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Antarctic krill population contracts southward as polar oceans warm – British Antarctic Survey

Image: British Antarctic SurveyThe population of Antarctic krill, the favourite food of many whales, penguins, fish and seals, shifted southward during a recent period of warming in their key habitat, new research shows.

Antarctic krill are shrimp-like crustaceans which occur in enormous numbers in the cold Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. They have a major role in the food web and play a significant role in the transport of atmospheric carbon to the deep ocean.

Image: British Antarctic Survey

Important krill habitats are under threat from climate change, and this latest research – published today (21st January 2019) in Nature Climate Change – has found that their distribution has contracted towards the Antarctic continent. This has major implications for the ecosystems that depend on krill.

An international team of scientists, led jointly by Dr Simeon Hill at the British Antarctic Survey and Dr Angus Atkinson at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, analysed data on the amount of krill caught in nets during scientific surveys. The data covered the Scotia Sea and Antarctic Peninsula – the region where krill are most abundant. The team found that the centre of the krill distribution has shifted towards the Antarctic continent by about 440 km (4° latitude) over the last four decades.

 

Shoots urged to pay more attention to release pen locations, says new GWCT study – Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

Advisors from GWCT are urging shoots to pay more attention to release pen locations and limit pheasant releasing density to reduce negative impacts on woodland flora.

Image: GWCTImage: GWCT

The advice follows a new study carried out by GWCT scientists that looked at the long-term effects of pheasants on the plant community.

Andrew Hoodless, Rufus Sage and Lucy Capstick studied sites which had previously been used as release pens for between 10 and 20 years but had not been used in the past three years.

Sixty-five of these sites were identified in woodland across Berkshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex and Wiltshire.

For each of the disused pens, a reference, or “control” site, was identified in the same piece of woodland but away from the pen itself and from areas where pheasants tend to gather.

At each pen and its control pair, the plants were surveyed at points within the site. These vegetation surveys were carried out between April and July of 2006, 2008 and 2011, where they recorded the amount of bare ground, percentage of ground covered by each plant species and the vegetation cover between ground level and up to 2m in height. Soil samples were also taken at each site visited.

All these measurements were examined to identify any differences between the disused pens and their control sites, considering how long it had been since the pen was used, as well as the typical stocking density when birds were in the pens.

Interestingly, results showed that the changes in soil chemistry and plant species that are known to occur in pheasant release pens, such as an increase in ruderal plants and a decline in woodland specialist plants, continue to affect the area after pheasant release is no longer carried out.

Read the paper: Capstick, L. A., Sage, R. B. & Hoodless, A. (2019) Ground flora recovery in disused pheasant pens is limited and affected by pheasant release density. Biological Conservation. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.12.020

 

North Sea rocks could act as energy stores – University of Edinburgh

Rocks in the seabed off the UK coast could provide long-term storage locations for renewable energy production, new research suggests.

An advanced technique could be used to trap compressed air in porous rock formations found in the North Sea using electricity from renewable technologies.

The pressurised air could later be released to drive a turbine to generate large amounts of electricity.

Meeting demand

Using the technique on a large scale could store enough compressed air to meet the UK’s electricity needs during winter, when demand is highest, the study found.

The approach could help deliver steady and reliable supplies of energy from renewable sources – such as wind and tidal turbines – and aid efforts to limit global temperature rise as a result of climate change.

New processes

However, the amount of energy produced by many renewable technologies varies depending on weather conditions.

There is a need for new processes that can store energy cheaply and reliably for months at a time, researchers say.

Energy potential

Engineers and geoscientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde used mathematical models to assess the potential of the process, called compressed air energy storage (CAES).

The team then predicted the UK’s storage capacity by combining these estimates with a database of geological formations in the North Sea.

Porous rocks beneath UK waters could store about one and a half times the UK’s typical electricity demand for January and February, they found.

 

Strengthened protection for Poole Harbour's unique range of wildlife – Natural England

The extension of the Poole Harbour Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) will see a further 1,800 hectares (ha) of land and sea brought within the site to help protect the entire harbour - an increase of 40 per cent.

Poole Harbour from Arne (Credit: Sue Macpherson ARPS)Poole Harbour from Arne (Credit: Sue Macpherson ARPS)

One of the country’s best-loved coasts will be better protected following the expansion of a major wildlife protection area in Dorset.

Natural England has confirmed the extension of the Poole Harbour Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The move will see a further 1,800 hectares (ha) of land and sea brought within the site to help protect the entire harbour - an increase of 40 per cent. It is the first SSSI specifically to include subtidal areas, which will protect the feeding areas of internationally important tern populations.

The beautiful Poole Harbour is a magnet for both people and wildlife.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said: “Part of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex landscape, this protection of a large part of Poole Harbour will continue to ensure that generations to come can enjoy the Dorset coast. Through this action, Natural England is making a vital contribution to our nation’s cultural and environmental heritage. Our 25 Year Environment Plan includes a commitment to develop a Nature Recovery Network to protect and restore wildlife. Improving our protected areas will play an important role as we develop this network and work to realise our ambition to become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.”

This SSSI extension connects to a wide network of important habitats. The Dorset Heaths are one of the best examples of lowland heath in the world and Poole Harbour opens out onto outstanding marine habitat protected under the Bluebelt programme, including Poole Rocks Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), and Studland Bay proposed MCZ.

 

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