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Thank you for your continued interest in our work and we look forward to hearing your views on the new website.

Posted in CERF News and Events | Leave a comment

Plastic pollution developments

  • © epSos.de @ www.flickr.com

    © epSos.de @ http://www.flickr.com

    Though plastic waste in the oceans is a well known issue, there are new developments suggesting that some plastics may be more dangerous for marine life than others. For example, ‘rubbery’ plastics consistently absorb more organic toxins than ‘glass-like’ plastics.

  • Another study revealed microplastics in the gut of ten species of fish from the English Channel. The quantities of plastic ingested were very low and further studies are needed to determine the rate of accumulation, behaviour in the digestive tract and if there are harmful effects for the fish.
  • A new research vessel devoted to the study of marine plastics is being developed with the aim of filling knowledge gaps about plastic pathways and degradation in the ocean. It is hoped the studies conducted from the ‘Spindrift’ will help to target ocean clean-up efforts, ensuring our responses are targeted and effective.

Implications and next steps: The ideal situation would be waste prevention and the elimination of plastic entering the ocean, in line with the Waste Prevention Programme for England. Continued investigation into alternatives to plastic would be beneficial, particularly for products/ applications that have a high chance of entering the marine environment.

Science for Environment Policy: http://tinyurl.com/cqd6qtf, Environmental Science and Technology: http://tinyurl.com/l5gtrm8, Green Car Congress: http://tinyurl.com/lexz5jj, Science for Environment Policy: http://tinyurl.com/kzllwks, Marine Pollution Bulletin: http://tinyurl.com/mcggefy

Posted in Oceans, Marine Life and Fisheries | Leave a comment

Light pollution may give urban birds an advantage

  • © AntoGros @ flickr.com

    © AntoGros @ flickr.com

    City blackbirds are becoming reproductively mature earlier than rural birds, which is thought to be due to artificial light at night.

  • Humans have the ability to avoid light pollution to some extent by closing curtains or using eye-masks, but urban wildlife is unable to avoid night-time light.
  • Researchers tracked wild birds from city populations and from rural populations and then placed them under controlled laboratory conditions. Male blackbirds from the city were reproductively mature almost a full month prior to country birds. The breeding season for this species is approximately three to four months long so a head-start of a month is likely to be significant for urban blackbirds.
  • Although the affect of altered light cues have been recognised and utilized in the past (e.g. to increase egg production in chickens), this study indicates just how sensitive birds can be to light-based cues as impacts were observed at light intensities 20 times less than that emitted by a single street light.

Implications and next steps: This study indicates that urban light pollution is altering environmental cues in birds and having impacts which may be of interest for street lighting policy and lighting policy in the planning regime. There may also be implications of human-induced lighting for urban wildlife other than birds.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: http://tinyurl.com/brk9cea; Discover: http://tinyurl. com/cr3qgh2

Posted in Demographics and Urbanisation | Leave a comment

The risks of an ocean full of jelly

  • CERF Futures - Jellyfish image

    (C) liakapelke @ http://www.flickr.com

    Overfishing is reducing the number of predators in the oceans, thus allowing for an explosion of prey species, such as jellyfish. The jellyfish blooms prey on fish eggs and larvae and are a significant cause of fish mortality. The impact of jellyfish on fisheries is an important though seldom studied subject.

  •  Jellyfish can clog equipment ranging from fishing gear to the cooling system of coastal energy plants and industry.
  •  A number of suggestions about how to deal with jellyfish blooms have been put forward, including catching and preserving the jellyfish for the Chinese food market, utilizing jellyfish chemicals to make medicines or using cutting nets to kill them.

Implications and next steps: Jellyfish blooms can be taken as a sign of overfishing and an indicator of the health of the marine food chain. Their prevalence is a visual reminder of the danger of exploiting fish stocks at unsustainable levels. In the meantime, it may be possible to develop viable markets for jellyfish making it worthwhile for fishermen to take advantage of periodic abundance.

Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations: http://tinyurl.com/m5swxlk, http://tinyurl.com/kt4hbwf, Foreign Policy: http://tinyurl.com/ksc3yo8

Posted in Oceans, Marine Life and Fisheries | Leave a comment

Towers to convert sound into energy

  • Image credits to Evolo and ((Soundscraper)) at http://www.evolo.us/competition/

    Image credits to Evolo and ((Soundscraper)) at http://www.evolo.us/competition/

    In urban environments noise pollution presents a considerable hazard to inhabitants. At the recent Skyscraper Competition the company eVolo presented a novel design that takes advantage of excess noise pollution by converting sound waves into energy.

  • Dubbed the Soundscraper, the proposed design converts the kinetic potential of ambient noise into energy via sound sensors that cover the façade of the building. Road, pedestrian, construction and even aircraft noise can be converted to electrical energy which may be used to power the building or to feed excess electricity back into the grid system.
  • This concept represents a new urban interaction whereby waste space and noise are used to tackle multiple environmental issues. Another, more commercially advanced example, is the use of coloured glass imprinted with transparent solar cells able to convert sunlight into electricity.

Though the Soundscaper is conceptual it does present a novel approach to improving urban welfare while also extracting additional energy/environmental benefit. These types of multi-faceted solutions may be adopted elsewhere, for example green spaces that treat urban runoff or the use of green roofs to mitigate the heat island effect and to produce food. Future research strategies may wish to consider funding this type of ‘joined-up’ approach to urban planning and development.

Soundscraper: http://tinyurl.com/pn3cmgr, Coloured glass: http://tinyurl.com/p7z4hpx

Posted in Energy Supply and Demand | Leave a comment

Cat cafés

  • © Melanie Ko @ flickr.com

    © Melanie Ko @ flickr.com

    A Japanese phenomenon is set to arrive in London in the near future with the launch of a ‘cat café’, a place to eat and drink while interacting with resident cats.

  • The idea is that people living busy lives or those with small houses unsuitable for a pet can come and play with a cat. Many people work long hours and this provides an opportunity to unwind and bond with animals that urban residents may not otherwise be exposed to.
  • It is anticipated that people will pay to enter so they can stay as long as they like and become familiar with a cat.
  • Concerns about accidents occurring when animals are unsupervised will be alleviated by allowing those who can’t afford to pay the cover charge to volunteer overnight.
  • The initiative has been crowd-funded, with over £100,000 pledged to aid start-up of the cat café. This indicates a substantial amount of public support for the venture, perhaps sparking proliferation of more cat cafes as has been the case in Japan.

Implications and next steps: Whilst interaction with companion animals in a relaxed setting may offer positive impacts on the health and wellbeing of customers, there may be some possible environmental health implications with regard to food safety and food hygiene ratings. The cafés may also need to comply with duty of care provisions under the Animal Welfare Act (2006) by ensuring the environment in which the cats live complies with the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats (Defra 2009).

The Independent: http://tinyurl.com/aqotf3g; Metro: http://tinyurl.com/ag2r9k7

Posted in Demographics and Urbanisation | Leave a comment

Climate change and reptile sex

  • © platycryptus @ www.flickr.com

    © platycryptus @ http://www.flickr.com

    A recent study on turtle behaviour in response to temperature change has resulted in concern for the future of the North American painted turtle (Chrysemys picta). Soil temperature determines the sex of the turtle species, as is the case for a number of other types of reptile, influencing the sex ratio of the population. It is predicted that a temperature increase of 1°C will result in 100% of painted turtles being born female thus threatening survival of the species.

  • The study showed that female turtles can alter their behaviour by laying eggs earlier or later in the season, but it has been suggested that this change will not be enough to save the species.
  • There have been instances of using the effect of temperature to manipulate the sex of endangered reptile species in captivity for conservation purposes, such as the tuatara in New Zealand.

The UK contains a number of lizard and snake species that are classified as endangered. A warming climate may place pressure on these already struggling populations and may tip the number of other reptile species into the endangered zone, re-enforcing the role of the Climate Change Act 2008 in combatting global warming.

Posted in Climate, Environment and Biodiversity | Leave a comment