Below are links to stories on Biodiversity, especially relating to aviation and airports.
Airports Commission publishes “Environmental Impacts” report on Thames Estuary airport, for comment
The Airports Commission has undertaken to commission studies to assess whether a Thames Estuary airport should be short-listed, with the 3 schemes (Heathrow airport, Heathrow Hub, and Gatwick airport) to Phase 2 - for detailed consideration. These studies would be published in July, and accordingly, now the first study has been produced. It is on Environmental Impacts, and it was carried out by Jacobs Consultancy. The report is and is over 200 pages long, and appears to be thorough. It is clear that the extent of the environmental damage done by an airport would be huge, and the mitigation measures needed would be on a scale not seen before in Europe, if such mitigation was possible. It also stresses that, to allow this degree of environmental harm, "the Secretary of State for Transport would need to be certain that no alternative solutions existed, had considered the best scientific knowledge and taken into account the representations of Natural England and Environment Agency. If this test is passed it would need to be demonstrated that the proposals were needed for Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public interest (IROPI)." The Commission invites comment on whether the report contains errors, or if anything has been omitted, by 8th August.
Petition to British Airways to get them to stop profiting from promoting trips to SeaWorld
A petition calling on British Airways to stop selling trips to see captive whales and dolphins at SeaWorld has attracted more than 94,500 signatures. It is calling on BA to end their links with attractions that include captive marine mammals. The increasing number of signatures on the petition comes as 2 new beluga whales are delivered to SeaWorld San Diego. The animals' natural habitat is in arctic and sub-arctic waters, swimming huge distances each year. A lifetime in a concrete tank awaits them at SeaWorld, and "training." Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), a charity that works to protect cetaceans, is backing the petition as part of a wider campaign to stop tour operators, including BA, Virgin Holidays and Thomas Cook, from offering trips to see captive whales and dolphins. BA responded to the petition on change.org, attempting to wash its hand of responsibility, by saying that it was up to consumers whether or not they opted to book trips to SeaWorld. BA is currently selling 3-day passes to SeaWorld Orlando. WDC said for BA to somehow claim that by selling these trips it is not part of the problem is bizarre.
Belfast boy wants alternative home for geese facing cull for safety of Belfast City Airport planes
A 10-year-old boy - Jack McCormick - has appealed to Belfast's Lord Mayor to have geese, considered to be posing a threat to low-flying aircraft, moved to another park. The Lord Mayor has promised to raise the issues in a meeting with George Best Belfast City Airport. "I am an animal lover and would hate to think of anything bad happening to the grey geese at the park," Jack wrote: "My papa takes me to a great park in Gilnahirk .... It is big, but it has no geese or any animals. Why not move some of your geese from Victoria Park to the park at Gilnahirk? I would make sure that they were well-looked after. If you can't move them to Gilnahirk, could you not move them to other parks around Belfast?" The authorities prick the eggs so they don't develop. Jack said (children aren't stupid!): "Last year I noticed that there wasn't that many goslings but this year I'm hoping there will be an increase," he said. "I don't want any of them to die just because of being near an airport. To be fair, the geese were there first, and then the airport was built there."
Heathrow Terminal 2 to be powered by woodchip biomass – with dubious and extravagant “green” claims
Heathrow airport, and the planes that fly to and from it, is one of the highest emitters of carbon in the country. Its emissions are larger than several smaller countries. Yet the airport is now trying to be "green" by doing various things to reduce the emissions in the airport itself. The latest is having a biomass boiler for its Terminal 2 which is part of a green-washing campaign, with the airport trying to overcome its negative environmental impacts. Heathrow claim this will be the "UK’s biggest biomass boiler, and that it will cut the airport's CO2 emissions by 34% against 1990 levels (the Terminal was not built then ...). The boiler is meant to provide 2MW of electricity, hot water and cooling for data centres, and save up to "13,000 tonnes of CO2" per year. Heathrow says Woodchip supplier LG Energy won the 15-year contract with Heathrow on the condition that it would provide all of the biomass from a 100-mile radius around the airport. Some 75% of it will come from just 50 miles away, including from London’s Wetlands Centre in Barnes, as well as Richmond Park. LG Energy claims the sale of the timber is enabling more conservation work to be done, so benefiting more habitat and more biodiversity. Biomass, on a large scale, not carefully, locally sourced is likely to be very far from sustainable.
New nature reserve to be created by London Wildlife Trust under northern runway approach, at Cranford
An area of green space, called Crane Meadows in Cranford, which cannot be used for housing due to its proximity to Heathrow under the flight path, was previously owned by BAA, and Hillingdon and Hounslow councils. It passed into the hands of the London Wildlife Trust in 2010 after boundary changes. The land has not until now been open to the public, but the London Wildlife Trust intends to make it an accessible public nature reserve and open space. It has a public consultation with local people on its plans - ending at the end of March 2014. Though very noisy when planes are landing, the area has a mix of grasslands, woods, meadow and wetlands and a range of animals and plants. The Trust wants to know how people want to see the space altered and where access should be provided. The Trust wants to provide volunteering opportunities, organised activities, outdoor education sessions for children and adults [these sessions could only be possible for the half day, with runway alternation, when planes are not thundering overhead]. The site was once market gardens and still contains old fruit trees, from the days before Heathrow was built in the 1940s.
