United States
United States

Time filter

Source Type

News Article | April 15, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Perched on the telegraph wires in my Somerset village, is a swallow – all the way back from its winter quarters in Africa. In my back garden, orange-tip and small tortoiseshell butterflies are searching for nectar. And everywhere I look, spring foliage is filling the countryside with green. This has been a vintage spring for wildlife watchers. Thanks to a spell of fine, settled weather at the end of March and the beginning of April, bluebells carpet forest floors, the dawn chorus is reaching its peak, and living creatures – from natterjack toads to great crested newts, bumblebees to badgers – are out in force. What more could we wish for on Easter weekend? But let’s not be fooled. The announcement by Butterfly Conservation that in 2016 Britain’s butterflies had one of their worst years ever, together with the RSPB’s latest report on threatened birds, showing that the curlew, grey wagtail and merlin are all now “red-listed”, should be a wake-up call for us all. Our wildlife is on a rollercoaster ride: some species are doing well, but more are in decline. The good news is that, even a decade ago, it would have been unthinkable to imagine buzzards and ravens over my home, and great white egrets, bitterns and cranes down the road on the Somerset Levels. But, in that same period, we have witnessed the decline of hares and hedgehogs, house sparrows and skylarks, and so many other much-loved creatures of the British countryside – thanks mainly to our modern obsession with cheap food, no matter what the cost to our wildlife. That’s partly why – with my friend, colleague and co-author Brett Westwood – I have written the book Wonderland: A Year of Britain’s Wildlife, Day by Day. By including an entry for every single day of the year, we hoped to draw people’s attention to the joys of watching wildlife, at a time when it needs us more than ever. Between us, we have chalked up a century of wildlife-watching experience. As children, each growing up amid suburban sprawl – Brett on the edge of Birmingham, me on the outskirts of London – we developed a hands-on love of the natural world. We collected frogspawn and watched in wonder as it hatched into tadpoles, which then became frogs. We marvelled at the caterpillars we kept in jam jars, as they munched their way through nasturtium leaves, pupated and metamorphosed into butterflies. And we went fishing for tiddlers – dipping our nets into streams to see what treasures we could find. Through enormous good fortune, we later managed to turn our passion into our careers, making TV and radio programmes for the BBC Natural History Unit. But with knowledge and experience, comes fear: the worry that some of the creatures we know so well may not be with us for much longer. And yet we remain optimistic. We have to, for the natural world is far too important to our lives for us to allow it to fade away. So now that another spring is with us – surely the most exciting time in nature’s calendar – we’re going to spend as much time as possible enjoying the natural wonders still on offer. Wherever you live in the UK – in a town, a city, or in the heart of the countryside – it’s time to connect with the natural world. You don’t have to be an expert – everyone can look, listen and learn about nature. Believe me, you won’t regret it! Wonderland: A Year of Britain’s Wildlife, Day by Day, by Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss, is out now (John Murray, £20) Date Date The decision to let garlic mustard, an invasive flowering herb, thrive in a wild part of the garden has just rewarded me with one of my best doorstep encounters. Garlic mustard is a food plant for the orange-tip butterfly, the epitome of April, a mercurial pilgrim of woodland rides and sunny hedgerows. The spring males, whose wing tips are dipped in vibrant tangerine, appear distracted in their early flights, darting this way and that, backtracking and sideslipping, but always on the move. They’re looking for the plainer, grey-and-white females, and they travel long distances to find one. The story began last June, when I found an orange-tip pupa, like a small green longbow, attached by silk threads to the seed pods of the garlic mustard. Although I hadn’t seen an adult butterfly in the garden, one had clearly passed through and laid eggs. How many caterpillars hatched I can’t say, but only a few will have survived: orange-tip larvae are cannibalistic. As autumn drew on, the pupa turned brown to match the drying garlic mustard stalk and resembled a seed pod. April is here now, and a couple of days ago I saw a dark spot that I hadn’t noticed before. Was it some fungal infection marking the butterfly’s demise? I went indoors to answer a phone call and, during those 20 minutes, the miracle had happened. Clinging to the tattered chrysalis was a female orange-tip, her filigreed hind wings still rumpled, her head and legs thickly furred with pale hairs. Over the next two hours, her wings stiffened and, work suspended, I waited while she took her first faltering flight. We all know about the transformation from caterpillar into butterfly, but the emergence of this fragile insect after months of surveillance, a butterfly I actively encouraged by adding its food plants to my garden, has given me a pleasure out of all proportion to its simplicity. I feel honoured. Date Date As dusk falls on a muggy May evening, a strange crowd of people gathers around a pond somewhere in lowland Britain. Sporting wellington boots and head torches, they have come in search of our largest and most impressive amphibian: the great crested newt. During the breeding season, from April to June, the male of this species sports a magnificent crest along the whole length of his back and tail, which rises up when the animal is under water so he can use it to display to his rivals. Great crested newts are the top dog of the amphibian world: growing up to 16cm long, they have a rough, warty skin: it’s dark above with tiny white spots, and orange below with darker blotches. That underside pattern is not just distinctive, it is also unique: one group of scientists from the University of Kent use photographs to identify individual newts, which they then name after Hollywood stars – not out of any resemblance, however. Like their namesakes, great crested newts often appear in the newspapers, though for a very different reason. Tabloid journalists often rail against the perceived insanity of the presence of a colony of these amphibians bringing a busy building site to a halt, or thousands of pounds supposedly being spent to