Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sharing the planet: Hen harrier conservation and grouse shooting

Dr Juliette Young from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology was on Radio 4 earlier this week, being interviewed for the Shared Planet programme. This week’s episode looked at conflicts between people over wildlife and following the programme there has been a reasonable amount of online discussion of the issues raised, including a piece by former RSPB Conservation Director Mark Avery.

One of the examples discussed during the recording was the conflict in a number of areas of the British Isles between hen harrier conservation interests and land management for grouse shooting.

Dr Young’s comments in the programme built on research she and colleagues have carried out over the past ten years working on conflicts and stakeholder involvement in biodiversity conservation (e.g. Young et al., 2005, 2007, 2010; Redpath et al., 2013). The work involves speaking to a wide range of stakeholders with different perspectives on conflicts, including government advisers, scientists, conservation NGOs and land managers, including gamekeepers, who often feel portrayed by the media and other stakeholders in a negative light, despite their belief that their management can be beneficial to a variety of species.

Dr Young said, “I sincerely hope that a solution can be found to ensure the conservation of hen harriers and other protected species. Whilst I condemn illegal activities against protected species my research has examined how, why and in which contexts conflicts emerge, and aims to analyse how shared understanding and solutions can be found. My research therefore reflects a wide range of different interests and values, all of which need to be understood to navigate through complex conservation conflicts.”

Dr Young’s research has shown that conflicts can be managed effectively through dialogue among all relevant stakeholders and this can lead to shared solutions where different human activities, including conservation, co-exist in the managed landscape (see also Redpath et al., 2013, Young et al., 2010). During the Shared Planet recording she highlighted one good example where this approach has succeeded. When the Scottish government implemented a seal conservation order in 2002 this was a catalyst by which all the local groups felt affected and understood the need to make changes. This catalyst led to the Moray Firth Seal Management Plan (MFSMP) that focused on the need to balance seal and salmon conservation. A local champion emerged who brought all relevant stakeholders, and their knowledge, together, to seek a shared solution to the conflict (Young et al., 2012, 2013a and b).

Additional information


Dr Juliette Young is a social scientist at CEH’s site near Edinburgh, where she has been working since 2002. She initially trained as an ecologist at the University of London (BSc) and University of Leeds (MSc), spent time rehabilitating chimpanzees in Sierra Leone and chasing fig wasps in the Cook Islands before joining CEH. She has a PhD in political science. Her current work focuses on four main areas:

  • public attitudes towards biodiversity, including views on how it should be or is managed, and the values associated with biodiversity.
  • the communication between scientists and decision-makers.
  • the understanding of human conflicts over nature conservation.
  • the role of stakeholder engagement in nature conservation, particularly in the context of protected areas and species.


References

Young, J., Jordan, A., Searle, K.R., Butler, A., Simmons, P. 2013a. Framing scale in participatory biodiversity management may contribute to more sustainable solutions. Conservation Letters 6(5): 333-340.

Young, J., Jordan, A., Searle, K.R., Butler, A., Chapman, D., Simmons, P., Watt, A.D. 2013b. Does stakeholder involvement really benefit biodiversity conservation? Biological Conservation 158: 359-370.

Redpath, S., Young, J., Evely, A., Adams, W.M., Sutherland, W.J., Whitehouse, A., Amar, A., Lambert, R., Linnell, J., Watt, A.D. 2013. Understanding and managing conflicts in biodiversity conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28(2): 100-109.

Young, J., Butler, J.R.A., Jordan, A., Watt, A.D. 2012. Less government intervention in biodiversity management: Risks and opportunities. Biodiversity and Conservation 21(4): 1095-1100.

Young, J., Marzano, M., White, R.M., McCracken, D.I., Redpath, S.M., Carss, D.N., Quine, C.P., Watt, A.D. 2010. The emergence of biodiversity conflicts from biodiversity impacts: characteristics and management strategies. Biodiversity & Conservation 19(14): 3973-3990.

Henle, K., Alard, D., Clitherow, J., Cobb, P., Firbank, L., Kull, T., McCracken, D., Moritz, R.F.A., Niemelä, J., Rebane, M., Wascher, D., Watt, A., Young, J. 2008. Identifying and managing the conflicts between agriculture and biodiversity conservation in Europe – a review. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 124 (1-2): 60-71.

