14 New Northants Local Wildlife Sites

harebellFollowing survey work by the Wildlife Trust last summer 14 new Local Wildlife Sites have been recognised across Northamptonshire. Despite the wet weather, and alongside a troup of volunteers, I surveyed over 70 sites across the county, including existing and potential new wildlife sites. The results were great news with the many of the existing sites in good condition and 14 new sites discovered – not bad for a county recently described by a Plantlife report as ‘botanically luckless’.

The new sites included a number of acid grasslands (a perfectly safe but rare Northants habitat that is important for insects and reptile and birds), wildflower meadows, a species rich road verge and the counties only remaining sphagnum bog. These are a mixture of new discoveries that have eluded surveyors in past years (it’s amazing how well wildflower meadows can hide away in lesser visited parts of the county), combined with sites that have developed through wildlife friendly management, the latter showing that the hard work by conservation organisations, landowners and famers in recent years is really paying off!

I may be biased but Local Wildlife Sites (aka County Wildlife Sites in Beds and Cambs) make a vital but often unrecognised contribution to our counties wildlife. In fact they are the most important areas for wildlife outside of legally protected sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). They come in a range of shapes and sizes and include wildflower meadows, ancient woodlands, wetlands, churchyards, old quarries and roadside verges. As the name suggest they are hugely important for our local wildlife, with a wealth of species depending on these sites, including many rare plants, insects and mammals. With the recent additions there are now 754 Local Wildlife Sites across Northamptonshire – so plenty of surveying to keep me busy, fingers crossed for a drier summer this year!

But it’s not all about surveying. As well as identifying and monitoring all important wildlife habitats across the county through a periodic surveying programme, there is a second important reason for running the Wildlife Site system. That’s to help land managers to maintain or improve their sites for wildlife, by providing free advice and information to landowners on managing these sites. In Northants 37% of Local Wildlife Sites are classed as being positively managed for wildlife, a number that has gone up annually since we started monitoring this in 2009, another positive for our wildlife!

However, that leaves many sites in need of improved management. This has led to the, SITA-funded project, Inspiring Meadows, an exciting project which is restoring wildflower meadow sites through working with landowners by offering free wildlife surveys and management advice, as well as funding for practical work to restore meadow habitats and help long-term management. Work over the winter has included fencing and providing access to water at seven sites, allowing better management through conservation grazing and I’m looking forward to seeing the benefits of the work this summer.

If you are not already help us continue this great work in Northamptonshire by becoming a member of your local Trust. (Source – WTBCN)

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100 GW of Solar PV Now Installed in the World Today

416138_347722131972086_1739595764_oCumulative global installed solar PV capacity has topped the 100-gigawatt (GW) milestone, according to preliminary numbers from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). Roughly 30 GW worldwide was connected to the grid in 2012, about the same as in 2011; there could be another 1-2 GW added to that 2012 total once final numbers come out in May.

Note these are defined as “systems connected to the grid” to emphasize the electricity-generation theme. Europe’s 69 GW of total installed capacity is enough to produce roughly 2.6% of the region’s electricity demand this year, and about 5.2% of peak electricity demand, according to the EPIA.

There’s another important milestone in the EPIA’s tally of solar PV. Countries outside of Europe connected 13 GW, up from 8 GW in 2011 and just 3 GW in 2010; at the same time Europe’s PV installations fell from 23 GW in 2011 to 17 GW in 2012, its first decline since 2006.

The table below spells it out. Eight nations added at least a gigawatt of grid-connected capacity in 2012: Germany, China, Italy, the U.S., Japan, France, the U.K., and India. Thirteen nations (up from 8 in 2011) are in the gigawatt-club of cumulative solar installations: Germany, Italy, the U.S., China, Japan, Spain, France, Belgium, Australia, the Czech Republic, the U.K., Greece, and India.

“No one would have predicted even 10 years ago that we would see more than 100 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity in the world by 2012,” stated EPIA President Winfried Hoffmann. Despite tough economic times and regulatory uncertainty, “the results of 2012 show there is a strong global market for our technology,” he said. “The key going forward will be to address these new market challenges and continue policies that help PV technology to grow sustainably, continuing its evolution to a mainstream electricity source.”

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Largest markets, with at least 100-MW installed during 2012 or in total. (Source: EPIA)

Some countries are worth highlighting for their solar adoption even in the face of less than friendly regulatory environments. France and the UK, for example, each installed over 1 GW of solar capacity in 2012; Greece installed just shy of 1 GW during its crippling economic recession. “That shows how much potential there is there even in face of policy adversity,” observed Craig Winneker, head of political communications at the EPIA. Moreover, France represents the positive influence of policy changes toward solar energy adoption, having recently announced an unexpected boost in its support for solar. “France is now singing a different tune” after a change in the political scene in 2012, he said. China, meanwhile, continues to be a strong market, basically doubling its capacity in 2012.

