NHBS Guide to Bat Survey Equipment

Common Pipistrelle by Meneer Zjeroen on Flickr

With Spring around the corner and the bat survey season fast approaching, it is a great time to make sure you have everything ready for the busy months ahead. Over the winter we have been busy reviewing our current products, cataloging new products and even designing our own products. Here, we have picked out some exciting new products as well as some old favourites to take a look at.

The NHBS Harp Trap – Coming Soon!

Over the last few months, the NHBS manufacturing team have been working hard on developing the NHBS Harp Trap. We are currently in the process of testing and trialing our harp trap ready for its release in the coming months. Designed and built on-site at our workshop in Totnes, our three-bank harp trap will feature some innovative designs such as a winding line carrier and anti-tangling system that makes assembly and disassembly, easy and efficient. Made mostly from aluminium, the trap is surprisingly lightweight at just 15kg, whilst remaining sturdy and durable during use. The harp trap is 190cm long and has a catch area of about 4m². The catch bag is approximately 60cm deep and its entrance is about 39cm wide. When collapsed, the catch bag wraps around the disassembled frame and is held tightly with Velcro straps so that it can be neatly stored and carried in its bag. Initial feedback on its design and function has been very positive and we are excited to develop our design based upon suggestions from professional bat workers. Our standard trap will be a three bank, but if you would like a bespoke two or four bank trap, please contact us so that we can discuss your requirements.

BTHK Tree-Roost Net

Based on the design by Henry Andrews from the Bat Tree Habitat Key (BTHK) project, the BTHK Tree-Roost net is uniquely designed for trapping bats as they emerge from tree roost sites. The net is set up against a roost site prior to dusk so that it will catch any bats that emerge, keeping them safely in the bag ready for identification, measuring and ringing. The diamond shape of the net head can pivot and collapse inwards to ensure that the net fits flush against any tree, making it safer for bats and easier for surveyors. The net bag is made from fine woven nylon mesh that is soft and will not damage the delicate wings or feet of bats. The net bag can be easily removed for cleaning and features a clear plastic rim that fits around the collar and prevents bats from climbing up and out of the net when it is in place. The length of the handle is 4 meters (breaks down into 3 sections for ease of transport) and the depth of the bag is 1 metre. You may also be interested in the book Bat Roosts in Trees which is a guide to finding tree roosts.

Anabat Scout – Coming Soon!

The Anabat Scout is the latest bat detector by Titley Scientific. Due for release this March, the Scout is designed with UK and European bat biologists in mind and is tailored for active bat surveying. It can record both full spectrum and zero crossing files and stores them on a SD card with every file geo-tagged. The Scout has heterodyne, auto-heterodyne and frequency division audio that can be played through earphones or its own built-in speaker. The in/out bat counter is ideal for emergence surveys and will automatically timestamp and geo-tag every count. The small OLED screen displays crucial information without being too bright or distracting and the Anabat Scout will be compatible with Anabat’s free Anabat Insight software for viewing and analysing your data. Easy to use and versatile, this new detector is set to become popular with bat ecologists who are looking for an active survey detector.

Elekon Batlogger M

The Elekon Batlogger M is great for active surveying and full spectrum recording. The weatherproof FG Knowles microphone has a range of 10–150kHz and can record in 16-bit full spectrum. The Batlogger M also logs the GPS coordinates (via an integrated GPS receiver), and environmental temperature at the time of recording. Different recording settings (scheduled, permanent, or triggered), and different trigger thresholds (for call identification) can be set up and the device comes with its own powerful but user-friendly call analysis software package

Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro

The Echo Meter Touch 2 lets you record, listen to, and identify bat calls in real-time on your iOS or Android device. All you need is your Android or Apple device (see the nhbs.com website for compatible models), your Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro, and the Echo Meter Touch App which is a free download from the iTunes Store or Google Play Store. When plugged in, the Echo Meter Touch 2 enables you to listen to bats in real time, view live sonograms in full colour, record onto your device and identify calls to species level in seconds. If your device has GPS functionality, the Echo Meter Touch will also log the recording location and path of the recording session. There are two versions available in both an iOS version and Android version. Both versions allow you to listen to calls in real time expansion and heterodyne and you can playback in real time expansion, heterodyne or time expansion modes. The trigger sensitivity and sample rate are adjustable and three gain settings allowing users to optimise their detector to their target bat species and ambient conditions.