Young, J., Richards, C., Fischer, A., Halada, L., Kull, T., Kuzniar, A., Tartes, U., Uzunov, U. and Watt, A. 2007. Conflicts between biodiversity conservation and human activities in the Central and Eastern European Countries. Ambio 36(7): 545-550.

Young, J., Watt, A., Nowicki, P., Alard, D., Clitherow, J., Henle, K., Johnson, R., Laczko, E., McCracken, D., Matouch, S., Niemelä, J. 2005. Towards sustainable land use: identifying and managing the conflicts between human activities and biodiversity conservation in Europe. Biodiversity and Conservation 14(7): 1641-1661.

Many scientific publications are on subscription websites. Authors may be able to send individuals full copies of their papers.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Ladybirds, fungi and alien invaders

Dr Helen Roy reveals why she is fascinated by Hesperomyces virescens and Harmonia axyridis.

Of all species on Earth it is the parasites that seem to receive least appreciation for their intrinsic beauty. Yet they are exquisite. I have been fascinated by parasites for many years, particularly fungal pathogens of insects. I began my exploration of these intriguing fungi through studies on an obligate parasite of aphids – Pandora neoaphidis. The intricate fungal structures of this delicate (and lethal) fungus when viewed under the microscope are simply beautiful but perhaps even more inspiring are the amazing ways in which this fungus interacts so intimately with the host aphids it infects. It can alter the behaviour of aphids in dramatic ways even affecting the communication between aphids to enhance transmission.

Ladybirds also play a part in the dispersal of this aphid-pathogenic fungus but they are also host to their own fungal parasites too.

The yellow fruiting bodies of Hesperomyces virescens fungus protrude from an infected ladybird
Photo: Katie Murray

Recently Katie Murray, a PhD student based at the University of Stirling but who I have the pleasure of also supervising, found one of the most quirky groups of fungi infecting Harmonia axyridis (harlequin ladybird) in London - the Laboulbeniales. The species of fungus is called Hesperomyces virescens and has previously been studied within Adalia bipunctata (2-spot ladybird) in London.

I met Katie, and her co-supervisor Matt Tinsley, the day after she had made her discovery. The fungus utterly captivated us all. The small yellow fruiting bodies that protrude from infected individuals are striking. The supervisory meeting was dominated by our lively and excitable speculations on the life-history of this fungi and specifically the extent of the epidemic that Katie had stumbled upon. We have so many questions and so few answers.

We are now hoping that people across the UK can help us unravel the mysteries of this unique parasite by contributing to a new parasite survey. As harlequin ladybirds move into people’s homes this winter we are encouraging them to submit photographs, count how many ladybirds they spot and how many appear to have the fungal infection. You can find out more details about Laboulbeniales fungi and take part in the parasite survey here.

Dr Helen Roy is an Ecological Entomologist, working within the Biological Records Centre at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. She also leads the UK Ladybird Survey.

More information about the appeal for citizen scientists to help in mapping the fungal epidemic can be found on the CEH News Centre.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Invasive alien quagga mussel arrives in UK

The invasive alien quagga mussel (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis) has arrived in the UK. The mussel was found in Wraysbury Reservoir and the Wraysbury River, a tributary of the River Colne, near Egham, Surrey.

Top threat


Earlier this year a CEH-led invasive alien species horizon scanning exercise identified the quagga mussel as the top ranking threat to the UK’s biodiversity. The study, published in Global Change Biologyconcluded that the mussel poses a high risk because it is an ecosystem engineer with the potential to disrupt the ecological function of freshwater environments.

The horizon scanning exercise was carried out by scientists from more than 20 research institutes and universities with expertise on invasive alien species. It aimed to collate a list of invasive alien species not yet established within Britain but anticipated to arrive, establish and threaten biodiversity within five years.

Invasive mussels clogging a propeller. As well as altering ecosystems, the quagga mussel
can block pipes, smother boat hulls and other structures,
Photo: Government of Alberta (CC-BY-NC-ND)


Other high risk species


In addition to the quagga mussel the exercise identified a further 29 high risk species, including the Sacred ibis, the Brush clawed shore crab, the Asian hornet, and the American water-milfoil. Since the paper was published, the first UK record of the non-native Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus), which was included in the top 10 potential threats, has been received.

