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Going fishing? Don’t bring back an invader!

Posted by Ajay Chauhan at Mar 29, 2017 12:50 PM |

Fishing abroad is becoming increasingly popular amongst UK anglers. Change of scenery, some nice weather (hopefully) and of course, the chance to catch some different fish or beat your PB. However, research being undertaken by the Angling Trust indicates that we could be unintentionally catching more than we bargained for whilst fishing overseas. Emily Smith, Angling Trust’s Invasive Species Manager, explains

By Emily Smith

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Invasive non-native species cause substantial damage to our aquatic environments; clogging waterways, decreasing native biodiversity and accordingly impacting our fish populations. Once established, species can often be impossible or costly to eradicate. Consequently, the Check Clean Dry campaign was launched in 2011 to attempt to minimise the spread of invasive species. This provides advice on simple biosecurity measures that recreational water users can take to minimise their risk of unintentionally moving invasive species between water bodies. Supported by a range of stakeholders including the Angling Trust, anglers have readily engaged with this guidance with around 45% of anglers undertaking regular biosecurity in 2015. There is still further progress to be made. However, this shows there has been substantial improvement in managing and preventing the spread of established invasive species between water bodies within the UK.

Looking overseas

Our long-term goal is to minimise the risk of new invasive species being introduced to the UK. There are several routes through which this could occur such as in ship ballast water, contamination of imported goods or attached to damp angling equipment. Each of these different routes warrants further investigation which the Angling Trust has been leading for angling.

Over the summer last year, I visited over 30 different fisheries in northern France to investigate the plant and invertebrate life within the lakes. Twenty of the fisheries (59%) contained at least one invasive aquatic plant or invertebrate, totalling 12 different plant, shrimp, and mollusc species. This included the Caspian slender mysid (Limnomysis benedeni), a high alert species which is not currently present in the UK. In addition to this, three different crayfish species and the highly aggressive top mouth gudgeon and black bullhead were also discovered.

Many of the fisheries surveyed required anglers to arrive with dry nets, or in some cases the fishery dipped the anglers’ equipment in disinfectant before they could start fishing. However, there was no obligation to clean or dry the equipment upon leaving the lake. This raises concern as many aquatic invasive species have been shown to survive for over a fortnight on damp angling equipment (Anderson et al., 2015). With frequent ferry and Eurotunnel links between France and the UK, if equipment is not thoroughly cleaned and dried following a trip abroad, invasive species could be inadvertently transported back into the UK and introduced into a British water body on the next fishing outing.

Although individually the risk of catching a viable invasive species in a net appears small, the high volume of anglers repeatedly fishing abroad increases the possibility of these events occurring. Many aquatic plants reproduce asexually, and fertile female shrimps such as the killer shrimp can hold up to 200 eggs in their pouch. The introduction of a single viable specimen could therefore enable establishment within a lake and in the long term result in substantial, often irreversible, changes to our aquatic environments such as those at Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire.

While this survey focused on fisheries in France, many other popular fishing destinations have invasive species of major biosecurity concern to the UK. In particular, there are at least 10 aquatic invasive species of note in the Netherlands, as well as the salmon louse Gyrodactylus salaris in Norway which is having a devastating impact on their salmon fisheries.

It is therefore essential that after a trip abroad anglers thoroughly clean their equipment following the Check Clean Dry guidelines to minimise the potential for more invasive species or parasites to be introduced.

To find out more on invasive species, please head to the Non-native Species Secretariat where they have free guidance on identifying invasive species and conducting biosecurity.

Emily Smith
Invasive Species Manager, The Angling Trust

Find the Angling Trust on Twitter: @AnglingTrust

Emily's post is funded as part of the London Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Doctoral training partnership, with the Angling Trust fulfilling the role of an 'industrial CASE partner'. In this arrangement Emily will gain work experience while undertaking her PhD. As part of her employment, Emily has been managing the Angling Trust's ‘Alien Attack’ Environment Agency contract.

References:
Anderson, L.G, A.M. Dunn, P.J. Rosewarne and P.D Stebbing (2015) ‘Invaders in hot water: a simple decontamination method to prevent the accidental spread of aquatic invasive non-native species’, Biological Invasions, 17(8):2287-2297. doi:10.1007/s10530-015-0875-6.

This blog post was originally published on the Wildlife and Countryside Link site

 


Life in an Arab-American community under Trump’s ‘Muslim ban'

Posted by Ajay Chauhan at Feb 24, 2017 03:50 PM |

by Tom Brocket

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Tom Brocket
, UCL

Life goes on for the parents who drop off their children at homework club, or those rushing in late for embroidery class. As usual, the community centre where I’m doing my fieldwork in northern New Jersey is filled with the piercing screams of toddlers trying to keep up with the older kids. But something in the atmosphere is different.

