2016 News Archive

30 November 2016 - Ten policies to protect pollinators

A recent global assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) confirmed that large-scale declines in wild pollinators are happening in north Europe and North America.

The ten policies report, led by Dr Lynn Dicks at the University of East Anglia who also took part in the assessment, expands on its findings to provide clear suggestions on how to tackle the problem.

Dr Dicks said: "The IPBES report has made it very clear that pollinators are important to people all over the world, economically and culturally. Governments understand this, and many have already taken substantial steps to safeguard these beautiful and important animals. But there is much more to be done. We urge governments to look at our policy proposals, and consider whether they can make these changes to support and protect pollinators, as part of a sustainable, healthy future for humanity.

"Agriculture plays a huge part. While it is partly responsible for pollinator decline, it can also be part of the solution. Practices that support pollinators, such as managing landscapes to provide food and shelter for them, should be promoted and supported. We also need to focus publicly funded research on improving yields in farming systems like organic farming, which are known to support pollinators."

"Pressure to raise pesticide regulatory standards internationally should be a priority. The World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have worked for many years to develop a global code of conduct on pesticide management, but there are still many countries that don't follow it. This means pesticides are in widespread use that are unacceptably toxic to bees, birds, even humans."

The report stresses the need to develop more in-depth knowledge about the status of pollinators worldwide. Dr Dicks said: "We need long-term monitoring of pollinators, especially in Africa, South America and Asia, where there is little information about their status, but the processes driving declines are known to be occurring."

The ten suggested policies in full are:
1. Raise pesticide regulatory standards
2. Promote integrated pest management (IPM)
3. Include indirect and sublethal effects in GM crop risk assessments
4. Regulate movement of managed pollinators
5. Develop incentives, such as insurance schemes, to help farmers benefit from ecosystem services instead of agrochemicals
6. Recognize pollination as an agricultural input in extension services
7. Support diversified farming systems
8. Conserve and restore "green infrastructure" (a network of habitats that pollinators can move between) in agricultural and urban landscapes
9. Develop long-term monitoring of pollinators and pollination
10. Fund participatory research on improving yields in organic, diversified, and ecologically intensified farming

Prof Simon Potts, co-author and research professor in Agri-Environment at the University of Reading, said: "The definitive UN report is a sign that the world is waking up to the importance of protecting these vital pollinators. We hope that by going a step further and implementing these top policy opportunities, we can encourage decision-makers to take action before it's too late.

"Three quarters of the world's food crops benefit from animal pollination, so we must safeguard pollinators to safeguard the supply of nutritious foods."

Journal Reference:
    L. V. Dicks, B. Viana, R. Bommarco, B. Brosi, M. d. C. Arizmendi, S. A. Cunningham, L. Galetto, R. Hill, A. V. Lopes, C. Pires, H. Taki, S. G. Potts. Ten policies for pollinators. Science, 2016; 354 (6315): 975 DOI: 10.1126/science.aai9226

Web Source:
University of East Anglia. "Scientists propose ten policies to protect vital pollinators." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161124150203.htm>.

21 September 2016 - More than one in ten UK species threatened with extinction

Reported: in Science Daily website https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160921153204.htm
Source:
    University of Exeter
Summary:
    Climate change, urban expansion and agricultural intensification blamed for risk to some of Britain's best loved species. Some of the UK's leading nature experts have delivered a clarion call for action to help save many of the nation's native wildlife species from extinction.
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FULL STORY

Climate change, urban expansion and agricultural intensification blamed for risk to some of Britain's best loved species

Some of the UK's leading nature experts have delivered a clarion call for action to help save many of the nation's native wildlife species from extinction.

A critical new report, called State of Nature 2016 and published, delivered the clearest picture to date of the status of our native species across land and sea. Crucially, the report attributes much of the imposing threat to changing agricultural land management, climate change and sustained urban development. These threaten many of Britain's best loved species including water voles -- the fastest declining mammal.

The startling report reveals that more than half (56%) of UK species studied have declined since 1970, while more than one in ten (1,199 species) of the nearly 8000 species assessed in the UK are under threat of disappearing altogether.

The report, produced by a coalition of more than 50 leading wildlife and research organisations and specialists including Dr Fiona Mathews from the University of Exeter, demands immediate action to stave off the growing threat to Britain's unique wildlife.

Dr Mathews, an Associate Professor in Mammalian Biology at the University of Exeter and Chair of the Mammal Society, who helped write the report, said many British mammals are under pressure from house building and intensification of agriculture.

She said: "The reality is that our human population is expanding and we need urgently to work out how we can live alongside our wildlife. For example, water voles are one of our fastest declining species, and many thousands of kilometres of their habitat are affected by development every year.

"We are therefore researching ways to ensure their survival, supported by our water vole appeal fund. In the summer, we launched best-practice guidance on looking after water voles during development, and these are now being followed by industry, helping to ensure that "Ratty" survives on ponds, rivers and canals throughout the UK."

As the UK Government and devolved administrations move forward in the light of the EU Referendum result, there is an opportunity to secure world leading protection for our species and restoration of our nature. Now is the time to make ambitious decisions and significant investment in nature to ensure year-on-year improvement to the health and protection of the UK's nature and environment for future generations. The Mammal Society is currently drawing up a 'Red List' of the most threated species, to help ensure that scarce funds are directed to the animals most in need.

