To mark International Day of Forests, we brought together
three experts in the field to suggest their own thoughts on what lies ahead for
forests. Below they offer their hopes, and fears, for these vital ecosystems in
the years to come.
Rachel Carson has sparked the modern day environmental
movement with her book Silent Spring
published 50 years ago and Ruth Harrison’s book Animal Machines, also written 50 years ago, alerted
the public to the undeniable suffering of calves living in veal crates and
birds in battery cages. The second and final day of the conference revisiting
these two books was about the current challenges of conservation and animal
welfare and what the future holds. The two sessions comprised five
I’m attending the ‘Rachel Carson & Ruth Harrison 50
years on conference’, which is taking place on 12-13 March 2013, at the Oxford
University Biodiversity Institute. These two women whose books changed science
certainly deserve the recognition. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) was a wake-up call for the environment and
helped to turn conservation into the mainstream scientific and public concern
it is today. In Silent Spring, she described
how DDT entered the food chain and accumulated in animals and human tissues, causing
cancer and genetic damage. Ruth Harrison’s Animal
Machines (1964) was also a wake-up call for the conditions of farm animals and
helped to turn animal welfare into the mainstream scientific and the public
concern it is today.
National Parks all around the world attract many millions of visitors, help to protect habitats and wildlife, and provide areas where urban dwellers can go for a break from their normal lives. The world's first national park is generally held to be Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872 in the USA. But while parks and other protected areas are still being established, many existing ones are under pressure from growing populations, recreational pressure, and not least from tightening public purses. So it's probably not entirely coincidental that a report on the economic value of national parks in the USA, where the concept was first put into practice, was released on 1 March, the same day that 'sequestration' - the automatic implementation of budget cuts implemented when legislators failed to come up with a new budget deal - came into force, with national parks hit along with all other areas of government spending.
Ahead of the upcoming Biodiversity Institute Conference, Marian Stamp Dawkins, Professor of Animal Behaviour at the University of Oxford, highlights the pioneering work of two women who spoke out about the negative effects on animals of greater efficiency in food production.
‘Greater efficiency’ may for some people be an obvious goal for producing sustainable food for an increasing human population, but it sends shivers down the spine of the animal welfare community. Fifty years ago, Ruth Harrison published her landmark book Animal Machines and drew the public's attention to what was being done in the name of more efficient food production: hens in battery cages, veal calves in crates, sows in stalls.
week is Climate Week (CW), a campaign which started in Great Britain, in March 2011, when the first CW resulted in 3000 events, which were
attended by half a million people, making it probably Britain’s biggest
ever environmental occasion. This year, 3226 events were registered in
the Climate Week web page, ranging from events run by schools, businesses, charities, councils and many others.
Whilst carrying out research for his latest book, Dr Peter Savill looked to the future of forestry in Britain and the challenges it faces.
One of the most immediate problems, widely discussed in the industry and in the media, is that of the recently introduced fungus Chalara fraxinea, which is expected to kill large numbers of ash trees in the country over the next 5 years. “Ash is the third most common broadleaved tree in Britain and probably the second most common in England, so the disease is going to have enormous effects; far greater than Dutch elm disease had in the 1970s” says Peter.
But what to do about it, and what to replace dead ash trees with, will present major silvicultural and logistical challenges. Other tree diseases are also on the horizon.
Peter is chairman of the Trustees of the Future Trees Trust, which promotes a sustainable long-term strategy for managing tree health by exploiting the high natural genetic diversity within tree species to develop resilient populations.
“Responses to ash dieback will, at least initially”, says Peter, “involve replacing the dead trees with other species. Fortunately, there are several that can be considered – sycamore and Norway maple, sweet chestnut, cherry, oak, lime, and possibly the wild service tree. However, in the longer term it is very likely that ash will return to our woods if breeding resistant populations proves possible and successful.”
Hemery, G.E., Clark, J.R., Aldinger, E., Claessens, H., Malvolti, M.E., O'Connor, E., Raftoyannis, Y., Savill, P.S. and Brus, R. (2010) Growing scattered broadleaved tree species in Europe in a changing climate: a review of risks and opportunities. Forestry (Oxford) 83(1), 65–81.
Russell, K. and Savill, P. (2010) The roles of tree breeding and silviculture in disease control. Quarterly Journal of Forestry104 (3), 217–223.
Savill, P.S., Fennessy, J. and Samuel, C.J.A. (2005) Approaches in Great Britain and Ireland to the genetic improvement of broadleaved trees. Forestry (Oxford) 78(2), 163–173.
Savill, P.S., Spencer, R., Roberts, J.E. and Hubert, J.D. (1999) Sixth year results from four ash (Fraxinus excelsior) breeding seedling orchards. Silvae Genetica 48(2), 92–100.
Savill, P., Evans, J., Auclair, D. and Falck, J. (1997) Plantation Silviculture in Europe. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Schmallenberg virus was first reported in in cattle the
summer of 2011 near the town in Northern Germany that gives it its name. Since
then, the spread of the virus has been rapid. In the UK, it was first reported
on 11 farms in January 2012, and has grown month-on-month since then. It is
spread by midges (Culicoides), and so
can easily be transferred between animals. It has also been found in wild deer,
which could be a reservoir of infection.
It causes stillbirths in lambs and calves, and fever,
reduced milk yields and loss of appetite in adult cattle. Schmallenberg virus
has now been confirmed at over 1500 farms in the UK, and has been detected
throughout northern, central and eastern Europe.
As I discussed in a previous blog posted here, ‘Going Veggie to save the planet – does what you eat really matter?’ perhaps we should be eating less meat or even become vegetarians because meat production put considerable pressure on the world’s resources, such as land and water, and also to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. A meat-based diet consumes 2.9 times more water, 2.5 times more primary energy, 13 times more fertilizer and 1.4 times more pesticides than does a vegetarian diet.