At the front desk, a pile of letters from an immigrant rights group explain the terms of the executive order in English and Arabic, brutally stating in capital letters that those affected “SHOULD NOT TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES for any reason”.

Standing by the community centre’s front desk is Zainab, a Syrian refugee. Her husband’s aunt, a green card-holder born in Iraq, is currently flying from Dubai to Newark Airport; her fate is unknown. The air of uncertainty and confusion surrounding the executive order and its practical implementation by federal agencies obscures any clear prediction of what will happen to her. Will she meet the same fate as two Yemenis who arrived in the US on January 28, who were reportedly talked into signing away their green cards and put on the next flight back?

Yet, Zainab exudes an air of resigned optimism. As her relative hurtles towards the US, she says there is little to do other than wait and hope.

Unlike Zainab and her aunt, the majority of the community centre’s patrons are Muslim Palestinian-Americans. As most are American citizens, and have ties to Palestine and Jordan – not included in the ban – the executive order doesn’t directly affect them. But for those I speak to, this is the most shocking and scary moment since Trump entered the presidential race, perhaps aside from his election victory. The letters piled at the entrance remind those who enter that this is no longer a time of primaries and debates, of rhetoric and promises.

Just by signing the order, Abdullah tells me incredulously, Trump immediately turned more than 100 airplane passengers from valid visa and green card holders into illegal travellers, welcomed not by friends and family but by detention and coercion. “Have you ever seen political bureaucracy work so fast?”, he asks me. In the words of Palestinian-American poet and activist Remi Kanazi, “with a pen stroke, a wedding is missed, a eulogy isn’t spoken, a job is not taken, a family is left broken, safety isn’t found”.

For members of the community, the ban is unprecedented – not because it targets Muslims and Arabs, and (green card-holding) Muslim- and Arab-Americans, but because of its open and unabashed intention to do so.

Flying while Muslim

The Arab-American community has endured decades of government infringements on their civil liberties: as far back as 1972, President Nixon launched Operation Boulder, a clandestine FBI operation that spied on thousands of Arab-Americans. But the sharpest uptick, of course, came in the aftermath of 9/11.

Almost immediately after the events of that day, Arab-Americans quickly found themselves collectively punished with detention, deportation and surveillance – in spite of the fact that none of their number were involved in the attacks. (One Palestinian-American tells me, half-joking, that in the months after 9/11, there were more FBI agents than real customers in the Arab restaurants in this New Jersey town.)

In terms of international travel, many have experienced first hand the humiliating difficulties of what they call “flying while Arab” and “flying while Muslim”, and the enhanced security attention this entails. In past years, several airplane passengers simply speaking, reading or writing in Arabic have been pulled off flights in the US and Europe.

Yet this order is not secret or unofficial: it is meant to be seen. Photos and videos of Trump sternly signing the necessary papers in the Oval Office, then holding them up for cameras, have been endlessly circulated (and mocked) over the past week. The spectacle of Trump’s executive orders is part and parcel of his performative politics.

It’s not lost on the young children who come to homework club. As their attention span expires, they rush to the lectern standing empty at the front of the room and begin to imitate their president. “I am Donald Trump, and I hate Muslim people,” says one child in Arabic. Between fits of self-conscious giggles, another declares: “I will not let Muslim people into this country.” A final Trump impressionist takes his homework up to the podium and signs it with great concentration – and then holds his giant signature up for the audience: “Here is my signature for not letting people in!”

Older members of the centre find comfort in sharing stories of small acts of kindness from other Americans. A fellow tutor relates an encounter over the weekend: walking alone in the street wearing a hijab, a large man approached her. She expected the worst – but instead, he offered words of support and protection.

During a meeting that evening, several participants discussed how a neighbour, a colleague or a boss had knocked on their door, phoned them, or sent them an email of support and friendship. One tells me that they are fortunate to live in northern New Jersey, a diverse urban area with few Trump supporters and in a state with one of the largest Muslim populations in the US. Muslim- and Arab-Americans elsewhere in the country might not be so fortunate.

The Conversation

Tom Brocket, PhD Candidate in Geography, UCL

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Introducing Tom Bailey: Leverhulme Artist in Residence in the Migration Research Unit

Posted by Ajay Chauhan at Feb 07, 2017 11:14 AM |

by Tom Bailey

Hi,

My name is Tom Bailey and for the next year I’ll be Leverhulme-supported artist in residence with the Migration Research Unit at UCL’s Geography Department. I’m delighted to be working within the department and I’ve already began to find inspiration from the many meetings, workshops, seminars going on within UCL. I studied English here (2004-2007) so it’s great to be back and see how things have changed.

I’m a theatre director and performer by trade, and run my own independent theatre company, The Mechanical Animal Corporation (www.mechanimal.co.uk).  My reason for coming to the MRU is that last year I was involved with a charity called Good Chance Theatre. This was a theatre space set up within the Calais ‘Jungle’ migrant camp. Across 2015-2016 I visited several times to run workshops and make performance with the many refugees who used the space.