relocate them. And perhaps they have a point: after all, most of us have never even seen one and, in fact, they are fairly numerous and widespread in Britain, which is home to a good proportion of the European population. But it says a lot for the British love of wildlife that we don’t just safeguard glamorous and showy species, but shy, gawky ones too, and these adaptable creatures can usually be relocated without any harm. By the end of the evening, the pond’s newts have been caught, checked and released, and another few pieces of information have been added to our knowledge of this, our biggest and most colourful amphibian. Date Date No other flower holds quite the same place in the nation’s hearts as the bluebell. Like our favourite bird, the robin, and our best-known tree, the oak, it has become a symbol of what it means to be British. This is appropriate, given that, globally, the bluebell has a very limited range: it is confined to the western shores of the great Eurasian landmass, where the Atlantic-influenced maritime climate – generally mild and wet – allows this little flower to grow in profusion. The name “bluebell” seems to have been with us for ever, so I am surprised to learn that it first appeared in print barely 200 years ago, in the last decade of the 18th century. The name was in use much earlier, but it was applied to a completely different plant, the harebell, a flower that tends to prefer sunnier, more open settings. Poets have been much taken with the true bluebell: John Keats called it the “Sapphire queen of the mid-May”, while Alfred, Lord Tennyson compared a carpet of bluebells to “the blue sky, breaking up through the earth”. But even this is topped by Gerard Manley Hopkins who, in his journal for 1871, wrote of bluebells “in falls of sky-colour washing the brows and slacks of the ground with vein-blue”. Sadly, these spring carpets of bluebells are now under threat on two flanks, both, ironically, a result of our very British passion for gardening. Bluebells are vulnerable to having their bulbs pulled up by people wanting to replant them in their gardens – an act that is now illegal, as well as selfish. And wild bluebell displays are often infiltrated by stands of Spanish bluebells, a popular garden variety with stiffer, less drooping flowers, which freely hybridises with native plants. Fortunately, there are still enough displays of pure British bluebells for us to enjoy: from Cape Wrath at the tip of Scotland to our most southerly outpost, the Isles of Scilly. And, on a sunlit spring morning, as I walk serenaded by birdsong, I find it hard to imagine a more classic wildflower experience than a British bluebell wood in full bloom. Date Date The skies over the barnyard next to our home in Somerset have been silent for six months now, ever since, on a breezy day in late September last year, the swallows circled for the very last time, and then turned and headed purposefully south for Africa. But now, on a fine spring afternoon, they’re back - and it’s as if they’ve never been away. Twittering fills the air and, though it is sometimes frowned upon to ascribe human emotions to birds, I find it almost impossible not to imagine that these are sounds of joy, happiness and relief. That’s certainly what I - and many of us - feel when we see that “our” swallows are safely back. For these delicate little birds, each weighing about 20g – rather less than an ounce - have flown almost 10,000km to be here. A few weeks ago, they were sunning themselves in the skies around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. Then, driven by tiny changes in the chemical processes in their brains, they began to head north. They crossed the tropical savannahs and equatorial forests, skirted the vast Sahara desert, and then flew over the Mediterranean and France until they reached the Channel, almost within sight of home. Here, bad weather at the very end of March delayed their arrival for a few days; but then the skies cleared, the barometer began to rise, and conditions were finally right for them to complete the last leg of their epic journey. Until then, they had been using the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate but, in the final few miles of their voyage, they found their way by following familiar landmarks, until they arrived at this Somerset barn - the very place they hatched less than a year ago. Here they will build their rather tatty nest on a wooden beam and spend the summer raising a family. It’s no wonder, then, that the swallow is such a potent symbol of the coming of spring, not just here in Britain but all across the northern hemisphere - from Canada to Japan. This symbolism goes all the way back to the dawn of human culture: references to the return of the swallow can be found in the writings of ancient Greece and the Old Testament book of Jeremiah: “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle [dove] and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming...” So, as I watch them reacquaint themselves with their summer home, I can’t help but feel that the swallows’ return, which I have just been privileged to witness, is little short of a miracle. Date Date Scarlet longhorns are very beautiful insects, with softly hairy, ruby-coloured wing cases, black legs and long, segmented antennae. Once, they were found only in a few sites in the Welsh Marches - hence their alternative name of Welsh longhorn - but now, for reasons that aren’t clear, their numbers appear to be increasing and they are turning up in woodlands in several places in England and Wales. Indeed, on the hunt for them last May, we soon found a score of the newly emerged beetles wandering across the cut logs. They’re most easily spotted on log piles (always inspect log piles from the ground, as they can be unstable). Look on oak timber that has been cut within the past year or so, or on the bark of dead oaks; on warm days, I have seen the males flying in, using their long antennae to detect the scent of cut timber, and of the opposite sex. The British countryside is also home to other wood-loving longhorns, which are some of our most attractive insects. One small, narrow-bodied version, the wasp beetle, is not only banded black and yellow to fool predators, it also moves in the same jerky way as a wasp, but is completely harmless. On warm spring days, the beautiful black-spotted longhorn crawls so slowly over logs that if you wanted to, you could pick it up. These beetles have blackish wing cases, thickly dusted with golden vermiculations and a dark eyespot on each one. They are around from mid-April until June, and like most longhorns, never ignore the scent of freshly cut timber.


