Tag Archives: farmland

Slug poison found in drinking water

Garden slug

Slug poison was found in one in eight rivers and reservoirs used for drinking water in England and Wales according to the Environment Agency’s (EA) most recent survey.

This has prompted environmentalists to call for greater use of natural predators instead of chemicals. Last November, levels 100 times higher than EU regulations were detected at a water treatment intake on the River Stour in Essex, which supplies water to homes in Essex and Suffolk.

Levels spiked in late 2011 and persisted into 2012 due to wet weather creating runoff and ideal slug breeding conditions.

The obvious source of slug pellets is our gardens, but huge quantities of this chemical are also being used to grow rape seed oil, winter beans, sugar beet and brassicas such as broccoli.

There is currently no regulation to stop widespread use of the chemical and Pond Conservation director Jeremy Biggs said current methods for limiting runoff were ineffective, although he added there were few concerns about human health.

Coronation campaign to revive wildflower meadows

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Sixty “Coronation meadows” have been identified across the UK as part of a new campaign to restore threatened wildflower meadows.

The campaign, launched to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, follows reports of dramatic declines in many of the UK’s meadow flower species. The project, led by the Prince of Wales and three wildlife and livestock organisations, will take seed and green hay from these designated meadows to recreate new ones.

One Coronation meadow will be named in each county by the end of the year. The 60 meadows identified so far represent some of the UK’s “outstanding” wildflower meadows, according to the team.

As part of the campaign, people will be able to find out where their nearest Coronation meadow is using an online map. By the end of the year, 107 such meadows will have been identified to add to Prince Charles’ own wildflower meadow at his Gloucestershire home, Highgrove House.

Meadows already given the “Coronation” accolade include Loughborough Big Meadow in Leicestershire, Therfield Heath in Hertfordshire, and Hayton Meadow in Shropshire.

Plantlife, the Wildlife Trusts and Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) also aim to compile the first full inventory mapping all the UK’s remaining wildflower meadows as part of the project.

The campaign follows reports of dramatic declines in many of the UK’s meadow flower species. These include:

  • Green-winged orchids, found in lowland hay meadows, have decreased by 50% over the last 50 years.
  • Lesser butterfly orchids and greater butterfly orchids have also declined by 60% and 47% respectively.
  • 67% of distinctively-patterned fritillaries, which grow in meadows, have disappeared in the last few decades.
  • Half the UK’s greater butterfly orchids have been lost in the last 50 years.

The variety of flowers and grasses that are characteristic of wildflower meadows also support an array of wildlife, and are vital for many of the UK’s insect and butterfly species.

Ploughing, drainage, reseeding, increased fertiliser and herbicide application have all contributed to the loss of meadows, say the Wildlife Trust. The Coronation meadows will be used as “donor” sites, providing seeds to be used in other local meadows.

This method will help preserve the regional characteristics of each meadow, as different areas tend to host different mixes of plant and flower species.

RSPB and Crossrail to restore ancient wetland

Otter

Otters will thrive in the new reserve. FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The biggest man-made nature reserve in Europe will be created on Wallasea Island, using almost five tonnes of earth taken from London’s Crossrail project.

The soil, excavated from the construction of two 21km rail tunnels under the Capital, will transform 670 hectares of farmland on Wallasea Island, Essex, into a labyrinth of salt marshes, mudflats, lagoons.

RSPB  hopes that the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project will see the return of spoonbills and Kentish plovers, as well as  avocet, dunlin, redshank, spoonbills and lapwing to the area. Otters, saltwater fish, including bass, herring and flounder, are expected to use the wetland as a nursery, and plants, such as sapphire, sea lavender and sea aster, are expected to thrive.

The aim of this project is to combat the threats from climate change and coastal flooding by recreating the ancient wetland landscape of mudflats and saltmarsh, lagoons and pasture. It will also help to compensate for the loss of such tidal habitats elsewhere in England.

It is believed the island was first reclaimed from the sea by Dutch engineers centuries ago, but it was bulldozed flat 20 years ago to allow wheat and rape-growing. Four centuries ago there were 30,000 hectares of tidal salt marsh along the Essex coast, but today just 2,500 hectares remain. The Essex estuaries are among the most important coastal wetlands in the UK and are protected by national and European law.

Although the reserve will be in development until around 2019, visitors are welcome to come along and view the progress as each phase comes to life and the marshland naturally regenerates.