R E N E W A B L E S
New research shows massive growth in energy storage projects
RenewableUK has published statistics which show that the number of applications to build battery storage projects in the UK is continuing to increase rapidly. Batteries play a key role in our modern flexible energy system, helping grid operators to finely balance the supply of electricity to meet demand, and providing extra power resources when needed.
RenewableUK’s latest Project Intelligence report shows that the total cumulative capacity of battery storage planning applications has soared from nearly 6,900 megawatts (MW) a year ago to over 10,500MW today – enough to fully charge over a million electric vehicles. The market has developed extremely rapidly - in 2012, applications stood at just 2MW. The number of UK companies involved in the sector has grown over the past 12 months from 300 to more than 450 and the average battery project size has increased slightly from 27MW to 28MW.
The pipeline of storage projects is expected to continue growing and an increasing number of grid-scale battery projects of over 50MWs are expected, after BEIS agreed earlier this year to change planning rules which have, up to now, deterred development at this scale.
Renewables developers are at the forefront of the market. Alongside cutting-edge companies like KiWi Power and RES, energy giant EDF moved into the market last month by acquiring Pivot Power, which has one of the largest portfolios of storage projects in development in the UK.
The new figures are being unveiled at an event taking place in London today, Energy Systems Storage 2019, organised by RenewableUK and the Solar Trade Association. Attendees will hear that while lithium batteries make up the vast majority of the current projects, the next phase of growth will include a wide range of new technologies. Companies ranging from industrial giant Siemens to Highview Power are developing hydrogen, ammonia and compressed air technologies. Today’s report shows that the UK now has a pipeline of over 600MW of compressed air or liquid air storage projects in development. Meanwhile Gravitricity are developing gravity-based storage and OXTO Energy are pioneering the use of flywheels in energy storage. RheEnergised are developing dense liquids as an alternative to pumped storage.
Uploaded: 2 December 2019
P O P U L A T I O N
2018-based national population projections
The population of the UK is projected to increase by 3.0 million (4.5%) in the first 10 years of the projections, from an estimated 66.4 million in mid 2018 to 69.4 million in mid 2028.
England’s population is projected to grow more quickly than the other UK nations: 5.0% between mid 2018 and mid 2028, compared with 3.7% for Northern Ireland, 1.8% for Scotland and 0.6% for Wales.
Over the next 10 years, 27% of UK population growth is projected to result from more births than deaths, with 73% resulting from net international migration; although net migration falls during this period, the number of deaths rises as those born in the baby boom after World War II reach older ages.
The UK population is projected to pass 70 million by mid 2031, reaching 72.4 million by 25 years into the projection (mid 2043).
There will be an increasing number of older people; the proportion aged 85 years and over is projected to almost double over the next 25 years.
Uploaded: 22 October 2019
Goldsmith Street wins the 2019 Stirling Prize
The Goldsmith Street project for Norwich City Council is made up of almost 100 highly energy-efficient homes. Rows of two-storey houses are bookended by three-storey flats, each with their own front door, generous lobby space for prams and bikes, and a private balcony. The back gardens of the central terraces share a secure ‘ginnel’ (alleyway) for children to play together, and a wide landscaped walkway for the community runs directly through the middle of the estate. Parking has been pushed to Goldsmith Street’s outer edges, making sure that people, not cars, own the streets.
Goldsmith Street also meets rigorous Passivhaus standards – remarkable for a dense, mass housing development. It is a passive solar scheme, designed to minimise fuel bills for residents: annual energy costs are estimated to be 70% cheaper than for the average household. Even the smallest details have been thought about: letterboxes are built into external porches to reduce any possibility of draughts, and perforated aluminium ‘brise-soleils’ provide sun shades above windows and doors.
The 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize judges, chaired by Julia Barfield, said:
"Goldsmith Street is a modest masterpiece. It is high-quality architecture in its purest, most environmentally and socially conscious form. Behind restrained creamy façades are impeccably-detailed, highly sustainable homes – an incredible achievement for a development of this scale. This is proper social housing, over ten years in the making, delivered by an ambitious and thoughtful council. These desirable, spacious, low-energy properties should be the norm for all council housing."
Uploaded: 9 October 2019
Badger behaviour inside the cull zone
A study led by researchers at international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and Imperial College London has found that culling drives badgers to roam 61% further afield – helping to explain why the practice, intended to reduce bovine TB transmission, can sometimes exacerbate the problem instead.
Published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, the paper reveals that, after a population was culled, surviving badgers covered 61% more land each month than they had before the cull began, leading researchers to conclude that badgers explore new areas as individuals are removed from neighbouring groups and territories open up.
Badgers were also found to visit 45% more fields each month, and the odds of a badger visiting neighbouring territories each night increased 20-fold – potentially increasing the risk of TB transmission both to cattle and to other badgers. These changes were witnessed as soon as culling began, meaning even badgers that were killed may have first spread the infection over wider areas while management was being implemented.
Badgers however spent less time outside of their setts in culled areas – spending on average 91 minutes less per night out and about. ZSL scientists believe this could be linked to reduced competition and increased food availability as badgers are removed from the population.
The research group from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, and Imperial’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, studied 67 badgers across 20 cattle farms in areas with and without farmer-led culling in Cornwall, collecting GPS-collar data between 2013 and 2017.
Lead author and ZSL-Imperial PhD researcher, Cally Ham explained: “Badgers spend a large proportion of the night foraging for food above-ground, and as culling reduces the size of the population, competition for food will also be reduced. We believe this accounts for the reduced activity levels, as well as bold individuals becoming obvious targets for culling and being quickly removed from the population.
“Because culling partly relies on shooting badgers moving around at night, the fact that badgers were active for fewer hours per night could actually be undermining culling efforts to further control badger numbers.”
Professor Rosie Woodroffe at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, said: “As badger-to-cattle transmission is likely to occur through contamination of their shared environment, and TB bacteria can remain viable for long periods of time in the environment, the effects of increases in ranging behaviour could create a source of infection for several months – long after the individual badger has been culled. In contrast, studies have shown that vaccination prompts no changes in badgers’ ranging behaviour.”
Since the UK Government implemented the culling policy in 2011, ZSL scientists have been working to understand whether badger vaccination – a non-lethal alternative to culling - could be used to reduce the infection of TB in the UK’s badger population, and so help control TB in cattle.
Uploaded: 9 Oct 2019
STATE OF NATURE 2019
An overview of UK wildlife
The 2019 State of Nature report documents how human impacts are driving sweeping changes in wildlife in the UK. As well as an overarching assessment of UK flora and fauna, there are separate reports for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to look at each country in more depth. The reports pool data and expertise from 53 nature conservation and research organisations, a partnership unparalleled in UK conservation.
Uploaded: 4 October 2019
UN CLIMATE ACTION SUMMIT
World leaders fail to make meaningful commitments
The UN’s Climate Action Summit in New York City wrapped up yesterday, leaving many environmentalists feeling deeply disappointed. Despite pressure from youth activists led by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a record-breaking attendance at last Friday’s global Climate Strike, and a call to action from Sir David Attenborough, world leaders yet again failed to make meaningful commitments.
Almost 80 countries, most of them developing nations, promised to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 – the same target set by the UK (and generally perceived as too late). However, concrete plans to slash emissions were lacking – achieving net zero by 2050 requires halving current emissions by 2030. No country is on course to do that. Worst of all, the world’s biggest emitters had some of the weakest and in some cases even non-existent proposals.
Uploaded: 30 September 2019
P E T I T I O N
Stop the chainsaws: save the home of the Woodlark cuscus!
The cuscus inhabits a small world: The nocturnal marsupial lives only on Woodlark, a remote island belonging to Papua New Guinea. Woodlark is home to more than 40 species that occur nowhere else on Earth. The island’s 6,000 people live in harmony with nature in this little slice of paradise. But now, Woodlark and its inhabitants are in danger: a logging company has its sights on 30,000 hectares of the island’s tropical forest. The Woodlark cuscus could be driven to extinction.
The company’s project follows a pattern seen all too often in Papua New Guinea: Investors pose as local companies, gain access to land with commitments to develop agriculture and other promises – and in the end, plunder the forests and other natural resources. On their own, the inhabitants of the island cannot defend themselves against the destruction of their home. They need your support. Please sign the Rainforest Rescue petition.
Uploaded: 14 September 2019
New Dragonfly & Damselfly Book for Beginners
British Dragonfly Society
There is a special offer on David Chandler's new book for beginners.
You can order before the end of October and get it for £5 plus £2 p&p. David describes his book: 'With this book I've tried to provide a first step for beginners. It's not as comprehensive as the excellent guides that already exist but it should help people who find those guides a bit overwhelming. Then, if they want to take their interest further, they can move on to a more extensive guide. If you are a BDS member already then you probably don't need this book (how's that for the hard sell?) but you might know someone else who would appreciate it.'
Uploaded: 8 September 2019
R E W I L D I N G
Ecodyfi pulls out of Summit to Sea project
A company has pulled out of £3.4m plans aimed at restoring the countryside to its natural state.
