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Climate Rush’s message to Boris Johnson this morning, written in soot on the pavement in his street

The mayor believes in spraying adhesive to the worst pollution hotspots to catch exhaust fumes. But emissions should be tackled at source

London’s air is so toxic that it has been linked to nearly one in five deaths a year. Responsibility for the capital’s air quality lies at the door of Boris Johnson, who has responded with shocking languor to this public health emergency. The mayor’s flagship solution is to literally glue the pollution to the ground.

His specially adapted gritting lorries have been haunting our highways for the past few months, spraying adhesive up and down our worst pollution hotspots and sticking exhaust fumes to the asphalt. Rather than tackling the problem at its source, by tampering and gluing around air pollution monitors Johnson’s aim is to avoid a £300m EU fine for failing to comply with air quality standards.

The image of gluing pollution to the roads was too ridiculous for our campaign group, Climate Rush, to resist. Is this really Boris’s policy? Really? The Campaign for Clean Air in London last night posted proof of the so-called “Pollution Suppressor” rolling past an air quality monitor on Marylebone Road.

We decided to use the same technique on Boris Johnson’s street. It wasn’t hard to find soot – we scraped grime caked to the sides of roads near Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Charles Dickens primary school in Southwark. Early this morning we arrived in Islington with a stencil, spray glue and our bag of soot and got to work “preventing dust particles from becoming airborne”, as the Transport for London press release puts it.

It’s an issue all Londoners should be concerned about. Children and babies in pushchairs are especially vulnerable to air pollution, being closer to the exhaust pipes of polluting vehicles. Dirty air has been linked to up to 30% of childhood asthma cases, a terrifying statistic considering that in London more than a thousand schools are within 150 meters of congested roads. Air pollution is more than a public health epidemic: black soot of the kind glued outside Boris’s house contributes up to 30% of global climate change emissions.

Perhaps in future the mayor of London, be it Johnson or not, could better protect our children’s lungs by targeting the causes of air pollution, not just the air monitoring sites.

We say: implement a Berlin-style low emission zone for the most polluted areas of London, resulting in fewer vehicles and improved air quality. Reduce car traffic by giving commuters fair fares instead of pricing them off public transport with yearly price hikes. Invest in safer cycling infrastructure and tackle the culture of traffic violence – only then will the masses brave their bicycles.

At Climate Rush we’ve held our breath too long waiting for real solutions. On 19 April join our Spring Clean demonstration to create London’s first clean air zone. Boris needs to know that gluing pollution to the roads is not a solution. Tackling emissions at their source is.

• Siobhan Grimes and Alice Haworth-Booth are campaigners with environmental action group Climate Rush

Source: The Guardian
Original: http://bit.ly/I8RLp2


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Depois de uma semana excepcionalmente quente, ontem o frio abateu-se sobre o Reino Unido, com neve a cair no Norte. (Foto: Scott Campbell/AFP)

As nuvens voltaram e até trouxeram neve. Mas os ingleses não se livram da proibição, a partir de amanhã, de usar mangueiras para regar jardins, lavar os carros e encher piscinas.

Depois de dois Invernos com muito pouca chuva, sete empresas britânicas de abastecimento de água tiveram de impor a interdição do uso de mangueiras, como uma das medidas para poupar água agora, de modo a tê-la no Verão. A partir de amanhã, quem for apanhado a violar esta norma incorre numa multa que pode chegar a 1000 libras esterlinas (cerca de 1200 euros).

A interdição abrange sobretudo as zonas Sul e Sudeste do Reino Unido, que mais têm sofrido com a deficiente precipitação. Na região de East Anglia, desde 1921 que nunca choveu tão pouco nos seis meses entre Setembro e Fevereiro como agora.

