PROJECTS & RESEARCH
ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS HIGHLIGHTS
The Environment Agency are seeking your views on the challenges our waters face and the choices and changes we all need to make to help tackle those challenges. The EA explain:
We urgently need to protect and improve our waters and find a better balance that meets the needs of people and nature. Water keeps us alive, drives our economy and sustains wildlife. Our rivers, lakes, canals, coasts and groundwater, and the essential services they provide society, are worth billions of pounds to the UK economy.
However, wildlife and the benefits we get from our waters are threatened by the damage we are causing through development, industry, flood protection and agriculture. The climate crisis and a growing population are adding to these pressures and without concerted action will lead to irreparable harm to our planet, ourselves and future generations.
This consultation explains why water is such a vital resource. It describes the challenges that threaten the water environment. It explores how we can work together to manage our waters and looks at who should pay for the actions needed. It covers all the river basin districts (RBDs) that are entirely in England, and the Severn and Northumbria RBDs which lie partly in Wales and Scotland respectively.
By responding to this consultation you will be helping to shape the management of the water environment. The information gathered through this consultation will help us update the current river basin management plans, starting with the publication of draft plans in 2020.
We will also use your responses to help us consider how some of the current approaches to the management of water in England will need to change in response to a changing climate and a growing population.
The consultation is now running to 24 September 2020 (this is an extension to the original April 2020 deadline).
Access the consultation document here
This new working group includes a range of water companies and experts across the UK. Sewage monitoring is being established across the UK as part of an advance warning system to detect new outbreaks of coronavirus.
The new approach is based on recent research findings that fragments of genetic material (RNA) from the virus can be detected in waste water. This could be used to detect the presence of the virus in the population, including those who are asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic. The World Health Organization is clear there is currently no evidence that coronavirus has been transmitted via sewerage systems.
The data gathered from sewage treatment works around the country will be used to refine the approach and feed into the Covid-19 Alert System created by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC). Techniques are still in their infancy, so the government and Devolved Administration partners are working closely with academics, UK Research and Innovation and the Natural Environment Research Council and water companies in developing and testing this cutting-edge approach. This UK work is being coordinated by Defra, the Environment Agency and the JBC, working closely with water companies and the Universities of Bangor, Edinburgh, Bath and Newcastle.
In Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has begun analysis of the first samples of waste water provided by Scottish Water, coordinating the work with the Scottish Government’s Centre of Expertise for Waters, the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and Health Protection Scotland. In Wales, a number of options to support specific wastewater monitoring projects are being assessed, which would complement the UK programme to aid Covid-19 surveillance.
Further details will be released as the work develops.
Establishing a Nature Volunteer Force (Citizens’ Army) to monitor invasive species is one of a number of recommendations the government is exploring following the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on Invasive Species.
Last year, the Committee published its report on invasive species, finding that they cost the UK economy £1.8 billion a year through damage done to natural biodiversity, disease transmission and other harmful effects to the environment. It was clear that urgent action is needed to slow the rate of arrival of invasive species, and concerns were raised that it is not being given the same priority and funding as animal and plant health. In response to the report, Defra recognised the need for greater resources to tackle the issue.
Establishing a Nature Volunteer Force to track invasive species was one of the main recommendations of the Committee, and the government has confirmed it will monitor a similar approach underway in New Zealand. It has estimated the cost to support Local Action Groups in the UK could be around £340,000 and after the Spending Review, the government will consider taking this forward.
The government has also accepted the Committee’s recommendations to explore creating a separate inspectorate and to boost public awareness by updating the Be Plant Wise campaign with the Committee’s findings.
Read more here
The Environment Agency has launched its 5 year plan for reaching a greener, healthier future. Business as usual won't tackle the challenges we face, warns the EA.
This new plan calls for a new approach which promotes health, equity and environmental enhancement and says that the coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity to reshape a better future. It can help society better understand the largest public health threat of the century: climate change. By 2025 the Environment Agency aims to have created more climate resilient places and infrastructure, by ensuring the nation is prepared for flooding, coastal change and drought.
The plan also highlights a renewed focus on improving the health of air, land and water for people and nature – and ensuring green growth for a sustainable future.
Read more here
Download the plan here
Details of bathing water quality for 2019. Bathing water quality is monitored by DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division. One of its responsibilities is to ensure coastal waters are of high enough quality for the general public to bathe in.
