PROJECTS & RESEARCH
REPORTS FROM EVENTS
ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS HIGHLIGHTS
The Welsh Government are consulting on the first stage in creating a new policy, management regime, and legislation.
They want your views on:
Submit your comments by 21 August 2019
The Scottish Government's vision is for a marine environment that is clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas; managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people.
Scotland’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) network is being developed to help safeguard our most important natural and cultural heritage features on the principle of sustainable use. By doing so they are protecting the natural goods and services they provide for current and future generations to enjoy.
They would welcome your views on the addition of four possible MPAs to the Scottish MPA network. The sites under consultation are:
Consultation closes 30 August 2019
Invasive alien species challenge the survival of some of our rarest species, and damage some of our most sensitive ecosystems. The impacts of invasive alien species on our domestic and global biodiversity are severe and growing. They also have an impact across a range of industries and networks, from farming to the building industry and national waterways. [See the lead article Alien Invaders Ahead! Are you watching out for invasive species? in FWR’s newsletter February 2019.]
This consultation wants your views on management measures being considered by Defra and the Welsh Government for 14 widely spread Invasive Alien Species (IAS) found within England and Wales. The EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation came into force in 2015. For widely spread species of EU concern, the Regulation requires effective management measures to be put in place, so that their impact on biodiversity, the related ecosystem services and, where applicable, on human health or the economy are minimised. Management measures consist of lethal or non-lethal, physical, chemical or biological actions aimed at eradication, population control and containment of a population of species of Union concern.
Responses should be received by 12 September 2019.
Plans to encourage customers to save water in their everyday lives and to introduce a personal water consumption target have been published. The proposals form part of a public consultation that examines how water can be saved on a personal level, and how industry can take a leading role in supporting customers to use less.
In the 25 Year Environment Plan, the government committed to incentivise greater water efficiency and less personal use. As part of that, the aim of the new proposals is to develop a ‘water-saving culture’ to make sure that there is enough clean water for everyone now and in the future. On average, a person in England currently uses 141 litres of water per day, and over the last few years consumption figures have begun to rise. Research by the National Infrastructure Commission has shown that if this trend continues, England could see significant water deficits by 2050.
The consultation seeks to establish a personal water consumption target, inviting responses from the public as well as specialists including water companies and academics. It will look at measures on how to achieve this non-binding target and will include exploratory questions around:
The consultation is open to any interested parties in England only.
The deadline for response is Friday 11 October 2019.
Read more here
This is the second statutory consultation under the Water Framework Directive that will feed into the third River Basin Management Plans and the next State of Natural Resources Report under the Environment Act. This consultation has been produced to share an overview of the significant water management issues identified across Wales’ River Basin Districts. It will inform measures required to secure the necessary improvements and to share evidence around where action is required.
By being involved you can take an active role to help to protect and deliver further improvements to ensure the sustainability, health and resilience of Wales’ water environment.
Start date: 22 June 2019 End Date: 22 December 2019
A River Basin District is a group of catchments that contain a collection of rivers, lakes, groundwater and coastal waters. Defra would like your views on the issues affecting Wales, Western Wales River Basin District (entirely in Wales) and the Dee River Basin District (cross border with England). The Environment Agency lead on publishing for the Severn River Basin District consultation and will publish this in October 2019.
Read more here
The Environment Agency published the current river basin management plans in February 2016. They have now begun the statutory process of reviewing and updating the plans, including three public consultations before publishing the updated plans in December 2021. These will reflect their understanding at the time about what is achievable, how, and by when.
Working together was the first consultation in reviewing and updating the river basin management plans for 2021. The working together document is the statement of the steps and consultation measures that the EA are required to take in connection with the preparation of the updated river basin management plans. It ran for six months between 22 June 2018 and 22 December 2018. They asked if they had identified the correct steps and consultation measures, whether the proposed timetable was achievable, and the ways that everyone can get involved in preparing the updated plans.
You told the EA that they need to consider other plans and strategies, such as those relating to mine water, climate change, agricultural initiatives and protected areas. In particular, you highlighted the need for them to consider:
Access the document here
Water company efforts to protect the environment were described as ‘simply unacceptable’ in an Environment Agency (EA) report published in July with only one of the major water and sewage companies in England performing at the level expected. Overall water company performance has deteriorated which reverses the trend of gradual improvement in the sector since the rating system began in 2011. Serious pollution incidents increased in 2018 causing damage to the rivers and wildlife.
Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd, who has previously warned water companies they would face a tougher regulatory approach with increasing inspections, is pledging that the Environment Agency will continue to work with Ofwat to look at financial penalties to drive better environmental performance given fines are currently only a fraction of turnover.
