Welcome to the October Parliament activity report

Note this is a summary of some of the points - read the full set of Hansard on https://hansard.parliament.uk/ - This blog is to inform rather than to express affiliations with a certain point of view. Feel free to scroll through to the headline that interests you - the House of Lords Hansard summary is in indigo and the House of Commons in green. Links to relevant information have been added.

This months blog covers fly tipping, the ecological impact of fences, eDNA and conservation, ecology research being undertaken by a physicist, peat moorlands, clean air targets, HS2, the complexity glaciers, the conservation efforts of China, and the eradication of invasive species.

01 October 2020 - Fly tipping

The importance of fly tipping prevention was discussed, with a mention of the impact that it has on the countryside and historic areas of outstanding natural beauty. Fly tipping is a criminal offence with a maximum fine of £50,000 or a sentence of 12 months. Concerns were raised over the lack of support there is to enforce this. It was highlighted that the lockdown has shown how much we value our green space. The waste and resources strategy and the Environment Bill covers this issue, and the national fly tipping prevention group is working on measures.

Further information is available on the Hansard

03 October 2020 - Fences and ecology

Cosmos Magazine brought our attention to research by McInturff et al (2020). Details published in BioScience suggests a framework for 'understanding the ecological effects of fences'. This topic was investigated due to an apparent gap in research. The paper discusses arguments for and against the use of fences for managing and protecting wildlife and habitats, the spatial and temporal considerations of fences, the physiological and behavioral effects of fences, and the ecosystem and socioecological effects of fencing. The researchers conclude that fence construction is proliferating rapidly, creating ecological winners and losers, and that there is a need for policy around the use of fencing.

13 October 2020 - eDNA

Research by Lopes et al (2020) which demonstrated the usefulness of eDNA in establishing the presence of frog species, Megaelosia bocainensis, which had not been sighted for over 50 years! Read more about the future of eDNA in terms of conservation and ecology here. If you are a Great Crested Newt researcher you may also want to check out our eDNA offering.

13 October 2020 - The physicist and the microbes

Quanta Magazine released an interesting article on Jeff Gore, who as a physicist, has new insights into ecology. His team investigate the activities and interactions of microbes, which are subjected to various conditions, such as temperature extremes and food shortages. Gore has an ambition to 'discover the rules that govern real-world ecosystems'. Read more here, and see what you think. Will the results from these experiments translate to other situations?

14 October 2020 - Burning of peat moorlands

Lord Randall of Uxbridge raised a question about plans to end rotational burning of peat moorlands. It was confirmed that the Government are addressing this as they acknowledge that the protection of blanket bog and the conservation of vulnerable habitats is important. Legislation is being reviewed and progress is being made to promote the use of sustainable peat alternatives. Research has revealed that burning moves bog away from a wet habitat towards a drier healthland. The ending of burning was said to be the best approach to achieving restoration of the habitat to a state where it could provide ecosystem services. Baroness Young of Old Scone noted that the heather and moorland burning regulations are 13 years out of date. They do not match the current thinking on net zero, biodiversity, and air and water quality targets. The Government reassured the House that they are engaging with stakeholders on the content of the England peat strategy.

20 October 2020 - Local Clean Air Targets

Jeff Smith raised air quality, with particular emphasis on traffic emissions, to coincide with Greater Manchester's plans for a clean air zone. He pointed out the link between 'dirty air' and increases in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease, and early deaths.

JL. The UNECE have an interesting article on air pollution, ecosystems, and biodiversity.

Further information is available on the Hansard

24 October 2020 - HS2 and ancient woodland

HS2 has come under fire this month, with ecologists stating that it is flawed to think that moving ancient woodland habitat (and its soil) is possible. A BBC article covered this, detailing the movement of soil from a donor site to a receiver site, along with the replanting of coppice stools, saplings and bulbs and the installation of bat boxes, reptile banks and ponds. The problem lies in the difficulty in creating something that is ancient.

27 October 2020 - Physical changes in glaciers

A NASA article detailed that Greenland's glacier is retreating and undergoing physical changes, including the re-routing of nutrient carrying freshwater rivers at bedrock level. It was acknowledged that glacial evolution is a complex subject, which requires knowledge of the glacier and its unique environment. Check the article out - there are some beautiful images.

30 October 2020 - 'New chapter of ecological conservation'

News from the China Global Television Network stated that Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, is determined to promote ecological conservation, protect biodiversity, and to be actively involved in global diversity governance.

"In China, 90 percent of terrestrial ecosystem types and 85 percent of key wild animal populations are under effective protection"

Liu Xiaoming

We will wait and see what happens...

31 October 2020 - Swap one invasive species for another

The Economist released an article on 'A tale of rats and palms on an atoll in the Pacific', which outlines the problem of introducing animals to an area that they would not naturally be in. Particular attention is given to feral rats, which endanger birds, and local flora, causing loss in biodiversity. The article acknowledges the work of Ana Millerter Kuile who, on studying the Palmyra Atoll, found that eradication of an invasive, seed and fruit eating, rodent can favour the establishment of invasive plants which were once controlled. In this instance the introduced Cocos nucifera saw a 95% reduction in seed predation and an increase in juvenile tree biomass.