Archive for February, 2012

Nature boost for 12 English sites

The Duke of Burgundy butterfly will get a helping hand in the South Downs

The government has selected England’s first 12 Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs), where wildlife and ecosystems will be protected and enhanced.

Heath in the Midlands, salt marshes along the Thames and peat beds in Cheshire are among the areas that will share £7.5m of government funding.

Seventy-six groups including community organisations, conservation charities and landowners bid for selection.

The NIAs stem from a 2010 review urging a joined-up approach to conservation.

Making Space for Nature recommended that existing protected areas needed to be expanded, that new areas should be established, and that sites needed to be linked together.

The 12 sites were selected by a panel led by Sir John Lawton, who was also lead scientist on Making Space for Nature.

“For more than 40 years I have had the privilege of working on nature-conservation issues in the UK, both as a professional scientist, and in the voluntary sector,” he said.

Continue reading the main story

Habitat and wildlife to benefit

“Never in all that time have I seen the sort of creativity, partnership working and sheer enthusiasm that the NIA competition has released in consortia that want to deliver more effective conservation for England’s wonderful wildlife in their area.

“Choosing 12 winners from 76 bids was an awfully difficult task, but I believe we have 12 outstanding NIAs, each unique in what it is setting out to achieve, for the benefits of people and wildlife.”

Some of the projects are directly aimed at enhancing specific wildlife, such as a mainly farmer-led project in the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire that aims to boost farmland birds through restoring habitat.

Another in the South Downs hopes to bring back the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, while in Devon, the River Torridge will be managed so it can support critically endangered freshwater pearl mussels.

Others aim to restore degraded habitat – the River Don floodplain and its wetlands in South Yorkshire, the Greater Thames salt marshes and grazing marches, and tributaries of the River Nene in Northamptonshire, badly hit by current drought conditions.

Wider environmental objectives are addressed by the Birmingham and Black Country living landscape project that will convert brownfield sites to heathland, and by Meres and Mosses of the Marches that will conserve Cheshire peatlands, which become a significant source of carbon emissions if they dry out.

Restoring peat bogs conserves carbon in the ground, as well as benefiting the water supply

The Wildlife Trusts, the network of mainly county-level nature charities across the country, welcomed the announcement but said it should be the start of something much bigger.

“We are delighted this competition has demonstrated a real appetite for putting nature back after decades of decline through the large number of applications,” said Paul Wilkinson, the organisation’s head of living landscapes.

“But 12 Nature Improvement Areas are not enough. This concept should be driven forward everywhere across England and given formal recognition through the new planning process, expected next month, and agri-environment grants.

“We have an urgent need for the restoration and recovery of the natural environment to take place across a much larger area, and quickly.”

The Wildlife Trusts said the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework must provide explicit guidance to authorities on taking a more strategic and integrated approach to the natural environment, so that the needs of nature and ecology are taken into account in all planning decisions.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/science-environment-17175683

Nature receives boost in 12 English sites

The Duke of Burgundy butterfly will get a helping hand in the South Downs

The government has selected England’s first 12 Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs), where wildlife and ecosystems will be protected and enhanced.

Heath in the Midlands, salt marshes along the Thames and peat beds in Cheshire are among the areas that will share £7.5m of government funding.

Seventy-six groups including community organisations, conservation charities and landowners bid for selection.

The NIAs stem from a 2010 review urging a joined-up approach to conservation.

Making Space for Nature recommended that existing protected areas needed to be expanded, that new areas should be established, and that sites needed to be linked together.

The 12 sites were selected by a panel led by Sir John Lawton, who was also lead scientist on Making Space for Nature.

“For more than 40 years I have had the privilege of working on nature-conservation issues in the UK, both as a professional scientist, and in the voluntary sector,” he said.

Continue reading the main story

Habitat and wildlife to benefit

“Never in all that time have I seen the sort of creativity, partnership working and sheer enthusiasm that the NIA competition has released in consortia that want to deliver more effective conservation for England’s wonderful wildlife in their area.

