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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Media reports

Two items caught my attention today. One relating to loss of biodiversity and the other highlighting how mankind benefits from an understanding of the rest of the animal kingdom.

Having made several posts on biodiversity loss on this blog, I was pleased to see The Independent newspaper today ( page 10, Save our Species) also highlighting the threat posed by the loss of ponds. It appeared to be referring to information given in the English Nature booklet noted in my blog of Aug 25. It reports the significant loss of ponds in the UK and that "one new complex (of ponds) in Oxfordshire contained a quarter of the UK's freshwater plant and animal life after only 5 years". It gives the web address of Pond Conservation for more information. Which is at:

"About Pond Conservation"

"Pond Conservation is the UK's leading centre for information and practical advice on the conservation of ponds. We also have an extensive programme of research, policy and practical work on rivers, lakes, ponds, canals and drainage ditch systems.
The organisation was founded in 1988 as Pond Action, subsequently merging with the Ponds Conservation Trust in 2001, and is now known as Pond Conservation: the Water Habitats Trust."

The trust publishes a number of fact sheets including the following:

Good Wildlife PondsA short guide to creating your own wildlife pond.
Planting Up PondsDo's and don't's of planting for a wildlife pond.
Problem Pond PlantsHow to manage algae, duckweed and other floating plants.
The Importance of Ponds: A guide for Planners and DevelopersGuidance when a development includes or affects ponds.

It was also interesting to read a technical journal published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology. ( Engineering and Technology, September 2006, page 30.)

An article describes links between biology and research into ways to prevent computer virus attacks. Engineers are working with biologists to learn from the human immune system, which is likened to a " very interesting adaptive computational system", to develop intrusion detection software.

The well known dive of the Gannet, which allows the bird to rapidly plunge in a vertical dive into the sea in pursuit of fish has led to another line of research. The bird has to judge the latest moment to fold its wings before hitting the surface of the water using feedback from visual signals. The same idea of feedback is being applied to software to detect malicious programmes
The IET web site is at:

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Climate Change

After lunch today I logged onto the web site set up to promote and explain the film called, "AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH" in which Al Gore the US politician explains his campaign to wake the world to the consequences of global warming.
Its worth looking at for no other reason than that Al Gore is a major US politician and the US is a major player in global warming. It is useful background to our next public meeting in September.
From the web site you can see a 47 minute interview with Al Gore about his views on the subject and you can also see a trailer for the film itself which is being seen in cinemas across the US. Both are good at getting the message clear.

Here are a few quotes from the web site:


"Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced. "

"The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, it is already happening and that it is the result of our activities and not a natural occurrence. The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable."

"There is no doubt we can solve this problem. In fact, we have a moral obligation to do so. Small changes to your daily routine can add up to big differences in helping to stop global warming. The time to come together to solve this problem is now. "
Go to :

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sea birds!

Photographs by David LeClercq

Two beautiful photographs of sea birds on the south coast near Bournemouth. Not in our area but as they were sent to me by a friend and such good images I am including them. We do of course have a variety of similar birds to be found on the levels and moors and coastline of Somerset. If there is anyone reading this with good local shots please send them to me. Perhaps a heron from West Sedgemoor.

Friday, August 25, 2006

How to fight diversity loss

My last post on Aug 20th identified loss of habitat as an important cause of diversity loss.
One of a series of publications by English Nature called "Garden Ponds and boggy areas: havens for wildlife" shows how the numbers of ponds has decreased from about 1,250,000 in 1890 to about 400,000 in 2005.
The loss is said to be due to intensive agriculture and land drainage, neglect and lack of management. Clearly urban growth is also a factor.
The aim of the booklet is to inspire anyone without a garden pond to create one and to advise on how to do it.
It gives good reasons to take this advice. For example.
Garden ponds help compensate for the general loss of ponds.
They are a haven for freshwater plants and animals.
They provide a drinking place for birds and insects which are food for bats.
They provide an educational resource for children and adults through out the seasons.
In short, English Nature claim that "If you want to see plenty of wildlife close to home, put in a garden pond."
The booklet can be obtained either by post or by downloading a copy from their web site.