Em Março, a situação não se alterou muito. O relatório mais recente da Agência Ambiental britânica indica que, até à semana passada, dois terços dos rios monitorizados na Inglaterra e País de Gales estavam com um nível “excepcionalmente baixo”. Pelo menos três pontos de amostragem de água subterrânea mostravam níveis “baixos” e a maior parte dos reservatórios à superfície encontrava-se abaixo da média.

O tempo entretanto mudou. Depois de uma semana excepcionalmente quente, ontem o frio abateu-se sobre o Reino Unido, com neve a cair no Norte, em especial na Escócia. A previsão é de tempo nublado nos próximos dias, com chuva forte no Norte, porém mais fraca no Sul.

Mas a chuva vem tarde. O Reino Unido já experimentara um Inverno seco em 2011, com pouca recarga das suas reservas de água. Após um segundo Inverno com pouca precipitação, a Agência Ambiental estimava, numa avaliação feita há um mês, que seria necessário “chuva muito acima da média em Março e Abril para garantir uma recuperação total” da situação. Março falhou a meta. Resta agora Abril.

As autoridades britânicas estão a apostar num cenário pouco desfavorável. Segundo a Agência Ambiental, não é provável que os aquíferos subterrâneos sejam recarregados significativamente nos próximos meses. “Estamos por isso a antecipar uma seca severa na Primavera e Verão de 2012″, conclui a agência.

Até ao fim do Verão

As empresas de abastecimento de água parecem estar de acordo. Na passada segunda-feira, a South East Water – que abastece 2,1 milhões de consumidores nas áreas de Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire e Berkshire – admitiu, num comunicado, que “se a situação não melhorar significativamente” será preciso “introduzir restrições ainda mais amplas” do que a proibição do uso de mangueiras. Outras empresas falam em manter a proibição das mangueiras até ao fim do Verão.

As restrições no abastecimento colocam a situação do Reino Unido um degrau acima na escala de gravidade, em relação a outros países europeus que também passaram por um Inverno seco.

De Dezembro a Fevereiro, a Península Ibérica e o Sul de França foram as regiões onde menos choveu em relação ao normal, segundo o Global Precipitation Climatology Centre – um centro de dados de precipitação, operado pela agência alemã de meteorologia, sob os auspícios da Organização Mundial de Meteorologia (ver infografia).

Mas nem todos vêm de um ano anterior seco. Portugal, por exemplo, teve um Inverno chuvoso em 2011 e a seca deste ano apanhou as barragens ainda razoavelmente cheias.

Autor: Ricardo Garcia
Fonte: Ecosfera – Público
Original: http://bit.ly/Hgd9z9


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Ranking realizado pelas Universidades americanas de Columbia e Yale, o Environmental Performance Index (EPI) lista as regiões com o melhor desempenho ambiental em 22 indicadores entre 132 países avaliados

Desempenho exemplar

Quais são os países do mundo que cuidam bem de seu meio ambiente e que fazem uso sustentável de seus recursos naturais, garantindo a vitalidade dos ecossistemas além de saúde e bem estar para a população? A resposta está no Environmental Performance Index (EPI), ranking elaborado por uma equipe de especialistas das universidades americanas de Yale e de Columbia.

Em sua mais recente edição, o ranking de desempenho ambiental classificou 132 países utilizando 22 indicadores distribuídos por 10 categorias: critérios de saúde ambiental; poluição do ar; recursos de água; biodiversidade e habitat; recursos naturais; florestas; alterações climáticas, entre outros. E cada categoria possui pesos diferentes. Confira nos slides a seguir, os 10 países mais verdes do mundo em 2012

1 – Suíça (76.69 pontos)

(Fotografia: Wilimedia Commons)

População: 7,825,243
Área: 41,271 km²
PIB per capita: $ 37,441

O empenho em reduzir progressivamente o uso de combustíveis fósseis e nuclear, por meio de uma política nacional sólida, coloca a Suíça na liderança do ranking de Yale. Recordista mundial em usinas geotérmicas, cuja energia é quase totalmente vertida para aquecer casas, escritórios, hotéis e estufas durante os meses de inverno, o país se destaca nos quesitos emissão de dióxido de carbono, qualidade do ar e políticas ambientais.

