Posts Tagged ‘threat’

Nature Ramble

Aliens are on the March!


Warning as alien mussels found near Heathrow airport

Species that could devastate wetlands and ‘cost millions in tax and water bills’, identified as greatest single threat to UK wildlife

Mussels measure less than 5cm but breed so prolifically that their vast colonies can potentially cause flooding. Photograph: David Aldridge, Cambridge University/.

A type of mussel recently identified by scientists as the greatest single threat to Britain’s wildlife of any alien species has been found for the first time in a reservoir near Heathrow airport. Discovery of the quagga mussels at Wraysbury reservoir poses a severe threat to thousands of native animals and diverse habitats. They also disrupt water supplies by blocking pipes and causing flooding.

Although the molluscs, originally from the Ukraine, grow to less than 5cm long they breed so prolifically that their vast colonies attach to hard surfaces and are difficult to remove. They are threatening to block the water supply in Las Vegas after flourishing in Lake Mead and colonising the Hoover dam’s turbines.

Wildlife experts have described them as ecosystem engineers due to their capacity to filter water, which upsets the natural balance of the food web as they eat pollutants then turn them into concentrated toxic faeces which can poison drinking water for both wildlife and people.

The Wildlife and Wetland Trust, which made the discovery last week, said the non-native mussel was “the number one most dangerous alien species” and added that the threat to British wetlands could be devastating.

Jeff Knott, WWT’s head of conservation policy, said: “This is worrying, but entirely predictable. Quagga mussels are likely to indirectly cause suffering and death for hundreds of thousands of native animals, fish and plants and cost millions of pounds in tax and water bills to protect drinking water supplies.

“These tiny mussels can be devastating but look so innocuous, which is why it’s so difficult for boaters, anglers and other water users to avoid accidentally transferring them between water bodies when they latch on to their equipment. That’s why it’s so important for all water users to remember the motto ‘clean, check, dry’ when they pack up their equipment to help slow the spread.”

He said the devastating effect of the mussels is why the UK needs stronger controls on invasive species being brought into the country as prevention is far cheaper and more effective than trying to control an established infestation. “We need to protect the UK against the next invasive species,” he added.

A trust spokesman said the WWT’s London Wetland Centre, downstream from Wraysbury “is the sort of place [where] they’ll wreak havoc with the wildlife, if left unchecked”.

The spread of quagga mussels is often due to human activity as the adult bivalves, which can produce a million eggs a season, attach themselves to boats.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it would take action to tackle the threat. A spokesman said: “It is important that we take action to address the threats posed by invasive non-native species. They threaten the survival our own plants and animals and cost the economy at least £1.8bn a year

“We will be working closely with interested parties and our agencies to reduce the risk of the quagga mussel spreading any further. Users of our waterways can help with this by checking their equipment and keeping it clean and dry.”

Research by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in June described the molluscs as “the top ranking threat to our natural biodiversity”. It had predicted quagga mussels would arrive in the UK within the next five years.

Helen Roy, one of the scientists involved in the research, said that after looking at hundreds of species from all over the world the quagga mussel was the most likely to arrive and establish itself in the UK and pose a danger to biodiversity.

It can be hard to distinguish from the zebra mussel, another alien bivalve which is already widespread in England and Wales.

Source: TheGuardian

Monday Moaning

Man can’t help himself, he just keeps screwing up.

A new threat to the Ozone Layer has been discovered; well, four actually.

Mysterious new man-made gases pose threat to ozone layer

Dealing with the hole in the ozone layer has been one of the most successful international science projects

Scientists have identified four new man-made gases that are contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer.

Two of the gases are accumulating at a rate that is causing concern among researchers.

Worries over the growing ozone hole have seen the production of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases restricted since the mid 1980s.

But the precise origin of these new, similar substances remains a mystery, say scientists.

Lying in the atmosphere, between 15 and 30km above the surface of the Earth, the ozone layer plays a critical role in blocking harmful UV rays, which cause cancers in humans and reproductive problems in animals.

Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey were the first to discover a huge “hole” in the ozone over Antarctica in 1985.

The evidence quickly pointed to CFC gases, which were invented in the 1920s, and were widely used in refrigeration and as aerosol propellants in products like hairsprays and deodorants.

Remarkably, global action was rapidly agreed to tackle CFCs and the Montreal Protocol to limit these substances came into being in 1987.

A total global ban on production came into force in 2010.

Now, researchers from the University of East Anglia have discovered evidence of four new gases that can destroy ozone and are getting into the atmosphere from as yet unidentified sources.

The Halley Research Station in Antarctica, where the hole in the ozone layer was first discovered

Three of the gases are CFCs and one is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), which can also damage ozone.

“Our research has shown four gases that were not around in the atmosphere at all until the 1960s which suggests they are man-made,” said lead researcher Dr Johannes Laube.

The scientists discovered the gases by analysing polar firn, perennial snow pack. Air extracted from this snow is a natural archive of what was in the atmosphere up to 100 years ago.

Grim discovery

The researchers also looked at modern air samples, collected at remote Cape Grim in Tasmania.

They estimate that about 74,000 tonnes of these gases have been released into the atmosphere. Two of the gases are accumulating at significant rates.

“The identification of these four new gases is very worrying as they will contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer,” said Dr Laube.

“We don’t know where the new gases are being emitted from and this should be investigated. Possible sources include feedstock chemicals for insecticide production and solvents for cleaning electronic components.”

“What’s more, the three CFCs are being destroyed very slowly in the atmosphere – so even if emissions were to stop immediately, they will still be around for many decades to come,” he added.

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…and they don’t know where they are coming from. Unbelievable.

Sounds to me like they’d better find out pretty fast.

Just another example of man’s incompetence.



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