Posts Tagged ‘EMBER’

Do Hen Harriers deserve a future in the uplands?

March 20, 2016

Readers of this blog (others are available) will recall that there has been much discussion over the plight of raptors, particularly the Hen Harrier.  There is just something absolutely magical at the end of a day spent on Thorne Moors when a ‘silver ghost’ drifts in to view, glorious ….

But that stunning bird which we see here in winter is under serious threat, despite legal protection on its upland breeding moors.  Where land management practices on some large estates continues to see decline or absence.

Anyone who has listened to a talk by Chris Packham,  Mark Avery or Iolo Williams amongst others will be familiar with the issues surrounding the ‘debate’?  Anyone who has read Inglorious: Conflict in the uplands has a wealth of research available to them to consider the evidence as presented for a change.

It will therefore come as no surprise to learn that Avery has just launched his third epetition on the issue, titled unsurprisingly Ban driven grouse shooting.  Readers are encouraged to consider signing it, they are encouraged to read the various blog posts which offer evidence and insight into the issue, read Inglorious, read the EMBER Report and then offer justification against a change in upland management practice?

If one sets aside the legal status, i.e. the bird is protected in law full stop, is one permitted to enquire, should landowners receive public funds without delivering public benefit?  With rights go responsibilities?  We hear constantly that such estates are beneficial for wildlife, yet these same estates appear devoid of raptors so where is the balanced ecosystem?

If you’ve not heard Avery speak on the subject then remember that we provided advance notification of a two day conference in Sheffield Raptors, Uplands and Peatlands : 9 & 10 September 2016.  See also UKEconet and download the booking forms.

Ban driven grouse shooting

150821 MA

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Defra’s [In]action Plan for Hen Harrier recovery?

January 23, 2016

I was hoping to write a few words about Defra’s Action Plan when it was published recently, but I decided to comply with one of my New Year’s Resolutions and I spent the day on Thorne Moors instead.  The excursion lessened the variety of emotions the documents elicited, for a while ….

It was cold but who cares, the skies were clear and bright and the light just right for watching those magical ‘silver ghosts’ as they quarter the moor in search of a meal.  Also present was a female peregrine and Short-eared Owl, along with the usual supporting assemblage.

But it is the grey male with its white rump and black ink-dipped wing tips that generate emotions like wonder but also sadness as well as a degree of anger ….

To understand the ‘disquiet’ and disappointment about the “Joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population” then you need to read it.  An erudite analysis of the document has been written by Dr Mark Avery via his blog Standing up for nature 

It is interesting too to read the comments made via that blog about the RSPB membership of the Upland Stakeholder Group, that is to say as part of the stakeholder group who have published this [In]action plan.  The RSPB’s response to the Action Plan can be found via Martin Harper’s blog.

Hen Harriers breed on upland moors, many managed for grouse.  Leeds University through its EMBER project found issues of water quality etc. This winter has seen astonishing levels of flooding in areas which are downstream of these [mis]managed moorlands.  An epetition to ban driven grouse shooting achieved 33,615 signatures, the RSPB and the WTs collectively failed to get behind this petition and similarly the RSPB have yet to encourage its membership to sign the Ban toxic lead ammunition petition, why?

But, with flooding topical then we should encourage people in power, Ministers, MPs and others that upland moor management needs to be reviewed and where necessary undertaken for the public good not private profit?  Is it right that large estates cause damage and receive public funds as part of land subsidies?  Perhaps the issue of flooding will keep the management of upland moors and public subsidies in the public gaze?  Ministers were quick to be seen out in devastated areas dishing out sympathies and promises, but time will tell if their flood of promises manifest any tangible benefit to the public who suffered from the consequences of failure to take a holistic approach to flood management?

According to George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian  This flood was not only foretold – it was publicly subsidised.

 

 

 

2016 – resolved or resolute?

January 2, 2016

Should New Year Resolutions be a personal issue or can organisations take them up?  Perhaps organisations call them Business Reviews, wonder what politicians call them?

The author of this post decided to start the year proactively and whilst not a serious NYD list, a few species of note were recorded making the short excursion worthwhile and carbon neutral by virtue of cycling ….

Stunning views of two Short-eared Owls hunting over arable grassland reverting to scrub, very wet and waterlogged in the lower areas of the field, ideal small mammal habitat.

Short-eared Owl Image copyright: Tim Melling

Short-eared Owl
Image copyright: Tim Melling

The same field, in a drier area, provided a sheltered microhabitat for Viola arvensis or field pansy, something agri-industrialists would consider a weed.  But on a cool ‘winter’ day quiet delightful.