Machynlleth-based Ecodyfi withdrew its support for Rewilding Britain's controversial Summit to Sea project.
Summit to Sea aims to increase biodiversity and restore ecosystems in 10,000 hectares of mid-Wales and almost 30,000 hectares of sea in Cardigan Bay.
But farmers are opposed to it, saying it would make it impossible for them to continue to live in their communities.
Uploaded: 8 September 2019
Great British Beach Clean
20-23 September 2019
Marine Conservation Society (MCS)
The Great British Beach Clean is coming up! For one weekend every year thousands of volunteers from all over the UK clean up hundreds of beaches. This year it will take place over a long weekend Friday 20th - Monday 23rd September and MCS would love you to take part.
They collect invaluable litter data during the Great British Beach Clean, reporting it back to UK governments and the global annual International Coastal Cleanup programme. Providing this data has helped to change policy and behaviours including the introduction of the 5p carrier bag charge.
Last year's event attracted almost 15,000 volunteers, removing over 305,000 litter items from British beaches.
This year MCS hope to get rid of even more! Click below to find out if there's a Great British Beach Clean event happening near you.
Uploaded: 5 September 2019
N A T U R E
Public concern reaches an all-time high
More people than ever before are concerned about damage to nature, new national statistics published today (3 September 2019) by Natural England show.
In the world’s biggest scientific study of its kind, Natural England’s ‘Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment’ (MENE) report shows that nine out of ten adults in England are concerned about increasing threats to the natural environment, with nearly two-thirds specifically worried about biodiversity loss.
While more people are spending time in nature than ever before, the research indicates clear inequalities in opportunity for engagement. Children from the most deprived areas are 20% less likely to spend time outside than those in affluent areas, while 70% of children from white backgrounds spend time outside once a week compared to 56% of children from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.
The research also shows how important local parks and greenspaces are to the nation’s mental and physical wellbeing, with health and exercise the main reason why adults spend time outside and green spaces in towns and cities the most frequently visited natural environments.
Uploaded: 4 September 2019
T R A N S P O R T
HS2 may hit the buffers
The thinktank, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), is carrying out a review of HS2 amid concern that the £55 billion project is way over budget and could be shelved.Business leaders and unions have called on Johnson to make a firm and prompt commitment to the new line between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. The government’s review will assess whether the HS2 scheme should be approved, amended or scrapped. It is expected to report before the Brexit deadline in October. The review is being headed up by Douglas Oakervee, who initially chaired HS2 and worked with Johnson when he was the London mayor. His deputy, Lord Berkeley, a Labour peer and rail expert and is a critic of the project. He has challenged Department for Transport costings and warned that budgets were unrealistic. The review of HS2 was promised by Boris Johnson during his campaign to become Conservative leader. The PM has stated his support for large infrastructure projects, although opposition to HS2 is said to be significant from many Tory supporters. Work has already begun on the first section of the HS2 line between London and Birmingham scheduled to open at the end of 2026, the second section to Leeds and Manchester by 2033. If the project goes ahead, the first trains to run on the line are expected by 2024.
Uploaded: 28 August 2019
C L I M A T E
Plant-Based Food is Climate Friendly, says IPCC Report Linking Land and Climate
IPCC/The Weather Channel
IPCC is a United Nations body responsible for generating scientific knowledge on causes, impacts, and potential response to climate change.
The IPCC released a special report on Thursday, wherein it explained different ways to tackle global warming apart from cutting emissions from fossil fuels. The report is authored by 107 leading scientists from 52 countries, who assessed over 7,000 research papers on various aspects of climate change and its triggering factors.
Adopting plant-based food habits, sustainable farm practices and improving land usage contributes to mitigating global warming, says a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While IPCC’s report does not recommend any personal diet, it does highlight the scientific evidence indicating that certain diets leave behind much higher carbon footprints.
Food sector alone contributes up to 21-37% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Unsustainable farm practices, deforestation and land-use patterns accounted for 23% of the total global GHG emission during 2016-17.
Agriculture-related emissions primarily come in the form of methane and nitrous oxide, due to the usage of synthetic fertilisers, fuels, and the burning of crop residue. Almost half of all emissions of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, comes directly from cattle and rice fields. The pre- and post-production activities of meat production, in particular, currently occupy 77% of global agricultural land. Also, a substantially higher amount of water is used for the production of one kilogram of meat compared to one kilogram of food grains.
IPCC also notes that if significant reforms aren’t made, a global food crisis will be imminent. Stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events increases. The situation will worsen further due to excessive water usage in agriculture and clearance of forests to cover more ice-free land surface for farming.
While country-specific data wasn’t released, IPCC scientists referred to various regional studies about the impact of climate change on food security. In India’s case, it noted that global warming reduced wheat yields across the country by 5.2% from 1981 to 2009. Further, people living in the Hind-Kush Himalayan region, which encompasses parts of India, Nepal, China and Pakistan, were flagged as vulnerable to facing food insecurity. It has been found that increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lower the content of zinc and other nutrients in 31 important food crops.
Uploaded: 9 August 2019
O R G A N I C
Organic September is fast approaching, and there’s never been a better time to share the story behind the care and effort that goes into producing and growing organic food and produce. Our connection with the food and farming system goes beyond the simple act of consuming food, and although we can use our purchasing power for positive change, there is so much more we can do!
We know that as a collective our choices have the power to shape the future, and small steps make a big difference. Organic September launches on 1 September. Click on Read More below to get involved.
Uploaded: 8 August 2019
F A R M I N G
Agroecology: the future of farming?
At global and local levels, we face multiple food system challenges; flooding, soil degradation, biodiversity collapse, malnutrition and obesity. The current focus on the intensification of farming has contributed to these problems. How can agroecology help?
Agroecology is a blueprint for an alternative food and farming system, it allows farmers to work with nature and develop their own solutions to problems. It is a true alternative to industrial farming.
Organic farming methods form part of the agroecological puzzle by guaranteeing higher animal welfare, fewer pesticides, antibiotics and no genetic modifications. It supports more jobs on farms, improved soil health and more on-farm wildlife. Organic is the best example we have of a legally verifiable and marketable means for linking citizens to agroecology through the food chain.
The Soil Association has been heavily involved in the research and writing of an influential new report by The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, Our Future in the Land. We fully endorse this wide-ranging report, which looks at the radical approach that will be required to produce food, protect human health and the climate, and safeguard wildlife over the next ten years.
Amongst its key points, the report highlights the importance of moving to agroecological farming by 2030, “levelling the playing field for a fair food system” and making sure that agriculture and local economies work side by side.
Uploaded: 8 August 2019
P O P U L A T I O N
Prince Harry says "Two children, maximum!"
Population Matters/Evening Standard
In a new interview with British Vogue, Prince Harry has revealed he and Meghan Markle will have a maximum of two children.
Speaking to primatologist Jane Goodall for the September issue of British Vogue - which the Duchess of Sussex guest edited - Harry revealed: "I've always thought: this place is borrowed. And, surely, being as intelligent as we all are, or as evolved as we all are supposed to be, we should be able to leave something better behind for the next generation."
Harry has a point. In less than 100 years, the world’s population has nearly quadrupled, rising from a population of two billion in 1928 to over seven billion in 2019.
This growth in population has directly impacted our environment. We’ve consumed more resources in the last 50 years than the whole of humanity before us which means, as our population dramatically increases, our resources deplete – something we combat by using intensive farming methods which have an adverse effect on the environment.
In April of this year, Sir David Attenborough warned of a ‘man-made disaster on a global scale’ and a ‘devastating future’ if action is not taken during the BBC documentary Climate Change: The Facts. On top of that, a 2018 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that humanity has just 12 years (now 11) to limit the ‘catastrophe of Climate Change’.
While hardly the most cheery subject, something that isn’t helped when one of our most powerful world leaders refuses to believe Climate Change exists, Climate Change and our impact on the environment is something we need to address, and urgently.
While we can lessen our environmental impact by flying less and reducing our use of single-use plastic – the answer could well be in the number of children we bear. A study from 2017 found that the ‘greatest impact individuals can have in fighting climate change is to have one fewer child’.
Uploaded: 31 July 2019
Many more trees need to be planted
Tree planting has failed to meet a government targets, according to figures released by the government.
Provisional figures from the Forestry Commission suggests that, in the past year, 1,420 hectares of woodland was created across the country, falling short of the annual target of 5,000 hectares.
While the overall figures for the UK in the year to 31 March show an increase, that success is down to large increases in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Woodland Trust has said.
In June, the PM, Theresa May announced legally binding targets to end the UK's contribution to climate change by 2050 and set a new target to cut emissions to "net zero" by the middle of the century.
Uploaded: 30 July 2019
'No brainer' fuel change to cut transport carbon
Adding more ethanol to the UK's fuel mix would cut carbon by as much as taking 700,000 cars off the roads, according to a group of MPs. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Bioethanol says the swift introduction of E10 fuel would also help the £1bn British biofuel industry.
E10 is a mixture of 10% ethanol with 90% petrol, double the current permitted maximum. The MPs say that Brexit has distracted the government from taking action.
