Biodiversity News

Below are links to stories on Biodiversity, especially relating to aviation and airports.

 

GACC research studies show hugely negative impact of 2nd runway on urbanisation, habitats and wildlife

As part of the extensive series of research studies that GACC has produced, there are papers on the problems that a 2nd runway would do in urbanising the Crawley area, and the problems for local habitat and wildlife. "The Urbanisation of Crawley" by scientist Peter Jordan, shows how the future would be at risk. Peter says: "Crawley and the surrounding towns already have severe problems of congestion on inadequate road and rail links. A 2nd runway could only make these problems worse, without any realistic plan to address them." The airport boundary would be just a hundred yards from the nearest residential area of Crawley. "The Gatwick Landscape" by naturalist and author, David Bangs, draws attention to the hitherto largely unrecognised landscape wealth of history. Dr Tony Whitbread CEO of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, says: "A 2nd runway at Gatwick would require 577 ha of land for the construction of the runway, terminal, car parks and new on-airport roads. Rather than dismissing this [as Gatwick airport does] as “a few fields”, Dave Bangs has made a careful study of this area. His emotive account is the perspective of an expert who loves every aspect of nature. He reveals the hidden riches of a place which could be bulldozed into oblivion." With tragic loss of natural landscape and wildlife habitats.

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Heathrow try to dress up the damage its runway would do to Colne Valley park as a huge bonus

Finding that a runway decision by the government is probably still months away, Heathrow is scraping around to find some bits of PR it can use to promote its runway plans. The planned runway would cut into the Colne Valley Regional Park, taking out a chunk of it. The park is already seriously affected by Heathrow, being just to the west of it. In 2013 Colne Valley said the runway would wipe out parts of the park.  It would hit Colnbrook hardest, and see Lakeside Education Centre lost along with nearly all of the Green Belt north of the by-pass to Sutton Lane. Colnbrook West and Orlitts Lake would be filled in, while the Colne Brook would be culverted or diverted along with three other rivers locally. And so on. But Heathrow is now proud to produce its plans for a lovely new park, with a lot of new improvements - but these would ONLY be made if it gets its runway.  Not otherwise - other than the £5,000 it gives each year. Nothing in the carefully written "doublespeak" from Heathrow, describing the park, reveals just how much damage the runway would in fact do to the park. The board of the Colne Valley Park CIC (Community Interest Company) remain "opposed to the building of the third runway due to the detrimental impact this will have upon the Regional Park." If the runway is allowed, they will have to work with Heathrow to ensure the rest of the park continues to benefit wildlife, and local communities.

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Gatwick objects to new hospice due to increase in ‘bird strike risk hazard’ – as within 13 km radius of airport

Under guidance from the DfT, airports have to be statutory consultees for any planning application within a radius of 13 km of the airport, that might have an impact on it, for a variety of reasons. One of these is the risk of bird strike, and so new developments that might attract birds are opposed. Now Gatwick Airport has objected to plans for a new hospice and homes in Pease Pottage [south of Crawley, and about 6km south of Gatwick airport] due to an increase in ‘bird strike risk hazard’. St Catherine’s Hospice would provide a 48-bed care facility, and there would also be up to 600 new homes, cafe, a community building, retail units, and a new primary school. The current hospice has only 18 beds, and is not able to cater for the number of people needing palliative support in the area nor has sufficient family areas. Gatwick says the areas of open water in the application would attract birds large enough to endanger planes, including feral geese, duck, grey heron and cormorants - especially if the public feed them. Gatwick also fear the mown grassland would provide a grazing habitat for birds. Gatwick wants minimal water. Airports keep their grassed areas as unappealing to bird life as possible. Gatwick set out, for the Airports Commission, what it would do to "control and where possible reduce bird hazard."

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Climate change could cause the extinction of one in six global species by 2100

A new report in the journal, Science, says that even if international attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions are successful by keeping the inevitable rise in global average temperatures to below the 2C “safe” threshold, over 5% of species in the world would face the risk of imminent extinction purely because of climatic factors. That is just the rate of extinction from temperature rise, not from habitat loss, over-exploitation, introduced species, environmental degradation or ocean acidification. On current climate projections, which would see global average temperatures reach about 4C higher than pre-industrial times by 2100, the study found that 16% of species would become extinct, due to climate factors alone. The study anticipates that if the world continues down the existing path of CO2 emissions, the rate of mass extinction will not just get worse for every 1C extra rise in global average temperatures, it will actually accelerate. The rates of extinction differ between continents, with endemic plants and animals of South America, Australia and New Zealand particularly at risk from higher temperatures, as many have nowhere else to move to. The study was a meta-analysis of 131 previous studies into the extinction risks due to climate change.

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Research, in “Science” calls for ‘airspace reserves’ with reduced or restricted human activity (eg flights)

Researchers in Argentina and Wales have written a new paper, showing the increasing extent to which man-made structures, and human activities, are having an impact on creatures that fly. The scientists say growing numbers of skyscrapers, wind turbines, power lines, planes and drones threaten billions of flying birds and animals, huge numbers of which are killed in collisions. The researchers say "airspace reserves" should be created to protect wildlife, by providing airspace zones where human activity is partially or totally restricted to reduce the aerial conflict. These could be temporary zones, for example to help protect birds on their seasonal migrations, or permanent areas, put in place over key habitats. They need to be taken account of in planning for major construction projects. The authors say: "Most of the conservation in reserves and national parks is mainly focussed on the ground or more recently on water. None of them have focussed on the airspace." Bird strikes with planes cause a risk to humans, so drastic measures are taken to remove birds from the vicinity of airports. The impact of drones is yet to be assessed, but could become a problem.