News Article | April 25, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Tindale Tarn, Cumbria A flock of sand martins skim the choppy water and tufted duck bob on the dark grey waterBuffeted sideways by the gale, we descend to Tindale Tarn, a small lake in the RSPB reserve of Geltsdale. Skylarks spring up from rough pasture around the stony track to sing shrill and sweet as piccolos in a stormy sky. This land, once mined for coal and lead, is an important breeding area for upland birds; curlew, redshank and lapwing call as we huddle in the open-sided hide by the tarn.A flock of sand martins skim the choppy water, having come here to feed from their nests in a nearby sand quarry. A cormorant is fishing, and tufted duck bob on the dark grey water. Wind catches the surface and runs with it, making flurries of waves. The back of a mute swan, neck submerged, resembles a plump meringue. The female sits on a nest close to the hide, dragging reedy stems around her body with her orange beak, primping and perfecting the huge mound. Continue reading...


News Article | March 31, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

A mild winter has boosted the number of small birds visiting UK gardens, with the long-tailed tit returning to the top 10 most commonly seen species for the first time in seven years, according to results from the world’s largest garden wildlife survey. Recorded sightings of the tiny, sociable tit rose by 44% on 2015 figures and the species was seen in more than a quarter of participants’ gardens. Other small garden bird species that are thought to have benefitted from the warmer weather include the great tit and coal tit. About 519,000 people across the UK counted 8.2 million birds for the RSPB’s 37th Big Garden Birdwatch. The annual survey asks members of the public to spend an hour counting the birds in their gardens and local parks during the last weekend of January, to help compile a snapshot of the UK’s bird populations. The house sparrow remains the most commonly seen garden bird, with an average of 4.2 birds per garden and was seen in 61% of gardens, followed by the starling (2.9 birds, 39% of gardens) and blue tit (2.8, 79%). However, some species continue to decline in the long-term, with 58% less house sparrows and 80% less starlings seen in 2016 than in 1979 when the count began. Chaffinches (-46%), greenfinches (-44%) and blackbirds (-38%) have also seen significant reductions. But there have also been increases over the same period for woodpigeon (1,052%), collared dove (305%) and coal tits (273%). RSPB conservationists said an increase in sightings of the long-tailed tit, alongside other smaller garden birds such as the coal tit (up 25% since last year) and great tit (up 15%), could be attributed to the mild weather in the months leading up to the birdwatch. The winter of 2015-16 is on track to become the warmest ever recorded in England and Wales, and the third warmest on record for the UK as a whole, according to preliminary figures from the Met Office released earlier this month. The UK mean temperature from 1 December to 24 February was 5.6C – well above the long-term average of 3.7C. Small birds such as the long-tailed tit, which weighs little more than a 50p coin, are more likely to be killed off during cold weather - partly because of their size but also because as the insects they rely on for food are hard to find in frost and snow. From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, a series of bitter winters caused the population to plummet, but a long run of mild winters brought the species into the top 10 garden birds for the first time in 2009. Milder conditions are likely to have contributed to a higher survival rate this year, according to RSPB conservation scientist, Dr Daniel Hayhow: “The increase in long-tailed tit sightings, along with other smaller garden birds, just goes to show that in the absence of very cold weather these species can survive the winter months in much great numbers.” Longer term, the increase may also be explained by the way long-tailed tits and other smaller birds have adapted to feeding on seeds and peanuts at bird tables or from hanging feeders. Since 2006 the average number of long-tailed tits seen in UK gardens has increased by 52%, while great tit numbers have gone up by 13% and coal tit by 9%. In other garden bird figures released this month, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)’s Garden BirdWatch showed that cold, wet weather in the spring of 2015 resulted in a particularly poor breeding season for blackbirds, great tits and blue tits, with numbers all well below average during the second half of 2015. Clare Simm, from the BTO, said: “While numbers of some of our common garden birds were low, the good news is that we had a mild winter and overwinter survival should have been high, boosting numbers at the start of 2016.”