Há 20 anos, a Suíça foi um dos primeiros países da Europa a exigir o uso de catalisador e o controle do gás de escapamento dos carros. Também vale menção a invejável pontuação (98,1) no quesito conservação da biodiversidade e proteção de habitats naturais. Em geral, os suíços são adeptos fervorosos da mobilidade sustentável, principalmente da bicicleta. Ao menos 10 ciclovias nacionais cortam o país de ponta a ponta. Lá, taxas para serviços de água e gestão de resíduos, bem como impostos ambientais que promovam a responsabilidade social são comuns.

2 – Letônia (70.37 pontos)

(Fotografia: Wilimedia Commons)

População: 2,242,916
Área: 64,385 km²
PIB per capita: $12,938

Um lugar de beleza natural quase intocada pela civilização. A frase um tanto quando piegas se aplica bem à paisagem letã. Muitos turistas e especialistas em meio ambiente costumam dizer que o país inteiro é um parque natural enorme. A vitalidade de seus ecossistemas e a proteção às florestas, que ocupam 44% do território, lhe rendem pontuações altas no EPI.

Mesmo as áreas dedicadas ao cultivo agrícola e à criação de gado são cuidadosamente delimitadas e tendem a seguir as práticas mais sustentáveis. Dados oficiais indicam que o uso de pesticidas caiu 12 vezes desde 1990 e que, atualmente, pelo menos 200 fazendas adotam práticas ecológicas, que dispensam agrotóxicos e outros produtos químicos industrializados, usando apenas compostos naturais. A redução de emissões é uma meta importante para o país, que desde 1990 reduziu a poluição por fontes fixas (fábricas, casas e caldeiras) em 46%.

3 – Noruega (69.92 pontos)

(Fotografia: Wilimedia Commons)

População: 4,885,240
Área: 325,602 km²
PIB per capita: $46,926

Terceira colocada no ranking de países mais verdes, a Noruega pretende se tornar carbono neutra até 2030, ou seja, todas as suas emissões devem ser compensadas. Pelo menos 2/3 delas serão reduzidas com ações ambientais internas e para dar conta do restante as autoridades norueguesas financiarão projetos sustentáveis em países em desenvolvimento, como geração de bioenergia e proteção de florestas.

Uma meta ambiciosa para uma nação que é ao mesmo tempo progressista sobre as alterações climáticas – com impostos sobre combustíveis fósseis e uma matriz energética dominada pela hidroeletricidade – mas também emissora por causa de suas exportações volumosas de óleo e gás natural. Felizmente, o que não falta é potencial e tecnologia para cumprir o objetivo. Em 2009, a Noruega inaugurou a primeira estrada com rede integrada de postos de abastecimento a hidrogênio em todo o mundo. Na avaliação do EPI, o país leva nota máxima no quesito saúde ambiental e na conservação de suas reservas naturais.

4 – Luxemburgo (69.2 pontos)

(Fotografia: Creative Commons / Eoghan OLionnain)

População: 505,831
Área: 2,592 km²
PIB per capita: $71,161

A presença deste pequeno país europeu no ranking das nações mais verdes justifica-se por seu empenho, mesmo em tempos de crise econômica, em garantir um crescimento “verde” e sustentável. Em 2009, Luxemburgo adotou programas de incentivo à população para compra de carros ecológicos e eletrodomésticos mais eficientes em energia.

Antes, entre 2001 e 2008, o país investiu mais de 70 milhões de euros na expansão do setor de energia solar fotovoltaica. Luxemburgo também leva pontuação máxima em saúde ambiental e proteção à biodiversidade e habitats naturais.