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Woodland Trust highlights inadequate recognition of woodland and biodiversity in Airports Commission documents

The Woodland Trust is urging people who intend to send in responses to the Airports Commission consultation to mention the omission of some vital environmental information. The Trust says trees and woodland habitats have had little mention, and the issue has not been given proper consideration. Either a Gatwick or a Heathrow runway would have serious consequences for woodland and trees, and other aspects of the natural world. The Woodland Trust believes woods and trees should not just be considered as amenity. Irreplaceable habitats like ancient woodland are just that - not replaceable. The Commission talks of ancient woodland as having ‘low replacability’ – but ancient woodland cannot be replaced. The Commission also makes little reference to the loss of ecosystem services, or the impacts of land take on biodiversity at a local or landscape scale. The need that everyone has for good quality, accessible green spaces is barely recognised. With threatened loss of 14 hectares of ancient woodland at Gatwick, with over 70 hectares woodland loss overall - and valuable ancient trees at risk around Heathrow, loss and permanent fragmentation of these precious habitats like these could have far wider implications.

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Stop Stansted Expansion celebrates 10th anniversary of its wood at Broxted – where BAA wanted 2nd runway

Ten years ago, more than 130 Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) supporters took part in a mass tree planting to create the SSE Wood at Broxted Hill Farm, on the very site where BAA was planning to put down a 2nd runway. This wood was planted as a symbol of SSE's defiant determination that BAA's runway would never be built. The trees, all native species, were sponsored by some 700 supporters. On Sunday, 30 November 2014, to mark the tenth anniversary of the wood, SSE held another working party and also planted a tenth anniversary tree. Peter Sanders, SSE's Chairman, said: "At the time when it was first planted the Government of the day was predicting that a 2nd runway would be operational at Stansted by 2010. It is wonderful to see how the wood has flourished, and how the plans for a 2nd runway have so far been thwarted." Terry Waite commented: "We stand firmly against ruthless commercial exploitation which fails to take into account the wishes of local people and spoils a part of the countryside forever."

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Woodland Trust asking Gatwick respondents to send a photo of themselves, to prove to Gatwick they are real people

Gatwick carried out a consultation, that ended on 16th May) about its 2nd runway plans. There were some 7,700 responses (the vast majority against a new runway) and of those, 4,092 came through a campaign by the Woodland Trust. However, in its analysis of the consultation responses, Ipsos Mori decided to discount these responses, as they had been generated by a campaign and were sent in electronically. It is too convenient for the airport to discount over half the responses in this way. The Woodland Trust is now asking everyone who backs their campaign against Gatwick destroying areas of ancient woodland for its runway, to send in photos and details of themselves, in order to prove to the powers-that-be that they are real people, their opinions are real, and there is no reason for their consultation responses to be invalidated.You can add your photo, and a brief comment, on the Woodland Trust website here. The Trust is rightly appalled at suggestions by Gatwick that they can justify destroying ancient woodland by just offsetting it, through planting 3 new saplings to replace each ancient tree - or translocating woodland soil to new locations for new saplings. Neither even partly replace the richness, quality and diversity of true ancient woods.

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Global bird culls by airports, to deter bird strike. Hundreds of thousands gassed, shot and poisoned

The issue of bird strikes for planes is an emotive one. Some collisions do little damage to planes, but hitting a large bird can disable an engine, or worse. While birds and planes co-exist, some strikes are inevitable. Rose Bridger has been looking into this subject for years. She says shortly after the Hudson incident in 2009, New York's 3 main airports began culling Canada geese. This escaped public attention until June 2010, when wildlife officials rounded up nearly 400 birds and gassed with CO2 in a nearby buiding. In fact, the geese that downed the plane were not locals, but migrants from northern Canada. By autumn 2013 geese were being rounded up from municipal properties within a 160 square kilometre area. After a non-fatal (for the plane) collision with a flock of geese at Schiphol in 2010, 5,000 were gassed in 2012. The area where geese are deemed a hazard to aircraft was extended to cover a 20 kilometre radius around the airport, and a further 10,000 geese were gassed between January and July 2013. In January, the New York Port Authority announced plans to eliminate the entire population of 2,200 wild mute swans. And there are many, many other examples. Airports should not be built in or near important bird habitats and migratory flightpaths.

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Report for Airports Commission on environmental impact sinks Boris’s estuary airport plans

Boris Johnson's dreams of a massive airport in the Thames Estuary have had a major setback, from the new report produced for the Airports Commission, looking at the environmental impacts. The study shows it would cause huge environmental, financial and safety risks and would cause "large scale direct habitat loss" to hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. The cost of creating replacement habitats could exceed £2 billion and may not even be possible. Even if replacement habitat could be found, planes using the airport would still be at a "high risk" of lethal bird strike. In order to counter this risk, even larger areas of habitat would need to be destroyed to secure the airport. The report also found huge regulatory hurdles to any potential estuary airport going ahead. Under environmental regulations,the airport's backers would have to prove there were "imperative reasons of overriding public interest (IROPI)" for placing the airport in such an environmentally sensitive area. Even if that could be proven, they would also need to demonstrate that all of the habitat displaced by the airport could be placed elsewhere. The report found that while this was "technically possible," it was highly uncertain, as such a large scale displacement had never been attempted before.

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