SM4BAT FS

The SM4BAT FS is a full spectrum detector for passive surveying use. Robust and weatherproof, it will record 16-bit full spectrum calls and can store up to 512GB of data. A versatile scheduling function allows you to set when you want to record and the battery can last up to 450 hours. The SM4BAT FS is easy to fit to a tree or post and is compatible with a variety of accessories such as GPS unit and microphone extension cables. The SMM-U2 ultrasonic microphone is available with the SM4BAT FS and is a highly sensitive microphone that produces high quality, low noise bat recordings over long distances. Easy to set up and producing detailed call recordings for analysis, the SM4BAT FS is ideal for unattended use in the field.

Anabat Swift

The Anabat Swift from Titley Scientific is based on the excellent design of the Anabat Express, but has the advantage of recording in full-spectrum, as well as zero crossing. Users can choose between sample rates of 320 or 500kHz and data is saved onto an SD card. Two SD card slots are available, allowing you to save more bat calls without changing cards. The Swift also has a built-in GPS receiver that automatically sets the clock, calculates sunset and sunrise times and records the location of the device. It will also record automatically from sunrise to sunset every night (based on GPS coordinates) as one of the automatic recording settings.

BatLure

The BatLure can be used as a lure to improve catch rates of bats for survey or research, to attract bats to new artificial roosts such as bat boxes or constructed hibernacula, with bat detectors at training events or prior to bat walks and for calibration of bat detectors. The Batlure can playback sounds with frequencies of up to 100kHz and is capable of playing both real time and time expanded recordings of bat vocalisations. It is very compact and robust and has a tripod attachment mount, making it easy to set-up in your desired location. It plays sounds from an SD card which is supplied complete with several pre-loaded recordings. Users can also add their own recordings onto the card.

Ecotone Ultra Thin Series M mist net for bats

The Ecotone Ultra Thin Series M is ideal for catching bats and is available in 2 mesh sizes. Both are made from nylon (0.8mm monofilament) and have 4 shelves. Available in lengths from 3m to 21m, you can pick the mesh size and length that best suits your survey and situation.

 

Explorer Premium Digital Endoscope Camera

The Explorer Premium Digital Endoscope is lightweight and easy to operate. It can record still images or video on to a microSD / microSDHC card (not included). The screen can be detached whilst the camera is in operation and viewed up to 10m away. The camera head has a diameter of 9mm and the cable is 91cm long, giving easy access to nest boxes, burrows, nests, crevices etc. Lighting levels can be adjusted to minimise disturbance to animals.

Accessories

Below are some accessories that may come in use when surveying bats:

Petzl Actik Headtorch
£39.95

Stainless Steel Hand-Held Counter
£7.50

Animal Handling Gloves
£5.69 5.99

dialMax Vernier Dial Caliper
£29.99

ETI Hygro-Thermo Pocket Sized Hygrometer
£21.95 26.99

Small Mammal Holding Bag
£3.60

Telescopic Inspection Mirror
£14.99 16.99

High Flier Mist Net Support System (for Bats)
 from £695.00

Further Reading

Below are some books that may come in use when surveying bats:

Bat Roosts in Trees£39.99
British Bat Calls £18.99
Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists£29.99
The Bat Worker’s Manual£17.99

A note on licensing

Please note that in the UK, all bats and their resting or breeding places are protected by law. Any bat survey work must be undertaken by a licensed bat ecologist and when purchasing certain products, we ask you to confirm your lisence or give an appropriate reference. For more information, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/bat-licences.

NHBS Guide to newt survey equipment

 

Great Crested Newt. Image  by Lottie

Great Crested Newts are the UK’s most strictly protected amphibian, requiring licensed ecological surveys if a development may affect them. As the first signs of spring emerge, ecologists are preparing for the start of this year’s newt survey season. Below, we have compiled a list of the most common newt survey methods and the equipment needed for each, so that you can ensure you have everything you need as the survey season approaches.

