IN October Ben Bradley, MP for Mansfield is launching a campaign to save Britain’s pollinators in connection with Buglife, the charity devoted to the conservation of insects and other invertebrates.
Ben’s Protection of Pollinators Bill which has been printed in the House of Commons, asks the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help bees and other insects by protecting their habitat and supporting the creation of “pollinator corridors”.
The Bill is based on previous ground-breaking work by Buglife which has pioneered an innovative scheme called B-Lines which is a series of planned “insect pathways” or pollinator corridors running through our countryside and towns. These paths are formed of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones which link existing wildlife areas together, creating a network that weaves across our landscape allowing bees and other pollinators to roam freely across large areas.
While the Government has undertaken some important steps to help insects, including the creation of the National Pollinator Strategy, support has focused on temporary habitats, and patches of protected countryside. Although these provide benefits, pollinators are not free to fly far and wide as they naturally would- instead they are currently confined to small pockets. Ben's Bill calls for the creation of B-Lines as a solution to this problem.
The Bill is designed to help support pollinators including bees, butterflies, wasps and moths. More than two thirds of Britain’s pollinators are in decline and 35 of the UK’s bee species are currently under threat of extinction. The loss of wildflower-rich habitat is one of the main threats to their survival.
Ben’s Bill puts a duty on Defra to bring forward a map outlining a continuous national network of pollinator corridors (B-Lines) containing spaces rich in wildflower habitat. It also asks public authorities in England to help to improve the connectivity of wildflower-rich habitats within the B-Lines Map.
Second reading of the Protection of Pollinators Bill is scheduled to take place on Friday 26th October 2018.
Commenting, Ben Bradley MP said:
“I am delighted to bring forward a Private Members’ Bill to help protect our bees and other pollinators. Bees and other insects are crucial for Britain’s bio-diversity and for food sustainability. Many people don’t realise how important bees are for our economy too. Pollinators are vital for businesses that rely on insect-pollinated crops including cider producers and food manufacturers, with studies suggesting that pollinators are worth nearly £700 million to UK food production annually.
We are lucky to have some of the most beautiful countryside and parks in the world but I want to ensure that we join up these areas to allow insects to roam freely and to help further protect our green spaces. Together with Buglife I want to take the opportunity to create a buzz about the importance of bees and other pollinators. I hope that the British public will back our campaign to implement B-Lines across the country.”
Commenting, Matt Shardlow Chief Executive of Buglife said:
“Bees are amazing animals, but they are in real difficulties, being stranded on fragments of flower-rich habitats and under pressure from rising temperatures. This is Parliament’s opportunity to reverse the terrible decline in pollinators and secure the ecology and productivity of our countryside. With a national B-Lines map we can link-up our bees by restoring meadows and thus enable our pollinators and other wildlife to move through the countryside again.”
The Environment Agency has joined with Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) to restore valuable saltmarsh and coastal defences in the Blackwater Estuary at the Trust’s Abbotts Hall Farm nature reserve.
The pilot project involves installing coir structures within selected creeks to encourage sediment accumulation and plant growth, protecting the saltmarsh habitat. A team of dedicated volunteers and employees from both EWT and the Environment Agency have already braved the cold weather to install 14 of the coir structures. Each structure consists of 3 to 6 coir rolls, made from a sustainable coconut waste product, held together with hessian rope that is secured in the saltmarsh with chestnut stakes.
Saltmarshes provide ecosystem services such as reducing flood risks and the effects of storm surges. These key habitats also provide an important feeding ground and refuge for nationally scarce plants, insects, juvenile fish species such as Bass and Gobies and internationally important numbers of birds, such as Shoveler and Dark-bellied Brent Geese.
Marshland epitomise the Essex coastline but in recent years the extent and quality of Essex
Saltmarshes has been declining due to development, rising sea levels and an increase in the frequency of storms. This joint project uses an experimental and low-cost approach to try and combat this. The progress of the project will be monitored to see if this technique is successful and if it has the potential to be used at other saltmarsh sites as an effective restoration technique.The historic Blackwater Estuary is a 5,538 hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest and a designated Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Oysters have been harvested from the estuary for more than a thousand years and there are still remains of fish weirs from the Anglo-Saxon era.
More information about this project and the work of the Trust can be found at www.essexwt.org.uk.
Oak forests provide a habitat rich in biodiversity; they support more life forms than any other native trees. They host hundreds of species of insect, supplying many British birds with an important food source. In autumn mammals such as badgers and deer take advantage of the falling acorns.