Bedfordshire hares saved for now as Cranfield Airport calls off planned cull
Cranfield airport bosses have cancelled a planned cull of hares due to take place on 29th January after it was felt they should carry out a study of the animals first. They had planned to start shooting of hares and rabbits on scrubland south of the site "involving four qualified personnel carrying firearms." The cull was going to be undertaken following a crash between a light aircraft and a muntjac deer as the plane was coming in to land on the runway on December 16th 2013 Management at Cranfield University, which owns the Airport, decided to call off the cull at the last minute after wildlife campaigners raised concerns that the proposed cull could seriously damage the numbers of hares in Bedfordshire. "The University has also requested the airport to carry out a further study of the safety risks and population dynamics of brown hare at Cranfield Airport. The airport has confirmed that an independent study will be carried out and any appropriate action will be based on the recommendations of the report."
Cranfield Airport to ‘cull’ hares (protected species) following crash between a plane and a deer
Cranfield Airport is a small airport, close to Cranfield university in Bedfordshire, which used to be a RAF aerodrome. It is operated by Cranfield University. It deals with helicopters, training flights, and business and private jets. Not commercial airlines. It has a concrete runway of 1799 metres. Now after a crash between a light aircraft and a muntjac deer on December 16 2013, the airport has decided to cull wildlife. This cull threatens the hares that use the surrounding area - hares are a nationally protected species, of which Defra is working to increase the population in its biodiversity action plan. The local paper reports that "On Wednesday bosses at Cranfield University plan to undertake a cull of hares at the Airport in which four qualified personnel carrying firearms will seek out the animals." Wildlife groups say the proposed cull could seriously damage the numbers of hares in Bedfordshire, with the species already having become under threat nationally since the Ground Game Act 1880 gave landowners the right to kill rabbits and hares on their land. The airport is clearing the area of scrub vegetation to the south of the site, including a 'controlled cull of the excessive hare and rabbit population' within that area. So much for universities setting an intellectual example of good practice on biodiversity.
“Biodiversity offsetting” is not the silver bullet solution this government hopes will overcome destruction of valued natural habitats
The UK government hopes it has found a way to develop, over countryside and habitats, destroying them and yet claiming no wildlife or habitat has been lost. The neat trick is "biodiversity offsetting", which is claimed to be a market mechanism that will allow developments to flourish while protecting the environment. In simple terms, if you destroy ancient woodlands, wildlife and vital habitats in one place, you have to pay to create it in another. Green NGOs across the UK see this, in reality, as a license to trash national parks, farmland, ancient woods, village greens etc. Rather than replacing habitat with its exact equivalent, a generally lower quality area might be created. By loosening planning laws, biodiversity offsetting becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. As development projects increase, so biodiversity decreases – and becomes more important. The record of biodiversity offsetting from other countries is usually one of failure. It may be as little as one third of schemes that succeed. These schemes should not be done at the expense of destroying existing biodiversity, in the uncertain hope that will be recreated elsewhere, somewhere more convenient for the developers.
Cameron failed to deliver on promise of ‘greenest government ever’ and environmental commitments, say NGOs
In a report called "Nature Check 2013" the consortium of 41 environmental NGOs has set out a range of environmental commitments made by this government, and their progress on them. The Government has failed to deliver on more than a third of the pledges it made to improve the natural environment and has made “good progress” on less than a fifth. The report shows, comparing progress over the past 3 years, that the Coalition’s environmental record had “steadily worsened” during its time in office and found that 79% of the population believe it has not lived up to its pledge to be the “greenest government ever”. Dr Elaine King, director of the consortium said: “We’re told an economy in crisis is a higher priority than nature in crisis. Yet the Government is missing a huge opportunity – a healthy environment helps the economy and enhances people’s health and wellbeing." On the pledge "We will maintain the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other environmental protections, and create a new designation – similar to SSSIs"...they are failing.They are making only moderate progress on two others relating to the planning system.
Emissions of CO2 increasing ocean acidification with future serious risks to marine life
The world's oceans are becoming acidic at an "unprecedented rate" and this may be happening at faster than at any time in the past 300 million years. In their strongest statement yet on this issue, a large number of scientists say ocean acidification could increase by 170% by 2100. They say that some 30% of ocean species are unlikely to survive in these conditions. The researchers conclude that human emissions of CO2 are clearly to blame - humanity is putting some 24 million tonnes of CO2 into the oceans each day. That is already altering the chemistry of the waters, and will do so even more in future. Since the start of the industrial revolution, the waters have become 26% more acidic - and there are serious concerns about the impact this is having, and will have, on many ocean species. These include oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton. When shelled organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk. Today, more than a billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein.