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More Than 100,000 Displaced in Deadly Myanmar Monsoon Floods

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Houses submerged by floods in Myanmar on July 28,. SAW KYAW SAN OO / AFP / Getty Images

Eleven people have died and more than 119,000 have been forced to flee as heavy monsoon rains beginning last week caused significant flooding in Myanmar, government officials told Reuters on Monday.


Myanmar is the latest Southeast Asian country to be inundated by heavy rains this monsoon season. A dam collapse in Laos last week left thousands homeless, and early monsoon rains in Thailand trapped a team of 12 young soccer players and their coach in a cave, leading to a successful rescue effort that garnered international attention.

Myanmar's minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement Win Myat Aye told The New York Times that climate change was to blame for the heavy rains and floods.

"I just want to alert the people that climate is changing all over the world and we all have to be careful about it," he said.

Observed climate changes in Myanmar over the past 60 years have included an uptick in "intense rainfall events" and floods, according to the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance.

But local environmentalists told The New York Times that logging and deforestation have also made floods more severe in recent years.

"This time, flooding in our state is the worst," Karen Rivers Watch coordinator for the state of Mon Saw Tha Phoe told The New York Times."It is because of deforestation and we cannot deny it."

Karen Environmental and Social Action Network worker Kyaw Swa also said that the government could do more to warn citizens effectively.

"In the Thai cave rescue, 13 people were treated as human beings by the military government," Kyaw Swa told The New York Times. "But in the Myanmar flood, many people are suffering and we are not informed by the government, as usual."

He said he received a government warning via Facebook a day after waters had already flooded his home so quickly that he and his family had to be rescued from the second floor window.

"The flow of water was so fast, our house was flooded in 30 minutes," he said. "We have nothing, and now we have to start our life from the beginning."

The Myanmar states most impacted by the flooding have been Mon and Kayin. There has also been flooding in the north.

Win Myat Aye acknowledged that the government's response had been slow, in part because they had expected flooding along the Belin River in the north, but not the Thanlwin River in Mon and Kayin.

He also told The New York Times that his agency did not have enough people to mount an effective response and that three of the dead were soldiers attempting to help with rescue efforts.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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