Dr Mathews added: "The findings emphasise that whole ecosystems, not just one or two species, are under threat.

"We are a nation of nature-lovers -- just look at the success of "Countryfile" and "Springwatch." Every week thousands of volunteers are out recording wildlife and helping with practical habitat management. We also depend on the natural environment for a huge number of goods and services, not to mention our own health and wellbeing.

"Yet successive governments have cut funding for the environment, and conservation concerns are all too often vilified as a barrier to urban development, infrastructure projects or efficient food production. This is a moment to reflect on what sort of country we want for our children -- a sustainable future for them depends on our decisions now."

The State of Nature 2016 UK report was launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation and research organisations at the Royal Society in London on Wednesday, September 14.

Sir David Attenborough said: "The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before. The rallying call issued after the State of Nature report in 2013 has promoted exciting and innovative conservation projects. Landscapes are being restored, special places defended, struggling species being saved and brought back. But we need to build significantly on this progress if we are to provide a bright future for nature and for people.

"The future of nature is under threat and we must work together -- -Governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals -- -to help it. Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife."

In order to reduce the impact we are having on our wildlife, and to help struggling species, we needed to understand what's causing these declines. Using evidence from the last 50 years, experts have identified that significant and ongoing changes in agricultural practices are having the single biggest impact on nature.

The widespread decline of nature in the UK remains a serious problem to this day. For the first time scientists have uncovered how wildlife has fared in recent years. The report reveals that since 2002 more than half (53%) of UK species studied have declined and there is little evidence to suggest that the rate of loss is slowing down.

Mark Eaton, lead author on the report, said:"Never before have we known this much about the state of UK nature and the threats it is facing. Since the 2013, the partnership and many landowners have used this knowledge to underpin some amazing scientific and conservation work. But more is needed to put nature back where it belongs -- we must continue to work to help restore our land and sea for wildlife.

"There is a real opportunity for the UK Government and devolved administrations to build on these efforts and deliver the significant investment and ambitious action needed to bring nature back from the brink.

"Of course, this report wouldn't have been possible without the army of dedicated volunteers who brave all conditions to survey the UK's wildlife. Knowledge is the most essential tool that a conservationist can have, and without their efforts, our knowledge would be significantly poorer."

Derek Crawley, Atlas Office for the Mammal Society, said "New technology now enables volunteers to share information more easily than ever before. Our MammalTracker app is freely available from the App Store, or sightings of mammals can be recorded via our website. We will also be sharing information on how to make the most of volunteer programmes at a special meeting in the autumn.

Story Source:
Materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
University of Exeter. "More than one in ten UK species threatened with extinction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160921153204.htm>.

12 August 2016 - Theme of the IUCN Congress 2016 Planet at the crossroads

We live in a time of tremendous change, the nature and extent of which is the subject of intense debate around the world. At the heart of this debate is the clash of immediate human needs with their long-term impacts on the planet’s capacity to support life. 

With a timeframe of 15 years, the world has committed to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals – an ambitious agenda for improving human living conditions for all. There is a real sense of urgency in this call to action, as many believe there is a closing window of opportunity to effect meaningful change in Humanity’s trajectory. Our future will be decided by the choices we make now.

The current debate is framed by two competing narratives. One is a pessimistic view of our future which claims that it is already too late to avoid catastrophe, and therefore we must now focus on survival and recovery. This leaves people in despair. The other is a stubborn optimism arguing that Humanity has faced and overcome many great challenges in the past and will continue to do so. This risks indifference and denial.

But there is a viable alternative approach – one that stresses that nature conservation and human progress are not mutually exclusive. Facing tremendous forces of transformation such as climate change and socioeconomic inequality, there are credible and accessible political, economic, cultural and technological choices that can promote general welfare in ways that support and even enhance our planet’s natural assets.

For the alternative path to be credible and viable, we need new partnerships across the planet, between governments, NGOs, conservationists, scientists, consumers, producers, urban planners, entrepreneurs, grassroots and indigenous organisations and financial backers. Each partner holds a vital piece of the puzzle – the knowledge, the tools, the resources. We need to bring these pieces together, and collectively complete the greatest puzzle ever attempted: to secure Nature’s support systems so that Humanity and the greater community of life may continue to prosper on Earth. This is our collective challenge for the next 15 years, and this is the invitation that the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016 is offering to the world.

Read more about the Congress theme 


27 July 2016 - Biodiversity falls below ‘safe levels’ globally

Levels of global biodiversity loss may negatively impact on ecosystem function and the sustainability of human societies, according to UCL-led research.

"This is the first time we've quantified the effect of habitat loss on biodiversity globally in such detail and we've found that across most of the world biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists" explained lead researcher, Dr Tim Newbold from UCL and previously at UNEP-WCMC.

"We know biodiversity loss affects ecosystem function but how it does this is not entirely clear. What we do know is that in many parts of the world, we are approaching a situation where human intervention might be needed to sustain ecosystem function."
For 58.1% of the world's land surface, which is home to 71.4% of the global population, the level of biodiversity loss is substantial enough to question the ability of ecosystems to support human societies. The loss is due to changes in land use and puts levels of biodiversity beyond the 'safe limit' recently proposed by the planetary boundaries -- an international framework that defines a safe operating space for humanity.

