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Earth’s coastal wetlands are disappearing, new high-resolution maps reveal

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FOUR thousand square kilometres of the world’s tidal wetlands have been lost over twenty years, but ecosystem restoration and natural processes are helping reduce total losses, according to Aberystwyth University researchers.

An international group’s analysis of more than one-million satellite images shows that global change and human actions are driving rapid changes of tidal wetlands.

The global intertidal change data indicates that 13,700 square kilometres of tidal wetlands — tidal marshes, mangroves and tidal flats – were lost around the world, offset by gains of 9,700 square kilometres. This meant there was a net loss of 4,000 square kilometres over the two-decade period, between 1999 and 2019.

Over one billion people now live in low-elevation coastal areas, and are vulnerable to losses of these wetlands, including through disruption of ecosystem services, such as biodiversity and coastal protection.

Professor Richard Lucas from Aberystwyth University, who was involved with the project, commented:

“Tidal wetlands are of immense importance to humanity, providing benefits such as carbon storage and sequestration, coastal protection, and fisheries enhancement. Global-scale monitoring is now essential if we are going to manage changes in coastal environments effectively.”
“Efforts to estimate the current and future status of tidal wetlands at a global scale are hindered by uncertainty about how they respond to drivers of change. Along with colleagues in Australia, we wanted to address that and provide a basis for conserving coastal ecosystems. To do this, machine-learning analysis of vast archives of historical satellite images was undertaken to detect the extent, timing and type of change across the world’s tidal wetlands between 1999 and 2019.”

“The analysis found 27 per cent of losses and gains were associated with direct human activities, such as conversion to agriculture and restoration of lost wetlands. All other changes were attributed to indirect drivers such as human impacts to river catchments, extensive development in the coastal zone, coastal subsidence, natural coastal processes and climate change.”

About three-quarters of the net global tidal wetland decrease happened in Asia, with almost 70 per cent of that total concentrated in Indonesia, China and Myanmar.
Dr Nicholas Murray, Senior Lecturer at Australia’s James Cook University, led the study. He added:

“Asia is the global centre of tidal wetland loss from direct human activities. These activities had a lesser role in the losses of tidal wetlands in Europe, Africa, the Americas and Oceania, where coastal wetland changes were primarily caused by indirect factors such as wetland migration, coastal modifications and catchment change.”
The scientists found that almost three-quarters of tidal wetland loss globally has been offset by the establishment of new tidal wetlands in areas where they formerly did not occur – with notable expansion in the Ganges and Amazon deltas.

Dr Murray added:

“Most new areas of tidal wetlands were the result of indirect drivers, highlighting the prominent role that broad-scale coastal processes have in maintaining tidal wetland extent and facilitating natural regeneration. This result indicates that we need to allow for the movement and migration of coastal wetlands in the future to account for rapid global change.”

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Prince and Princess of Wales to visit Wales

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THE PRINCE and Princess of Wales have planned a trip to Wales to visit a variety of communities across the nation and learn about the work of key charitable organisations. 

The Prince and Princess have a deep affection for Wales, having made their first family home in Anglesey, and have thoroughly enjoyed their previous visits and the warmth and kindness shown by the Welsh people. 

Their Royal Highnesses are looking forward to spending more time in Wales over the next few years, they hope to strengthen their relationship with communities in all parts of Wales. 

During their first engagement, Their Royal Highnesses will visit the RNLI Holyhead Lifeboat Station, where they will meet crew, volunteers and some people who have been supported by their local unit.

Holyhead is one of the three oldest lifeboat stations on the Welsh coast and has a remarkable history of bravery, having received 70 awards for gallantry. 

Their Royal Highnesses will then take a short walk to the Holyhead Marine and Cafe Bar, where they will meet local people, including representatives of small businesses and organisations, including the Coastguard and Sea Cadets. 

In their second engagement, the Prince and Princess of Wales are expected to visit Swansea. 

Their Royal Highnesses will visit St Thomas Church, a re-developed church in Swansea which supports people in the local area and across the City and County of Swansea. 

Over the last two years the church has been transformed into a thriving community hub and is home to a vast array of services, including:

  • A foodbank which supports over 200 people per week
  • Swansea Baby Basics which distributes essential items for vulnerable mothers across the city, such as toiletries and clothes
  • Facilities for the homeless including food, showers and toilets
  • A not-for-profit cafe and community training kitchen
  • A surplus food distribution network which collects food from supermarkets at the end of each day and distributes it from the church to prevent food waste and to help end food poverty

As part of their visit, Their Royal Highnesses will meet those volunteering at the church across different initiatives including Baby Basics and the foodbank. Their Royal Highnesses will also spend some time meeting members of the public gathered outside the church. 

The Princess of Wales has previously worked with Baby Banks and the in summer of 2020 brought together 19 British brands and retailers to donate over 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks nationwide, operated by Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities. 

Her Royal Highness has visited a number of baby banks across the UK, including in London, Sheffield and West Norfolk where she has spent time speaking with families about their experiences of using their local baby bank services, as well as helping unload donations. 

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Elin Jones raises a mug in support of Macmillan’s coffee morning

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ELIN JONES MS joined the Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales team at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay to mark the charity’s annual Coffee Morning fundraising event.

The event also offered an opportunity to find out more about how Macmillan in Wales is supporting people living with cancer, as well as research from the charity on how people living with cancer are being affected by the cost of living crisis. Macmillan’s annual Coffee Morning usually sees millions of pounds donated to help support people affected by cancer.

