21 March 2009

Support for wiser water use

More than half (52 per cent) the people questioned would not swim in their local river because they think it is too polluted.

This is the shocking finding from a survey carried out for the Blueprint for Water, a coalition of leading conservation groups, including Froglife.

The survey also found 97 per cent of people in England recognise that rivers, ponds, streams and lakes are a vital part of the countryside and 94 per cent of people often visit a stream, river or lake to relax or for leisure, but three-quarters feel that the water environment is at risk.

When asked, more that eight out of ten people agreed that the Government should be doing more to protect English lakes, streams, rivers and ponds, with pollution, over use of water, drought and climate change identified as some of the key threats.

Over the last two years the Blueprint for Water coalition has been urging the Government to take action to change the way we manage our water.

The coalition is calling upon the Government to make the most of the new legislation on floods and water expected this spring, as well as key decisions on water company investment and implementation of the Water Framework Directive, to protect water for the benefit of both people and wildlife across the UK.

The Blueprint for Water will publish their third document ‘2009 the time to act’ to coincide with World Water Day tomorrow (22 March).

17 March 2009

St Patrick's Day special: Irish frogs may have survived Ice Age

Irish frogs may have survived the Ice Age by retreating to a tiny ice-free refuge in Ireland, while mainland Britain’s frogs died out to be re-populated by European frogs, new research suggests.

Recent evidence has shown that Ireland's frogs differ from those of mainland Britain, shedding new light onto where frogs disappeared to when the Ice Age hit Europe over 10,000 years ago.

Research by scientists at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Queen Mary, University of London suggests that some of the ancestors of Ireland's frogs survived the Ice Age, whereas those in the rest of the British mainland may have retreated, later to be re-populated by frogs from mainland Europe once the Ice Age was over.

The paper, in the journal Heredity, suggests that a small ice-free refuge may have existed in Ireland during the Ice Age, and here amphibians may have been able to see out the worst of the cold and ice.

Scientists found the genetic differences between Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) in mainland Britain and those of mainland Ireland while undertaking research into amphibian disease.

Lead author Dr Amber Teacher, from ZSL, said: "It appears that some frogs may have survived through the glaciations in this ice-free part of Ireland, as there is a distinct genetic lineage found in the South of Ireland that is not found elsewhere in Europe."

"So within Ireland, we can find frogs that originate from this small part of southern Ireland, mixed with the frogs that came from western Europe to repopulate the British Isles after the ice age retreated."

The work was undertaken with the help of the Irish Peatlands Conservation Council and Froglife, a UK wildlife charity for amphibians and reptiles.

"This study has given us a unique and fascinating window into the history of frogs in the British Isles." said Lucy Benyon, Froglife’s Wildlife Information Officer.

Article: Teacher, AGF, Garner, TWJ, Nichols, RA (2009) European phylogeography of the common frog (Rana temporaria): routes of postglacial colonization into the British Isles, and evidence for an Irish glacial refugium. Heredity. Advance online publication.