One of the unintended consequences of 2015's diesel emissions scandal has been a jump in the sales of petrol cars, with a knock-on effect on sales of the fuel. This has contributed to the first increase in emissions of CO2 from new cars in two decades recorded in 2017.
A significant plank of the government's plan to reduce carbon on the roads has been the introduction of biofuels made from crops, which soak up CO2 as they are grown. At present, ethanol made from wheat or sugar beet is blended into petrol to a maximum of 5%.
The report's authors say that while electric cars and vehicles are the long-term solution to emissions from transport, E10 represents a big advance that could be achieved right now.
"For many reasons it is absolutely a no-brainer," said Nic Dakin MP, the chairman of the all-party group. "On the environmental front, it's a cleaner, greener fuel at a time when we're trying to address air pollution and tackle climate change. "Cars aren't going to all switch to battery power overnight and if they did there isn't the capacity in the National Grid to power all of our transportation. "This must be a top priority for the government and we renew our call for a mandate to introduce E10 by 2020 at the latest."
In other European countries, the change to E10 has been fully embraced. France introduced the fuel in 2009 and last year it was the largest volume petrol grade sold, with 47% of the market. Germany, Belgium and Finland have also introduced E10, with other countries including China and India set to do the same. In Brazil the minimum ethanol content is now 27%.
Uploaded: 17 July 2019
Austrian parliament to ban the Bayer-Monsanto weedkiller, glyphosate
This is such amazing news. Until now, no EU country has dared to challenge Bayer’s agrochemical juggernaut with a full ban. But in the face of mounting evidence of glyphosate’s links to cancer and other illnesses, Austria finally laid down the law, setting a precedent for other nations to follow.
But there’s a problem. The EU Commission could still strike down Austria’s ban, on the grounds that they -- under pressure from Bayer’s lobbyists -- ruled glyphosate legal in Europe until 2022. And Bayer’s already gearing up to force the Commission to do just that.
Unless thousands of people like you and me put pressure on the EU to respect Austria’s decision, this historic ban could crumble before the ink is even dry.
Uploaded: 13 July 2019
DON'T MISS OUT
2019 Badger Trust Symposium
The 2019 Badger Trust Symposium takes place on the 9th of November 2019 at Ashorne Hill Conference Centre in Leamington Spa. The event will bring together leading experts to discuss science, best practice and key issues impacting modern badgers. From talks to workshops, the Symposium is a full day event with in depth looks into essential topics.
Uploaded: 13 July 2019
C L I M A T E
EU likely to up its medium and long-term ambitions on climate change
Climate Home News
It looks more likely than ever that the EU will boost its medium and long-term ambitions on climate change in the next political cycle.
Ursula von der Leyen, the nominee to take over as European Commission president, backs hiking the bloc’s carbon reduction target from 40% to 50% by 2030 and going carbon neutral by 2050.
It’s a significant step by the centre-right politician. While not enough to satisfy the Greens, who point to parliamentary support for 55%, it goes beyond the 45% projected with existing policies.
Yet the diffuseness of European power has left the world’s third largest emitter struggling to fill the climate diplomacy vacuum left by the US when Donald Trump entered the White House – particularly with respect to China.
Uploaded: 12 July 2019
Photo credit: PTES
G U I D E
Helping water voles on your land: a free guide
Water voles have experienced the most serious decline of any British mammal over the last century. This is partly due to habiat loss. Now, wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has produced a free guide for the wider farming community and landowners, highlighting management actions that are water vole friendly.
The new guide, titled ‘Helping water voles on your land’, offers advice on simple improvements to land management practices that can enhance the suitability of habitat for water voles, helping to connect colonies across the countryside.
Uploaded: 12 July 2019
P O P U L A T I O N
Please sign this petition
Please take action on World Population Day by adding your voice to our new petition.
The United Nations has produced 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim to achieve decent lives for everyone living on a healthy planet. Unfortunately, the world is not on track to meet many of them by 2030.
Global population growth means overexploitation of natural resources, environmental destruction and unsustainable demand for land, food, water and energy. In addition, not being able to choose their family size traps the poorest in poverty.
To meet these goals, the international community must tackle population, ethically and effectively.
Please sign this new petition urging UN Secretary General António Guterres to recognise the urgency of addressing unsustainable human population growth to have a reasonable chance of meeting the goals which will allow and encourage people to choose smaller families.
Please add your voice.
Uploaded: 12 July 2019
Photo credit: Martin McCready, Upfront Photography, courtesy of Porterbrook
I N N O V A T I O N
New Hydrogen Cell Trains come to UK
Hydrogen-powered trains could run on British railways by 2022, as plans to introduce fuel cell technology to the network gather pace.
British rolling stock company Porterbrook have today unveiled the design for a new hydrogen fuel cell train for the UK market.
Porterbrook’s sustainable investment policy is designed to tackle the Government’s decarbonisation challenge. They are investing in innovation and new technology such as battery and hydrogen power to help reduce emissions, boost capacity and improve reliability on the network.
The fuel cell trains will bring hydrogen technology with zero-emissions to parts of the UK that still run on diesel.
Hydrogen technology is an exciting innovation which has the potential to transform our railway, making journeys cleaner and greener by cutting CO2 emissions. It is expected that hydrogen trains can play an important role in the future, delivering better services to rural and inter-city lines.
Uploaded: 20 June 2019
S U R V E Y
Mammals on Roads Survey
The PTES Mammals on Roads survey starts next month, collecting records up and down the country of the mammals seen by the public on UK roads.
By taking part, you’ll help the scientists understand how numbers are changing from year to year and help those that are threatened. If you’re behind the wheel this summer, you can help.
All you need is a passenger with a smart phone or tablet and record your sightings on a special app.
The free app also features information about a host of mammals, from hedgehogs and hares to badgers and bats.
Uploaded: 15 June 2019
New laws will ensure UK is ‘Net Zero’ by 2050
The Independent and others
UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, pledged to introduce a legally binding target forcing the UK to end its contribution to the climate crisis by the middle of the century.
In one of her last acts in office before leaving No 10, the Prime Minister will lay legislation in the Commons, setting a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
It comes after the government’s own climate change advisers made the recommendation last month to enact the legally binding target – ahead of a UN Climate Action Summit in September.
Reports also emerged last week that Chancellor, Philip Hammond, had attempted to block the move, claiming the cost of decarbonising the economy would amount to more than £1 trillion.
Uploaded: 12 June 2019
Plans for M4 Relief Road scrapped by Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford
The Welsh Government will not build the £1.6bn M4 relief road, First Minister Mark Drakeford has decided.
He axed the scheme because of its cost and impact on the environment.
The plans would have seen a 14-mile motorway built as a gateway into south Wales in a bid to tackle the congestion faced by motorists around Newport. Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said it was a "dark day" but Friends of the Earth welcomed the decision, saying it was "great news for Wales and the planet". Mr Drakeford's move to scrap the six-lane scheme follows a public inquiry overseen by planning inspector Bill Wadrup, who said the case for the road had been "compelling".
Ministers had decided that, with austerity and Brexit in the background, the uncertainty of the financial position of the Welsh Government meant the project was too expensive.
But Mark Drakeford said he would not have gone ahead even if it was affordable because of the impact on the Gwent Levels.
Uploaded: 5 June 2019
New BirdWatch Ireland website launched
eWings & Birdwatch Ireland
Earlier this month, after a lot of hard work by staff and board members and in celebration of their 50th anniversary year, BirdWatch Ireland launched its brand-new website. Featuring a completely overhauled design, exciting new content and greatly improved functionality, it has been planned first and foremost as a resource for members and supporters. New features will be added to the site on an ongoing basis, so visitors to the site are advised to check back frequently.
Uploaded: 31 May 2019
Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented' and Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’
“Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” said Prof. Settele. “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.”
PARIS, 6 May – Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the summary of which was approved at the 7th session of the IPBES Plenary, meeting last week (29 April – 4 May) in Paris.
“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
“The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” he said. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”
“The member States of IPBES Plenary have now acknowledged that, by its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but also that such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good,” Watson said.
The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive ever completed. It is the first intergovernmental Report of its kind and builds on the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, introducing innovative ways of evaluating evidence.
Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, the Report assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature. It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades.
Based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, the Report also draws (for the first time ever at this scale) on indigenous and local knowledge, particularly addressing issues relevant to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
Uploaded: 06 May 2019
What’s wrong with coal?
What’s wrong with coal?
It’s well known that coal plays a major part in driving climate change. What is less widely known are coal’s insidious health effects. Between coal dust, ash and stack emissions, the coal industry exposes everyone to mercury, arsenic, sulphur and nitrogen oxides, all of which pose proven and serious health risks. In Bulgaria, figures show the rate of lung disease is dramatically elevated in the areas around coal plants. Meanwhile, a recent US study showed that the rate of premature births fell in areas near coal power plants when they closed.
How can we fix Europe's coal problem?
Coal contributes more to climate change than any other fossil fuel. But governments across the EU continue to prop up this polluting industry, year after year. Our lawyers are bringing ground-breaking cases across Europe to tackle the coal problem.