How to record sightings


An alert system operates within the UK for invasive species. The latest species alerts can be found here. If you see the quagga mussel or any other invasive alien species of concern, please report your sighting via iRecord: http://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/enter-non-native-records

More information


The horizon scanning exercise was published in the scientific journal Global Change Biology. The paper is open access.

Full paper reference: Helen E. Roy, Jodey Peyton, David C. Aldridge, Tristan Bantock, Tim M. Blackburn, Robert Britton, Paul Clark, Elizabeth Cook, Katharina Dehnen-Schmutz, Trevor Dines, Michael Dobson, François Edwards, Colin Harrower, Martin C. Harvey, Dan Minchin, David G. Noble, Dave Parrott, Michael J.O. Pocock, Chris D. Preston, Sugoto Roy, Andrew Salisbury, Karsten Schönrogge, Jack Sewell, Richard H. Shaw , Paul Stebbing, Alan J. A. Stewart, Kevin J. Walker (2014) Horizon-scanning for invasive alien species with the potential to threaten biodiversity in Great Britain. Global Change Biology DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12603 (open access)

CEH news story:  Top 30 high risk invasive alien species with potential to threaten British biodiversity identified by scientists


Monday, 6 October 2014

Solar dimming and river flows - background to new paper

A new Met Office-led paper has just been published in the journal Nature Geoscience, entitled “Detection of solar dimming and brightening effects on Northern Hemisphere river flow” by Nic Gedney et al.

Chris Huntingford, who is a co-author, writes:

“In any debate surrounding large-scale environmental change, invariably there is discussion as to the effect of increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. This is particularly in terms of temperature change, and much attention has been placed on fusing together models and data to identify whether there is a human influence on the climate system. Such analysis (often called “detection and attribution”) does suggest that to a high level of confidence, fossil fuel burning has altered the climatic state by increasing atmospheric concentrations of gases such as carbon dioxide. However these analyses of temperature measurements also confirm that an atmospheric aerosol signal is present. The raised level of such particulates, regionally at least, has a partial cooling offset of global warming. Additionally higher aerosol concentrations are known to reduce the amount of the Sun’s light and energy reaching the Earth’s surface.

In this study we accept that both raised greenhouse gas concentrations and aerosols alter meteorological conditions (via temperature levels and indirectly rainfall), which in turn will influence river flows. However to confirm the presence of any aerosol signal, here we instead focus specifically on the impact of changes in sunlight and energy reaching the land surface, and on implications for observed river flows in multiple basins in Northern Hemisphere industrialised areas. This is through the so-called “dimming” and subsequent “brightening” period, the latter a consequence of clean-air acts in many regions.

In our study, we find that when we use a river runoff model, forced with and without estimates of aerosol-induced changes in surface shortwave radiation (i.e. surface energy), then we can only fully explain the river flow data once the aerosol effect is included. Lower surface energy tends to enhance river flows to levels higher than they might otherwise have been. This is because this suppresses water loss by evaporation across the land surface. We can see this effect over Central Europe, in the periods of major solar dimming.

A major focus on climate change will always remain as characterising changes in surface temperature. However to additionally observe and explain anthropogenic influences in a key impact such as river flows does raise confidence in ability to model our changing environment. Such confidence is required, in order to then be able to rely on future computer-based projections and the role they may play in underpinning future policy on the global environment.”

The paper authors are from the Met Office, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, University of Reading, Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique in France, and the University of Exeter.

Chris Huntingford is a Climate Modeller at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

Additional information


Air pollution increases river flows - CEH news story

Paper details:

Detection of solar dimming and brightening effects on Northern Hemisphere river flow.
Gedney, N., Huntingford, C., Weedon, G.P., Bellouin, N., Boucher, O. and Cox, P.M. (2014), Nature Geoscience, doi: 10.1038/NGEO2263

Staff page of Dr Chris Huntingford, CEH

Monday, 29 September 2014

Flu study offers unique insight into our drug habits during a pandemic

New research led by CEH’s Dr Andrew Singer provides the first evidence of how the use of antibiotic and antiviral drugs became elevated during the 2009-2010 influenza pandemic in the UK. The study, published in PLOS One, offers a unique look at public health practice, human behaviour and drug adherence in the country.

