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Nature & the Environment

Invasive species causing problems for flood defence

The Environment Agency is set to start work on the River Leven to reduce the risk of flooding in Stokesley, North Yorkshire, next week.

The work includes removing silt from the river channel, following the removal of trees and weeds that were growing in the channel and on the bank, back in July, as phase one of the project. However the project is made more complex because an invasive plant species, Himalayan Balsam, is known to grow in the area.

This tall, fast-growing, invader grows in dense clumps that prevents shorter native plants from getting enough light to grow underneath it.

Himalayan Balsam can take over large areas.

As well as causing problems for native species, Himalayan Balsam also increases the risk of riverbanks washing away because other plants which would bind the soil with their roots, are prevented from growing. This means that when the balsam plants die in the autumn they leave bare patches of soil, which can be

more easily washed away by rain.

Stokesley’s flood defences were built in 1979 to divert the River Leven into a channel away from the town during high flows. But when water levels drop, silt is often left behind in the channel and on the riverbank. The silt builds up over time and needs to be removed. If it isn’t removed, the river channel cannot carry as much water, meaning nearby properties are more at risk of flooding.

As a result,

The Himalayan Balsam dat can be found here: mes/documents/HimalayanBalsa m.pdf

On the 1st November, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust forged closer ties with more than 150 governments that have committed to safeguarding wetlands through an international treaty.

WWT Chief Executive

Martin Spray will sign a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with the Ramsar wetlands convention, which aims to a protect wetlands globally and promote their ‘wise use’.

The MoC underlines WWT’s contribution to Ramsar in areas including the conservation of threatened species, poverty alleviation and disease control.

WWT founder Sir Peter Scott was a driving force behind the treaty which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. WWT works with organisations in several countries helping to protect wetlands. Six WWT centres are now part of larger Ramsar sites

Martin Spray said: “The principles behind the Ramsar treaty echo those of WWT and having this

International boost for UK wetlands trust

opportunity to cement our ties with an organisation of such integrity and repute underscores our experience and expertise.

“We are helping to protect endangered waterbirds in many countries and supporting those nations as they establish their own conservation infrastructure. This agreement recognises our work to date and the priceless global role wetlands play.”

The amount of inland wetland across the world has halved in the last 100 years with wetlands being lost or damaged more quickly than any other habitat.

Concern at this rapid disappearance prompted work to establish the Ramsar convention. Global cooperation was required because wetlands often straddle national borders or affect water supplies, wildlife and environments in more than one country

Many wetland species are migratory, flying thousands of miles between breeding and overwintering sites. WWT has helped establish wetland and species

protection in countries including Guyana, Madagascar and in the Yangtze River floodplain in China –

WWT Asia’s most

important wintering site for migrant waterbirds

also contributes

scientific and policy expertise to Ramsar, on topics ranging from the re- introduction of species to sites they previously inhabited to the health and environmental implications of the illegal use of lead shot

Currently 160 governments have signed the Ramsar treaty including the UK. Membership gives access to expertise, funding for wetland protection, publicity and prestige.

The UK has more Ramsar sites, 168, than any other country. They include the Thames Estuary, Carlingford Lough in Northern Ireland and Loch Lomond. Mangroves in Bermuda, several South Atlantic islands and Falkland Island beaches are also of UK responsibility as parts of Overseas Territories.

Mild Winter responsible for Miracle Mallards

A mallard at London Wetland Centre has hatched a clutch of 11 ducklings, about six months later - or perhaps six months earlier - than usual.


ducklings, which would usually be born between April and June, are enjoying the winter sunshine on the entrance lake at the WWT London Wetland Centre in Barnes

Mallard ducklings would normally hatch in August, but can hatch later if a clutch fails and the adults try for a second brood.

The warm winter weather has caused a flurry of other unseasonal events at the London Wetland Centre. Temperatures of 16C and clear blue skies proved too much for a couple of peregrines which were seen paddling up to their breasts off a shingle island in the main lake last weekend.


spectacular falcons, famed for their spectacular hunting skills, looked more like a couple on a beach holiday than birds which are capable of decapitating their prey in flight.

However, in the reed beds on the other side of the lake a bittern was showing, having arrived at the Centre three weeks ago in order to spend the winter here.

Jamie Wyver : Tel: 0208 409 4400. Web:

What’s more, some very dazed daffodil shoots sprang up within the grounds of the wetland centre, fooled into thinking that spring has arrived before winter has even started. Bats and dragonflies have also been spotted hunting over the reserve.

Apart from these unusual wildlife sightings, this is also a wonderful time to visit London Wetland Centre because the colourful water birds that do choose to spend the winter here – such as teal, wigeon and shoveler - are arriving in full force.


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