Illegal wildlife trade, it’s not all rhinos and elephants

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Global cooperation is needed to reduce the trade in illegally collected plants (Stokpic Via Pixabay)

This month London hosted an international conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, highlighting fresh commitments and funding to reduce international trade in threatened animal and plant species. October also saw the annual CITES meeting where compliance issues with trade regulations laid out by CITES are discussed and resolved.

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Wasps – the good, the bad and the downright irritating

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A wasp taking a break from foraging to have a drink. Flensshot via Pixabay

Whether trying to cajole one out of your office or running for cover after it seems a little too interested in your food we have likely all encountered the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) more than once during this particularly wasp-heavy summer.  But did you know that this is just one of 9000 species of wasp found in the UK and without a microscope you’re unlikely to ever see the vast majority of them. You might also not know that they provide us with great ecological services including pollination of both our crops and wildflowers as well as controlling insect populations which spread human and agricultural diseases.

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Urban agriculture

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Urban farming has been on a steady increase for many years now as space for agriculture creeps closer to cities and consumers look to reconnect with what they eat. As well as appealing to the health and environmentally conscious market, these systems often seek to achieve community benefits; providing opportunities and education for disadvantaged and minority groups. The size and purpose of urban agricultural systems can range enormously, encompassing: allotments, vertical farming, agroparks and community gardens, ranging from subsistence to industrial sized operations.

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National Meadows Day 2018

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British wildflower meadows are a hive of biological diversity but have largely been lost due to conversion to agriculture. CC0 Couleur via Pixabay

 

National meadows day is an annual awareness event focussed around the first Saturday of July, but up and down the country activities took over the whole weekend. Traditionally managed British meadows are characterised by low soil fertility and actively managed cutting or grazing, supporting a range of colourful flowering species including the oxeye daisies seen in the picture above. These species rich meadows, which used to cover much of England’s countryside, were traditionally generated by farmers managing for hay and pasture. Ironically these important habitats have now largely been eradicated by modern agriculture. In recognition of this fact there are now numerous conservation projects and financial incentives in place to encourage the maintenance and regeneration of British Meadows. But with so many environmental schemes and species vying for position in British conservation why are meadows so important and how can agriculture help? Continue reading

The view from above

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Remote sensing means soon we may be able to detect plant diseases before visual symptoms occur. CC0: ulleo Via Pixabay

We might not all be comfortable with the idea of unmanned drones, or government satellites scanning all corners of the earth but the data produced from these constant eye-in-the-skys is proving ever more useful in today’s environmental struggles. Continue reading

The palm oil debate continues

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Palm oil fruits. Image credit: tristantan via Pixabay (CC0)

 

Nowadays palm oil has become ubiquitous as an ingredient across our supermarket shelves, from peanut butter to crackers it is in almost everything. It is also found in nearly half of all household products in developed countries. However, this is a relatively recent trend and given that the demand has increased so quickly, you have to wonder how it is being supplied at such a rate. Continue reading

To bee or not to bee

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Honeybee on apple blossom. Image Credit: Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay (CC0)

This Sunday the UK celebrated World Bee Day (May 20th); the first year of the now to be annual UN awareness event aimed at increasing our sensitivity to the global importance and increasing struggle of pollinators. Whilst the event hopes to increase understanding of pollinators generally, including butterflies, moths, birds and bats, the focus is strongly on wild and managed bees for their economic importance. And justly so; bees visit over 70 crops in the UK alone and are worth billions worldwide in the pollination service they provide. However, it would be difficult to miss the worryingly-frequent headlines warning of bee decline both in the UK and globally as a result of human activities.

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