5 – Costa Rica (69.03 pontos)

(Fotografia: Wikimedia Commons)

População: 4,658,887
Área: 51,452 km²
PIB per capita: $10,258

Fortemente empenhado em seguir o exemplo dos seus antecessores na lista do EPI, o governo costa-riquenho estabeleceu a meta de tornar a região carbono neutra até 2021. Esse pequeno país da América Central sofreu com o desmatamento durante anos, mas agora um dos seus principais objetivos é reflorestar as regiões devastadas.

Nos últimos anos, mais de cinco milhões de árvores foram replantadas. Cerca de 50% da superfície total do país encontra-se coberta de bosques e selvas e 25% do território encontra-se protegido. Os investimentos em energias alternativas e índices inéditos de recuperação da mata nativa fazem da Costa Rica referência mundial. Com esse desempenho ambiental o país tem conseguido apoio internacional e financiamento para programas de Redd (Redução das Emissões por Desmatamento e Degradação).

6 – França (69.03 pontos)

(Fotografia: Wikimedia Commons)

População: 64,876,618
Área: 549,096 km²
PIB per capita: $29,647

No país de Sarkozy, a bandeira verde é hasteada principalmente por uma política agressiva de eficiência energética, que prevê a redução das emissões de gases efeito estufa em 20% até 2020 além da expansão da matriz de fontes renováveis para 25% no mesmo período. O que não será fácil, já que a França é um dos mais dependentes de energia nuclear do mundo. Cerca de 75% de toda eletricidade vem de usinas atômicas.

No EPI, a França apresentou bom desempenho em saúde ambiental, indicador que avalia a interação entre a natureza, a saúde humana e o desenvolvimento. Segundo um estudo do Proforest e do Imazon, a França também se destaca por ser um dos países que mais protegem suas florestas, com um programa forte de recuperação ambiental. Par se ter uma ideia, a área florestal total passou de 14,5 milhões de hectares em 1990 para 16 milhões de hectares em 2010, o que corresponde a 29% do território do país. O mais recente projeto verde francês de repercussão mundial é o programa de aluguel de carros elétricos Autolib, inaugurado no final de 2011 em Paris.

7 – Áustria (68.92 pontos)
(Fotografia: Wikimedia Commons)

População: 8,384,745
Área: 83,879 km²
PIB per capita: $35,266

Não é de se espantar a presença da Áustria entre os países mais verdes do mundo. Além de arquitetura, história e muita música, ela oferece à sua população e aos visitantes uma natureza incrível e, principalmente, bem conservada.

Atravessado pelo Rio Danúbio, este país montanhoso da Europa Central é destino recorrente dos amantes de esportes de inverno que têm nos Alpes seu ponto de encontro. Uma curiosidade: o país possui um programa que estimula a população a cultivar jardins com plantas e flores locais em suas casas.

8 – Itália (68.9 pontos)
(Fotografia: Wikimedia Commons)

População: 60,483,521
Área: 300,906 km²
PIB per capita: $26,753

Em ritmo de preservação, a Itália tornou-se o primeiro país da Europa a banir as sacolas de polietileno. A proibição nacional começou a valer em janeiro de 2011. Desde então, as lojas italianas, que utilizavam 20 bilhões de sacolas por ano (o maior índice europeu), só podem oferecer sacos de papel, pano ou de materiais biodegradáveis.

Palco recente de uma tragédia com riscos ambientais graves (de um possível vazamento de óleo do Costa Concordia), a Itália ocupa o nono lugar do ranking EPI. Diante do naufrágio do cruzeiro em uma ilha paradisíaca de rico ecossistema, o governo italiano resolveu enrijecer as regras de navegação na costa e limitar a aproximação de grandes embarcações da costa.

9 – Reino Unido (68.82)
(Fotografia: Wikimedia Commons)

População: 62,218,761
Área: 244,840 km²
PIB per capita: $32,187

Depois da Eco-92, no Rio de Janeiro, e da segunda Conferência Ministerial para a Proteção das Florestas na Europa, ocorrida em 1993, o governo adotou uma política para promover o uso sustentável das florestas com o objetivo de implementar o manejo sustentável e assegurar uma expansão constante da cobertura florestal.

