As 2011 draws to a close we take a look back at the wide range of research undertaken by CEH scientists over the last 12 months.
Throughout the year many of our projects and publications generated significant interest from the public, policy-makers and stakeholders, including research on acid rain, pandemic flu, cattle breeding, tropical forests and greenhouse gases, phosphorus pollution, hedgerow management, seabirds, bioenergy crops, bats, wildlife responses to climate change, black carbon and tropospheric ozone, bumblebee foraging and storm generation patterns in West Africa.
In March Professor Mark Bailey took on the role of acting Director of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) for a two-year period as Professor Pat Nuttall took on a new post as the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Director, National Capability Integration, based at NERC’s headquarters in Swindon.
The first half of the year was marked by rainfall deficits rain in parts of England with interest in the Monthly Hydrological Summaries [NEED NEW INTERNAL LINK] at an all time high for much of 2011. Although 2011 was a very "dry" year in many areas the 1975/1976 drought is still seen as the "benchmark" drought for the UK. In May CEH published a timely retrospective review of the events of 1975 and 1976 which incorporated a previously unpublished contemporary analysis of the hydrology of this major event.
Loch and Lake research forms a major part of CEH’s portfolio. Publications in 2011 included a report on the most recent Lakes (Lake District) Tour, and a set of ten scientific papers analysing over 40 years of data from our Loch Leven monitoring site in Scotland. CEH is also heavily involved in a project to restore Loch Flemington in Scotland.
CEH’s biological recording community had an exceptionally busy year in 2011. Our contributions to the UK Butterfly Monitoringm scheme were recognised in a key report looking at the last decade, the UK Ladybird Survey exhibited at the BBC Gardeners' World Live show during the Summer as well as publishing a new atlas of Ladybird distributions in the UK and Ireland. The Biological Records Centre also ran a workshop for representatives from the 80-plus volunteer schemes and societies that underpin the collection of the UK’s biological datasets. Next year, 2012, is the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Atlas of British Flora which led to the foundation of the Biological Records Centre.
Data access was a key theme with new initiatives launched to improve access to both the UK's river flow data, and to global hydrological data. CEH’s Information Gateway, launched in late 2010 was linked with the National Biodiversity Network Gateway, and CEH contributed to the new NERC soils portal. CEH also published the long awaited new UK Land Cover Map and the first map showing the distribution of the UK’s soil bacteria. Major developments in some of our long-term data programmes included the RSPB joining the funding consortium for the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme, and the launch of the WILDCOMS (Wildlife Disease & Contaminant Monitoring and Surveillance) network.
CEH’s staff were active at many national and international meetings. We organised the Nitrogen 2011 conference, held in Edinburgh in May. To coincide with the conference the 600-page European Nitrogen Assessment was published, attracting worldwide interest. During 2011 CEH staff also contributed to three Royal Society meetings related to nitrogen science. We helped run the eighth International Symposium on Weather Radar and Hydrology, had representatives at Green Week in Brussels, led a flood research delegation to China and, amongst others, hosted visits from Defra Minister Richard Benyon, the International Convention on Wetlands, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the James Hutton Institute.
CEH assisted in the response to the Japanese Tsunami, contributed to the first UK National Ecosystem Assessment, reported on ozone pollution and food security issues, and had our organisational strength in ecological research recognised by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
New research directions included the initiation of a major programme of research which aims to produce a framework for predicting the sustainability of bioenergy deployment across the UK, CEH participation in a new European initiative to coordinate water research and innovation, and linking with US scientists to study the consequences of nanotechnology.
Looking forward, publications out in 2012 will include scientific papers on mosquito arrivals, a systematic review of Himalayan glacier melting rates, a new analysis of ladybird declines and outputs from the Insect Pollinator Initiative. New datasets will be added to CEH’s Information Gateway and CEH’s key monitoring work in England, Wales and Scotland will continue.