Access the report here
The UK’s first draft Water Innovation Strategy has been launched setting out a vision for transformational change across the water sector in anticipation of Ofwat’s £200m innovation fund and the establishment of a Centre of Excellence that will act as a UK hub for global water innovation.
The draft strategy looks ahead to 2050 and provides a roadmap for the UK water sector to make the step-change in collaborative innovation required to meet the many and varying challenges for the future. Its launch starts a period of engagement within and outside the sector with the aim of galvanising interest and ideas from a broad range of organisations who could play a role in helping to shape and deliver a different future for water across the country.
2020 is Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters. Never has it been more essential to raise awareness of the critical importance of our marine landscapes.
National Lottery funding is helping to inspire and empower people across Scotland, with five amazing projects above and below the waves.
Rivers play an important role in our environment: regulating flood risks, transporting sediments and supporting biodiversity. Many of these services are linked to factors that indicate river health such as river flow and connectivity. River network connectivity influences species migration, diversity, and habitat occupancy.
Rivers in the North Sea region are some of the most fragmented by human development in the world due to the presence of artificial structures installed for water management. Man-made water management structures, or barriers, like weirs, sluices and locks can significantly delay and hinder the movement of migratory fish species, subsequently reducing their diversity and abundance.
The Fish Migration Roadmap project focuses on the Thames River Basin and seeks to pull together all barrier, pass, habitat, flood risk and development opportunity area data in one place to develop a strategic approach that looks at rivers as migratory routes that fish would use. This ‘whole system’ sea-to-source approach enables the visualisation of river network connectivity in entire catchments to aid decision making when it comes to habitat creation and enhancement, river restoration, riverside development and flood risk assessment.
The remains of a rare 19th century dock, built to accommodate HMS Beagle when it was serving as a Coastguard Watch Vessel in Essex, is now protected as a nationally important site. The submerged mud berth on the River Roach near Paglesham has been designated as a scheduled monument by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.
HMS Beagle was first launched in May 1820 from Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames and is most famous for being the vessel on which Charles Darwin made the observations necessary to develop his theory of natural selection. Following three far-flung exploratory voyages the Beagle was refitted as a static watch vessel for the Essex Coastguard in 1845, serving to curb smuggling until it was sold for scrap in 1870.
In 2019 Historic England commissioned Wessex Archaeology to investigate the Paglesham mudflats in Rochford, thought to be the last resting place of the Beagle, ahead of the bicentenary of the vessel’s launch in May 2020. Maritime archaeologists confirmed the location of the mud dock and a brick slope or ‘hard’ using geophysical surveys and an aerial survey by drone.
Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, gives a speech at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry on environmental regulation.
The UK currently has a range of protections in place through a network of 355 Marine Protected Areas, which offer protections for a designated feature or habitat within their boundaries. Highly Protected Marine Areas would go further by taking a ‘whole site approach’ and only permitting certain activities within their boundaries such as vessel transit, scuba diving and kayaking. Activities that could have a damaging effect on habitats or wildlife, including fishing, construction and dredging would be banned. The review claims the introduction of such areas could lead to a significant biodiversity boost for our seas by giving our marine life the best chance to recover and thrive.
The review, which was supported by a panel of independent experts, also sheds light on the potential social and economic benefits of introducing highly protected marine areas. These benefits include increased tourism and recreational activities, opportunities for scientific research and education, and positive effects for human health. It also suggests that any potential fishing restriction could be counterbalanced by a stronger and more biodiverse marine wildlife – with potential long-term benefits for the fishing industry from providing areas where sea life can develop and breed undisturbed.
Read more here
The core principles of the Plan are prevention, collaboration and long-term solutions. The Wales Clean Seas Partnership developed the Marine Litter Action Plan for Wales. Welsh Government supported the development of the plan.
The Marine Litter Action Plan is an evolving document which is reviewed on a 3-year basis. The document includes emerging threats and issues, with new initiatives to tackle them.
Read more here
The Waterwise Community Checkmark exists to highlight and celebrate work that a particular community is doing for water efficiency. The Community Checkmark is awarded to communities which are engaged and active in saving water, that encourage water-saving behaviours, and particularly communities who have simple low/no cost measures to reduce water waste and encourage the efficient use of water in a variety of ways.
