Biodiversity Offsetting – lose a wood, gain a wood

Some positive thoughts here on the increasingly controversial biodiversity offsetting approach to planning. The key aspect to stress from this post is ‘local’. Local systems, local offsetting, local partnerships, local responsibility and local biodiversity. Personally I am not a big fan of biodiversity offsetting as a concept (as you can see in a previous article of mine regarding national parks). However, if it is going ahead (and it seems likely at this point in time that it will) we can at least approach the system in a way that ensures locality at the centre of negotiations. Biodiversity frameworks often work on small levels within a bigger frame, not the other way around. To mitigate habitat loss on the outskirts of Bradford by planting a woodland in the Canary islands does not cut the biscuit from my point of view. Habitat mitigation must be specific and controlled, something I fear will not come about as the campaign seems to be led by politicians who have already made up their minds and developers who are seeking an easy route to planning regulations.

Woodland Matters

Where should any new habitat go?

The fundamental principle underpinning the concept of biodiversity offsetting is that when a planning decision is made that involves loss of habitat, there will be compensatory habitat created or restored somewhere else.

But (putting aside the questionable planning decision-making process) one of the key questions as a result of this decision is; what determines where that habitat is created or restored?

If we start at the extremes: habitat loss in the UK should not be offset overseas. Just because the Government has committed to supporting biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories does not mean that we should be replacing trees lost in Kent by planting a new wood in St Helena. We have been reassured by Defra that offsetting internationally has been taken off the table, but of course we are not complacent so we are still lobbying on this point and…

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Can we make nature exciting?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWqrbYwn7K4&feature=player_detailpage This post was my first to be published at activisionary, a new independent group focusing upon environmental writing within which I am volunteering as an environmental journalist. Take a look at their site and my first article here. The automatic response to the posing of the above question may be one of disbelief for … Continue reading Can we make nature exciting?

Owen Paterson speaks out as being pro GM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=wZelfUZ-mc0 'GM a safe, proven and beneficial innovation'? I wonder if the secretary of State, who is meant to be representing my interests, is really speaking for the best interests of the British and European public here or is he speaking for a multinational industry determined to push into Europe? Where is the evidence that … Continue reading Owen Paterson speaks out as being pro GM

Seeking sustainable crops

I’m a strong believer that we need to be innovative. I’m a GM sceptic but all the same welcome this posting on support of researching new crop varieties.

Science on the Land

Elisabeth Braw at the Guardian tells us about the search for sustainable crops. She says that we in the rich world focus too much on a tiny number of staple food species. But ‘at one time during the past 10,000 years, [people] used some 30,000 plants.’

Now some scientists are taking a good look at neglected (orphan) crops. For example, many people grow and eat pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) but outside the topics, we ignore those crops too often. There’s growing interest in more nutritious (biofortified) varieties of them. Varieties such as the selectively bred Iron-Rich Pearl Millet and the genetically modified (GM, genetically engineered, GE) African Biofortified Sorgum. Ms Braw doesn’t seem very impressed by GM. But that GM sorghum reminds us that biotech is still being used to develop crop varieties.

I’m grateful to my fellow blogger at

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Gleason Ranch: Risking Everything

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=IP3zeyCvxjo This short clip advertises a documentary following the lives of the people running a 5th generation family ranch. Illustrating the harsh realities of real life farming and real life struggles I encourage you to read more about the story at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gleason-ranch-risking-everything/.

Wolves Dogs and Sheep

some interesting statistics here…

a new nature blog

Old_English_Sheep_Dog

Where’s the wolf Fido?

By User:Squigman (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I used to be quite good at statistics, but that was a very long time ago. Now I marvel at my colleagues at Footprint Ecology, who painlessly manipulate huge datasets, often with complex spatial elements to them.

But here are some simple statistics that I can get my head around, from the June Agricultural Census . There are 32 million sheep and lambs in the UK. This is a staggering figure – but what is even more amazing (to me anyway) is that the UK has the largest number of sheep in the EU – by quite a long way. Next biggest sheep producer is Spain then the rest are way behind (2o1o figures).

Nearly 100,000ha of “sole right rough grazing”, that is mostly upland grazings of heathland and acid grassland, has disappeared from the statistics in…

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Is the farmer’s job to produce more and more food?

The idea for writing this particular blog post sprouted from an article on Farmers Weekly by Matthew Naylor available here. The article encourages debate on what the role of the farmer actually is. Naylor writes: ''Decades of discussion about grain mountains, subsidies, biodiversity, diffuse pollution and food flavour have obscured the main function of a … Continue reading Is the farmer’s job to produce more and more food?