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Prior to going to Calais, I was preparing to develop a project exploring bird migration on a bird wetland near Glastonbury. The more I explored bird migration, the more I became fascinated how the migratory capacity of species differs greatly. Aware of the growing current global human migrant crisis, and looking to do something to help, I figured that an exploration of bird migration and human migration might be a compelling subject for a work of performance, and offer public audiences an interpretation of what is happening amid this mass movement of people.

During my residency I’m looking to increase my understanding in many areas, but specifically the cultural and ideological frameworks that construct/ exclude the identity of a ‘refugee’ or ‘migrant’. Considering that for several years explorations of climate change and evolutionary biology have underpinned my work, I’m also looking to explore biological/ cognitive aspects of how humans migrate, or make journeys – I’ve already had a very fruitful discussion with UCL neuroscientist Dr. Hugo Spiers in this regard.

I love connecting ideas and working in an interdisciplinary way, so I will hopefully be connecting with a lot of different researchers across the university. Besides personal research, my plan for this year is to run a series of workshops exploring performance and migration (for staff and students), to present an audio project exploring bird and human song at UCL’s Grant Museum of Natural History, and to develop a work-in-progress theatre performance (to be completed beyond the scope of this residency). All information about these events will be disseminated via the Geography Department, so please do keep an eye out!

Adventures with a laser scanner: Historic London trees

Posted by Ajay Chauhan at Jan 27, 2017 03:08 PM |

by Mat Disney (Blog)

We've been looking at working a little closer to home recently. Not that tropical forests, ancient woodlands and the like aren't interesting enough, just that in an old city like London, there are some pretty incredible trees. These are tied intimately to the history and development of the city itself. The availability of new data sources, in particular the UK's Environment Agency open sourcing their extensive airborne lidar over urban areas, has led to us thinking about how we can use this.

London has a *lot* of trees, many of them large and spectacular London Planes,  Platanus x hispanica. This is arguably THE iconic London tree, with its mottled bark, huge leaves and (sometimes problematic!) seed pods. They line so many streets, parks and avenues, providing shade, cooling and habitat for birds and insects. They can occasionally take a chunk out of unwary double decker buses too.

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We're looking at using the EA lidar data, in conjunction with colleagues at fusiondatascience.com in Liverpool, and the GIS Unit at Kew Gardens, to identify and measure trees across London, and then use our ground-based lidar scanning to assess the size, volume and structure of a range of these. We're interested to see whether we can apply the same methods we do to tropical trees to urban/street trees in London, with their wide range of managed histories and shapes. We'd like to assess the amount of Carbon they store, their structure and how this relates to their environment.

As part of this work, we've started close to home, looking at trees in Camden, in collaboration with the Camden Council tree department. The first tree we've looked it is amazing - not a Plane, but an Ash. It's in the cemetery of St. Pancras Old Church, a very old (C11th) church tucked away behind the very modern and redeveloped Kings Cross. The Church history is interesting in itself, but there's an Ash tree in the yard with a very unusual back story. The railway being built in the mid C19th led to part of the cemetery needing to be excavated. A young Thomas Hardy was (supposedly) put in charge of moving displaced headstones, and placed them around the trunk of an Ash tree by the church. The tree and the headstones are now entwined, leaving a strange and rather haunting growing monument. The tree is struggling a bit, partly due to the unusual roots but also due to footfall around it. We are using our NERC NCEO-funded Riegl and ZEB-REVO lidars to scan the tree to build a detailed 3D model snapshot of it to help the Camden team plan their management in order to preserve this historic tree.

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Scanning the "Hardy Tree". The railway line, and the modern world, is behind the wall.

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A view of the scan data collected by Phil, of the whole church yard with the Hardy Tree to the front centre.

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The tree, with the hedgerow surrounding it.

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A closer view of the strange, leaf-like headstones around the trunk of the tree.

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And this is how it looks 'for real'. Image: David Edgar.

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Phil's path around the churchyard, carrying the ZEB-REVO handheld scanner. The Hardy Tree is the one at the front left of the Church with the loops around it.

Phil did a great job of capturing the tree with the ZEB and Riegl, and is currently processing the Riegl data - first example of a fly-through from those data is below. We will be extracting the 3D model of the tree and looking at the structure in detail, and then revisiting over the coming months to capture it leaf on, and then over time if we can.

Climate Change Negotiations: learning through role playing

Posted by Ajay Chauhan at Jan 16, 2017 12:25 PM |

by Bernardo Bastien

Nowadays we have everything we need to deal with climate change: high resolution climate models; a global structure that allows dialogue between countries; and several technological options to generate clean energy. So, why is this problem still so difficult to face? This question can be addressed by different disciplines and in different levels of analysis. However, obtaining an absolute answer is hardly possible. One way to get closer to the answer is being part of a simulation and make decisions as if the planet was in our hands.