“Choosing 12 winners from 76 bids was an awfully difficult task, but I believe we have 12 outstanding NIAs, each unique in what it is setting out to achieve, for the benefits of people and wildlife.”

Some of the projects are directly aimed at enhancing specific wildlife, such as a mainly farmer-led project in the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire that aims to boost farmland birds through restoring habitat.

Another in the South Downs hopes to bring back the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, while in Devon, the River Torridge will be managed so it can support critically endangered freshwater pearl mussels.

Others aim to restore degraded habitat – the River Don floodplain and its wetlands in South Yorkshire, the Greater Thames salt marshes and grazing marches, and tributaries of the River Nene in Northamptonshire, badly hit by current drought conditions.

Wider environmental objectives are addressed by the Birmingham and Black Country living landscape project that will convert brownfield sites to heathland, and by Meres and Mosses of the Marches that will conserve Cheshire peatlands, which become a significant source of carbon emissions if they dry out.

Restoring peat bogs conserves carbon in the ground, as well as benefiting the water supply

The Wildlife Trusts, the network of mainly county-level nature charities across the country, welcomed the announcement but said it should be the start of something much bigger.

“We are delighted this competition has demonstrated a real appetite for putting nature back after decades of decline through the large number of applications,” said Paul Wilkinson, the organisation’s head of living landscapes.

“But 12 Nature Improvement Areas are not enough. This concept should be driven forward everywhere across England and given formal recognition through the new planning process, expected next month, and agri-environment grants.

“We have an urgent need for the restoration and recovery of the natural environment to take place across a much larger area, and quickly.”

The Wildlife Trusts said the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework must provide explicit guidance to authorities on taking a more strategic and integrated approach to the natural environment, so that the needs of nature and ecology are taken into account in all planning decisions.

Follow Richard on Twitter

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17175683

Bulgaria World Cup ski runs 'illegal': nature groups

Alpine Skiing World Cup events in Bulgaria‘s southern resort of Bansko use illegal ski runs and break international regulations, a coalition of nature groups said Friday.

“With close to 40 percent of the ski runs in Bansko being illegally built and operated, many fear this event has cast a shadow over the reputation of the FIS (International Ski Federation),” the For The Nature group said in a statement.

“The ski run on which the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup is being held this weekend is also built in breach of concession regulations,” it added.

Checks by Bulgaria’s environment and waters ministry last October showed that Bansko operator Yulen had expanded the 99.5 hectares (245 acres) of ski runs in its concession contract by another 65 hectares of state land.

But Environment Minister Nona Karadzhova said she “sees no reason to shut the ski runs” and suggested changes in Yulen’s contract, allowing it to pay for the expanded runs.

For The Nature however warned Friday that even if operating, Bansko “should not have been awarded the Alpine Ski World Cup.”

The resort is located in the Pirin national park, a UNESCO nature heritage site, it added,

The coalition was recently backed by the international environmental group WWF in pressuring the government to withdraw planned forestry legislation changes relaxing rules on building ski runs and facilities in protected areas.

Bansko is hosting this weekend the women’s World Cup downhill and super G after last weekend’s men’s giant slalom and slalom events.

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/bulgaria-world-cup-ski-runs-illegal-nature-groups-162554914.html

Mixing nature with business

He resisted going into the family business as a young man, preferring instead to pursue his passion for biology and the environment.

But it was during a stint as a field assistant in the pristine rainforests of Papua New Guinea that Mr Heinrich Jessen saw a way for business and nature to come together.

He eventually entered the family business spearheading environment, health and safety initiatives, and is today chairman of Jebsen Jessen (South-east Asia), a S$1billion-turnover engineering, manufacturing and distribution company headquartered in Singapore with an uncompromisingly eco-conscious core.

It’s not always the most profitable path to take, admits Mr Jessen, 44, a Danish Singapore permanent resident who has lived here for the last 17 years. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jebsen Jessen (SEA) is one of three companies belonging to a family enterprise that began in 1895 as a shipping agency facilitating trade along China’s coast. Mr Jessen’s father established Jebsen Jessen (SEA) in Singapore and Malaysia in 1963, and Jessen junior lived in Singapore between the ages of 10 and 15.