Our latest win: Poland’s top court backs clean air
Poland’s Supreme Administrative Court has upheld a decision banning solid coal and wood burning in Krakow in a major win for citizens' health. Our lawyers fought hard for the ban, which paves the way for similar local anti-smog rules across Poland.
Children have a right to breathe clean air
Children at nearly 500 schools in London are exposed to illegally high pollution. In response to years of legal challenges, the city's new Ultra Low Emission Zone means that figure will drop to five schools next year. It's a great first step for London - but action is needed across the UK and Europe.
Uploaded: 04 May 2019
R E N E W A B L E S
Offshore wind industry scaling up to help UK reach net zero emissions faster
Committee on Climate Change and Offshore Wind Industry Council
The offshore wind industry is welcoming today’s announcement by the Government’s advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that more ambitious targets are needed to ensure that the UK cuts damaging greenhouse gas emissions faster to tackle global warming.
The CCC makes clear that offshore wind is a vital technology in helping the UK to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The report is suggesting that a total capacity of up to 75 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind could be installed by 2050, up from 7.9GW now.
The UK already leads the world in offshore wind and is instrumental in bringing down costs for the whole industry.
The Chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council and Ørsted UK Country Manager for Offshore, Benj Sykes, said:
“In any scenario, offshore wind will be the backbone of the future electricity system. The ground-breaking Offshore Wind Sector Deal means at least one-third of the UK’s electricity will come from offshore wind by 2030. But today’s report says that if the UK is to achieve a net zero carbon economy we can go much further.
“The Committee on Climate Change is suggesting a tenfold increase in offshore wind capacity by 2050. This is a clear signal to industry and Government to aim high when it comes to our renewable energy supply. That’s good news for consumers as offshore wind is one of the lowest cost power sources we have, and good news for jobs in the UK.
“Employment in our sector is set to more than double by 2030. Even more ambitious targets will bring more investment in communities and our supply chain across the country. The industry will work closely with Government to deliver on net zero and strengthen the UK’s global lead in offshore wind”.
Uploaded: 02 May 2019
Climate change is pushing wildlife ‘out of sync’
Climate change has advanced the natural cycles of many species in the UK but timings vary markedly across the country, according to a major study of wildlife’s seasonal events over the past 50 years.
The first in-depth, long-term analysis of the timing of phenological events, such as egg laying and migration, involved analysing and interpreting huge datasets relating to 263 UK species of birds, butterflies, moths and aphids. It is the latest in a series of studies carried out as part of a project led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.
The research broadly confirmed similar effects observed across the world – that as global temperatures rise, natural phenomena such as flowering, or emergence from hibernation, are occurring earlier each year.
Uploaded: 25 April 2019
Road verges really matter
Road verges really matter. They are home to over 700 species of wild flower - nearly 45% of our UK total flora – including 29 species of wild orchid. As other wild space disappears – 97% of meadows have vanished since the 1930s – they become even more important. And where wildflowers lead, nature follows. Red clover and lady's bedstraw - two particularly wildlife-friendly plants - are experiencing the most rapid declines. Bees, butterflies, birds, bats and bugs depend on our verges, as the wider countryside becomes increasingly hostile. This is why here at Plantlife we are campaigning to get road verges managed better for nature and we'd love your support.
By signing Plantlife's Road Verge Petition you will be helping Plantlife to persuade decision makers in Councils and highways agencies, to improve the way they look after our road verges. Plantlife have calculated that, if verges were looked after properly, there could be 418 billion flowers across the country. Isn’t that astonishing? It would be like creating over a quarter of a million acres of meadow.
Uploaded: 25 April 2019
What is glyphosate and is it dangerous?
Glyphosate was introduced by Monsanto in 1974, but its patent expired in 2000, and now the chemical is sold by various manufacturers. In the US, more than 750 products contain it.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organisation's cancer agency, concluded that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans".
However, the US Environmental Protection Agency insists it is safe when used carefully.
In November 2017 EU countries voted to renew the licence of glyphosate despite campaigns against it.
In California - where a judge had ruled that coffee must carry a cancer warning - the agriculture industry sued to prevent such a label for glyphosate, even though the state lists it as a chemical known to cause cancer.
Uploaded: 22 April 2019
Ultra Low Emission Zone: London's new pollution charge
Transport for London
Today [8 April 2019] marks the first day of the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez), which has been introduced in the existing congestion zone in London. From October 2021, this will be extended to cover the whole of inner London (ie areas within the North and South Circular roads).
All vehicles entering the zone are liable to pay unless they meet emissions standards. As a rule of thumb, diesel cars must be less than four years old and petrol cars must be less than about 13 years old to avoid the charge.
The Ulez will cost £12.50 for most vehicle types in addition to the existing £11.50 congestion charge. Heavier vehicles such as lorries, buses and coaches are liable for a £100 charge. Failure to pay the charge will result in a £160 fine for cars (reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days) and £1,000 fine for heavier vehicles (reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days).
Uploaded: 08 April 2019
O R G A N I C
Great news! The organic sector is booming
The Soil Association's 2019 Market Report shows the market is now in to its 8th year of steady growth, growing +5.3% in 2018 and on target to reach £2.5B by 2020. Every time the public buys organic they are protecting wildlife, our natural resources, helping tackle climate change and ensuring farm animals have a good life. We know it’s hard to shop organic all of the time, but every little bit we do makes a big difference.
Uploaded 3 April 2019
P E T I T I O N
Make 'netting' hedgerows to prevent birds from nesting a criminal offence
UK Government and Parliament
Developers, and other interested parties are circumventing laws protecting birds by 'netting' hedgerows to prevent birds from nesting.
This facilitates the uprooting of hedgerows which aid biodiversity and provide the only remaining nesting sites for birds, whose numbers are in sharp decline.
'Netting' hedgerows threatens declining species of birds, presents a danger by entrapment to wildlife, and produces large amounts of plastic waste.
The Big Garden Birdwatch shows a mixed picture for UK garden birds
The latest results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch have revealed a mixed picture for the UK’s garden birdlife with 15 of the top 20 species returning fewer sightings in gardens across the country than in 2018.
Now in its 40th year, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden helping the RSPB build up a picture of how they are doing. This year, almost half a million people across the country took part counting an impressive 7.5 million birds.
The event, held over the last weekend in January, revealed the house sparrow held on to its number one spot whilst there was a decrease in garden sightings of wrens and long-tailed tits, two of the smallest species to visit our gardens. Long-tailed tits decreased by more than 27% and wrens by 17% in 2019 after being counted in particularly large number in 2018. Populations of both species may have been affected by last year’s ‘Beast from the East’ as small birds are more susceptible to spells of cold weather. But it’s too early to say if this is a one year blip or the beginning of a trend.
Over its four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers. This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979. By 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979, it came in at 20th in the rankings this year.
To see the full round-up of all the Big Garden Birdwatch results, click on the button below
Uploaded: 03 April 2019
R E N E W A B L E S
New annual wind energy record shows wind power taking central role in UK’s modern energy system
Government figures released at the end of March reveal that wind generated a record amount of electricity in 2018.
The provisional statistics, published in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s [BEIS] quarterly “Energy Trends” report, show that wind provided a record 17.1% of the UK’s electricity last year (9.1% from onshore wind and 8% from offshore wind, both new annual records).
Overall, renewables generated a record 33.3%. Low carbon generation (renewables and nuclear) reached a record 52.8%. Nuclear provided 19.5%, with gas generating 39.4%, and coal generation dropped to a record annual low of 5%.
Uploaded: 03 April 2019
A major new Pilot Project will monitor population trends of butterflies to assess the health of the environment
Butterfly populations are highly sensitive to environmental change, providing an early warning of impacts on ecosystems. The new study of population trends in different habitats across Europe will assess biodiversity loss and the impact of climate change and land use intensification.
The project, ABLE (Assessing ButterfLies in Europe), is a partnership between Butterfly Conservation Europe, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UK), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Germany), Dutch Butterfly Conservation (The Netherlands) and Butterfly Conservation (UK). The team will work with partners across the EU. It is being funded by the EU for an initial period of two years.
Butterflies are already regularly monitored with the help of thousands of volunteers in 11 EU countries. The new project will build on the data collected by these existing networks and expand monitoring to cover at least eight additional EU countries, focusing on those in southern and eastern Europe. This will provide more representative trends across Europe from which to assess the health of the environment and inform EU policies, including the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 and the Common Agricultural Policy. The data will also contribute to the assessment of the health of Europe’s pollinators as part of the EU Pollinator Initiative.
Uploaded: 01 April 2019
Record sightings of Britain’s ‘Big Five’ (and others) this spring
As spring approaches, wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is calling for volunteers to take part in the its annual Living with Mammals survey. Last year the top five mammals recorded were (in order): grey squirrels, foxes, mice, hedgehogs and bats. From April, PTES is asking members of the public to record sightings of Britain’s ‘big five’, plus any other mammals they see, to aid future conservation efforts.
