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    UN Report

    Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented' and Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’

    UN

    “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


    COAL

    What’s wrong with coal?

    ClientEarth

    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

    Climate change is pushing wildlife ‘out of sync’

    CEH

    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

    Road verges really matter

    Plantlife

    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


    WEEDKILLER

    What is glyphosate and is it dangerous?

    BBC

    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


    AIR QUALITY

    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

    Soil Association

    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

    RSPB

    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

    RenewableUK

    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


    BUTTERFLIES

    A major new Pilot Project will monitor population trends of butterflies to assess the health of the environment

    Butterfly Conservation

    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


    Help wildlife

    Record sightings of Britain’s ‘Big Five’ (and others) this spring

    PTES

    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

    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


    CLIMATE STRIKE

    Schoolchildren protest about Climate Change

    BBC

    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

    The Guardian

    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

    BTO

    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


    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

    Sky News

    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


    CLIMATE CHANGE

    Machynlleth declares 'climate emergency'

    BBC Wales

    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

    PTES

    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


    WHALING

    Japan to leave the IWC

    The Guardian

    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


    CARBON STORAGE

    £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


    GLACIAL MELT

    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 Independent

    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

    The Independent

    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


    CLIMATE CHANGE

    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

    Badger cull under way in England for sixth year

    Farmers Weekly

    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

    PTES/Nature

    + 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: ac@firebirdpr.co.uk.

    Uploaded: 08 September 2018


    LANDMARK RULING ON GLYPHOSATE

    US lawsuit is dramatic blow to Monsanto

    Soil Association

    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

    • Consultation:Evidence

    • GLOBAL POLLUTION

      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

      National Geographic

      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

      RSPB

      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".


      Neonicotinoid Update

      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.