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:  Feedstocks, pre-processing and safety;  Conversion;  Utilisation, emissions and impact;  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.
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.
News Article | February 7, 2017
Climate change is already wrecking some of Britain’s most significant sites, from Wordsworth’s gardens in Cumbria to the white cliffs on England’s south coast, according to a new report. Floods and erosion are damaging historic places, while warmer temperatures are seeing salmon vanishing from famous rivers and birds no longer visiting important wetlands. The report was produced by climate experts at Leeds University and the Climate Coalition, a group of 130 organisations including the RSPB, National Trust, WWF and the Women’s Institute. “Climate change often seems like a distant existential threat [but] this report shows it is already impacting upon some of our most treasured and special places around the UK,” said Prof Piers Forster of Leeds University. “It is clear our winters are generally getting warmer and wetter, storms are increasing in intensity and rainfall is becoming heavier. Climate change is not only coming home – it has arrived,” Forster said. It is also already affecting everyday places such as churches, sports grounds, farms and beaches, he said. Wordsworth House and Garden in Cockermouth, where the romantic poet William Wordsworth was born in 1770 and learned his love of nature, was seriously damaged by two recent flooding events linked to a changing climate. In November 2009, torrential rain caused £500,000 of damage, sweeping away gates and walls that had survived since the 1690s. Floods inundated the site again during Storm Desmond in December 2015. “When I saw the damage the floods had caused in 2009 I was shocked and it took almost three years to repair the garden,” said the house’s head gardener, Amanda Thackeray. “Then after all that hard work to see the devastation from flooding in 2015 was very upsetting.” A century-long record shows the UK is experiencing more intense heavy rainfall during winter. Researchers can also use climate models to reveal the influence of global warming on some extreme events and have found the UK’s record December rainfall in 2015 was made 50-75% more likely by climate change. Another study found Storm Desmond was 40% more likely to have occurred because of the human activities that release greenhouse gases, such as burning fossil fuels. Birling Gap is part of the world famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs on England’s south coast and over the last 50 years, about 67cm of cliff is eroded each year. But during the winter storms of 2013-2014, the equivalent of seven years of erosion occurred in just two months. “The succession of storms provided a stark warning that coastal ‘defence’ as the only response to managing coastal change looks increasingly less plausible,” said Phil Dyke, coastal adviser at the National Trust. “We must learn how to adapt.” Existing buildings at Birling Gap are being lost and new buildings will be designed to be easier to move back as the cliff disappears. Scientists know that climate change is driving up sea levels and increasing the likelihood of more intense storms, meaning the rate of erosion is likely to rise. Rising temperatures are also affecting wildlife, including in the famous salmon rivers, the Wye and Usk, where otters and kingfishers also live. December is peak spawning time for salmon in Wales, but recent winters have been exceptionally warm. “After eliminating other potential causes such as disease and lack of adults, we have come to the conclusion that the exceptionally high water temperatures of November and December 2016 are the reason for the disastrous salmon fry numbers this year,” said Simon Evans, chief executive of the Wye & Usk Foundation. 2015 was little better, with young salmon found at just 17 sites out of 142, when they usually would be expected at 108 areas. Research has shown salmon populations across the Wye catchment fell by 50% from 1985-2004, despite cuts in water pollution. But stream temperatures have risen by up to 1C in that time, leaving researchers to conclude that climate change is a key factor in plummeting salmon numbers. Slimbridge wetlands in Gloucestershire is one of the UK’s most important bird sites, hosting 200 species from all over the world, but is also seeing changes as the climate warms. Numbers of migratory white-fronted geese have fallen by 98% in the last 30 years due to warmer weather further north. Geoff Hilton, at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust said the shrinking flocks could have knock-on effects on the wetland habitat: “These are quite big changes ecologically. If you suddenly lose thousands of geese from a wetland, there are bound to be big effects on that wetland.” Warmer conditions have also meant water primrose, an alien invader to the UK, has grown aggressively in wide, dense mats and is seriously damaging native plants and fish. However, warmer winters have seen little egret numbers visiting Slimbridge increasing from just eight in the 1990s to 30 in 2013. Other sites being ruined by climate change, according to the new report, include a famous riverside pub on Manchester’s river Irwell, the Mark Addy, which has not re-opened after the 2015 winter floods and the historic clubhouse at Corbridge cricket club in Northumberland, now demolished after the same floods. The report also warns that the 5,000-year-old neolithic village at Skara Brae on Orkney, revealed after a great storm in 1850 stripped away grass and sand, could be destroyed in future as violent storms become more common.