The World Climate Simulation is a role playing game in which the participants act as international diplomats in the climate change sessions of the Conference of the Parties, e.g. COP22 which was recently held in Marrakech. Participants have to negotiate and set up their future levels of greenhouse gases emissions, aiming to keep the global mean temperature well below 2 °C.

This was our challenge as students of the “Global Environmental Change” module at UCL. Each of us, as delegates representing countries, received an invitation to participate in the game, indicating the time and place of the negotiation and some other important information about our assigned country.

Common venue but differentiated seats

When we arrived to the venue, some differences were immediately noticeable. Whereas the representatives of rich countries could sit around tables to discuss tactics and eat cakes provided, the developing countries barely had any chairs or a place where to stand, and most had to resort to sitting on the floor. Then, we understood that this was part of the game set-up and reflected the differential funding that some negotiators have to deal with when attending the real conferences.

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The main premise for the beginning of the game could be described as follows: developed countries would be able to substantially reduce emissions as long as they don’t feel threatened by the very rapidly-growing developing countries. On the other hand, developing countries will try to postpone their emission reductions as long as they can since that would mean to keep back from potentiating their economies. Nevertheless, we all agreed that climate is drastically changing due to human activity, so we needed to find synergies to cut global emissions having in mind the global conditions and our national assessments.

Nations determined to contribute

Of course we all did our homework. Knowledge about what are our current and projected emissions, our GDP, the size of our population and the potential impacts of climate change to our country, was essential to formulate strong arguments to negotiate.

We had three rounds of negotiation in which we used our key negotiation tools to pressure others to reduce their emissions, always having in mind that we should also reduce. The negotiation tools included: economic power willing to be invested in developing countries to generate clean energy; the right of poor countries that are more vulnerable to climate impacts to ask for the great emitters to reduce their levels; and the right to ask historical major emitters to reduce their emissions due to their historical responsibility.

The strategies were diverse. Nevertheless, as time passed we realized one thing: we were not isolated countries with physical boundaries separating us one from another. We were nations sharing the same planet, and we should be determined to cooperate and find solutions within our capabilities to mitigate climate change.

Our decisions matter

There is one key feature in this simulation that maybe plays the most important role. We counted with the possibility of knowing the implications of our decisions in real-time mode. We used C-Roads, a computer simulator that projected global variables as temperature and sea-level rise consistent with the levels of CO2 that we were committing to in each round of negotiation. This was certainly the main driver that kept us looking forward to cut the global emissions. It was surprising to see that what we thought were good levels of CO2, resulted in global temperatures still close to 3 °C by the end of the century! After over 3 rounds of negotiating amongst 35 students, we almost hit our target of 2 °C.

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This exercise made us realize how individual decisions matter not only at a global scale but also as citizens able to reduce our consumption, demand the government to have strategies for adapting/mitigating to climate change and opt for cleaner energies, among others. I am sure that it has been one of the most integrated, enriching and rewarding learning experiences I’ve had.

Bernardo Bastien is a postgraduate student on the MSc Climate Change. He has two climate-related blogs: https://createclimate.com/ and http://climatebubble.blogspot.co.uk/ and can be found on twitter too @Ber_Bastien

New adventures in LiDAR: a summary of the year at UCL

Posted by Ajay Chauhan at Dec 22, 2016 02:36 PM |

by Phil Wilkes (PDRA, NCEO and Department of Geography, UCL)

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Who is hiding in the bushes? Mat Disney and the RIEGL VZ-400 scanning the BIOMASS validation plot, Ankasa, Ghana (March 2016).

I recently wrote a blog article for the BES Methods in Ecology and Evolution journal espousing the applications and benefits of LiDAR, in particular airborne LiDAR for the assessment of forest structure over large areas.  The article focused on airborne acquisitions as this has been the most prolific use of the technology in forest ecology over recent years.  However here at University College London we are now combining 3D measurements captured across a range of scales, from handheld laser scanners to (soon to be launched) spaceborne sensors on the International Space Station, to create highly detailed measurements of forest structure which are applicable to a number of contemporary environmental issues.

Over the past 12 months, the UCL team have been busy deploying instruments in Ghana, Gabon, Brazil as well as closer to home in Northumberland, Oxfordshire and Kew Gardens, for a range of projects including: NERC-funded work on GREENHOUSE and a standard grant aimed at assessing tropical forest biomass; the EU-funded METEOC-II project in conjunction with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) developing new ways to quantify uncertainty in EO measurements; ESA-funded calibration and validation in support of the BIOMASS and NASA GEDI missions. This blog article will summarise some of the highlights.

