Leading a Horse To Water Proverb…

‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’ might be considered to encapsulate the English-speaking people’s mind-set better than any other saying, as it appears to be the oldest English proverb that is still in regular use today. It was recorded as early as 1175 in ‘Old English Homilies…’ Today during the early evening, whilst I moved six ponies from off one grazing area to another in readiness for gathering-up with other ponies this coming week,†this proverb came to mind as the following unfolded.

I had first taken down an electric fence and opened up a gateway in readiness. Then came the task of getting these unhandled ponies the 200 metres to and through the open gateway. By appealing to their stomachs and the fact that two of them were ‘characters I knew,’ I slowly inched them towards the open gate with†plenty of verbal calling of names of the known two. Talk about slow – with the light going, I began to imagine I would be stumbling the 3/4mile back to the truck in the dark or, they’ll think ‘Oh, blow this’ and run off in completely the opposite direction! Finally however, the mission was accomplished.

Ash Trees – Worse To Come…

 

BBC Radio 4 ‘Ash To Ashes’ with Adam Hart, Sept 27 2013. An interesting programme on the threat to our native Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) from Ash Die-Back. The evidence looks rather grim…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03bg4vh

Ash Die-Back, was first found on wild ash, in Norfolk in October 2012. There are now 550 sites containing diseased trees in the UK, mainly on the eastern side of the country. Depending a trees size they are likely. The fungus responsible – Chalara fraxinea originally came from Japan and has spread across Europe at a rate of some 20kms per year. 90% of ash has been killed in Denmark for example.

The threads of the fungus – the mycelium, commences to grow after the arrival of a spore carried on the wind. The mycelium infects a leaf, then the stalk and then into the woody tissue of the tree. With the autumn leaf-fall, infected leaves fall to the ground where fungi are produced which in turn shoot more spores into the air and so multiply the infection on the host tree and its ash neighbours. Death of mature trees is a long process; taking into account effects on the European mainland, death will not occur until some 10-25 years of becoming infected. Trees try to fight the disease by growing more leaves but no woody stem tissue. Slowly, the tree starves allowing in the process, other pathogens such as honey fungus to attack the ailing tree.

Scientists from across Europe are collaborating to find answers to this devastating disease. This is difficult because ash has a complicated sex life, with male, female, hermaphrodite trees and with all stages in between! Work has been carried out on a self tree, one that has arisen from self-pollination, as the genome sequencing is far easier. At a plantation planted 19 years ago in Sweden to promote the production of ash trees with good growth characteristics; here, these are now being studied as which show any resistance to ash die-back.

However, the outlook for Europeís ash looks grimmer than the above facts. Step forward the Emerald Ash Borer. This ash killer is spreading west across Europe and at the present time is 250kms west of Moscow. In North America, where it arrived in 2002 in the Detroit area on dunnage or packing wood from China, it has now killed 99% of the native white and green ashes (and specimens of European ash). After females have laid eggs on the tree’s bark, large numbers of the larvae bore into the conducting tissue beneath, killing it and thus girdling the tree and leading to its death. In the Far-East, the Manchurian ash has co-evolved over thousands of years with both these pests, they having little effect on it. Scientists are now looking into a long-term solution involving creating a hybrid between this and the European ash, to which it looks very similar.

As with other tree diseases such as Dutch Elm Disease, these diseases are being spread outside of their geographic areas facilitated by the speedy transportation networks of globalisation.

 

 

Another Threat to Our Countryside – ‘Biodiversity Off-Setting’

Developers have been told they can ‘build’ in National Parks, as long as damage suffered by wildlife is off-set elsewhere. This a very worrying scenario as it is very difficult to replicate a habitat elsewhere and should only be considered as a very last resort.

By Matt Chorley, Mailonline Political Editor. PUBLISHED: 10:50, 25 September 2013 | UPDATED: 14:42, 25 September 2013.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2431619/Build-national-parks-offset-damage-nature-developers-told.html

Homes and businesses could be built in National Parks if developers pay to make up the damage elsewhere. In a speech on boosting the rural economy, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson backed the idea of developments in some of England’s most picturesque areas. In exchange construction firms would have to create new nature sites nearby to offset the damage caused.

Recovery: Environment Secretary Owen Paterson claims more development in national parks would boost rural economies. The idea of increased development in Englandís 10 National Parks including Exmoor, the Peak District, Dartmoor and the Lake District could be controversial. But Mr. Paterson argued that it could play a part in wider government plans designed to help boost growth and revive the rural economy.

