PhD student at Bournemouth University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences
particles 1 µm-5 mm, are a relatively recent global stressor instigated
by rapid human population growth and a consequent reliance on plastics.
Particles originate from cosmetic products
and the gradual breakdown of larger plastics and eventually reach water
courses through surface runoff, wind dispersal and waste outflows.
Microplastics are known to impact a range of aquatic organisms,
impairing feeding, physiological and reproductive functions,
with potentially detrimental consequences for biodiversity and
conservation. Whilst many plastics pass through freshwaters, and then
pass on to marine systems, the dynamics and consequences of freshwater
microplastic are currently poorly understood.
funded project will therefore address existing knowledge gaps by
quantifying the impacts of microplastics on focal freshwater fish and
invertebrate taxa. Using novel field research (year 1)
and laboratory experiments (years 2-3), I will investigate the
individual and community impacts of microplastics on fish, including
their disruptions to host-parasite systems.
Sir David Attenborough has stated that he is more encouraged about the future health of the Earth. This is due to a “worldwide shift” in attitudes about concern for the natural world and the damage humans are causing.
He states “The effect human beings are having on the natural world is profound. We are having a great damaging effect. Because we are out of touch with the natural world in a way that we weren’t 2oo years ago that means most of us don’t see the effect we are having. What is more, we don’t understand the processes of the natural world, which makes natural history broadcasting of crucial importance to the future of humanity.”
A recent assessment of cricket and grasshopper species in Europe has shown that up to 25% are facing extinction. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the group Orthoptera, which includes Grasshoppers, Crickets and Bush Crickets, is the most threatened group assessed so far. An estimated 1000 species of Crickets and Grasshoppers are found in Europe. They play a vital role in grassland ecosystems; many species of birds and reptiles feed on them. The main factor contributing to decline is habitat loss due to wildfires, tourism and intensive farming. Many species are confined to small areas due to the break up of their natural habitats; for example the Crau Plain Grasshopper has been confined to the steppes on Southern France.
So what can be done in order to protect these insects? According to research from the IUCN Global Species Programme, more effort must be put into restoring the habitats of these insects in order to increase population size. This can be achieved using sustainable grassland management by employing traditional agricultural practices. It is imperative that these insects are saved from extinction, not only because they are very important biodiversity indicators, but also they are an integral part of grassland ecosystems.
The Common Bittern, Botaurus stellaris, a shy, secretive relative of the heron, was once extinct in the UK, however the bird has made a massive comeback over the years. Bittern numbers are now at their highest recorded numbers in the UK.
The bittern lives mostly in reed beds and is rarely seen due to the superbly camouflaged streaked plumage, which blends perfectly with the environment. However, the male’s booming call can be used to identify the presence of bitterns, and so researchers have been able to count these birds.
This year, the breeding population has been at it’s highest since the 1800s, with 140 singing males seen, compared to 11 in 1997. Somerset has the largest bittern population, with 20 males located at Ham Wall nature reserve,
According to the RSPB, one factor contributing to UK population increase in bitterns is due to restoration of quarries, which has helped bitterns to thrive. The bittern is still on the RSPB’s red list, but the development of these restored quarries is expected to increase the UK’S bittern population in the future.
According to an annual UK wildlife survey carried out by the BBC Gardener’s World Magazine, there has been a decline in hedgehog sightings across the country. 51 percent of the 2600 participants did not see any hedgehogs in 2016, compared to 48 percent in 2014. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) stated that one of the major components contributing towards hedgehog decline in the UK is habitat loss and fragmentation, an ever increasing problem in urban environments.
So, what can be done to save the hedgehog? There are several actions people can take to help hedgehogs thrive again. Creating a wild corner in the garden, letting grass grow tall and encouraging the growth of native plants such as Meadow Foxtail, Cock’s-foot and Ox Eye Daisy will encourage insect life and with it hedgehogs. Breaking down barriers presented by gardens by making small holes at the bottom of fences helps hedgehogs to travel in between gardens, and leaving extra food such as meat-based pet food, mealworms or raisins will encourage hedgehogs, and this is particularly important during cold winter months when invertebrate prey is scarce.
Citizen science and volunteering is an important part of conservation and heritage.
There are many ways you can get involved in projects, and many volunteer oppourtunities to suit whatever level of involvement you want. RSPB have put together a list of ways you can help that take under an hour: http://www.rspb.org.uk/joinandhelp/volunteering/micro.aspx
And if you have more time to give there are many other projects run through RSPB and other conservation and heritage organisation that will always appreciate your involvement.
A chance to see a lesser known site (Hampshire County Council land) in the Meon Valley with good flora and fauna. Looking out for Brimstone and Orange Tip butterflies and other early butterflies and moths.
Meet at 10.30am in Lovedean Lane, Grid ref: SU690143, nearest postcode PO8 0TG.
Leave the A3(M) at Junction 2, taking the B2149 towards Horndean
Pass Morrison’s and keep ahead into Catherington Lane
Turn left at Roads Hill and then right into Lovedean Lane
Park in Lovedean Lane
For more information, or if you would like to attend, please contact the Leader: Ashley Whitlock, tel: 02392 731266 or mobile: 07752 182340
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Trust have a monthly club for 12-18 year olds to do practical conservation, bushcraft and wildlife identification.
So get outside, learn new skills and improve your wildlife knowledge whilst having fun at Testwood Lakes!
No need for parental accompaniment but all young people must have completed a parental consent form. Booking essential.