Policy | VOL. 15, ISSUE 94, January-February 2016

Climate Justice and COP21

The developed countries while understanding their historic responsibilities towards climate change should assist the developing countries with technology transfer, mitigation and funding to ensure climate justice.

Magazine Articles # Policy | VOL. 15, ISSUE 88, January-February 2015

Agricultural Land use Changes in India

Agricultural land converted to non-agricultural uses is often understood as ‘development’. While high growth, rich states have managed to hold on, the low growth poorer states have lost significant amounts of land under plough causing distress to their agricultural communities.


Stable Isotopic Study of Southern Ocean Surface Waters: An Update

Surface water salinity (S) and δ18O measurements were repeated again in another cruise in 2009 CE after our first work in 2006 CE, to understand the temporal variability, if any, in the salinity- δ18O relationship and hence the surface water properties of the Southern Ocean. Data show more scatter in the δ18O values during 2009 CE relative to 2006 CE. Also a significant difference in the intercepts of the S- δ18O relations between 2009 CE and 2006 CE was detected.


Ground Penetrating Radar Surveys for Detailed Glaciological Investigations in the Polar and Himalayan Regions

Non-invasive imaging of land through ice sheets has provided huge steps forward in the mapping and understanding of these features since the 1950s. Historically, airborne Radio-Echo Sounding (RES) has been undertaken over cold dry polar ice sheets, which are virtually transparent to radiowaves, and depths of investigation of up to 5 km are not unknown. Since then, developments in radar equipment and analytical techniques have enabled the derivation of other significant information about the structure, composition, layering and dynamics of these major ice masses and related physical processes. The first use of impulse radar (Ground Penetrating Radar, GPR) for glaciological purposes was in the early 1970s. Since the mid-1990s, there has been huge growth in the use of commercial GPR systems in particular over temperate glaciers, which are at their pressure melting point. RES systems were first deployed from large aircraft in Polar Regions. GPR systems were originally used in ground-based investigations of temperate glaciers and have been used with increasing benefit in similar ways in Polar Regions. However, GPR systems are now being mounted onto helicopters for use in rugged mountain environments, such as in the European Alps and the Indian Himalaya. By examining the radar characteristics of key glaciological features in both Polar and Himalayan regions it is possible to design optimal radar surveys for a variety of glaciological applications. Such surveys, such as may be undertaken in the Indian Himalaya, can produce information that is key to climate change monitoring, measuring glacier volume fluxes, enhanced mass balance estimations, and that forms a high-quality baseline against which changes over time can be measured.


Glacier Mass Balance Studies in Brøggerbreen, Svalbard Region

Most of the glaciers in Svalbard are of the surge type and so the front position of a single glacier cannot be a good climatic indicator. As most of these are slow-moving, the front will shrink and retreat between surges and so the front position gives little information on whether the total ice mass is growing or shrinking. Mass balance measurements are therefore necessary to calculate the total volume change accurately. The mean winter accumulation on Brøggerbreen during the period 1967-1993 is 0.71 ±0.16 m (water equivalent – w.e.) and the mean summer ablation has been -1.15 ±0.31 m (w.e.) with a mean annual specific net mass balance of - 0.43 m (w.e.) as reported by earlier European studies. The Glacier Research Group, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) began mass balance monitoring on Vestre Brøggerbreen in 2011, in collaboration with National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa and Geological Survey of India (GSI), Lucknow. Ten meter deep stakes were fixed on the Vestre Brøggerbreen Glacier by using the steam drill in the summer of 2011. On Vestre-I glacier (VB-I), 11 deep stakes were fixed in the ablation zone. On Vestre-II glacier (VB-II), 12 deep stakes were fixed both in the accumulation zone and the ablation zone. Thus, a network of a total of 23 deep stakes has been installed on Vestre Brøggerbreen Glacier. Apart from this ground penetrating radar measurement were also made to assess ice thickness. The mass balance monitoring will be continued in the upcoming summer and the first fruits of Indian cryospheric research in the Svalbard are expected soon.


Evolution of Rocky Oases in East Antarctic: Study by Indian Scientists

The coastal regions of east Antarctic, given rise to by the retreat of the ice cap and consequent uplifting of the landmass especially the rocky oases, offer excellent examples of evolution of ice free areas. The geomorphological mapping that has revealed existence of comparatively higher relief of the structural hills with steep escarpment on the northern peripheries of the landmass in the mountain belt, parallel to the Antarctic coast, lend support to these observations. The architectural patterns of most of the Antarctic oases have evolved under the different processes of deposition and erosion, in a periglacial environment. That discontinuous depositional phases and an extensive erosional regime were in force in these ice free areas is indicated by the present disposition and the features present on the landforms. Radiocarbon dating of lake sediments from the central part of the oasis has revealed that the parts of area were deglaciated in the early Holocene or before it, and that a system of lakes had evolved making use of the depressions carved out by glacial scouring. Studies of pollen in sediment cores have established three different climates - warm; humid; and, warm-humid in the past dung post during Last Glacial Maximum (LGM )period. The geochemical analyses of the sediment cores and water samples together with micro-paleontological studies (BSIP) have yielded important tools in understanding the evolution of the Antarctic oases.