Policy decisions cut both ways, though. Spain’s market famously overheated and then overreacted to the overheating, and now the government has basically implemented a moratorium on any support for the technology, connecting just 200 MW of solar in 2012, notes the EPIA: “The long-expected net-metering scheme was never introduced, and there are doubts as to whether it ever will be, given the government’s fear of creating another boom.” Nevertheless, Spain remains “an obvious place” for solar energy to proliferate given its high irradiation and ideal land setting for the technology, added Winneker. Another start-stop solar market, the Czech Republic, installed 116 MW in 2012, similarly well off its levels from 2009-2010; they, too, “had their foot too heavily on the gas, and then hit the brakes too hard,” he said.

What can we expect for 2013 solar PV installations? Another 30 GW or even more is entirely possible, the EPIA says, with 10-15 GW of grid-connected solar installations in Europe “in line with the market reality.” Germany should see more self-consumption in residential and commercial markets (especially with new energy storage incentives) and declining PV system prices, but likely won’t achieve close to 7+ GW of grid-connection. Italy could see similar market trends as Germany, at a smaller scale. Broadly, the shift of solar PV adoption away of Europe will continue; China is likely to unseat Germany as the top PV market with its target of 10 GW this year, and big growth is expected to continue — and continues to be expected — in the U.S., Japan, and India.

Source – http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/

EU Proposes to Ban Insecticides Linked to Bee Decline

Damian on bees : Bees flys over a sunflower in a sunflower field in Lopburi provinceInsecticides linked to serious harm in bees could be banned from use on flowering crops in Europe as early as July, under proposals set out by the European commission on Thursday, branded “hugely significant” by environmentalists. The move marks remarkably rapid action after evidence has mounted in recent months that the pesticides are contributing to the decline in insects that pollinate a third of all food.

Three neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticides, which earn billions of pounds a year for their manufacturers, would be forbidden from use on corn, oil seed rape, sunflowers and other crops across the continent for two years.

It was time for “swift and decisive action”, said Tonio Borg, commissioner for health and consumer policy, who added that the proposals were “ambitious but proportionate”.

The proposals will enter EU law on 25 February if a majority of Europe’s member states vote in favour. France and the Netherlands are supportive but the UK and Germany are reported to be reluctant.

“It’s important that we take action based upon scientific evidence rather than making knee-jerk decisions that could have significant knock-on impacts,” said the environment secretary, Owen Paterson. “That’s why we are carrying out our own detailed field research to ensure we can make a decision about neonicotinoids based on the most up-to-date and complete evidence available.”

Luis Morago, at campaign group Avaaz which took an anti-neonicotinoid petition of 2.2m signatures to Brussels, said: “This is the first time that the EU has recognised that the demise of bees has a perpetrator: pesticides. The suspension could mark a tipping point in the battle to stop the chemical armageddon for bees, but it does not go far enough. Over 2.2 million people want the European commission to face-down spurious German and British opposition and push for comprehensive ban of neonicotinoid pesticides.”

Keith Taylor, Green party MEP for South East England MEP, said: “For too long the threat to bees from neonicotinoids has been dismissed, minimised or ignored. It is, therefore, good to see the European commission finally waking up. Bees have enormous economic value as pollinators and are vital to farmers. Let us hope that we’re not too late in halting the dramatic decline in their population.”

Scientific evidence has mounted rapidly since March 2012, when two high-profile studies found that bees consuming neonicotinoids suffered an 85% loss in the number of queens their nests produced and showed a doubling in “disappeared” bees who got lost while foraging. Neonicotinoids have been fiercely defended by their manufacturers, who claim there is no proof of harm in field conditions and by farming lobbies who say crop yields could fall without pesticide protection. Some neonicotinoid uses have been banned in the past in France, Italy, Slovenia and Germany, but no action has yet been taken in the UK. A parliamentary committee is currently investigating the impact of neonicotinoids on all pollinators and found evidence raising “serious questions about the integrity, transparency and effectiveness of EU pesticides regulation”.

On 16 January, the European Food Safety Authority, official advisers to the EC, labelled the three neonicotinoids an unacceptable danger to bees feeding on flowering crops and this prompted the proposal produced on Thursday. If approved by experts from member states on 25 February, it would suspend the use imidacloprid and clothianidin, made by Bayer, and thiamethoxam, made by Syngenta, on crops that attract bees. Winter cereals would be excluded, because bees are not active at that time, and the suspension would be reviewed after two years. The European commission is also considering banning gardeners from using these neonicotinoids, although B&Q, Homebase and Wickes have already withdrawn such products from their garden centres in the UK.

“This hugely significant proposal promises a first, important step on the road to turning around the decline on our bees,” said Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton. “The UK government must throw its weight behind it. The evidence linking neonicotinoid chemicals to declining bee populations is growing. It is time to put farmers and nature before pesticide company profits. Ministers must act quickly to support safe and effective alternatives to chemical insecticides.”

Source – The Guardian