Why has this been launched? Waterwise explain:
We are facing greater pressure on water resources in the UK due to climate change, population growth and the need to protect the environment. A report by the National Infrastructure Commission set out a 1 in 4 chance over the next 30 years that large numbers of households and businesses will have water supplies cut off for an extended period of time. It estimated the economic impact of severe restrictions in England at between £25 and £40 billion. But there is another way – if we collectively manage our demand for water now we can create far more resilient communities.
Community projects are becoming more common amongst water companies who see the benefits of targeting one specific geographic area at a time to have the biggest concentrated impact. We want to drive best practice within these projects and to celebrate the best ones. The Community Checkmark is not just for water companies – any group or organisation which can complete the application form successfully can be awarded the checkmark.
The Environment Agency and the Coal Authority have started work on Nent Haggs Mine Water Treatment Scheme to address a harmful legacy of the Industrial Revolution. The River Nent in Cumbria is the second most metal-polluted river in England with very high concentrations of cadmium, lead and zinc which are toxic to fish and the insects they feed on.
The Romans first dug lead out of the North Pennines but the peak of metal mining was in the 1800s. Although almost all the mines had been closed by the early 20th century, they have since flooded and polluted water continues to pour out of the ground and will do so for hundreds of years without government action. The effect on water quality and aquatic life can be seen for 60 km along the River South Tyne through Cumbria and Northumberland, with the metals ultimately accumulating in the River Tyne estuary sediments.
The Nent Haggs Mine Water Treatment Scheme will remove the metals from the mine water before they get into the river. The metals will be removed by passing the mine water through three treatment ponds and a new wetland before being discharged into the River Nent.
Read more here
Protecting and restoring biodiversity is the only way to preserve the quality and continuity of human life on Earth. The commitments proposed in this strategy pave the way for ambitious and necessary changes – changes that will ensure the wellbeing and economic prosperity of present and future generations in a healthy environment. The implementation of these commitments will take into account the diversity of challenges across sectors, regions and Member States, recognise the need to ensure social justice, fairness and inclusiveness in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights, and will require a sense of responsibility and strong joint efforts from the EU, its Member States, stakeholders and citizens.
The Commission invites the European Parliament and the Council to endorse this strategy ahead of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Commission will review the strategy by 2024 to assess progress and whether further action is needed to meet its objectives.
Nature protection – key commitments by 2030:
Read more here
This project is funded through the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg France Channel England Programme. Working in partnership with 18 organisations from across France and England, Preventing Plastic Pollution seeks to understand and reduce the impacts of plastic pollution in the marine environment. By looking at the catchment from source to sea, the project will identify and target hotspots for plastic, embed behaviour change in local communities and businesses, and implement effective solutions and alternatives.
The project will work across seven pilot sites: Brest Harbour, Bay of Douarnenez, Bay of Veys, Poole Harbour, and the Medway, Tamar, and Great Ouse estuaries. Using a targeted approach, experts will evaluate plastic pollution entering the catchments and identify pollution hotspots from source to sea. They will assess the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of current and innovative approaches and create a portfolio of removal methods to prevent and manage pollution.
PROJECTS & RESEARCH
Microplastic debris is ubiquitous and yet sampling, classifying and enumerating this prolific pollutant in marine waters has proven challenging. Typically, waterborne microplastic sampling is undertaken using nets with a 333 μm mesh, which cannot account for smaller debris.
In this study, the researchers provide an estimate of the extent to which microplastic concentrations are underestimated with traditional sampling. Their efforts focus on coastal waters, where microplastics are predicted to have the greatest influence on marine life, on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean. Microplastic debris was collected via surface trawls using 100, 333 and 500 μm nets.
Their findings show that sampling using nets with a 100 μm mesh resulted in the collection of 2.5-fold and 10-fold greater microplastic concentrations compared with using 333 and 500 μm meshes respectively (P < 0.01). Based on the relationship between microplastic concentrations identified and extrapolation of their data using a power law, they estimate that microplastic concentrations could exceed 3700 microplastics m−3 if a net with a 1 μm mesh size is used. They further identified that use of finer nets resulted in the collection of significantly thinner and shorter microplastic fibres (P < 0.05). These results elucidate that estimates of marine microplastic concentrations could currently be underestimated.
