Monthly Archives: December 2012

Shocking declines in large old trees worldwide

Woodland Matters

Research from Spain and Sweden in Europe, Brazil, Australia, California and many other parts of the world, provides grim evidence of massive declines of some of the largest organisms on earth – old trees (Lindenmayer et all, Science vol 338 7 December 2012). If populations continue to collapse, as predicted, with them will also disappear the ecological, historic and landscape roles of these keystone structures that cannot be provided by younger trees. John Muir, founding figure of the conservation movement in the USA and a passionate advocate for the giant redwoods of Yosemite National Park (population decline of 24% between the 1930s and 1990s) is no doubt turning in his grave.

Why are large old trees disappearing? As individual trees they are exceptionally vulnerable to a wide range of impacts – intentional removal, new pests and diseases, root compaction and damage, fire and competition – to name a few…

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Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Please support this important campaign.

The National Humane Education Society

In March, member nations will meet at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to discuss, among other topics, protections for polar bears. The global trade in polar bear pelts, claws, skulls, and other body parts must stop. Polar bears are in danger not just from this kind of global trafficking but also global climate change. There are an estimated 22,000 polar bears in 20 different populations worldwide.

Killing wildlife for sport is inherently cruel and uncivilized. Hunters who hunt for the thrill of the kill lose themselves in an ancient belief that humans rule over the animals. We do not. In reality, hunting disrupts migration and hibernation patterns. It decimates animal family units and degrades habitat. Trophy hunting, in particular, is an egregious form of killing as it involves going after big game and mounting all or part of the animal in a trophy…

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Waitrose puts Shell partnership on ice

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Waitrose has suspended plans to expand its partnership with the Arctic oil drillers Shell, after 12 days of  intense campaigning by Greenpeace.

The UK supermarket had been considering opening new shops in Shell petrol stations across the country, but Waitrose managing director Mark Price has confirmed that these plans have been put on ice until after 2013. The supermarket has also declared its support for the creation of an Arctic sanctuary, a move that would help protect endangered species, such as the polar bear, Arctic fox and narwal, by making the polar region off limits to oil drillers like Shell.

The announcement was made after nearly 40,000 people signed a Greenpeace petition urging Waitrose to break off the partnership with Shell. Activists also sent emails, posted hundreds of messages on Facebook, and staged demonstrations in Waitrose stores, including the appearance of  a life-size polar bear in Islington.

Greenpeace, which has worked with Waitrose to develop its sustainable fishing policies, said it was “shocked” that the retailer, which prides itself on its environmental initiatives, would link itself to Shell. This summer Shell tried, and failed, to drill for oil in the Arctic, after a catalogue of disasters which included breaking the oil spill response equipment during testing.

You can support Greenpeace’s campaign to save the Arctic by visiting http://www.savethearctic.org

How to give wildlife a helping hand this winter

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The coldest months of the year can be  a challenging time for birds, hedgehogs, squirrels and other wildlife.

Every winter between one and two thousand wild animals are brought into RSPCA wildlife centres suffering from dehydration, hunger and cold. As a result, the charity is giving nature lovers some great tips on how to help. Here are seven simple things you can do to try and reduce these casualties:

  • Make your garden wildlife-friendly. Leave undisturbed ‘wild’ areas in your garden and provide piles of   leaves or brushwood as nests for hedgehogs to rest and hibernate in.
  • If you have a frozen pond, make sure you check it every day for ice, as toxic gases can build up in the water of a frozen pond and kill fish or frogs. If a pond freezes over, carefully place a saucepan of hot water on the surface to gently melt a hole in the ice. Never tip boiling water on to the pond as this may harm fish.
  • Feed  the birds in your garden. They may have difficulty finding normal food supplies so any alternative extra food you can put out will help. Try giving a range of seeds, fresh unsalted peanuts and table scraps and fruit. Garden birds love dried mealworms or waxworms, which can be bought from bird food suppliers.

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  • Keep a close eye on outdoor pets, such as guinea pigs and rabbits, and put extra bedding in their home and be prepared to move them into a shed or unused garage for extra shelter.
  • If horses and ponies are kept outside during the winter they must have access to shelter at all times.
  • Help squirrels survive the coldest times of the year by offering hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds, plus some chopped apple, beans, carrots or spinach.
  • Don’t ignore your pets needs while celebrating. Try to keep a regular routine of feeding and exercising them, it will keep them happy and healthy. Give your pets a treat over the festive season but remember that too much rich food isn’t good for animals. Grapes, sultanas,  raisins and chocolate are toxic to dogs.

RSPCA wildlife expert Nicola Cunningham said: “We can all struggle when the weather takes a turn for the worst, and our wildlife friends are often the most vulnerable. They just need a bit of a helping hand.”

Birds in Christmas carol face risk of extinction

Turtle doveScientists have warned that partridges and turtle doves are disappearing at such alarming rates that without urgent action they may cease to exist in the UK.

The number of grey partridges,  estimated at around 43,000 pairs, dropped by 30% in the five years to 2010, according to the latest wild bird statistics, published by Defra  on Thursday.

The turtle dove population, estimated at just 14,000 pairs, is in even greater decline. There has been a 60% drop in numbers over the same period.

“Losing six out of 10 of our turtle doves and three out of 10 grey partridge in five years is nothing short of an unsustainable wildlife disaster,” said RSPB scientist Mark Eaton,  “The turtle dove is in a great degree of danger – if this trend were to continue we could be down to fewer than 1,000 pairs by the middle of the next decade, with complete extinction a real possibility.

“We are urging the Government to take urgent action to save these species from becoming just memories within The Twelve Days of Christmas festive classic.”

‘Shocking’ research reveals big decline in UK birds

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The UK bird population has declined by an alarming 44 million since 1966, according to a new study by conservation organisations.

Scientists producing the report estimate there are 166 million nesting birds in the UK, compared with 210 million in 1966, which means we’ve lost one in five of the individual birds that we had in the sixties.

The State of the UK’s Birds 2012 also reveals that:

  • We’ve lost breeding birds from our countryside at an average rate of a nesting pair every minute.
  • House sparrow are among the worst hit – we have 20 million fewer than in 1966.
  • Birds reliant on farmed land, such as lapwings, cuckoos and turtle doves, have significantly decreased.

Experts believe this is largely down to changes in landscape providing less habitat in which birds can feed and nest. Cold weather is thought to have had a startling effect on bird numbers too.

Some species, however, have increased in number. The wood pigeon has doubled its population since 1970, to an estimated 5.4 million nesting pairs. The great spotted woodpecker, has  gone up 368% since the 1970s, and  the chaffinch has increased at a rate of 150 individuals per day.

Despite these success stories the overall findings  are very worrying. The RSPB  blames a change in land use, which means there is less food for birds to eat in the countryside and places to nest. Garden grabbing and the increase in traffic on roads has also been blamed for the decline in sparrows.

RSPB scientist Dr Mark Eaton said: “It is shocking to think that we’ve lost one in five of the individual birds that we had in the 1960s, especially when you think that the 44 million birds we have lost since 1966 is equivalent to the current adult human population of England and Wales.”

The report was compiled by a coalition of conservation groups, including the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.