Flower and leaf buds of English oak and sessile oak are the foodplants of the caterpillars of purple hairstreak butterflies.
The soft leaves of English oaks breakdown with ease in autumn and form a rich leaf mould beneath the tree, supporting invertebrates, such as the stag beetle, and numerous fungi, like the oakbug milkcap. Holes and crevices in the tree bark are perfect nesting spots for the pied flycatcher or marsh tit. Several British bat species may also roost in old woodpecker holes or under loose bark, as well as feeding on the rich supply of insects in the tree canopy.
How we use oak
Oaks produce one of the hardest and most durable timbers on the planet, even its Latin name, Quercus robur, means strength. However, it takes up to 150 years before an oak is ready to use in construction. It has been a prized hardwood timber for thousands of years, was the primary ship building material until the mid-19th century and remains a popular wood for architectural beams. Modern uses of English oak include flooring, wine barrels and firewood.
Traditionally the leaves, bark and acorns were believed to heal many medical ailments including diarrhoea, inflammation and kidney stones.
Historically humans also collected acorns and processed them into flour for bread making. These culinary techniques have mostly died out following the domestication of wheat production 10,000 years ago, leaving the harvest for wild birds and mammals.
Tannin found in the bark has been used to tan leather since at least Roman times.
Toxicity: Tannic acid in the leaves is poisonous to horses if consumed in excess, damaging the kidneys. Acorns are poisonous to horses and cattle, though swine can consume them safely in moderation.
Mythology and symbolism
The oak is held in high regard across most cultures in Europe. The oak was sacred to many gods including Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Roman) and Dagda (Celtic). Each of these gods ruled over thunder and lightning, and oak trees are prone to lightning strikes as they are often the tallest living feature in the landscape.
Druids frequently practised and worshipped their rituals in oak groves and cherished the mistletoe that frequents oak tree branches. Royalty has had a long association with oak trees too; ancient kings adorned themselves with crowns of oak leaves, King Charles II hid from his pursuers in an oak tree at Boscobel House and Roman Emperors were presented with crowns of oak leaves during victory parades.
In England the oak has for centuries been a national symbol of strength and survival. It has played an important part in our culture – couples were wed under ancient oaks in Oliver Cromwell’s time, the festive Yule Log was traditionally cut from oak, it features on the 1987 pound coin and is the inspiration for the emblem of many environmentally focused organisations, including the Woodland Trust.
This year’s Great British Spring Clean has already inspired more people to join the tidy-up than had been originally targeted.
The Keep Britain Tidy group had hoped for half a million participants to join in between now and 23 April. As Southend Community News posts this update, the figure already stands at 524,128.
There is still plenty of time to participate and join individuals, businesses and local organisations to “wage war” on litter pollution and help collect and dispose of rubbish from streets, parks, public spaces and beaches.
There are three ways to do this: -
Sign-up and host your own clean-up
Join a clean-up near you Pledge your support.
Despite being – or perhaps because we are – a dense urban area our parks, green spaces and foreshore areas are very important to the residents of Southend, so there is plenty of
opportunity to get involved and help “keep the parks green and the beaches clean”.
Full details of this year’s campaign, which is being fronted by BAFTA-winning naturalist,
writer and television presenter Steve Backshall, can be found at www.keepbritaintidy.org.
Belfairs Woodland Nature Reserve has recorded the highest number of one of Britain’s rarest butterflies at its Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) location.
The Heath Fritillary, which was on the brink of extinction in the 1970’s and is still only found at a handful of English sites, has been increasing in numbers over the last few years due to careful habitat management and the prevailing warmer temperatures.
Last year, SCN reported that the species had produced a second brood at Belfairs during
2018’s long hot summer and this year has seen a bumper surge in sightings and distribution of the butterflies around the reserve.
A team of dedicated volunteers has been supporting the staff at EWT to continuously
manage areas of the Belfairs ancient woodland to create an ideal habitat for the Heath Fritillary. This consists of a mixture of bare ground, leaf litter and taller vegetation, providing areas for shelter, perching, feeding and laying eggs.
The EWT team have coppiced, removed brambles and created nectar-rich habitats which has obviously paid off!
A peak count of 148 Heath Fritillary butterflies was recorded during June this year, more than double recorded in 2018 before and the highest number recorded since the summer of 2010.