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Winners and losers in cereal production from El Nino
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) May 15, 2014


Ecuador emergency over stricken Galapagos freighter
Quito (AFP) May 15, 2014 - Ecuador declared an environmental emergency in the Galapagos Islands Thursday, after a freighter carrying pollutants ran aground last week.

The measure will free up resources to remove the ship and mitigate its impact in the face of "possible environmental damage that could unleash a disaster" said the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park (DPNG).

The vessel, which ran aground off the Baquerizo Moreno port on the island of San Cristobal on Friday, was carrying 19,000 gallons (around 72,000 liters) of cargo fuel that has already been removed.

But highly polluting motor oil and cleaning products remain in the ship's airtight holds, yet to leak out.

At the request of Galapagos authorities, Ecuador's Environmental Minister Lorena Tapia issued the environmental emergency.

The measure aims at protecting the archipelago's marine reserve, specifically the "area affected by the stranding and possible sinking of the cargo ship 'Galapaface I'" DPNG said in a statement.

The Ecuadoran-owned Galapagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean around 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, are classified as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Galapaface 1, which was carrying 1,000 tons of cargo when it ran aground, became blocked by sand and rocks that cracked its hull, causing flooding in the vessel's engine room.

In 2001 the Ecuadoran ship "Jessica," which was carrying fuel, ran aground near the same spot, causing a serious environmental crisis that affected several species.

The region is home to a large population of sea lions.

The Galapagos Islands are famous for their unique flora and fauna studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle as he developed his theory of evolution.

Food experts on Thursday drew up the first global map of how the El Nino weather phenomenon affects production of four key cereals.

El Nino improves the global yield of soybeans by 2.1 to 5.4 percent, but changes the yields of maize, rice and wheat by -4.3 percent to +0.8 percent, they said.

When El Nino goes into reverse, a process called La Nina, the change in global average yields of all four crops range from zero to -4.5 percent, according to a study in the journal Nature Communications.

El Nino is the name for a pendulum swing in weather patterns that can cause widespread disruption.

It occurs when a huge mass of warm water builds in the western Pacific and eventually shifts to the eastern side of the ocean.

The warmth typically brings exceptional rainfall to usually arid countries in western South America and causes drought and dryness in the tropical western Pacific, with knock-on effects in other continents.

The return of the pendulum, La Nina, is a cold phase that usually occurs the following year.

The study, led by Toshichika Iizumi of the National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan, is based on harvest data from 1984 to 2004 in producer countries.

El Nino, they found, has a negative impact on maize, also called corn, in the southeastern United States, China, East and West Africa, Mexico and Indonesia.

It also reduces yields of soybean in India and parts of China.

Slimmer harvests of rice occur in southern China, Myanmar and Tanzania, and of wheat in part of China, the United States, Australia, Mexico and parts of Europe.

Conversely, El Ninos have a positive effect on about a third of land where these four crops are grown.

Beneficiaries include Brazil and Argentina for maize; the United States and Brazil for soybean; rice in parts of China and Indonesia, and wheat in Argentina and part of South Africa.

On April 14, the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said there was a "fairly large potential" for an El Nino to develop by the end of 2014.

El Nino events occur roughly every three to seven years but became more frequent and intense in the late 20th century, with the 1982-3 and 1997-8 episodes the strongest of all.

The last El Nino occurred between June 2009 and May 2010.

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