He has always enjoyed greenery and hiking, but the green trigger occurred at the age of 20 when, after a year in business school, he went to work for the World Wildlife Fund in Italy. “I had a very lowly job there, mainly translating documents, but it exposed me to the issues and we did lots of nature conservation programmes. That’s when I decided to study it,” he says.

His decision to pursue environmental studies went against the expectation that he would enter the family business. His father was “very disappointed when I took that decision because I had no intention of going into the business and, at that time, I think neither he nor I saw that these two things could be brought together – I wanted to be in nature and he wanted to run a successful business.”

INTO THE WILD

After graduating from George Washington University in the United States, Mr Jessen applied for a number of field assistant positions, and picked one in the “most ulu (far flung)” location “furthest from any point of civilisation”: A project run on behalf of Conservation International in the middle of Papua New Guinea.

The four-year project took place in the Crater Mountain region of Papua New Guinea, and Mr Jessen signed on for two three-month rotations as a field assistant to an ornithologist and plant ecologist. He researched on the fruit dispersal system of a particular tree species, and did behavioural experiments on a flightless bird called a dwarf cassowary (no cruelty involved, he assures).

The researchers lived largely on tinned food in a tin-roofed wood house lit by kerosene lamps and with limited electricity generated by solar panels. They received mail delivered by porters fortnightly, and tuned in to the Christian Science Monitor’s radio station to stay in touch with the outside world – the team once wrote the folks at the radio station a letter, and got a tremendous high hearing it read over the airwaves a few months later.

Mr Jessen speaks fondly of his time there: “Would I do it again? Yes! Would I recommend it to anybody else? Yes. It’s like National Service, something you’ll never forget.”

ONE OF THE FIRST, IN THE 1990S

It was also amidst the stunning scenery and crystal-clear waters that Mr Jessen read a book on his family’s history, and realised a possible way to combine his interest in nature and what his family wanted of him.

He went for his Master’s in tropical ecology but eventually opted for industrial environmental management, and joined the company thereafter.

At the time, Jebsen Jessen (SEA) was engaged in several activities with environment, health and safety risks that “we probably weren’t very aware of”, he says. “We were compliant with the law where we needed to be, but weren’t going the extra step to be proactive.”

Mr Jessen got the company ISO-certified in the areas of environment and health and safety, becoming one of the first in the region to do so in the late 1990s.

With the new direction forged, the firm pulled the plug on several of its businesses that were “not in line anymore with our environmental ethic”. For instance, it used to export Indonesian wood furniture mainly to Europe, but got out of the business in 1996 when its supplier declined to seek Forest Stewardship Council certification.

It also exited the marine paint business in the late 1990s because of the harm to the marine organisms that an ingredient called tributyltin oxide caused.

PATH TO CARBON NEUTRALITY

Over the past 15 years, the company has chosen to remain largely in businesses in which it is among the top three in the market – it is No 1 or 2 in the overhead travelling cranes business in most of ASEAN, for instance. Jebsen Jessen (SEA) is also actively looking at suitable acquisition targets, and to grow in markets like Cambodia and Myanmar.

In Singapore, its presence has contributed to some key landmarks – its various business units provided the irrigation and window-cleaning systems of the Gardens by the Bay, and produced and supplied strong, lightweight polystyrene blocks to raise some areas of the park. The same polystyrene blocks, called Jeofoam, were used to fill part of the world’s longest public cantilever atop the Marina Bay Sands.

These days, Jebsen Jessen (SEA) are on the path towards carbon neutrality – not the easiest goal for an entity engaged in diverse activities ranging from the distribution, manufacturing and servicing of cranes, to the supply of turf and irrigation equipment and moulded packaging.

It is installing solar panels at its crane factory in Tuas – which will supply 149,380 KWh of electricity annually, or one-fifth of energy consumption – and looking at projects to offset its carbon emissions.