Viola arvensis: Field Pansy flowering on New Year's Day 2016

Viola arvensis: Field Pansy flowering on New Year’s Day 2016

So, in terms of ‘New Year Resolutions’ that ticked the

*Get out more and enjoy the wildlife / spend ‘moor’ time out in the field recording findings,

*Reduce carbon footprint (including continued *cutting back on ‘commercial’ meat),

Which leaves:

*Focus on a couple of key ‘conservation’ themes to ‘campaign’ on, research them thoroughly to ensure up to speed with the current science involved to underpin case.  Topical issues at the moment might include climate change and what better example to use than the recent flooding episodes and the role of the various agencies and drainage boards?    The use of and impact of neonictinoids on pollinators?  Equally topical might be fracking?  It might be badger culls or illegal persecution of raptors (particularly Hen Harriers)?  In case any reader hasn’t signed the epetition ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’ then that might be a topic to consider?  Management of upland moors (burning) for grouse has been shown to be damaging for water supplies as well as other eco-system services, see Leeds University’s EMBER Report Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River basins.  For background reading an informative and well researched book Inglorious Conflict in the Uplands provides a good understanding and a starting point for further investigation into a sport which has cost implications for all tax payers.

*Enter into ‘regular’ correspondence with a variety of ‘people’.  Ministers, Defra officers, media, MEPs, MPs, local councillors etc.  Write a minimum of one letter a month to relevant MP / Minister (ial Department).

*I suppose we might / should also consider taking up ‘Twitter (ing)‘?  I recall an audience being told, or at least those who didn’t  to ‘get over it’ and effectively get on with it …. whilst I recognise the gains made through the use of ‘Social Media’ I’m not entirely convinced that it is something for us, but ever an agnostic?  Rural internet is sadly still none existent in parts of God’s own county and its hinterlands, so blogging isn’t as easy as it ought to be, twitter and tweeting – I thought that was something the birds did?

*There has been suggestions made that one should review the NGOs you support, and there has to be merit in periodic reviews of this nature because there are the large, medium and small or for those sufficiently motivated there’s always the option to DIY if a gap exists?  Whilst the large can have impact through advocacy on some key issues, they may not help local community groups protect locally important sites.  The regular direct debit becomes a habit.  Regional offers or specialist organisation can help you learn identification skills and can confirm difficult identifications, and are valuable networking opportunities and generally appreciate contributions from volunteers.  It’s not a case of what you receive but what wildlife receives for your contribution and some it has been suggested spend too much on recruitment, PR and spin through regular press releases?  Conversely, they can be a force for change?

*Remembering the late Stephen Warburton, one of the Forum’s founding members, we should remain true to those principles, particularly Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 

*Enthuse the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts / amateur naturalists.  Once upon a time, that would almost certainly have been deemed to be children and whilst that is important, there is a resource with considerable capacity that could take up natural history as a hobby and or conservation campaigning to influence change etc. and they are the early retired proportion of the population.  We should be promoting wildlife and natural landscapes as important habitats at any and every opportunity.  If we don’t then they will be lost to agri-industrial intensification, to green belt development or mono-culture commercial theme / country parks?

So a few for nature conservationists to consider?

Here’s to 2016 – challenges and opportunities it’s sure to bring?

Greenblobpride

Inglorious & keep on the campaigning ….

August 25, 2015

Fresh from the Birdfair I’ve been wading (no pun intended) through “Inglorious” and whilst previously considerably annoyed from the accounts and information provided via such sites as Standing up for nature that has now morphed into ‘considered’ anger.

It was cheating I suppose, but curiosity as to what Avery would advocate we all do is summed up in eight short paragraphs in the book and a resume here (for those of you yet to read Inglorious):

  • Attend a Hen Harrier Day event
  • Write to your MP
  • Write to supermarkets and restuarants
  • Write to your water company
  • Write to newspapers
  • Use social media
  • Support BAWC, the RSPB and other wildlife NGOs
  • Finally he encourages readers to keep an eye on his blog and Twitter account @markavery  He also recommends people read his book.

We’d certainly encourage readers to do all the above and another easy one to consider would be writing to Ministers as well as MPs, if there is a critical mass of community campaigning then Westminster is more likely to take note and listen?

Another …. if readers have not already done so is to sign Avery’s epetition Ban driven grouse shooting.

It’s no longer simply an issue of challenging a minority sport, but the impact that that sport has on many other things including the quality and cost of our drinking water.  See post of 1 July 2015 in which a number of reports are referenced, including that of Leeds University’s EMBER findings.

Ban driven grouse shooting

Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers.