Different scales provide different perspectives

The department have recently purchased a GeoSLAM ZEB-REVO, a handheld laser scanner used for rapid characterisation of forest structure. Being mobile allows you to wander through the forest collecting 3D measurements which are useful for quickly locating stem positions and dimensions as well as creating digital elevation models.  This has proved particularly useful in forests where dense vegetation can make more traditional inventory methods time consuming.

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A walk through Wytham Woods with a GeoSLAM ZEB-REVO. The blue track is the path taken by Kim Calders and the points are LiDAR returns which are coloured by height.

To create highly detailed 3D models of individual trees, our RIEGL VZ-400 is required. Although this takes much longer to complete a scan the level of detail acquired is exceptional and almost consistent all the way to the top of the canopy.  There are a number of uses for such detailed data including the accurate estimate of tree volume (and by extension biomass), understanding tree function as well as tree reconstruction for purposes of creating virtual forests.

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From the bottom to the top of this 35 m+ tropical tree (captured earlier this year in Ghana) the level of detail captured using TLS is high. The mean nearest neighbour (nn) distance shown here illustrates that even towards the top of the canopy returns are <4 cm apart. (Image taken from an upcoming publication on TLS field protocols).

This year we have taken our scanner across the globe to Ghana and Gabon in Africa to scan Global Ecosystem Monitoring network plots in conjunction with the European Space Agency BIOMASS project, to the Brazilian Amazon (as part of the AmazonFACE project) as well as closer to home in Northumberland and Kew Gardens. This year also saw the completion of one of the biggest TLS scanning campaigns ever undertaken where 6 ha of Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire were scanned leaf-on and leaf-off. All this work contributes to a better understanding of the function of forests with respect to their ability to mitigate climate change.

Virtual Forests

As mentioned above, 3D data captured in the real world can be transformed into a forest of virtual trees. These can then be used in 3D radiative transfer models for a number of purposes.  For example, earlier this year Dr. William Woodgate from CSIRO visited the lab where his aim was to correct imagery captured with a high temporal and spatial resolution camera for differing illumination conditions.  To do this he used the librat, a Monte-Carlo ray tracing software package developed at UCL. For anyone interested in learning the basics of librat, there is a free course delivered using Jupyter notebooks for download.

Where are we off to next year?

Next year is looking like an exceptionally busy year for our team and instruments with scanning planned for Malaysian Borneo, Peru, Brazil and California as well as closer to home on the streets of Camden. We are particularly interested in combining scanning techniques over the next year, for example, combining mobile, terrestrial and airborne LiDAR to map the biomass of London’s street trees. Using the capabilities of the different sensors (e.g. rapid assessment of the ZEB-REVO, detailed volume estimates of the TLS and synoptic capture of airborne datasets), we aim to make the first detailed inventory of street tree biomass in London.

For those of you interested in a more frequent update on our activities, I would recommend following Mat Disney’s blog.

Resilience and protection of the marine environment

Posted by ucfaam0 at Jul 18, 2014 12:50 PM |

By Peter Jones

It is increasingly recognised that marine ecosystems that have a higher diversity of species are more resilient to impacts from non-native species, climate change, etc., but why is there a link between diversity and resilience and how can marine protected areas (MPAs) be made more effective in building resilience?

Species provide a variety of functional roles in ecosystems, such as nutrient recycling, population control, etc. The higher the diversity of functional groups and the higher the diversity of species and the population sizes within each functional group, the more resilient the ecosystem is, in that it can remain stable in the face of factors that could otherwise perturb it. This is because one species can replace the role of another species in the same functional group if that species is depleted by disease, over-harvesting, etc. Also, if environmental conditions change, a species that previously appeared to be redundant, in that it has no apparent functional role, can be better adapted to the new conditions and thereby is able to adopt a functional role, replacing the role of a species which is less well adapted to the new conditions. In these ways the ecosystem is able to remain in a relatively stable state, including the capacity to adapt to changing conditions. This capacity for resilience is increasingly recognised as being important, as the pressures related to human activities which can perturb marine ecosystems, e.g. greenhouse gas emissions and species introductions, increase, potentially shifting ecosystems to alternative states that provide fewer ecosystem services, e.g. food production, greenhouse gas sinks, genetic resources and tourism value.

There are a growing number of studies which demonstrate that effective MPAs can promote the resilience of marine ecosystems by providing for the recovery of species diversity, where this was previously depleted by the impacts of local activities such as fishing, tourism development, pollution, etc. A recent study by Peter Jones explores the links between different approaches to conserving MPAs and their effectiveness in promoting resilience by providing for the recovery of species diversity. Drawing on 20 case studies from around the world, including three in the UK, this study considered MPA conservation approaches in terms of ‘governance incentives’, ranging from legal (laws, regulations, etc.), to economic (funding, property rights, etc.), participative (involving local people, etc.), knowledge (shared learning, etc.) and interpretative (awareness raising, educational programmes, etc.). The findings indicate that MPAs are more effective where a higher diversity of incentives is applied, these incentives interacting with each other in a manner which is analogous to the way that different species interact in ecosystems, making the governance system more resilient to local threats from overfishing, pollution, etc.. This effectiveness, in turn, provides for the recovery of species diversity, making the ecosystem more resilient to wider-scale impacts, such as climate change and introduced species.