"It's worrying that land use has already pushed biodiversity below the level proposed as a safe limit," said Professor Andy Purvis of the Natural History Museum, London, who also worked on the study. "Decision-makers worry a lot about economic recessions, but an ecological recession could have even worse consequences -- and the biodiversity damage we've had means we're at risk of that happening. Until and unless we can bring biodiversity back up, we're playing ecological roulette."
"The greatest changes have happened in those places where most people live, which might affect physical and psychological wellbeing. To address this, we would have to preserve the remaining areas of natural vegetation and restore human-used lands," added Dr Newbold.

source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160714150633.htm

18 July 2016 - Lessons from Wales about biodiversity conservation

The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 has introducced a new Duty on public bodies to replace the one created by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) which covered England and Wales.   The new Duty goes much further, as set out in the following text.  

Biodiversity and Resilience of Ecosystems Duty

Background
Biodiversity means the diversity of living organisms and underpins the health and resilience of all
of our ecosystems. In turn, these support all life on Earth. Ecosystems that are more biodiverse
tend to be more resilient and are better able to adapt to the pressures and changes we face, for
example through the impacts of climate change.

As part of our commitment to reversing the decline in biodiversity in Wales and increasing the
resilience of our ecosystems, the Environment (Wales) Act introduces a new biodiversity duty,
which highlights biodiversity as an essential component of ecosystem resilience.
In relation to Wales, this new duty replaces the biodiversity duty in the Natural Environment and
Rural Communities Act 2006 (referred to as the NERC Act) which required that public authorities
must have regard to conserving biodiversity. Whilst there have been some successes as a result of
the NERC Act duty, they have not been as widespread as needed. Evidence presented in reports
such as the 2011 National Ecosystem Assessment and 2013 State of Nature report show that
biodiversity is continuing to decline and in 2010, Wales, alongside all other countries in the world
failed to meet its Internationally agree Biodiversity Targets. We need to do more if we are to
reverse this trend and meet our international commitments on biodiversity for 2020.
 
The enhanced duty
The Environment Act enhances the current NERC Act duty to require all public authorities, when
carrying out their functions in Wales, to seek to “maintain and enhance biodiversity” where it
is within the proper exercise of their functions. In doing so, public authorities must also seek to
“promote the resilience of ecosystems”. As under the NERC Act the new duty will apply to a range
of public authorities such as the Welsh Ministers, local authorities, public bodies and statutory
undertakers. This ensures that biodiversity is an integral part of the decisions that public authorities
take in relation to Wales. It also links biodiversity with the long term health and functioning of our
ecosystems, therefore helping to align the biodiversity duty with the framework for sustainable
natural resource management provided in the Act.
Building on lessons from the voluntary reporting system that has emerged through the NERC
Act, the new duty requires public authorities to report on the actions they have taken to improve
biodiversity and promote ecosystem resilience.
To assist in complying with the new duties, specified public authorities must also take account
of relevant evidence as required under the Act. In addition, these public authorities will also be
required to prepare and publish a plan on how they intend to comply with the biodiversity and
resilience of ecosystems duty. These public authorities must also review their forward plans in light
of the findings in their report on their actions.
This new enhanced duty has been called for by stakeholders as part of the White Paper
consultation exercise for the Environment (Wales) Bill in 2013 and by the National Assembly for
Wales. It is similar to the approach taken in both Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Examples
A few examples of what public authorities could do to meet the biodiversity duty are set out below.
These demonstrate the range of functions that the duty can apply to, ranging from procurement
decisions, through to action on the ground:
•  Reduce, re-use, recycle materials, but where products such as paper are bought, ensure that
supplies come from sustainable sources – i.e. paper from sustainable forests;
•  Raise awareness across an organisation about how each and every role can impact and influence
biodiversity and consider measures to enhance biodiversity and ecosystems in all policies, plans
and projects;
•  Look for opportunities, whether they are big or small, to help encourage biodiversity – e.g. plant
native species,  wildflower areas for pollinators, leaving areas of unmown grass; and improving
connectivity between valuable habitats;
•  Think about how enhancing biodiversity can help deliver across the organisation’s activities .e.g.
to support active recreation, education, flood prevention, and local food growing. For example,
green roofs help to provide wildlife habitats, reduce energy consumption and improve drainage
systems.

Source; http://gov.wales/docs/desh/publications/160321-biodiversity-and-resilience-of-ecosystems-duty-en.pdf

Time for a change in the (widely ignored) English legislation too?

13 JUNE 2016 - B-Lines comes to Essex

B-Lines is a new project from the wildlife charity, Buglife.

Our bees, butterflies and hoverflies have suffered badly over the last fifty or so years, due to changes in land use like intensive farming, urban spread and new transport links.

Over 97% (an area the size of Wales) of all flower-rich grasslands have been lost in Britain since the 1930s, reducing pollen and nectar sources and leading to a serious decline in the wildlife depending on wildflower-rich habitat. B-Lines has the vision to help our native insect pollinators

The Government’s National Pollinator Strategy 2014 sets out a 10 year plan to help pollinating insects survive and thrive across England. The Strategy outlines actions to support and protect the many pollinating insects which contribute to our food production and the diversity of our environment. It looks to everyone to work together to help our pollinators.

