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Tuesday, May 03, 2005
 
Urban children can’t see trees for the leaves

ALAN MacDERMID
April 29 2005

CITY life has left most of Britain's children unable to identify the leaves of the most common native trees, according to a survey published yesterday.
Children in Scotland fared worst in the report by the Woodland Trust, which paints a depressing picture of children hanging about the streets when – by their own admission – they would rather be roaming woods, parks and fields. But, in one of Europe's least wooded countries, they have lost touch with nature to the extent that they are unable to identify trees such as oak and ash.

The trust, a conservation charity, set out to discover the attitudes and interaction with the environment of Britain's seven to 14-year-olds. They found that one in seven children never played in the countryside with their friends.
They were worried about the destruction of the UK's environment, but nearly two thirds had not been taught about it at school. The survey revealed that when shown the pictures of leaves from UK trees, most children could not even guess what tree they belonged to, with 94% of children unable to identify common native trees.
Bottom of the pile were birch and hazel, with only 4% of children identifying them correctly. This was closely followed by beech (5%) and ash (6%). Recognition of the field maple (9%) and horse chestnut (17%) fared slightly better. The oak, one of Britain's most recognisable trees, was only identified by a fifth (20%) of children.
Helped by its Christmas role, holly came out top with more than half (54%) of those questioned recognising its leaves.


From: The Herald
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Landfill site to become the UK's largest urban forest

CHRIS MCAULEY
29 April 2005

A NOTORIOUS landfill site in the East End of Glasgow is to be transformed into the largest urban forest in the UK after the ambitious £1.5 million project was given the green light by city councillors yesterday.

Plans to transform Paterson’s landfill site in Mount Vernon, known locally as Paterson’s Tip, into a verdant oasis in the midst of a post-industrial landscape will now become a reality.

Set to span some 230 acres, the new urban forest will see more than a million trees planted, with lush meadows, wild flowers and rambling walkways replacing current eyesores such as rusting white goods, mountains of waste and overflowing skips.

The news will be especially welcomed by locals, given the infamous reputation of the site, one of the largest industrial dumps in any European city.

From: The Scotsman

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Academics rock on with art find

22 April 2005

ACADEMICS in Bristol are among a team to have proven ancient engravings at a site in the East Midlands are Britain’s oldest rock art, it was today confirmed.

Scientists from Bristol, Sheffield and the Open Universities have proved the engravings at Crags on the Nottinghamshire Derbyshire border are more than 12,800 years old.

Artefacts left by Ice-Age hunter-gathers excavated from Creswell’s caves have been dated to 13,000-15,000 years old.

From: The Scotsman

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Bird reserve opens floodgates to nature

JAMES REYNOLDS
ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT
7 April 2005

THE Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is to surrender another of its Scottish coastal reserves to the power of the North Sea, with possibly more to follow, in an effort to prepare for the effects of global warming.

Sea-wall flood defences will be deliberately breached at the organisation’s Skinflats reserve on the south bank of the Firth of Forth about three miles west of Grangemouth, allowing the sea - which is rising due to climate change - to flood the land.

It is hoped the process, known as managed coastal realignment, will return a large part of the 13-hectare reserve to salt marsh habitat, providing a haven for rare birds and a natural defence against flooding.

The recent Foresight Report on Future Flooding suggested that average temperatures in Scotland will increase by 3.5C by 2080, and that sea levels could increase by anything from 20 to 70cm by 2050.

Coastal realignment is seen as a natural way to prepare for such an eventuality, while allowing salt marsh to regenerate on its own and countering its disappearance at a rate of 100 hectares a year in the UK. It is also more ecologically beneficial than building gigantic concrete sea walls to oppose an inevitable and organic process.

From: The Scotsman

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Nationwide survey launched as snake numbers fail to add up

JAMES REYNOLDS
ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT
6 April 2005

SCOTLAND’S dwindling population of adders is to be counted in a survey to determine whether habitat destruction and changes in land use have damaged their numbers.

Although three species of snake are native to the UK - the smooth snake, grass snake and adder - only the adder has the ability to survive in Scotland’s harsher weather.