Netting

Netting for adult and larval newts can be a useful tool in both survey and relocation. Here at NHBS, we have designed an amphibian net specifically for the safe and efficient capture of newts. The net bag is attached by a wide velcro collar which prevents newts from becoming caught between the frame and the bag. The bag can also be removed from the frame to be disinfected between sites. The seams have been carefully placed so that they do not come into contact with the front edge of the net, and the material of the bag is a soft 2mm mesh. The net head is 300mm wide and comes with a sturdy, wooden 1.2m handle. We also sell a diamond-shaped amphibian net that comes in either standard depth or deep. Its shape is ideal for easy and safe capture for amphibians and is also available in a collapsible frame for easy transport between sites.

eDNA

The presence of Great Crested Newts can be determined by analysing pond water samples for newt DNA. This process is known as eDNA sampling and is a recent but very effective way of newt surveying that causes very little disturbance to the newts themselves. Provided that the sampling and analysis protocol complies with DEFRA guidance and that samples are collected between 15th April and 30th June, then eDNA test results are accepted by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales. This year, NHBS has once again teamed up with eDNA laboratory, Nature Metrics to deliver a complete Great Crested Newt eDNA analysis service. Combining our expertise in sourcing, packing and shipping equipment with the excellent laboratory proficiency of Nature Metrics, this partnership facilitates a fast and efficient service. If you would like to find out more about the eDNA services that Nature Metrics provide, please visit www.naturemetrics.co.uk

Dewsbury Trapping

The Dewsbury trap is an innovative design of newt refuge trap that is exclusive to NHBS. The clever design of this trap ensures that any trapped newts have access to both fresh air at the top of the trap and a thermally stable refuge at the bottom of the pond. They can be easily deployed from the edge of the pond meaning that not only is this trap safer for newts, but it is also safer and more convenient for surveyors too. In preliminary trials the Dewsbury trap was found to be more effective at catching newts than traditional bottle trapping methods and can be left unattended for up to 24 hours meaning night visits are not necessarily required.

Please note: we recommend that you contact your national licensing authority (Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, etc) before you purchase this trap. The Dewsbury Newt Trap is not included within either the Level 1 or Level 2 Natural England Class Survey Licence and a separate licence is required

Bottle Trapping

Bottle trapping is a popular method of surveying for both detecting and assessing populations. It can, however, become quite labour intensive, especially if you are looking to cut bottles into traps yourself. To save yourself some valuable time, we sell pre-cut bottle traps with the head inverted and ready to deploy. These can be bought in packs of 40 or 120 and are cut from 2l PET bottles with a 28mm neck diameter. Alternatively, we sell the whole bottles if you would rather cut the traps yourself.

Torching

Torching is a less invasive and effective method of counting/observing newts without the need for capturing them. Torches are recommended to be between 500,000 and one million candlepower and need to ideally last several hours at a time. The Cluson CB2 range is very popular among ecologists and provides 1 million candlepower with long lasting battery life and an easy-to-use pistol type grip. For a more lightweight and economical option, the LED Lenser is a powerful torch that offers up to 450 lumens and a sharply focused circular beam that can last up to 300 hours on a low power setting.

 

Drift Fencing

Fencing can either be used to temporarily exclude or contain newts in mitigation projects. It can also be used to aid the capture of newts for relocation and is typically a short barrier with the base buried underground. Our Tristar Newt Fencing comes in rolls of 100m, is made of UV stabilised polythene sheeting and tinted green. It is designed to resist weather damage and has a life expectancy of 5 years, making it ideal for temporary mitigation projects during development works. It is easy and simple to put up and can be fixed into place with our soft wood stakes.

Pitfall Traps

Often, pitfall traps are used alongside drift fencing in order to trap and translocate newts in relocation projects. They consist of a container that is buried underground often flush with the edge of drift fencing. Both square buckets and round buckets have been shown to be effective and we supply several options depending on your preferences.

Accessories

Below are some accessories that may come in use when surveying Great Crested Newts: 

 

Light & Dry Micro First Aid Kit
£15.95 16.99

Bamboo Canes
From £13.00 for 100

dialMax Vernier Dial Caliper
£29.99 45.00

Snowbee Granite PVC Thigh Waders
£40 (various sizes)

Snowbee Lightweight Neoprene Gloves
£12.95 (various sizes)

Replacement Amphibian Net Bag
£26.99

Broad Spectrum Disinfectant Tablets
£19.99

Breaksafe Thermometer
£7.50

A note on licensing

Please note that Great Crested Newts and its habitat are protected by law. Any Great Crested Newt survey work must be undertaken by a licensed ecologist. Different levels of license are required for different survey and mitigation methods. For more information, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/great-crested-newt-licences#great-crested-newt-survey-and-research-licences

Rocky Shores: an interview with John Archer-Thomson and Julian Cremona

Rocky Shores is the seventh installment of the popular British Wildlife Collection.

Image result for rocky shores bloomsbury

The exciting environment of the rocky shore receives a space in the limelight with this new volume. The authors guide the reader through all aspects of the rocky shore including geology, ecology and natural history. It would make a fantastic addition to any naturalist’s book shelf.

