News Article | March 2, 2017
The government's long-delayed 25-year plan for improving nature in England should be published immediately, MPs have said in a letter to the Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom. They asked her to explain why the strategy due in 2016 is still not out. They say it's essential that ministers have agreed and published a clear plan before negotiations on Brexit begin. The government promised in its manifesto that it would leave nature in a better state than it was inherited. The all-encompassing masterplan aims to set out a policy framework for air, freshwater, marine, wildlife, soils, flooding, forests, and even the urban environment. Environment charities which have been briefed on the plan say it is appropriately ambitious in some respects - but they, too, want to see it in black and white. The plan was originally due to be published in summer last year. I understand that the document has been signed off by the Prime Minister but has been delayed for weeks, waiting for the ideal time to publish. The letter of complaint to government has been signed by all the members of the Environment Audit Committee, which involves Conservative, Labour and Green MPs. The Lib Dems told BBC News they supported the demand. Their letter says: "We welcome this important step by the government to take a longer-term approach to protecting our environment. However, we are disappointed by the continuing delays in publication of the framework. "First, the framework (of the plan) was delayed from summer last year to the autumn following the referendum. We are now in March, the framework has still not been published and there is no indication of when it will be." The letter accepts that Defra has been under strain from preparations to leave the EU, on top of budget cuts. But it says: "The Plan should be published and consulted on before Article 50 is triggered, so as to inform the government's negotiating position. "This seems unlikely, raising the prospect of the government entering crucial and time-limited negotiations with the EU without an agreed plan. It is essential that the 25-year plan is not delayed further." Members are particularly concerned about post-Brexit policy on farming, which will have a huge impact on wildlife, water and air pollution, soil loss and flooding. They want assurances that when the UK is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Commission and the European courts, the government will still be able to be held to account if it fails with its environmental promises The government is preparing a separate but related plan for post-Brexit farming. I understand this is also finished and approved but awaiting a "suitable" publication date. Peter Morris from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust told BBC News: "We're hoping for a legally-binding plan, with milestones for a healthy environment, the money to invest in our natural world, and clear monitoring to make sure it succeeds. This should be backed up with a commitment for a new Environment Act to establish the plan in law." A spokesman for the government told BBC News it would publish both plans as soon as possible. The government wants to leave Nature in a better state: here's three examples of how that can be done. Carbon stores: Peat bogs are good for wildlife and flood prevention - and for storing carbon (they store 10 times as much as England's forests, say the Wildlife Trusts). Yet 80% of the UK's bogs are damaged or lost. On the western edge of Salford, conservationists are cultivating sphagnum moss in polytunnels to re-colonise the devastated landscape. Suffolk hedgerows: Hedges are a rich habitat and a haven for pollinators but over 100,000 km are estimated to have been lost between 1984 and 1990 alone. In Suffolk one farmer, Steve Honeywood, has seen bird numbers treble and species increase from 60 to nearly 90 by measures including pruning just one edge of his hedges each year and leaving two uncut edges for wildlife. He's now planting elm hedges to support the elusive white-letter hairstreak butterfly. Urban wildlife: In South London, locals are working to create green areas along the catchment of the lost River Effra, which was turned into a closed sewer in Victorian times. By smashing up concrete and tarmac they want to extend flood resilience and improve neighbourhoods for people and wildlife. The government wants to extend people's contact with nature.
News Article | December 16, 2016
New research has tracked public interest in conservation over time, and found sudden spikes in interest linked to media coverage and seasonal events. Peaks in interest in certain animals - such as when a species appears on TV programmes like the BBC's Planet Earth II - could be harnessed to aid protection efforts, the researchers say. "Using these methods is relatively cheap and they produce huge sample sizes to tell us what people think about conservation," said lead author Andrea Soriano-Redondo, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall. "Up until now people have relied on surveys, which are extremely useful but very expensive, take a long time and usually have relatively small sample sizes." The research, by the University of Exeter, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, is published in the journal Biological Conservation. Ms Soriano-Redondo, a PhD student, noted spikes in interest in cranes after a media release in August 2015 that detailed the first successful breeding of Eurasian cranes in south-west England in over 400 years - but she said the level of interest went "back to the baseline" soon afterwards. The same happened for sloths and iguanas after they appeared on Planet Earth II. "The challenge is to make the most of these surges and keep that going after the initial peak," she said. "At the moment the power of this public interest isn't being used to its full potential to promote conservation." The study noted peaks in interest in bird species such as red kites and cranes when each species was nesting. The researchers used both offsite tools (such as Google Trends) and onsite tools (such as Google Analytics) to monitor public interest in conservation. Ms Soriano-Redondo's PhD studies are part of the Great Crane Project, which has reintroduced cranes to the South West in order to restore a healthy population of wild cranes in the UK.