Read the paper here
The survey, carried out in collaboration with the University of Hull, shows that two sites – Woolley and Strafford mine water treatment schemes – support a total of 31 different bird species. These mine water treatment schemes, in Barnsley, were chosen due to their diverse landscapes, which include reed beds that act like large filters in the final stage of the treatment process to remove iron from mine water before it is discharged into rivers.
Some of the species found have populations that are declining or have been found in fewer areas nationally over recent years and appear on the red and amber lists of Birds of Conservation Concern.
Four red-listed species of birds, including grey wagtails, linnets, house sparrows and yellow hammers were recorded. In addition, there were eight amber-listed species, including black headed gulls, house martins, kestrels, kingfishers, mallards, reed buntings, swifts and willow warblers. The results suggest that having a greater variety of habitats within a site, such as open water, marginal plants and reed beds, will encourage a greater diversity of observed species.
Read more here
A report from the Pew Charitable Trusts: This is an assessment of pathways towards stopping ocean plastic pollution. In recent years, an increasing number of studies and reports have advanced the global understanding of the challenge posed by ocean plastic pollution. But most leaders across industry, government, and civil society have noted a critical gap: an evidence-based roadmap to describe the pathways available and to foster convergent action. As a step towards building that roadmap, The Pew Charitable Trusts partnered with SYSTEMIQ to build on previous research and create this first-of-its-kind model of the global plastics system, with results suggesting that there is an evidence-based, comprehensive, integrated, and economically attractive pathway to greatly reduce plastic pollution entering our ocean.
Ballast water in ships is a principal way in which alien species are introduced into new aquatic habitats. Commercial trading ships are, therefore, required to treat their ballast water to meet discharge standards and regulation. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has approved a range of methods for ballast water treatment, such as filtration, ultraviolet radiation and chlorination. A recent study used DNA metabarcoding-based analyses to explore the efficacy of the most widely adopted approach – chlorination – finding that it affects zooplankton organisms unequally and may potentially even increase the chances of introduced populations becoming established in new habitats.
The researchers recommend using DNA metabarcoding-based techniques to assess the overall biodiversity present in ballast water and suggest that a combination of different technologies could be used to reduce the risk of introduction of alien species by ballast water.
Read more here
New research reveals that over half of Marine Protected Areas could contain habitats important for climate resilience. It was found that 43% of MPAs contain habitats such as sand banks, seaweed and other plant beds that play a role in protecting the coastline from severe weather events. Climate change is predicted to lead to an increase in the frequency of storm surges together with rising sea levels. It also found that 29% of MPAs protect habitats such as coastal saltmarshes, seagrasses, salt water reedbeds and muddy habitats, which support the absorption and storage of carbon dioxide.
The study also provides new tools for scientists to measure the impacts of climate change, such as increases in sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification, ocean heatwaves and rising sea levels, on marine sensitive habitats. This could be used to help inform future protection measures.
Read more here
Groundwater is the earth’s largest freshwater resource and is vital for irrigation and global food production. In dry periods farmers pump groundwater to water crops, and this is already happening at an unsustainable level in many places – exceeding the rate at which rain and rivers can refill the groundwater stores. This study seeks to identify where groundwater pumping is affecting stream flows and estimates where and when environmentally critical stream flows, required to maintain healthy ecosystems, can no longer be sustained.
Read more here
A Defra study suggests that exposure to coastal environments can play a significant role in boosting human health and well-being, due to the ‘therapeutic effects’ marine and coastal landscapes have.
In England, 271 million recreational visits are made to coastal environments annually and more than 22 million people live within five miles of the coast. The Defra and UK Research and Innovation-led review in collaboration with Plymouth Marine Laboratory and Exeter University, showed that those spending time by the sea reported increased happiness, better general health and were more physically active during their visit, compared to visits to other types of environment.
The report highlights the important role of marine conservation work as visits to marine and coastal areas with designated or protected status and those with higher levels of biodiversity were associated with higher levels of calmness, relaxation and revitalisation, compared to locations without this status. The government has taken steps to expand its ‘Blue Belt’ of marine protection for Britain’s overseas territories and its own coast, last year designating a further 41 Marine Protection Zones, protecting species and habitats such as the rare stalked jellyfish and blue mussel beds.
Access the report from this page
There is mounting global concern about marine plastic pollution and a growing focus on ways to address this environmental problem. In 2015, 9.2 megatonnes of plastic was lost to the environment globally. In order to remedy this issue, it is essential to quantify the amounts, types and sources of plastic waste in the global environment (both geographically and within industry). This study estimates the loss of plastics to the environment across the plastic value chain, finding that mismanagement of municipal solid waste and tyre abrasion are key contributors of macro- and microplastic waste, respectively.