What are B-Lines?

B-Lines are an imaginative and beautiful solution to the problem of the loss of flowers and pollinators.  The B-Lines are a series of ‘insect pathways’, 3 kilometers wide, along which the aim is to restore and create a series of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones. They link existing wildlife areas together, creating a network, like a railway, that will weave across the British landscape. This will provide large areas of brand new habitat benefiting bees and butterflies– but also a host of other wildlife. The B-Line for Essex can be found as part of the East of England B-Lines project at < https://buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/habitat-projects/b-lines/east-of-england-b-lines >.

The Benefits of B-Lines

 B-Lines bring a range of benefits to wildlife, people and agriculture.

These include:

  •     Helping conserve our native pollinators and a range of other wildlife and contributing towards the 2020 Biodiversity targets
  •     Helping our wildlife respond to climate change by making it easier for them to move around
  •     Increasing the number of insect pollinators and the benefits these bring to our farming sector (pollination being an important ‘ecosystem service’)
  •     Bringing nature to people
  •     Giving opportunities for everyone to play their part and help create the B-Lines network


Making B-Lines

 B-Lines aims to create and restore at least 150,000 hectares of flower-rich habitat across the UK. Making this happen will take time and will need farmers, land owners, wildlife organisations, businesses, local authorities and the general public to work together to create flower-rich grassland in the best locations.

Everyone can take part! Whether you own a large area of land that you would like to turn into a wildflower meadow or just have a window sill or small patio, you can help to create the B-Lines network. Whether you’re a landowner, farmer, school, local authority, business or an individual hoping to make a difference you can help create wildflower habitat in your area. - See more at:< https://www.buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/habitat-projects/take-part-creating-our-b-lines >, where a range of advice and help sheets can be found to download.

You can see how the B-Lines are developing on an interactive map < https://www.buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/habitat-projects/helping-create-b-lines > . Please add your information so we can see how the B-lines are growing.

- See more at: https://buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/habitat-projects/b-lines

25 MAY 2016 - The views of Europeans on the EU Nature Directives


At the start of 2015, the European Commission launched a Fitness Check on the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, with a view to determining whether the current regulatory framework is fit for purpose. As part of this evaluation process, an online public consultation was undertaken to gather the views of Europe’s citizens and stakeholders on this important topic. Over half a million people replied. This is the highest response rate the Commission has ever received to any of its public consultations. It testifies to the strength of emotion the Directives generate amongst Europe’s citizens and the high level of support they enjoy, even in this time of economic uncertainty.

 

The public consultation

 

The online consultation was conducted over a period of 12 weeks from April to July. The questionnaire contained 32 multiple choice questions and one final open text question. Participants had a choice of replying to the first 14 general questions in Part I only, or going on to answer a further 18 more detailed questions in Part II. The objective was to obtain opinions and qualitative insights into the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and added value of the two Nature Directives. By the end of the 12 weeks, the consultation had generated an unprecedented level of interest. In total, 552,472 replies were submitted. The greatest number of replies came from participants in Germany and the United Kingdom (each around 100,000 replies), followed by Italy (around 70,000), Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and France (each around 40,000 replies).

 

Most were individuals, but organisations also submitted around 4,600 replies, of which over half came from businesses. In general, respondents’ interests varied significantly between those who answered Part I only (97% of respondents), and those who went on fill in Part II (3% of respondents). The vast majority of those replying to Part I stated they were mainly interested or active in ‘nature’. Of the 16,815 who replied to both Part I and Part II, the interests were more diversified with 21% stating ‘hunting’, 19% ‘nature’, 17% ‘forestry’ and 15% ‘agriculture’ as their main interest. The outcome of the public consultation is also likely to have been influenced by a number of campaigns that had been launched by different NGOs and stakeholder groups to guide their supporters through the questionnaire.

 

The following summarises the keys findings of the public consultation.

 

Replies to Part I of the questionnaire

 

The vast majority of respondents to Part I stated that, in their view:

  • The Birds and Habitats Directives are important or very important to nature conservation (98%). The strategic objectives and approach set out in the Directives are appropriate or very appropriate for protecting nature in the EU (94%). ·
  • The Directives are effective or very effective in protecting nature (93%). ·
  • The benefits of implementing the Directives far exceed the costs (93%). ·
  • The EU environmental policy is supportive of the two Nature Directives (94% agree). However, agriculture and rural development (93%), energy (96%) and transport policies (97%) are not supportive.
  • Other policy areas could contribute more.
  • The Directives provide significant added-value over and above that which could be achieved through national or regional legislation (93%). ·
  • There is still a need for EU legislation to protect species and habitats (98%).

 

The views varied, however, according to the type of respondent. On the whole, business expressed a more negative view of the Directives, especially as regards economic aspects. Over 90% of the responses to Part I came through the Nature Alert campaign organised by conservation NGOs, and this is heavily reflected in the results.

 

Replies to Part II of the questionnaire

 

The views expressed in Part II appear to contrast somewhat with those given in Part I, but this may reflect the different composition of respondents between the two parts and the impact of different campaigns, which also did not include the Nature Alert. Around a third of responses to Part II came from a campaign supported by farmers, foresters and hunters.