Volunteers can take part between Monday 1st April and Sunday 30th June, reporting the mammals they see, or their signs, in any local green space – from gardens and allotments to parks or green spaces near to work. The chosen survey site can be in an urban, suburban or rural location, so long as the area is within 200 metres of a building.
Uploaded: 25 March 2019
HELPING HEDGEHOGS - A FREE GUIDE
Helping hedgehogs in our towns & cities - a free guide from Hedgehog Street
PTES/Hedgehog Street has recently published free advice for anyone working in green spaces within a town or city, including parks, schools, church yards and recreational spaces.
They want to work with managers of all types of urban green spaces and encourage them to make those few changes to land management practices that will help to bring hedgehogs back to the urban landscape – making hedgehogs a common sight once again.
This new illustrated guide, which was created with the help of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, will provide some useful pointers about a hedgehog’s year and their life cycle, to help increase understanding of hedgehog hibernation. It also identifies the threats they face through: habitat fragmentation; the impact of roads, pesticides and machinery; predators and disease.
Uploaded: 19 February 2019
Schoolchildren protest about Climate Change
Pupils from around the UK went "on strike" on Friday as part of a global campaign for action on climate change.
Students around the country walked out of schools to call on the government to declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem.
Organisers Youth Strike 4 Climate said protests took place in more than 60 towns and cities, with an estimated 15,000 taking part.
They carried placards, some reading: "There is no Plan[et] B."
The action was part of a much wider global movement, known as Schools 4 Climate Action.
It began with 15-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg skipping class to sit outside government buildings in September, accusing her country of not following the Paris Climate Agreement.
Uploaded: 16 February 2019
Russian islands declare emergency after mass invasion of polar bears
Russian environmental authorities have deployed a team of specialists to a remote Arctic region to sedate and remove dozens of hungry polar bears that have besieged the people living there.
The move came after officials in the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, with a population of about 3,000 people, appealed for help.
“There’s never been such a mass invasion of polar bears,” said Zhigansha Musin, the head of the local administration. “They have literally been chasing people.”Other footage shows the polar bears feeding on rubbish at a local dump. Attempts to scare off the polar bears using car horns and dogs have all failed, the Tass news agency said.
Russia classes polar bears as an endangered species and shooting them is prohibited by law. Officials warn, however, that a cull may be necessary to ensure the safety of the local population, if attempts to remove the animals fail.
In 2016, five Russian scientists were besieged by polar bears for nearly two weeks at a remote weather station on Troynoy Island, east of Novaya Zemlya.
Uploaded: 11 February 2019
Insects "could vanish" within a century
BBC World Service/The Guardian
A global study has found that the world's insects could vanish within a century at the current rate of decline, which is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. Any insect population collapse would have repercussions for nature's ecosystem.
The new analysis selected the 73 best studies done to date to assess the insect decline. One of the report's authors is Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, from the University of Sydney, Australia.
Uploaded: 11 February 2019
A P P E A L
Newly discovered Blue-throated Hillstar in critical danger of extinction
World Land Trust (WLT)
A newly discovered species, the Blue-throated Hillstar, is in critical danger of extinction. This hummingbird can only be found on a remote series of mountaintops in southern Ecuador and mining corporations have gained the rights to mine its habitat to extract metals.
International wildlife conservation charity World Land Trust (WLT) has launched an urgent appeal to raise £30,000 and save the hillstar’s habitat from being destroyed by mining. The metal-rich landscapes of Ecuador have seen an increase in industrial mining over the past thirty years.
Swathes of Ecuador’s tropical forests have been cleared so that metals such as copper, gold and lead can extracted from large open pits, a disaster for local wildlife. [Photo Credit: Dušan Brinkhuizen]
Uploaded: 8 February 2019
E V E N T
National Nest Box Week 2019
National NestBox Week is an established part of the ornithological calendar. Running for a week from 14 February each year, National Nest Box Week provides a welcome focus on nesting birds and encourages everyone to put up nest boxes in their local area in order to support the conservation of our breeding birds.
National Nest Box Week was established and developed by BTO and Britain’s leading birdcare specialist Jacobi Jayne. It takes place at a time when tradition has it that small birds pair up ahead of the breeding season.
Uploaded: 6 February 2019
NEWS & MEDIA ARCHIVE
WORLD WETLANDS DAY
World Wetlands Day takes place on 2 February 2019
World Wetlands Day, a day to celebrate and draw attention to wetlands and the flora and fauna that rely on them takes place this coming Saturday 2 February.
The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
My thanks to eWings from Birdwatch Ireland for the heads-up on this item.
Uploaded: 29 January 2019
PETITIONS & FUNDRAISING
Rainforest Rescue is a non profit-making organisation actively committed to preserving rainforests, protecting their inhabitants, and furthering social reforms.
Since 1986, we have been interfering with the business interests of timber and cattle barons, oil and mining companies, Western banks and corrupt politicians. They all stand to make quick profits from the destruction of rainforests, while nomads, rubber tappers, indigenous tribes and small farmers are robbed of their livelihoods.
Without international assistance, rainforest dwellers are often powerless. They frequently face discrimination as ethnic minorities and lack the financial resources to assert their rights.
Uploaded: 29 January 2019
QUALITY OF LIFE
Orkney is the best place to live in the UK according to a survey by the Halifax
Beautiful landscapes, low crime and happy residents have seen Orkney scoop the top spot as the UK's best place to live.
The remote islands lying off Scotland's northern coast took the title, after being runner-up for the last two years in Halifax's quality of life survey.
A range of criteria were looked at to draw up the rankings, including work, housing, education, health and how people feel overall.
High employment, good exam results and small primary school class sizes also helped contribute to Orkney's success.
The isles are also a relatively affordable place to live with the average house price of £173,349, being 5.2 times the average annual income, compared to the national average ratio of 7.3.
Second place in the quality of life survey went to Richmondshire in North Yorkshire, followed by Rutland in the East Midlands, Hambleton in North Yorkshire and Eden in Cumbria.
Uploaded: 26 January 2019
Machynlleth declares 'climate emergency'
A small Welsh market town is throwing its weight behind the global fight against climate change, becoming the first in Wales to declare a "climate emergency".
Machynlleth is following in the footsteps of more than 20 cities in England and around the world, including London and a Melbourne local authority.
It is looking at ways to become carbon zero, such as improving the energy efficiency of buildings.
It also wants to create an electric car club.
"To be mentioned with Melbourne and London seems a bit silly," William Lloyd Williams, a local butcher said.
"But it's the same problem of climate change that affects large and small communities."
Machynlleth town council backed the decision unanimously, after being presented with a petition signed by 500 locals - a quarter of the Powys market town's population.
Uploaded: 26 January 2019
GIVE NATURE A HELPING HAND
If you’d like to give nature a helping hand this year, take a look at these simple online practical guides - they are packed full of helpful tips on everything from fruit tree pruning, managing woodlands for dormice to building a hedgehog home.
Uploaded: 19 January 2019
Japan to leave the IWC
Japan has confirmed that it will leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and resume the commercial hunting of whales in 2019.
Earlier, the Kyodo news agency had reported that Japan would give its decision by the end of the year, months after the IWC rejected its latest bid to resume commercial whaling. It joins Iceland and Norway in openly defying an international ban on whaling.
Uploaded: 21 December 2018
£1.8m to transform our understanding of soil carbon storage
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology [CEH]
A research project led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology will transform our understanding of the potential of soil carbon storage to mitigate climate change.
The project, entitled “LOCKED UP”, is to receive a grant of £1.8 million from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to help scientists understand the processes of soil carbon formation, stabilisation and loss.
Led by Dr Jeanette Whitaker of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and also involving Lancaster University and University of Leeds, the study will help to quantify the amount by which we can increase soil carbon storage to mitigate climate change.
LOCKED UP represents a new collaboration between researchers with expertise in soil ecology and microbiology, biogeochemistry, mineralogy and environmental modelling. It includes advisory support from Max Planck Institut, Germany, and Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), France.
Uploaded: 21 December 2018
First signs of significant melting of glaciers in East Antarctica
NASA | BBC
Nasa says it has detected the first signs of significant melting in a swathe of glaciers in East Antarctica.
The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent. But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up.
If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels.
There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m - if it were all to melt out.
"That's the water equivalent to four Greenlands of ice," said Catherine Walker from Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Uploaded: 12 December 2018
BIRDS IN WALES
New report finds a third of Welsh birds are declining
Welsh Ornithological Society | RSPB | BTO | NRW
A new partnership report, the State of Birds in Wales 2018, has shown that a third of our breeding and wintering bird species are declining significantly – emphasising the urgent conservation need to protect some of our most iconic species. The State of Birds in Wales 2018 report is a one-stop shop of results from annual, periodic and one-off bespoke surveys across Wales.
It has been produced by The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Welsh Ornithological Society (WOS), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and RSPB Cymru. Most bird monitoring in Wales is undertaken by volunteers who contribute over 5,000 hours of their expertise every year in surveys utilised in this report.
