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WorldScan: September 20, 2002

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UK Protected Sites Last Refuges for Wild Flowers

PETERBOROUGH, UK, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - Populations of some of the rarest species of British plants - the pennyroyal, fen orchid, water germander and sharp-leaved pondweed - are now almost entirely restricted to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), areas protected by government order.

The loss of these plants is documented by the first comprehensive botanical research project in 40 years - the "New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora," and the accompanying report "The Changing Flora of the UK," published this week by the government agency English Nature through Oxford University Press.

Simon Leach, a botanical expert with English Nature said at the launch, "Many species have declined, and are now much more dependent for their survival on nature reserves, SSSIs and the rest of the protected sites network than they were 40 years ago. Particularly in the lowlands, these places have become quite literally last refuges for many native wild plants."

orchid

Lesser butterfly orchid (Photo © Peter Roworth/English Nature)
The atlas is the result of work by more than 1,600 field botanists, mostly volunteers from the Botanical Society of the British Isles. The 910-page volume, compiled from nine million records, features 2,412 maps to illustrate the distribution of flowering plants and ferns in Britain and Ireland.

British and Irish botanists collaborated on the atlas with the Biological Records Centre at Monks Wood, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, government departments in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for Wales.

Some 2,950 species were covered by the project, including 1,396 native species and 1,551 introductions - many more than were mapped in the last comparable survey in 1950s.

English Nature's chief scientist Keith Duff said many species, especially recent introductions, and a large number of subspecies and hybrids, had never been mapped before. "But for those plants mapped in the first Atlas, published in 1962, we can now see how their distributions have changed - and for a large number of these species the results are alarming."

Wild plants associated with arable land, calcareous and acidic grasslands, heaths, bogs and montane habitats have declined across much of the UK. The decline has been greatest in England, especially in the south and east.

The wild flowers of arable habitats that have shown the greatest decline. Improved seed cleaning techniques, increased use of fertilizers and herbicides, development of new, more vigorous crop varieties, and the shift from spring-sown to autumn-sown crops have all had an adverse impact on these plants.

Amongst the declining species are some of the most typical British cornfield flowers like corn buttercup and corn marigold. Plants like shepherd's needle and cornflower are now so rare that they are listed as Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan."

"Many grassland species have declined," said Leach. He listed the carline thistle, purple milk-vetch, field gentian, green-winged orchid, and chamomile. Other species found in wet heaths, marshes and bogs, such as great sundew, common butterwort, lesser butterfly-orchid and marsh lousewort are now extinct across large tracts of lowland England.

"The maps in the New Atlas show that even some of our most familiar and widespread wild flowers have declined across parts of their range - for example, agrimony in northern England, common eyebright in East Anglia and the Midlands and zigzag clover in the South East."

The causes of these declines include habitat loss, changes in farming practice, increased soil fertility, nutrient enrichment of fresh waters and the spread of introduced plants into the wild, both as escapes from cultivation and as a result of deliberate planting.

Climate change could also be starting to have an impact on some species, said Leach. The New Atlas shows that plants having a mainly southerly or "Mediterranean" distribution in Europe are increasing, especially in southern England.

The botanists see SSSIs as a vital springboard for many plants trying to work their way back into the countryside at large as changes like environmentally friendly farming are more widely practiced.

Copies of the atlas, priced £99.95 plus postage and packing, can be obtained from Oxford University Press, Tel: 44-01536- 454534, Email: [email protected]

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Few European Parks Qualify for WWF Trademark

GLAND, Switzerland, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - Logging, construction and uncontrolled hunting is taking place in some European parks, according to a new report from WWF, the conservation organization. Of some 2,900 protected areas surveyed in 39 European countries, only 134 meet the WWF criteria for well managed parks that could bear the WWF PAN Parks trademark.

This new trademark is awarded to parks with outstanding nature and high quality tourism facilities that are balanced with wilderness protection.

The report, entitled "Potential PAN Parks - A quick scan of European protected areas," analyzed 2,926 European protected areas based on the requirements needed to achieve the PAN (Protected Areas Network) Parks trademark.

Most protected areas in Western Europe, on the Atlantic coast, and in the West Mediterranean are in "bad condition," the report states.

Lack of protection in supposedly protected ecosystems and natural processes in eight Baltic and Adriatic coast regions is "alarming, with logging, building and uncontrolled hunting occurring in parks."