Northumbrian Water was the only company achieving the highest 4 star rating, showing that it is possible to bring in good environmental practices and limit the impact of operations on nature. The Environment Agency report said this improvement is to be applauded and had only been possible with focus from the top of the organisation and ongoing effort from operational teams.
Read more here
The Environmental Audit Committee has launched a new inquiry to consider the impact and threat to biosecurity from invasive species. The UK is witnessing a rise in the introduction of non-native species with damaging effects from invasive species estimated to cost almost £1.8 billion a year.
The inquiry will focus on the impact and management of non-native species that have a detrimental effect on native biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as public health, with threats posed by predatory behaviour, competition or by transmitting disease. It will also consider the threat of invasive species to the UK’s overseas territories.
Increasing global temperatures from climate change are allowing invasive species to thrive in non-native environments and are likely to intensify the threat they pose through increasing their range. Other factors behind the rise in non-native species include increased globalisation in trade and travel, for example in agriculture, horticulture, the pet trade and in the ballast water of ships. Farming and horticultural sectors and also transport, construction, recreation, aquaculture and utilities are among areas affected by invasive species that arrive through human activity, either deliberate or accidental.
[For more on this subject, see the lead article by Phil Aldous in FWR newsletter, February 2019.]
Read more here
A total of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones were created in May, marking the most significant expansion of England’s ‘Blue Belt’ of protected areas to date.
Stretching from Cornwall to Northumberland, the new protections safeguard 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitat. The rare stalked jellyfish, short-snouted seahorse and blue mussel beds are among the species and habitats that will benefit from the protections.
With 50 zones already designated in 2013 and 2016, the UK now has 355 Marine Protected Areas of different types, spanning 220,000 square km – nearly twice the size of England. The latest round of protections follow an extensive consultation, including with local fishermen and marine conservation experts, which received overwhelming support for the proposals. In total, over 48,000 responses were submitted by members of the public, with Defra designating all 41 of the proposed sites and expanding protections at 12 existing sites.
Read more here
Environment Agency and Herefordshire Council are using satellite technology to target sites where soil water run-off is causing big problems for the environment and the county’s roads.
In heavy rain, soil can be dramatically washed away from fields. Better soil management can help reduce instances of soil loss which causes water pollution, exacerbates flooding and creates dangerous conditions on the county’s roads. Satellite imagery and footage from drones will be used to identify bare, sloping agricultural fields where soil run-off is most likely. Using this intelligence, the landowner will be visited to make them aware of the potential issues and guidance on better soil management practices.
This is particularly important for the River Wye; one of the biggest threats to this special area of conservation comes from run-off from agriculture. Herefordshire’s famous sandy red soils are generally very fine and become extremely mobile during heavy rain storms, meaning it is not unusual for soil and sediment to enter watercourses and harm the delicate gravel ecosystems.
Read more here
SmartRivers is taking the Riverfly Census national by training volunteers to sample and analyse river invertebrates. SmartRivers will enable volunteers, supported by a training scheme, training videos, an invertebrate-identification App and support programmes, to monitor the water quality in their rivers to a near-professional standard. Volunteer sampling is underpinned by the collection of an initial solid scientific benchmark by a professional sampler, which adds to confidence to detecting improvement or deterioration in water quality.
Background information: https://catchmentbasedapproach.org/learn/riverfly-census/
Southern Water has agreed to pay £126m in penalties and payments to customers following serious failures in the operation of its sewage treatment sites and for deliberately misreporting its performance.
In the course of a large-scale investigation into the water company, Ofwat found that Southern Water failed to operate a number of wastewater treatments works properly, including by not making the necessary investment which led to equipment failures and spills of wastewater into the environment. Ofwat also found that Southern Water manipulated its wastewater sampling process which resulted in it misreporting information about the performance of a number of sewage treatment sites. This meant the company avoided penalties under Ofwat’s incentive regime.
Proportionate to the size of the business, this package of penalties and payments is the biggest Ofwat has ever imposed. The amount would have been larger had Southern Water not co-operated with the investigation, addressed its failings and agreed to this payment package. Southern Water has introduced and committed to new governance arrangements to support accurate monitoring and reporting, and a programme to change the company’s culture, which enabled these failings and behaviours. Investment has also been made into the failing treatment sites and work will continue to improve them.
Read more here
Non-native species are those which are not native to an environment and usually introduced by human activity. Some live happily without upsetting the environment, but others have a competitive advantage and might be able to out-hunt, out-breed or otherwise impact the balance of the ecosystem – these species are known to be ‘invasive’.
