Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Managing the world’s water – sharing good practice

Dr Harry Dixon reports from the World Water Congress in Edinburgh

This week CEH organised a Special Session at the International Water Resources Association’s (IWRA) World Water Congress. The Congress is the Association’s 15th global gathering and this year it is being held in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, reflecting the Scottish Government’s drive to grow the water sector under its HydroNation agenda.

At CEH, we host the UK Committee for Nation and International Hydrology (UKCNIH). This Committee, chaired by Professor Alan Jenkins, provides a forum for UK government departments, agencies, research bodies, professional societies and universities to discuss current issues and priorities related to freshwater research. The aim is to better coordinate UK engagement in national and international hydrological research.

Speakers in the special session on international catchment management science
and application at the World Water Congress XV.

Central to the Committee’s activities are the UK’s activities related to the International Hydrological Programme of UNESCO , for which CEH leads engagement on behalf of the Department for International Development (DFID), and involvement in the water related activities of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), for which Alan Jenkins is the UK Hydrological Adviser.

On behalf of the UKCNIH we convened a session at the World Water Congress to bring together a range of experts from both the UK and overseas involved in catchment management science. The aim was to discuss both the scientific and implementation challenges related to catchment based approaches to water management.

The Session was kicked off by Mark Williams, Scottish Water’s Head of Environmental Science and Regulation, who provided a very interesting set of examples of issues the water industry are faced with when tacking urban pollution. Next, David Harley, Water and Land Manager at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, provided a local perspective outlining the regulatory challenges related to the development of River Basin Management Plans and in particular the issue around rural defuse pollution.

The Congress is, as the name suggests an international gathering with around 900 delegates from across the work attending. One key aim of our Session was to discuss the role of international science programmes in relation to improving catchment management and one very interesting examples in this area came from Prof David Harper (University of Leicester and long-standing member of the UKCNIH) who provided an overview of his work on the Lake Naivasha basin in Kenya. David outlined his research on the ecohydrology of the basin, an area which provides 40% of all cut flowers that are sold in EU supermarkets.

In addition to UK researchers and practitioners, we were very pleased to be joined by representatives of both UNESCO and WMO to give a UN perspective on the future direction for global science in this area and ideas on how the world community can improve catchment management. Dr Blanca E JimĂ©nez Cisneros is the Secretary of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and UNESCO’s Director of Water Sciences. Blanca’s presentation set out the global challenges related to water security and the ways in which the IHP aims to provide a framework for global water science, policy development and education. Giacomo Teruggi from WMO detailed their activities under the Hydrology and Water Resources Programme and gave an interesting overview of the Associated Programme on Flood Management – a joint initiative by the WMO and Global Water Partnership to advocate the concept of Integrated Flood Management.

To bring the different ideas together, Prof Bob Ferrier (James Hutton Institute and member of CEH’s Science Development Group ) rose to the challenge of summarising the current issues and challenges in relation to catchment science and posed some thought provoking ideas. Following Bob’s presentation, Alan Jenkins adopted the role of David Dimbleby to host a Question Time style panel session with all our speakers to explore the issues further. The panel and audience discussed a range of questions covering: the key scientific questions to which catchment managers need answers; the challenge of mobilising individuals and organisations in relation to adaptation; and how to stimulate greater community engagement in managing the freshwater environment.

The Session generated some interesting discussions and highlighted the difficult challenges faced by the global community to improve catchment management. However, it also highlighted some great examples of UK scientists and practitioners rising to these challenges to deliver integrated catchment management approaches both in this country and overseas.

It is clear that as hydrologists we have an important role to play in developing water management in this area and that by working through organisations such as UNESCO and WMO we can ensure we learn from others internationally and that the good practices we have in the UK are shared around the world.

Dr Harry Dixon

Dr Harry Dixon is a Senior Hydrologist at CEH and the Secretary of the UK Committee for National and International Hydrology. He works closely with Prof Alan Jenkins to provide the Committee’s Secretariat and CEH’s leadership of UK engagement in international science programmes of WMO and UNESCO.

Related links

World Water Congress XV Special Session 4 outline of speakers 

World Water Congress XV

UK Committee for National and International Hydrology

Staff page of Prof Alan Jenkins, CEH

Staff page of Dr Harry Dixon, CEH

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A decade of recording harlequin ladybirds in the UK

Dr Helen Roy of CEH is among the scientists behind the UK Ladybird Survey which, thanks to the help of the public, has monitored the rapid spread of the non-native harlequin ladybird in the UK from its first confirmed appearance in 2004. Coinciding with a new paper in Ecological Entomology, Helen looks back at ten years of harlequin ladybird recording.

"The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis), heralded as “the most invasive ladybird on Earth”, was first recorded in the UK in October 2004. Within a few months the online Harlequin Ladybird Survey was launched as part of the wider UK Ladybird Survey. Over the last decade, tens of thousands of people have contributed their sightings of this invasive non-native ladybird (and other species of ladybird) to the UK Ladybird Survey.

"The result - a unique dataset tracking the invasion of a non-native species from the moment of arrival.