I should add that there are two other booklets in the same series which show how important even small ponds are in any garden.They are:"Dragonflies and Damseflies in your garden."and"Minibeasts in your garden"

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Continuing to look at biodiversity it is worth looking at what the Natural History Museum in London has to say about the subject. All the quotes and extracts are from their web site today.

Natural History Museum , London

They introduce the subject as:

"The term biodiversity describes the variety of life on Earth, from
micro-organisms to mighty whales, along with the habitats they depend upon.
Discover why the world’s biodiversity is under threat and what will happen to us
as biodiversity decreases. Also, find out about the problems that come with
trying to measure it, and how the Museum’s work is helping in the study and
conservation of biodiversity."

They go on to ask the question which is of interest to wildlife supporters and which not surprisingly echos the quotes in my earlier post on conservation in New Zealand ( post dated July 22nd):

"Why conserve biodiversity?

Biodiversity is a fundamental part of the Earth's life support system.
It supports many basic natural services for humans, such as fresh water,
fertile soil and clean air. Biodiversity helps pollinate our flowers and crops,
clean up our waste and put food on the table. Without it we would not be
able to survive.
The term biodiversity should also remind us that no one
organism lives in isolation. The many different ways that the millions of
organisms on the Earth interact with each other contributes to the balance of
the global ecosystem and the survival of the planet. Biodiversity plays a role
in regulating natural processes such as the growth cycles of plants, the mating
seasons of animals, and even weather systems."

The web site goes on to explain the threat and describes six factors under the headings given below:

"What threatens our biodiversity?
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation
  • Invasive alien species
  • Pollution
  • Climate change
  • Over exploitation
  • Human populations"

There is plenty here to give background to our next public meeting on Climate Change in September.

Monday, August 14, 2006

General news update

In a small change to this Blog I have added a link to the web site for the Somerset Wildlife Trust at the bottom of this template.

Although August is a quiet month with holidays etc, we have progressed a press release to local parish news sheets for our Sept 28th meeting on Climate Change. We must let the local papers know soon.
The Trust summer Magazine is due out any day now and that will carry full details of the meeting and information about our group.

There may be progress on the subject of my last post. I hope a meeting can be set up with the councils Ecology unit to talk about conservation of a grass meadow and I hope to ask about local action on the UK Biodiversity Plan.
I found a web site concerned with the definition of biodiversity which highlighted the need to be clear about the terms used. The web address is:

My self imposed task of visiting all our local nature reserves has progressed a little . There are still 3 to go out of 14. My impressions are as I noted on July 21st. Some are more interesting than others for lay persons and in all cases a first visit with a reserve manager is desirable. Details like access and parking or other means of reaching the reserves can all be research by ourselves but the flora and fauna to be seen needs an experienced eye to give a satisfactory experience of the visit. We also need a list of reserve managers and contact details.

Monday, August 07, 2006


To see what our local district council says about biodiversity you can go to their web site and search for the documents shown below. For a subject as important as this finding your way through their web site to these documents is not easy.
The overall government view is given in the ukbap web site.
Then the SSDC site has an index page for the countryside issues and from there you can search for the two documents which are quite interesting. It will probably need us to ask for a meeting with someone in this part of SSDC in order to find out what it all means on the ground now and over the next few years.
Good luck with the browsing.

Countryside Action Plan 2005-2006 [2Mb]

Strategy for Nature Conservation in South Somerset [136kb]

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Public meeting on Climate Change

As our next public meeting on Sept 28th is on the subject of climate change I have started looking to see what the internet can provide to help see the wood from the trees. This is a very apt saying in the circumstances highlighted by recent newspaper reports about drought in the Amazon rain forest. The web site shown below is relevant to any consideration of climate change.