The UK’s only venomous snake, adders are found on heathland moors, the borders of woods and fields, overgrown quarries and railway embankments, although they are absent from much of the central lowlands, the Outer Hebrides and Northern Isles.

From: The Scotsman

Related site: Adder Nation 0 comments
 
Gaelic Resources

For all those out there who are interested in learning Scottish Gaelic you may find these useful:

Fuaimean na Gàidhlig - The Sounds of Gaelic

Beag air Bheag, a taste of Scottish Gaelic for absolute beginners

Blessings
Potia.
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What on Earth are we doing to our planet?

JAMES REYNOLDS
ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT
30 March 2005

HUMANS are damaging the planet at an unprecedented rate and increasing the risk of abrupt collapses in nature that could spur disease, deforestation or "dead zones" in the seas, an international report has found.

The study, by 1,360 experts in 95 nations, said a rising human population had polluted or over-exploited two-thirds of the ecological systems on which life depends, ranging from clean air to fresh water, in the past 50 years.

"At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning," the 45-member board of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment said. "Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted."

The report specifically cautioned that the continued and profligate use of natural resources would result in many of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, agreed by world leaders in 2000, being blocked or missed altogether.

From: The Scotsman

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Saturday, March 26, 2005
 
Scientists see the light as they find two far-off planets

PETER RANSCOMBE
24 March 2005

LIGHT from two planets orbiting distant stars has been detected for the first time by competing teams of American scientists.

The two groups each used NASA’s Spitzer space telescope to observe infra-red light coming from the far-off worlds. The two gas giants, or Hot Jupiters, follow an orbit that is very close to their parent stars. This causes the planets’ atmospheres to heat up and then give off some of that heat as infra-red radiation, which the telescope spotted.

More than 130 planets have been found orbiting other stars since 1995 but never through directly detecting the light they emit. Until now, these "exoplanets" have been found by watching the dip in the amount of light coming towards Earth, caused when a Hot Jupiter passes between us and the star it orbits.

From: The Scotsman

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Music strikes chord on coping with pain

JAMES REYNOLDS
SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT
24 March 2005

MUSIC, be it a Bach symphony or the snarling punk of the Sex Pistols, can relieve pain and lessen anxiety, according to two studies.

The research work, by psychologists at Glasgow Caledonian University, found that people listening to music feel less pain than those who are not and that music can relieve the symptoms of anxiety for patients recovering from surgery.

In one study, 20 people who received minor foot surgery listened to music of their choice as they recovered, while a further 20 who had undergone similar surgery did not.

The patients who had listened to music, regardless of its type, reportedly felt much less anxiety than those who did not.

The second study, which involved inducing pain in volunteers, served to support the first.

From: The Scotsman

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Call for new power plants, but Holyrood vetoes nuclear

GERRI PEEV AND JOHN BOWKER
24 March 2005

Key points
Committee calls for more nuclear power reactors to meet energy needs
Executive will block new plants until safety issues on nuclear waste resolved
50% Scotland’s energy made by nuclear plants; 1% of UK’s energy by wind

Key quote
"Jim Wallace [the enterprise minister] said recently that, until we have a solution to the problem of safe disposal of nuclear waste, we are not planning any more nuclear power stations. Jack McConnell then endorsed that as the position of the Executive" - Scottish executive spokeswoman

Story in full SCOTLAND should not turn its back on nuclear power if it wants to avoid a crippling energy shortfall in the future, Scottish MPs warned yesterday.

But the Scottish Executive insisted last night that it would block the development of any new reactors unless safety fears were met.

MPs on the Scottish affairs committee said nuclear power stations would help avert Britain becoming a net importer of gas and could be built in as little as five years.

The Scotsman understands Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, has also been told by the government’s most senior scientists that new nuclear power plants must be built to safeguard Britain’s future energy supplies.

The Scottish affairs committee called for a "proper debate" on energy, including an audit of the costs and risks of nuclear and coal power, to be conducted after the election.

Nuclear power accounts for half of Scotland’s electricity and in their report on meeting Scotland’s future energy needs, MPs said the best solution "might be the most controversial decision that the government could take: the rehabilitation of nuclear power".