News Article | September 15, 2016
The UK is to ban commercial fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean around British overseas territories, the government said on Thursday. In total, the government is creating marine protected areas around four islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, including the designation this week of one of the world’s biggest around the Pitcairn Islands. A 840,000 sq km (320,000 sq mile) area around Pitcairn, where the mutineers of the Bounty settled, becomes a no-take zone for any fishing from this week. St Helena, around 445,000 sq km of the south Atlantic ocean and home to whale sharks and humpbacks, is now also designated as a protected area. The foreign office said it would designate two further marine protection zones, one each around two south Altantic islands – Ascension by 2019 and Tristan da Cunha by 2020. Sir Alan Duncan, minister of state for Europe and the Americas, said: “Protecting 4m sq km of ocean is a fantastic achievement, converting our historic legacy into modern environmental success.” Commercial fishing will be banned in all of Pitcairn’s zone – excepting ‘sustainable’ local fishing – and half of the 445,390 sq km Ascension protected area. Fishing will be allowed in the other areas, but activities such as oil drilling will be prohibited. Conservationists welcomed the new protections. “By protecting the vast array of marine life within these rich waters, the United Kingdom has solidified its position as a leader in ocean conservation,” said Joshua S Reichert, of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is working with the UK on technology to monitor the Pitcairn area. Jonathan Hall, the RSPB’s head of UK Overseas Territories, said: “This is simply enormous and shows world-leading vision.” The UK announcement, at the Our Oceans summit in Washington, came as the White House said the US would ban fishing in a 5,000 sq km area in the Altantic, known as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine national monument. That followed Barack Obama’s expansion last month of the Papahānaumokuākea monument off Hawaii. In his speech at the Washington conference, Duncan quipped: “this was going to have been my big moment, because until last week the Pitcairn MPA would have been the largest in the world. But President Obama sort of rather blew that out of the water by announcing an even bigger MPA in Hawaii – trust the Yanks to indulge in a bit of one-upmanship over us poor Brits. “But we’re happy as our loss is the world’s gain and we congratulate the United States.” This week, scientists warned that humanity is driving an unprecedented extinction of the largest marine creatures that could affect ocean ecology for millions of years. Experts said the large range required for such creatures meant large-scale marine protected areas would be a key part of addressing the problem.
News Article | February 28, 2017
Legal challenges to government air pollution standards or to the expansion of Heathrow airport have become too risky financially to pursue under new court regulations, environmental groups are warning. Changes to cost protection orders brought in by the Ministry of Justice from Tuesday will expose campaign groups to prohibitive costs running into potentially millions of pounds, and deter them from bringing important cases, it is claimed. In an attempt to overturn the MoJ rules, ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB have launched a judicial review challenge of the decision by the justice secretary, Liz Truss, to introduce the restrictions. The case will be heard in the coming months. The environmental organisations say that they will face significantly larger liabilities and that judges will be able to increase the costs cap at any stage, making it impossible to know how much money a case will incur from the start. “Charities and NGOs are the main way people can mount an effective challenge to government decisions,” said ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB in a joint statement. “We represent lots of concerned individuals who have chosen to pool their resources with us so we can defend nature on their behalf. We are an alliance of thousands of individual citizens who would otherwise lack the means and resources to take an issue to court. Access to justice, on equal terms, is everyone’s right.” Last week, the House of Lords statutory instruments committee, which reviewed the rules, concluded: “Although the MoJ states that its policy intention is to introduce greater certainty into the regime, the strongly negative response to consultation and the submission received indicate the reverse outcome and that, as a result of the increased uncertainty introduced by these changes, people with a genuine complaint will be discouraged from pursuing it in the courts.” ClientEarth said, that under the new protective cost cap regime, it would not have been able to bring its successful challenge against the UK government over air pollution. Under the old rules the costs for anyone losing an environmental challenge were capped at £5,000 for individuals and £10,000 in all other cases. Under the new rules claimants will have to provide the court with detailed information about their personal finances when applying for judicial review. That information on finances, it is said, can be used by the court or the defendant to argue that the costs cap can be raised, or even removed altogether, at any stage in the proceedings. This, according to ClientEarth, makes it impossible for people to know how much a case will cost from the start and could force them to withdraw proceedings – but not before being exposed to very high costs. The cost changes have been criticised by a UN committee, charged with reviewing access to the courts in the UK, in a report released last week which said the government was not yet meeting its legal obligations on access to justice under the Aarhus convention. An MoJ spokesperson said: “The cost of bringing environmental challenges must not be prohibitively expensive, and our changes will ensure that individuals are not expected to pay legal costs above their means. Legal aid remains available for these cases.”
