Thursday, 27 December 2012
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
http://mg.co.za/article/2012-12-26-saving-the-rhino-with-us-military-drones). Record numbers of rhinos have been killed this year for their horns. In Chinese medicine, this compacted hair is viewed as a cure (when powdered) for a number of conditions including fever (the aphrodisiac claim is not taken so seriously) and brings a very high price. The reserve would have to obtain permissions to fly the drones in South African airspace and I suspect (and hope) they would not be fitted with missiles. It is interesting that military pieces of kit can sometimes play a role in conservation.
Tuesday, 18 December 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/17/scottish-salmon-fishing?INTCMP=SRCH) that a company called Fishfrom is considering farming Scottish salmon in large, hanger-like constructions divorced from direct contact with the sea. The fish would be reared on cultivated Ragworm and, it is claimed, the technique could avoid many of the current problems of salmon fish pens (Sea lice infections, interrring with wild salmon viability, decimation of certain salmon food species etc). The 'fish factories' would recycle most of their water and use a combination of solar and hydro-electric power. It is claimed that many of the up-market UK retailers would be attracted to its product. I suspect that this might well be the shape of things to come but I wonder what hidden problems might arise in the future? Cultivating Ragworm and Salmon at high densities always seem to attract difficulties. Fish welfare is likely to be easier to monitor in such a system.
Saturday, 15 December 2012
http://www.virgingalactic.com/) and the UK Government is encouraging extracting gas from oil shales by 'fracking' (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/687dfe58-4508-11e2-858f-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2F8pXZcXA) don't seem exactly supportive of limiting 'green-house gas' emissions? It does seem strange that commerce can always trump environmental concerns.
Saturday, 8 December 2012
Friday, 7 December 2012
http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/duchess-of-cambridge-leaves-king-edward-1475838) as 'acute morning sickness'. Medically, however, acute means 'short lasting' (it's the opposite of chronic or 'long lasting'). They obviously mean't 'severe' and did correct it in later bulletins.
Sunday, 2 December 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/02/diy-plumbing-fouls-rivers). A failure to understand the pipework apparently sometimes leads to thousands of houses (said to be 3000+ in a specified period in the Thames Valley area) discharging raw sewage and the soapy contents from washing machines into rivers (such as the Chess). This can result in eutrophication, death of a range of invertebrates (often important prey species for other animals), exposure of aquatic organisms to sex-change associated chemicals (e.g. contraceptive pill metabolites) and losses of fish species (to the horror of anglers). It is, of course, not impossible that some 'cowboy builders' might achieve precisely the same outcome. Perhaps we need more regular checking of these discharges? One thing is certain namely that buildings can challenge the health of nearby waterways.
http://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/). I can see the approach being useful in a small, relatively homogeneous community that largely makes its way by carefully controlled ecotourism but suspect that the approach would be more difficult in much larger, diverse countries where there likely to be much more variation in what people want (or think they want) to engender happiness. Some of Bhutan's thinking (albeit less defined) does seem to 'spill across' its border into neighbouring Sikkim.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/nov/27/housebuilding-needs-more-open-land?INTCMP=SRCH). There is no doubt that provision of affordable housing in pleasant surroundings is likely to be a vote winner but it might be worth considering whether this would really help the situation. How many people would have the flexibility to take up residence in semi-rural locations (recognising that home working is only an option for certain types of employment)? Some people would argue that the UK actually has too few greenish areas as it stands. The UK obsession with detached houses with gardens is not even replicated in our near neighbours in Europe! It is also pretty evident that we don't always use our existing housing stock very efficiently (some is unoccupied and some under occupied). If it is true that city centre shops are largely doomed to be replaced by out of town shopping malls, there may be more scope for creating new housing on these brown field sites. Perhaps some further thought on the topic is required?
Friday, 30 November 2012
Tuesday, 20 November 2012
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2235329/Chimpanzees-orang-utans-suffer-mid-life-crises-New-research-claims-ape-cousins-happiness-dips-middle-age.html?ito=feeds-newsxml). It is a bit difficult to work out why these animals would show the human equivalent of the mid-life crisis (chasing young women and buying a sport's car?) but it could simply reflect the fact that more male apes reach mid and old age in zoos than is the case in the wild. I suspect that the age profile of these animals in nature and in zoos is very different. Breeding is often very restricted. Another difference, is that it is impossible for zoo-based animals to leave their group even for limited periods.