A way to create a “level playing field” for companies to reduce their carbon footprint is for a carbon tax imposed in all countries, says Mr Jessen. “Nobody wants to be the only one taking the big step. Very few governments want to impose a carbon tax if nobody else is doing it. No company wants to self-impose a carbon tax if no one else is doing it.

“I think carbon tax doesn’t have to come on top of income tax. It can be, instead, a portion of your income tax, so I don’t think it has to mean you’re paying more taxes.”

RESISTANCE AND THE BOTTOMLINE

Asked if his green initiatives caused resistance from his colleagues, Mr Jessen says: “Absolutely. We have very flat decision-making, so if you’re a manager and incentivised on your profits and you’re managing your own business and accustomed to making your own decisions, and someone from the head office comes and he’s also son of the chairman and owner, it can become quite irritating.”

Some initiatives have been good for the bottomline – insurance premiums went down significantly after environment, health and safety systems were in place, for instance.

But others cost money, and that’s when Mr Jessen tries to get his colleagues to think longer-term. “Carbon neutrality is one of them. And there, quite frankly, my case is quite simple,” he says. “I have two kids (aged 7 and 4) and they are still too young to know much about global climate change. But … I can see there will come a day when they will ask, ‘Global climate change is having some disastrous consequences. So, Dad, what did you do about it? You knew this was coming, you have some influence as a whole company.’

“So I’d like to be able to look them in the eye and say, ‘Well, at least I got us to carbon neutrality’.”

Article source: http://www.todayonline.com/Singapore/EDC120226-0000004/Mixing-nature-with-business

Nature Is Disappearing from Children's Books, Study Finds

Natural environments, such as forests and jungles, appear to be losing their place in children’s books, according to an analysis of nearly 8,100 images from 296 award-winning kids’ books.

Researchers divided the images in the books published between 1938 and 2008 into three categories: depictions of the natural environment; those of the built environment, say, inside a house, or those showing a middle ground, such as a mowed lawn. They also noted whether or not any animals appeared, and if so, how they were depicted.

From the late 1930s until the 1960s, built and natural environments were depicted almost equally, then images of cities, towns and indoors started to increase in the mid-1970s, while the natural environment showed up less and less frequently, they found. Images of wild animals also declined.

The books examined were either Caldecott Medal winners or honorees. Judged by the American Library Association, the Caldecott awards honor the best illustrations in children’s booksin a year.

“I am concerned that this lack of contact may result in caring less about the natural world, less empathy for what is happening to other species and less understanding of many significant environmental problems,” J. Allen Williams Jr., lead researcher and University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociology professor emeritus, said in a press release.

Williams and colleagues note that over the past 70 years, more people have lived in urban environments, so it’s no surprise these images would be prominent. However, the steady, significant increase they saw in the prominence of built environments led them to conclude: “Natural environments have all but disappeared.”

“These findings suggest that today’s generation of children are not being socialized, at least through this source, toward an understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the place of humans within it,” Williams and colleagues wrote in a study appearing in the February issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry.

You can follow LiveScience writer Wynne Parry on Twitter @Wynne_Parry. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/nature-disappearing-childrens-books-study-finds-150205088.html

Nature disappearing from children’s books, study

Take a look at the titles on your children’s book shelves. Are they reading classics like The Wind in the Willows? Or are they into more modern tales about characters like Bob the Builder?

According to a new study, depictions of nature have been gradually disappearing from award-winning illustrated children’s books over the past few decades, sparking concerns about a growing disassociation from the natural world.


Professor emeritus J. Allen Williams Jr. of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a team of researchers examined the top books honoured by the prestigious Caldecott Medal, judged by the American Library Association, between 2008 and 1938 when the award was created.

The study reviewed close to 8,100 illustrations from 300 children’s books, in total. The researchers found a steady decline in images that showed a natural environment, like a forest or jungle, compared with images of built environments, like a school or house, and in-between environments, like a mowed lawn. The number of wild animals, compared with domesticated animals, was also found to have dropped.

