Hi all! It has been a good week for those who are missing visiting wildlife. Local nature reserves are re-opening, WWT centers are letting people through their doors and Chester Zoo has now been allowed to open for the public. We hope that you are finding ways to get outside to re-engage with the wild spaces and nature centres in your local area. If you can’t, we hope that the articles, books and activities in this newsletter will keep you inspired about conservation during lockdown.
~ The OUNCS Committee
Article Spotlight: A New Assessment Of Vertebrate Extinction
A recent study aiming to assess the status of 29,400 species of terrestrial vertebrates has concluded that at least 515 (approximately 1.7%) of the species considered are classified as being on the brink of extinction. Here, animals are said to be ‘on the brink of extinction’ if there are fewer than 1,000 individuals remaining in the wild, but in more than half of the species placed within this category, fewer than 250 individuals remain.While the study does not include other groups of organisms including invertebrates and marine vertebrates, it highlights how the rapid loss of the species considered here will be tightly linked to declines in these other groups due to extinction cascades where the loss of keystone species in particular leads to accelerated extinction rates in other species which interact directly with them or simply exist within that ecosystem. As a result, the study predicts that extinction rates, although still rapid now, are likely to increase significantly in the future as biodiversity collapses.As a problem that has both been caused by humans and which will also affect humans (most obviously by reducing the benefits provided by ecosystem services), it is essential that we take action to combat the loss of populations and the loss of species as a whole which results from this. The study concludes that a global binding agreement to tackle this crisis is required and, given the potential links between the current Covid-19 pandemic and wildlife trade, this agreement will need to consider the direct impacts of humans on wildlife, as well as indirect effects of humans on wildlife via climate change for example.You can find the article here.
Article Spotlights are brought to you by Ayla Webb
Wetland Centres Are Open!
WWT have announced that from today, their wetland centres in England are reopening to the public! You will have to book online and there will be daily limits on the number of visitors, but this is still exciting news for anyone keen to immerse themselves in wildlife.
Read more here.
Brought to you by Philip Fernandes
Book Recommendation: Losing Eden by Lucy Jones
Having been published only this February, Losing Eden is a highly topical book about recent research into the benefits of being in nature both for a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. It asks the tough but necessary question about how climate change and large-scale land conversion will impact public health. As we find ourselves spending more time indoors during the global pandemic, we may be beginning to feel the negative effects of being distanced from nature already.
Not only does this book explain the underlying health problems of nature deficit, but it also collates many ideas about how we can bring nature back into our lives. Lucy Jones discusses ecotherapy, technological gardens and biophilic cities to name a few approaches. This is an excellent book if your looking for a different way to argue for the need for conservation and to understand how our fractured relationship with nature can be healed.
I have written a response to Losing Eden here and a piece discussing the topics covered in the book here.
Book recommendations are brought to you by Hannah King
Habitat Conservation: What is Paludiculture?
Last week I outlined how peatlands have the power to both bring enormous benefits and massive destruction depending on how we treat them. We need to stop draining and start rewetting. The problem is that 440,000 km2 of peatland area drained across the world is for agriculture and forestry. Although some of this can be rewetted and rewilded to be set aside for conservation, it is unfeasible that all this land will be taken out of production. What is needed is a system where we can farm on peatlands without draining them.There is a pervasive attitude, arising from the fact that agriculture originated in areas with dry soil, that productive land equals dry land. Paludiculture is a sustainable form of farming which subverts this paradigm by seeking to grow crops on wet soils. Paludiculture is different to traditional drainage-based agriculture and as such uses different crops. The Database for Potential Paludiculture Plants (DPPP) identified around 300 plants which show promise with some already being implemented. Aldert van Weeren, a farmer in the Netherlands, has been growing and harvesting Typha reed, which can be used to make insulation for houses. Other options in Europe include growing Alder for furniture and Sphagnum to be sustainably extracted as a horticultural growing medium. Paludiculture is also being implemented in Indonesia. Jelutung trees, whose root systems are adapted to wet soils, is being grown for latex that is used in chewing-gum, and the ditches historically used for draining the land are being repurposed to farm fish.These creative and promising solutions give hope that technical challenges can be overcome and new markets developed to make paludiculture successful. But fundamental to whether this new way of farming can be scaled up are policies incentivising farmers to protect peatlands. The public good of preventing CO2e emissions should be rewarded with appropriate subsidies. The Carbon Farmer is a short film imagining a future where this is the primary role of some farmers, as stewards of the land. Paludiculture must take centre stage as the EU reforms the CAP and the UK writes its post-Brexit policies.
