Thursday, 28 November 2013

Marine Climate Change scorecards published today for Coastal Margin habitats and Seabirds

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) published its latest Report Card today (28 November 2013), providing its most comprehensive assessment yet of how climate change is affecting UK waters. CEH coastal ecologists Dr Laurence Jones, Mr Angus Garbutt and Dr Francis Daunt are authors of the scorecards for coastal margins and seabirds, documenting the recent scientific evidence for what will happen in coastal habitats and on seabird populations under climate change. The coastal margin habitats include sand dunes, saltmarsh, machair systems, shingle and maritime cliffs.

Sefton coast sand dunes, photo by Shutterstock
Sefton coast sand dunes

All the coastal margin habitats are vulnerable to a wide range of climate impacts. Highly species-rich dune wetlands may dry out in the next 50 years and transform to dry grassland, with the potential loss of many rare species; while in dune and machair systems (a form of coastal grassland unique to Scotland and Ireland) there is evidence of erosional narrowing of beaches and dunes. Sea defence provided by saltmarsh, sand dunes and shingle will face increasing erosional pressure due to sea level rise and storms.

Seabirds have declined by 7.5% in the UK since the turn of the century, and climate warming is considered to be one of the main drivers by altering prey abundance and quality. Models predict that, by 2100, the UK climate will no longer be suitable for some species, with the range of others retracting to northern Scotland. Any increase in the frequency of extreme weather could further impact on seabirds by altering breeding habitat and creating unfavourable foraging conditions.

Seabirds on the Isle of May, photo Isle of May Long-Term Monitoring Survey
Seabirds on the Isle of May

The scorecards are produced by the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) and cover more than 30 marine and coastal topics. More than 150 scientists from 55 leading UK science organisations contributed to the 2013 report.

The scorecards are published annually, and provide latest updates on the evidence of recent change and best scientific projections of what is likely to happen in the near future. A summary of the findings for all UK marine and coastal habitats, and the detailed peer-reviewed briefings on all 33 topics can be found on the MCCIP website.

Additional information

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership was launched in March 2005 and is a partnership between scientists, government, its agencies, non-governmental organisations and industry.

A press release was issued to announce publication of the 2013 Report Card.

Related CEH links

Staff page of Dr Laurence Jones (sand dune expert)

Staff page of Angus Garbutt (saltmarsh expert)

Staff page of Dr Francis Daunt (seabird expert)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

New paper - The role of short-lived climate pollutants in meeting temperature goals

Dr Chris Huntingford, a climate modeller at CEH, is a co-author on a new paper in Nature Climate Change which examines whether immediately reducing emissions of methane, black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants will contribute substantially towards the goal of limiting global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Chris writes: “There is tremendous interest at the moment in how emissions in non-CO2 gases can be reduced as a contribution towards constraining global warming. Peak levels of warming remain of particular concern, including whether we will remain below the often discussed threshold of two-degrees. Whilst any action on greenhouse gas emissions is of interest, what this paper finds is as follows. Reduction of short-lived gases as a mechanism to reduce peaks levels of global warming is most effective when CO2 emissions themselves are reducing significantly. Lowering methane emissions for instance (which has an atmospheric lifetime of around just 12 years) a long time before CO2-reductions are implemented is unnecessary - waiting until a time when CO2 emissions are also reducing will have the same effect on peak warming.

The argument implicit in this paper is that over the next few decades, in terms of reducing peak warming, the emphasis really should remain on tackling the longer-lived gases, and predominantly carbon dioxide, which by definition have a more cumulative effect on climate. Reductions in short-lived gases will be extremely useful too in restricting maximum warming, but working out how to reduce them can maybe wait temporarily, leaving mitigation policy to focus on carbon dioxide.”

You can read the paper on the Nature Climate Change website here.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Aiming for just enough Nitrogen (and not too much!)

Professor Mark Sutton from CEH is currently in Kampala, Uganda at the 6th International Nitrogen Conference, where he has joined other scientists, agriculturalists, environmentalists, industrialists, economists and policy-makers to discuss issues linked to nitrogen management, including food security, human health, agriculture and the water cycle. On Friday (22 November), it is planned that the Conference will finalize and announce the Kampala Declaration on global nitrogen management.