Many people like to keep home aquariums. Some take care of their fish in inside tanks, whereas others have outdoor ponds for them to enjoy. To stock these, millions of plants and fish are imported to the UK for the ornamental market. Most of these are kept responsibly and contained within tanks or ponds but occasionally problems can occur. Invasive species can find their way out of containment and into the natural environment through deliberate discards and escapes.
Most species kept by fish keepers could not survive in UK waters, preferring warmer climates, but some can, especially those living in garden ponds. These can establish populations which threaten existing animals and the balance of our ecosystems. However, there are some simple steps you can take if you keep fish.
Flooding is becoming a more frequent event and can be a route for animals and plants to find their way into local waterways so it is wise to consider stocking native species or options for containment when creating a pond. Similarly, discarded silt from pond restoration can contain seeds and roots that will take a hold given any opportunity so must be dried and disposed of appropriately.
Unwanted animals must not be released into the wild where they could prey on native species or outcompete them for food and habitat space. Most retailers will be happy to assist with rehoming, so if you regret a purchase or are no longer able to look after an animal, rehome rather than release it.
Two of the largest Broads in Norfolk will have their underwater ecology ‘manipulated’ to restore their clear water and, in turn, the water plants that were once commonplace across Broadland’s waterways.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has received almost half a million pounds for its ambitious project in the Bure and Ant Valleys called ‘Tipping the Balance’. The Trust will create three zones separated from the main water body of Ranworth and Barton Broads using floating barriers. These areas will have their fish populations altered and balanced to restore clear water. Fish species involved in maintaining poor water quality will be removed from these zones and released elsewhere.
There is a cascade effect to the restoration too. The clear water ultimately makes fishing easier for birds such as osprey and common tern, as they can see the fish in the water. Because of this, the fish behave differently in clearer water and tend to hide in plants near the edge for safety, rather than out in the open water. This allows zooplankton to thrive and they are the crucial grazers of algae. The ecology of the water is therefore even further balanced.
Read more here
Wildlife organisations have welcomed new legislation making beavers a protected species in Scotland. It is now illegal to kill beavers or destroy established dams and lodges without a licence.
Farming leaders have raised concerns about the damage caused to agricultural land from beavers' dam-building. The animals were reintroduced to Scotland's waterways a decade ago. There are currently about 450 beavers in Scotland, in Tayside and mid-Argyll.
For over two decades the Environment Agency has carefully mapped the flow of water in rivers across England and Wales to help protect communities from flooding and to improve habitats for wildlife through their Detailed River Network.
This new collaboration combines the data from the Detailed River Network with SEPA’s data on Scotland’s watercourses to produce one comprehensive view of all watercourses across Great Britain. This new dataset is a crucial element in understanding our natural environment. As the only detailed, heighted water network of Great Britain, OS MasterMap Water Network is continually updated and improved, showing the flow and precise course of rivers, streams, lakes and canals, at a national and local level.
OS MasterMap Water Network will support analysis used for planning and policy initiatives. This would include managing and reporting of water quality, water resources, fisheries status, mapping navigations, predictive modelling, risk assessment, regulation, incident response and a host of other river-related initiatives, from permitting applications to catchment delineation.
Read more here
For detailed information about the maps, go to OS MasterMap Water Network
The government has published the first progress report of its 25 Year Environment Plan indicating that, in the first year alone, 90% of the plan’s actions have been delivered or are being progressed.
Launched in January 2018, the Plan sets out how the government intends to improve the environment over a generation by creating richer habitats for wildlife, improving air and water quality and curbing the scourge of plastic in the world’s oceans. A key part of the 25 year Environment Plan, the government has appointed 15 environmental ambassadors to inspire action across the UK, and is working in partnership with the #iwill campaign to champion the role of young people during the year.
The government has also published a new indicator framework for the 25 Year Environment Plan, becoming one of the first countries to establish such a comprehensive indicator list from which to monitor environmental progress. It comes as the government explores introducing a new citizen science project to build a broader understanding of the state of the environment.
In addition to involving citizens directly, plans are underway to examine how new technologies could be used to identify gaps in environmental protection. Techniques such as satellite monitoring could show what crops are being grown and where habitats need protecting. Social media data could also be used to understand how people are interacting with their environment.
As announced by the prime minister in 2018, the government is currently preparing the first Environment Bill for 20 years which will place the 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing and put environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government.
On World Oceans Day, the Environment Secretary launched a review to examine whether and how the strongest protections for areas of sea, known as Highly Protected Marine Areas, could be introduced in English seas.
The review will be asked to establish an evidence-based process and criteria for selecting Highly Protected Marine Areas, and recommend potential locations for pilot sites if supported by the evidence.
