Tag: biodiversity loss

Interview: Dr Alex Lees | Provisioning: Killing with Kindness?

Charlie Moores in conversation with Dr Alex Lees, Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology at Manchester Metropolitan University. Recently Alex and Dr Jack Shutt published a paper that was widely reported in the mainstream media titled “Killing with kindness: Does widespread generalised provisioning of wildlife help or hinder biodiversity conservation efforts?” In very simple terms, then, the paper is asking whether providing wildlife with extra resources like food and nesting sites could be having a negative impact on some declining species – which, if you feed your garden birds like I do, is – well, food for thought…

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California | Monarch Butterflies now rarer than Starbucks

We’ve posted several times about the plummeting numbers of Monarch Butterflies. Once an abundant species that wintered in vast numbers in Mexican pine forests (check out nature documentaries from just a decade ago that showed whole trees weighed down with hibernating Monarchs), the two populations (western and eastern, divided by the Rockies) are vanishing in an extinction reminiscent of the Passenger Pigeon or Buffalo. Once such an integral part of the landscape, literally billions of Monarchs were found right across North America. In 2020 the western Monarch was thought to be functionally extinct, and according to recent estimates just 2000 overwintering western Monarchs were counted this year. Eastern Monarchs are headed in the same direction and have declined by more than 80% over the past two decades. Most of us will have seen Monarchs at some point, or seen videos of them shimmering in shards of sunlight. It’s an incredibly depressing thought that if you haven’t and you want to, you really don’t have much time left…

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WCL | DEFRA fails to set target to halt decline of nature

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the government’s plans for the Environment now that we have left the EU and No10 is redrawing itself as wildlife-friendly. Last month, George Eustice, the current Environment Secretary promised a “Net Zero equivalent for nature” through a “legally binding target for species abundance for 2030, aiming to halt the decline of nature”. This ‘promise’ followed an apparently successful campaign for a “State of Nature” target to halt nature’s decline by 2030, which was supported by 70 organisations and over 180,000 people who signed an e-petition. Halting decline seems like a reasonable step to take, doesn’t it? We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis, after all, but apparently that is imposing too many demands on business for Defra, which has slid an amendment into the Bill requiring the ‘slowing’ of decline instead. What does that mean? Slowing to half of what it is now? 99% of what it is now? 1% of what it is now? That doesn’t seem to be clear but ‘slowing’ is one of those ‘kicking the can into the long grass’ phrases, that are pretty much open to interpretation.

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Guest Post: Shrewsbury | ‘The Road to Ruin’

Shropshire Council is planning to spend at least £87 million, plus an unlimited overspend, on a road through the unspoiled countryside near Shrewsbury. The council says that this will reduce congestion in the town centre and thus ‘improve Shrewsbury as a place in which to live, work and invest’. Better Shrewsbury Transport (BeST) is an alliance of local organisations and individuals that have a completely different vision: we are campaigning for urgent investment in active and sustainable modes of transport that are the only effective ways to reduce congestion, poor air quality and road deaths/injuries in the town whilst transforming all our lives for the better. In their campaign against the plan, BeST have now been joined by over 3,000 objections to Shropshire Council, objections from 2 climate change/zero carbon groups in Shropshire and Shrewsbury Town Council. Guest alert by Dorothy Harrison.

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Biodiversity? The UK is losing it fast

We’re often told that we need positive messaging to turn the UK’s biodiversity crisis around. Talk about the good things rather than endlessly focussing on the bad. There are a few positives of course, like the 1026% increase in the Red Kite population between 1995-2014. Pine Martens are recovering and are being seen in counties right across England, Wales, and Scotland. We’ve far more Large Blue butterflies than half a century ago. But then again, Red Kites were almost persecuted to extinction here. Ditto the Pine Marten. The Large Blue was officially declared extinct in 1979. What we’re calling recoveries are numbers building up from almost zero. In the meantime…well, in the meantime a lot more of our wildlife is disappearing fast…

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Big Garden Birdwatch – we’re losing our ‘common’ birds too

Lockdown, we’re told. has helped us appreciate our gardens. Stuck in our homes we have turned to staring longingly out of the window, grateful for glimpses of colour as birds like Greenfinches and Great Tits flit over our fences in a kaleidoscope of feathers…Will that last? It would be wonderful if the UK’s collective focus on the birds that do their best to survive alongside us had become permanent, because it’s not just farmland, upland, woodland and wetland birds that are in trouble – according to the results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch (BGBW), the more or less official national garden bird survey, so are our garden birds. But that is something that we can all help to turn around…

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BTO | Bird Trends 2020

The latest BirdTrends report from the BTO provides an early indication of one of the periodic revisions of the UK’s Red List (species with the highest conservation priority and needing urgent action) due to be published at the end of this year. Essentially, the report is a one-stop-shop for information about the population status of familiar breeding birds across the UK – a region already identified by a previous report as one of the most nature-depleted in the world. And it is very, very bad news indeed. Many of the highlighted species would once have not only been familiar to pre-war generations, they would have been everyday companions. Prior to the industrialisation of agriculture, their pastures would have been flower-rich meadows with massive insect communities providing seeds and protein for countless Cuckoos, Corn Buntings, Lapwings and Grey Partridges. Our woodlands, now often neglected with (in the absence of apex predators) unsustainable numbers of Roe Deer, were once composed mainly of native tree species and edged by scrub. They would have been bursting with Nightingales, Willow Tits and Spotted Flycatchers. Many of us now go all year without even seeing a single individual of any of them.

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The War on Wildlife | It’s time to talk food

‘Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss’ “explores the role of the global food system as the principal driver of accelerating biodiversity loss” and the authors explicitly state that “food production is degrading or destroying natural habitats and contributing to species extinction”. They go on to explain how what they term the ‘cheaper food paradigm’ has driven the expansion of agricultural land and intensive farming. Failure to account for the environmental cost of food production has led to habitat destruction and pollution, driving wildlife loss”. Essentially, our global food system is a vicious circle of cheap food, where low costs drive a bigger demand for food and more waste. More competition then drives costs even lower through more clearing of natural land and use of polluting fertilisers and pesticides. Agriculture is now the main threat to 86% of the 28,000 species known to be at risk of extinction.

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