to upgrade the management of these systems and facilitate collaboration between EPA headquarters, EPA regions, state and local governments and national organizations representing practitioners and assistance providers. Improved performance of decentralized systems will provide better protection of public health and water resources.
DISTURBED that computer equipment, records, and means of access to operating funds of the Reserve were seized on 2 November 2004, by the Danube Transport Prosecutor’s Office at the request of Ukraine’s Ministry of Transport;
CONCERNED that these actions appear to be in retaliation for the outspoken positions taken by Director Voloshkevych against the construction of a navigation canal through the core of the Reserve’s most strictly protected area; Continue reading
Europe’s summer has again been hit by freak weather conditions, with heavy thunderstorms affecting several European countries. In Cornwall, on Britain’s western coast, floods caused buildings to collapse, while in southern France four people drowned after a sudden change in the weather led to powerful winds and massive waves. And these types of weather events are expected to increase in frequency and intensity as the climate continues to change, according to a report published Wednesday by the European Environment Agency (EEA). Continue reading
Drinkable water is harmless for health when it completely corresponds to the national standards or to the recommendations of the World Health Organization. It should be mentioned that 80-95% of the underground waters used for drinking in RM do not correspond to the sanitary and hygienic norms. The specter of natural and artificial polluters is very large: nitrogen compounds, pesticides, selenium, sulfates, fluorine, etc. Continue reading