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 | December 16, 2016
Businesses routinely use internet data to learn about customers and increase profits - and similar techniques could be used to boost conservation. New research has tracked public interest in conservation over time, and found sudden spikes in interest linked to media coverage and seasonal events. Peaks in interest in certain animals - such as when a species appears on TV programmes like the BBC's Planet Earth II - could be harnessed to aid protection efforts, the researchers say. "Using these methods is relatively cheap and they produce huge sample sizes to tell us what people think about conservation," said lead author Andrea Soriano-Redondo, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall. "Up until now people have relied on surveys, which are extremely useful but very expensive, take a long time and usually have relatively small sample sizes." The research, by the University of Exeter, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, is published in the journal Biological Conservation. Ms Soriano-Redondo, a PhD student, noted spikes in interest in cranes after a media release in August 2015 that detailed the first successful breeding of Eurasian cranes in south-west England in over 400 years - but she said the level of interest went "back to the baseline" soon afterwards. The same happened for sloths and iguanas after they appeared on Planet Earth II. "The challenge is to make the most of these surges and keep that going after the initial peak," she said. "At the moment the power of this public interest isn't being used to its full potential to promote conservation." The study noted peaks in interest in bird species such as red kites and cranes when each species was nesting. The researchers used both offsite tools (such as Google Trends) and onsite tools (such as Google Analytics) to monitor public interest in conservation. Ms Soriano-Redondo's PhD studies are part of the Great Crane Project, which has reintroduced cranes to the South West in order to restore a healthy population of wild cranes in the UK.
King R.,Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust |
Fox A.D.,University of Aarhus
Bird Study | Year: 2012
Capsule Female Gadwall Anas strepera and male Wigeon A. penelope lost about 18% of body mass during flightless wing moult at Abberton Reservoir, southeast England - slightly greater than that recorded for other dabbling ducks but less than among Pochard Aythya ferina at the same site. Results, while consistent with the moult stress hypothesis, also support the hypothesis that dabbling ducks deplete accumulated fat stores to enable exploitation of moulting habitats that are safe from predators, but which do not enable these ducks to balance their energy budgets during the flightless period. © 2012 British Trust for Ornithology.
Hilton G.M.,Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust |
Cuthbert R.J.,Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Ibis | Year: 2010
The UK has sovereignty over 16 Overseas Territories, which hold some of the world's great seabird colonies and collectively support more endemic and globally threatened bird species than the whole of mainland Europe. Invasive alien mammalian predators have spread throughout most of the Territories, primarily since European expansion in the 16th century. Here we review and synthesize the scale of their impacts, historical and current, actions to reduce and reverse these impacts, and priorities for conservation. Mammalian predators have caused a catastrophic wave of extinctions and reductions in seabird colony size that mark the UKOTs as a major centre of global extinction. Mammal-induced declines of threatened endemics and seabird colonies continue, with four Critically Endangered endemics on Gough Island (Tristan da Cunha), St Helena and Montserrat directly threatened by invasive alien House Mice Mus musculus, Feral Cats Felis catus and rats Rattus spp. Action to reduce these threats and restore islands has been modest in comparison with other developed countries, although some notable successes have occurred and a large number of ambitious eradication and conservation plans are in preparation. Priority islands for conservation action against mammalian predators include Gough (which according to one published prioritization scheme is the highest-ranked island in the world for mammal eradication), St Helena and Montserrat, but also on Tristan da Cunha, Pitcairn and the Falkland Islands. Technical, financial and political will is required to push forward and fund the eradication of invasive mammalian predators on these islands, which would significantly reduce extinction risk for a number of globally threatened species. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 British Ornithologists' Union.
News Article | November 7, 2016
Almost 70 years ago to the day Peter Scott – son of Antarctic explorer Captain Scott – opened Slimbridge, the first of nine Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) centres across the UK. There are now WWT centres all over the country, with Caerlaverock, in Dumfries, Castle Espie, in Northern Ireland, Welney, in Norfolk and Llanelli in South Wales just some of the better known. We would like to see your pictures and hear your stories if you have visited wetlands in the UK – whether they are part of the WWT network or otherwise. Perhaps you have photographs of rare birds you are proud of or have spotted other wildlife worth getting the camera out for? Do you you live near a wetland, or plan holidays or day trips around visiting them? Maybe you take time out to walk around a wetland in the city, such as the Woodberry Wetlands, recently opened by Sir David Attenborough, or the London Wetland Centre. Share your pictures from visits during all seasons, and tell us a little about them including where they were taken and when, by clicking the blue GuardianWitness buttons on this article or, if they are not appearing on your device by clicking here. We’ll compile an online gallery from some of our favourites. You can also use the Guardian app and search for ‘GuardianWitness assignments’ – if you add it to the homepage you can keep up with all our assignments.