MPAG workshop

MPAG workshop

Marine Protected Area governance workshop, Lošinj, Croatia

The rationale behind this study is to move on from debates about which governance approach is ‘best’ or right’, in focusing on how different governance approaches can be combined. The findings of this study were recently published in the book Governing Marine Protected Areas: resilience through diversity (£40 with discount code DC361), and it is hoped this way of studying how MPAs can be more effectively conserved will provide for ‘good practice’ combinations of governance incentives to be transferred between MPAs. This innovative way of thinking about how we can make MPAs more effective is particularly relevant to the UK, as more MPAs are designated and the focus shifts to how they can be effectively conserved, recognising that the key to social-ecological resilience is diversity, both of incentives in governance systems and species in ecosystems.

This blog was originally published on the UK Wildlife Trusts Living Seas blog. For further information, see an interview with Peter Jones on governing marine protected areas - Achieving conservation objectives and social equity goals, along with a recent review of his book in Nature.

Governing Marine Protected Areas

Peter Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child and Youth Migrants: Global and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Posted by ucfaram at Jul 01, 2014 02:50 PM |

- MRU Student Conference

 

by Claire Dwyer

A student conference initiated by a group of Msc Global Migration students in 2011 has now become an annual event with the third Migration Research Unit (MRU) Student Conference held on Saturday 14th June 2014. Only weeks after their arrival at UCL a committee of five Msc Global Migration Students (Karin Ander; Nancy Landa; Vanessa V. Landeta; Gabriella Morrone and Lauren Shaw) was formed to organise the conference. They quickly settled on the topic of Child and Youth Migrants – an incredibly important topic given the fact that 35 million children are today living outside their country of origin and yet are under represented in much research about migration. The students quickly navigated their way to organising an impressively slick event which surpassed previous conferences in its international breadth and ambitions.

 

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If research on children and youth migration is still relatively limited it’s clear that it’s is a growing area of interest for young researchers as evident in the excellent range of papers presented across four panels at the conference.  All the presenters were masters and graduate students and this year we had a truly international range of speakers coming from universities in the US, South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands and Ireland as well as those with national origins in Thailand, Lithuania, and Iran.  The first session focused on education and included papers on the incorporation of refugee children in schools in San Diego; aspirations towards education for migrants in South Africa, many from Zimbabwe; and a fascinating paper about the ways in which children of migrants from neighbouring states to Russia are racialized, provoking debate about citizenship and Russian identity. A panel on young people and the law lead to discussion of the contradictions around definitions of ‘the child’, particularly in relation to unaccompanied minors. Child migrants are defined as lacking in agency and needing protection – and yet should also be recognised as resilient workers who contribute to their families. Examples were drawn both in relation to child migrants to Thailand, and the experiences of migrant children in ‘transit countries’ such as Malaysia and Mexico.

The theme of legal definitions and status was picked up again in the third panel which included detailed case studies of the marginalised experiences of Afghan children in Iran and the difficulties faced by child asylum seekers returned to Albania and Kosovo from the Netherlands. The fourth panel of the day focused on health and well being considering questions of how migrant children are often excluded from health care provision because of their irregular migration status. It went on to ask how interventions might be made for refugee children. However at this point I was babysitting for one of the panellists so did not catch all the papers! The last panel focused on questions of home and belonging for child migrants in Belgium and Ireland, exploring creative methodologies for engaging with young people.

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During the conference I was struck by the fact that all thirteen conference speakers and the five chairs were young women, certainly not the norm for most academic conferences. I think it says something about their passionate concern for the vulnerability of marginalised and excluded children articulated alongside an emphasis on the need to recognise and celebrate young peoples’ hopes and aspirations. The quality of presentations and discussions was excellent – with the vibrant buzz continuing through the coffee and lunch breaks. There were lots of interconnecting themes and some important conversations about the challenges and ethics of doing research with young people; lines of comparison between legal regimes and frameworks in different countries as well as the possibilities for collaborative work, particularly with NGOs.

The final keynote was the dynamic and passionate migrant activist, Carlos Saavedra, former national co-ordinator for the United We Dream Network in the US.  Carlos recounted the story of the DREAMer movement which campaigns for educational and legal rights for young undocumented migrants in the US many of whom came as children with their parents.

Carlos’ talk was an inspiring insight into the strategies of a direct action campaign which seeks to ‘change the story’ about migrants focusing on their contributions as citizens (articulated particularly effectively through a symbolic blood drive – ‘Will you take our illegal blood?’) and as aspiring students (campaigners wore gowns and mortar boards). He ended with some quotes from a PhD thesis about the movement talking about how academics and activists might collaborate in challenging immigrant injustice. In the UK to explore connections with wider youth and immigrant activists, Carlos is now seeking to build broader alliances of youth-led advocacy mobilisations.