 

 

John Archer-Thomson

John Archer-Thomson and Julian Cremona have spent their lives in environmental education and conservation. They are a former deputy head and head respectively of the Field Studies Council’s Dale Fort Field Centre in Pembrokeshire. John is now a freelance coastal ecologist, photographer, writer and tutor, while Julian is the author of several books on exploration, nature and photography.

Julian Cremona

To introduce the authors and their book, we took the opportunity to talk to them about their inspiration for this volume and ask for tips for how we can get involved with rocky shores. Both authors will be signing copies which are available to pre-order on the NHBS website.

What drew you both to this habitat and inspired the production of this fascinating book?

©John Archer-Thomson

As we say in Chapter 1, we were both born near the coast and grew up loving the sea and so were always drawn to the intertidal, especially as many of the inhabitants are quite weird. From the earliest days with the Dorset Wildlife Trust John enjoyed communicating his love of the shore and the importance of its conservation and the need to respect the natural world. As a child Julian collected all manner of natural material from the shore and after graduation taught seashore ecology in Dorset. We see Rocky Shores as an extension of this mission.

How did you even begin to write this book on such a wide-ranging topic?Forty years of running inter-tidal field courses tends to focus attention on making shores accessible to newcomers, we approached the book from a similar standpoint. John particularly likes molluscs, seaweeds and lichens; Julian, all types of invertebrates especially insects, and as ecologists we love the way the component parts of the system interact, John is also particularly interested in how humans are affecting the shore while Julian has spent much of his life travelling the coast of the British Isles. Thus certain chapters suggested themselves!

What was your most exciting find on a rocky shore that people should look out for in the future?

©Julian Cremona

For John it has to be echinoderms in general and Julian likes the more microscopic life living amongst seaweeds in rock pools. We don’t quite know why, but the little pseudoscorpion called Neobisium maritimum always causes excitement for both of us. They are tiny, only a few millimetres long, quite uncommon and may be found by observing the Black Lichen Lichina pygmaea in which they sometimes hide.

I recommend this book as a fantastic in-depth overview, but what would you suggest readers do to further their rocky shore learning?

John runs a “Rocky shore invertebrates” course for the Field Studies Council at Dale Fort Field Centre. This looks at the ecology of the shore, zonation patterns, adaptations of organisms to this extreme environment and of course the ‘plant’ (and planktonic) life that supports this biodiversity: come on this. Alternatively, there are fold out (FSC) keys for a more do-it-yourself approach, in fact, two of these have been produced by Julian’s daughter Clare Cremona including the Rocky Shore Trail. In 2014 Julian produced a large book called Seashores: an Ecological Guide, which has a huge number of photos to help with the identification of commonly found species and explains how they interact on the shore. A Complete guide to British Coastal Wildlife by Collins and the excellent A student’s guide to the seashore by Fish & Fish. For a more academic, but still very readable, account try The Biology of Rocky Shores by Little et al, Oxford Press.

Although adaptable, rocky shore inhabitants are not invincible, what do you think is the biggest threat to the rocky shore ecosystem and are some species more at risk than others?

©John Archer-Thomson

That’s easy: us. There are too many human beings gobbling up habitat, consuming resources, changing the climate, raising sea levels, acidifying the ocean, over-fishing, polluting with plastic, agricultural and industrial chemicals and so on. Stressed ecosystems tend to be species poor but there are often large numbers of a few fast growing, tolerant species that do well. Northern, cold water species are already suffering range contractions as the climate warms, whereas the opposite is true of southern, high temperature tolerant forms, including invasive species from warmer climes.

Staying on the theme of the future, what is next for you both – another book perhaps?

For John this would be intertidal and sublittoral monitoring and photography. Running courses for the FSC. Talks for local natural history groups. Magazine articles and an update of “Photographing Pembrokeshire” by John & Sally Archer-Thomson, Apple iBooks. Julian has a trio of specialist photography books being published by Crowood press. The first two on extreme close-up photography have already appeared and the third will be published at the beginning of April. He continues to develop new ways to photograph wildlife, especially the “very small”. Coupled with this 2019 includes running further workshops, lecturing and travel – for the wildlife!

Other books by Julian Cremona

Extreme Close-Up Photography and Focus Stacking – Julian Cremona

Beyond Extreme Close-Up Photography – Julian Cremona

Rocky Shores is published by Bloomsbury Publishing and signed copies are available for pre-order, while stocks last.

