Flooding has been in the news again, and for many unfortunate people it has been in their homes! You can use this map to find out the flood risk where you live, and check here for the latest flood alerts. You can also monitor the river level in Lewes at this page.
UK Government policy acknowledges that climate change is increasing the risk of flooding, but are we doing enough to protect the ecosystem services that could mitigate some of this risk? Here is a quote from a recent report by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
Natural flood risk management involves working with natural processes to reduce flood risk and damage. It involves working at the catchment scale and concerns the alteration, restoration or use of landscape features; mechanisms include storing water using landscape features, increasing soil infiltration, and slowing water by interrupting and increasing resistance to its flow. Such measures may be able to reduce the height of downstream water levels during a flood, or delay the arrival of the peak of the flood. These measures, applied strategically, may also yield wider ecosystem service benefits such as enhancing water quality, habitat for wildlife, biodiversity, carbon capture, landscape and greenspace provision. When these benefits are taken into account, natural flood risk management may in some cases be the best option.
The World Forum on Natural Capital has been taking place in Edinburgh this week. The official website of the event is here.
BBC coverage of the event includes quotes from both Kering, the company that makes Gucci handbags, and the World Development Movement. Not surprisingly they have different views on the concept of natural capital. Kering is worried about the sustainability of the leather and precious metals used in its products, while WDM has labelled the idea as the Great Nature Sale.
The Open University has announced a free online course called An Introduction to Ecosystems starting on 18th November. The course description sounds very interesting:
If we don’t grasp why ecosystems function, it becomes harder to determine possible reasons for when they don’t, and makes it difficult to identify possible environmental threats to humans.
The 6-week course was mentioned at the recent Annual General Meeting of L&OVe, and some of our members decided to sign up. We plan to have a meeting in December where we will get together to discus what we have been learning and how this applies to the Lewes area.
Anybody else from the Lewes area who joins this course will be welcome to join our discussion, tentatively scheduled for the evening of 17th December. Details of the time and place will be posted here in due course. Meanwhile, please sign up for the course here.
The State of Natural Capital Report, published in April this year, was recently discussed in Parliament. Prepared by the Natural Capital Committee, an independent advisory body, the key messages of the report are:
Natural capital assets are in decline and these trends should be measured
Changes in natural capital should be properly included in national and corporate accounts.
Changes in natural capital should be properly valued and those values more effectively included in decision-making processes.
Stewardship of natural capital is good for growth
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and formerly leader of the Green Party helped to spark an interesting debate in Parliament on 21 October with her comments:
“Oscar Wilde famously spoke of those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. If valuing nature in the way suggested will halt the current decline of our precious wildlife and habitats, it is to be welcomed, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need very strong safeguards, including in the planning system, to ensure that by putting a pound sign on priceless ecosystems such as ancient woodlands we do not inadvertently open the door to their destruction?”
The Hasard transcript of the full debate can be read here, and further information about the work of the Natural Capital Committee is available here.
Look out for Plan Bee on the ITV Tonight Programme, this evening at 7:30 pm (18 July)
It’s estimated that bees contribute £500 million annually to the British economy. And it’s not just about honey, because we rely on bees to pollinate around 75% of our food crops. Without bees and other pollinating insects, we’d struggle to produce many of the foods we’ve grown to love – strawberries, apples pears, jams, even coffee.
If you can’t watch the ITV programme, the Sussex Wildlife Trust has some advice about bees in our gardens, while the Co-op has it’s own website for Plan Bee.
Rivers provide us with many ecosystem services. Chris Williams, the Marine Socio-Economics Coordinator at the new economics foundation, has produced a factsheet about the Thames. Click the image to open the file; here is an extract…
Provisioning services: we obtain products from ecosystems such as food, fibre and medicines; fish and shellfish in the case of the Thames.
Regulating services: we benefit from the results of ecosystem processes such as water purification, air quality maintenance and climate regulation, the Thames estuary plays a key part on those services.
Cultural services: we gain non- material benefits from our interaction with the natural environment such as education and wellbeing, the Thames provides a sense of history, a place to learn and to enjoy
Supporting services: functions that are necessary for the production of other ecosystem services from which we benefit, such as soil formation and nutrient cycling, which are also key features of rivers and estuaries such as the Thames.
Here is something we have been waiting for: a major study of the ecosystem services provided by the South Downs!
Natural England is currently preparing profiles for England’s 159 National Character Areas (NCAs). These are areas that share similar landscape characteristics. The South Downs are NCA #125, and the report for this area has just been published. The pdf file can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/15ChSFR
Especially valuable, the ‘Opportunities’ section of this report provides 52 examples of how ecosystem services can be improved in the South Downs area. Some of these suggestions are very broad, while others are very specific. Here are five example…
Connecting historic ancient chalk grassland sites to improve their durability and permeability, benefiting the species plants and invertebrates
Exploring opportunities to restore natural marshland areas and to enhance the overall ecological quality of grazing marsh grasslands.
Broadening the South Downs Way National Trail as a semi-natural corridor and improving the natural qualities of the route.
Promoting a range of sustainable land management incentives, including creating areas of conservation headlands and winter stubbles supporting threatened arable wildflowers and farmland birds (such as the turtle dove) on the cereal-dominated dip slope, in support of the South Downs Farmland Bird Initiative.
Maintaining, conserving and enhancing the area’s distinctive historic architecture and traditional buildings which have details such as knapped flint, cobbles, brick quoins and timber framing, and which use locally produced bricks and have roofs of tile, slate or thatch.
Download the report to read the full list of suggestions for improving the benefits we get from the South Downs.