Monday, 19 November 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/19/uk-breeding-bird-population-decline?INTCMP=SRCH). House sparrows, Wrens, Willow tits and Arctic skuas have all shown big declines but some species, including the Chaffinch, have increased breeding activities. The results are not particularly unexpected as there have been big changes over these 40+ years in the UK human population, agricultural practises, urbanisation, pet keeping, gardening practises (including converting land to car parking), waste disposal, increased survival (by eating human waste) of crow family members (with propensities for eating the eggs and chicks of 'song' birds) over winter periods, possible climate change impacts on seasonality of fruits and insects etc etc, Chaffinches may have partly benefited by their efficient utilisation of bird feeders (an option not available to all species). I suspect that the reasons for declines in different species will vary but the basic trend is for a further impoverishment of the UK biodiversity.
Friday, 16 November 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/15/shale-energy-implications-geopolitics-america?INTCMP=SRCH). It would, of course, be beneficial to cut out the impact of political vagaries in 'difficult' parts of the world on availability and prices as well as negating the environmental and fiscal costs of transporting the hydrocarbons. Having said that, much of the proposed independence is linked to a proposed dramatic increase in the fracking of oil shale deposits in the country. Even if this extraction causes no environmental problems (perhaps a big ask), there are claims that increasing dependence on this technology will increase the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere over and above that that would be generated by using traditional hydrocarbon products. I certainly think that oil and gas independence is a benefit that has to be balanced against not making climate change more likely.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/15/ecuador-poison-galapagos-islands-rats?INTCMP=SRCH). The hope is to eradicate rats (inadvertently introduced by sailors in earlier times) that are decimating island populations of endemic reptiles and birds. Hawks and Iguanas have been temporarily re-located for the duration. It's amazing how frequently conservation efforts boil down to pest (as defined by humans) eradication! The prognosis is not particularly good as the participants note that, if even one pregnant female survives, the whole process will have to be repeated again and again.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/15/gm-trees-bred-world-energy?INTCMP=SRCH). The company reportedly suggest that countries with good growing conditions for the trees, in terms of climate and soil, could benefit economically. Brazil might be an obvious contender. Although the trees might help to reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide when growing, it sounds as if their use is likely to put a lot of the greenhouse gas back. It should be noted that monocultures of plants (crops) are typically more prone to disease (although I suspect that the claim will be made that resistance can be rapidly engineered) than mixed assemblages. An area of concern is the obvious fact that areas of varied forest would have to be removed to make way for the GM planting. This would remove not only plant species but any the animal species associated with them, with obvious effects on biodiversity. I confidently predict that the GM Eucalyptus forests will not feature populations of Koalas!
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2012/45/richard-hammonds-miracles-of-nature.html). One is 'why is petrol-head Richard Hammond aka 'hamster' being given responsibility for such a programme, knowing as little as he does about the natural world?' The other is that 'It is nice to see an engineering enthusiast being turned on by the extraordinary abilities developed in animals by evolutionary processes'. I expected to belong to the first group but find myself liking the scenarios developed in the programme and their potential for changing attitudes. The hamster is amusing and shows fear and wonder in appropriate amounts. I particularly enjoyed programme 2 ('Super-Senses) as it featured one of my former Masters students, Kate Evans (http://www.elephantsforafrica.org/kate-evans.html), showing Hammond that African elephants have the potential to communicate using infra-sound over long distances through rocks (although the mining application was a bit contrived).
Monday, 12 November 2012
Sunday, 4 November 2012
Friday, 2 November 2012
Thursday, 1 November 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/31/biosecurity-nature-hurricane-sandy-ash?INTCMP=SRCH). Biosecurity seems very weak in the UK with fungal infections of other trees including the Horse chestnut, Processionary moth caterpillars decimating oak trees in the SE and long-horn beetles arriving from China in wood packaging around imported stones. It has even been noted that it is highly likely that the replanting of native trees from UK seeds can involve their transport to the Netherlands where they are grown up before being repatriated. It is pretty obvious that there is much scope for improving the biosecurity of our native habitats.
Thursday, 25 October 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/24/ash-dieback-disease-east-anglia?INTCMP=SRCH). The Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is a common stand alone tree and can be a major component of hedgerows. The fungus can easily spread tens of kilometres as spores on the wind. Although the fungus has been recorded in the UK previously, it has, thus far, been limited to garden centres and imported trees (now banned) and its eradication has been relatively easy. Now it's into wild populations, the spread of the disease will be almost impossible to contain. A substantial proportion of the Ash in Danish forests has already disappeared.
Friday, 19 October 2012
Thursday, 11 October 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/10/un-rising-food-costs-weather?INTCMP=SRCH). Then, on top of that, some grain is diverted to make biodiesel.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/16/wildlife-apocalyptic-summer-damp-weather?INTCMP=SRCH) but butterflies and moths are in a spiral of serious decline.
Monday, 8 October 2012
Friday, 5 October 2012
Sunday, 30 September 2012
Sunday, 23 September 2012
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