"Many European protected areas are not managed effectively, which threatens their biodiversity," said Zoltan Kun, director of the PAN Parks initiative, which promotes the trademark.

The report identifies protected areas in relatively good condition and with good potential for receiving the PAN Park trademark in Scandinavia, Russia, Central Europe, and in the East Mediterranean.

The PAN Parks initiative was launched in 1997 by WWF and the Dutch Leisure Company Molecaten Group. Following five years of survey and assessments, Fulufjället in Sweden, Oulanka in Finland and Bieszczady in Poland are the first three national parks to obtain the PAN Parks trademark and to be recognized as model parks.

They were officially celebrated Tuesday in Sweden by His Majesty King Karl Gustav of Sweden, as the study was launched.

The conservation organization sees the PAN Parks trademark as a new opportunity for green tourism development, which could help improve the management of protected areas through sustainable tourism.

Kun acknowledges that tourism itself could be threat. "The environmental impact of the rapid growth of tourism is a serious concern, not only for the environment but also for the tourism industry."

In view of these results, WWF calls upon all European governments to design and approve a common management planning process for all protected areas that includes efficient management, biological corridors and buffer zones that provide resilience to threats.

"The PAN Parks trademark guarantees tourists that their visit contributes to the protection of the natural area," said Kun. "When carefully controlled, tourism provides much needed income for local communities. Putting an economic value on European nature is definitely a sound way to protect it."

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B.C. Spotted Owl Logged into Extinction

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - The northern spotted owl, an indicator species that has been at the center of some of the fiercest forest fights in the Pacific Northwest, is being logged into extinction, according to three British Columbia conservation groups. They have documented fewer than 25 breeding pairs in southwestern British Columbia, the only place the spotted owl is found in Canada.

The provincial government's Small Business Forest Enterprise Program, International Forest Products and Teal Cedar Products Ltd. are among the top 10 companies logging the spotted owl's habitat, the report charges.

Using the provincial government's own data, the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC), and Forest Watch of British Columbia predict the extinction of the spotted owl in B.C. in 10 years and identify the province's forestry practices as the greatest threat to the owls' survival.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled on August 29 that although the provincial government could have passed forestry legislation to protect endangered species, it has not yet done so.

Foresters and logging companies continue to log in spotted owl habitat despite scientific research that identifies logging as the number one threat to the owls' survival, the report states.

"The spotted owl won't exist in Canada in ten years if we continue to log southwest B.C.'s old growth," says Devon Page, Sierra Legal Defence Fund counsel. "Eighty-seven percent of the loss in spotted owl habitat is due to industrial logging. All logging in spotted owl habitat must stop or the owl is dead."

Joe Foy, WCWC campaign director said the risk of extinction extends beyond the owl to many other species. "The spotted owl is an indicator species, it is telling us something about the state of our old growth forests in B.C. This owl is our canary in the coal mine, and it's warning us that we are at risk of losing many other forest dependent species in this province."

The report found that B.C.'s weak forestry laws and the province's "logging to enhance owl habitat" policy have directly contributed to the owls' decline.

"We have examined logging plans throughout the range of the spotted owl in Canada and discovered that logging companies and foresters have targeted approximately 280 areas. This logging threatens critical spotted owl habitat," said Aran O'Carroll, executive director of Forest Watch of British Columbia.

"All we are asking," he said, "is that these companies and professionals do the right thing and meet their legal and ethical obligations to help save this species in Canada."

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Amazon Forest Dwellers, NGOs Blockade Loggers

PORTO DE MOZ, Brazil, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - Some 600 Amazon forest dwellers seeking to save their forests and way of life were joined by Greenpeace and other nongovernmental organizations this week in a blockade of Brazil's Jaraucu River. The boats and banners reprsent the first such community protest in nearly 20 years.

The forest communities want the government to grant them an extractive reserve, the kind of sanctuary that Brazilian rubber tapper and community activist Chico Mendes died for in 1988.

Without this protection, Greenpeace said in a statement Thursday, they fear loggers and farmers will continue to destroy their rainforest home in Pará state in the eastern Brazilian Amazon.

The Jaraucu River is the main transport route for illegal timber around the town of Porto de Moz, a region known for land squatting and illegal logging. Loggers entered the Porto de Moz area in 1990, after the forests east of Pará state were logged out.

For the past three years, these forest communities have sought to create the Verde Para Sempre, For the pastever Green, an extractive reserve covering an area of 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) almost half the size of Belgium.