Read more here
This number of wet wipes were counted and removed from one stretch of the Thames foreshore (in Barnes) in just two hours in March this year.
Volunteers collected the rubbish as part of a mass citizen science event to monitor the impact of plastic on the capital’s river. Many wet wipes, even those marketed as flushable, contain plastic fibres and therefore do not break down. [See the lead article When is it ‘Fine to Flush’? in FWR’s May 2019 newsletter.]
Latest data shows that the so-called ‘Thames Great Wet Wipe Reef’ is growing. Bathymetric surveys, published for the first time, reveal that one of the largest mounds has grown by 0.7m in the past few years, and is now 50m wide, 17m long and stands at more than 1m high.
The foreshore at Barnes contains nine large mounds which are formed from a thick plastic wet wipe mesh mixed up with mud from the river. Academics from Royal Holloway University volunteered at the event, taking samples for research, as they are concerned about the potential negative impact the plastic is having on Thames wildlife.
Plastic bottles, the detritus of our throwaway water and soft drinks habits, are the most prevalent form of plastic pollution in European waterways, according to a new report from Earthwatch Europe and Plastic Oceans UK. Food wrappers, including crisp and sweet packets, were the second biggest form of plastic pollution in rivers, followed by cigarette butts. All of these forms of litter can cause problems for wildlife and fish, and are hard to clean up once they have found their way into the water.
Plastic bags were found to make up only 1% of plastic rubbish in freshwater, reflecting years of efforts to reduce their use, including charges on them in the UK and many other European countries.
Although most attention on the plastic scourge has focused on the plight of oceans, about 80% of plastic rubbish flows into them from rivers. Many experts believe that focusing on the clean-up of rivers is the best way to choke off the flow of existing rubbish into seas, while the ultimate source of the problem – our dependence on throwaway plastic products – is tackled.
The authors examined nine studies of pollution in freshwater sources across the UK and Europe, ranking types of macroplastic – large, visible pieces of plastic, as opposed to the invisible microplastics recorded in water sources from tapwater to seawater – by their prevalence. The report also excluded fishing equipment and similar litter left by anglers, which the RSPCA recently highlighted as a major hazard to bird life, and items from farming or industry, to focus on plastic waste from consumers.
The EU parliament last year approved plans to ban single-use plastics, with items such as straws, plastic plates and cutlery banned by 2021.
Read full article here
The Marine management Organisation’s Marine Planning Iteration 3 engagement ended on 29 March 2019. Nine workshops were held in the North West, North East, South East and South West marine plan areas (with the support of local coastal partnerships), supported by online engagement.
Input is now being analysed and will contribute towards the draft Marine Plans for which public consultation will open in late 2019.
A summary of the engagement period is available to view now.
The project aimed to develop a national dataset of sites that are suitable for habitat restoration or creation. The dataset provides information to inform policy development that can help increase the amount of ecologically important habitat, where appropriate and in line with current legislation.
The UK Marine Policy Statement (2011) highlights the government’s aim to ensure a sustainable marine environment which promotes healthy, functioning marine ecosystems and protects marine habitats. This aim includes the creation of habitat to improve and extend the amount of habitat available for species and where appropriate the recovery of biodiversity.
Read more here
The Environment Agency published the current river basin management plans in February 2016. They have now begun the process of reviewing and updating the plans for 2021. This is a statutory process and involves three public consultation steps. The statutory deadlines for launching these consultations are by:
22 December 2018 for the working together consultation
22 December 2019 for the challenges and choices consultation
22 December 2020 for the draft updated river basin management plans consultation
Plastic straws, drink stirrers, and cotton buds with plastic stems will be banned from sale and use in England from next April, the government has confirmed.
The move, which has been in the offing for more than a year, is hoped to vastly reduce the litter and other environmental impacts of the nearly 5 bn plastic straws currently used each year in England, along with more than 300 m plastic stirrers and close to 2 bn cotton buds with plastic stems.
Huge numbers of these items, particularly cotton buds, are flushed down toilets or otherwise end up in litter. Alternatives are available, including serving drinks without straws or stirrers, which is preferable, or using paper straws and biodegradable products in place of plastic stirrers and cotton buds. The only exceptions to the new rule will be for people with a medical need or disability, for whom plastic straws and other materials will be available upon request.
The EU is also moving to phase out plastics in various forms.
There is a shared vision to achieve clean, non-toxic seas but their contamination with synthetic substances as well as heavy metals continues to be a large-scale problem in Europe. According to a new European Environment Agency (EEA) report, between 75–96% of the assessed area of Europe’s regional seas have a contamination problem.