Trees in Winter: another way of seeing

Winter oak refelctions 01 (Image by Jim Champion, via Flickr Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image credit: see below

Winter woodland has a bare, skeletal charm all of its own, and a walk in the woods is a good time to try to put names to those familiar trees.

Suddenly leafless but not as anonymous as we sometimes think, with a little practice it is surprisingly easy to begin to place those barren winter twigs.

Here is a quick, and by no means definitive, guide to identifying six of the UK’s more common deciduous trees in winter, chosen at random on a midwinter ramble in my local woods.

Oak (below): A rugged twig with fat, oval orange-brown alternate buds, and a characteristic cluster of buds at the tip. The twig of the sessile oak is less rugged than pedunculate oak, but be careful the two species often hybridise and it can be tricky to tell the difference.

Oak

Ash: A twig that looks as if it means business, with black buds in opposite pairs and an unmistakable, fat terminal bud covered in black scales.

Ash

Beech: A slender, rather delicate twig with long, alternate and markedly pointed brown buds. Hornbeam is very similar but the buds hug the twig rather than point outwards, and the twig is noticeably more zigzagged.

Beech

Hazel: The twig is downy all over – although you may need a hand lens to see this clearly – with alternate, pale green to reddish-brown, smallish buds. Catkins are not at the end of the twig, unlike in birch species.

Hazel

Field maple: Hairy twig and buds – again a hand lens is useful – with tiny reddish-brown buds, always in opposite pairs. The terminal bud often has smaller buds on either side, sometimes appearing to be a triple end bud.

Field Maple

Sycamore: Another sturdy twig, with plump pale green buds in opposite pairs. The large green bud scales on the terminal bud are easy to see.

Sycamore

I use an elderly copy of the Forestry Commission’s Know Your Broadleaves for Christine Darter’s fabulous drawings of winter twigs; David Streeter and Rosamond Richardson’s similarly dated Discovering Hedgerows has a useful key.

The stand out recent work is Dominic Price and Leif Bersweden’s Winter Trees: A Photographic Guide to Common Trees and Shrubs one of the Field Studies Council’s AIDGAP Guides, which covers 36 of the common broadleaved tree and shrub species likely to be found in the UK, as well as a few rarer ones. With pictures of bark as well as twigs, and notes on habitat, winter tree-ID suddenly seems much easier. Author royalties from the book go to the Species Recovery Trust

Winter Trees: A Photographic Guide to Common Trees and Shrubs

Main image: Winter oak refelctions 01 (Image by Jim Champion, via Flickr Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ecologist Derek Gow on beaver reintroductions in the UK

Ecologist Derek Gow (The Derek Gow Consultancy) is the co-author of The Eurasian Beaver, published in January 2015. His involvement with Devon Wildlife Trust’s trial reintroduction and the Tayside beaver reintroduction makes him uniquely placed to discuss the topic of beaver reintroductions in the UK.

The Eurasian BeaverHow would the presence of healthy beaver populations enhance the UK’s landscape and biodiversity?

In Eurasia and North America beavers are the keystone species around which all other wetland life revolves. Their simple dam building and tree felling activities trigger a whole range of complex changes in their surrounding environments which clearly result in greatly enhanced levels of biodiversity and biomass. In landscapes which are semi-natural the cascade of dynamic changes they produce harbours the potential for breathtakingly spectacular results, such as the return of the black stork. While in highly manipulated, human engineered environments they can literally breathe life back into the land.

You are involved with the Devon Beaver Project, which has created a test environment to see how reintroduced beavers would affect their local ecosystem. Can you tell us more about this project, and what results it has produced so far?

The initial stage of the Devon Beaver Trial was designed to evaluate from ground zero the impact of a beaver family in an enclosed area of wet-woodland of approximately 3ha. Between 2011 and 2015 the beavers created a series of approximately 14 major dam systems on a 200 metre length of a seasonally flowing water course at the northern end of the site. They maintain long dams in the winter when water is abundant and short dams in the summer when water is scarce. At the time of writing their impoundments are capable of retaining approximately 1000 tonnes of water, none of which would have seasonally remained on site without them. The return of the beaver has been accompanied by a proliferation of wildlife. Flowering and other vascular plant communities now abound on site. On warm sunny days meadow browns, marbled whites and a host of other butterflies flit through its open woodlands. Dragonflies and damselflies occur in ever greater numbers while amphibians such as common frogs have increased in numbers fiftyfold. Juvenile common lizards hunt through the deadwood understory while marsh tits, spotted flycatchers, greater spotted woodpeckers, tree creepers and redpolls hunt insects in the trees. Water fowl have moved into occupy environments which formerly did not exist. Red and roe deer jump the perimeter fence to drink in its pools.