From: The Scotsman

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Wildlife at risk due to 'shocking state' of Scotland's waters

JAMES REYNOLDS
ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT
23 March 2005

SCOTLAND’S lochs, rivers and coastal waters are in a "shocking state", with many failing to support the typical plants, fish insects and birds found in healthy water systems, according to a damning new study.

Official reports sent by the Westminster government to the European Commission show that, despite years of investment and work by the water industry, both Scotland’s and the UK’s waters remain in a wretched condition - with potentially disastrous consequences for wildlife.

Prepared by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the report into the water environment shows that 47 per cent of rivers and 62 per cent of lochs in Scotland are suffering from damaging human activity and are at risk of failing to achieve "good status" under the EU Water Framework Directive.

From: The Scotsman

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Farmers encouraged to restore grassland and fens

Graeme Smith
22 March 2005

LANDOWNERS are being encouraged to save and restore Scotland's ancient and declining semi-natural grasslands and fens under a £600,000 scheme launched yesterday.

The grasslands and fens, rich in flowers and native plant species as well as other wildlife, have typically developed as a result of farming over centuries.

They are an important part of our natural heritage, but are easily damaged and their area has declined over the last 70 years.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is trying to reverse that trend with the East Scotland Grassland
Management Scheme, which will encourage and reward those who help with the management and care of 83 grassland and fen Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which cover 4731 hectares. These contain just under half of the semi-natural lowland grasslands in Scotland.

From: The Herald
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Tam O’Shanter’s kirk of witches and warlocks to dance new jig

MARTYN McLAUGHLIN
22 March 2005

It is the ancient kirk where Satan led a gaggle of warlocks and witches in a frenzied jig "till roof and rafters a' did dirl".

But now a dilapidated Ayrshire monument immortalised in Tam O'Shanter, one of the best-known works of Robert Burns, is to be preserved for future generations in the latest effort to safeguard the poet's heritage.

The Auld Kirk of Alloway, the scene of a supernatural dance in the poem, and its churchyard, where Burns buried his father, will be reinstated in a £250,000 project.

From: The Herald
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Pensioners to outnumber youths within eight years

GERRI PEEV
POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
22 March 2005

PENSIONERS will outnumber children in the United Kingdom in just eight years, according to a study which highlights the looming population crisis.

The number of people aged over 65 has soared by 28 per cent in 30 years as advances in medicine and improvements in relative prosperity fuel longevity, the Social Trends Survey by the Office of National Statistics found.

Meanwhile, the number of under 16-year-olds has dropped by 18 per cent.

Despite an increased lifespan, the study warned that more elderly people than ever would suffer from ill-health.

The burdens on public services would intensify as more elderly people required long-term care - a service which is "free" in Scotland but which English and Welsh pensioners must pay for.

From: The Scotsman

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Study proves growing GM crops has negative impact on wildlife

JAMES REYNOLDS
ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT
22 March 2005

Key points
Scientific study finds GM crops inhibit weeds affecting natural food chain
One company withdraws EU GM crop application following result
Scientists collected 1m weeds, 2m insects in world's biggest ecological study

Key quote
"The trials demonstrate the government’s precautionary approach on GM crops and our firm commitment to case-by-case decisions are underpinned by sound scientific evidence" - Elliot Morely, environment minister

Story in full A MAJOR study has confirmed growing genetically modified crops can harm wildlife.

Government-commissioned scientists compared GM winter-sown oilseed rape with a conventional version of the crop, and found that fewer broad leaved weeds and their seeds were present in fields where the GM herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape was grown. Flowers of such weeds are important as food for insects, while the seeds are a major source of sustenance for farmland birds.

The study, published yesterday, found fewer bees and butterflies in the GM crop compared with the conventional oilseed rape.

From: The Scotsman

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Monday, March 21, 2005
 
Global warming threat to future of Scotland's lochs

JAMES REYNOLDS
ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT
Saturday 19 March 2005

GLOBAL warming will cause the bottom layers of Scotland’s deepest freshwater lochs to stagnate and rise in temperature, threatening their sensitive ecology, The Scotsman has learned.