Read more here
A survey of over 600 private boats docked in marinas throughout the Mediterranean showed that 71% are carrying non-indigenous species. In certain cases, non-indigenous species (NIS) can become ‘invasive’ and have enormous and long-lasting impacts on ecosystems. The findings suggest that a common monitoring strategy may be necessary to prevent further disruptions to natural ecosystems.
Boats entering through European canals and the Turkish Straits travel through fresh and/or much lower salinity water, and NIS on board would have a much lower chance of survival. As such, policymakers may wish to focus initially on entrances via the higher-risk Strait of Gibraltar and Suez Canal, ensuring that effective screening techniques and applicable quarantine measures are in place for incoming vessels. In addition, the researchers recommend that boats undergo frequent cleaning, especially in inaccessible and often overlooked metallic areas such as ladders and propellers, where invasive species are known to accumulate.
Read more here
Although microplastics are known to pervade the global seafloor, the processes that control their dispersal and concentration in the deep sea remain largely unknown. Here, the researchers show that thermohaline-driven currents, which build extensive seafloor sediment accumulations, can control the distribution of microplastics and create hotspots with the highest concentrations reported for any seafloor setting (190 pieces per 50 grams). Previous studies propose that microplastics are transported to the seafloor by vertical settling from surface accumulations; here, the authors demonstrate that the spatial distribution and ultimate fate of microplastics are strongly controlled by near-bed thermohaline currents (bottom currents). These currents are known to supply oxygen and nutrients to deep-sea benthos, suggesting that deep-sea biodiversity hotspots are also likely to be microplastic hotspots.
This research paper is published in Science. Read the paper here
A major government-funded research study suggests that particles released from vehicle tyres could be a significant and previously largely unrecorded source of microplastics in the marine environment.
The study is one of the first worldwide to identify tyre particles as a major and additional source of microplastics. Scientists have previously discovered microplastics, originating from microbeads in cosmetics and the degradation of larger items such as carrier bags and plastic bottles, in marine environments globally – from the deep seas to the Arctic.
This project will be used to guide future research already underway on marine plastic pollution and the impact of human activities on the marine environment. The study shows that tyre particles can be transported directly to the ocean through the atmosphere or carried by rainwater into rivers and sewers, where they can pass through the water treatment process. Researchers estimate this could place around 100 million m² of the UK’s river network – and more than 50 million m² of estuarine and coastal waters – at risk of contamination by tyre particles.
Read more here
Read about the work of the Blue Belt Programme in UK Overseas Territories in the 2019-2020 annual update. Read it here
You can also read the latest Blue Belt newsletter.
Background: The Blue Belt Programme supports the delivery of the UK government’s commitment to enhance marine protection of over four million square kilometres of marine environment across UK Overseas Territories. The programme is a partnership between two world-leading agencies of the UK government, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
Excerpt from the summary of this report produced by the Blueprint for Water campaign:
All life depends entirely on water. Yet, reflecting broader climate and ecological crises, the current state of England’s water environment is poor and declining. We go from floods to drought without a long-term strategic plan to adapt to and manage new climatic extremes – urgent action is needed.
The 25 Year Environment Plan states that clean and plentiful water will be achieved, improving at least three quarters of our waters to their natural state ‘as soon as is practicable’ by: reducing abstraction, minimising pollution and leakage, and maximising water efficiency. The plan sets out good direction for the future but the targets are not ambitious enough considering the challenges ahead and strategic actions need to be identified and delivered to achieve the plan’s ambitions.
This paper describes eight key strategic actions for government which have been identified to deliver this framework and enable the required transformation.
Blueprint for Water is a campaign of Wildlife and Countryside Link. Wildlife and Countryside Link is a coalition of charitable organisations concerned with the conservation and protection of wildlife and the countryside.
This report is produced for the EA based on the learnings from a pilot project to enable Catchment Partnerships (CPs) to become more independent, self-sustaining and resilient, with a particular focus on financial sustainability and income diversification. Through this initiative, Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has worked with four catchment partnerships over the last 12 months. The pilot programme aims to provide learning outcomes for EA and CPs which can be applied nationally. The report summarises catchment partnership resilience and the potential sources of income and strategies that could be applied by Catchment Partnerships.
