March, 2014

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East

All of our up to date fun and frolics in the East from office antics to great conservation stories and those magical connections with nature.
  • Nature reserves – the UK’s newest power stations

    Guest blog by Sarah Green, Project Co-ordinator, Natura People Partnership Project

    In December 2013 seven nature and conservation organisations came together to study carbon reduction and renewable energy measures in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.

    Climate change is a real problem in the world – we know this and you know this – but what is less clear is how we tackle the problem.  How can we work with industry and government to have a lasting positive impact on our environment?

    The RSPB’s role in this project is to investigate how we can turn the wetland biomass (reeds and rushes) found on our nature reserves into fuel.  Currently excess vegetation on reserves is cut (in many cases by hand!) on a yearly basis to make sure that the reedbeds remain suitable habitats for bitterns, bearded tits, water voles and wainscot moths.  Once cut, the material is often burnt or left to rot, as we have no other way to dispose of it.  For more information on managing reedbeds for bitterns, see here.

    But! If we can find a viable way to harvest this material and turn it into something useful for domestic and commercial purposes, we could start changing the ways we source and use our energy.  These new technologies could provide an income stream for our reserves and the businesses carrying out the work.

    So we put our money where our mouth is and invited 50 delegates from businesses and conservation organisations to visit Minsmere last month for a demonstration of machinery allowing the cutting, harvesting and briquetting of reeds, to turn them into a renewable energy fuel source.

    AB Systems have designed and are testing the equipment as part of a nationwide pilot project funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).  The project aims to identify renewable energy sources that benefit biodiversity and promote business growth. 

    The European element comes from the CaRe-Lands project which match funds the DECC grant and lets us take the results of the briquetting process to a wider, broader level.  We hope that renewable energy will replace fossil fuels and will encourage communities to think about what they can do to lessen the impact of climate change.  CaRe-Lands is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the INTERREG IV A 2 Mers Seas Zeëen Interreg Cross-border Programme 2007-2013.

    For more information on this project please contact Sally Mills, Project Manager, on sally.mills@rspb.org.uk

  • Join us at Eurosites!

    Guest blog by Sarah Green, Project Coordinator - Natura People Partnership Project

    Do you work in conservation? Are you interested in increasing visitor numbers?  Do you want to improve your educational programme?  Are you interested in working with local businesses but aren’t sure how to start?  Do you need to measure the economic impact of your nature reserve or heritage site?

    If you said yes to any of these, please join us in Bruges on Wednesday 2 and Thursday 3 April 2014 as the Natura People project holds a conference to discuss project results and make links with similar organisations.

    RSPB Minsmere will be attending, delivering presentations on the on-site educational programme and assessing the economic impact of nature reserves.  Project partners will present their education strategies, branding of Natura 2000 sites and ecosystem services.  The second day will include live demonstrations of visitor engagement activities and  a tour of the Zwin nature reserve.

    To view the full programme and register for the conference please visit the Eurosites website.  You can keep up to date with the latest Eurosites news on their twitter and facebook accounts.

    For more information on Natura People please see the website.

    Natura People is part of the ‘Investing in your Future’ crossborder cooperation programme, part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the INTERREG IV A 2 Mers Seas Zeëen Interreg Cross-border Programme 2007-2013.

                  

  • Groundhog Day!

    The Thames Estuary is an incredible place for wildlife and it has some of the rarest bugs and beasties in the UK aswell as being one of the most important migration routes in the country for hundreds of thousands of birds. It is a highly developed area with some great examples of sustainable development such as DP World’s London Gateway port development. Sadly, there are also plenty of potential threats to the wildlife of this unique and special place. The Thames Estuary Airport and the Lower Thames Crossing are two high impact developments that we are currently looking at as part of our casework.

    I have to admit though, that working within the planning system can sometimes feel a bit like you’re stuck in Groundhog Day.

    This is the experience I have had recently with the proposed Lower Thames Crossing. It is a new crossing which would be east of the existing Dartford Crossing and the Government believes it is the only long-term solution to the well known congestion problems there. We believe that if it is considered properly it can provide a solution to the congestion, be economic and have minimal impact to wildlife. A win – win!

    The crossing has been on the cards for at least the last 5 years and has been fully investigated with various options (there were originally 5 options A – E) slowly being ruled out. Options D & E were eliminated by the government because research indicated they would only make a minimal improvement to congestion at the existing crossing, they would be incredibly expensive and they would have a serious environmental impact. It made sense to everyone.

    However, over the last month various MP’s have again raised the issue of options D & E and asked for David Cameron to reconsider them. In light of the overwhelming evidence, that these options would not provide an effective solution, would be hugely damaging to some of the most important habitats along the Thames and would be vastly more expensive than the other options, this seems bizarre. Groundhog Day rears it’s ugly head once more!

    Both these options have been estimated to cost between £3.5 and £10.5 billion in stark contrast to option A which is only estimated at £1.25 to £1.57 billion and they would have a disastrous effect on important wildlife sites along the Thames, including the RSPB’s newly created wetland site Bowers Marsh. They would completely destroy some of the Thames greatest homes for nature.

    These special places are some of the few remaining unspoilt natural habitats along the Thames and the mudflats and saltmarshes provide crucial food and resting areas for thousands of wintering geese, ducks and waders.

    The RSPB is trying to work within the planning system to achieve sustainable development. In the context of the Lower Thames Crossing this means that if the government decides a crossing is necessary it should effectively tackle congestion problems and be built and designed in a way that causes least harm to the environment and contributes to the economy. Only by considering planning in this way will we achieve a sustainable future for ourselves and the wildlife that we depend on.

    We need your help to remind MP’s that the Thames is a special place and it is important to wildlife and people. Together, we can fight to see that the Thames remains an incredible home for some of the world’s most amazing creatures. If you have a Twitter account we are asking you to mention @RSPBEssex and tweet your local MP telling them how you feel about development in the Thames.

    Thank you!

    Alex Cooper – RSPB Conservation Officer for Essex