 

The majority of respondents to Part II shared the view that: ·

  • The administrative costs associated with the implementation of the Directives are major (60%).
  • There is insufficient funding for implementing the Directives (77%). ·
  • This lack of sufficient funding is significantly restricting progress (74%). ·
  • Proper enforcement, effective national coordination, international cooperation, public awareness and guidance have some impact on the success of the Directives (87–90%). ·
  • The following elements are significantly limiting progress:
  • insufficient stakeholder involvement (65%);
  • ineffective local coordination (62%);
  • gaps in scientific knowledge of species and habitats (61%);
  • unclear wording of the Directives (54%); and
  • ineffective EU- level coordination (54%). 
  • Interactions with other EU laws and policies have caused inefficiencies to some extent (58%), or to a large extent (27%).

 

Views expressed in the final open question

 

In total, 10,000 or so respondents submitted comments in the final open question. Just under half of these came from people who expressed an interest in nature and environment, followed closely by those interested or active in agriculture, forestry, fishing or hunting. These two main groups made up 80% of all comments submitted. A more detailed examination of a sample of 10% of the comments revealed that one of the most frequent issues raised by all types of respondents (individuals and organisations combined) was that the Directives’ objectives are poorly implemented or enforced. These comments varied from very general statements about the lack of enforcement, control or monitoring on the one hand, to more specific comments about weaknesses in the management of protected areas. Another frequent comment made by both individuals and organisations was that the Directives were effective and have contributed to nature protection. The views however, diverged somewhat between types of respondents. Amongst those interested or active in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, a sizeable number commented that socio-economic aspects were not adequately taken into account and that land owners and users, as experts in the use or management of nature or natural resources, were not sufficiently involved in the implementation of the Directives.

 

Many also said that the Nature Directives carry a considerable cost in terms of their implementation, which they felt placed too high a burden on them. They also thought that the rules were sometimes too complicated to implement and were not understandable for them.

 

Respondents in the field of nature and environment most often commented that the problems of implementation were linked to a lack of enforcement, a scarcity of financial and human resources and a lack of cohesion with other policies, especially agriculture. Many also made a point of stressing that the Directives were in their view effective, they had an added value over and above national legislation, and should be maintained. Many also emphasised that nature protection has a great value for human health and well-being and that the socio- economic benefits generated by the Directives should be better highlighted.

 

Conclusions

 

The results of the public consultation will now be taken into consideration in the overall fitness check report. The Commission’s findings are due to be published in the second quarter of 2016.

 

The Public consultation report is available from: http://ec.europa.eu/ environment/nature/ legislation/fitness_check/ docs/consultation/public%20 consultation_FINAL.pdf

 

Source Natura 2000 Number 39 January 2016

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/info/pubs/docs/nat2000newsl/nat39_en.pdf

 

28 APRIL 2016 - New Report investigates impact of Brexit on UK Environment:

From : https://anewnatureblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/new-report-investigates-impact-of-brexit-on-uk-environment/   Miles King - A New Nature Blog

An important new report < http://www.ieep.eu/assets/2000/IEEP_Brexit_2016.pdf > has appeared, to contribute to the debate about whether the UK should stay in or leave the European Union.

Commissioned by RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and WWF UK, the report was prepared by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP). The report investigates the EU policies which have a significant impact on nature and the broader environment in the UK, assesses them for their effectiveness, strengths and weaknesses, and considers what might happen were the UK to leave the EU. In order to make this assessment, two scenarios are explored, one involving the UK leaving the EU but remaining in the European Economic Area, the other involving a total exit. Depending on which path is taken, the impacts on the environment are very different. In many ways, this sums up the broader debate around Brexit – there are so many variables, that it’s very difficult to see what the ultimate consequences of leaving the EU would be, on the environment, as much as anything else.

What is clear from the report is that were the UK to stay in the EEA, some of the environmental protections that currently exist would be maintained, because in order for the UK to export products to the EU, they would have to have been produced within the same framework of rules that apply to other members of the EEA, most of whom are within the EU. This is something that the various Brexiteer groups have not really explained to the public – which of the options on the table they are intending to take.

These are the main conclusions from the report are:

    Membership of the EU has had, and continues to have, a significant positive impact on environmental outcomes in the UK as well as other parts of Europe, with cleaner air, waterand oceans than otherwise could be expected.

    This is because of a range of legislative, funding and other measures with the potential to work in combination. EU environmental legislation is backed up by a hard legal implementation requirement of a kind that is rarely present in international agreements on the environment; and which is more convincingly long lasting, and less subject to policy risk, than national legislation.

    Complete departure from the EU (Brexit Scenario 2) would create identifiable and substantial risks to future UK environmental ambition and outcomes. It would exclude the UK from decision making on EU law and there would be a risk that environmental standards could be lowered to seek competitive advantage outside the EU trading bloc.

    Departure from the EU whilst retaining membership of the EEA (Brexit Scenario 1) would lessen these risks, as most EU environmental law would continue to apply. However, there would be significant concerns related to nature conservation and bathing water, as well as to agriculture and fisheries policy. In addition, the UK would lose most of its influence on EU environment and climate policies.

    Under both exit scenarios, significant tensions would be created in relation to areas of policymaking where responsibility is devolved to the governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but where a broadly similar approach has been required as a result of EU membership, including environmental protection, agriculture, and fisheries.

