Below are links to stories on Biodiversity, especially relating to aviation and airports.
Environmental Audit Committee warn that biodiversity offsetting plans are too simplistic and a “box-ticking exercise”
The Environmental Audit Committee has said a plan to help developers to win permission to build housing on wildlife habitats by “offsetting” the impact is too simplistic and could turn into a licence to pour concrete on the countryside. The government scheme would involve very perfunctory assessments of species in the area being targeted for development, taking as little as 20 minutes. A developer would then offer to create a replacement habitat somewhere else. Many sites need to be studied over a year, to get a true record of the species using them. The Audit Committee said the scheme could deliver benefits if subjected to stricter rules, but as proposed it could diminish important habitats, such as ancient woodland or SSSis. They told the Government the scheme needs to be delayed till pilot projects have been independently evaluated. Owen Patterson does not like development schemes being held up for biodiversity reasons. Many valuable sites have ecosystems that have taken decades or centuries to develop - these cannot be instantly replicated.
Daily Mail claim of sharp rise in birdstrikes not borne out by the facts from CAA
The Daily Mail, it being the "silly season" with no news, had done an article on an alleged increase in the number air birdstrikes by aircraft between 2009 and 2012. However, the data published by the CAA up to March 2013 do not bear out the Mail's claims of a doubling in three years. The CAA produces data on reported birdstrikes, and on confirmed strikes - the latter being a much lower number than the former. For instance, in 2012 there were 2215 reported birdstrikes, and 1404 confirmed strikes. Some of the increase in reporting may be due to changed reporting requirements of incidents to the CAA. The species hit most often in recent years have been various species of gulls (together the largest group), then swallows, skylarks, swifts and woodpigeons, then pigeons and kestrels. The number of birdstrikes rose significantly after 2008, when the CAA introduced a new system through which all strikes can easily be reported online. It has been mandatory for all strikes to be reported since 2004.
Airports using a biotech high alkaloid endophytic form of grass to deter insects and birds
A form of grass - with the trade name Avanex - has been developed by a firm in New Zealand, Grasslanz Technology and commercialised by PGG Wrightson Turf. It has been designed to be endophytic, which means it incorporates a form of fungus that produces a high amount of alkaloids. This makes the grass distasteful to insects, and so the areas sown with this grass have no or few insects, and consequently few birds. The grass can be toxic to animals and comes with health warnings about livestock eating it. However, airports are enthusiastic to use the grass in order to deter birds and hence the risk of bird strike. The grass has so far been trialled in New Zealand airports since 2010 and found to cut bird numbers by large amounts, making airports very sterile areas, which is what the airport operators want. However, the blurb says "The grass could also be used at sports stadiums, golf courses and even domestic lawns," so the company wants to use its biodiversity-destroying product even more widely.
Monbiot on the threats of “biodiversity offsetting” as an excuse for ruining biodiversity habitats
George Monbiot writes about the dangerous new concept the government has seeded in the minds of developers and planners. The idea is called biodiversity offsetting, which involves trading places: allowing people to destroy wildlife and habitats if, in return, they pay someone to create new habitats elsewhere. In April, the UK government launched 6 pilot projects to test the idea, which would run for 2 years. Initially the government said these offsets should be used only to compensate for 'genuinely unavoidable damage' and they 'must not become a licence to destroy. However once the principle is established and the market is functioning, that is likely to change. Now biodiversity offsetting is being mooted as the means by which destruction of sites of great biodiversity value can be justified. The building of an airport in the Thames estuary would be the sort of project that this offsetting might allow, if it is permitted to continue. Monbiot cites a current case in north Kent where habitat for nightingales would become housing. Finding suitable habitat, which the wildlife finds suitable, is not easy and the success of such projects is very dubious.
CAA data shows 1529 birdstrikes in 2011, up from 1278 in 2009
The CAA reports that bird strikes are on the increase throughout the UK, with 1529 reported last year – up from 1278 in 2009. For Scotland the CAA has said bird strikes have risen at Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness airports over the past 2 years, with an increase in wild flocks and air traffic blamed. Bird strikes have been blamed for bringing down huge aircraft in the past, including the incident in 2009 where an Airbus A320 was forced to ditch in the Hudson river in New York. Glasgow Airport reported 8 strikes this year involving large birds, up from the usual annual average of 3. The Herald Scotland gives information about increases at Scottish airports.
Greater Thames Marshes becomes a Defra Nature Improvement Area
At the end of February DEFRA announced the formation of 12 new Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) across the country. NIA is the new name for Nature Restoration Zones proposed by the Making Space for Nature Review. This aims to achieve a coherent and robust ecological network that would be capable of responding to the challenges of climate change and other pressures. One of the 21 NIAs is the Greater Thames Marshes NIA, and its area covers almost all of the estuary, on the north and south banks, including all the areas where a Thames estuary airport might be located. Each NIA will get money from government to create wildlife havens, restore habitats and encourage local people to get involved with nature. Maria Eagle yesterday went to visit the area.
“More geese may have to be culled” at Leeds-Bradford Airport
The airport's operations director says more geese may be culled to ensure the safety of planes. He said urgent action was needed from time to time, and recently met with residents protesting against the killing of geese at Yeadon Tarn last year. He said measures such as egg picking were already in place – but sometimes it was necessary to react quickly to a particular problem. The airport already used scaring tactics to deflect the geese but had a duty to ensure safety. “We have got to be prepared if suddenly a flock of geese descend and set up a roost somewhere in the locality, and then decide to fly across the airport. We have got to be able to deal with that.”
Leeds Bradford Airport bosses vow to change Canada Geese cull
Airport chiefs, who ordered a cull of 10 Canada Geese at a Leeds beauty spot, YeadonTarn, have said they find other ways to control the population. There was no local consultation about the cull beforehand.Food and Environment Research Agency officers shot the flock, which was deemed “a significant risk to aircraft”, in September by closing the green space to dog walkers in the early hours. Plans for an £11million expansion of the airport, which could be completed by this summer, had sparked further fears of culls. A meeting took place recently between the airport and angry local residents.
EU warned: biofuels will drive biodiversity loss
New research from the European Commission confirms that EU biofuel targets will speed up the rate of extinction of plants and animals. The EU has committed to halting biodiversity loss by 2020 – yet without reform, it’s biofuels policy will seriously undermine this. The indirect land use impacts would convert some 17,000 km2 of natural habitats to grow biofuels, none protected under EU legislation, with the transition to cropland decreasing species abundance by some 85%.
Thames Estuary and Marshes SPA – one of the top 5 UK sites for wintering or migrating birds
The salt marshes on the Peninsula are part of the Thames Estuary and Marshes Special Protection Area, designated for its internationally important populations of wintering birds. The site regularly supports some 33,000 wintering waterfowl, of which avocets and ringed plovers occur in internationally important numbers. In summer, there are important breeding populations of avocets, marsh harriers, Mediterranean gulls and little terns.