News Article | March 25, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates, according to a new survey revealing the extent to which time playing in parks, wood and fields has shrunk. A fifth of the children did not play outside at all on an average day, the poll found. Experts warn that active play is essential to the health and development of children, but that parents’ fears, lack of green spaces and the lure of digital technology is leading youngsters to lead enclosed lives. Most of the parents polled said their children have fewer opportunities to play outside than they did when young. The new research is strongly supported by previous work, including a government report in February that found more than one in nine children had not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least a year. “The truth is we are enclosing our children,” said Mark Sears, at The Wild Network, which works to increase wild play. “We are stifling their ability to be free, to be at their best as children and it is having significant impacts.” He said increasing obesity and lower mental wellbeing in children was linked to a lack of physical activity. On Wednesday, environment secretary Liz Truss announced that every schoolchild will have the opportunity to visit a national park, noting that only 10% currently have access to outdoor learning. “I want every child to know the joy and wonder of the great outdoors,” she said recently. “Our children should be climbing trees, not the walls.” Under the plan, national park authorities will engage over 60,000 young people a year through schools visits by 2017/18. The plan is part of a government campaign expected later this year that will aim to connect children with nature and the environment. The new survey questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 parents of 5-12 year olds and found 74% of children spent less than 60 minutes playing outside each day. UN guidelines for prisoners require “at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily”. The poll also found children spent twice as long playing on screens as playing outside. It was funded by Persil, as part of the detergent brand’s Dirt is Good campaign. “Academic research shows that active play is the natural and primary way that children learn,” said Sir Ken Robinson, an educationalist and advisor to Unilever, which makes Persil. “It is essential to their healthy growth and progress, particularly during periods of rapid brain development. We must place adequate importance on play now, so that our precious children grow up into successful, well-rounded and happy adults.” Sears said: “Parents see the value of outdoor play and still it doesn’t happen. Outdoor time is shrinking. It is a gigantic paradox.” He said fear of strangers, traffic or accidents deterred parents from allowing children to play outside, as did lack of time due to busy school and work lives. “It’s time we gave parents the tools, skills and confidence to do the things that they know are good for their children.” A separate study from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), published earlier in March, found that children from poorer backgrounds were less interested in being outdoors in nature than better-off children. But WWT found this difference was overcome after just one day spent learning outside. “Young kids that learn and play outside get direct experience of weather and the seasons and wildlife – things that are only possible outdoors – and they get to assess risks, solve problems and develop creativity,” said Lucy Hellier, WWT learning project manager. “The benefits may seem obvious, but in reality many children don’t get to be outdoors in a natural environment in any regular or meaningful way. And that’s even more common among kids from deprived areas.” In 2013, the RSPB published a three-year study, which concluded that four out of five children in the UK were not adequately “connected to nature”. In 2012, a National Trust report called Natural Childhood revealed the growing gap between children and nature. Less than one in 10 children regularly played in wild spaces, it said, compared to half of children a generation ago.


News Article | May 1, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

It is a small brown bird with no ostentatious marking and unremarkable to the untrained eye. But a single female American blackbird spotted on a remote island in the Orkneys has prompted birdwatchers to charter planes, drive through the night and catch ferries to in the hope of catching a glimpse of it. More than 15 planes have landed on North Ronaldsay in the past two days, and dozens of birdwatchers have arrived by boat, since news spread that the first red-winged blackbird ever spotted in Britain – and indeed in Europe – had landed on this distant Scottish outpost. The vagrant bird, which experts think may have hitchhiked from its usual habitat in North America on a transatlantic boat, was first seen on Saturday. Since then planes have been chartered from Kirkwall airport – with others coming from airstrips across the UK – to fly to Orkney. Birdwatchers from Devon, Bristol, London and Yorkshire have taken planes, trains or driven for 12 hours before boarding ferries in the hope of ticking the visitor off their lists. The bird was spotted on Saturday by Simon Davies, principal assistant warden of the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory. Davies said had been carrying out a routine census of breeding and migrating birds when he heard a call he did not recognise. “I didn’t realise what it was at first, but then the penny dropped,” he said. “It’s fantastic, it’s every birders dream to see the first bird of its kind in the UK – and if it’s the first in Europe, even better.” The observatory has been swamped with calls, while the news brought a glut of visitors to the normally quiet island. “I tweeted about the news and it went crazy, we had nine planes to the island on Sunday and four or five today,” Davies said. “It’s incredibly exciting and top twitchers like to see these very rare birds for themselves and are willing to pay a lot of money to do so.” Among the first visitors was James Hanlon, author of UK500: Birding in the Fast Lane. He took a plane with three others from Nottinghamshire after hearing the news. “The magnitude of the rarity of this bird is what makes it so exciting,” he said. “We don’t know exactly where it has come from, but where it is and the way it is behaving all suggests it is a wild bird.” Hanlon said his phone had “gone crazy” as news of the sighting spread, and he had booked the flight without hesitation. “It cost more than the average taxi fare, but I’m not telling you how much because my wife might read it,” he said. He said some enthusiasts had driven for 12 hours to get to Orkney to take a ferry to the island, while others had booked a one-way plane ticket to get there and were not sure how they would get home. But it was all worth it, he insisted. “It’s hard to put into words what it feels like [when you see it]. Seeing a rare bird is special, and seeing a very rare bird is just an amazing thing to witness,” Hanlon said. The male red-winged blackbird is black with a red shoulder and yellow wing bar; the female is dark brown and – whisper it – rather unremarkable. “The male is quite smart, but the female is as dull as anything,” said Hanlon. “Still, it doesn’t resemble any of our birds and that makes it pretty special.” How the bird arrived in Ronaldsay is a mystery, but experts say it could have caught the right winds or the bird could have hitched a lift at least part of the way on a boat. “There is a possibility that it was on a ship across the north Atlantic, and when it saw land it hopped off,” said Andre Farrar of the RSPB. “We are also on the receiving end of a jet stream, so it’s possible that it was caught in a storm, has hit the jet stream and ended up here – no one knows really.” Despite North Ronaldsay being “hideous” to get to, Farrar said he expected many birdwatchers to make the trip. “A red-winged blackbird is a red-letter day for birdwatchers,” he said. “And no one knows how long it will stay around. It could be 20 minutes, it could be a few weeks – that’s in the lap of the gods.” He said there had been a recent sighting in Shetland of a hermit thrush, also from North America, which increased the chances that the red-winged blackbird was also a wild bird. Red-winged blackbird breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, and Guatemala, with isolated populations in western El Salvador, north-western Honduras, and north-western Costa Rica. It is very common in North and Central America – with flocks as large as a million-strong, and the full number of breeding pairs across North and Central America perhaps exceeding 250m in peak years. Josh Jones of Birdguides said it was a good sign that the red-winged blackbird had survived into a third day on North Ronaldsay. “It terms of the keen birders and twitchers who chase rare birds, the red-winged blackbird has never been seen in the UK so it’s about as big as it gets,” he said. But with the lone bird so far off course, it was unlikely to ever find its way home, he added. “This bird is treasured, but its fate is probably not a happy one,” he said. “These vagrant birds are the intrepid ones who have a short but exciting life, and give a lot of pleasure to people along the way.”


