Comprehensive, Integrated Strategy to Combat Pollution

DAMASCUS, (ST) - Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, Dr. Nazira Sarkis, underlined that the ministry works to develop a comprehensive and integrated strategy to combat pollution in all its forms and to improve the environmental situation taking into account the environmental status in addition to expanding cooperation with academic and research institutions to find solutions to environmental problems and to encourage research on environmental issues and contribute to reduce pollution.

 During a meeting recently held with the Director General of the Supreme Commission for Scientific Research, Dr. Ghassan Ass, the Minister stressed on the need to direct research and researchers to conduct research concerned with environmental issues and encourage scientific research and environment innovation through enhancing cooperation with the supreme body of scientific research to develop plans and procedures within the national policy for science, technology and innovations.

Dr. Sarkis explained that the ministry seeks to take advantage of scientific research to address some of the environmental issues and develop solutions an appropriate recommendations to preserve the environment and health development through environmental research conferences that evaluated annually, pointing out that scientific research is an urgent need in light of the circumstances in which Syria exposed to environment sabotage and destruction.
For his part, Dr. Assi reviewed  national policy for science, technology and innovation in Syria and the creation of an integrated system of science and innovation and contribute to building a knowledge-based economy and achieving sustainable development and linking research bodies with establishments of production and support innovations in establishments of production and service and enhance physical and human resources.

The meeting was attended by Deputy Minister of Environment, Eng. Suleiman Kalou, and managers involved in the ministry and the supreme body of scientific research.


Sh. al -Khatib 

Migrating Animals Add New Depth to How the Ocean 'Breathes'

The oxygen content of the ocean may be subject to frequent ups and downs in a very literal sense -- that is, in the form of the numerous sea creatures that dine near the surface at night then submerge into the safety of deeper, darker waters at daybreak.

Research begun at Princeton University and recently reported on in the journal Nature Geoscience found that animals ranging from plankton to small fish consume vast amounts of what little oxygen is available in the ocean's aptly named "oxygen minimum zone" daily. The sheer number of organisms that seek refuge in water roughly 200- to 650-meters deep (650 to 2,000 feet) every day result in the global consumption of between 10 and 40 percent of the oxygen available at these depths.

The findings reveal a crucial and underappreciated role that animals have in ocean chemistry on a global scale, explained first author Daniele Bianchi, a postdoctoral researcher at McGill University who began the project as a doctoral student of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at Princeton.

"In a sense, this research should change how we think of the ocean's metabolism," Bianchi said. "Scientists know that there is this massive migration, but no one has really tried to estimate how it impacts the chemistry of the ocean.

"Generally, scientists have thought that microbes and bacteria primarily consume oxygen in the deeper ocean," Bianchi said. "What we're saying here is that animals that migrate during the day are a big source of oxygen depletion. We provide the first global data set to say that."

Much of the deep ocean can replenish (often just barely) the oxygen consumed during these mass migrations, which are known as diel vertical migrations (DVMs).

But the balance between DVMs and the limited deep-water oxygen supply could be easily upset, Bianchi said -- particularly by climate change, which is predicted to further decrease levels of oxygen in the ocean. That could mean these animals would not be able to descend as deep, putting them at the mercy of predators and inflicting their oxygen-sucking ways on a new ocean zone.

"If the ocean oxygen changes, then the depth of these migrations also will change. We can expect potential changes in the interactions between larger guys and little guys," Bianchi said. "What complicates this story is that if these animals are responsible for a chunk of oxygen depletion in general, then a change in their habits might have a feedback in terms of oxygen levels in other parts of the deeper ocean."

The researchers produced a global model of DVM depths and oxygen depletion by mining acoustic oceanic data collected by 389 American and British research cruises between 1990 and 2011. Using the background readings caused by the sound of animals as they ascended and descended, the researchers identified more than 4,000 DVM events.

They then chemically analyzed samples from DVM-event locations to create a model that could correlate DVM depth with oxygen depletion. With that data, the researchers concluded that DVMs indeed intensify the oxygen deficit within oxygen minimum zones.

"You can say that the whole ecosystem does this migration -- chances are that if it swims, it does this kind of migration," Bianchi said. "Before, scientists tended to ignore this big chunk of the ecosystem when thinking of ocean chemistry. We are saying that they are quite important and can't be ignored."

Bianchi conducted the data analysis and model development at McGill with assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences Eric Galbraith and McGill doctoral student David Carozza. Initial research of the acoustic data and development of the migration model was conducted at Princeton with K. Allison Smith (published as K.A.S. Mislan), a postdoctoral research associate in the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Charles Stock, a researcher with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Source:Science Daily

Wildlife Workshop: Encouraging Scientific, Environmental Research

DAMASCUS, (ST) - Participants in the workshop, held recently, on the wildlife and the state of  the bald ibis designated communication points  specialized in endangered species to activate communication with all local and international parties in this regard, and to encourage academic scientific research in the field of environment.

