Thursday, 28 March 2013
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/28/rsbp-garden-birdwatch-survey?INTCMP=SRCH) including a 63% fall in House sparrow (Passer domesticus) numbers and an 82% crash in Starling (Sternus vulgaris) populations. Concomittantly, there have been increases in the numbers of Herring gulls (Larus argentatus), Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and Jays (Garrulus glandarius) visiting our gardens. The current cold spell (due to last until the end of April) looks set to produce major changes in bird species seen around our houses.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/27/pesticide-bees-scent-food-neocotinoid?INTCMP=SRCH) has suggested that worker Honey bees (Apis mellifera) and other pollinating insects exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides are slower to learn associations between floral scents and the presence of nectar. In some cases, neurons in their brain stopped firing with 20 minutes of exposure and they became unable to learn at all. This impairment would cause the bees to be of very limited utility to their hive (their efficient foraging is crucial to its survival) and would largely negate the role of the insects in pollination.
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/26/british-butterflies-devastating-wet-summer?INTCMP=SRCH) with populations of species such as the, recently discovered and already rare, Black hairstreak (Satyrium pruni) declining by 98%. More common species such as the Heath fritillary (Melitea athalia) and the Common blue (Polyommatus icarus) have halved their numbers. It is not only the wetness but loss of habitats continues to play a role in the declines of these species. The report notes that there are probably currently fewer butterflies in the British Isles than at any time since the arrival of our species here!
Sunday, 24 March 2013
Monday, 18 March 2013
Friday, 15 March 2013
http://www.swansea.ac.uk/science/news/iolowilliamstolaunchuniversitysnaturetrail.php). Seeing one of the illustrated signs, the following week I was surprised and gratified to find that many of the images used were mine. It's always nice when stuff serves a real educational purpose and counters my wife's suggestion that 'nobody ever looks at your pictures' (mind you, I can understand her irritation with what might seem like an obsession).
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/15/fracking-monster-greens-must-embrace?INTCMP=SRCH). Having said that, others (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/14/environmental-realities-fracking?INTCMP=SRCH) have noted that the process does result in contaminated waters that have to be disposed of (if it can all be collected) and that shale bores to do not produce gas for very long (necessitating repeated bores). I am really not sure that this technology has a place on a relatively small and crowded island.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/14/mexican-monarch-butterfly-numbers?INTCMP=SRCH). This continues a decline noted over 5-6 years. These striking orange and black butterflies have larvae that feed on Milkweed (Asclepias sp) and incorporate the toxins from the plants into their tissues (hence the bright colours) as protection against potential predators. The migrations of these butterflies from Canada and North America to their over-wintering sites is one of the great animal migration spectacles. A report puts their decline largely down to the use of herbicides (farmers are not too keen on Milkweed) and logging in and around the over-wintering sites (even small changes in microclimate are said to influence numbers). It has also been suggested that spells of dry weather can kill the butterfly eggs. It would be interesting to know whether climate change could also disrupt the migration of the insects. Wind direction and strength can alter ability to cover distances. Rain isn't very helpful and the adult butterflies need to refuel on nectar.
Monday, 11 March 2013
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2013/mar/11/antibiotic-drug-resistance?INTCMP=SRCH). It has been pointed out that many new antibiotic resistant strains have been developed in hospitals and elsewhere (aallegedly with some help of patients insisting on being given the drugs even for viral infections and then failing to complete prescribed courses and the use of antibiotics in farming to boost meat production). We appear to have a rather restricted range of types of antibiotics (many developed decades ago) and drug companies seem to be less willing to invest resources in finding new antibiotics as these drugs are only taken sporadically for a short period (so the associated profits are likely to be limited). With the development of bacterial strains that are resistant to currently all available antibiotics, we may effectively return to a pre-antibiotic age when slight injuries and common operations become potentially life-threatening. Ideas on how to boost our range chemical armamentarium are being kicked around.
Sunday, 10 March 2013
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/07/deer-culling-massive-scale-expert?INTCMP=SRCH). This suggestion has resulted in complaints from game keepers that their livelihoods would be put at risk. This is a complex issue. A number of the species on the loose in our woods and gardens are exotic escapees (like Muntjac deer) and 'wild' deer, until recently, were only encouraged for hunting by the aristocracy. In England, Scotland and Wales deer have no real natural predators to keep numbers in check (wolves disappeared some time ago and, in spite of suggestions that they should be 'reintroduced', there seems to be little prospect of this happening). The deer, in their grazing habit, certainly have a powerful impact on vegetation, preventing the formation of mature forests in some locations. I am less worried about their impact on gardens but they are reportedly increasingly finding their way into town and city centres. Deer are also involved in a relatively large number of collisions with cars, resulting in around 450 injuries or even deaths of drivers and passengers p.a. These mammals are also reservoirs of some nasty infections, such as Lyme's disease, passed on by ticks to humans. It is, however, nice to be able to glimpse these elegant beasts. It seems to be true, however, that the UK is over-populated by deer and that some control over numbers is needed. Whether this is best achieved by a mass shoot is somewhat debatable. I am not sure what the gamekeepers are really complaining about. The deer in their locations are not really under their direct control anyhow.
Saturday, 9 March 2013
Friday, 8 March 2013
Monday, 4 March 2013
http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climate/) as 2012 was punctuated by floods and droughts, often in the same areas. The disruption caused havoc to agriculture, transport and tourism. The report suggests that we are likely to experience more extreme weather events in the foreseeable future so there needs to be planning and investment to try to ameliorate the disruptions. I suspect that this will be resisted in some quarters but these seem to be sensible precautions.
Sunday, 3 March 2013
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/mar/02/insects-next-food-source?INTCMP=SRCH). Insects are plentiful, easy and quick to 'grow' (on a wide range of materials) and much less environmentally problematical than cows, sheep, goats et cetera. I know that there is no tradition of eating our caterpillar chums in this country but are they so different from prawns, shrimps and lobsters?
Saturday, 2 March 2013
Friday, 1 March 2013
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/feb/28/brains-rats-connected-share-information?INTCMP=SRCH). It has apparently been possible to see evidence that one rat has modified its behaviour to help its long-distance chum also obtain water. I suppose it's only a matter of time until all teaching will be done this way!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/28/wild-bees-pollinators-crop-yields?INTCMP=SRCH). It seems that many wild insect pollinators of our fruits and crops are also in a spiral of decline in various parts of the world. These losses may be even more serious as their varied methods of feeding appear to spread the pollen to a greater extent than our honeyed friend.
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