The money raises vital funds for Macmillan services to make sure people living with cancer can get the physical, emotional and financial support they need. This is the 32nd annual Macmillan Coffee Morning but as with so many charities, Macmillan saw a huge fall in its fundraising income as a direct result of the impact of Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis.

Elin Jones MS said: “We know that a cancer diagnosis can turn someone’s world upside down. One in two of us will face cancer, and the money raised by hosting a Macmillan Coffee Morning will help people with cancer to live their life as fully as they can. Macmillan, alongside our NHS and other partners, works tirelessly to do whatever it takes for people with cancer.  The demand for Macmillan’s services and support is high, while its income is down.

“I’m very proud to help support Macmillan’s coffee morning, and to help let people know that this important fundraising event. I would encourage anyone to get involved, and to sign up to organise a Coffee Morning or contribute to a local coffee morning in the way that suits them best.”

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Kwarteng gambles on rush for growth

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CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled his and Liz Truss’s economic vision for the UK on Friday morning.

The headlines are straightforward.

There will be £45bn in tax cuts by 2027; however, the largest cuts – national insurance cuts, the abolition of the cap on bonuses and the highest income tax rate- benefit only high earners.

MAIN POLICIES

Cut in the basic rate of income tax to 19% from April 2023;

National Insurance will not rise as scheduled, and the Government will reverse the current year rise as of November 6;

New Health and Social Care Levy to pay for the NHS will not be introduced;

The top rate of income tax was cut from 45% to 40%;

Cancel the rise in corporation tax which was due to increase from 19% to 25% in April 2023;

Rules around universal credit tightened by reducing benefits if people don’t fulfil job search commitments;

VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors;

End of the cap on bankers’ bonuses;

Planned increases in the duties on beer, cider, wine, and spirits cancelled;

Government to discuss setting up investment zones with 38 local areas in England.

Alongside the above, the Chancellor announced plans to remove environmental safeguards for building developments and reduce the regulatory burden on financial institutions.

KWARTENG LEAVES LABOUR AN OPEN GOAL

In an interview with Rishi Sunak during the Conservative leadership contest, Nick Robinson observed that it would be a nasty surprise for the former Chancellor when he found out who’d been in power for the last twelve years.

Kwasi Kwarteng followed Liz Truss’s preferred method of operation: he pretended they hadn’t happened.

The Chancellor comprehensively dumped on the policies pursued over the last dozen years by successive Conservative governments, for a decade of which Liz Truss has been a member.

His statement was, as one ministerial colleague said, “a game changer”, although perhaps not in the way he envisaged.

So complete was the change of economic policy that it leaves an open question about how Mr Kwarteng and his Cabinet colleagues ended up in the same political party as most of their backbench colleagues and served under the last three Conservative leaders.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves did not miss the open goal. Even as Mr Kwarteng and Ms Truss shook their heads on the government benches, she hammered home that the Chancellor’s statement was an admission the record of Conservative governments since 2010 was one of a failure to deliver growth or a viable economic plan.

THE SUPPLY SIDE FIX

The Chancellor and Prime Minister’s rationale is that cutting taxes for the already well-off will benefit all citizens as they are incentivised to invest and act in entrepreneurial ways. In addition, reducing regulation for businesses will encourage increased commercial enterprise.

They believe the growth stimulated will make up for any loss in tax revenues as increased economic activity, encouraged by lower taxes, leads to increased government revenues.

That approach is called supply-side economics, which focuses on increasing the supply of goods and services through growth.

In every developed nation where the Government’s brand of economics has been tried, two things have happened: a cataclysmic bust has followed a short-term burst of economic activity.

In addition, wealth inequalities – and the UK is already grossly unequal – are embedded and made worse.

Low taxes on the wealthiest do not distinguish between those who generate wealth through their industry or create economic activity through business investment and those who inherit wealth or sit on capital without producing anything.

“THE RICH WILL REJOICE”

Wales’s Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans MS, responded: “Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “Instead of delivering meaningful, targeted support to those who need help the most, the Chancellor prioritises funding for tax cuts for the rich, unlimited bonuses for bankers, and protecting the profits of big energy companies.

“Instead of increasing funding for public services in line with inflation, we get a Chancellor blithely ignoring stretched budgets as public services find their money is not going as far as it did before.”

Plaid Regional MS Cefin Campbell said: “This Budget will see the rich rejoice as their bonuses rocket and their tax bill sliced, once again it will be the poorest and most vulnerable bearing the brunt of the disastrous cost of living crisis.”

 Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, added: “Tax cuts for the super-rich will do absolutely nothing to drive growth in the Welsh economy.

“I urge the UK Government to recognise that our Government in Wales must be given the fiscal tools to unlock our economic potential ourselves. That is the only way to improve the lives of people across Wales.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Finance, Peter Fox MS, said: “Today shows that the UK Conservative Government has a comprehensive plan to provide a sharp boost to the economy by putting cash back into people’s pockets. Labour in Wales has the power to cut taxes in Wales but chooses not to.

“Mark Drakeford needs to take a leaf out of Liz Truss’ book and take immediate action to support hard-working people and struggling businesses, stimulating the Welsh economy rather than stifling it.”

Scott Corfe, Research Director at Social Market Foundation, said: “The Chancellor is taking a very high-risk gamble with the economy.

“If his package of enormous tax cuts and ‘supply side reforms’ fails to translate into significantly higher economic growth, we risk further falls in the pound and surging gilt yields as investors lose confidence in our ability to pay our way in the world.

“That, in turn, means higher inflation, an unsustainable trajectory for the public finances and steeper interest rate rises – potentially deepening rather than alleviating the cost of living crisis.”

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