[email protected] News 27.12.2
Majority 'now in favour of compromise on hunting'
A majority of the British public would like to see a compromise over hunting with dogs, despite the determination of most Labour MPs to push through an outright ban on the sport. A survey by NOP found that 59 per cent either opposed a ban on civil liberty grounds or agreed that hunting should continue - in a regulated form - to "strike a balance between civil liberties and animal welfare". The poll findings were welcomed by pro-hunting groups who said abolitionist MPs would face the wrath of the public if they tried to force through a ban.
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Why hares but not rabbits?
A Labour supporter who lives on the second-largest council estate in Europe has emerged as the unlikely champion for hare-coursing against government plans to ban the sport (Valerie Elliott writes). Vini Faal, 45, who runs a fly-poster business and is a tenant on the deprived Wythenshawe estate outside Manchester, is preparing to lobby every Labour MP to allow his sport to survive in England and Wales. He cannot understand why the Government wishes to ban the sport yet allow foxhunting to be decided by a registrar. “Coursing has been the subject of numerous independent inquiries which have all come out in favour. It is the only field sport designed not to kill the quarry."
More information - Times
Vets in favour of deerhunting
Sir, As veterinary surgeons who contributed to a recent symposium in London on the welfare of British wild mammals, we believe that if deerhunting were to be banned the current satisfactory status of the West Country herds of red deer would be severely compromised. Well over half of English red deer reside in that small area, where deerhunting continues to be practised. The hunts control numbers through hunting and stalking and manage and maintain a healthy population at levels far greater than would otherwise be tolerated. However, management of the red deer on Exmoor and the Quantock Hills has been compromised since 1997 by local bans on hunting imposed by the National Trust and the Forestry Commission.
More information - Times letters
GM crops could revive endangered wildlife
Genetically modified crops could help to bring endangered birds such as the skylark back to British farmland, according to research that will be presented to the Government next month. The first major trial to test the impact of GM crops on the environment in Britain has revealed sharp improvements in the density of weeds, seeds and insects — the crucial foods on which many of the most threatened birds survive. Skylarks, finches, buntings and lapwings, along with other birds that have declined since the advent of intensive farming, could benefit from the herbicide-tolerant crops, which can be sprayed less frequently without a loss of yield, the study suggests.
More information - Times
Green light for windfarm
A new windfarm development to be built off the north Wales coast has been given the go-ahead. The 30 turbines, to be built on Rhyl Flats, will produce enough electricity to power 50,000 homes throughout Denbighshire. In October, another offshore windfarm was given approval at North Hoyle off the coast of Prestatyn. Work on building the Rhyl Flats turbines, which will stand 150 metres high, is scheduled to begin immediately for completion in 2004. UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson said: "This is the third offshore windfarm development nationally and the second in Wales. "Rhyl Flats will make a vital contribution to the Government's target to generate 10% of the UK's electricity from renewables by 2010."
More information - BBC
Save our coasts call in spill wake
The sinking of the tanker Prestige off Spain has sparked calls for stricter protection of vulnerable tourism coastlines, including South Devon. The call has come from Devon County Council which wants the European Union to act in the wake of the sinking. It is estimated one million tonnes of oil passes the South Devon coast every day. And one of the 20,000 vessels a year using the English Channel route was the Prestige which passed South Devon before foundering off Spain last month. The council wants the union's Atlantic Arc Commission to secure backing for the Western Channel and Western Approaches, as well as the Bay of Biscay, to be declared a particularly sensitive sea area - internationally recognised sites that need special protection from oil pollution and other maritime activities.
More information - thisisSouthDevon
Old, stoned microbes
The development of photosynthesis was a key event in evolution. This makes Archean cyanobacteria important microbes, because they can produce oxygen through photosynthesis. Ancient evidence of these key bacteria is not easy to find. Bacterial microfossils are rare in carbonate rocks, because carbonate crystallization often destroys microscopic structures. Despite this, a pair of researchers has identified bacterial microfossils in carbonate rocks that look a lot like modern cyanobacteria.
More information - BioMedNet
Lichens are surprisingly precise air quality monitors
Lichens, combinations of fungi and algae, are quietly trodden underfoot by animals and hikers the world over. Now a new study by a Brigham Young University father-son team has demonstrated that lichens could replace expensive environmental monitors since they accumulate some pollutants in concentrations that correctly manifest the amount of the pollutants in the surrounding air. "Previously, we knew that lichens took things up from the air, but no one had any significant results indicating that what is in the lichen accurately reflects what is in the air," said Larry St. Clair, the chair of BYU's department of integrative biology and co-author of the study published in the latest issue of Atmospheric Environment.
More information - ScienceDaily
Unseen woods open to public
Unseen woodland near Longtown could be explored for the first time under a new scheme to promote the area. It is hoped that sections of the Netherby estate which have never before been opened to the public could be accessible by late spring next year. A network of paths, covering between 10 and 15km of woodland, is planned for the area, which runs alongside the Esk in the Netherby woodland, as part of the woodland Improvement grant, an offshoot of the Forest Futures Scheme run by Cumbria Woodlands in partnership with the Forestry Commission. Information boards will be displayed along the trails, with facts about the history and ecology of the area and tips on spotting wildlife.
