Well That SuDS…

This is a bold move. Writing a blog post on a topic that (no doubt) most people would rather cut off their private parts and boil them for dinner, than read about. But hold on. Sheees-ah turning this around. There’s even a drop of romance in here for you… Cheeky.

SuDS, although you may have never of heard of them, are important. Just trust me please. SuDS, or sustainable urban drainage systems, refers to the green land (or lack of!) that is able to soak up surface water. Surface water is becoming an increasing problem. We have concreted over so much natural land that would normally soak up rainfall and excess water (through natural permeable surfaces, a process called infiltration) and now we’ve now got an influx of the volume of surface water.

To put it plainly, we’ve fucked it. But don’t fear, this isn’t necessarily a gloomy topic and I will prove this to you later on. Strap in.

Natural infiltration is limited in our urban areas, where many (once natural) surfaces are now smothered by buildings and paving. Instead, drainage networks divert surface water to local watercourses (rivers, estuaries etc). This can cause adverse effects such as downstream flooding and a decline in river water quality that is caused when sewers are overwhelmed by surface water, resulting in an over spill of raw sewage water into rivers.

Sustainable drainage systems aim to alleviate these problems by storing or re-using surface water at source, by decreasing flow rates to watercourses and by improving water quality – pretty cool stuff huh?

Now to slip in a cheeky bit of romance into the mix. This steamy stuff will get your attention… (Oop, naaaughty).

I’m referring back to when I was talking about sewers being overwhelmed and spilling untreated sewage into our rivers, messing up the water quality. A good example of where this issue is currently being solved is good old London. The Tideway Tunnel (also known as the super sewer) is a new 25 km tunnel being built underneath the Thames which will collect the excess water and prevent the tens of millions of tonnes of pollution that currently pollute London’s river every year. I am proud to say that I am currently dating a young man who works for this company (on the sustainability team) and although I would never admit it to his face (duh?), I think what he does is pretty darn cool. In fact I think he’s the best thing since sliced bread. Period. Yes, you read that right. I’m dating someone. SuD me sideways…

Steering away from my emotions and back to SuDS.

So how do these bad boy drainage systems work then? Allow me to enlighten you. SuDS use a sequence of measures that work together and form a management train. They control flow velocity (attenuate) and remove pollutants as the surface water flows through the system. They also provide natural contours to store water and can be used to allow water to soak (infiltrate) into the ground or evaporated from surface water and lost or transpired from vegetation (evapo-transpiration).

In conclusion; SuDS are often regarded as a sequence of management practices, control structures and strategies. They are designed to efficiently and sustainably drain surface water, while minimising pollution and managing the impact on water quality of local water bodies. This is becoming increasingly important in areas where infrastructure is shooting up all over the place. We need more green infrastructure such as SuDS to be implemented into policy in order for built up areas to cope with surface water and to protect our TraC (transitional and coastal) waters and tributaries.

Some example of SuDS:

Close your mouth, dear.

References:

https://www.bgs.ac.uk/research/engineeringGeology/urbanGeoscience/suds/what.html

Nurture by Nature: What is Rewilding?

Rewilding. A hot term currently being thrown about a lot. But what does it mean? Read on to get clued up on the ‘hot’ topic of the year. And yes, global warming is very much a part of it.

Rewilding means restoring and encouraging more of, our depleted natural spaces.

Carbon dixoide will have to be removed from the atmosphere for us to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. It is already causing problems on a vast scale; Animal populations have decreased by 60% since 1970 alone! And if that isn’t truly terrifying enough, this statistic suggests that a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth is under way.

Not only do trees and plants provide vital habitat for animals, these clever clogs also suck carbon dioxide from the air as they grow – pretty amazing stuff, aye?

Can you guess where this is going?…

There are two increasingly big existential crises that threaten the world. First is the climate breakdown and second is ecological breakdown. Neither of these frightening occurrences are being dealt with with the urgency needed to prevent our life-support systems from collapsing.

“We are championing a thrilling but neglected approach to averting climate chaos while defending the living world: natural climate solutions. Defending the living world and defending the climate are, in many cases, one and the same.”