The conference was a testimony to the energy and enthusiasm of the dynamic students which the interdisciplinary Msc Global Migration attracts.

Photos and more information about the conference will be posted soon on the student conference blog where you can also see abstracts of the papers.

About the author: Claire Dwyer is a Senior Lecturer at UCL Department of Geography and is co-director of its Migration Research Unit. Her research is focused on the themes of race, racism, ethnicity, transnationalism, religion and migration.

Getting a deeper insight into shallow lake biodiversity and ecosystem services

Posted by ucfaam0 at Jun 06, 2014 09:30 AM |

The Rio Summit of 1992 propelled biodiversity into a global spotlight pointing to tremendous human-induced species losses in the Earth’s ecosystem. Now there is urgent need to advance our knowledge on how and why species disappear from ecosystems and the implications of these losses for important goods and services that we rely on (e.g. drinking water, food, spiritual value). One crucial landscape feature thought to have a major influence on biodiversity is connectivity – how connected are habitats with one another within the landscape. A key issue here is alteration of our natural landscapes via the creation of roads, towns and farmland. Under such circumstances natural habitats become isolated and degraded which impedes the dispersal of native species. Ease of dispersal across the landscape seems to be a key feature that reduces rates of species loss in human-affected ecosystems thus preserving high biodiversity and valuable (monetary and cultural values) ecosystem services.

Lakes are uniquely useful for examining questions about biodiversity, connectivity and ecosystem services as they permit long-term (over centuries) changes in biodiversity to be studied through the analysis of fossil remains in sediment cores. The majority of aquatic organisms (e.g. algae, plants, invertebrates) leave identifiable parts in sediments, which can be dated to reveal a history of ecological change.

Hotspot lakes

Lakes are hotspots of recreational activities for those who enjoy the outdoors. However, little is known about how activities such as boating and angling are related to biodiversity and ecosystem health. [Photo by Ben Goldsmith]

The Lake BESS project, led by the Environmental Change Research Centre at UCL Geography, is focussed on biodiversity and ecosystem services in two lake districts: the Broads in East Anglia and the Upper Lough Erne area in Northern Ireland. The work forms part of a wider research programme on Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability (BESS) funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

We are looking into how biodiversity regulates ecological balance within lakes and would like to assess the consequences of biodiversity loss for the provision of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services from lakes are extremely diverse: recreation, tourism, water purification, flood prevention, provision of fish for anglers and fisheries and other supporting services such as carbon storage for climate mitigation. Because of this variety, changes in lake ecological functioning in response to pollution may affect the different services in different ways, rendering best practices for restoration and management difficult to establish.

One aspect we are particularly interested to develop with Lake BESS is the importance of ecological connectivity between lakes for their biodiversity. Connectivity may be a major factor determining lake ecosystem resilience because it counter-balances the negative effect of local extinction by increasing species re-colonisation. Another aspect of interest is the consequences of biological invasions by organisms such as zebra mussels and Canadian pondweed.

Zebra mussels

Zebra mussel is an invasive mussel that was first observed in Ireland in 1997 but is now becoming widespread. It can use native mussel shells as substrate, as shown on this photograph. One aim of our project is to quantify the impact of this invasion with respect to biodiversity and ecosystem services. [Photo by Jorge Salgado]

Our team is composed of Carl Sayer, Helen Bennion, Jorge Salgado and Ambroise Baker at UCL, Tom Davidson at the University of Aarhus (Denmark), Beth Okamura at the Natural History Museum and Nigel Willby at Stirling University. We are looking forward to a field campaign this summer and to presenting the result of our work to the numerous stakeholders in both lake districts. A new blog and project website for Lake BESS has been launched: http://lakebess.wordpress.com/, which is designed to engage with a broad audience so that our research will be widely disseminated and make a real difference to all stakeholders in The Broads and the Upper Lough Erne Region. Please follow our updates and get in touch if you have any comments or insights on our project, either through the website or directly by email.

Bathyscope

Botanical biodiversity is going to be surveyed from boats using a bathyscope. [Photo by Ben Goldsmith]

Ambroise Baker is a postdoctoral researcher at UCL Geography with an interest in promoting biodiversity in human-dominated landscapes and in all aspects of botany. More details of his research and interests can be found here.