More information - Cumberland News
Hopes of saving the harvest mouse from extinction have been boosted by a pioneering British project. Zoologists in Chester have spent seven years trying to establish a perfect "model" for the re-introduction of the species around the world. This summer they released 200 of the creatures - each fitted with a microchip - into a protected piece of meadowland. So far the animals seem to have prospered, extending their boundaries and managing to breed the next generation of pioneering mice.
More information - Telegraph
Stranded killer whale Noel frees itself from beach
A killer whale which became stranded off the East Coast near Grimsby yesterday managed to free itself, said the RSPCA. The Orca whale, nicknamed Noel by officials, was spotted early on Christmas morning off the North East Lincolnshire coast by a dog walker. While RSPCA officials went to the scene, the mammal, which was about 20ft long, managed to free itself. It is believed some type of off-shore pipe had a part to play in the animal's plight. RSPCA regional superintendent for East Anglia Tim Wass said it was not unusual for killer whales to pass the British coast at this time of year. "They don't usually come inshore but it is not unusual to see a killer whale at this time of year," he said.
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Wildlife Trust warning on dolphin protection
Dolphins need more protection from fishing and other human activities, Dr Nick Tregenza of Penzance and other environmentalists have warned. The call follows a survey carried out by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and Greenpeace in October and November. The groups, operating on board the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior which visited St Ives, undertook a detailed survey of whales, dolphins and porpoise populations around the coasts of Wales and then south and south-west England. During the survey more than 400 animals were sighted. Common dolphins were sighted most frequently off the Cornwall and Pembrokeshire coasts.
More information - this is cornwall
Irish birds boost apple yield
Help is at hand for Ireland's hard-pressed fruit growers - in the unlikely form of the great tit. Scientists have discovered that the birds are able to control the caterpillars in apple orchards and boost yields by up to 40%. The discovery also has environmental implications, considerably reducing the amount of pesticides used. Experiments in the Netherlands reveal that 7.8 kilograms of apples were harvested from trees where the tits were able to feed, but only 4.7 kg from trees where they were excluded. The welcome results are published in the latest edition of the Journal of Applied Ecology by Christel Mols and Marcel Visser of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.
More information - Belfast Telegraph
Scientists track down elusive female spider in marshland
Scientists have tracked down one of the most elusive creatures in Britain - a female of a particular sort of money spider. The team working at the Insh Marshes nature reserve in Strathspey have finally discovered the female money spider, Wabasso quaestio, for the first time following a lengthy search. In 1999, staff from RSPB Scotland discovered the male of the species which had never before been found in Britain. The female, however, remained resolutely undetectable until a study at RSPB Scotland's Insh Marshes reserve earlier this year. After months of crawling through dense grass, researchers found the 1.5 millimetre-long female of the species.
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The killing fields for our famous small birds
Britain's farmland birds have suffered a catastrophic decline in the past three decades. Intensification of agriculture has destroyed long-established food webs and habitats. Bird populations living in agricultural fields have fallen by as much as 50 per cent since 1970, and some have been disappearing at an even steeper rate. Corn bunting numbers are down by 85 per cent and tree sparrows down by 87 per cent. Countryside birds that were once common, such as the skylark, the linnet, the yellowhammer, the grey partridge, the turtle dove and the song thrush, are now considered rare enough to appear on official “red lists” of endangered species.
More information - Times
Scotland's top 100 heritage trees named
Trees used to hang criminals, trees that are weird, twisted or lonely, trees planted by Kings and Queens, and a tree that was already ancient when St Andrew was a disciple of Jesus.... Such trees are among the "100 Heritage Trees of Scotland", named after a year-long quest by the Forestry Commission to find Scotland's most special and remarkable trees. Featuring some of Scotland's oldest, rarest, tallest, widest, weirdest, most interesting, and historically or culturally most significant trees, "Heritage Trees" is an Internet-based promotion as part of Treefest Scotland 2002, a festival of more than 800 events held throughout Scotland to celebrate trees, woods and forests.
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Edinburgh Evening News
Save threatened species with a grant
Landowners in North Somerset are being urged to apply for funding for projects that protect wildlife. The schemes will encourage the development of habitats for species such as water voles, dormice, bats, hares, song thrush, and lapwing. Funding up to a maximum of £500, is available to local landowners, but individuals or groups can apply, with the landowner's permission. The money is being made available through the Biodiversity Action Plan, operated by North Somerset Council and English Nature. N Somerset Executive Member for the Environment and Community, Councillor Peter Crew, says "The protection of the natural landscape and wildlife is important."
More information - this is Bristol
Opposition to valley sewage plan
Campaigners are fighting to preserve an open space earmarked as a possible site for a sewage treatment plant. Southern Water has suggested eight possible locations for a new plant following last year's rejection of a scheme at Portobello, near Telscombe Cliffs. Two of the proposed sites are in Sheepcote Valley, a large area of open space in East Brighton, which used to be a rubbish tip. A third is at nearby Black Rock on land earmarked by Brighton and Hove City Council for leisure. Bernard Evans, secretary of the Friends of Sheepcote Valley, said: "Our group of volunteers has worked with the council to retrieve the valley from its historic use as a dumping ground for waste and chalk. "It is an area of great value for wildlife, flora, fauna and human recreation. It is inconceivable either of the two sites could be acceptable."
More information - This is Brighton and Hove