A decade of ecosystem restoration was announced at the start of March by the United Nations.

“The degradation of our ecosystems has had a devastating impact on both people and the environment,” said Joyce Msuya, the head of the UN Environment Programme. “Nature is our best bet to tackle climate change and secure the future.”

Recently published research indicates that about a third of the greenhouse gas reductions needed by 2030 can be provided by the restoration of natural habitats (rewilding). Blooming marvelous if you ask me – BUT such positive solutions have only attracted just 2.5% of the funding for tackling emissions. Come on now….. Let nature help us. Let us help nature.

Tooby x

Information source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/03/let-nature-heal-climate-and-biodiversity-crises-say-campaigners

A Coral For Help…

I was reading a recent BBC news article earlier today about the desperate situation at Maya Beach in Thailand. A once idyllic and flourishing beach that became littered and ecologically damaged due to it being a popular tourist destination. A huge increase in tourists was subsequent to the filming at Maya Beach of the feature film ‘The Beach’ during the mid 90’s. A huge conservation effort, including a total shutdown of the beach itself and the surrounding bay, has lead to the local ecology starting to recover. Yay!

But this got me thinking… (always dangerous..)

Perhaps the Maya Beach recovery is a sign that Thailand is turning a page in its effort to preserve its precious natural resources. But for a nation so dependent on tourists and their cash, it could also just be proof of how grim a situation has to get before enforced action to help the local biodiversity. The total area experiencing coral reef damage in Thailand has increased from 30% to 77% in just one decade! Staggering.

Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine scientist from Kasetsart University (who studied Maya Bay and the area for 40 years and was hired by the ministry to survey the environmental damage and lead the rehabilitation) blames polluted water (most often released by beachfront hotels) and plastic waste dumped into the ocean as the main causes of damage to coral reefs in this area.

mayabay2Figure.1. This satellite image shows the huge conservation efforts put in place to save Maya Beach and the wildlife that inhabits there.

Globally, coral reef health is declining at an unprecedented rate and tourism plays its part in this. So in the spirit of this article, I feel it necessary to highlight the need for better responsible tourism at vulnerable habitat spots and I cant help but feel this boils down to three key things. Education, research and of course, funding.

 

Information source and BBC news article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/the_beach_nobody_can_touch

Nurdle Cool at All…

Ok so a shit title from me.. Sorry. Desperate measures.

Ever heard of a Nurdle? Let me (no doubt) enlighten you… Nurdles are small plastic pellets that all plastic products are made from. Now, these bad boys on the beach and in the ocean are a real problem because toxic chemicals attach to them and wildlife are at risk of eating them. This causes thousands of wildlife deaths every year. See a nurdle? Pick it up to prevent a hurdle for wildlife.

For more information: https://www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch/events/gbbc?platform=hootsuite

 

 

Big Fish Little Fish – What Has Happened to Our Fisheries? 

‘Capture fishing’ is simply the removal of marine life from its natural habitat for human benefit (Swain, et al. 2007). Man did this sustainably for thousands of years, but along with an increase in global population levels, has come the habit of removing the largest fish from an area before moving on to the smaller specimens when the supply of larger fish has been exhausted (Pauly, et al. 1998). This process is known as ‘fishing down the food web’ and was first described by Daniel Pauly in his since famous paper published in 1998. Pauly’s paper went on to describe the likelihood of this causing major changes in the structure of marine food webs.

He was right. ‘Fishing down the food web’ is a problem, because over the long term the more of the large specimens we catch, the more we reduce the population of sexually mature fish able to reproduce, and that means we eventually seriously damage population levels (Barot, et al. 2002). We are, in fact, ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’.

It was the late Victorians, feeding a rapidly growing population that used up most of the stocks of large fish and left us with smaller specimens, but over the last 45 years, landings from global fisheries have shifted from large piscivorous (feeds on fish) fish, toward smaller invertebrates and planktivorous (feeds on plankton) fish, a scenario called ‘shifting baselines’ (Pauly, et al. 1998).