London 2062: a despatch from the future

Posted by ucfaram at Mar 02, 2014 05:30 PM |

by Matthew Gandy

Writing in the spring of 2062 the turmoil of the 2040s should have come as no surprise. The death of King William V in a skiing accident (only one resort remained in Europe because of climate change) led to the accession in 2037 of the now heavily bloated ‘playboy prince’ Harry to the UK throne (consisting of England and Wales after Scottish independence in 2024 and Irish re-unification in 2030). The steady stream of revelations, including extensive tax avoidance and money laundering, led to public demands for a referendum on the future of the monarchy which was narrowly passed in 2040 but then overruled by an obscure legal move instigated by the ‘Bullingdon’ faction of the re-elected New Conservatives. Tensions were already running high following the mysterious breakdown of the computerized voting system (outsourced to Belize) during the tightly fought general election of 2039. Following a much delayed and rain drenched Robbie Williams comeback concert in Hyde Park in 2041 (now aged 88) a vast crowd had attempted to storm the now permanently cordoned off ‘district 3’ created from an amalgamation of London’s richest boroughs following the local government reorganization of 2028 that also saw the city’s metropolitan boundary extended to the M25 orbital (now doubled in width in both directions). The overstretched and underpaid private security firm Peel, in charge of London’s policing, had used live rounds on the irate crowd as they began to storm the high-end Hyde Park 2 residential towers. Following the disturbances in west London a series of security zones in other UK cities were also stormed, along with several police stations, now re-named ‘security control points’, in Leeds, Manchester and the vast ‘Medway super city’ (an elongated London overspill zone stretching from Gravesend to Whitstable). Particular fury was vented at these ‘control points’ because they managed the use of facial algorithms and DNA barcoding to restrict access to banks, hospitals, shopping centres and other buildings on a routine basis. The widespread use of ‘electronic clamping’, to render citizens ‘inactive’, and thereby excluded from society, had reached levels of 40 per cent by the early 2040s, with widening disparities in income and life expectancy across different parts of the city.

The eventual abandonment of the vast ‘Thames Barrier 2’ project in 2025, after the UK’s third debt default, led to the eventual creation of a ‘floodpark’ in 2035 stretching from the now derelict former Olympics site at Stratford to Rainham beyond the city’s former metropolitan boundary. The Thames Gateway development scheme initiated in the 1990s had been eventually dropped because of the withdrawal of insurance cover for new homes, leading to further pressure on the city’s housing market, which contributed to the widespread ‘shelter riots’ of 2021, 2037 and especially 2042. The shortage of land for new housing had also been exacerbated by two further developments: the construction of a new international airport, with four runways, in Leytonstone, which had displaced over 200,000 people; and the growing trend for ‘urban villas’, constructed in a dizzying array of architectural styles on individual 1 hectare plots, sold principally to overseas buyers at 1 trillion dollars apiece.

The aerial view of London in 2062 is dominated by the green wedge-shaped expanse of its controlled flood zone beyond which we can observe a patchwork of giant fields in which all food production is managed by the food-healthcare conglomerate BupaFood Incorporated (the term ‘food’ itself had eventually been trademarked in 2031 following unexplained interruptions to the supply of basic commodities such as wheat, milk and soya). The now permanent presence of vast stretches of standing water in east London, following the disastrous flood of 2033, has had some unexpected consequences for the city’s twelve million inhabitants: new strains of encephalitis, malaria and even dengue fever have become an everyday hazard for low-income populations, now almost exclusively concentrated in the heavily overcrowded and dilapidated ‘non investment’ zones. Although the word ‘slum’ is forbidden in all mass media outlets, now controlled by just one magnate, tattered copies of books by Mike Davis, David Harvey and other writers still circulate on the black market, in contravention of the ‘digitization’ edict of 2040, which sought to bring all forms of text-based communication under central control by Amazon IKL (Information, Knowledge and Leisure) based in New York and Shanghai.

London’s manager, the term ‘mayor’ was dropped because of its democratic connotations, has been appointed on a quinquennial basis by the now enlarged Corporation of London since 2028, when they assumed full control of the metropolitan region for planning, security and ‘policy delivery’ (all services are now outsourced and the term ‘public’ is seen as highly anachronistic). Given the size and complexity of London the attempt by the Corporation and its sponsors to control all aspects of everyday life has its limits: a glance from the thickened glass windows of bullet trains, on the eventually completed Crossrail project, reveals the tell-tale signs of local food production and clandestine allotments nestling between abandoned buildings in the city’s flood zone. Only the other day a neighbour gave me some ripe mangoes that had been secretly cultivated in our street.

East Reservoir, Stoke Newington, London, 2010. Photo: Matthew Gandy
East Reservoir, Stoke Newington, London, 2010. Photo: Matthew Gandy

 

N.B. This brief essay was originally published in Sarah Bell and James Paskins (eds.) Imagining the future city: London 2062 (London: Ubiquity Press) pp. 163-165. It has been posted here with the permission of the author.

About the author: Matthew Gandy is Professor of Geography at UCL and writes about cities, landscapes, and nature. For more information about his work: http://www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/about-the-department/people/academic-staff/matthew-gandy