CAF believes that a resilient catchment is one which will have strong governance, is able to demonstrate its impact, where each of the partners know the value of partnerships, and is not reliant on one type of income (mostly restricted grant funding). The four catchment partnerships were selected for this pilot project from more than 20 applications. The four are spread around the country and cover both rural and urban areas. A variety of CPs were wanted, so CAF and EA selected CPs where they could see the potential for development within one of the key areas they believe makes up a resilient catchment. The four CPs are: the Loddon, Northumberland Rivers, Upper Bedford and Ouse, Dales and Vales River Network. All the CPs had an interesting mix of partners including Environment Agency, local/regional water companies, universities, local charities, regional branches of national charities, consultants and community members.
Recommendations are provided for the EA.
Access the report here
This report provides detail on three of four funding streams, identifying general trends in each and suggesting strategies that could be applied by Catchment Partnerships in pursuing these different sources of income.
Excerpt from Executive Summary:
Income generation is not easy for any organisation carrying out environmental work, and is becoming harder as reduced funding is available from almost all sources. In this context however, presenting a united front as a Catchment Partnership working together to create change and maximise available resources in a co-ordinated, strategic way, will be appealing to all donors.
Catchment Partnerships have a number of cross-cutting issues to consider in developing a fundraising strategy, including their governance, impact and strategy. Each Catchment Partnership should focus first on local and individual fundraising. This is because you have a large potential pool of volunteers and givers, it will generate unrestricted income that is purely for the partnership, and will best complement your existing activity and governance. However, Catchment Partnerships do need to be aware that this funding stream will need an investment of time and resources to be successful.
For most of the income streams and sources explored in this report, Catchment Partnerships will have most success by framing their work with reference to its impact on people. Except for any new sources of Environment Agency funding and some corporate priorities, the impact on people is seen as key.
Access the report here
Intermittent rivers and Ephemeral Streams (IRES) are river water bodies characterised by temporary flow. They are widespread across the EU and a significant proportion of them is expected to increase due to climate change scenarios and rising water demands.
The purpose of this handbook is to help water managers understand the natural processes prevailing in IRES and their importance for biodiversity and local communities in order to better manage them. Since it is widely accepted that these types of systems have been, up until recently, neglected, the transfer of knowledge from scientists to water managers is required for their proper ecological status assessment, and is crucial for their protection and restoration. Therefore, this SMIRES handbook will also bring about a better understanding of IRES, and will provide the tools needed for managing them in the best possible way.
This includes a summary on the responses received to the Draft North East, North West, South East and South West Marine Plans consultation, the publication of the three-year report on the East Marine Plans and next steps following the monitoring surveys for the East and South Marine Plan Areas.
The UK government has set out a pledge through its 25 Year Environment Plan to reduce ocean plastic. This issue has escalated from the simple aesthetic marine litter problem, to a ‘perceived’ global challenge. Whilst the accumulation of plastics in the marine environment is clear, the origins of the problem are nuanced and complex. Identifying the policies and actions therefore requires sound evidence and assessment.
The issue has also gained considerable public interest through broadcast and social media, and is also driven by emerging evidence gathered by both academic scientists and environmental NGOs. The challenge is therefore to understand the evidence and examine potential interventions against regulatory and policy needs. The Marine Litter Policy team at Defra leads, and is consulted on, a wide range of interventions related to plastics and microplastics in the environment. Whilst the remit of Defra Marine is primarily litter in the marine environment, evidence relating to the underlying drivers and interventions on land are key to solving the problem. This review has been prepared for the Defra Marine Litter Policy team to provide a summary of evidence of relevance in addressing marine plastic pollution, to identify evidence gaps and make recommendations for further work to support policy development.
Read the plain English summary here
Stream restoration efforts have increased, but the success rate is still rather low. The underlying reasons for these unsuccessful restoration efforts remain inconclusive and need urgent clarification. The aim of this study was to evaluate over 40 years of stream restoration to fuel future perspectives.
To this purpose the researchers evaluated the influence of policy goals on stream restoration efforts, biophysical restoration objectives, restoration measures applied, including the scale of application and monitoring efforts. Information was obtained from five stream restoration surveys that were held among the regional water authorities in the Netherlands over the last 40 years and from an analysis of international scientific publications on stream restoration spanning the same time period.