The EEA assessment Contaminants in Europe's seas is the first attempt to map contamination in Europe’s regional seas in a consistent manner and check the trends in long‑established hazardous substances. The assessment is based on publicly available monitoring data, primarily collected in the context of the WFD and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
The report shows that all four regional seas in Europe have a large-scale contamination problem. Overall, contamination is declining in all four seas, though the insecticide DDT appears to be at best stabilising in the Mediterranean Sea. The concentrations of some well-known contaminants, such as cadmium and mercury, appear to be declining but in many areas are not enough to meet agreed thresholds.
The report on contaminants is the first in a series of upcoming EEA assessments on the marine environment. It will be followed by assessments on eutrophication, marine biodiversity, potential combined effects of multiple human pressures, sustainable use, and marine protected areas.
Read more here
The UK’s science expertise and international leadership in identifying and managing new diseases that affect the farming of seafood, or aquaculture, has been recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquatic Science (Cefas) has been designated by the OIE as the Collaborating Centre for Emerging Aquatic Animal Disease, building on Cefas’ expertise in disease detection and diagnosis, and its strong international partnerships with other expert centres.
The Collaborating Centre will play a central role in achieving effective aquatic animal disease control in developing countries where aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food sectors and a critical component of food and income for those nations. The Centre supports the aim of securing sustainable production from this sector in coming decades, with particular focus on strengthening global food security and prevention of devastating economic and social impacts associated with disease, resulting in multi-billion $ losses world-wide.
Global aquaculture production has increased rapidly in recent decades to meet growing consumer demand for seafood, with aquaculture now exceeding wild capture fisheries as a source of aquatic animal protein and estimated to double to meet global need by 2050.
Read more here
The UK Government has backed plans by Ascension Island to designate over 150,000 square miles of its waters as a fully protected no-take Marine Protected Area (MPA) – closing the off-shore area to any fishing activity and safeguarding important marine habitats for future generations.
When protected, the new no-take zone around Ascension Island will bring the total percentage of MPAs in the UK’s territorial waters, Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to over 50%. Ascension Island, one of the UK’s Overseas Territories, is of significant biodiversity value, home to some of the largest marlin in the world and one of the largest populations of green turtles.
Read more here
This document serves as a reliable guide to understand China's climate, energy and environmental policymaking process and is widely read by the community working on the issue.
The fourth edition of the report ‘Mapping China’s Climate and Energy Policies’ describes, maps and analyses China’s national-level Party, government agencies, academic and research institutions, and state-affiliated enterprise climate actors in China on a policy-by-policy basis.
The report is supported by the British Embassy in Beijing, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Beijing, and the Embassy of Switzerland in China. The report comprises 12 chapters organized in three sections: stakeholders and policy formation process, policies, and future strategy.
Read more here
A total of 375,386 people have called on the European Commission to defend Europe’s strong water law, making the EU’s public consultation on the legislation one of the largest ever in the history of the European Union. This law is critical to ensure that Europe’s rivers, lakes and wetlands are protected and brought back to good health.
The Angling Trust was part of the NGO-led #ProtectWater campaign, which inspired citizens across Europe and beyond to take a stand for Europe’s rivers, lakes and wetlands, and the strong law which protects them, the EU Water Framework Directive, during the European Commission’s ongoing fitness-check.
The #ProtectWater campaign was led by WWF, the European Environmental Bureau, the European Anglers Alliance, the European Rivers Network and Wetlands International – who together form the Living Rivers Europe Coalition. It facilitated citizens’ participation in the European Commission’s public consultation on the Water Framework Directive (the only opportunity for the general public to have its say during the EU fitness-check) to express their clear opposition to changing the legislation. It was launched in October 2018 and went on to be supported by more than 130 civil society organisations, including national partners and offices of Greenpeace, BirdLife and Friends of the Earth, as well as unions.
The EU’s official analysis of the public consultation, which closed on 11 March, is likely to be published in the autumn of 2019, with the final decision on the future of the legislation expected by the first half of 2020.
Read more here
An American explorer has found plastic waste on the seafloor while breaking the record for the deepest ever dive. Victor Vescovo descended nearly 11km (seven miles) to the deepest place in the ocean – the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench.
He spent four hours exploring the bottom of the trench in his submersible, built to withstand the immense pressure of the deep.
He found sea creatures, but also found a plastic bag and sweet wrappers.
The team believes it has discovered four new species of amphipods, saw a creature called a spoon worm at a depth of 7,000 m and a pink snailfish at 8,000 m.
Read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48230157
International environmental non-profit organisation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), has set a new ambition to unlock up to $1.6bn for the restoration and conservation of marine environments, through a $40m (£30m) ‘Blue Bonds for Ocean Conservation’.