    The uncertainty and period of prolonged negotiation on many fronts caused by a UK decision to leave would, itself, create significant risks both for environmental standards and for the green investment needed to improve the UK’s long term environmental performance.

The broad headline is
“it is likely that a UK departure from the EU would leave the British environment in a more vulnerable and uncertain position than if the country were to remain as a member of the EU.”


25 APRIL 2016 - How much biodiversity is there anyway?

A wealth of unsuspected new microbes expands the tree of life.

Bacteria make up nearly two-thirds of all biodiversity on Earth, half of them uncultivable. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have dramatically expanded the tree of life, which depicts the variety and evolution of life on Earth, to account for thousands of new microscopic life forms discovered over the past 15 years. The expanded view finally gives bacteria and Archaea their due, showing that about two-thirds of all diversity on Earth is bacterial -- half bacteria that cannot be isolated and grown in the lab -- while nearly one-third is Archaeal.

A new depiction of the "Tree of Life" will be of use not only to biologists who study microbial ecology, but also biochemists searching for novel genes and researchers studying evolution and earth history. It reinforces once again that the life we see around us -- plants, animals, humans and other so-called eukaryotes -- represent a tiny percentage of the world's biodiversity.



This is a new and expanded view of the tree of life, with clusters of bacteria (left), uncultivable bacteria called 'candidate phyla radiation' (center, purple) and, at lower right, the Archaea and eukaryotes (green), including humans.
Credit: Graphic by Zosia Rostomian, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

One striking aspect of the new tree of life is that a group of bacteria described as the "candidate phyla radiation" forms a very major branch. Only recognized recently, and seemingly comprised only of bacteria with symbiotic lifestyles, the candidate phyla radiation now appears to contain around half of all bacterial evolutionary diversity.

More on this web page;

University of California - Berkeley. "Wealth of unsuspected new microbes expands tree of life: Bacteria make up nearly two-thirds of all biodiversity on Earth, half of them uncultivable." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 April 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160411124716.htm>.


Journal Reference:

    Laura A. Hug, Brett J. Baker, Karthik Anantharaman, Christopher T. Brown, Alexander J. Probst, Cindy J. Castelle, Cristina N. Butterfield, Alex W. Hernsdorf, Yuki Amano, Kotaro Ise, Yohey Suzuki, Natasha Dudek, David A. Relman, Kari M. Finstad, Ronald Amundson, Brian C. Thomas, Jillian F. Banfield. A new view of the tree of life. Nature Microbiology, 2016; 16048 DOI: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.48

23 APRIL 2016 - EU Legiation Protects Birds

The RSPB carried out an analysis of population trends for bird species listed on Annex I of the EU Birds Directive.  "International legislation forms a cornerstone of conservation, yet its efficacy is rarely quantified. We assess whether species listed on Annex I of the European Union (EU) Birds Directive, for which EU Member States are obliged to implement special conservation measures, differ systematically in their short-term (2001-2012) or long-term (1980-2012) population trends from those of non-Annex I species. In both periods, Annex I species had more positive trends than non-Annex I species, particularly in countries that joined the EU earlier. There were additional signatures of climate change and life history strategy in the trends of species in one or both periods. Within Annex I species, long-distance migrants fared significantly worse than other species, suggesting that enhanced protection on the breeding grounds alone may be insufficient for these species. We conclude that the EU's conservation legislation has had a demonstrably positive impact on target species, even during a period in which climate change has significantly affected populations."

Sanderson, F. J., Pople, R. G., Ieronymidou, C., Burfield, I. J., Gregory, R. D., Willis, S. G., Howard, C., Stephens, P. A., Beresford, A. E. and Donald, P. F. (2015), Assessing the Performance of EU Nature Legislation in Protecting Target Bird Species in an Era of Climate Change. Conservation Letters. doi: 10.1111/conl.12196

    EditorAndrás Báldi

Link http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12196/abstract

23 MARCH 2016 - The Future for Ash Looks Bleak says Journal of Ecology Species Survey

The future for ash – the tree that gave us food, fuel and the Sweet Track, one of the oldest roads in the world – looks bleak, according to a new survey of its biology and ecology. The review by tree expert Dr Peter Thomas is the largest-ever survey of this much-loved tree and is published in the Journal of Ecology. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2745.12566/full

A summary has been published on te Journal of ecology Blog https://jecologyblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/the-future-for-ash-looks-bleak-says-journal-of-ecology-species-survey/

The recent and widespread ash dieback was first discovered in north-east Poland and Lithuania in 1992 (Kowalski & Holdenrieder 2009a,b) before spreading rapidly across much of eastern, western and Central Europe (Kowalski 2006; Bakys et al. 2009a; Skovsgaard et al. 2010; Rytkönen et al. 2011). This dieback was first identified in Britain in nursery stock in Buckinghamshire in February 2012 (Forestry Commission 2015).
The emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire (Coleoptera, Buprestidae), a native to Asia, has killed millions of ash trees in North America since 2002. It was recorded in Moscow in 2003 and is now moving west into Europe (Baranchikov et al. 2008; Orlova-Bienkowskaja 2014) and is suspected to be present in Sweden (Dobrowolska et al. 2011). Fraxinus excelsior is susceptible (Pureswaran & Poland 2009) and this beetle is set to become the biggest problem faced by ash in Europe, far more serious than ash dieback. The adults feed on ash leaves doing comparatively little damage; the trees are killed by the bark-boring larvae

11 MARCH 2016 - A new tree disease on Hazel

Pest Alert: Candidatus Phytoplasma fragariae on Hazel (Corylus)

An outbreak of Candidatus Phytoplasma fragariae has been found to be causing extensive death of hazel at two sites in Surrey.