Citizen science plays a crucial role in saving Wales’ species from extinction and there are plenty of opportunities for people to get involved, helping with the science, through practical intervention or by showing support for wildlife across Wales. To find out more about how you can get involved, please visit the websites of the organisations behind the report.
Uploaded: 6 December 2018
UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE
COP24 Katowice, Poland
BBC, The Guardian et al
Sir David Attenborough the world’s best-known natural history broadcaster has said humanity is facing its greatest threat in thousands of years.
The broadcaster said Climate Change could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of "much of the natural world".
He was speaking at the opening ceremony of United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Katowice, Poland. This meeting is seen as the most important on climate change since the 2015 Paris agreement.
Sir David said: "Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. "If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon."
Sir David has the "People's Seat" at the conference. The idea is that he will act as a link between the public and policy-makers at the meeting.
"The world's people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now".
Uploaded: 3 December 2018
SAVE THE JAGUAR
Latin America Launches New Roadmap to Save the Jaguar
Wildlife Conservation Society
Governments from the region and world’s leading jaguar conservation organizations designate 29 November 2018 as International Jaguar Day.
In an unprecedented global commitment to saving the jaguar, leading international conservation organizations and key jaguar range states have joined together to launch the Jaguar 2030 Conservation Roadmap for the Americas,presented today/this week at the Conference of Parties (COP) 14 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Published at a critical and uncertain time for the future of the Americas͛ largest wild cat, the roadmap aims to strengthen the Jaguar Corridor, ranging from Mexico to Argentina, by securing 30 priority jaguar conservation landscapes by the year 2030.
This bold, regionally-focused initiative will pave a new path to strengthen international cooperation and awareness for jaguar protection initiatives, including those mitigating human-jaguar conflict and connecting and protecting jaguar habitats, and stimulate sustainable development opportunities, such as eco-tourism, that support the well-being of communities and indigenous peoples coexisting with this species.
Uploaded: 21 November 2018
Scientists count whales from space
UK scientists demonstrate satellite technology
BBC - British Antarctic Survey
Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have been using the highest resolution satellite pictures available. This new approach has drawn on imagery from the WorldView-3 spacecraft operated by the American company DigitalGlobe which is able to discern things at the Earth's surface as small as 31cm across. Only restricted military systems see finer detail.
Even when taken from over 600km up, images are sharp enough to capture the distinctive shapes of different species. Indeed, the team will soon conduct a survey of fin whales in the Mediterranean. "Satellites have improved so much with their spatial resolution," explained Hannah Cubaynes, who is working for both Cambridge University and BAS. "and for the first time we've been able to see features that are distinctive of whales, such as their flippers and flukes."
Uploaded: 2 November 2018
Genetic code of every animal, plant and fungus in UK to be sequenced in ambitious project
The genetic codes of every animal, plant and fungus in the UK will be sequenced in a massive new project scientists say will benefit everything from conservation to medicine.
Dubbed the Darwin Tree of Life Project, the initiative is part of a massive global effort to unravel the DNA of all life on Earth.
The code of 66,000 species will be obtained over the course of a decade, providing naturalists with unprecedented insights that will turn the study of British wildlife on its head. Samples will be gathered by teams across the country, and the latest technologies will be employed to process thousands of genomes every year throughout a network of UK institutions.
Amid warnings of a collapse in global biodiversity, the scientists say an understanding of the code underpinning these species will guide efforts to preserve them from extinction
The strategy could also provide enormous benefits for humanity, as researchers say the genetic information obtained will likely form the basis of new drugs, food and even fuels.
The project is launching to coincide with the overarching programme known as the Earth BioGenome Project, which is sequencing the genomes of all 1.5 million known species of animals, plants, fungi and protozoa – lifeforms known collectively as eukaryotes.
The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge will serve as the UK genome-sequencing hub, with institutions from the Natural History Museum to the University of Edinburgh adding their expertise and is estimated to cost around £100m in the first five years.
Uploaded: 2 November 2018
BROWN HARES COULD FACE EXTINCTION
Mysterious deaths identified as myxomatosis
Britain’s brown hares could be wiped out after a deadly infection spread from rabbits threatens this already vulnerable species, experts have warned. Over the past month, scientists have been inundated with reports of dead or dying hares, particularly in the east of England, prompting them to launch an investigation. Early examinations suggest the animals are victims of myxomatosis, a virus introduced to the UK in the 1950s to control rabbits, which killed 99 per cent of the population.
Uploaded: 14 October 2018
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Incheon, Republic of Korea, 8 October 2018
SUMMARY The landmark UN report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius was released in South Korea yesterday after a week-long meeting of the 195-nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The key findings are:
'UNPRECEDENTED CHANGES' Capping global warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will require "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society", the IPCC said. Earth's average surface temperature has already gone up 1C -- enough to unleash a crescendo of deadly extreme weather -- and is on track to rise another two or three degrees absent a sharp and sustained reduction in carbon pollution. At current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, we could pass the 1.5C marker as early as 2030. To have at least a 50-50 chance of staying under 1.5C without overshooting the mark, the world must, by 2050, become "carbon neutral".
HIGH COST OF INACTION The 30-page executive summary also details humanity's "carbon budget" -- the amount of CO2 we can emit and still stay under the 1.5C ceiling. For a two-thirds chance of success, that is about 420 billion tonnes, an allowance that would -- according to current trends -- be used up in a decade. The share of electricity generated by renewables -- mainly hydro, solar and wind -- would have to jump by mid-century from about 20 to 70 percent. The share of coal, meanwhile, would need to drop from 40 percent to low single digits. Limiting global warming to 1.5C will require investing about $2.4 trillion (2.1 trillion euros) in the global energy system every year between 2016 and 2035.
1.5C V 2C Two degrees Celsius was long considered the temperature guardrail for a climate-safe world, but a raft of recent research shows otherwise. "Climate impacts are exponentially more dramatic when we go from 1.5C to 2C," said Henri Waisman, a scientist at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, and a coordinating lead author of the IPCC report. Some tropical fisheries are likely to collapse somewhere between the 1.5C and 2C benchmark. Staple food crops will decline in yield and nutritional value by an extra 10 to 15 percent. Coral reefs will mostly perish. The rate of species loss will accelerate "substantially".
PATHWAYS The IPCC say the 1.5C goal is technically and economically feasible, but depends on political leadership to become reality. One pathway, for example, relies heavily on a deep reduction in energy demand, while another assumes major changes in consumption habits, such as eating less meat and abandoning cars with internal combustion engines. Two others depend on sucking massive amounts of CO2 out of the air, either though large-scale reforestation, use of biofuels, or direct carbon capture.
Uploaded: 14 October 2018
PCB THREAT TO ORCAS
Pollution threatens to wipe out killer whales
ZSL & Science magazine
Persistent chemical pollution in the environment, in the form of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are affecting the breeding success of orcas or killer whales.
A new study suggests the long-term viability of more than half of the different orca groups around the globe is now in question. Certain populations, including those around the UK, the Strait of Gibraltar, off Brazil, Japan and California, are likely to disappear.
PCBs were once manufactured in large quantities, and used in everything from paints to electrical equipment and in certain plastics. Their use was banned decades ago but they persist in the environment and are highly toxic.
Killer whales are apex predators so when they eat fish, seals and other marine creatures lower down in the food chain, their bodies absorb all PCB pollution already absorbed by them.
It is believed that the PCBs stunt the ovaries of female orcas, limiting their ability to produce calves. In addition, PCBs damage their immune system.
Uploaded: 28 September 2018
Badger cull under way in England for sixth year
Badger culling has started across England for a sixth consecutive year.
A source close to Defra has said the badger cull restarted on Monday 10 September across many of the existing 21 zones.
Farmers Weekly claims that Natural England is about to announce the approval of culling licences for 10 new zones including Avon, Berkshire, Derbyshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire as well as parts of Wiltshire and Devon, where culling licences are already in place.
Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said with 10 new licences in operation in 2018, more badgers could be killed in 2018 than the last five years combined.
The Badger Trust estimates that by the end of 2018 over 70,000 badgers could have been killed as a result of culling and if the policy continues to be expanded this figure will exceed 150,000 by 2020.
Mr Dyer said large numbers of badger cubs and their mothers (sows) had died this summer as a result of heat exhaustion and being unable to get access to food – the ground has been too hard to get earthworms or water.
More badgers had also died on the road as they have been forced to move out of their territories in search of food and water.
Mr Dyer said expanding the cull following the heatwave risked “pushing the badger to the verge of local extinction”, especially in Gloucestershire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall where culling has been taking place over the longest period.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency is set to publish a review of the results on the first four years of the badger cull later this autumn.
Population biologist Sir Charles Godfray is expected to publish the results of an independent review of the government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England.
Uploaded: 10 September 2018
New research throws light on factors associated with the decline of Britain’s hedgehogs
+ This was the first systematic survey of rural hedgehog populations in England and Wales using footprint tracking tunnels to measure the presence / absence of hedgehogs
+ Hedgehogs were present at only 21% of all the sites surveyed
+ Hedgehog presence was negatively affected by badger sett density. However, both badger setts and hedgehogs were absent from 27% of all sites, suggesting that there is a wider landscape issue affecting both species
+ Hedgehog presence was positively affected by the amount of built land (i.e. housing); areas of human habitation may, therefore, be acting as a "refuge" habitat from the problems associated with rural landscapes
Results from the first systematic survey of rural hedgehog populations in England and Wales using footprint tracking tunnels has been published in Scientific Reports.