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Training Grant | Award Amount: 4.34M | Year: 2014

This world-leading Centre for Doctoral Training in Bioenergy will focus on delivering the people to realise the potential of biomass to provide secure, affordable and sustainable low carbon energy in the UK and internationally. Sustainably-sourced bioenergy has the potential to make a major contribution to low carbon pathways in the UK and globally, contributing to the UKs goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and the international mitigation target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise. Bioenergy can make a significant contribution to all three energy sectors: electricity, heat and transport, but faces challenges concerning technical performance, cost effectiveness, ensuring that it is sustainably produced and does not adversely impact food security and biodiversity. Bioenergy can also contribute to social and economic development in developing countries, by providing access to modern energy services and creating job opportunities both directly and in the broader economy. Many of the challenges associated with realising the potential of bioenergy have engineering and physical sciences at their core, but transcend traditional discipline boundaries within and beyond engineering. This requires an effective whole systems research training response and given the depth and breadth of the bioenergy challenge, only a CDT will deliver the necessary level of integration. Thus, the graduates from the CDT in Bioenergy will be equipped with the tools and skills to make intelligent and informed, responsible choices about the implementation of bioenergy, and the growing range of social and economic concerns. There is projected to be a large absorptive capacity for trained individuals in bioenergy, far exceeding current supply. A recent report concerning UK job creation in bioenergy sectors concluded that there may be somewhere in the region of 35-50,000 UK jobs in bioenergy by 2020 (NNFCC report for DECC, 2012). This concerned job creation in electricity production, heat, and anaerobic digestion (AD) applications of biomass. The majority of jobs are expected to be technical, primarily in the engineering and construction sectors during the building and operation of new bioenergy facilities. To help develop and realise the potential of this sector, the CDT will build strategically on our research foundation to deliver world-class doctoral training, based around key areas: [1] Feedstocks, pre-processing and safety; [2] Conversion; [3] Utilisation, emissions and impact; [4] Sustainability and Whole systems. Theme 1 will link feedstocks to conversion options, and Themes 2 and 3 include the core underpinning science and engineering research, together with innovation and application. Theme 4 will underpin this with a thorough understanding of the whole energy system including sustainability, social, economic public and political issues, drawing on world-leading research centres at Leeds. The unique training provision proposed, together with the multidisciplinary supervisory team will ensure that students are equipped to become future leaders, and responsible innovators in the bioenergy sector.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 98.72K | Year: 2016

