Tag Archives: #UK

Full Bloom

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Kew Gardens, UNESCO World Heritage site, on a perfect Sunday, the fulfillment of a bucket list dream. There is so much more to the gardens than my few pictures show, and days could be spent wandering the further reaches of the massive site. This is just a snapshot of one day during one season.

The spring flowers beneath trees fringed in new green.

The lanes of rhododendrons and azaleas.

From a Kew Garden post on Monumental Trees: Lots of plants were discovered and described for the first time by British botanists, so many of the oldest planted specimens of a large number of plant species can be found in Kew.

In Kew living specimens of species that are critically endangered or already have become extinct in the wild, are grown and so Kew can be seen as a true Ark of Noah.

Daffodils, luminous against the morning sun.

 

The Hive, a large, walk-in structure that puts visitors inside a architectural version of a beehive: “The Hive is an immersive sound and visual experience. The lights you see and the sounds you hear inside the Hive are triggered by bee activity in a real beehive at Kew. The intensity of the sounds and light change constantly, echoing that of the real beehive. The multi award-winning Hive was inspired by scientific research into the health of honeybees. It is a visual symbol of the pollinators’ role in feeding the planet and the challenges facing bees today.”

The Hive from the outside:

I am so happy we got to see this early in the day when it was empty. We could hear the hum of activity, see the lights blinking in response to sensors embedded in a real beehive and activated by bees at work there.

The Hive from the inside:

And The Hive from below:

 

Kew Gardens supports over a dozen species of bees native to the UK.

The 18th-century Japanese Pagoda tree (Styphnolobium japonicum) that looks like there should be a fairy tale door within the brick wall that holds up the tree’s trunk.

And finally, nothing so beautiful as a sunny day, a pristine magnolia, and excellent company. Thanks to my daughter for a perfect UK Mother’s Day excursion.

 

Tangled Web

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Snakes & Ladders - Painted quilt Artist: Denise Furnish

Snakes & Ladders – Painted quilt
Artist: Denise Furnish

Like weeds, when we talk about invasive species, we usually know which ones we mean. They’re the ones we don’t like.

So, when we talk about non-native species of plants and animals, we don’t usually mean horses or sheep, or wheat or barley or rice or potatoes – none of which are native to many of their current habitats around the world.

No, we mean animals like the albino California kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula californiaeon the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, the progeny of escaped pets which are now decimating the native birds and lizard populations.

Or the voracious demon shrimp (Dikerogammarus haemobaphes), a Black Sea native that has been discovered in UK waterways, and whose impact on native species is as yet unknown.

As of April 2014, the European Parliament has approved new legislation aimed at controlling and eradicating non-native species that are considered damaging enough to be considered ‘invasive’ and dangerous to the survival of native species.

Albino California Kingsnake

Albino California Kingsnake

Originally planned to be capped to fifty species, the blacklist will be now be unlimited, because there are simply too many species having a negative impact on native European biodiversity.

But what about the common rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum)? While it’s not native to the United Kingdom, it has been widely used in hybrids, and is a well-liked botanical addition to gardens. And like many non-native garden favorites, it can be wildly successful at escaping and carpeting indigenous habitats.

If it makes the black list, will all varieties be banned? And how would that affect gardener’s preferences and choices – or the nurseries that breed rhododendron hybrids? Pet or plant, we always want what we want, when we want it.

Non-native species might be beloved as a domesticated varieties, but only as long as they obey our arbitrary rules of life, reproduction and geographical spread. Which they don’t, and almost never do.

Rhododendron ponticum, native to southern Spain, covers a hillside in Snowdonia, UK Photo: M Williamson

Rhododendron ponticum, native to southern Spain, covers a hillside in Snowdonia, UK
Photo: M Williamson

 

Breaking the Chain

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International Wildlife Trade summit logo Via: Helping Rhinos

London Summit on International Wildlife Trade
Via: Helping Rhinos

When it comes to putting a stop to the illegal trade in endangered animals and animal parts, I don’t know if the London Summit on Illegal Wildlife Trade is the first major conference to explicitly include the main consumer nations of animal parts as well as the countries in which the most animals are poached.

But I can say this: It’s a good start.