Nos últimos anos, o Reino Unido vem oferecendo generosos incentivos para o desenvolvimento de tecnologias ambientais, que vão do tratamento de água à reciclagem, a fim de atender às rígidas metas nacionais e da União Europeia para redução de emissões. Entre o G8, o país é líder no combate às mudanças climáticas.

10 – Suécia (68.82 pontos)
(Fotografia: Wikimedia Commons)

População: 9,379,116
Área: 443,016 km²
PIB per capita: $33,686

O esforço em adotar fontes alternativas de energia é um dos pontos que garantiu a presença da Suécia entre os dez primeiros colocados do ranking. Há cidades, como Borás, que praticamente são livres de lixo porque reciclam a maior parte dos resíduos sólidos gerados pela população transformando-os em energia. A produção de bioenergia abastece casas, estabelecimentos comerciais e até mesmo frotas de ônibus, que integram o sistema de transporte público.

Mas essa geração limpa não nasceu de forma espontânea, ela foi implementada para atender uma rigorosa legislação que proíbe a existência de aterros sanitários nos países da União Europeia. A Suécia foi também um dos primeiros países onde as leis de conservação da floresta entraram em vigor, em 1886. Essas leis estipulavam que áreas desmatadas deveriam ser reflorestadas. Atualmente, a cobertura florestal corresponde a 69% do território do país.

Autor: Vanessa Barbosa
Fonte: Exame
Original: http://bit.ly/xKHq34


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Underground water supplies are being used to keep rivers flowing in the seasons when they are supposed to be replenished

The pond at St Peter’s Church in Snailwell, Cambridgeshire, is surrounded by clumps of bulrushes and thick oak trees that give it a timeless English appeal. Coated in a dusting of snow, this small body of water looked the epitome of rural charm. Only one odd feature upset its picture-postcard appearance. Around noon every day, automated pumps just above the pond are switched on and for the next few hours 400,000 gallons (1.8m litres) of water are sent cascading down a brick-lined gully into the lake.

The reason for this daily influx is straightforward. If engineers from the Environment Agency had not started pumping water into Snailwell’s pond every day this winter, it would have disappeared weeks ago, the victim of a drought that now threatens much of England with a summer of parched landscapes, rivers reduced to trickles and possible hosepipe bans ahead.

“When you use the word drought you become a hostage to fortune. Events can occur at the last minute to make you look silly,” said Andrew Chapman, a senior environment planning officer with the agency. “But the position is becoming very serious. In simple terms, unless we get a downpour that lasts for several weeks in the very near future, we are in trouble. There could be severe water shortages in many parts of the country.” Worst affected areas would include the Midlands, East Anglia and the south-east of England, say agency officials.

The impending crisis – which could have widespread consequences for farmers, food production, tourism, industry and domestic life – has been building for the past 18 months. Reservoirs were already low this time last year. Then came 2011, the driest year in England and Wales for 90 years.

In addition, we are now experiencing the driest winter on record, though this could change over the next few weeks, meteorologists have said. The crucial point is that boreholes and reservoirs are now at “notably low” or “exceptionally low” levels. At the RSPB reserve at Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk, springs have dried up and many of the birds, including populations of bearded tits, marsh harriers and reed warblers, are now struggling to find food. Fresh water plants and animals such as water voles are also suffering. “This is a very worrying situation to have at this time of year,” said Grahame Madge, an RSPB official. “This is an incredibly important wildlife site that we cannot afford to have damaged. We are going to have to look very carefully at how we manage water supplies there in coming years.”

In addition, rivers have dried up in several areas. These include tributaries of the Welland in Lincolnshire and the Chess in Buckinghamshire. Fish have become stranded in pools and had to be rescued by agency workers and moved to areas where water is flowing.

