Posts Tagged ‘IUCN’

For peat’s sake …. ‘tea-bag technology’ brings hope & a rethink on packaging?

April 20, 2014
There are some good alternatives on the market, the problem seems to be locating stockists.

There are some good alternatives on the market, the problem seems to be locating stockists.

The UK is a nation of graden lovers, but sadly many are still unaware or oblivious to the environmental damage our hobby can do and I’d like to think that’s the last thing anyone would want to unwittingly do.  For decades peat has been marketed as the best growing medium for plants, such is the persuasion of advertising and our hectic lifestyles where just about everything is sourced at some ‘supermarket’ or other.  Thankfully bags of peat are a marginally rarer species in the garden centres than they were a decade or so ago, but whilst we may have slowed the assault on UK peatlands, or at least those with SSSI status and reduced the peat content we still import millions of cubic metres from the Baltic bogs, from Ireland, from China and other countries who need easy revenue.  Effectively therefore a case could be made that all we achieved was to export the problem?

I’m sure we all remember over a decade or so ago the promotion of coir (waste coconut husk) as an alternative growing medium, well B & Q (and hopefully others) have recently announced that they will be using corn starch teabags full of coir to grow a range of 20 popular bedding in, and another bonus is that those ever lasting polystyrene trays are to go as well!  They will be replaced by recyclable ones.  I’m not one for ‘celebrities’ being used to promote recycled policies (we were hearing similar noises twelve years ago) but Emilia Fox did a reasonably persuasive job, and our old friend Dr Olly Watts recycled the habitat loss reminders.  This update appeared on the IUCN Peatland website on 1 April so I think whilst it is a step forward it would be wise to see if the replacement extends wider than the first 20 popular varieties?  But sales and feedback will drive policy?

How many remember the presentation by Stewart Henchie of Kew Gardens at the Scunthorpe Conference in 2002?  For me his message was quite clear, it’s not the growing medium per se that’s important, but the management of it.  So, why is it that we still succumb to the marketing PR of the multinationals every spring when we head for the garden centres or supermarkets?

So, as you head for the garden centres spare a thought for the unique wildlife that peat extraction destroys, make your purchases wisely as each one sends an important message to corporations about ethical practices.  When I have been unable to find peat free compost in garden centres, I’ve taken the trouble to explain why I have not made cany purchase from the store.  Has it done any good, I don’t know but if you don’t register customer comments then they will carry on with environmentally damaging practices for sure!


Round-leaved Sundew (above), a bog speciality that would be lost to peat cutting as would the delightful Bog-Rosemary below. 

You need to get down to her level to really appreciate the beauty of Andromeda

You need to get down to her level to really appreciate the beauty of Andromeda.


The best peat free seed medium I’ve used has been Petersfield Supreme, but the issue is locating stockists as this product is one used by the trade and not a retail product.  TERRA ECO*SYSTEMS (Thames Water) peat free (good potting on compost) can be sourced locally and used to be available at the Old Moor Nature Reserve.

If anyone can offer updates on availability of either product, then please drop us a line via


Causes for celebration?

March 16, 2014

It’s always nice to receive good news or positive outcomes and to be able to congratulate people on achieving best conservation outcomes:

The Badger saga: there was a Backbench Business Committee debate on Thursday 13 March in the ‘House’, see here to watch the debate or to download the transcript.  It is interesting to observe the proceedings and ‘performaces’,  one might be minded to agree that the Independant Expert Panel (IEP) report should have been made available ahead of the debate (as oppossed to being leaked on the day) in order that all MPs could read and understand all the significant findings.  219 to one MPs voted to halt the cull, many justified abstention by indicating that the final IEP Report was required ahead of a debate.  In the interim of the awaited IEP Report, perhaps they should read a few statistics provided by ‘Team Badger’?   The outcome of the debate is not binding upon the Government and thus far the ConDems have carried on in just that manner,  ConDem’ing wildlife and the environment to an uncertain future by clearing away red tape they see as inhibiting development.  What is perhaps equally worrying is a Government who appears deaf to the masses?  Fifty Shades of Grayling a guest blog by Carol Day was another damming view on the Government’s ‘green credentials’ and featured on the well read Standing up for Nature site operated by Mark Avery.   Another recent critique he featured was subsequent to a magazine interview with Dave Webster, CEO of Natural England, entitled What would you have liked to have asked?  it too receives a number of interesting comments. 