It is thought to have been introduced on clonally propagated plants of hazel (Corylus) and may have been introduced to other sites by this pathway. At known sites the disease does not currently appear to be spreading, perhaps because the insect vector is absent from the UK.  

A data sheet is available from;
https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/phiw/riskRegister/plant-health/documents/Phytoplasma_fragariae_pest_alert_v5.pdf

5 MARCH 2016 - People Need Nature

A new website from a new charity, "People Need Nature" and to quote from that source,

"which aims to highlight the positive relationship between People and Nature and the amazing things that nature provides people, including inspiration, joy, contemplation, solace and meaning. PNN will promote the value and need for nature in people’s lives, by working to promote the value of nature through art, music, poetry, and literature; inspire and create activities to celebrate the importance of nature and the need to protect nature; gather evidence to highlight the value and importance of nature, and the risk to it; create innovative partnerships with key stakeholders and influencers to raise awareness and celebrate the value of nature; advocate a fresh approach to valuing and protecting nature; and to influence and drive policy this fresh approach. "

Their CEO, Miles King,  also has his own Blog with many insightful and challenging ideas at "A new nature blog"

26 FEBRUARY 2016 - POST Note - Trends in the Environment

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has issued a briefing note on Trends in the Environment.

To Quote"
Human activities interact with natural systems in complex ways; they can cause long-term damage to systems humans are dependent on. This POSTnote summarises a range of such pressures on the environment. It also identifies a number of trends and their effects on the UK.

Key points in this POSTnote include:

  •     Human activities have altered natural processes on a planetary scale, which may affect the wellbeing of future generations.
  •     The main pressures on the environment are activities that emit wastes or prioritise the short-term use of natural resources over the long-term consequences.
  •     There have been some environmental improvements in developed countries, but negative global trends persist in the atmospheric, aquatic and terrestrial environments.
  •     There are policy options that could protect the environment while meeting human needs. They require more efficient use of resources and mitigation of drivers of environmental change, such as pollution

Read the Whole Note (PDF 348 KB) by downloading from  
http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/POST-PN-051

22 FEBRUARY 2016 - Wildlife-friendly farming increases crop yield: evidence for ecological intensification.

A paper published by Richard F. Pywell, Matthew S. Heard, Ben A. Woodcock, Shelley Hinsley, Lucy Ridding, Marek Nowakowski, James M. Bullock in Proceedings of the Royal Society B at < http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/282/1816/20151740.abstract >
Published 30 September 2015.DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1740
Looked at Ecological intensification as a means to achieve environmentally sustainable increases in crop yields by enhancing ecosystem functions that regulate and support production.

They replicated two treatments removing 3 or 8% of land at the field edge from production to create wildlife habitat in 50–60 ha patches over a 900 ha commercial arable farm in central England, and compared these to a business as usual control (no land removed). In the control fields, crop yields were reduced by as much as 38% at the field edge. Habitat creation in these lower yielding areas led to increased yield in the cropped areas of the fields, and this positive effect became more pronounced over 6 years. As a consequence, yields at the field scale were maintained—and, indeed, enhanced for some crops—despite the loss of cropland for habitat creation. These results suggested that over a 5-year crop rotation, there would be no adverse impact on overall yield in terms of monetary value or nutritional energy. This study provides a clear demonstration that wildlife-friendly management which supports ecosystem services is compatible with, and can even increase, crop yields.

21 FEBRUARY 2016 - New SUDS manual

CIRIA have released a new updated manual abut SUDS - Sustainable Urban Drainage - updating the origiinal 2007 version.  Get a free downloadable copy from

http://www.ciria.org/Resources/Free_publications/SuDS_manual_C753.aspx

17 FEBRUARY 2016 - Tree planting and reducing flooding – will it work?

A study into reducing the impacts of flooding by planting trees in upland areas was published in 2014, and one of its findings has been quite widely quoted, namely;
"In the study we planted trees on previously grazed pasture and measured the subsequent effects on soil hydraulic properties and runoff processes. We found that soil infiltration rates were 67x times faster and surface runoff volumes were reduced by 78% under trees compared with grassland."

However things are not quite so simple, and the report author has published another article on the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology website pointing to the need for more study on the amount of water that different soils can store, and the effect of tree planting upon different soil types.

Read the whole article < http://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/blogs/tree-planting-and-reducing-flooding-will-it-work >

9 FEBRUARY 2016 - Long-term picture offers little solace on climate change


Climate change projections that look ahead one or two centuries show a rapid rise in temperature and sea level, but say little about the longer picture. A new study published in Nature Climate Change looks at the next 10,000 years, and finds that the catastrophic impact of another three centuries of carbon pollution will persist millennia after the carbon dioxide releases cease.

The picture is disturbing, says co-author Shaun Marcott, an assistant professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a nearly inevitable elevation of sea level for thousands of years into the future.