Habitat conservation news and views are brought to you by Jamie Walker
Women In Conservation: The Black Mambas
The Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit is the first of its kind, being that the majority of the team are women, founded in 2013 by Transfrontier Africa NPC to protect the Olifants West Region of Balule Nature Reserve. Within the first year of operation the Black Mambas were invited to expand into other regions and now protect all boundaries of the 62,000ha Balule Nature Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa. Anti-poaching is a major need in the area which is constantly plagued by rhino and bush-meat poachers. Apart from the likes of rhinoceros and antelopes, other endangered wildlife such as wild dogs and cheetah fall victim to the snares. The Black Mambas maintain and protect the western boundary fence of the Greater Kruger National Park, a significant barrier between the human-wildlife conflict and the poachers that enter the protected areas network. The Black Mambas Anti-Poaching team are constantly deployed within the area to search and destroy poacher’s camps, wire snares and bush meat kitchens every single day utilising aerial support, specialist dogs, early detection and rapid response units. Technology such as remote GSM cameras, drone assistance and infra-red etc., is the unit’s biggest ally. As well as direct anti-poaching measures, other objectives of the Black Mamba project include being a role model in their communities. These 22 young women want their communities to understand that the benefits are greater through wildlife conservation rather than poaching, addressing the social and moral decay that is a product of the poaching within their communities through long term education initatives. One such community based project that would develop a conservation philosophy within the communities surrounding the protected areas by, targeting the future leaders of society. The Bush Babies program aimed aimed for children and young adults has reached over 2,000 children since starting in 2015! Find out more about these amazing women here!
Brought to you by Suli Scatchard
Get Involved: Go Wild in June with the Wildlife Trusts
If you’re craving your daily dose of nature while in lockdown then the Wildlife Trusts have something for you this month. Although we’re already nearly a third of the way through June there is still time to get involved in the 30 Days Wild challenge and there are activities for everyone whether by yourself or with your younger siblings, parents, or friends.
The 30 Days Wild challenge is an annual nature challenge run by the Wildlife Trusts which involves doing one ‘random act of wildness’ every day for a whole month whether it be as simple as exercising in nature and spending some time enjoying the sounds and sights of your environment to foraging and birdwatching.
Over 130,000 people across the UK have signed up so far and you could soon be one of them. Just follow this link to sign up for your free downloadable pack which includes loads of different resources and materials for you to engage with nature from the comfort of your own home. Some of these include: a wildlife and nature photography guide, a wildlife gardening guide with the host of BBC Gardener’s world- Monty Don, a nature-writing guide, and a window poster for you to print off at home.
Ways to get involved in conservation are brought to you by Taras Bains
A New Society!
Oxford Wildlife and Photography Filmmaking society is a LMH-based society for students interested in wildlife photography and filmmaking, regardless of their prior experience. Set up by a group of Oxford biology students, it aims to provide a friendly space to share and receive advice on your work, network with like-minded Oxford students and enter themed photography competitions!Currently they are accepting entries to their photography competition on the theme “red” and though the deadline is 10th June there will be more opportunities to get involved in the future. Post covid-19, they will be organising photography socials/trips in Oxford, encouraging the use of photography as a tool to transition from seeing nature to truly looking at it. If this sparks your interest, join their facebook group Oxford Wildlife Photography and Film-making Society.
Brought to you by Elizabeth Tatham