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First-ever global catalogue of ecosystems will enable coordinated conservation efforts - IUCN

Permafrost in tundra ecosystems is a massive carbon sink vital to the world's future climate. Sydkap, East Greenland (Hannes Grobe)
Permafrost in tundra ecosystems is a massive carbon sink vital to the world's future climate. Sydkap, East Greenland (Hannes Grobe)

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) today published its Global Typology of Ecosystems, the first-ever comprehensive system for classifying and mapping all ecosystems on Earth based on both their functions and composition. The typology allows for more coordinated and effective approaches to conservation management.

“Many of the world’s ecosystems are under acute risk of collapse, with grave consequences for the survival of species, genetic diversity, ecosystem services and human wellbeing. To sustain them, it’s critically important that the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework contains explicit, ambitious goals for the conservation of ecosystems alongside species,” said IUCN Director General Dr Bruno Oberle. “This first standardised, spatially explicit ecosystem typology provides the infrastructure that is needed to set and track such goals.”

The typology defines the key biophysical features of 108 major ecosystem types throughout the oceans, freshwater and land, and describes the processes that sustain them as well as their global distributions. It encompasses ecosystems that are shaped by humans – such as croplands and dams – as well as vast forest wilderness, deserts, deep ocean trenches, and even ecosystems buried below ground and beneath ice sheets. This systematic approach to classifying ecosystems will help identify which types of forests, reefs and wetlands, for example, are most critical to biodiversity conservation and the supply of ecosystem services, and which are at greatest risk of collapse.

Stay of execution for bees in 2021 - The Wildlife Trusts

Today’s (2 March) announcement that a banned neonicotinoid will not be used on sugar beet is good news – but does not halt the risk to wildlife in future years

Bees and other wildlife may have won a temporary reprieve and could now avoid being poisoned by a toxic pesticide due to the recent snap of very cold weather killing off virus-transmitting aphids which can attack sugar beet crops.

The Wildlife Trusts are delighted that the Government will not be granting an emergency authorisation for the use of a banned neonicotinoid on sugar beet this year. Tests have found that the level of virus infection forecast is 8.37%, which is not enough to meet the threshold for the use of the neonicotinoid, thiamethoxam, to combat the virus which affects sugar beet. [British Beet Research Organisation announcement today here.]

While The Wildlife Trusts are pleased that the Government will not be proceeding with this highly damaging authorisation this year, this ‘stay of execution’ does not change the underlying issue – that the neonicotinoid could be allowed in the future.

Keeping ATVs on the right track - Cairngorms National Park Authority

Argocat, four wheel drive vehicle on moorland (Grant Anderson, Crown Estate Scotland)
ATV leaflet front cover (Grant Anderson, Crown Estate Scotland)

A new handy guide aimed at helping land managers protect hill ground from damage caused by all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) has been published.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority with members of the Cairngorms Upland Advisory Group have pulled together a user guide with a short checklist covering the use of ATVs such as quad bikes, Argocats and other four wheel drive vehicles. It is hoped by producing the guide, damage to fragile upland habitats will be reduced in future.

Will Boyd Wallis, Head of Land Management at the CNPA said: “The Cairngorms National Park is of international importance and land managers play a key role in looking after it. ATVs are essential for upland management but in some circumstances they can damage important habitats. This straight-forward guide is a useful reminder for everyone using these vehicles in their day to day work and will help them to look after their hill ground.”

Helen Todd, Campaigns & Policy Manager for Ramblers Scotland and co-convener of the Scottish Environment LINK hill tracks group said: “We’re delighted to welcome this practical guide from the Cairngorms National Park Authority. We hope that land managers will find this guide useful in helping avoid harm to fragile and sensitive habitats.”

‘Canary in the mine’ Warning following new discovery of the effects of pollutants on fertility - University of Portsmouth

New research has found that shrimp like creatures on the South Coast of England have 70 per cent less sperm than less polluted locations elsewhere in the world. The research also discovered that individuals living in the survey area are six times less numerous per square metre than those living in cleaner waters.

This discovery, published today in Aquatic Toxicology, mirrors similar findings in other creatures, including humans. The scientist leading research at the University of Portsmouth believes pollutants might be to blame, further highlighted by this latest research.

Professor Alex Ford, Professor of Biology, University of Portsmouth, says: “We normally study the effect of chemicals on species after the water has been treated. The shrimp that we have tested are often in untreated water. The study site suffers from storm water surges, which is likely to become more common with climate change. This means that the creatures could be exposed to lots of different contaminants via sewage, historical landfills and legacy chemicals such as those in antifoulting paints. There is a direct relationship between the incidence of high rainfall events and in the levels of untreated sewage.”

Professor Ford describes the shrimp as “the canary in the mine” - concerned that the plight of the shrimp is only just the tip of the iceberg in terms of fertility problems in male creatures, both great and small.

New partnership formed to save England’s threatened curlews - Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

The Curlew Recovery Partnership is a new, exciting and transformative initiative, bringing together all those with an interest in curlew conservation, including land managers, farmers, gamekeepers, policymakers and researchers. They are joining forces to help secure the future of one of England’s most iconic and threatened species, the Eurasian curlew.

Urgent action is needed. The curlew is one of the most pressing bird conservation priorities in the UK, where nearly half the breeding population has been lost over the last 25 years and where range contraction has seen curlews disappear from many traditional sites.

The partnership is the outcome of Curlew Recovery Summits hosted by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales on Dartmoor in March 2018 and at Highgrove in February 2020. It will provide co-ordination and support to those engaged in curlew conservation, while also providing benefits for other threatened species and habitats and helping people to connect with nature.

HRH The Prince of Wales said: “The hauntingly evocative cry of the curlew is now all too seldom heard. This most wonderful bird needs urgent support and I am delighted that following meetings on Dartmoor in March 2018 and at Highgrove in February 2020, the England Curlew Recovery Partnership has been formed to bring together all those who can help provide such support and, indeed, promote this crucial cause to the public; many of whom, I am sure, are unaware of quite how special the curlew is and the part that they can play in helping to save it for the benefit of current and future generations.”

The Partnership’s Steering Group comprises nine organisations: Bolton Castle Estate, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Curlew Action, Curlew Country, Duchy of Cornwall, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), Natural England, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).

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