“We sometimes have to carry out such rescues in summer,” said Ian Barker, the Environment Agency’s head of water, land and biodiversity. “But we are having to do this in mid-winter, the one time of year when there is supposed to be plenty of water and rainfall. That is certainly not a healthy state.”

The impending water crisis is particularly worrying for farmers. At this time of year, many build storage lagoons to hold water that they can use later in the year to irrigate crops. But to be allowed to dam up water that would otherwise flow into rivers, farmers have to be given permits by the Environment Agency.

So far this year, 345 applications for such stores have had restrictions placed on them by the agency, limiting the powers of farmers to provide water for their crops during the forthcoming growing season.

“We are facing drastic reductions in yield,” said Andrew Nottage, who runs the Russell Smith farm at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. Among the crops grown by Nottage are potatoes and onions – vegetables that have a high demand for water. “We can switch crops to less water-intensive types, but there is a problem doing that,” he said. “Farmers are locked into long-term contracts with supermarkets to provide them with the vegetables they want to provide for the British public later in the year.

“It is therefore difficult to switch crops even if you know that you are going to be in trouble when it comes to supplying water for them.”

The problem for Britain is that East Anglia is one of the nation’s principal food-producing regions. It is also the driest in the country. “Rainfall patterns here are similar to Israel,” said Nottage. “That makes farming a tricky business some years.”

To address the shortage of rainfall last year, the Environment Agency estimated that it would need 20% above average for the months from December last year to April this year. To date, the rains have been 30% below average.

This month has also been cold – but dry. Instead of being replenished by rain percolating through the ground, boreholes are being used to pump what water they have left to prevent rivers and streams drying up – as is being done at Snailwell.

“If we don’t prevent the pond drying up, then the streams that feed from it will disappear and the local wildlife will really suffer,” said John Orr, a manager at the Environment Agency.

Whether these problems trigger a full drought in England this summer depends not just on rainfall but summer temperatures. Britain’s worst years for rainfall included 1921, 1933, and 1964, but these were not the worst years for drought. Summers then were relatively cool, and that made up for the lack of water in boreholes and reservoirs.

It was only when heatwaves began to take place, in years when water levels were only fairly low, that there were significant shortages. This occurred in 1911, 1955, and 1976.

In the case of 1976, the effects were devastating. The temperature reached 27C (80F) every day between 22 June and 16 July, and often climbed well above 32C (90F). Crucially, the previous summer and autumn had been very dry, while the winter of 1975-76 was also exceptionally dry, along with the spring of 1976.

Heath and forest fires broke out across southern England at the peak of the drought in August; 50,000 trees were destroyed at Hurn Forest in Dorset; and an estimated £500m of crops were lost across the country. Food prices rose by 12%. Many rivers ran dry.

A drought act was passed by parliament and Denis Howell was appointed minister of drought co-ordination. Among his homespun ideas in response was a suggestion to put bricks in lavatory cisterns and a proposal that husbands and wives should share baths.

There was also widespread water rationing across England. In some areas, supplies to homes were turned off and water was delivered by lorries or public standpipes in streets.

The country has a long way to go before it reaches these extremes, insist officials from the Environment Agency. It would require an exceptionally hot summer to trigger a serious drought, even if there was little rain over the next few months. On the other hand, the signs are worrying, even in Snailwell. “We are trying to offset the worst effects of the drought that we are already experiencing by pumping water into the pond to protect the streams that feed of it,” said Chapman.

“But at the end of the day, we are facing a situation in which there may be no more water to extract from the ground to keep the pond there. The next few weeks will be crucial.”

Author: Robin McKie
Source: The Guardian / The Observer
Original: http://bit.ly/wlw8F6


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Ladybirds native to the UK and other European countries are declining fast as the invasive harlequin species spreads, scientists have shown.


Bestriding the countryside; harlequins breed more frequently than many native European species

Researchers found that seven out of the eight native British species they studied have declined, with issues also identified in Belgium and Switzerland.