He used a speech to the National Park Authorities Conference in Easingwold, York, to back the idea of ‘Biodiversity Offsetting’ in national parks. Where a new development damages the natural

He said: ‘For too long we have allowed the lazy assumption that the environment and growth are incompatible objectives within the planning system. I believe that, with a bit of innovative thinking, in many cases it is possible to have both. This is why I am particularly interested in Biodiversity Offsetting. Offsetting gives us a chance to improve the way our planning system works. It gets round the long-running conundrum of how to grow the economy at the same time as improving the environment. It could provide real opportunities in our National Parks, where the necessary extension of a farm building could result in the enhancement of an existing habitat or the creation of a new one.’

Under existing rules the National Park Authority has two statutory duties – to conserve the countryside and its wildlife, and to allow people to enjoy it. A spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: ‘Exactly how would it be possible for a developer to replace, for example, ancient hedgerows by way of mitigation?

‘Some habitats, particularly sensitive ones, are irreplaceable and thoroughly integral to the landscape’s character because it’s taken centuries to evolve – you can’t just order a new one to be delivered somewhere else like it’s an Amazon purchase. Offsetting doesn’t address the complex way in which wildlife systems are sustained and thrive, and if it allows developers to push through damaging schemes then it’s just another way for money to win over protecting nature.’

The Government has launched a consultation on biodiversity offsetting, which is still open, Mr Paterson said. He stressed it was one of several policies which he thought could benefit national parks. He added: ‘There are many opportunities for National Parks to seize upon. One of these is the opportunity to capitalise on and increase the 110 million people who visit the UKís National Parks every year. Tourism is important because it provides people with new experiences. It enables people to appreciate and put a value on wildlife and wild places. Tourism also helps grow the economy. Tourists spend money in our National Parks and this supports 68,000 jobs. But also when tourists return home they are more likely to buy the products we export. Great clothing, great food and great drink.’

What is biodiversity Off-Setting?

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/living-landscape/planning/biodiversity-offsetting

An approach that can be used to compensate for habitats and species lost to development in one area, with the creation, enhancement or restoration of habitat in another. Biodiversity off-setting was announced in the Governmentís Natural Environment White Paper – its 50-year vision for the natural environment. It is an approach that can be used to compensate for habitats and species lost to development in one area, with the creation, enhancement or restoration of habitat in another.

When is it appropriate to use biodiversity off-setting? The replacement of one habitat with another is extremely complex. The Wildlife Trusts recognise the potential of biodiversity offsetting on land, but believe it is a last resort measure and should only be used to compensate for genuinely unavoidable damage. The replacement of one habitat with another is extremely complex and there are some habitats that are simply irreplaceable, so:

1. The starting point for any development proposal should be to avoid damage to our most important wildlife sites.

2. Next, it is essential to mitigate the potential damage of a development through good design.

3. Only then – and as a final measure – should off-setting be considered to compensate for damage that cannot be avoided or mitigated. Any offsetting should help nature to recover by creating more habitat than is being lost.

Oh, I’m not a Daily Mail reader!”

HS2 Rail Debate

Would a compromise in this debate, be to build a modern conventional rail line? Bends could be slightly sharper, so being more easily accommodated within the existing landscape. Perhaps†include several extra stations along the proposed route; it would be marginally less noisy and could carry freight during the night and probably cheaper? Much of the passenger overcrowding experienced at the moment is on the commuter lines, many of which HS2 will have little or no bearing upon.

On the energy front, how much more energy will the proposed HS2 use, in comparison with say conventional trains or the Eurostar or Javelin trains currently in service through Kent? Do the HS2 costings take into account the vast amount of energy required to manufacture and to construct the new line? HS2 is likely to further fragment the countryside and natural environment. Relatively speaking, the UK is a small island. France, Spain and China have the room to accommodate such large infrastructure projects and where speed is required to reduce the travel time over much greater distances.

PS. Incidentally, I am a railway fan and enjoy travelling by train!

Bees To Be Put At Risk Again?

 

Chemical giant Bayer, has just sued the European Commission to overturn a ban on the pesticides that are killing millions of bees around the world. A huge public push won this landmark ban only months ago and we can’t sit back and let ‘Big Pesticide’ overturn it while the bees vanish.

Just last month, 37 million bees were discovered dead on a single Canadian farm. And unless we act now, the bees will keep dying by the millions. We have to show Bayer now that we won’t tolerate it putting its profits ahead of our planet’s health. If this giant corporation manages to bully Europe into submission, it would spell disaster for the bees.