The research, titled ‘Reduced occupancy of hedgehogs in rural England and Wales: the influence of habitat and an asymmetric intra-guild predator’, investigates the effects of the availability of key habitat types and badger (Meles meles) sett density on native hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). The results show that while badger sett density is negatively correlated with hedgehog presence, there was evidence of both species co-existing and hedgehogs being positively associated with built habitat (e.g. houses). More worryingly, both hedgehogs and badger setts were not recorded at many of the sites surveyed, suggesting there is a much wider land management issue in our countryside affecting both species.
The research, led by Nottingham Trent University and the University of Reading, and funded by the People's Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, surveyed 261 rural sites covering all habitat types (7 land classes from arable farmland to upland sites) across England and Wales between 2014 and 2015 (18 sites in Wales, 243 in England) using footprint tracking tunnels. Many sites were surveyed by volunteers.
Ben Williams, PhD student from the University of Reading, the primary author of this paper, explains: "We found that although hedgehogs were generally widely distributed across England and Wales, they were actually found at a worryingly low number (21%) of sites. We also found that hedgehogs were absent from 71% of sites that did not have badger setts either, indicating that both hedgehogs and badgers may be absent from large portions of rural England and Wales."
“We found hedgehogs at 55 sites. We also found that badger setts were present at 49% of these sites, demonstrating that badgers and hedgehogs can, and do, coexist, as was the case historically for thousands of years prior to the recent decline in hedgehog numbers. However, perhaps more importantly our results indicate that a large proportion of rural England and Wales is potentially unsuitable for both hedgehogs and badgers to live in. Given the similarity in diets of the two species, one explanation for this could be the reduced availability of macro-invertebrate prey (such as earthworms) which both species need to feed on to survive. This could be as a result of agricultural intensification and climate change.”
While the results don’t dispute that high numbers of badgers in some places do have a negative impact on the presence of hedgehogs, crucially, neither hedgehogs nor badger setts were present at 70 sites (27%), meaning that at over a quarter of the study sites the landscape was apparently unsuitable for either species. This would imply a wider landscape management issue affecting both species, rather than a single factor being the cause of the well-documented hedgehog decline.
Nida Al-Fulaij, Grants Manager at PTES expands: “Badgers are what’s known as ‘intra-guild predators’, meaning they predate hedgehogs but also compete with them for food resources. This naturally makes their relationship complex, which we already knew, but until now we didn’t realise the extent to which changes in the landscape were affecting both species”.
Ben further elaborates: “The results also indicate that hedgehogs may be using areas of human habitation as a sort of “refuge habitat”. This was evident across all scales (from small villages to cities), becoming more pronounced with greater urbanisation. Residential gardens potentially offer a number of advantages for hedgehogs and enable them to escape some of the problems associated with the rural landscape. Therefore, houses, villages and towns bordering more rural landscapes are important areas for hedgehogs and may become increasingly so if we continue to see the rate of declines we are currently witnessing in rural Britain.”
PTES Press Release. Thanks to Adela Cragg at Firebird PR. T: 01235 835 297. E: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Uploaded: 08 September 2018
LANDMARK RULING ON GLYPHOSATE
US lawsuit is dramatic blow to Monsanto
Earlier this month, a landmark glyphosate case found that agri-chemical giant Monsanto’s weedkiller not only caused a man’s terminal cancer, but that the company knew its glyphosate products could be dangerous. The settlement of $289m was unprecedented and has caused huge ripples, with supermarkets reviewing their gardening product ranges and the public quite rightly asking questions.
We have been actively campaigning on this issue – calling for a ban on the use of glyphosate on UK wheat pre-harvest, and as a weedkiller in public spaces – since 2015 when government testing found glyphosate regularly turning up in British bread.
The evidence is ever-more damning and the problem isn't just glyphosate. Our food and farming system is stuck on a chemical-reliant treadmill and we need it to stop. Pesticide use is increasing dramatically – despite industry claims to the opposite. Along with scientists, we increasingly believe that there is no safe dose for human exposure to many pesticides and research indicates that they are playing a significant part in the catastrophic biodiversity crash.
With the impact of glyphosate high on politicans’ and public awareness, and as we prepare to exit the Common Agricultural Policy with Brexit, the need to act has never been more urgent.
Uploaded: 30 Aug 2018
THE LARGEST CLEANUP IN HISTORY
The Ocean Cleanup
The Ocean Cleanup develops advanced technologies to rid the world's oceans of plastic. A full-scale deployment of their systems is estimated to clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years.
Ocean currents concentrate plastic in five areas in the world: the subtropical gyres, also known as the world’s "ocean garbage patches". Once in these patches, the plastic will not go away by itself.
The challenge of cleaning up the gyres is the plastic pollution spreads across millions of square kilometers and travels in all directions. Covering this area using vessels and nets would take thousands of years and cost billions of dollars to complete. How can we use these ocean currents to our advantage? The largest one of these is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California. If left to circulate, the plastic will impact our ecosystems, health and economies. Solving it requires a combination of closing the source, and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean.
Models indicate that a full-scale system roll-out could clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years.
Research shows the majority of plastic by mass is currently in the larger debris. By removing the plastic while most of it is still large, we prevent it from breaking down into dangerous microplastics.
Combining the cleanup with source reduction on land paves the way towards a plastic free ocean by 2050.
Uploaded: 8 September 2018
EDEN PROJECT NORTH PROPOSED
Eden Project plans for new site in Morecambe
Proposals have been announced to bring the world famous Eden Project attraction to Morecambe. Eden Project North would bring a boost to the town’s economy and act as a catalyst for regeneration and includes developing the former Dome and Bubbles site into a major visitor attraction.
Plans are in their very early stages and may include biodomes like those at the Eden Project’s current site in Cornwall but the Morecambe site is expected to focus on marine rather than tropical environments.
The Eden Project, an educational charity, is working with its partners, Lancaster University and Lancashire County Council, to investigate the feasibility of the project in Morecambe.
Uploaded: 25 Aug 2018
R E N E W A B L E S
Support for small-scale renewable energy under threat
While most of us were enjoying the heatwave this summer, the government sneaked in a call for evidence about small-scale renewable energy in the UK and a consultation on their plan to close the Feed-in tariff scheme.
The proposal is worse than expected. The government are also planning to axe the export tariff. This guarantees households who install solar a fair price for the electricity they generate but don’t use. Cutting it means anyone installing solar panels at home will essentially donate their extra power to big energy companies. For most people, installing solar just won’t make sense financially.
10:10 Climate Action is preparing a response to the government, as well as planning a suite of clean energy campaigns for the next year. The group wants to make sure people know about this consultation and call for evidence, in case individuals want to submit something to the government themselves as there are lots of really dedicated, expert and passionate people who may have something to say to the government!
The deadline for the call for evidence is the 30th August, and the Feed-in Tariffs consultation closes on the 14th September.
10:10 Climate Action has fought back the cuts to clean energy before, and they are ready to do so again.
Uploaded: 26 Aug 2018
Government watchdog warns of waste exports ending up landfilled or dumped
National Audit Office - Report
The National Audit Office (NAO) has warned that British waste sent overseas for recycling could be dumped or sent to landfill due to inadequate checks.
Under a government scheme, companies can meet their recycling obligations by sending the waste abroad (Ed: out of sight is out of mind?).
Last year half of the packaging reported as recycled was sent abroad to countries like China, Turkey, Malaysia and Poland.
However the NAO states that there is a risk that some material is not being recycled to UK standards and may be adding to global pollution.
Regulatory bodies like the Environment Agency have failed to put adequate checks in place to stop this system providing cheap exports of poor-quality or contaminated. Defra has also been criticised for not doing enough to assess the effectiveness of the system with a significant rise in waste exports.
The NAO report found that businesses paid just £73 million in recycling costs in 2017 while local authorities spent £700 million. But there are no guarantees that recycling of this exported waste even takes place, producers are not made to pay to recycle their packaging, and the system is open to unscrupulous operators and potential fraud.
The NAO has called on the Government to fix these weak systems in its upcoming ‘Resources and Waste Strategy’.
In 2017, 11 million tonnes of packaging was used by UK households and businesses. 64% of this packaging waste was declared as being recycled.
The question that comes to my mind – with the recent publicity around plastic waste – how much of this waste is ending up dumped in the seas and oceans of our planet?
Mike Armitage - Editor
Uploaded: 23 July 2018
SHORT FILM SHOWCASE
The Tragic Tale of a Pangolin, the World’s Most Trafficked Animal
Pangolins are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. They are the world's only scaled mammal. They are cat-sized, nocturnal anteaters and are found in Africa and Asia.