The harlequin is an Asian species brought in for pest control, but which has now become a pest itself.

Some UK species are “near the threshold of detection”, the scientists write.

Scientists are warning of potential damage to ecosystems’ “resilience”.

In an unrelated study released at the same time, researchers found that the colour of ladybirds shows how toxic they are to predators.

The harlequin (Harmonia axyridis) was first spotted in Belgium in 2001, and in the UK and Switzerland in 2004.

Scientists have warned since it appeared that native species were likely to be vulnerable, but this study, reported in the journal Diversity and Distributions, measures the scale of the impact and ties it squarely to the alien’s arrival.

“This study provides strong evidence of a link between the arrival of the harlequin and declines in other species of ladybird,” said Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, who worked with colleagues at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge as well as Belgian and Swiss research institutes.

“This result would not have been possible without the participation of so many members of the public gathering ladybird records across Britain, Belgium and Switzerland.”

The UK database contains nearly 90,000 observations of ladybirds made between 2006 and 2010.

The Belgian sample is somewhat smaller but began earlier.

Surveying the same batch of species in the same locality year after year enables researchers to make a good estimate of the rate of change.

And for some native species, the rate is spectacularly high.

Numbers of the two-spotted ladybird (Adalia bipunctata), they estimate, fell by 44% in the UK and 30% in Belgium in the five years following the harlequin’s arrival.

The harlequin and the two-spot share a habitat of deciduous trees and as the harlequin is larger, it is able to out-compete its smaller rival for food, and prey on its larvae.

The only UK species apparently unaffected by the harlequin’s arrival was the seven-spotted ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) which is of a similar size and does not share the same habitat.

Declines were also seen in Switzerland, but the data was not as comprehensive.

The researchers warn that potentially serious consequences lie ahead if the harlequin continues its rampant march.

“Ladybirds provide an incredibly useful ecological function by keeping aphids in check,” said Tim Adriaens, from the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO) in Belgium.

“At the continental scale, the arrival of the harlequin could impact on the resilience of ecosystems and severely diminish the vital services that ladybirds deliver.”

Currently, there is no way of selectively killing the harlequin. Gardeners are advised to take care if they decide to squish them, as their highly variable colour pattern means they can be hard to distinguish from native species.


The big seven-spot is able to hang on

Red signal

Another reason why the harlequin is able to out-compete native species appears to be because it is more toxic to birds and other animals that may try to eat it.

Working with the seven-spot, researchers discovered that individual ladybirds with red wings are more toxic than others.

As they detail in the journal Functional Ecology, the reason seems to be that these individuals are well-fed, enabling them to produce relatively large amounts of their defensive chemicals and the red pigment that probably warns predators off.

“Producing warning signals and chemical defences is costly, so when individuals lack access to an abundant supply of food they produce relatively weak chemical defences,” said lead scientist Jon Blount from Exeter University.

There is no explicit link to the harlequin study; however, if the harlequins are eating better than the native species, as appears to be the case, that could increase the difference in toxicity between the natives and the invaders.

Author: Richard Black
Source: BBC
Original: http://bbc.in/yCcICP


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Stratford’s industrial and contaminated land transformed to create Britain’s largest urban park for over a century


An aerial view of the Olympic site in Stratford. Photograph: Anthony Charlton – Locog/EPA

Work to clean up the Olympic site in Stratford, east London, and create the largest urban park in Britain for more than 100 years has been completed, the Environment Agency has said.

An area the size of 297 football pitches, much of which was polluted, has been cleaned up, with 300,000 wetland plants and 2,000 native trees planted and five miles of the river Lea restored.

The Environment Agency, which has worked with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the London Development Agency and other partners on the site said it had helped the ODA decontaminate 2m tonnes of soil so it could be reused.

On the river Lea, invasive species including Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and floating pennywort have been removed, along with concrete walls, to improve the river habitat for wildlife and users.

