Posts Tagged ‘Patagonia’

A Country with a Conscience

Chile rejects huge hydro-electric project in Patagonia

Environmentalists say the hydro-electric project would have devastated the region’s ecosystem

The Chilean government has rejected what would have been the biggest energy project in the country’s history.

The HidroAysen project would have seen five huge dams built on two rivers in a beautiful part of Patagonia.

“This project has many aspects that were poorly thought out,” said Energy Minister Maximo Pacheco.

Environmentalists celebrated the decision, saying the project would have had a devastating impact on the area’s ecosystem.

“These giant dams would have put at risk the wilderness, traditional culture, and local tourism economy of this remarkable region,” said Amanda Maxwell, Latin America project director at the Natural Resources’ Defence Council.

Thousands of people had protested against the HidroAysen project.

Environment Minister Pablo Badenier said HidroAysen had made insufficient provision for those who would have been displaced, and the quantification of damage to the environment and wildlife were inadequate.

The companies behind the proposal, Spain’s Endesa and Chile’s Colbun, can appeal against the decision before an environmental court.

“Without HidroAysen, the country is starting to turn its back on hydroelectricity – the only real remedy to the continuing dependence on fossil fuels,” said Daniel Fernandez, the CEO of HidroAysen.

He described the move as a lost opportunity for Aysen, one of the most remote and under-developed areas of the country.

Source: BBC News

Nature Ramble

This week, something I have never considered.

So strange, in fact, that I marked it for a Nature Ramble the moment I read it.

More than 700 seals counted in Thames Estuary

Conservationists and volunteers record 708 grey and harbour seals in the first count carried out by air, land and water

Harbour seals near Whitstable, Kent. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

More than 700 seals have been spotted in the Thames Estuary in the first ever count carried out by air, land and water.

Conservationists and volunteers recorded 708 grey and harbour seals along the Thames in a survey stretching up the estuary to Tilbury, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said.

The survey involved recording seals spotted from boats, from the air or by teams on the ground investigating small creeks and rivers, with the GPS co-ordinates of sightings noted.

The aerial survey enabled researchers to count seals on the outer sandbanks of the estuary where colonies of up to 120 seals were recorded in remote and undisturbed spots away from people and boats.

Boats were used for surveying areas of the Medway and Swale estuaries, while researchers on foot were able to get to spots the boats could not reach.

It is the first such complete assessment of the seals in the Thames following a boat survey by ZSL last year.

The survey was timed to coincide with the annual seal moult, when harbour seals shuffle onto sandbanks to shed their coats and grow a new layer in time for the winter, making them easier to spot.

The scientists estimate there were around 500 harbour seals and 200 of the larger grey seals, although the exact figures need to be confirmed through further analysis.

ZSL’s conservation scientist Joanna Barker said: “We knew there were a lot of seals in the Thames but 708 is pretty incredible.

“In previous results there’s been a good few hundred in the Thames, but it’s great to have a figure we can use as a baseline.”

She said the survey would be repeated in future years, enabling scientists to see if numbers were increasing, staying the same or declining.

“Now we know the numbers and where they are, it can help with conservation,” she added.

The presence of so many seals is good news for the Thames Estuary, which was declared biologically dead in the 1950s as a result of heavy pollution, but has since largely recovered.

Barker said: “It’s a really good indicator because the seals are the top predators in the marine food chain, and it shows that the marine environment is relatively good and is producing enough food for the seals to eat.”

She added: “At the moment it seems we’ve got a healthy population in the Thames.”

But she warned there had been drastic declines in numbers of harbour seals recently across Scotland, and that seal populations elsewhere could be vulnerable.

The reasons for the declines are unclear but could be down to disease, climate change, the shifting of prey species and competition with grey seals.

With the declines in Scotland, the Thames’ harbour seals are a more important part of the overall European population, Barker said.

The ZSL study will produce the first complete count of harbour seals in the Thames and south east coast, which will help scientists accurately monitor the species to better understand and protect them, Barker said.

In addition to the survey, ZSL also runs a reporting scheme for members of the public who spot seals and other marine mammals in the Thames. Sightings have been recorded at Richmond, by the London Eye and at Canary Wharf.

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Comment:

Fancy that, seals on the River Thames. I have always associated seals with cold places, places with ice and snow. I was totally taken aback when I read this. Mind you, we get Magellan penguins in Rio de Janeiro, but we know that they are lost, forgot to get off the bus at Argentinian Patagonia.

 

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