As a result of this long-term exploitation of wild fish stocks, negative evolutionary responses have occurred;; a reduced growth rate, age at maturation, body size and productivity (Swain, et al. 2007). A good example of this can be seen with cod. Over the years not only has the number of cod decreased but also the average body size of those caught has diminished (Barot, et al. 2002). Research has shown that the decrease in body size cannot just be attributed to the differences in age, because now even the older cod grow to a smaller size than they did previously (Barot, et al. 2007).

Subsequent to this decrease in size and abundance, fishing was ceased in several locations to allow cod stocks to recover. It was hypothesised that the fish would grow as big as they did before, but this was not the case. A study by Barot, et al. (2002) on Atlantic cod stocks along the coastline of America and Canada showed that both body size and age of cod at maturation had changed as a consequence of the selection pressure caused by fisheries (i.e. pressure to feed a hungry nation the most popular and cheapest fish available). Cod now reproduce at a younger age and at smaller body sizes (Hutchings & Rangeley, 2011).

Screen Shot 2018-07-25 at 11.40.05

Figure. 1. Shows a young man in the early 20th century carrying his own body weight in cod.

We can now say with confidence that fish populations have changed dramatically over time with regards to distribution and abundance (Pauly, et al. 1998). It is essential we understand historical patterns of resource exploitation and identify what has actually been lost in the habitat, in order to develop and implement important recovery plans for depleted marine fisheries and ensure a sustainable fisheries system for generations to come.

© Eve Sanders

Beading Nuisance!

Although plastic was invented in the early 1900s, it wasn’t until the early 1950s that the world really developed an appetite for this exciting and versatile new material (Cole, et al. 2013). Back then, global demand was just 1.5 million tonnes annually. These days we’re using some 322 million tons a year of the stuff (Cole, et al. 2013) – that’s a lot of plastic. Recently, the media has been buzzing with shocking stories about the negative impact on our oceans of all this plastic and one type of plastic waste in particular; ‘microplastics’ has really caught the public’s attention. But how big a problem is it?

There are several sources of microplastics, perhaps the best known being those purposely made tiny ‘beads’ that are used in commercial products such as toothpaste, exfoliators and laundry detergents. These get washed down sinks and drains and end up in our oceans (Cole, et al. 2013). Another source of microplastic pollution is the huge amount of tiny fibrous microplastics that are shed when we wash our clothes. One average 6 kg wash can release up to 700,000 microplastic fibres alone (Napper and Thompson, 2016)!

The second source of microplastic pollution starts life as larger forms of plastic such as drinks bottles, food containers, toys and utensils. Once discarded these are broken down into smaller and smaller fragments (plastics that are 5mm or smaller in diameter are considered microplastics) (Cole, et al. 2013).

The main problem with microplastics is that they take years to biodegrade (450 years for an average plastic bottle!) making them a serious and long-term problem (Jambeck, et al. 2015). If current production and management of waste trends continue as they are, approximately 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste will be in our landfills or the natural environment by 2050, of which between 5 and 13 million tonnes being tipped into the ocean (Jambeck, et al. 2015), a staggering statistic!Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 14.03.17

The effects of microplastics on the marine environment are still largely unknown, but what is known is that microplastic pollution is found across the globe; even in the remotest places like the polar regions and the deep ocean (microplastics have been recorded at depths of more than 500 meters) (Jambeck, et al. 2015).

 

 

 

Figure. 1. A typical use of microplastic beads. Once spat-out and washed down the sink, they can end up in our oceans within a matter of days …

It has recently been discovered that microplastics are ingested by zooplankton, which form the base of the food chain and therefore are carried on up through to the larger predators such as dolphins and even blue whales (Cole, et al. 2013). Researchers have even shown that microplastics can be ingested by humans through the seafood and shellfish we eat (Cauwenberghe and Janssen, 2014). The same study showed the average European consumer to be ingesting 11,000 microplastics annually (the potential effects on humans are not yet fully understood) (Cauwenberghe and Janssen, 2014).

With all this in mind, it’s crucial that we urgently find solutions to the plastic misuse issue. Industry must do its part of course, but It’s down to all of us to clear up our act; to get better at recycling, not buy plastic bottles etc and to change our thoughtless consumption of plastics to ensure cleaner oceans for future generations.

© Eve Sanders (ToobysTravels)