Prof Sutton chairs the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) which has organised the conference with the African Nitrogen Centre, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Also attending the conference are Prof Sutton's CEH colleagues Prof Nancy Dise and Dr Ute Skiba, each of whom are speaking at the event.

The conference, which runs from 18-22 November 2013, has the tagline "Let us aim for Just Enough N: Perspectives on how to get there for 'too much' and 'too little' regions".

Prof Sutton is chairing a session on Global and Regional Assessment and making a keynote speech "Global Nitrogen Assessment: From Our Nutrient World to the International Nitrogen Management System (INMS)". Our Nutrient World is the UNEP publication edited by Prof Sutton which was published by CEH earlier this year. It is planned that Prof Sutton will also moderate the finalization of the Kampala Declaration on Friday.

The Kampala meeting is believed to be the world's first 'Nitrogen Neutral' conference, where delegates are offered the opportunity to contribute offsetting their nitrogen footprint associated with the conference.  At the same time, the delegates have adopted a demitarian approach - reducing their consumption of meat by half compared with the usual menu at the conference venue, the Speke Resort Hotel - as a means of reducing their own nitrogen footprint.

A key issue being discussed at the meeting is how to get more Nitrogen into Africa, with the main debate being that of fertiliser usage versus biological nitrogen fixation, and how to get the best from both aspects.

This is the sixth international conference to take place after previous events in the Netherlands, USA, China, Brazil and India. The common objective of these conferences is the design of more productive, economic and sustainable food and energy production systems to meet the challenges of the growing global population whilst minimising the cascade of environmental effects posed by nitrogen. Air pollution, water pollution, biodiversity and climate change are all impacted through "too much" nitrogen in the environment, but it is an essential part of the story to ensuring global good security.

The International Nitrogen Initiative is a global effort to optimize nitrogen's beneficial role in sustainable food production and to minimize nitrogen's negative effects on human health and the environment.

Additional information

Prof Nancy Dise is speaking on "Impacts of nitrogen deposition on the ecology and biogeochemistry of European peat bogs: The PEATBOG Project" in a session on N and ecosystem health.

Dr Ute Skiba is speaking on "Comparison of N, C and GHG budgets from European forests, wetlands and agricultural land" in a session on N emissions and climate change.

Related links

Staff page of Prof Mark Sutton

Updated 22 November 2013

Prof Mark Sutton was on the Steering Committee and Editorial Team, and was Part 2 Coordinator, of the new UNEP Synthesis Report, Drawing Down N2O to Protect Climate and the Ozone Layer, which was published on Thursday 21 November 2013, coinciding with the COP19 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw. Additionally, Dr Ute Skiba from CEH was a lead author on the new report, which aims to inform policymakers and stakeholders about the impacts of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions on the climate and ozone layer. More details can be found from the UNEP press release.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Integration and reflection - paperblog 8

This week we concentrate on recent papers with CEH scientists as the first author.

PhD student Philip Martin recently published a major paper summarising his research over the last few years. You can read more about "Carbon pools recover more quickly than plant biodiversity in tropical secondary forests" (published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B) on the CEH website and on Philip's blog.

Another PhD student, Christopher Malley, has a new paper out in Atmospheric Research which takes a detailed look at how well two of the UK's atmospheric monitoring 'supersites', including the site run by CEH at Auchencorth Moss in Scotland, represent the UK's background ozone conditions.

CEH is a Centre that carries out both ecological and hydrological science, sometimes together (the clue is in the name!). Our scientists produce many papers that seek to bring together varied data on water quantity, freshwater ecology, and water quality. In recent weeks, CEH scientists have published on estimating concentrations in rivers of different chemicals originating from sewage treatment plants (Keller et al., open access in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry), and a new approach for predicting phosphorus concentrations in rivers (Greene et al., Journal of Hydrology).

Sometimes it is necessary to take a step back from day to day research to ponder some fundamental questions on how scientific knowledge can be used in wider society. Two examples have recently appeared. Alan Gray has a new paper in Transgenic Research examining whether applied ecology has failed the transgenic crops debate. Stefan Reis and colleagues from CEH, Universities and Health Institutes across the UK have put together a new analysis on how to integrate health and environmental impact analysis to address some of the new public health challenges.