TNC will aim to protect up to 1.5 million square miles of ocean habitats, which in turn will benefit around 43 million people living within 62 miles of a coastline. The Blue Bonds scheme will aim to refinance and restructure debt for coastal and island countries. The Blue Bonds will be delivered to as many as 20 countries over a five-year period, creating a 15% increase on the amount of protected ocean that currently exists.
The bonds work by getting a coastal or island nation to commit to protecting at least 30% of its near-shore ocean areas, covering reefs, fish spawn sites and other ocean habitats. TNC will then help restructure part of that nation’s sovereign debt, creating lower interest rates, longer repayment periods and support mechanisms such as improved fisheries management and a reduction in marine pollution.
TNC then creates a ‘marine spatial plan’ with input from local communities and government officials before establishing the trust fund to cover the new protected areas. TNC tested a Blue Bonds prototype in the Seychelles in 2012, with the country now on track to expand marine protections to nearly 154,000 square miles of ocean habitat by 2020 – an area the size of Germany.
Nine years ago crude oil began leaking from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig into the Gulf of Mexico in what turned out to be the largest marine oil spill in history. A long-term study suggests the oil is still affecting the salt marshes of the Gulf Coast, and reveals the key role that marsh grasses play in the overall recovery of these important coastal wetlands.
Henderson Island, one of the Pitcairn Islands in the far reaches of the Pacific, has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. Although it is one of the remotest islands in the world it also has one of the most heavily polluted beaches in the world. The nearest inhabited island of Pitcairn, with a current population of 48, is not responsible for the levels of pollution and cannot hope to deal with the problem themselves.
Henderson Island lies on the edge of the South Pacific gyre, a giant circular movement of water moving anti-clockwise across the whole of the South Pacific. It is this oceanic current which brings the plastic pollution from the surrounding nations of the Pacific Ocean into contact with Henderson Island. The UK Government Blue Belt programme is working in partnership with others to address the problem. In June 2019 a group of scientists, journalists, film makers and artists are taking part in an expedition to Henderson Island to investigate the plastic pollution problem and to highlight the plight of this otherwise pristine environment to a global audience.
Scientific investigations will focus on both the terrestrial and marine fate of the plastic pollution. On land the scientists will be looking at the quantity of macro and micro plastics, the rate of accumulation and the impact on the local wildlife. On the water the scientists will be looking at the impact of plastics on the surrounding coral reefs and seabed sandy habitats, collecting samples of water and sediment for the analysis of microplastics.
Hundreds of sites in rivers around the world from the Thames to the Tigris are awash with dangerously high levels of antibiotics, the largest global study on the subject has found. The researchers tested 711 sites in 72 countries and found antibiotics in 65% of them. In 111 of the sites, the concentrations of antibiotics exceeded safe levels, with the worst cases more than 300 times over the safe limit.
Antibiotic pollution is one of the key routes by which bacteria are able develop resistance to the life-saving medicines, rendering them ineffective for human use.
The research shows that some of the world’s best-known rivers, including the Thames, are contaminated with antibiotics classified as critically important for the treatment of serious infections. The Danube, Europe’s second-largest river, was the continent’s most polluted. Eight per cent of the sites tested in Europe were above safe limits.
The Thames, generally regarded as one of Europe’s cleanest rivers, was contaminated, along with some of its tributaries, by a mixture of five antibiotics. One site on the river and three on its tributaries were polluted above safe levels.
PROJECTS & RESEARCH
Water samples from 29 small waterways located in 10 different countries in the EU were screened for the presence of a large number of pesticides (275) and veterinary drugs (101). All the sampled European rivers and canals included in this investigation were contaminated with mixtures of pesticides and, in most of the cases, with several veterinary drugs at the time of sampling, without a clear national or regional pattern. In total, 103 different pesticides, 24 of them banned in the EU, and 21 veterinary drugs were found in the analysed samples.
Herbicides were the main contributor to the total amount of pesticides found in the samples, with terbuthylazine present in all the samples. European regulatory standards defining acceptable concentration levels were exceeded for at least one pesticide in 13 of the 29 samples analysed, with the neonicotinoid insecticides imidacloprid and clothianidin most frequently present above such limits. The majority of the veterinary drugs detected were antimicrobials, most being antibiotics.
Plastic production has increased exponentially since its use became widespread in the 1950s. This has led to increased concern as plastics have become prevalent in the oceanic environment, and evidence of their impacts on marine organisms and human health has been highlighted.