News Article | October 28, 2016
Winter blast on its way as first Siberian swans arrive at Slimbridge The first migrating Siberian swans landed in Britain – heralding the belated arrival of winter. Each year around 300 Bewick swans flock to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Slimbridge, Glos after flying 2,500 from Arctic Russia. This year’s arrival – coinciding with the first cold snap of the season – is the latest for 45 years and more than two weeks later than usual. It traditionally marks the beginning of winter as the birds head to Britain to escape the Arctic weather which follow closely behind them. The first family of two adults and two cygnets touched down at 7.15 on Thursday morning (06/11/14). The adults were identified as regulars Nurton and Nusa who have been coming to the spot for the last five years. Slimbridge swan expert Julia Newth said: “This is the latest arrival date since 1969. “It is no coincidence that their arrival has coincided with a change from the mild temperatures and south-westerly head winds that have dominated in recent weeks. “We are excited to see that the first arrivals are a family because the swans desperately need more cygnets to bolster the dwindling population. “Swan volunteer Steve Heaven quickly identified the adult pair from their distinct bill patterns as regular WWT Slimbridge visitors Nurton and Nusa. “They are familiar with the reserve as they have spent the last five winters here. “Their cygnets have now learnt the migration route from their parents and we are hoping that they will also become regular fixtures here. “At the daily Wild Bird Feeds at WWT Slimbridge we really enjoy pointing out the swan families to visitors as they have such interesting histories and interactions on the lake.” The Bewicks – the smallest and rarest members of the swan family – live in Siberia during the summer. In winter they migrate west – aided by chilling easterly winds – to escape winter temperatures of -25 degrees C. They normally arrive at Slimbridge in a steady stream between October and January. Bewick’s have migrated to Slimbridge every winter for 60 years and adult swans teach their young the route. Their arrival comes after weather experts predicted the harshest winter in 100 years. James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather, said last week: “The worst case and more plausible scenario could bring something on a similar par to the winter of 2009/10. “That was the coldest in 31 years, or an event close to 2010/11 which experienced the coldest December in 100 years.”
Rees E.C.,Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Wildfowl | Year: 2012
This review considers data published on the effects of offshore and onshore windfarms on swans and geese and finds that the information available is patchy. Of 72 swans or geese reported as collision victims at 46 wind farms, most (39 birds) were reported at 23 wind farms in Germany where such data are collated. Post-construction monitoring was undertaken for ≤ 1 year at 67% of 33 sites, making it difficult to test for cumulative effects or annual variation in collision rates. Site use by the birds was measured at only nine of 46 wind farms where collisions by swans and geese were monitored or recorded. Displacement distances of feeding birds at wintering sites ranged from 100-600 m, but preliminary evidence suggested that large-scale displacement also occurs, with fewer swans and geese returning to areas after wind farms were installed. Eight studies of flight behaviour all reported changes in flight-lines for swans or geese initially seen heading towards the turbines, at distances ranging from a few hundred metres to 5 km; 50-100% of individuals/groups avoided entering the area between turbines, but in some cases the sample sizes were small. Key knowledge gaps remain, including whether wind farm installation has a consistently negative effect on the number of birds returning to a wintering area; whether flight avoidance behaviour varies with weather conditions, wind farm size, habituation and the alignment of the turbines; provision of robust avoidance rate measures; and the extent to which serial wind farm development has a cumulative impact on specific swan and goose populations. It is therefore recommended that: 1) post-construction monitoring and dissemination of results be undertaken routinely, 2) the extent to which wind farms cause larger-scale displacement of birds from traditional wintering areas be assessed more rigorously, 3) further detailed studies of flight-lines in the vicinity of wind farms should be undertaken, both during migration and for birds commuting between feeding areas and the roost, to provide a more rigorous assessment of collision and avoidance rates for inclusion in collision risk models, and 4) the combination of collision mortality and habitat loss at all wind farms in the species' range be analysed in determining whether they have a significant effect on the population. © Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.
Green R.E.,University of Cambridge |
Pain D.J.,Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Food and Chemical Toxicology | Year: 2012
We estimate potential risks to human health in the UK from dietary exposure to lead from wild gamebirds killed by shooting. The main source of exposure to lead in Europe is now dietary. We used data on lead concentrations in UK gamebirds, from which gunshot had been removed following cooking to simulate human exposure to lead. We used UK food consumption and lead concentration data to evaluate the number of gamebird meals consumed weekly that would be expected, based upon published studies, to result in changes, over and above those resulting from exposure to lead in the base diet, in intelligence quotient (IQ), Systolic Blood Pressure and chronic kidney disease (CKD) considered in a recent opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to be significant at a population level and also in SAT test scores and in rates of spontaneous abortion. We found the consumption of <1 meal of game a week may be associated with a one point reduction in IQ in children and 1.2-6.5 gamebird meals per week may be associated with the other effects. These results should help to inform the development of appropriate responses to the risks from ingesting lead from ammunition in game in the UK and European Union (EU). © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.