Man’s relentless expansion threatens drylands as well as wetlands

31 October 2014

Photo: Bill Harding

Photo: Bill Harding

Mediterranean land degradation threatens food security 

Climate change, tourism and population growth are all accelerating land degradation in the Mediterranean region, according to recent research. This can have severe impacts: the amount of available agricultural land per capita in the region could have dropped by half by 2020, compared with 1961, the study estimates.

The Mediterranean region covers about 850 million hectares in 22 countries across Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Its 46 000 km coastline is ecologically important: 1 million hectares of wetlands provide crucial ecosystem services, including water purification and carbon sequestration, which have been valued at €2.4 million per year. Around 14% of land is agricultural, although this figure rises to 34.4% in the eight Mediterranean countries that were part of the EU in 2012 (Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal1, Slovenia and Spain).

These important land resources and ecosystem services are being lost to urbanisation and degradation. The study presents information on the current status of the Mediterranean’s land resources and considers the region’s future prospects. Read more »

Eutrophication as big an issue in the sea as in freshwater

31 October 2014

Public views on Baltic eutrophication have important policy implications

Eutrophication, caused by nutrient release from human activities such as agriculture, industry and sewage disposal, is the most serious environmental problem faced by the Baltic Sea. A number of initiatives aim to reduce the flow of nutrients – particularly nitrogen and phosphorus – into the Baltic Sea. The most recent and ambitious of these is the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), which agreed on nutrient reduction targets for each of the nine Baltic coastal countries.

In addition to the BSAP, EU Member States bordering the Baltic Sea also have a legal responsibility to achieve ‘Good Ecological Status’ in coastal waters under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and ‘Good Environmental Status’ in marine waters under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). An important part of implementing these directives is involving the public, and other stakeholders, in management decisions. Read more »

Man continues to devastate his environment

21 October 2014

Mans environmental inhumanity

These days judicial punishments just don’t seem to fit the crime in South Africa.  Just recently (report) a farmer, who caused the poisoning of 46 endangered  Cape vultures, received a pathetic slap on the wrist – so once again no message is sent to others who might decide to try and “get away with it”.  On a more global scale, an article in the latest edition of Nature highlights the danger to European vultures caused by the use of anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals in stock animals (!)

 A huge decline in vulture numbers in India has been blamed on widespread use of an anti-inflammatory drug in cattle. Now Europe’s vultures could be headed the same way as India’s devastated population, with the first report of a death that is definitively linked to a similar drug. India’s vultures have suffered catastrophic declines since the 1990s, with populations of certain species such as Gyps indicus falling by more than 95%, and considered critically endangered. Scientists have blamed the drug diclofenac, which vets give to farm animals to treat conditions ranging from pneumonia to arthritis — but which can be deadly to vultures that feed on their carcasses as they are unusually sensitive to the compound.

WWF Living Planet Report suggests 76% decline in freshwater species globally since 1970s

3 October 2014

Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)

Global populations of freshwater mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish have declined by 76% since the 1970s, according to a new WWF report released today.  The Living Planet Report measured the populations of 10,000 representative species across the world between 1970-2010, a method termed the Living Planet Index.

The results are startling and significant.  Global populations of all wildlife – from land, freshwater and sea – have dropped by over half since 1970 – a dramatic fall in less than one human lifetime. Read more »