In particular the survival of the Arctic char, one of our least known and most endangered fish species, could be put in jeopardy.

Freshwater lochs such as Loch Lomond, Loch Doon and Loch Morar have a layered structure where the surface and deep waters differ in temperature and density. To keep the bottom layers fresh, the layers have to mix, and for this to happen they have to reach a similar temperature and density for a time. This normally happens in winter when the surface waters cool.

But biologists at Glasgow University have found that if the climate warms as predicted, the surface waters will not cool sufficiently for the layers to mix.

The findings are corroborated by studies in France where research revealed that a mere 1C change in air temperature would be enough to upset the thermal mixture of famous continental lakes including Germany’s Lake Ammersee and Lake Annecy in France.

from: The Scotsman

0 comments
 
Women more complex than we'd thought

Latest research into the X chromosome brings startling discoveries

ROBERT LEE HOTZ
Saturday 19 March 2005

SCIENTISTS have found genetic evidence for what some men have long suspected: it is dangerous to make assumptions about women.

The key is the X chromosome, the "female" sex chromosome that all men and women have in common. In a study published this week in the journal Nature, scientists said they had found an unexpectedly large genetic variation in the way parts of women’s two X chromosomes are distributed among them. The findings were published in conjunction with the first comprehensive decoding of the chromosome.

Females can differ from each other almost as much as they do from males in the way many genes at the heart of sexual identity behave, researchers say. "Literally every one of the females we looked at had a different genetic story," says Duke University genetics expert Huntington Willard, who co-wrote the study. "It is not just a little bit of variation."

The analysis also found that the obsessively debated differences between men and women were, at least on the genetic level, even greater than previously thought. As many as 300 of the genes on the X chromosomes may be activated differently in women than in men, says the other author of the paper, Laura Carrel, molecular biologist at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.

From: The Scotsman

0 comments
 
The Norfolk Blackbird that takes its holidays in Devon

By David Sapsted
(Filed: 17/03/2005)

A blackbird bitten by the travel bug is amazing ornithologists by taking annual winter breaks in the same gardens in Devon rather than staying in wind-swept Norfolk.

While many of his kind are content to spend their entire lives within a few miles of their place of birth, Roger the blackbird - or CL98725, as ornithologists know him - flies 228 miles each autumn from his native Thetford to a garden in Newton Abbot.

From: The Telegraph 0 comments

Sunday, March 06, 2005
 
Experts show official wind power claims are hot air

JEREMY WATSON
27 February 2005

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build thousands of wind turbines across Scotland will make almost no difference to greenhouse gas levels, according to new research by leading environmental scientists.

The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies says that even on the most optimistic assumptions, renewable sources of energy, such as wind power, will have only a "minor impact" on reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The report, by one of the UK’s leading think tanks on energy policy, is a serious setback for the Scottish Executive. Ministers hope to convince voters that around 70 new wind farms will make a significant contribution to slashing carbon dioxide levels by at least 20% over the next 15 years.

But the institute’s report argues that previous experience shows governments fail to meet their targets for building wind farms, and even when they do deliver their promises, they have little impact on greenhouse gas levels.

Other technologies, such as nuclear energy, which produces no carbon dioxide, now deserve to be given closer consideration by ministers, even if they are unpopular with voters, the report says.

From: The Scotsman

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Why long lost beaver will soon give a dam about the Highlands

JEREMY WATSON
27 February 2005

THEY ARE much admired by engineers and children, but the great outdoors of Scotland will have seen nothing like them for more than 400 years.

Electronically-tagged beavers are to be set free into the wild under a new £500,000 plan designed by government scientists.

Scottish Natural Heritage wants to release up to 20 of the dam-building, aquatic animals on a wildlife reserve in Argyll as part of an ambitious programme to reintroduce extinct species back into the country.

If approved by the Scottish Executive, the beavers will be imported from Norway and held in quarantine pens before release next spring.

They will be tracked electronically to ensure they do not stray outside the trial area in Knapdale Forest on to surrounding land.

From: The Scotsman

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