The latest in a regular series of posts to biodiversity-related* items that have caught my attention during the week:
- The British Government’s official line on the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on bee health is largely based on a widely criticised study conducted by the UK’s Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) which concluded that there was no link to bumblebee pesticide exposure and colony performance. Professor Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex has now reanalysed the original data and shown that in fact there was a significant effect of the pesticides on those nests. You can read the study in full here. How could the FERA scientists get it so wrong? Were they influenced by Defra’s desire to come to a particular conclusion?
- It will be interesting to see how FERA responds to this criticism of their work, though it may take a while to get a full answer: the lead scientist on the study now works for agrochemicals firm Syngenta….
- The story has also been picked up by some media outlets, notably the Guardian. Pity they confused honey bees with bumblebees though – managed honey bees use human-made hives; bumblebees use nests (even artificial ones).
- Sticking with pollinators, the European Commission’s Science for Environmental Policy news alert has run a story about our paper on bee and wasp extinctions published in the journal Science in December, as I reported on the blog. It’s great to see our work getting that level of exposure.
- Archivists at the Geological Society have rediscovered a first edition map by William Smith, the father of British geology and stratigraphic palaeontology, who incidentally is buried at St Peter’s Church in Northampton.
- The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, which I talked about in a post earlier this year, has reported its results. There seems to be good news for some species, but for others it was bad: for example, there’s been an 80% drop in observations of starling since the scheme began in 1979. Starlings are now RSPB Red Status due to their worrying decline; whilst they are still common, they are not anywhere near as common as they used to be.
Feel free to recommend links that have caught your eye.