RSPB , 7 March 2014 ‘…burning drainage and other forms of intensive land management in England’s iconic peat-covered hills are threatening to create a series of environmental catastrophes’

Inglorious – conflict in the uplands (a book on why we should ban driven grouse shooting)

Dr Dick Potts, scientist, 1998 ‘…a full recovery of Hen Harrier breeding numbers is prevented by illegal culling by some gamekeepers’

Chris Packham addressing Hen Harrier Day rally, August 2014 ‘We will win!’

Of the epetition, which now stands at over 14,000 signatures, is that whilst it is increasing at a reasonable rate that it is not to the magic 100,000 (the number needed to ensure a ‘discussion’ is held in Parliament) and government in their wisdom have reduced the time permitted to secure the number of ‘required’ signatories to six months (previously 12 months).  So please, working on the assumption that many of you have already signed it, please promote it ‘moor’ so that we might all write to Defra and their Ministers welcoming the forthcoming debate ….

Avery very generously suggests support of the larger NGOs such as the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts, but where are the 1 million members?  Just 10% of the RSPB membership would be enough, the WTs claim a combined membership of around 800,000 and ok there will be overlap but come on NGO hierarchy never mind the whispered personal views get the corporate message behind conservation of the uplands, please?

 

BAWC_Slider_Wildlife_Crime_Henry_v3

See more images of Henry as he searches for a ‘mate’.

EMBER …. Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River Basins

October 3, 2014

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the issue of grouse moors, Hen Harriers and campaigning to hold upland shooting estates to account through the launch by Dr Mark Avery of an online epetition to Ban driven grouse shooting.  Others are far ‘moor’ erudite and knowledgeable so I hope when I offer links to such blog posts or articles that readers find the information or critique useful and persuasive?  In keeping with that theme, we join with other campaigning conservationists to encourage you to read the recently released

Brown, L. E, Holden, J. and Palmer, S. M. (2014) Effects of moorland burning on the ecohydrology of river basins. Key findings from the EMBER project. University of Leeds.

Given that Government is funding quite a number of peat restoration projects, the findings of this report should give civil servants and Ministers serious cause for a rethink on funding for upland grouse moor management?

Controlled heather burning on Derbyshire grouse moors.   Paul Adams: Wikipedia Commons Licence.

Controlled heather burning on Derbyshire grouse moors.
Paul Adams: Wikipedia Commons Licence.

Of the fifteen key findings outlined in the report’s Executive Summary, we offer below a sample as ‘evidence’ that we believe that a serious review of the practice of heather burning should be undertaken and funding for estates which practice burning be similarly reviewed.

Prescribed burning on peatlands was shown to have clear effects on peat hydrology, peat chemistry and physical properties, river water chemistry and river biota.

Burning reduces the organic matter content of the upper peat layers.  The net result is that the peat is less able to retain imortant particles known as exchengeable cations.  In other words, the peat in burned sites is deprived of chemicals which are important for plant growth and for buffering acidic rainfall. 

Sphagnum is an important peat forming species.  Changes in the hydrological properties of the peat after fire make the peat less conducive to Sphagnum moss growth.

River flow in catchments where burning has taken place appears to be slightly more prone to higher peak flows during heavy rain.  However, this was not a conclusive finding.

Particulate organic matter (predominantly peat) deposits were increased up to four-fold in the bed sediments of burned rivers compared to unburned rivers. 

It is interesting additionally to note that the authors report that “while the area of burned moorland has increased in some areas of northern England significantly since 1995*, the implications for peatland soils, their hydrology and biogeochemistry, river flow regimes, water quality and biota remains poorly understood”.  *Yallop et. al. 2006.

Read the key findings here.

I’m not sure of who came up with the title to create the acronym, but they certainly seem to have a sense of humour.  How long will it be before the ashes settle for the final time on this archaic practice?  Was there a great a loss or inconvenience to the agri-industrialists after stubble burning was reviewed and banned?

So, if the epetition nears its target of 100,000 signatures by the end of the ‘window’ made available by this Government will the ConDems allow discussion in the ‘House’?

Perhaps there’s an opportunity here, sell tickets to raise funds for charity or better still to help finance independent scrutiny of grouse moors in receipt of public funds or maybe Hen Harrier monitoring?

Defra’s response to it achieving the 10,000 signature milestone was late and when it arrived it was somewhat lack lustre.  Avery’s analysis of it made far better reading, the kind of persuasive prose which should encourage others to expend a little effort and contribute energy to the campaign for change.  Critical mass can deliver conservation, the failed forestry sell of is perhaps an iconic example?

 


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Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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