In December 2010, a leaked memo from the EPA’s Environmental Fate and Effects Division asserted “Clothianidin‘s (Bayer’s neonicotinoid pesticide) major risk concern is to non-target insects (that is, honey bees). Exposure through contaminated pollen and nectar and potential toxic effects therefore remain an uncertainty for pollinators.”

In January 2011, Avaaz.org launched an online petition to ban neonicotinoid pesticides. Bayer is a huge German-based multi-national. Syngenta is a huge Swiss-based agro-chemical multi-national company. Big business must not be allowed to continue to gamble with†our planets earth support systems, so please follow the above link and add your name to the petition.

Drive for Ban on Bio-Fuels

The following is the response made to our local MEP concerning the production of bio-fuels:

“Thank you for your email to Keith Taylor MEP, which he has asked me to respond to on his behalf.

Keith and his Green group colleagues in the European Parliament fully share your concerns about the use of food crops in biofuels, and the implications for wildlife, the environment and food security, particularly in developing countries. Feeding crops into cars has fuelled rising food prices and rainforest destruction. With climate change already putting pressure on the global food supply and food prices, the EU should not be further exacerbating these trends by promoting the use of agricultural land for fuel.

Keith strongly believes that Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) emissions should be taken into account when assessing biofuels production. ILUC may refer, for example, to the deforestation which takes place to make way for the production of foodstuffs for use in biofuels, which unintentionally increases carbon emissions worldwide, increasing pollution resulting from pesticide and threatening food security. As you are probably aware, this means that total emissions from first generation biofuels are often higher than conventional fossil fuels.

Keith has voted on aspects of the Commission’s biofuels proposal in two committees in the European Parliament – the Development Committee (DEVE) and the Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN). The Greens welcome the proposal for ILUC factors to be included in calculations on the greenhouse gas balance under the EU Fuel Quality Directive from 2020 onwards. These emissions will also be included in the sustainability criteria as part of the greenhouse gas savings threshold under the EUís Renewable Energy legislation. This will help steer future investments in a sustainable direction.

Currently, the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive specifies that 10% of fuel used for transport should be made up of renewable fuels. The Commission is proposing a cap, so that biofuels cannot make up more than 5% of the 10% renewable fuel target. In his Committee work, Keith called for a lowering of the 5% cap and for total greenhouse gas emissions for biofuels and bioliquids to be progressively decreased. Keith is against the use of foods crops as fuel altogether. Unfortunately, due to pressure from other political groups, the results of the Committee votes on the percentage of the cap were very mixed. The final cap will not be decided until all the MEPs vote on this issue in plenary tomorrow.

Although there have been some key improvements on the issue of biofuels emissions in the Committees’ voting, the current proposals still do not go far enough. Keith believes the 10% target incentivises biofuels production and has led to increased investment in first generation biofuels by Member States attempting to fulfil the requirements of the target. He has tabled an amendment to the September plenary which calls for the 10% target to be withdrawn. This would have an immediate effect to diminish the scale of biofuels production, which would ensure that crops are reserved for people and not for cars.

The biofuels legislation will now go on to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to be voted on at a plenary session of the Parliament on 11th September. The Greens will be urging MEPs to vote for a forward-thinking and sustainable biofuels policy, which does not aggravate food scarcity in developing countries.

Keith has also been raising awareness of the adverse effects of biofuels in his constituency. To this end, Keith has been travelling around the South East in order to urge local councils to refuse planning permission to build biofuel power stations. You can read more about this on Keith’s website: http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/2011/03/25/green-mep-visits-southampton-to-tell-council-%e2%80%9cbiofuels-are-not-the-solution-to-citys-energy-needs%e2%80%9d/

Katy Cadwallader, Constituency Caseworker, Office of Keith Taylor MEP,Green Party MEP for South East England.”

Menacing Green Scourge of our Ponds

CRASSULA HELMSII or ‘NEW ZEALAND STONECROP.’

DESCRIPTION. A small succulent flowering perennial that grows rapidly to form an extensive lush-green ëcarpetí that floats on freshwater or may be submerged. Growth can extend from margins of sheltered waterbodies to completely cover the water surface with tangles of stems and shoots. Plants may range from 10-130cm in length. In deeper water, plants are more elongate and have narrower leaves. Flowers are <4mm and white to pale pink.

BIOLOGY/ECOLOGY. Dispersal is by plant fragments or buoyant shoots carried by birds and mammals, downstream movements and from flooding. Fragments may also be moved with mud. Seeds are not†known to be produced in western Europe (where its range is west of Poland to Italy). It can propagate from fragments as small as 5mm, and has a high growth rate. It grows for most of the year without any serious winter die-back.