Participants stressed the importance of the role of local communities in environmental culture in general and birds in particular and the need to motivate them financially and morally in order to achieve future goals of the components of bio-diversity and endangered species. 

Participants underlined the importance of strengthening cooperation between government institutions and partner NGOs in the protection of bio-diversity and wildlife and national capacity-building in all government institutions and civil organizations concerned in order to serve the protection of wildlife in all its components and activate the implementation of the laws of hunting.

Vice -President of the Syrian Society for the Protection of Wildlife, Dr. Akram Darwish pointed out the importance of assessing the status of nature reserves in Syria, referring to the role of the follow-up of  bodies concerned to contribute to the protection of  bio-diversity and endangered species and rehabilitation of reserves, especially those that are suitable habitat for bird life.

Dr. Darwish stressed the importance of cooperation between the Ministries of State for Environmental Affairs and Interior to monitor human activities affecting bio-diversity such as hunting and factories.

 Specialists in the field of birds discussed ways of protection and rehabilitation of their habitats and regulate hunting in cooperation and coordination between the parties, the ministries and departments concerned.

 They also discussed the orientations of the Ministry of Agriculture and its vision in the field of the protection of birds, local  legislations and international agreements relating to the protection of birds and the World Council of birds' vision regarding the ibis and its current status.

 Sh. Kh.

World Population Could Be Nearly 11 Billion by 2100

A new statistical analysis shows the world population could reach nearly 11 billion by the end of the century, according to a United Nations report issued June 13. That's about 800 million, or about 8 percent, more than the previous projection of 10.1 billion, issued in 2011.

The projected rise is mostly due to fertility in Africa, where the U.N. had expected birth rates to decline more quickly than they have.

"The fertility decline in Africa has slowed down or stalled to a larger extent than we previously predicted, and as a result the African population will go up," said Adrian Raftery, a University of Washington professor of statistics and of sociology.

The current African population is about 1.1 billion and it is now expected to reach 4.2 billion, nearly a fourfold increase, by 2100.

The new U.N. estimates use statistical methods developed by Raftery and his colleagues at the UW Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences. The group's improved fertility forecasting methods, combined with updated data collected by the U.N., were used to project the long-term consequences of the fertility change in Africa since the last population estimate two years ago.

New to this year's projection are finer-tuned statistics that anticipate the life expectancies of women and men across this century.

In other areas of the world, fewer major population changes are expected. Europe may see a small decline because of fertility continuing below replacement level, and other nations around the globe may see modest increases due to longer life expectancies, Raftery said.

There's no end in sight for the increase of world population, he added, yet the topic has gone off the world's agenda in favor of other pressing global issues, including poverty and climate -- both of which have ties to world population.

"These new findings show that we need to renew policies, such as increasing access to family planning and expanding education for girls, to address rapid population growth in Africa," Raftery said.

The UN gives high and low variants of its projections, assuming that women have an average of half a child more or less than the best projection. That leaves a large uncertainty, from 7 billion to nearly 17 billion, in the range for potential world population by the end of this century.

By contrast, the UW research group has developed probabilities of future population levels to be coupled with best forecasts. "Our probability intervals are much tighter, ranging from 9 billion to 13 billion in 2100," Raftery said.

Global population reached 7 billion in 2011. It passed 6 billion in 1999.

Source: Science Daily


Sustainable Management of Natural Resources

DAMASCUS, (ST) - Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, Dr. Nazira Sarkis, recently stressed the importance of eco-tourism and work to achieve a balance between tourism and the environment, economic and social interests through the focus towards sustainable management of natural resources.

 During the final meeting of the National Commission for adopting the Directory of Eco-Tourism Sites, Dr. Sarkis pointed out the importance of eco-tourism, which is an activity that combines between originality in cultural and natural heritage and modernity in its ethical civilization in  addition to its significant role in the maintenance of instinctive and natural life from extinction.

"The Ministry has given great interest since 2003 to the eco-tourism and establishing the national capacity to ensure the circulation of such kind of tourism as widely as possible, pointing out that several training workshops were held in this regard and the creation of a special bureau of eco-tourism in the ministry," Dr. Sarkis said.

It is worth mentioned that a national committee was created comprising representatives of all the ministries, the Planning and International Cooperation Commission and the Regional Planning Commission to prepare a guide eco-tourism sites in Syria.

During the meeting, members of the Committee discussed the methodology of directory and its contents, which include a definition of eco-tourism and its conditions, principles and types in addition to the possible activities locations of eco-tourism sites and classification adopted to sites of eco-tourism in Syria, including geographical location and tourist attractions to be the site of eco-tourism as well as activities that can be carried out at these sites according to different environmental rules, customs and traditions and traditional industries to communities living in or near sites and the existing infrastructure that the site needs to be an integrated eco-tourism site.

Sh. Kh.