Award-winning books from the late 1930s to the 1960s were about equally as likely to show built and natural environments. But in the mid-1970s, depictions of urban settings rose, taking the place of natural environments, to the point where nature has all but disappeared, the researchers said.

“I am concerned that this lack of contact may result in caring less about the natural world, less empathy for what is happening to other species and less understanding of many significant environmental problems,” Dr. Williams said in a press release.

The researchers noted that a rise in illustrations of built environments is unsurprising, since more people now live in urban settings, but their prevalence in comparison to depictions of natural environments is disproportionately high. They also said that even though their study is limited to Caldecott winners and honourees, the award strongly influences book sales, schools, libraries and children’s preferences in literature.

Even though children may be learning about the natural world through other media, the authors said, they’re not being socialized, at least through illustrated books, to understand and appreciate nature and humans’ place in it.

When you were a child, were your favourite books about wild creatures in jungles and forests, or were they set in urban environments?

Article source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-hot-button/nature-disappearing-from-childrens-books-study/article2347293/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Life&utm_content=2347293

Niagara Falls Nature Club connecting with our environment

Learning from nature

By TONY RICCIUTO / Niagara Falls Review

Updated 1 day ago

If you’ve never heard about Skunk Cabbage, but would like to learn more about this plant that is found in swamps, streams and places like Dufferin Islands, then it’s time to take a hike with the Niagara Falls Nature Club.

Their members are quick to point out it’s not something you want to touch because it emits a distinctive skunky odour and you just might have to spend the ride home with your hand dangling outside the car window.

Not only does it stink, but in the winter it gives off a bit of heat and that causes the snow around it to melt making it quite easy to spot when walking through the woods.

On Sunday, members of the club took a leisurely winter walk along the trails at Dufferin Islands in Niagara Falls. They dressed warm, some came equipped with cameras and binoculars, and a few had walking sticks to assist them on the uneven terrain.

Janet Kellam, who lives in Fort Erie and has been a member for about seven years, said the club is wonderful. You get to meet some nice, friendly people and learn so much about nature.

“I like being outside. We get to do that fairly often so it’s nice to get out there to see things and interact with nature.”

Csilla Istok, who is originally from Niagara Falls but now lives in Toronto, took the walk with her family and mother, Sachiko Istock, who is a member of the nature club.

“This is all new to me. We just decided to tag along and I was quite surprised to see how close some of the birds came. This is great for the kids to see. My mother is more interested in the flowers that are out during the summer and some people are more interested in the birds,” said Istok.

Joyce Sankey, who has been a member for about 13 years, said bird watching is quite popular with many of their members.

“People are always welcome to come out for a walk or to one of our meetings to see what we are all about,” said Sankey, the club’s past president.

The club meets at 7:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month from September to June at the Niagara Falls Public Library.

“We have some older people, but lately we’ve been getting some families with children or some will bring their grandchildren.”

Jim Grassie, who has been a member for about 20 years, said people can walk along at their own pace and they can always stop and sit if they get tired.

“This time of the year there’s not many plants out there except maybe the Skunk Cabbage, but people also come out for the birds. There’s quite a bit to see, especially in the summer months because of all the different plants.”

Grassie said they always have someone in charge of their walks who will have visited the area about a week earlier to check the location so they will be able to point out certain things as the group moves along.

“It’s always a lot of fun because it doesn’t matter how many times you go there is always something new. Recently we have been going along the Lake Erie shoreline and it’s a completely different environment compared to most of the conservation areas that are well inland.”

Grassie said you are always learning something new and the longer you are at it, the better you become at identifying certain birds or plants.

“When you first start that bird might be a sparrow, but with a little more experience you will be able to pick out a song sparrow from a tree sparrow. Gradually, you pick up on it and it’s the same thing for ducks.”

Grassie said there’s always more to learn and they are fortunate because some of their members have travelled around the world and have identified certain plants and birds from different places. When they return from those trips they share that information with other club members.

Grassie point out the need to protect certain areas from development because they have certain plants or animals and once they are gone, they are lost forever.

tricciuto@nfreview.com

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Article source: http://www.niagarafallsreview.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3476900