It is an absolutely amazing project and a brilliant site.

What does a reintroduction look like in practical terms? Can you break down the logistics of species reintroduction?

Well if you ask the Germans its simple: you get lots of beavers – 40 plus per release, drive along the road, spot a likely location, and let them go. A crude system which works! Reintroductions in Britain are often subject to a large degree of politics, which can be frustrating as this is a species well understood throughout its natural range which simply offers so much. We could do much better. To date, beaver reintroduction has been a haphazard affair with major public spats between those that wish them to remain and those that are opposed – the history of the Tayside and Devon beavers demonstrate this well. Given that this species was last present in Britain outside of our living memory, it is assumed that licensed releases require a scientific demonstration of how this animal will impact a British landscape – as though it will be any different from what our European and American counterparts have already demonstrated. In realistic terms, in Britain an official reintroduction would involve a small number of animals, released into a specific site, with thorough scientific monitoring of impact and public opinion. Though we may take heart that beavers are now back in our landscape, the process to full restoration is likely to be slow and cautious.

What precedent does the approval of the River Otter beaver population set for reintroductions as a wider concept? Are we likely to see lynx roaming wild any time soon?

We need to learn to live with and tolerate beavers before I think we can accomplish anything more adventurous in Britain. If we can’t move forward with reintroducing this charismatic rodent that has such significant impacts on its environment, and can single-handedly do so much to restore our wetlands, then we need to be seriously realistic about our collective ability to accept top predators on this island – no matter how nostalgic or headline grabbing the notion of lynx may be.

What would you say to people who consider reintroduction to be somehow against the natural order of things?

When you consider our contemporary British landscapes and their land-use practices, which are entirely dictated by human activity, they represent little in the way of natural order. In truth they are not ecosystems and we are probably grasping at straws to even describe what’s left as tattered fragments blowing in the wind. Instead we have a wealth of isolated areas of biological richness, generally produced as a result of relict human activities which are difficult to maintain and increasingly vulnerable and fragile. Do we accept that these nature zoos are it, or do we try to foster and encourage a process whereby we change the pattern of the landscape we have made to make it better for people and wildlife alike? Reintroductions, where human activities have caused the past extinction or diminution of a species in Britain, are simply a tool we should employ with competent ease where the circumstances justify its use.

We recently heard the news about the successful litter of kits produced by the River Otter beavers. What did this news mean to you personally? 

Brilliant!! It’s been a long time coming. Let’s move on now from these vital but small and isolated pockets of beavers and see the full restoration of this incredible species.


 

Also available now

Nature's Architect: The Beaver's Return to Our Wild LandscapesNature’s Architect: The Beaver’s Return to Our Wild Landscapes is the latest book from leading nature writer Jim Crumley. The book explores the natural history of the beaver, and Crumley makes his case in favour of beaver reintroduction.

 

 

State of the Planet assessments

End Game: Tipping Point for Planet Earth

Ever since George Perkins Marsh’s seminal 1864 work, Man and Nature: Or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action, books assessing the state of the planet have become a staple part of the environmental literature. Marsh’s magnificent work spawned some valuable retrospectives, including Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth (1956) and The Earth as Transformed by Human Action (1993).

But, since 2000, most of the really good stuff on biosphere and ecosystems science has been beyond the reach of many, behind the paywall of scientific journals (e.g. John Estes’ superb Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth, Dirzo’s Defaunation in the Anthropocene, and Diffenbaugh’s Changes in Ecologically Critical Terrestrial Climate Conditions).

Following his 2012 paper in Nature, Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere, Anthony Barnosky might well have followed the same route – but thankfully this brilliant and passionate scientist is also a believer in reaching out to a broader public: see his latest book, End Game: Tipping Point for Planet Earth.

Another leading light of planetary ecological assessment is the Swedish scientist, Johan Rockstrom, inventor of the ‘planetary boundaries’ concept, and author of perhaps the most influential peer-reviewed paper of the last decade (A safe operating space for humanity). He also has a new book just out, Big World, Small Planet.

Other notable recent publications on this theme include: The God Species (Lynas), The Sixth Extinction, an Unnatural History (Kolbert), the magisterial Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Eaarth (McKibben), The Living Planet report 2014, (WWF), Here on Earth (Flannery), and Global Environmental Outlook 5.