Environmental issues never cease to intrigue, says Mike Stentiford, of the Jersey National Park, as he takes another look at eco stories from around the world
NOT before time, nations have come together to officially rubber-stamp some serious levels of protection for the world’s oceans.
Following a decade of top-level negotiations, the High Seas Treaty vows to fully protect 30% of the world’s seas by 2030. Although this might sound somewhat inadequate, such endorsement nevertheless offers robust safeguard and recovery for an astonishing diversity of marine life.
Agreement was reached at the beginning of March following 38 hours of non-stop cross-chat between delegates at the UN headquarters in New York.
The last time any international agreement on ocean protection was signed was in 1982. Since then, the risks to marine life from climatic changes, over-fishing and heavy shipping ‘traffic jams’ have increased twenty-fold.
The urgency of such a treaty has been justifiably recognised by the latest assessment from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This august body claims that 10% of global marine species are now on the cliff-edge of extinction.
At the top of the global marine ‘exit list’ are sharks and rays, which are closely followed by fish, molluscs and reef corals.
While most would agree that such a treaty is a huge step forward, others argue that it is likely to prove more than a mega challenge to enforce.
WHILE the scarcity of tomatoes and onions has encouraged a modicum of general public engagement, the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has extended the debate quite dramatically.
In an address to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, he warns that with some 820 million people worldwide already facing famine, the demand for food by 2050 is likely to increase by 70%.
With the obvious impact on countless numbers of adults and children, the secretary general’s plea for countries to rethink their long-term plans for sustainable food systems and farming practices has been issued with a genuine sense of urgency.
Adding further to this visionary message of bleakness comes the tandem fact that, also by the year 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will be facing water shortages.
Makes one yearn for the ‘good old days’ although, on reflection, it’s probably the ‘good old non-thinking days’ that kick-started many of today’s eco-issues.
IF Gorey residents thought they had an issue with deep and smelly seaweed, then a measure of sympathetic understanding might be offered to all those beach-loving folk in Florida.
It seems that the Atlantic sargassum belt is getting a bit too big for its maritime breeches and, as a result, is setting its compass towards America’s ‘Sunshine State’.
Word has it that the seaweed belt stretches for about 5,500 miles (8,800km), weighs some ten million tons and is currently in full mobile mode between West Africa and the Gulf of Mexico.
Within 48 hours of sargassum settling on the shoreline, it starts to emit toxins such as hydrogen sulphide, a truly unpleasant aroma that can cause headaches, tummy upsets and eye irritation.
It is even worse for all those carefully executed turtle nests that become smothered under metres of suffocating seaweed.
But, to keep the tourists happy and weed-free, Key West’s ‘sargassum removal teams’ already have their forks primed and sharpened for action.
MOUNTAIN forests, one of our planet’s most biologically rich environments, are disappearing at an astonishing rate, accordingly to the learned ecologists at the Southern University of Science and Technology in China.
Studies gained from satellite images confirm that some 7% of mountain forests have vanished since 2000, taking with them wildlife species that are already under extreme duress.
Thanks to their relative inaccessibility, the majority of high forests gain a welcome degree of protection but, owing to mostly man-made changes in lower-lying areas, deforestation in mountain areas steadily increased between 2001 and 2009.
The most significant global losses have been recorded in Asia, South America, Africa, Australia and Europe.
Despite a great deal of positivity shown by many to make the world a better place for us and for nature, others appear to have no qualms in ensuring the opposite.
The good news for the environment and its biodiversity is that rewilding initiatives are currently catching on big time in the UK.
The latest success story concerns the Wilder Blean Project in Kent where three female bison were introduced into woodland in 2022.
Aided and abetted by a newly recruited alpha-male bison, the recent birth of a calf signals the first UK-born bison in thousands of years.
Owing entirely to the bison’s foraging techniques, improvements to the woodland habitat are proving of immense benefit to far less conspicuous wildlife.
So successful is the project that longhorn cattle, iron-age pigs and Exmoor ponies are all now honing up on their rewilding skills alongside the small but elite band of bison.