New data on the relationship among carbon dioxide, sea level and temperature over the last 20,000 years was the basis for looking forward 10,000 years. "Now that we know how these factors changed from the ice age to today," Marcott says, "we thought, if we really want to put the future in perspective, we can't look out just 300 years. That does not make sense as a unit of geological time."

Current releases of the carbon contained in carbon dioxide total about 10 billion tons per year. The number is growing 2.5 percent annually, more than twice as fast as in the 1990s.

People have already put about 580 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The researchers looked at the effect of releasing another 1,280 to 5,120 billion tons between 2000 and 2300. "In our model, the carbon dioxide input ended in 300 years, but the impact persisted for 10,000 years," Marcott says.

"Carbon is going up, and even if we stop what we are doing in the relatively near future, the system will continue to respond because it hasn't reached an equilibrium," Marcott explains. "If you boil water and turn off the burner, the water will stay warm because heat remains in it."

The warming ocean and atmosphere that are already melting glaciers and ice sheets produce a catastrophic rise in the ocean. "Sea level will go up due to melting, and because warming expands the ocean. We have to decide in the next 100 years whether we want to commit ourselves and our descendants to these larger and more sustained changes," Marcott says.

First author Peter Clark and co-authors calculated that ocean encroachment from just the lowest level of total carbon pollution would affect land that in 2010 housed 19 percent of the planet's population. However, due to climate's momentum, that effect will be stretched out over thousands of years.

The melting in Greenland and Antarctica from the highest level of carbon pollution "translates into a sea level rise of 80 to 170 feet," Williams says. "That's enough to drown nearly all of Florida and most of the Eastern Seaboard."

SOURCE: University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Long-term picture offers little solace on climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160208113009.htm>.

Map of Essex with 20 metres sea level rise


From http://flood.firetree.net/?ll=51.9260,0.6020&zoom=9&m=20

5 FEBRUARY 2016 - LIVING HIGHWAYS IN SHEFFIELD

We have noticed a project being carried out by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust which they call "Living Highways" in partnership with the University of Sheffield and the contrator Amey working for Sheffield City Council to investigate how to make the citys' road verges more pleasant, more wildlife-friendly and more able to provide a range of benefits to urban dwellers. Sheffield has around 2.2 million square metres of roadside green space, and the project is looking at how to increase biodiversity and ecosystem services on this land. Some areas will be mown less often so more wildflowers reach maturity and attract pollinating insects. Re-seeding will be carried out in places where the soil doesn't have a healthy seedbank of its own.

Now, wouldn't it be great if our own Essex Highways organisation could undertake a similar project on the millions of square metres of roadside verges in our County?

See more info on the Sheffield Wildlife Trust  page.

1 FEBRUARY - THE BLUE NEW DEAL

The New Economics Foundation have launched a report and project that addresses some of the issues facing coastal communities. Many coastal economies are now in decline. As traditional industries have failed, communities are experiencing high levels of inequality, increased unemployment, and lower wages. At the same time, ecosystems and habitats are suffering from overfishing, pollution, and the effects of climate change.

Their new report starts the conversation by exploring five key policy areas for opportunities to both improve the health of our marine and coastal ecosystems and meet the different socio-economic and environmental challenges that coastal communities currently face. These areas include sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, innovative coastal management, renewable energy, responsible tourism, and re-connecting people with nature.

There are already great examples of innovative and sustainable approaches happening around the UK coast. Have a look at the Blue New Deal website to learn about some of these examples and share your story from the coast.

e18 JANUARY 2016 - Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the population status of birds in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man

This is the fourth review of the status of birds in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Using standardised criteria, 244 species were assessed and assigned to the Red, Amber or Green list of conservation concern. The assessment criteria include conservation status at global and European levels and, within the UK, historical decline, trends in population and range, rarity, localised distribution and international importance. The findings are alarming, with 20 species moving on to the Red list and only three leaving it.Three formerly regular breeding species are considered to have ceased breeding in the UK (Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii, Wryneck Jynx torquilla and European Serin Serinus serinus).

Some 67 (27.5%) of the UK’s regularly occurring bird species are now on the Red list. The BoCC Red list is now lengthy, and
contains a spread of species for which we have varying conservation concern. Some are considered to be under the threat of extinction globally, or are undergoing dramatic declines here that may lead to extinction in the UK – Willow Tit, Turtle Dove and Caper-caillie, to name just three of the 19 species suggested as being at high risk of UK extinction by Ausden et al. (2015). Other Red-listed species, while still much-depleted from previous levels, have shown stable or even increasing trends in recent years, for example Song Thrush Turdus philomelos.

Full report Download http://britishbirds.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/BoCC4.pdf

14 JANUARY 2016 - NEW GENETIC TEST FOR SCREENING ASH TREES FOR DIEBACK DISEASE

Researchers at the University of York have led a pioneering study which opens up a new front in the battle against a disease affecting ash trees across Europe.

The research identified genetic markers to predict whether specific trees in populations of ash will succumb to the disease or are able to tolerate and survive a fungal pathogen that is causing ash dieback.

The technology could help to maintain the ash tree as part of the UK landscape through pre-screening of individual tree seedlings to identify non disease-susceptible individuals before they are planted out.

The research was led by the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) in the Department of Biology at York and involved the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, the University of Copenhagen; the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London and the John Innes Centre. It is published in Scientific Reports.

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