Their meat and scales are in high demand in Chinese medicine for their supposed health benefits, and as a result the pangolin's population has plummeted.
Earlier this year, 4.4 tons of pangolin scales, labeled as plastic, were seized in Hong Kong, a haul estimated to represent between 1,100 and 6,600 pangolins and be worth $1.25 million (U.S.).
Pangolins are now one of the most valuable animals to need protection, and bans are being discussed alongside those of iconic animals like elephants and rhinos. It's estimated that in the last 10 years, a million pangolins have been trafficked.
SCOTTISH BREEDING SUCCESS!!
First white-tailed eagle chick in Orkney for over 140 years
A white-tailed eagle chick has successfully hatched in Orkney for the first time in over 140 years, RSPB Scotland has announced. One chick has been seen, however local RSPB Scotland staff believe from watching the parents’ behaviour that there may be two.
Also known as sea eagles it’s been five years since these birds reappeared in Orkney after an absence of 95 years. The species were wiped out in the UK when the last bird was shot on Shetland in 1918, and it’s thanks to a reintroduction programme begun in the 1970s that the birds are once again found in Scotland.
A pair have been seen in Hoy every year since 2013 but nesting attempts in 2015 and 2016 were both unsuccessful, a common occurrence for young birds. It’s thought to be the parents’ first year and nesting attempt together, with a female from previous years pairing up with a new male.
Lee Shields, RSPB Scotland’s Hoy Warden said: “It’s fantastic that the eggs laid in spring have hatched, the first successful breeding season here since the 19th century. This breeding attempt is still at the early stages, with young often in the nest for up to 14 weeks. Everybody was so excited when the first pair arrived and we’ve been keeping our fingers crossed for this ever since. We were hugely disappointed when a previous pair abandoned the territory last year, so to have at least one chick now is even more special.
“Even though they hadn’t nested here since 1873, white-tailed eagles have long been associated with Orkney’s natural and cultural heritage. Our RSPB Scotland reserve in Hoy is already home to hen harriers, great skuas, red-throated divers and more, so to see the eagles return backs up just how special this environment is. Now we’re just hoping that the chicks do well as it’s always uncertain with first-time parents.”
After the last white-tailed eagles in the UK were driven to extinction in the early 20th century, 82 birds were re-introduced from Norway between 1975 and 1985. They first bred successfully in 1985 on the Isle of Mull and established territories on a number of islands on the west coast. Additional releases in Wester Ross and Fife in subsequent decades further expanded their range and there are now over 100 breeding pairs of the UK’s largest bird of prey in Scotland.
It is not known whether the pair in Hoy are from the Scottish mainland or if they have travelled from Scandinavia. The nest, known as an eyrie, is perched high on a cliff face well hidden from the naked eye. RSPB Scotland is running “Eaglewatch” every day in the nearby Dwarfie Stone car park to allow people to catch a glimpse of them without disturbing the new parents and their young. Another male eagle has also been observed on the island and is estimated to be around three years old.
E N V I R O N M E N T
BBC Plastics Watch initiative
New footage of the devastating impact of plastic pollution on wildlife has been captured by a BBC team.
Seabirds are starving to death on the remote Lord Howe Island, a crew filming for the BBC One documentary Drowning in Plastic has revealed.
Their stomachs were so full of plastic there was no room for food.
The documentary is part of a BBC initiative called Plastics Watch, tracking the impact of plastic on the environment.
The marine biologists the team filmed are working on the island to save the birds. They captured hundreds of chicks - as they left their nests - to physically flush plastic from their stomachs and "give them a chance to survive".
Conventional pesticides should be the last line of defence
[Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)]
In April 2018, EU member states voted for a near-total ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, following a review of the evidence linking their use with a reduction in honeybee and wild bee populations.
Scientists at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) published a large-scale pan-European field study in June 2017. Professors Richard Pywell and Richard Shore, who lead the CEH Biodiversity and Pollution science areas respectively, look at the future of crop protection following the ban.
The new extension to the ban on neonicotinoids to include widely planted crops, such as cereals and sugar beet that are not attractive to bees, reflects concerns about persistence of these compounds in the soil.
There is a risk that some of the neonicotinoid from the seed coatings on wheat and sugar beet will persist in the soil after the crop has been harvested. If a mass-flowering crop, such as oilseed rape, is planted in soils with neonicotinoid residues there is a possibility that the pesticide will be present in the nectar and pollen of the crop, thus potentially exposing bees to the pesticide.
These concerns are justified by the recent findings from the CEH Honey Monitoring Scheme that detected widespread neonicotinoid residues in honey associated with oilseed seed rape crops despite the moratorium on their use.
While the European Commission has carried out a review of changes in farmer behaviour in light of the restrictions on neonicotinoid use, it is important that the alternative means of crop protection are carefully monitored to assess their impacts on a wide range of environmental indicators.
This will require continued monitoring of the impacts of pesticide on pollinators and other groups. An example of this is the recently launched CEH Honey Monitoring Scheme, working with beekeepers across the UK to collect and analyse honey samples for a range of pesticides.
CEH suggests that now would be a good time to rethink our strategies for crop protection. In future, effective and resilient crop protection strategies will need to be truly holistic, requiring the integration of a range of pest and disease control methods.
These might include improved diagnostic and forecasting of pest outbreaks, use of techniques like gene editing to more rapidly produce crop varieties with durable disease resistance, use of traditional control strategies like crop rotation, enhancing underlying natural pest control and the deployment of new biopesticides.
This doesn't mean no pesticides, but rather that conventional pesticides need to be the last line of defence rather than the first line, as they are currently.
The loss of a parent is the most common cause of brood failure in blue tits
British Ecological Society/Max Planck Institute for Ornithology press release
Complete brood failure in blue tits is almost always associated with the sudden and permanent disappearance of one of the parents. Peter Santema and Bart Kempenaers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen show in their study that the remaining parent substantially increased its effort to raise at least some of the chicks, which turned out to be successful in two thirds of the nests.
Single parent males generally do worse, probably because they are not able to keep their chicks warm. Their findings are published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology. Apart from being a popular garden feeder visitor, blue tits have been the focus of much research on the causes and consequences of variation in reproductive success. Blue tits typically lay between 8-15 eggs, of which a varying number of young will survive to leave the nest. In some nests, however, all the offspring die before they are old enough to leave the nest.
Finding out what causes these cases of complete brood mortality has proven challenging. Does one parent leave all the care to its mate? Can a single parent not cope with the demands? Do both parents decide to desert their brood? To find out, we need to know exactly when parents stop bringing food and when the offspring perish.
Therefore, Peter Santema and Bart Kempenaers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen equipped all adult blue tits in their study site with a tiny, passive integrated transponder.
They also designed nestboxes with a built-in, automated monitoring system that recorded every visit of a transpondered bird throughout the entire year. With this system, they could analyse all parental visits of 277 nestboxes and determine when a parent was last present at the nest. In case of sudden parental disappearance, they also measured how often the remaining parent visited, both before and after the disappearance of its partner.
Of the 684 nests analysed over seven years, 13 percent suffered complete brood failure. The researchers found that in almost all of these nests, one of the parents had disappeared while the young were still alive.
“This raises the question whether one of the parents deserted and left all the care to its partner, or whether the parents were exhausted and simply gave up,” says Bart Kempenaers, who was leading the study.
Both scenarios are unlikely, because the researchers found that – with one exception – all birds that had disappeared were never observed again in the study area.
Moreover, their nest visit rates were normal up to the moment of disappearance, suggesting that these were otherwise healthy individuals.
“All the evidence suggests that death by predation is the most likely cause for the disappearance of a parent”, says Peter Santema, first author of the study.
The constant flying to and from the nest makes them vulnerable to predation by aerial predators, in particular the sparrowhawk.
Review of British wildlife by The Mammal Society and Natural England
British mammals’ fight for survival
Almost one in five of British mammal species face a high risk of extinction, according to the first comprehensive review of their populations for more than 20 years launched today by The Mammal Society and Natural England.
The red squirrel, wildcat and the grey long-eared bat are all listed as facing severe threats to their survival.
The review – commissioned by Natural England working in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural Resources Wales – also found other mammals such as the hedgehog and water vole have seen their populations decline by up to 66% over the past 20 years.
Climate change, loss of habitat, use of pesticides and road deaths are all putting pressure on some of the best loved and most recognisable of Britain’s 58 terrestrial mammals, whose current status, historical and recent population trends, threats, and future prospects have all been assessed in the review. The work will prioritise conservation actions and also sets an agenda for future research efforts.
Prof Fiona Mathews, Mammal Society Chair and professor of Environmental Biology at the University of Sussex, said: “This is happening on our own doorstep so it falls upon all of us to try and do what we can to ensure that our threatened species do not go the way of the lynx, wolf and elk and disappear from our shores forever.”
The Mammal Society is now calling for more research to be carried out urgently to get a clearer and more accurate picture of Britain’s mammal populations. For many species, including common animals such as rabbits and moles, very little information is available.
Last month, the Society launched a Mammal Mapper app so that any nature lover could record sightings of local mammals using just their smartphone.