Like any deadly addiction, this must be tackled at all points along the market chain.

Crushed ivory is seen before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crushed an additional 6 tons of confiscated ivory in Denver, Colorado November 14, 2013 Photo: Reuters

Crushed ivory
Photo: Reuters

Follow #endwildlifecrime or #IWTconf on Twitter.

The Proverbial Drop

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The recent Warsaw Climate Change Conference ended with a couple of modest successes, the main one being that the conversation will continue between nations as to what to do about man-made impact on the climate.

An initiative to support efforts at slowing deforestation received funding to the tune of $280 million from three countries.

Developed countries couldn’t quite bring themselves to say more than they would be willing to ‘contribute’ to emission cuts, rather than ‘commit’ to them.

Mainly, the nations who use the most keep insisting that change will be slow, and expensive.

Developing countries requested the twenty developed nations which have contributed to and profited most from the fossil fuel economy to pledge funds to mitigate, adapt and readjust this economy and its effects.

Amounts requested were between $70 billion per year by 2016, or  $100 billion by 2020.

Meanwhile, an editorial piece by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in the New York Times today states that the developed countries currently subsidize the fossil fuel economy to the tune of $485 billion.

That’s $485 billion every single year.

Not all expensive habits are worth keeping.

So here’s hoping that even a drop in the bucket will create enough ripples to make a change.

Input and Loss

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At the UNFCCC COP19 in Warsaw this week, a new programme was launched under the auspices of the World Bank: The BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL).

The initial funding amount is set at $280 million USD. Norway has pledged up to $135 million to the initiative, Britain $120 million and the United States $25 million. The fund also hopes to attract further private and public funding.

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to use the Global Forest Change tool released this week to look at forest change in each of the contributing countries, also in relation to their contribution to this new initiative.

Forest change Norway 2000-2012. The blue and red colors indicate net forest gain and loss, respectively. The colors here are almost exclusively seen on the Swedish side of the border. Norway does not rank among the top 50 nations in terms of deforestation, Sweden ranks 13th. Image via Global Forest Change / Earth Energy Partners

Forest change Norway 2000-2012. The blue and red colors indicate net forest gain and loss, respectively. The colors here are almost exclusively seen on the Swedish side of the border. Norway does not rank among the top 50 nations in terms of deforestation, Sweden ranks 13th.
Image via Global Forest Change / Earth Engine Partners

With a goal of encouraging reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector, including REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), ISFL is intended to “help countries identify and promote climate-smart agricultural and low-carbon land-use practices in selected geographical areas where agriculture is a major cause of deforestation.”

The deforestation culprit in question is, by and large, commercial agriculture in regions including Latin America; subsistence and commercial agriculture contribute equally to an estimated two-thirds of deforestation in other areas like Africa and subtropical Asia.

The initiative sets itself the task of “adopting a landscape approach, (which) means implementing a development strategy that is climate smart, equitable, productive and profitable at scale and strives for environmental, social, and economic impact.”

Forest change in the United Kingdom 2000-2012, which is not among the top 50 nations in terms of forest loss.  Image via Global Forest Change / Earth Energy Partners

Forest change in the United Kingdom 2000-2012, which is not among the top 50 nations in terms of forest loss.
Image via Global Forest Change / Earth Energy Partners

Measures include “protecting forests, restoring degraded lands, enhancing agricultural productivity, and improving livelihoods and local environments.”

According to this Reuters article, one of the key problems faced by initiatives seeking to reduce deforestation is that “parties are focusing all their energy arguing about the politics of who governs REDD+ finance, when the real issue is a lack of demand.”

This is according to Matt Leggett, head of policy at forest think-tank Global Canopy Programme, who also stated that “the program must create demand for nearly 1.5 billion tones of carbon dioxide equivalent to cut deforestation by half, but current projects are only set to cut emissions by 160 million tones.”

Forest change in the United States 2000-2012. The US ranks 3rd globally in terms of net forest loss.  Image via Global Forest Change / Earth Energy Partners

Forest change in the United States 2000-2012. The US ranks 3rd globally in terms of net forest loss. (Canada ranks 4th.)
Image via Global Forest Change / Earth Energy Partners