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PostPosted: 13-11-2013 14:15    Post subject: Reply with quote

South Island duck extinct.
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PostPosted: 21-01-2014 08:28    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gin company steps in to save Sussex juniper
4:00am Tuesday 21st January 2014

Juniper, one of Britain’s oldest plants, is the key ingredient to one of the nation’s favourite drinks – gin and tonic.
However the gin-giving plant faces extinction in Sussex due to excessive rabbit grazing and a lack of habitat – leaving just a handful of them left in our countryside.

It’s also under threat from the new and deadly Phytophthora austrocedrae disease, which infects the plant through its roots and causes foliage reduction and death.

To help save the tiny surviving population of juniper plants on Steyning Coombe, drinks manufacturer No.3 London Dry Gin has given a £1,000 grant to Steyning Downland Scheme – a charity which cares for the plants at the site near Lancing.
The charity is working with international organisation Plantlife to help protect the plants and will use the cash to build protective fencing around the remaining few in the county.

Tim Wilkins, species recovery coordinator at Plantlife, said: “Juniper has been steadily declining over the last few decades and without action now, it actually faces extinction across West Sussex and much of lowland England within 50 years.
“Such a calamity would represent more than the loss of a single plant type – it supports more than 40 species of insect and fungus that cannot survive without it.
“Plantlife has launched various juniper conservation projects across the UK but, especially with this new disease threat, we’re absolutely thrilled that No.3 is bolstering our efforts in these ways.”

It is thought the remaining plants near Lancing are the only of their kind in the whole of West and East Sussex.
The Sussex Wildlife Trust said the last record it held of a juniper plant in East Sussex dated back to a single plant in Hadlow Down, near Uckfield, in 2008, and in Ringmer in 2001.
A spokeswoman said: “They were single plants which were probably planted so they wouldn’t have been able to breed.”

Despite this, No.3 London Dry Gin hopes its cash injection will preserve juniper’s future in West Sussex.
Mike Mackenzie, of No.3, said: “Juniper is very much at the heart of No.3, so it’s appropriate that we support Plantlife’s activities in these ways.
"Their work in this area of conservation is second to none and we’re hopeful of healthy days ahead for West Sussex’s juniper.”

See also:
'Rare' Lizard juniper plant reintroduction hope by conservationists
By Chris Ellis, BBC News Online, South West

Conservationists hope to save an "extremely rare" plant which is only found in the wild in the UK in one valley in Cornwall.

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What a Cad!
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PostPosted: 12-03-2014 08:47    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, review
The havoc humans have wreaked on our fellow species may be our undoing
By Philip Hoare
6:00PM GMT 11 Mar 2014

In the aftermath of the recent storms that have done so much to reshape the soft coast of southern England, I found a dead guillemot on the beach. It had died, like hundreds of others, from a combination of exhaustion, hunger and the unseen effects of pollution. As it lay there in the shingle, with its plump white belly and black back, stubby wings and leathery webbed feet, it resembled a northern penguin; an exotic bit of flotsam washed ashore from some far ocean, rather than the English Channel.

In one of the most affecting chapters in her remarkable book, American journalist Elizabeth Kolbert brings us face to face with the guillemot’s long lost relative: the great auk. During its brief acquaintance with humans – from the 16th century to the mid 19th – the auk, the original “penguin”, was so numerous that large flocks thronged entire outcrops of Iceland and Newfoundland.

These flightless birds, like the dodos, were ready for the taking, providing meat and mattress stuffing. “You do not give yourself the trouble of killing them,” reported an English sailor, “but lay hold of one and pluck the best… You then turn the poor penguin adrift, with his skin half naked and torn off, to perish at his leisure.” Sad

The last hapless auk perished one June evening in 1844, strangled by Icelandic hunters. It joined a long line of animals driven to extinction by man, a line that is getting longer than the queue for a secret concert by Prince. By the latest estimation, one third of reef corals, one third of freshwater molluscs, one third of sharks and rays, a fifth of all reptiles, a quarter of all mammals and a sixth of all birds will go the way of the auk this century.

Oddly enough, extinction is a relatively new concept as far as humans are concerned – contemporaneous, ironically, with the Industrial Revolution that triggered our current period of global warming. It wasn’t until the 1790s that the French naturalist Georges Cuvier began to consider the provenance of fossilised megafaunas, wondering why these large beasts no longer stalked the Earth. By 1800, Cuvier had assembled a “fossil zoo” of 23 species that had existed in “a world previous to ours”.

Such evidence of mass extinction was slow to find supporters. Even Darwin was equivocal: “As we do not see the cause, we invoke cataclysms to desolate the world!” It wasn’t until the 1970s, when an American geologist, Walter Alvarez, found a narrow clay layer in the strata of an Italian hilltop, that the cause of the last great extinction was confirmed: a giant asteroid ended the Cretaceous period – and killed three quarters of all known species.

“The worst day ever on planet Earth” also gave us our evolutionary chance. “The reason this book is being written by a hairy biped, rather than a scaly one, has more to do with dinosaurian misfortune than with any particular mammalian virtue.”

Now, in our new era of the Anthropocene, we apes have used our skills to wreak havoc, despite the fact that our “great works” will be reduced to a future sedimentary layer the thickness of a cigarette paper.

Kolbert is a witty, deft writer with an eye for vivid colour. She takes us from sun-blistered desert islands on the Great Barrier Reef to the sopping Peruvian jungle, where she joins her guides chewing coca leaves to sustain her Andean trudge. But her most urgent warning is about the condition of our oceans.

Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the carbon dioxide absorbed by the sea has increased by 30 per cent. The specific result of this is to prevent calcifiers – animals from corals to bivalves, and even some plants – from forming their structures, with disastrous effects for the marine food chain. The acidifying oceans mean that all coral reefs – which support up to nine million other species – will have dissolved within 50 years. Does that matter? It depends on what value you place on our world.

Natural history – from moas to the great whales, from Neanderthals to Hawaiian crows – bears witness to our voracious dominion, and shows how we have sowed the seeds of our own destruction. Kolbert concludes with a quote from the ecologist Paul Ehrlich: “In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches.” Hers is a deadly message, delivered in elegant prose, and we can’t afford to ignore it.
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