Andrew’s study, carried out at 21 locations within the river Thames catchment, was the first to provide actual measurements of antibiotics, antivirals and decongestants in sewage effluent and receiving rivers during an influenza pandemic, an event only likely to happen every 30 years or so. The aim was to quantify the pharmaceutical response to the pandemic and compare this to drug use during the late pandemic and the inter-pandemic periods. The findings helped to quantify the risk to wastewater treatment plants, as they will be sensitive to the amount of antimicrobials in sewage and could potentially fail to meet water quality standards during high drug use events such as an influenza pandemic.

Dr Andrew Singer at work in one of CEH's laboratories.

The study also provides evidence that environmental concentrations of the antiviral Tamiflu would be sufficiently high to select for antiviral-resistance in influenza viruses within wildfowl inhabiting the river Thames. Future research will need to focus on the minimum concentration of antibiotics needed to ‘knock out’ a wastewater treatment plant, and whether this concentration could be achieved during a more severe pandemic. It remains an open question as to the extent to which exposure to high concentrations of Tamiflu have actually selected for antiviral resistance in wildfowl—as this has been shown to occur in laboratory studies. Lastly, it also remains unclear as to the lasting impact of an increase in antibiotic use during a severe influenza pandemic on the environmental reservoir of antibiotic resistance and its relevance to human health. Will we need to limit antibiotic use during a pandemic in order to spare our wastewater treatment plants as well as the long term efficacy of antibiotics?

Read more about the background to the study in an article on Andrew’s blog and read the freely available study in PLOS One.


Additional information


Staff page of Dr Andrew Singer, CEH

Andrew led a previous study estimating how much prescribed Tamiflu went unused during the 2009-2010 pandemic. More details in a CEH news story.





Thursday, 25 September 2014

What emission profiles aid remaining below two degrees of global warming?

In recent days multiple marches have taken place around the world, timed to coincide with the UN Climate Change summit in New York (23 September 2014). The many protestors have urged more action by governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

CEH climate modeller Dr Chris Huntingford commented:

“There is still significant debate as to what constitutes safe levels of global warming. This almost certainly depends on the different impacts which can result from varying levels of warming. For example, meteorological changes affecting crop productivity detrimentally could be produced by a different level of climate change to that causing unwelcome sea-level rise. Yet despite this, the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen pushed for the single threshold of no more than two degrees of global warming. There is a persuasive argument that this was a major achievement, as a single easy to understand temperature threshold will probably gain more traction in policymaker circles than debating a range of possible climatic futures.

The immediate question then became: “What emissions profiles can keep us below two degrees of global warming?” Working with colleagues from Met Office Hadley Centre, University of Oxford, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Committee on Climate Change, we carried out a study using a relatively simple coupled climate-carbon cycle model, but one capturing uncertainty based on differences between the fully complex climate models, as operated by various research centres across the world. The resultant paper provided “look-up” diagrams, where different emissions levels of years 2020 and 2050 can be related to the probability of remaining below two degrees. The paper also linked these 2020 and 2050 levels to both year of maximum emissions and required year-on-year emission cuts for the decades thereafter, in order to fulfil them.

The paper was published in 2012 in the journal Environmental Research Letters, but its message still stands. Namely that to have a reasonable chance of constraining warming to two degrees then emissions need to peak in the next few years, followed by year-on-year cuts of at least 3%.”

Chris Huntingford

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (front row, second from right) at the People's Climate
March in New York, held ahead of the Climate Summit he hosted at UN headquarters in
September 2014. Photo: UN / Mark Garten

Additional information


The paper can be read on the Environmental Research Letters website. It is "open access" allowing circulation of the document, and can be found here (doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/7/1/014039).

Chris Huntingford is a climate researcher at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and also long-term visiting scientist at the Oxford University Centre for the Environment.

Information on the UN Climate Summit 2014

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Developing the new CEH-Gridded Estimates of Areal Rainfall dataset

Watch a presentation by Dr Maliko Tanguy of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology about the new CEH-Gridded Estimates of Areal Rainfall dataset (GEAR). The talk explores the motivations behind development of the dataset, including user and data management needs, explains how the data was derived, and provides some example uses. CEH-GEAR provides 1km gridded estimates of daily and monthly rainfall totals for Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1890 to 2012, with yearly updates. Precipitation totals from the UK raingauge network are used.




The CEH-GEAR dataset will be available via the CEH Information Gateway by the end of the year.

Additional information


The presentation above was made to an internal CEH audience in September 2014.

CEH Information Gateway

View slides from the presentation made at the British Hydrology Society 2014 National Symposium