This study showed that there was a considerable increase in stream restoration efforts, especially motivated by environmental legislation. However, proper monitoring of the effectiveness of the measures was often lacking. Furthermore, a mismatch between restoration goals and restoration measures was observed. Measures are still mainly focused on hydromorphological techniques, while biological goals remain underexposed and therefore need to be better targeted. Moreover, restoration practices occur mainly at the small scale, despite the widely recognized relevance of tackling multiple stressors acting over large scales for stream ecosystem recovery. In order to increase the success rate of restoration projects, it is recommended to improve the design of the accompanying monitoring programmes, allowing to evaluate, over longer time periods, if the measures taken led to the desired results. Secondly, the researchers advise diagnosis of the dominant stressors and then plan restoration measures at the appropriate scale of these stressors, generally the catchment scale.
Read the paper here
‘The Importance of Quality Control Standards to Produce Reliable Microplastic data: a Potable Water Case Study’. This webinar focussed especially on the optimum methods for microplastic analysis from environmental samples, and can be streamed on demand here.
The second webinar is a broader overview of microplastics research hosted by Ocean Plastic Webinars entitled ‘Microplastics: from source to sea’, aimed at a wide international audience, which you can catch up on here.
The UK Microplastics Network state: Broadcasting these webinars online has led to the engagement of individuals and organisations from places as widespread as India, the Philippines and Costa Rica, to name a few, thus opening up discussions and opportunities that may not have otherwise been available.
The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) launches its aims and ambitions for the future of our seas, coasts and communities.
This project got underway in 2002, as a result of strong public demand. Initially, Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) was the focus species; then Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica), Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) and American Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) were added to the list of ‘key species of concern’.
The project has now reached its 18th year and is one of the largest of its kind in the UK, covering the whole 5,000 km2 Tweed catchment. It is increasingly seen as a blueprint for others to follow, with the catchment-scale, partnership approach widely recognised as an effective way of controlling Invasive Non-Native Species. This document presents the cumulative knowledge of the Tweed Invasives Project, going through each stage of the programme and how it evolved over time.
Access the report here
This is a road map summary produced by the Marine Science Co-ordination Committee (MSCC). MSCC is a governmental committee that was created in 2008 to deliver the UK Marine Science Strategy. However, over the last 10 years there has been a shift in societal, political and economic needs. This, along with recent marine strategies and reports, eg UK Industrial Strategy (2017), UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Prospectus (2018), Foresight Future of the Seas report (2018), Maritime 2050 Strategy (2019) and the forthcoming International Ocean Strategy, has prompted the MSCC to refresh their direction and create nine high-level priorities to achieve the UK Marine Vision. See this summary to read about the working groups and partnership initiatives, the high-level priorities, and both contact and webpages information.
Note: read more about the MSCC here
Oceana is an NGO, an international organization focused solely on oceans, dedicated to achieving measurable change by conducting specific, science-based campaigns with fixed deadlines and articulated goals. It was founded in 2001. Their report Unprotected Marine Treasures: An Oceana proposal to protect 15 marine biodiversity hotspots in Europe provides an overview of key sites of ecological importance which Oceana has proposed for protection based on its expedition data, but which remain unprotected. Oceana has developed MPA proposals for each of these biodiversity hotspots that range from the Baltic to the Mediterranean Sea.
The report states: Importantly, the protection of these special places would contribute to meeting marine conservation targets in the European countries concerned, by addressing identified ecological gaps (notably in deeper areas), by strengthening the coherence of MPA networks, and by helping to achieve greater coverage of ocean protection. Oceana’s proposals are based particularly on evidence of threatened marine habitats and species recognised under EU laws (such as the Habitats Directive) and Regional Seas Conventions (ie the Helsinki Convention (HELCOM), the Oslo-Paris Convention (OSPAR) and the Barcelona Convention).
Access the report here:
Oceana website: https://eu.oceana.org/en/home
This is the fifteenth edition of this newsletter, which will keep you up to date on the latest developments as the first Welsh National Marine Plan (WNMP) is implemented.
The WNMP was published and adopted on 12 November 2019. As the plan is implemented with decision makers the Welsh government want to hear your views so please get in touch or share this newsletter with your networks.
This newsletter covers:
For those new to the newsletter you can find the old editions here. Contact details are at the bottom of the newsletter.