Nitrogen science plays a big role in CEH activities. Laurence Jones and CEH colleagues have produced a new review of the evidence for nitrogen impacts on ecosystem services. Read it in the journal Ecosystem Services, where the paper is open access (full text freely available). Meanwhile, Mark Sutton is lead author on another new open access paper in Environmental Development looking at "Green Economy thinking" and relevance to control of nitrous oxide emissions.

Finally, Robert Mills, who completed a PhD at CEH's site in Bangor, North Wales, has just published a new paper on organic carbon turnover rates in natural and semi-natural topsoils. Working with Professor Ed Tipping, the study concludes with the interesting result that turnover is faster under trees than non-trees. Read more in the journal Biogeochemistry.

That's it. As ever, we welcome suggestions and comments on the material presented in the paperblog. Let us know what you think!

Barnaby Smith, Media Relations Manager

Additional information

If you'd like a fuller picture of new papers from CEH, just follow the CEH Paper Alerts Twitter feed, which lists CEH peer-reviewed papers newly published online. Full details of Centre for Ecology & Hydrology science publications, including those published in peer-reviewed science journals, are eventually catalogued on the NERC Open Research Archive (NORA).

Those of you who follow the scientific literature will know some journal websites require registration and some are subscription-only. CEH, as part of NERC, is working with publishers and funders to make more of our output open access, and we have indicated above where this is the case.

We also publish lots of our other outputs including biological records atlases and project reports. More details can be found in the publications section of the CEH website.

Friday, 8 November 2013

From Nairn to San Diego... CEH lake restoration research hits the road

Details of CEH lake research were presented at an international conference last week by one of our former PhD students:

Dr Sebastian Meis presented results of his PhD study at the 33rd International Symposium of the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS: 30 October - 3 November 2013) in San Diego, USA. In his presentation, entitled "Seasonal responses of physicochemical and biological variables following disruption of internal phosphorus loading using lanthanum-modified bentonite clay (Phoslock®): insights from laboratory and whole lake experiments", he highlighted the major findings of the whole lake manipulation study conducted at Loch Flemington (Nairn, UK) by CEH.

The conference focused on measures for in-lake phosphorus control available to lake managers, with various presentations focusing on the use of alum, oxygenation / aeration and de-stratification as possible management tools. Conference attendees included scientists, lake managers, consultancies, as well as companies. Dr Meis was also invited to present at an additional special session on the use of geo-engineering approaches for phosphorus management in lakes, where he highlighted the need for greater accuracy when estimating product dose at the site specific scale.

Dr Bryan Spears, a co-author on the talk and Sebastian's supervisor during his PhD, writes:

"It's great to see the importance of Seb's work being recognised through his invitation to present at the special session. Geo-engineering is being increasingly used for the control of phosphorus and eutrophication in lakes. CEH's role as an independent research organisation in informing water managers on issues associated with this approach is critical. Seb's recent work has provided scientific evidence with which decisions on the wide-scale use of this approach can be based.

This work has produced guidance on estimating effective dose of products and the identification of potential unintended chemical and ecological consequences associated with product application. Seb's results are being used to inform industry and environmental regulators on the wider use of this approach."

Sebastian Meis (right) at the NALMS conference in San Diego.

Additional information

NALMS Conference

UK Lake Restoration

Loch Flemington case study

Bryan Spears CEH staff page & ResearchGate profile

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Carbon and plant biodiversity recovery

A very short post to draw attention to new research by one of our PhD students Phil Martin (with Bournemouth University) who this week was lead author of a paper published in the Royal Society's flagship biological sciences journal, Proceedings B.

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology published a news story about the research: Carbon storage recovers more quickly than plant biodiversity in re-growing tropical forests

You can read the paper itself on the Proceedings B website (free to access until 30 November as part of the Royal Society's commitment to Open Access Week): Carbon pools recover more quickly than plant biodiversity in tropical secondary forests

On Phil's blog Ecology for a Crowded Planet, he has written an engaging and informative post giving more details about the research and why it is important: How long does tropical forest take to recover from agricultural clearance?

The photograph below by Ricardo Solar depicts an intermediate secondary forest in Paragominas, Para, Brazil and is indicative of the type of forest used in the analyses.

Photo by Ricardo Solar

Paulette Burns, Media Coordinator 

Additional information

Staff page of Philip Martin at CEH 

21 November 2013 update

Philip also published an article about his research in The Conversation on 13 November 2013