Claudio Wilson Barbosa, a community leaders participating in the protest, said, "Loggers and farmers are invading our traditional land and destroying our forest and the future of our kids. They need to get out and return the forest to the real owners, the people of Verde Para Sempre."

But in this area of about 125 communities and 15,000 inhabitants, loggers, farmers and politicians are fighting the extractive reserve. Some resort to violence to stop the process, the type of conflict that led to Mendes' 1988 murder at the hands of farmers.

Five years of Greenpeace research has yielded a map showing the illegal activities in this disputed area around Porto de Moz and implicating national and international logging companies.

Companies including Curuatinga, DLH Nordisk, Eidai, Marajó Island Business, Madenorte, Porbrás and Rancho da Cabocla are directly or indirectly involved in operations here, according to the Greenpeace map.

Greenpeace Amazon campaigner Marcelo Marquesini said at the Jaraucu river protest, "We believe that extractive reserves are one of the ways to ensure the sustainable use of forests resources, and the traditional communities are the first ones interested in protecting their forest land and environment, which they depend on to survive."

The Brazilian government could act to create the Verde Para Sempre Extractive Reserve, Marquesini said, which would stop forest destruction in Porto de Moz.

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DiCaprio and IFAW Partner to Save Elephants

LOS ANGELES, California, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - Actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio sent an urgent email appeal to his fans worldwide Thursday to save elephants by joining the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Global Elephant Campaign.

Despite an international ban on the ivory trade since 1990 and efforts to conserve habitat, elephant populations in Africa have fallen from 600,000 in 1990 to possibly as low as 301,000 today.

In Asia fewer than 50,000 elephants remain.

Although elephants are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), they are still being poached for their ivory. They are also at risk from habitat loss, conflicts with humans and the illegal bushmeat trade.

In November, countries that are Parties to CITES will meet in Santiago, Chile to vote on several controversial proposals that would allow for the reopening of legal ivory trade, putting wild elephants around the world at an increased risk.

Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe are proposing to export specific quantities of ivory under controlled conditions. On the other side of the issue, Kenya and India are proposing to transfer all African elephant populations to listing on CITES Appendix I, thus prohibiting all commercial trade in elephants or their parts.

DiCaprio said in his email, "The battle to save Africa and Asia's last remaining elephant herds could be decided in the next few weeks. The mere suggestion of a renewed ivory trade has already spawned a wave of elephant killings across Asia and Africa. Now, more than ever, please lend a hand, keep spreading the word and visit the elephant site at www.ifaw.org."

DiCaprio's website is hosting a series of international web chats on elephants with some of IFAW's elephant and ivory trade experts

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Europe Could Lose U.S. Computer Ecolabel

BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 20, 2002 (ENS) - A European Union agreement to join an American government ecolabel scheme for computers should be annulled because it was adopted on the wrong legal basis, according to an advisor to the European Court of Justice.

Considering a case brought to it by the European Commission, Advocate General Siegbert Alber said the Energy Star agreement boosted trade rather than environmental protection.

The dispute highlights continuing tensions between EU environmental and commercial policies.

A regulation introducing the Energy Star label in the European Union was adopted last year. In approving the measure, the Council of Ministers cited the environmental protection articles of the EU treaty, while the European Commission had proposed that they use the articles promoting external trade.

The Commission said the council's move was a "restrictive" one that undermined trade policy and was a "step back" from previous case law and practice.

The council said the agreement's stated aim was to "maximize energy savings and environmental benefits," and was "trade-neutral" since many EU companies already adhered to the label's standard.

Basing the label on trade policy articles would make national or regional ecolabel schemes unlawful, they said.

Alber said joining the Energy Star program could be seen as either an environmental or trade policy measure, but the fact the EU had adopted a pre-existing logo and standards meant it was "at least primarily" a trade measure.

Its environmental effect would be only indirect and long term since any green benefits would come from consumer behavior. National ecolabels are more an internal EU matter and would not be threatened by external trade policy decisions, he said.

The case now moves to the full court for a definitive judgement.

The U.S. Energy Department's Energy Star label aims to make it easy to identify energy efficient products without sacrificing product features, quality or personal comfort. In the United States the label can be found on products in 30 different categories, including appliances, electronics, office equipment, lighting, heating and cooling systems, and windows.

{The Energy Star report is published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Website: http://www.ends.co.uk }



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