It is unfortunate that the Defra website  does not contain up to date information which raises the issue of open and transparent reporting by a Government Department perhaps?  The Defra website then directs you to GOV.UK website for more information, but that only brings you to the end of last year in terms of the IEP.  GOV.UK also provides details of the membership of the IEP.  It is understood and reported in the media that the Minister, Owen Paterson has at long last received the IEP Report, so hopefully it will not be too long before its findings will be made public.  The BBC (television station not Parliamentary Committee) reports that Badger culls were ‘ineffective and failed humaneness test’.

Badger & mayweed

Badger by Tatterdemalion.   Image courtesy of Flickr – Creative Commons license.

A number of email updates were received reporting upon the success of the collaborative coalition to save The Sanctuary a Derby CC Local Nature Reserve.  This was an excellent outcome not only for the wildlife of the site but also that it demonstrated what can be achieved by a collective collaboration of community conservationists.  It is understood that Derby CC press release concludes with this quite stinging comment ‘Derbyshire Wildlife Trust continues to have a service level agreement with the Council to provide expert advice on matters related to the natural environment.  Their compliance with this agreement will now be formally reviewed, and if found to be in breach, the appropriate legal action will be taken’.  It raises the issue of ‘paymasters’ requiring unchallenged compliance and co-operation otherwise potential loss of revenue to anyone with the audacity to challenge?  That was perhaps one of the benefits of forming a collaborative coalition, and was the rationale behind the Forum’s governance model.  There are an array of interesting comments posted, clearly and understandably local conservationists are not planning on complacency and will remain vigilent, long may the network deliver and where statute fails may they be held to account?

It was also pleasing to note that the Open Spaces Society have submitted a objection to the land swop at Beverley.  A timely reminder perhaps that one of the guest speakers at the Forum’s forthcoming Annual Meeting is Emeritus Professor Barbara English who will give a presentation on Beverley Pastures, the natural history and campaigning perspective will be provided by Kieran Sheehan. 

The IUCN have recently produced a glossy PR brochure on UK Peatland Restoration.   A number of geographically diverse case studies are offered but for the analysts of associated costs then there is disappointment and likewise perhaps the superficial reporting but nevertheless it delivers something we (conservation) often fail to celebrate, so well done!  Aimed for the layman rather than the scientist, one might see the benefit of having sufficient printed / CD to provide all 650 MPs in Westminster with a copy?

Beetling about …. “Reviews”

January 23, 2014

2013 saw a considerable volume of reports which catalogued the decline of species and habitat loss.

So, it is pleasing to report that another NERC commissioned Report has just been published.  A review of the scarce and threatened beetles of Great Britain NERC134 is now available as a download.  ISBN 978-1-78354-050-1.

The report’s foreword informs the reader that Natural England commission a range of reports from external contractors to provide evidence and advice to assist us in delivering our duties. The views in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Natural England.

It is good that these reports are produced, previously we understand that they were largely staff projects but times have changed as Natural England has ‘evolved’.  One might lament the haemorrhaging and departure of science, to be seemingly replaced by the new more recent priorities of engagement and access?

Further background rationale to the series is provided “Making good decisions to conserve species should primarily be based upon an objective process of determining the degree of threat to the survival of a species. The recognised international approach to undertaking this is by assigning the species to one of the IUCN threat categories.

The degree of threat is an interesting concept?  A case might be offered that such an assessment in itself might be subjective?

NERC134 was commissioned to update the threat status of beetles from the named families from work originally undertaken in 1987, 1992 and 1994 respectively using the IUCN methodology for assessing threat.  It is expected that further invertebrate status reviews will follow.”  Its Natural England Project Manager – Jon Webb,  With the Contractor –  Buglife (project management), and K.N.A. Alexander (author)

The report is published by Natural England under the Open Government Licence – OGLv2.0 for public sector information. “You” are encouraged to use, and reuse, information subject to certain conditions.  The Forum heartily endorses the concept of recycling, but alongside a plea for ongoing survey and monitoring.

Here’s to more such reports, but to re-iterate the need for site science to provide an understanding of change, losses and gains to inform management operations to deliver best practice for key habitats and the species dependant upon them.

For a list of other downloadable NERC Reports click here.

I just wonder how much notice the politicians who make decisions about our natural environment take of these reviews?  Or, conversely given some of the titles above, were they influential in their commissioning in order to assist the development of ‘projects’?

Reports 003, 013, 085, and 118 are certainly interesting topics for advisers on nature conservation to be commissioning as they appear to drift into other arenas out-with the organisational remit of when it was created, but evolution is a natural process …. the Nature Conservancy Council became English Nature and they evolved into the current Natural England in 2006 a hybrid which saw an amalgamation with the Rural Development Service and the Countryside Agency ….


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