Harlequin ladybird (Photo: Ken Dolbear)

Today (20 May 2015) we celebrate the contributions of these inspiring volunteer recorders through the publication of a paper describing advances in understanding of the ecology of the harlequin ladybird in the UK. The paper builds on a paper published in the same journal in 2006 which made predictions about the impact of the harlequin.

There have been many exciting discoveries over the years and some rather bleak messages too. Much of the research on this species would have been impossible without the volunteer recorders. We have learnt so many lessons from these ladybirds.

Highlights include:

  • The UK Ladybird Survey dataset highlighted that seven out of eight native species of ladybird were declining and this was strongly linked to the arrival of the harlequin ladybird.
  • We have also explored the way in which the colour patterns of harlequin ladybirds, their association with different habitats and plants within these habitats, their reproductive behaviour, their flight patterns and so much more has influenced the spread of this species.
  • The harlequin ladybird has been shown to be more resistant to parasites than other ladybirds.
  • We have shared the dataset with other scientists across the UK and around the world and enjoyed comparing our findings with others who are studying the harlequin ladybird across Europe, South Africa, North and South America and Asia.
  • The role of citizen scientists in this research has been inspiring and we have enjoyed sharing experiences with other citizen scientists and their projects to develop a citizen science.
  • The number of new arrivals is increasing year on year and the number of records of H. axyridis received by the UK Ladybird Survey demonstrates the critical role that people can play in non-native species surveillance.
  • The commitment of people to recording harlequin ladybirds encouraged the development of a recording system for other non-native species which is being used as an early warning tool for the Asian hornet and other species that are on the horizon. The demand for scientific evidence to underpin our understanding of the impacts of invasive non-native species on other wildlife continues to be high.

The next ten years

So what about the next ten years? We still have so much to learn about the harlequin ladybird and its interactions with other species. To date much of the research has looked at predation and we need to examine the importance of competition between harlequin ladybirds and other species, and our understanding of the resilience of the networks of species with which the harlequin ladybird intermingles. We are also asking people to tell us about the natural enemies (mainly parasites) of ladybirds as they observe them interacting with harlequin ladybirds and other species. It is possible that some of these incredible parasites will adapt to using the harlequin ladybird as a host – evolution in action!

Collaboration and working in partnership is so important and we have been delighted to have so many opportunities to work with so many people and organizations over the last ten years. We want to thank everyone who has contributed – it has been a privilege to work with you all. We hope that people will continue to be part of the UK Ladybird Survey. The smartphone app, iRecord Ladybirds, ensures that it is extremely easy to record sightings of all ladybirds. An incredible 12000 records have already been contributed through the app.

"So, if you see a ladybird, please record your sighting. Every record counts!"

Dr Helen Roy

Ten years of invasion: Harmonia axyridis (Pallas) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in Britain. 2015. Helen E Roy and Peter M J Brown. Ecological Entomology.

CEH News:  Ten years of invasion -  a decade of recording harlequin ladybirds

UK Ladybird Survey: Recording ladybirds

Monday, 18 May 2015

Fascination of Plants Day 2015

CEH scientists were among those taking part in an event at Harcourt Arboretum in Oxfordshire this weekend staged as part of the worldwide Fascination of Plants Day 2015. Insect interactions with different plants and wildflowers were high on the agenda as our experts led guided walks, answered questions and revealed the contents of a moth trap set up for the event.

Moth and butterfly ecologist Dr Marc Botham began proceedings when he opened the moth trap to fascinated onlookers.

Dr Marc Botham (kneeling) opened a moth trap at the event

Although Marc himself was a little disappointed with the number and variety of species caught during a cooler than average May night, there were still plenty to keep the crowd interested, with poplar hawk moths particularly numerous. 

Many of the people got to hold some of the still docile moths for the first time and see up close the amazing colours and markings.

Next up was the first of the day's ladybirds walks, led by entomologist Dr Helen Roy, who taught some of the younger participants the art of using a sweep net and showed them how to input their discoveries into the Ladybird Survey app.

A number of pine ladybirds were found on both pine and hawthorn trees in the woodland. On a day when ladybirds were actually quite scarce, 14-spot and 7-spot ladybirds were also spotted by some of the more eagle-eyed participants.

Dr Oli Pescott, a botanist at CEH, led plant and wildflower walks during the day. As well as pointing out much of what was in bloom around the arboretum, Oli revealed fascinating facts, identification tips, similarities between species and the importance of different plants for insect interactions.

The cuckooflower or Lady's smock (Cardamine pratensis), a primary
larval food plant of the Orange tip butterfly

Comparing characteristics of thyme-leaved speedwell (left) and
germander speedwell.

Dog's mercury (Mercurialis perennis) - don't eat it! A
woodland plant which is highly poisonous.

This is the third international Fascination of Plants Day. Events are being held worldwide with the aim of getting people enthused by plants and their importance for the environment, food production, agriculture, as well as the sustainable production of goods such as timber, chemicals, pharmaceuticals etc.

As well as CEH, other organisations taking part at the Harcourt Arboretum event included the University of Oxford, the Wildlife Trusts, the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre, and the RSPB.

Paulette Burns

Further information

Marc, Oli and Helen all work closely with the Biological Records Centre within CEH.

Fascination of Plants Day 2015 official website