Despite their prevalence, very few long-term (>40 years) records of the distribution and temporal trends of plastics in the world’s oceans exist. Here, a new time series is presented, from 1957 to 2016 and covering over 6.5 million nautical miles, based on records of when plastics have become entangled on a towed marine sampler. This consistent time series provides some of the earliest records of plastic entanglement, and is the first to confirm a significant increase in open ocean plastics in recent decades.
Read the full paper here
This report provides an introduction to the different ways in which the blue economy can benefit from marine protected areas (MPAs) and other spatial protection measures (SPMs), providing success stories from across Europe and across multiple sectors. It demonstrates that there is a broad set of potential benefits and ways in which these can be delivered that are little documented. It draws out key governance and management actions that support the sustainable realisation of benefits and foster support for MPAs and SPMs.
The report provides a synthesis of evidence, from three research tasks undertaken during 2017. Three separate stand-alone technical reports present the detailed findings of the three research tasks. In addition, an abridged version of this final report is available.
Read more here
New research by Bangor University and Friends of the Earth has found microplastic pollution in some of Britain’s most iconic and remote rivers and lakes. The study, believed to be the first of its kind, looked at ten sites – including lakes in the Lake District, waterways in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, a wetland and Welsh reservoir – and found microplastics in all of them.
The researchers say the findings suggest that microplastics should now be considered as an emergent contaminant – and that routine monitoring of all UK waters must now take place. Friends of the Earth is also urging MPs to support new legislation, currently before Parliament, to phase out plastic pollution within 25 years – including an end to non-essential single-use plastic by 2025.
Using a fluorescence lighting system, researchers were able to identify and count microplastic pollutants (less than 5 mm in size) per litre of water, such as plastic fragments, fibres and film. The preliminary findings revealed microplastic pollution levels ranging from 2.4 pieces per litre in Loch Lomond to over a 1,000 pieces of plastic per litre in the river Tame in Greater Manchester.
Read more here
Text of the abstract of this paper:
The hard surface of waterborne plastic provides an ideal environment for the formation of biofilm by opportunistic microbial colonisers, and could facilitate a novel means of dispersal for microorganisms across coastal and marine environments. Biofilms that colonise the so-called ‘plastisphere’ could also be a reservoir for faecal indicator organisms, such as Escherichia coli, or pathogenic bacteria such as species of Vibrio. Therefore, the aim of this study was to map the spatial distribution of beach-cast plastic resin pellets (nurdles) at five public bathing beaches, and quantify their colonisation by E. coli and Vibrio spp.
Nurdles were heterogeneously distributed along the high tide mark at all five beaches, and each beach contained nurdles that were colonised by E. coli and Vibrio spp. Knowledge of E. coli colonisation and persistence on nurdles should now be used to inform coastal managers about the additional risks associated with plastic debris.
Considering the sustainability of the services provided by an ecosystem could help to overcome management challenges and hit water quality targets defined by the EU. By exploring 13 of the ecosystem services (ES) provided by the Venice Lagoon, Italy, the researchers identify factors affecting sustainable and unsustainable patterns of ES provision, and suggest that confined and more open water bodies could benefit from different management strategies.
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Nano-sized particles of plastic can be more damaging to marine species than larger sized microplastics, a new study shows. Lab tests revealed that nanoplastics can damage cell membranes in tiny marine creatures called rotifers (Rotifera), disrupting their natural defences against toxicants. The researchers found that rotifers that had been exposed to nanoparticles of polystyrene were significantly more susceptible to the lethal effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
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This guide provides evidence-based advice on how to use the governance of marine protected areas to promote conservation and share sustainable marine resources. It has been developed using marine protected area (MPA) case studies from around the world. People who can benefit from this guide include planners, decision makers and practitioners engaged in marine protected area development and implementation, or those who have a general interest in protected area governance. It provides a governance framework and highlights key issues to address specific governance situations.
All MPAs display unique characteristics and face their own complex combination of challenges. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. This guidance recognizes this and provides a flexible approach to governance that can be relevant to any MPA and used on an ongoing basis. The case studies cover a variety of MPA types, including no-take, multiple-use, small, large, remote, private, government-led, decentralized and community-led MPAs.
More information from the UN here
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This issue includes news on the Marine Management Organisation’s recent stakeholder engagement on policy development for the North West, North East, South West and South East Marine Plans; the recent implementation training sessions that have been carried out; and the results of their monitoring survey of the use of the East and South Marine Plans.
Presented by Chris Baines, President of the Thames Estuary Partnership, The Living Thames is an odyssey along the river as it meanders through London and flows out to sea, exploring its ever-changing ecology. The film is a Charity Film Awards winner!