Some 22 miles of cycleways and footpaths have been put in and 44 hectares (110 acres) of land has been turned into reed beds, wet woodlands, grassland and ponds to attract wildlife, the agency said.

It also said that by making space in the park for floodwater and improving defences, the flood risk to about 4,000 properties in Canning Town and West Ham had been reduced.

Lord Smith, chairman of the agency, said: “The Olympic Park has shown the way in securing major environmental improvement at the same time as enabling large-scale construction and development.

“The Environment Agency has worked closely with the ODA on issues such as improving water quality, restoring habitats and reducing flood risk.”

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the ODA, said: “To have created Britain’s largest urban park for over a century out of a contaminated, industrial landscape has taken both determination and clever thinking.”

He said organisations such as the Environment Agency had helped them deliver the cleaned-up site.

The Olympic Park also has environmentally friendly facilities such as a waste water recycling plant and an energy centre producing enough low-carbon energy to power more than 10,000 homes.

Source: The Guardian
Original: http://bit.ly/AqjBRh


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More than 100 Conservative MPs have written to the prime minister urging him to cut subsidies for wind turbines.


Lib Dem president Tim Farron: “Ed Davey is an outstanding environmentalist”

They also want planning rules changed to make it easier for local people to object to their construction.

The Tory MPs – joined by some backbenchers from other parties – questioned the amount of money going to the sector during “straitened times”.

But the government said wind farms were a “cost-effective and valuable part of the UK’s diverse energy mix”.

The challenge to the coalition’s policy presents an immediate problem for the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey. He was promoted to the job following the resignation of fellow Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne last Friday.

Lib Dem president Tim Farron told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Mr Davey was a “very, very capable man” and an “outstanding environmentalist” who would take projects forward.

‘Straitened times’

The government wants renewable sources, such as wind, to provide 15% of the UK’s energy supply by 2015.

It admits that this is “currently more costly” than using fossil fuels, with hundreds of millions of pounds spent on subsidising wind farms each year.

State help is being cut under plans set out by ministers last year, but MPs have demanded an acceleration.

“In these financially straitened times, we think it is unwise to make consumers pay, through taxpayer subsidy, for inefficient and intermittent energy production that typifies onshore wind turbines,” they wrote in the letter, seen by the Sunday Telegraph.

The politicians also expressed concerns that the proposed National Planning Policy Framework “diminishes the chances of local people defeating onshore wind farm proposals through the planning system”.

Organised by backbencher Chris Heaton-Harris, the letter’s 101 Tory signatories include senior figures such as David Davis, Bernard Jenkin and Nicholas Soames.

Another is Tory MP Matthew Hancock, a close ally of Chancellor George Osborne.

Mr Heaton-Harris said two Liberal Democrats, two Labour PMs and one Democratic Unionist were also among his backers.

‘Party divided’

BBC chief political correspondent Gary O’Donoghue said the signatories were not against renewable energy per se, but believe onshore wind got far too much money.

For Labour, shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said: “Britain should be a world leader in wind energy. We need to put jobs, growth and reducing energy bills first, but David Cameron is failing to do this. We just get a Tory party divided amongst itself…

“If Tory MPs want to turn the clock back on renewable energy, it will be the public who pay the price through higher energy bills, as we become more reliant on volatile fossil fuel prices.”

But a Downing Street spokeswoman said: “We need a low-carbon infrastructure and onshore wind is a cost effective and valuable part of the UK’s diverse energy mix.”

She added: “We are committed to giving local communities the power to shape the spaces in which they live and are getting rid of regional targets introduced by the last government.

“The draft framework also aims to strengthen local decision making and reinforce the importance of local plans.”

Mr Huhne resigned as Energy and Climate Change Secretary on Friday after hearing he faced a charge of perverting the course of justice over a 2003 speeding case, a claim he denies.

Source: BBC
Original: http://bbc.in/zcV0m2


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