Friday, 28 November 2014

Assessing mammal abundance in the Chernobyl exclusion zone

You might have seen the BBC News story about brown bears photographed in Chernobyl for what is believed to be the first time. CEH scientists are working on the project which aims to reduce uncertainties in assessing the risk to humans and wildlife associated with radioactive exposure.

Prof Nick Beresford told us, "Within the TREE project (TRansfer - Exposure – Effects) the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Salford University are using wildlife trap cameras to look at mammal abundance in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Our cameras have only just been deployed but our Ukrainian collaborator, Dr Sergey Gaschak, has had a few out in the Zone for two years.

"When he downloaded his latest set of photographs he found the first confirmation of brown bear (Ursus arctos) in the area."

Brown bear. Photo: Sergey Gashchak (Chornobyl Centre, Ukraine)

A selection of photographs from the camera traps are being published on the TREE project website. Other species already photographed include Eurasian lynx, European grey wolf and Eurasian elk.

One of the newly fitted camera traps in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Related links

Staff page of Prof Nick Beresford, CEH

Staff page of Dr Brenda Howard, CEH (TREE Principal Investigator)

Follow Radioecology Exchange on Twitter for updates and news from the project and related work

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Helping to restore India’s rivers

Scientists from the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) were in India recently (10-14 November 2014) to participate in intensive discussions with researchers from the National Institute of Hydrology in Roorkee relating to work to restore India's rivers. Mike Acreman, Cedric Laize, Harry Dixon and Nathan Rickards of CEH gave a number of presentations and took part in knowledge exchange discussions with Indian counterparts led by Dr Sharad Jain to explore how CEH expertise can help develop the scientific capacity and strengthen the local skills needed to carry out such research.

Ganges near Haridwar. Photo: Mike Acreman
The health of India’s rivers is a critical issue. Water is essential for the future well-being of the people of India and the country’s economy. Past water management has focused largely on flood protection and on delivering water for irrigated agriculture, domestic supply and hydropower generation. Stress on water resources will increase as India’s population is expected to rise from the current 1.21 billion (2011 census) to 1.6 billion by 2050.

Historically water has been supplied from major rivers. The largest and most iconic Indian river is the Ganges, which is also considered sacred by the Hindus that make up 80% of the Indian population. Despite this the Ganges has become depleted of water and highly polluted by raw sewage and industrial waste leading to loss of species, such as the river dolphin, and making it unsuitable for religious uses. The Government of India is now preparing plans to clean the rivers, beginning with the River Ganges and the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has announced funding for the Namami Ganga project of 20 billion Rupees (£0.2 billion). Restoring appropriate flows to the river will be essential to bringing the rivers back to life alongside reducing pollution.

Gauging station on the river Ganges. Photo: Mike Acreman
CEH is supporting the Indian National Institute of Hydrology to produce computer models of the Ganges and other rivers to understand the implications of allocating water to different uses and to define the flows needed to achieve levels of river health. CEH project leader Prof Mike Acreman told us that “restoring the Ganges and other Indian rivers to good health will take a long time, but we hope that the enthusiasm and local knowledge of Indian water scientists supported by CEH’s vast global research experience will help the Indian government achieve its aim”.

Additional information

Staff page of Prof Mike Acreman

Staff page of Cedric Laize

Staff page of Dr Harry Dixon

CEH's Science Areas

Friday, 7 November 2014

Monitoring biodiversity and habitats from space: a reality check

Watch a presentation on Earth Observation science, its limitations and its potential - a personal view from Dr France Gerard of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH). This talk was delivered to CEH staff on 4 November 2014.

Related links

Staff page of Dr France Gerard

Monitoring and Observation Systems Science Area

Natural Capital Science Area

CEH Information Gateway

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

National Pollinator Strategy and related CEH science

The National Pollinator Strategy was launched yesterday (4 November 2014) by Environment Minister Liz Truss. The strategy has been many months in the making and appears (judging by reactions reported in the media such as on the BBC and in the Guardian) to have widespread, if occasionally qualified, support from a large number of organisations and individuals.

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is one of two academic partners represented on the Stakeholder Advisory Group for the strategy project and our science is integral to delivering its aims.

References in the strategy to CEH work include:

The National Pollinator Strategy refers to an existing evidence base, and makes a number of comments on future evidence requirements. The strategy is intended to lay out a 10-year roadmap for actions and lays out a number of key evidence gaps.

The science carried out at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is crucial to both understanding the current evidence base and addressing those gaps. In addition to the ongoing projects mentioned above, over the next five years scientists at CEH will:

  • Develop and test a new systematic and sustainable monitoring framework for pollinators to be implemented by professionals and by using a “citizen science” approach involving volunteers logging observations and gathering other evidence*.
  • Undertake research to quantify the impact on honeybees of two commercial neonicotinoids seed treatments in commercially grown crops of oilseed rape (‘Clothianidin’ Bayer CropScience and ‘Thiamethoxam’ Syngenta). CEH researchers have designed, and are overseeing the delivery of this pan-European, field experiment.

*The project was commissioned by Defra in summer 2014 and is being undertaken by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Leeds University, Reading University and the Open University, and entomology experts (Hymettus) and volunteers from recording schemes and societies (Bees Wasps and Ants Recording Society; Hoverfly Recording Scheme; Bumblebee Conservation Trust; Butterfly Conservation and British Trust for Ornithology).

Additional information

National Pollinator Strategy: for bees and other pollinators in England

Plan bee: New measures to protect pollinators BBC News - 4 November 2014

Will the UK's pollinator strategy be enough to stop bee decline?  The Guardian - 4 November 2014

Insect Pollinators Initiative Dissemination Event CEH blog post - 24 October 2014