The Thames is Britain’s most famous river. Nevertheless, many people don’t know very much about it. For millions who see it every day, it’s a mystery. Sixty years ago the Thames was severely polluted. Many people still see it as dead and dirty. The reality, however, is completely different. The film was made to tell this hidden story.
In recent decades, thanks to the dedicated work of many, the Thames has made a dramatic recovery to become one of the cleanest inner-city rivers in Europe. During his journey, from Teddington at the upper tidal reach to the sea, Chris meets many people who tell him more and more about just how much life there is, in and around the Thames. The Partnership want to open people’s eyes to how truly remarkable the tidal Thames is, and how crucial for connectivity, biodiversity, wildlife and migrating species. And also to encourage everyone to feel part of the Thames, and join in helping to look after it, to ensure its continued vitality.
See the trailer to the film here
This report provides an assessment of water quality in England and the pressures it faces. Improving it remains one of the Environment Agency’s biggest and most important tasks.
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Report by the Environment Agency.
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Excerpt from the report:
England has 85% of the world’s chalk streams. These precious and unique freshwater ecosystems are at risk. They are, quite simply dying from a lack of water. This country, and the world, is facing a climate crisis: our chalk streams are our front line. There are a host of reasons why our chalk streams, and other rivers, are at risk. Agricultural pollution, a decline in native species and particularly invertebrates, the introduction of non-native invasive species, development and population growth in the South East of England, and the fact that we simply use and waste too much water.
But most pressing of all are low flows and chronic over abstraction. We have simply not had enough rain to support the level of abstraction still taking place. There has been insufficient recharge of groundwater supplies to maintain an acceptable flow in our rivers over the summer period. Rainfall data from the Thames Water area show below average totals for 9 of the last 12 months – the worst two being June 2018 (50.2% below the average for the month) and January 2019 (40.7% below average). Other river catchments in the region show similar patterns of low rainfall and depleted river flows.
Organisations supporting this report include the Rivers Trust, Angling Trust, Chilterns Chalk Stream Project, Action for the River Kennet, Wildlife Trusts, and Salmon & Trout Conservation.
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There are 9 water and sewerage companies that operate wholly or mainly in England, providing clean (drinking) water and waste water (sewerage) services. The Environment Agency works with these water companies to minimise the impact that their assets and activities have on the environment.
The EA monitor their environmental performance throughout the year against important objectives including reducing pollution incidents, complying with permits and delivering environmental improvement schemes. The organisation publishes an annual assessment of their performance.
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Extract from the executive summary of WWF’s report:
Plastic waste in our environment is a growing problem, and one that is rapidly becoming a crisis. It enters the ocean at a rate equivalent to one dump truck per minute. It adversely affects wildlife, the health of ecosystems, the integrity of food supplies, and livelihoods. The impact can be widely felt, from diminishing revenues from fisheries and tourism to clogged sewage systems and air pollution from the uncontrolled burning of plastic waste.
WWF has a vision of an economy and a society that has zero tolerance for plastic pollution and all harm caused to the environment by plastic – No Plastic in Nature. To successfully alleviate the potential harm that plastic pollution inflicts on our planet and its inhabitants, aligned action at all stages of the plastic life cycle is needed, with players working together in a committed manner. This report found that in addition to ensuring adequate basic waste management provisions in all geographies, three further strategies could contribute to and achieve this vision: 1) eliminate unnecessary plastics, 2) double global plastic recovery, and 3) shift to sustainable sources for the remaining plastic.
While organizations, governments, and individuals can all help alleviate the worst effects of plastic pollution, this report focuses solely on the actions that business can take to address the plastic pollution crisis.
Access the report here
Report from the Canal & River Trust – extract:
For the first time we have undertaken a detailed analysis of the plastics and litter found on our canals and rivers. Working with Coventry University, we have examined the scale of the problem and the actions that we need to take.
Our research found that there are 24 million items of plastic and other litter being dropped or blown onto our waterways every year. 14 million items (59%) are plastics such as bags, bottles, disposable cups and food wrappers and we are spending £1 million a year dealing with it. We empty 900 public litter bins over 46,000 times a year, clear plastics and litter from 230 sites, and our volunteers spend over 100,000 hours each year clearing litter from our towpaths and canals. However, despite our best efforts, we alone are unable to quell the tide.
Access the report here
REPORTS FROM EVENTS
The River Restoration Centre’s 20th annual network conference.
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The Catchment Based Approach – Delivering the 25 Year Environment Plan
This year’s CaBA conference provided an opportunity to hear the latest developments on the Catchment Based Approach and the Catchment Management Declaration and the views of government, civil society, regulators and business on how best to achieve the integration and action required to deliver the government’s 25 year plan for the environment.
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