DISCUSSION. Crassula’s form is frequently a dense sward-like, green mass which smothers out most other plants and is the cause of much concern; indeed it can resemble solid land and people have been known to try to walk on to it! In the past, it was widely available from aquatic suppliers. Control by physical removal is often recommended but also results in numerous fragments which can germinate and should only be considered if combined with a secondary removal technique. Studies and experience suggest that this plant will remain a problem and great caution is required to prevent its further spread.

Its metabolism allows it to be tolerant of a wide range of environmental variables including dryness. It has been seen growing on bare rock, well above the normal ‘high tide line’ on the shore of Derwent Water in the Lake District. It was ‘on its own’ with no competing species demonstrating the resilience of this species. An aquatic survey conducted there†in 2000, showed significant areas of the gravels at the inflow of the lake to be covered by Crassula ‘lawns.’ The survey also revealed a vast submerged ‘rolling prairie’ of Crassula out in the lake. One sheltered bay was totally dominated by a blanket of Crassula except for the occasional tall emergent native water plants.

Crassula helmsiicrassula

Images showing blanket coverage and a close-up of Crassula.

FUTURE.† In the longer term, how Crassula will fit into the wider countryside, away from the ponds, lakes and other water bodies currently associated with it, remains to be seen. It is a pretty insignificant species in small quantities and can be easily overlooked. Those involved in livestock husbandry ought to be made aware, so as to avoid/prevent stock feeding in Crassula infested areas, especially if they are moved between grazing sites. Birds are often cited as one of the vectors but humans (with or without tools and machinery) have also been vectors in the spread of Crassula from one site to another. Some authorities may say that it is already too late. There are however, still plenty of water bodies without Crassula in them and I believe we should do our best to†prevent it spreading to them. If you should find it, report it to the Environment Agency or, your county biodiversity centre.

Compiled from the following sources:

http://www.europe-aliens.org/pdf/Crassula_helmsii.pdf

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0006320787900711

and from Phil Taylor, retired Ecologist Lake District National Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Snails – Speedy and Deadly…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23798012

“Fast moving snails spread deadly dog disease across UK.” Matt McGrath, Environment correspondent, BBC News.

“They’re not that fast – but they’re fast enough to cover about 10 metres overnight,” so says Dr Dave Hodgson. Despite their lethargic reputations, snails can travel at a relatively speedy one metre per hour, say researchers. By attaching multi-coloured LED lights, the scientists were able to track their movements over a 24-hour period. They found that these gastropods were fast enough to explore the length of an average UK garden in a single night. “They are so slow that people don’t even think about them moving, but it turns out they do, and they can go a long way in a night,” said Dr Dave Hodgson, who led this study and was also involved in a BBC amateur science experiment in 2010 that sought to discover if snails had a homing instinct.

But scientists are worried that the fast-moving snails are spreading a parasite that is deadly for dogs. Over the past few years the wet summers enjoyed across the UK have proved the ideal breeding grounds for snails. “They are not just lettuce munchers, they are carriers of parasites that can kill your dogs,” says Dr Dave Hodgson. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, their numbers increased by 50% last year. As well as being a pest for gardeners, snails can also spread a parasite called Angiostrongylus vasorum. This lungworm is a particular threat to dogs, which can become infected by accidentally eating slugs or snails which they come across in the garden or on dog toys. Researchers at the University of Exeter were commissioned to look into the scale of the threat by the Be Lungworm Aware campaign, which was set up and funded by Bayer Animal Health.

The researchers say their new work indicates that snails pose a growing threat to pets. “They are not just lettuce munchers, they are carriers of parasites that can kill your dogs,” said Dr Hodgson. A recent survey of veterinary surgeons indicated that the lungworm parasite was now endemic across the UK, where once it was mainly found in the south. “It is becoming a real problem not just in the south of England, it is moving north to Scotland,” said Dr Hodgson. “It is a national problem and we all have to pay attention to the interactions between dogs and snails,” he said.

In the new work, the scientists were surprised to see so many snails followed the slimy trails laid by others. Dr Hodgson says it is all about conserving energy. “We know that snails use about 40% of their energy budget producing slime. “Given a chance, a snail will prefer to follow a trail that has been laid by another, it is a form of cheating like slipstreaming,” he said.

As to what pet owners should do, the scientists suggested they should regularly check the nooks and crannies in their gardens for snails and try to reduce exposure to the species. “I wouldn’t be too happy suggesting that there should be a snail apocalypse and everyone should get rid of them,” said Dr Hodgson. “I think awareness is a better idea, people need to understand the wildlife in their gardens and that no organism is totally harmless.”