News Article | February 6, 2017
The plight of the hedgehog in Britain appears to be worsening, with a new survey revealing a further decline in garden sightings. The spiky creature was once a common sight, with the population estimated at 30 million in the 1950s. But that has plummeted to fewer than one million today, with a third of this loss thought to have taken place in the past decade. The latest survey, conducted with more than 2,600 people by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, found that 51% of people did not see a hedgehog at all in 2016, up from 48% in 2015. Just 12% saw a hedgehog regularly. The poll’s result is in line with an in-depth analysis in 2015 by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species which found urban populations of hedgehogs had fallen by up to a third since 2000 and rural populations had declined by at least a half. Results from a citizen science survey run by the RSPB in June 2016 also revealed a falling number of sightings. The decline is not entirely understood but the main factors are thought to be the loss of their habitat in Britain’s towns and countryside – where farming has intensified – as well as road deaths. The fragmentation of habitat is also a problem as hedgehogs roam up to a mile every night to look for food and mates. A possible rise in badger numbers, which can eat hedgehogs, has also been suggested as a possible cause. However the new survey did find that almost two-thirds of the people surveyed had done something to protect hedgehogs in the last year, with 36% avoiding the use of slug pellets, 34% leaving the twigs and leaves that provide shelter and more than 20% checking for hedgehogs before strimming or lighting bonfires. “Gardeners are increasingly acting to help wildlife, but the question is can we do it fast enough to halt this sharp decline in numbers?” said Lucy Hall, editor of BBC Gardeners’ World. Gardens cover an estimated 10m acres of the UK and Hall said: “Our message to all garden owners is to see your outdoor space as a small-scale nature reserve – part of a network of gardens that link to make a great big, valuable habitat. Seen like this, every small step you can make to help wildlife really does make a big difference when we all act together.” The survey also recorded falls in sightings of bumblebees, foxes and owls but a rise in the number of ladybirds spotted
News Article | February 28, 2017
New rules have come into force which could dramatically reduce the ability of individuals and non-governmental organisations to bring legal challenges to protect the environment. The government is scrapping automatic "cost caps" which limit the costs of losing a case in England and Wales. Opponents claim the changes will make it "impossible" to "hold the government to account". But the government says people will not be expected to pay above their means. The caps currently stand at £5,000 for an individual and £10,000 for an organisation. The normal "loser pays rule" means that successful claimants can claim their legal costs back from the defendant. But if they lose, they have to pay both their own legal costs, and those of the winning side. Under the changes, any person or organisation wanting to bring a judicial review in environmental cases will not automatically receive the protection of a '"cost cap" if they lose. That could mean individuals having to sell a house. ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB are challenging the rule change in the courts, arguing those bringing such cases would be exposed to huge and uncertain financial risk. The "cost caps" came in in 2013 in part due to the international Aarhus Convention, which was ratified by the government in 2005. It requires contracting parties to ensure that legal action to protect the environment is "fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive". This recognises that the environment cannot protect itself and that there is a public interest in people and groups bringing legal actions to protect it. Before the caps, the cost of bringing cases could be huge. In one, concerning the construction of a funicular railway up Cairngorm Mountain in Scotland, WWF was ordered to pay the government's legal costs of over £200,000 on losing. In another, local resident Lilian Pallikaropoulos faced a costs bill of just under £90,000 after losing her challenge against the legality of a large cement works near her home in Rugby, Warwickshire. Under the new rules, the court can look at the financial resources of a claimant and discard the automatic cost cap. This could involve an assessment of how much their house is worth and whether they should be forced to sell it if they lose. It is estimated that some 40,000 people in the UK die prematurely each year because of air pollution. The group ClientEarth has brought successful legal challenges against the government's failure to meet EU targets on air pollution. Its chief executive James Thornton said: "By removing cost caps and allowing personal finances to be publicly examined, it creates a huge deterrent for those who would use law to defend people's health and the natural world. "With unlimited legal costs, it will be virtually impossible to bring a public interest case and hold the government to account. "This is especially true after a hard Brexit - which looks increasingly likely - when the EU won't be able to punish UK law breaking." Campaigners say the UK's public interest cost rules are already more punitive than the US, China, and any other country in the EU. They claim environmental public interest cases made up less than 1% of all judicial reviews from 2013 to 2015, and that they achieve twelve times the success rate of other judicial reviews. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The cost of bringing environmental challenges must not be prohibitively expensive and our changes will ensure that individuals are not expected to pay legal costs above their means. Legal aid remains available for these cases". But last week, a House of Lords committee concluded that "people with a genuine complaint will be discouraged from pursuing it in the courts".
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.
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.
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 16.79K | Year: 2012
Please refer to Lead Research Organisation Application