Blue Opportunities from the Future is a collaborative project co-designed between the University of East Anglia, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Norfolk and Suffolk Coastal Councils, the Environment Agency, Orbis Energy and the RSPB. The project is driven by a desire to make better use of NERC funded research in coastal and marine environments to drive innovation and forward thinking in the delivery of future sustainable management and economic growth. East Anglia is already a centre for delivering advances in this area through its research organisations, forward-thinking local authorities, active wildlife conservation organisations and the Green Economy Pathfinder initiative of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. This project provides a timely opportunity to broaden regional good practice by taking a more marine-facing view. In the East Anglian region there is growing interest among the institutions involved in planning for the coast and marine sectors in taking a more integrated and opportunity-focused look at the long-term future of our environment. This is driven by a recognition of inevitable on-going coastal change and the potential for significant future changes, for example due to global warming and rising sea level. There is a need to think creatively, adaptively and in an inclusive manner, and to consider future change as an opportunity to do better. By connecting the coastal and offshore zones, and working from a bespoke set of 100 year futures scenarios, this project takes a novel and positive approach to thinking about the future of coastal and marine environments in an integrated way. We will undertake an innovative futures analysis to 2115 to explore the potential future opportunities, spanning land and sea, for East Anglias Blue economy. We will co-create a Blue Futures toolkit of methods and associated knowledge base with which project partners can go on to develop a Blue pathfinder for the region to help drive sustainable blue economic growth. This will provide an exemplar approach that will be disseminated to end-users in other regions in the UK, EU and worldwide. The project will draw upon many aspects of the extensive portfolio of NERC funded and related work at UEA, Cefas, partner organisations and beyond, from ecosystem service valuations (natural capital), to marine biogeochemistry. UEA is well placed to deliver novel creative thinking on future opportunities for sustainable growth, with extensive experience of research into the long-term sustainable futures of complex environments and the impacts of environmental change on economies and society. Integration of our partner groups within the project ensures our work is targeted appropriately and beneficially to maximise utility for the development of sustainable management by local and national bodies throughout the UK and beyond.


Gurney M.,RSPB
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society | Year: 2015

Estimating extinction and colonisation rates for most species is difficult. Only small groups of species are sufficiently well known for us to tell when new species have arrived or when species have become extinct. Often we cannot distinguish between new natural arrivals, overlooked residents, and new introductions. Extinction levels since 1900 vary between different groups from 7.4% of species in bumblebees to 0.0% in Orthoptera and allies, but these extremes are from small samples. In most groups, between 0.5 and 3.0% of species have been lost since 1900. Among the 7420 species I have assessed, 1.70% have arrived as natives since 1900. Unsurprisingly, there is a big difference between groups that contain many species that are able to fly (2.64% species are colonists) and those groups that are less mobile (0.18%). Numbers of natural colonists and extinct species since 1900 are roughly equal, but we should not see the colonisers as balancing out or replacing the extinctions because the species in each set are from different groups and are likely to have different roles. © 2015 The Linnean Society of London.


Pearce-Higgins J.W.,RSPB
Climate Research | Year: 2010

High-latitude species are predicted to be vulnerable to climate change, particularly in the UK uplands, where many are at the margins of their southern range. There is increasing evidence that climate change may have an impact on populations through reductions in prey abundance. The diet of 17 insectivorous UK upland birds, and the sensitivity of their prey to likely climate change, were quantified from the literature and combined to produce an index of climate-change sensitivity for upland birds. Coleoptera and Diptera were the 2 most important prey taxa, with Tipulidae the most widely ingested prey family. Lepidoptera, Lumbricidae and Hymenoptera also comprised >20% of the diet of at least one upland bird species. Of these prey taxa, existing studies suggest that Tipulidae, Chironomidae and Lumbridicae may be particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures and increased frequency of drought projected to result from climate change. Therefore, the contribution of these 3 taxa to the diets of upland birds provides an index of climate-change sensitivity, which was correlated with an index of recent upland bird population trends. Future increases in temperature and drought frequency are expected to have an impact on populations of a range of upland bird species through reductions in prey availability, although further studies are required to test this hypothesis. Many upland areas have been artificially drained using ditches. Blocking these ditches may therefore provide a potential management option for climate-change adaptation in the UK uplands. © Inter-Research 2010.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 16.79K | Year: 2012

Please refer to Lead Research Organisation Application

Loading RSPB collaborators
Loading RSPB collaborators