Biodiversity ‘offsets’: are we ready or do we presume to know too much?

31 July 2013

As developable land close to existing infrastructure, resources and – importantly – money becomes increasingly scarce, the option of offsetting the loss of, for example, a wetland, might be “offset” against saving a wetland somewhere else, creating a wetland somewhere else or some permutation thereof.  As a result the term “biodiversity offset” is appearing in EIA-type discussions on an increasing basis.

Here follows an article that appeared on BBC news, reproduced with permission, and forms the first of a series of articles on this topic to be run by Droplets.

Government proposals would mean developers would have to pay compensation equal to any damage to habitats (Source: BBC News Science and Environment)

Government proposals would mean developers would have to pay compensation equal to any damage to habitats (Source: BBC News Science and Environment)

There’s slightly less of a whiff of BO down at the Department of the Environment these days.

Nothing to do with sweltering civil servants; this BO is the nose wrinkling acronym for biodiversity offsetting – a concept that has been criticised by some environmentalists as a licence to “trash” the countryside.

The government is very keen on the idea, the offsetting, that is, not the trashing.

But despite their interest, new proposals on offsetting have now been kicked into the autumnal long grass.

The idea of biodiversity offsetting works like this : Developers who want to build houses in environmentally sensitive areas would be allowed to go ahead with their schemes if they could offset any damage by paying for conservation activities in other locations.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) believes the idea can help grow the economy and improve the environment at the same time. Read more »

CyanoAlert winds to a close…

28 July 2013

In three days time the CyanoAlert service on this blog will come to an end after more than two years of reporting!  As we said at the outset, the purpose of CyanoAlert was to raise local awareness about nutrient enrichment in lakes, rivers and ponds and the threat of excessive and possibly toxic algal growth in such waters.  CyanoAlert has tracked how various countries address the problem, in particular the manner in which they report incidents in the press – and the various allied debates and issues.  From the responses received the original intentions have been met but – unfortunately – our sponsorship for the newsfeed service that we use has come to an end.

So,now to today’s reports: Read more »

Another dog death from algal poisoning

26 July 2013

The unfortunate death of a dog that came into contact with blue-green algae in a lake in Southampton (NY) has been reported.  In New Brunswick (Canada) the City of Moncton has had to again close the reservoir at the Irishtown Nature Park to all recreational uses due to the presence of blue-green algae.

With blue-green algae contaminating lakes nationwide, a Kansas State University toxicologist warns pet owners to understand the bacteria’s dangers for their pets and for themselves. Blue-green algae produce toxins that are hazardous to humans and can be fatal in animals, particularly dogs, said Deon van der Merwe, associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology. Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, grow in bodies of water, such as lakes and ponds, and other wet places, such as moist soil or rocks.

“Essentially anywhere there is water, you can find blue-green algae,” said van der Merwe, who also manages the toxicology section of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Blue-green algae develop when water has excess nutrients, which helps cyanobacteria grow rapidly and creates an algae bloom. Discolored water or algal scum can be signs of an algae bloom, which can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Cyanobacteria need sunlight to grow because they are photosynthesizing organisms, van der Merwe said.


More algal warnings posted for US and UK lakes

25 July 2013

Is it only in South Africa that morons like this get driver's licences?

Is it only in South Africa that morons like this get driver’s licences?

Algal blooms have been reported for the following locations:

Atchison’s Warnock Lake in Kansas.

State officials recently detected dangerous levels of toxic blue-green algae in the lake.  Blue-green algae is a bacteria caused from a nutrient overload in the water. Ponds and lakes that are downstream from farming areas are often impacted. “Factor in shallow water, lack of circulation, warm temperatures, it all helps it,” [an official] added. The health department issued a public health warning for the lake until the algae clears out, which could take several weeks or months. Read more »

South African industry has not yet grasped the full extent of the water crisis threat