True Psychrophiles and Part Time Psychrophiles in the Antarctic

Given that Polar environments still represent a 'frontier' to many, there is an inclination to still explore these ecosystems not for the broader interests in ecological knowledge but rather for more immediate concerns. The desire to harness biological diversity as a resource is well known and a highly vigorous endeavour driven by the continuous demand for new resources and innovations beckon new directions and opportunities. For example it is abundantly clear we need new or improved pharmaceuticals for dealing with infectious disease as well as other pervasive medical conditions, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Since biodiscovery is inherently empirical, scattershot approaches are often too hopeful and unfocused for anything substantial to be gained. However, with greater knowledge on how microbes function and their genetic contents, value can be gained and in addition gain a greater appreciation of associated environmental services as well as metabolic capacities and idiosyncrasies. Thus bioprospecting for novel pharmaceutical activity, cold active enzymes, and unusual and/or new biological products should take an intelligent directed as well as in-depth approach in order to realise value and understanding. To achieve this we need knowledge about microorganisms at a functional, mechanistic and genetic level and not just taxonomic and phylogenetic.


The Effect of a Temperature Rise on the Sulfate Reducing Rates in Cold Marine Sediments of Kongsfjorden (Svalbard, Arctic Ocean)

Arctic Ocean is a useful sentinel for understanding the impact of climate change. Dramatic changes are occurring in this region, calling for monitoring of biogeochemical processes. The study site, Konsfjorden is a unique marine coastal system located at the north-western coast of Spitsbergen island in Svalbard (78o55’N, 11o56’E, Norway). Since 90 per cent of the sea floor has temperatures less than 4oC, low environmental temperatures characterise the habitat of many bacteria living in the marine sediments. Sulfate reduction rates (SRR) in sediments of 4 sites in the Kongsfjorden area have been measured as a function of temperature using the 35S radiotracer method. Experiments conducted with homogenised sediments amended with acetate and/or lactate at two different temperatures (0oC and 4oC) included suitable controls without amendments. SRR increased by almost 45 per cent with a 4oC rise in temperature. This increase in sulfate respiration could imply an increase in the CO2 flux and subsequently global warming. The rate of carbon mineralised (CM) is proportional to the SRR, which in turn is influenced by salinity variations due to mixing of sea water with the fresh water from melting glaciers. Consequently, with a rise in temperature, the SRR actually tends to decrease with lowered salinities due to ice melting, thus offsetting the increase in CO2 flux that could have occurred due to the warming effect. This work is a part of the 3rd Indian Arctic Expedition to Svalbard from 14 June to 18 July 2009.


Squid Jigging Operations in the Southern Ocean

Fishing trials with various types of squid jigs were attempted in the Southern Ocean from 40o to 43o S and 53o to 58o3’ E during the 6th Indian Southern Ocean Expedition from 23 December 2011 to 6 February 2012. Squid jigging operations were carried out during nights with different types of jigs namely local jigs, jigs with LED lights and imported jigs. Total of 71 squids, approximately weighing 60 kg was landed by hand squid jigging. Three species were landed viz; Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis, S. bartrami and Todarodes filippovae. S. oualaniensis and S. bartrami are widely reported from the tropical Indian Ocean and T. filippovae is a typical Southern Ocean species. Jigging operations could not be carried out on most of the nights due to very rough seas, strong currents and winds during the cruise. Seawater characteristics such as temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll were determined using a CTD water sampler. Imported jigs were found to be more efficient than local jigs and jigs with LED lights. Morphometric measurements along with the length and weight of different species of squids caught were recorded. Length of S. bartrami ranged from 20.5 to 48.8 cm and weight ranged from 0.2 to 2.8 kg and length of T. filippovae ranged from 19.4 to 24.8 cm and weight ranged from 0.12 to 0.27 kg. With great demand for seafood especially squids, there is a possibility of harvesting the under-exploited stocks of oceanic squids especially in the Southern Ocean to cater to protein food for mankind.


Psychrotrophic Metal Tolerant Bacteria for Mobilisation of Metals in Antarctic Waters

Cold tolerant psychrotrophic bacteria abound in the Antarctic waters. While Antarctic krills are known to concentrate heavy metals at ppm levels, psychrotrophic bacteria from Antarctic fresh and marine waters have been reported to tolerate them. Of the 252 isolates from these waters varying degrees of resistance to metals like chromium, cadmium, zinc and mercury was observed. Some of the marine bacterial isolates showed 29 and 16 per cent resistance to 100 ppm of cadmium and chromium salt respectively. Tolerance to lower concentration (10 ppm) of mercury was observed in 68 per cent of the isolates. Surprisingly, the bacterial resistance shown by these bacteria were on similar levels to those reported from coastal waters. Some of the freshwater isolates had multiple metal resistance. is intrinsic resistance encountered in isolates from these pristine environments could be useful for orchestrating metal mobilisation like iron in these waters to promote in situ production for climate modulation. Alternatively, these native bacteria could be useful for harnessing mineral resources in the distant future.