24 July 2013

A report by the National Business Initiative (NBI) has revealed that 70% of companies who responded to a survey have experienced financial constraints due to water issues.  These issues remain focussed on water scarcity and continue to be apparently ignorant of the dual threat of too little water that is of dubious quality.  Time will tell if industry will grasp the reality in time (search for Water Crisis on this blog for more information).  Simple Math = (you have 100 liters of water but if 40 liters are polluted, how much do you actually have to use without added cost and effort?).  Taking the arguments further, see the numbers about trying to supply water to South Africa’s latest expense account, the Medupi power station. Read more »

Algal blooms reported for 16 US states so far this summer

23 July 2013

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 17.24.57

So far this summer, and its not over yet, sixteen states in the USA have reported problems with potentially-toxic algae in their lakes! (see map).

Lake Nipissing makes a return to CyanoAlert again this year – with cyanobacteria found in Musky Bay.  A first to this blog, though, is a report for Craigavon Lakes in Ireland – where the report says high concentrations of algal cells have been detected! Read more »

Global water risk map released

20 July 2013


WRI's Aqueduct water risk mapping project

WRI’s Aqueduct water risk mapping project (

The World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct Project has released an interactive map of various categories of water risk around the world.  Per the launch information,

The project, created with an alliance of companies including GE, Goldman Sachs, Shell, and Procter & Gamble, is the highest high-resolution map of global water stress available today. It’s also the first water-risk mapping tool to include a layer for groundwater data. WRI’s free map uses 2010 data (the most current data available) to measure a number of categories of water risk around the world: physical risk; variability in available water from year to year, which looks at flood occurrences (how often and how intense); severity of droughts (how long and how severe), groundwater stress, pollution pressure, demand for water treatment, media coverage about water issues (meaning how much attention is given to water in a given area), and more. Read more »

Biggest algal bloom ever hits Biscayne Bay

20 July 2013

The Miami Herald reports that

An algae bloom has hit Biscayne Bay and it is possibly one of the biggest in history.  The algae bloom apparently poses no health risks to people, but according to a report by CBS4 news partner, The Miami Herald, it has left the bay smelling like a Porta-Potty. So far, the paper reports no fish kills either. Biologists are worried that if the algae bloom continues, it could damage sea grass beds which could disrupt the marine food chain.  Bob Branham, a top fishing guide with three decades experience poling fly-fishing clients across Biscayne Bay’s shallows, told the paper he’s never seen the bay this bad.

Here are some other algal warning reports for today – gleaned from Friday’s press reporting in the US and Canada (down here in the Southern H conditions are a tad chilly for blue-green algae, but they are still around!): Read more »

Algae close lots more recreational waters in the US

19 July 2013

States in the USA continue to be open and honest about which lakes might make you sick or kill your dog. Problems at popular summer recreation areas such as Lake Erie are having a big impact.   The beach at Bemus Point (NY) was closed yesterday.  Also in NY, algal issues plague the Finger Lakes area and at Redwood’s Butterfield Lake, Alexandria.   A warning has been posted for Horseshoe Pond, Merrimack, New Hampshire, as well as for Elbow Pond in Maryland.

In Florida, there are problems at Indian River and and the St Lucie Estuary.  Temperatures are warming up generally and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued warnings about the dangers of toxic algae in lakes and ponds.

In Canada, dog owners have been warned to stay clear of Bear Creek Lake.  I am not sure where Oxford County is but their Pittock Reservoir has been closed due to an algal bloom.  From Woolwich Reservoir  (Ontario) comes some news about people who became ill after swimming there.

Note To Droplets Readers:  The CyanoAlert and related articles carried by Droplets will terminate at the end of July due to funding constraints. Apologies to all our regular readers but this is beyond our control.

Algae closing lots of beaches

18 July 2013

Starting in Kentucky (a first for Droplets I think) is a warning that algal blooms in the Rough River need to be avoided. A common visitor to Droplets is Lake Attitash – where contact with the lake water is to be avoided – a condition that started back in June.  In Maryland, Buzzards Bay is off-limits – as reported by the local health agent, Cynthia Coffin (yes, you read it right). Read more »