“The name, coined by fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly, … shifting Baseline Syndrome’. The people of every generation perceive the state of the ecosystems they encountered in their childhood as normal. When fish or other animals or plants are depleted, scientists or campaigners might call for them to be restored to the numbers that existed in their youth; their own ecological baseline. But they often appear unaware that what they considered normal when they we children was in fact a state of extreme deprivation.” p 69
P74 “It is all about soil disturbance with birch. It’s designed to chase retreating glaciers and ice sheets by seeding into their exposed soils before the coarse grass gets a foot in the door. It is also good at recolonizing burnt sites and places where the conifers have been felled. You just need to prepare the site with a tractor or rotavator. Or you could use pigs or wild boor to break up the bracken and disturb the soil. If we are serious about getting forests back in the uplands as quickly as possible, this has to be the way to go.”
P82 “In the catchment of the River Wye, for example, the authorities spent large amounts of public money until the late 1990s on the pointless task of dragging what they called timber blockages out of the tributaries. These great nests of branches took hundreds of years to accumulate. They were the prime habitat for a wide range of species, including the young of the salmon for which the river is renowned. … before someone realised that the policy resulted in nothing but harm.”
P83 “Beavers radically change the behaviour of a river. They slow it down. They reduce scouring and erosion. They ap much of the load it carried, ensuring that the water runs more clearly. They create small wetlands and boggy areas… Far from spreading disease… They could reduce it, as their dams filter out the sediments containing faecal bacteria.”
P84 “One of the most fascinating discoveries of modern ecology is an abundance of trophic cascades. … When the animals at the top of the food chain – the top predators – change the numbers not just of their prey, but also of species with which they have no direct connection. Their impacts cascade down through the food chain,in some cases radically changing the ecosystem, the landscape, and even the chemical composition of the soil and the atmosphere.
The best know example is the dramatic change that followed the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Seventy years after they had been exterminated, wolves were released into the park in 1995. When they arrived, many of the stream sides and riversides were almost bare, closely cropped by a high population of red deer (which in North America, confusingly, are called elk). But as soon as he wolves arrived, this began to change. It altered their prey’s behaviour. They deer avoided the places – particularly the valleys and gorges – where they could be caught most easily. In some places, trees on the riverbanks, until the constantly suppressed by browsing, quintupled in height in just six years. The trees shaded and cooled the water and provided cover for fish and other animals, changing the wildlife community which lived there. More seedlings and saplings survived. The bare valleys began reverting to aspen, willow and cottonwood forest. One apparent result is the number of songbirds increased… The regrowth … Allowed populations of both beans and bison to expand .. The beavers … Created niches for otters, muskrats, fish, frogs and reptiles. … by hunting coyotes, the wolves allow the populations of smaller mammals, such as rabbits and mice, to rise. Scavenging animals such as bald eagles and ravens feed on the remains of the deer the wolves kill. The return of the wolves appears to have increased the numbers of bears. They eat both the carrion abandoned by the wolves and the berries growing on the shrubs that have sprung back as the deer declined.”
P120 “Not all reintroductions succeed. Dr Hetherington offers this handy tip for avoiding disappointment, don’t do what the Italians did in Gran Paradiso. Only released two lynx. Both male.”
P165 “I am told by a senior civil servant that an insurance company recently investigated the possibility of buying and reforesting Pumlumon – the largest mountain in the Cambrians – on whose slopes both the Severn and the Wye arise. It had worked out this would be cheaper than paying out for carpets in Gloucester. It abandoned the plan because of likely political difficulties.”
P192 “Some 150 years ago, just 30 percent of the Kocevje region, 95 per cent of which is now forested, was covered by trees. Much of the forest was preserved by the Princes of Auersperg as hunting estates. They were so obsessed by hunting, as princes often seem to be, that they and the other great lords of the Hapsburg monarchy in Slovenia and Croatia drew up a official declaration of friendship with the bear, signed and stamped with their gat seals, in which they agreed to sustain its numbers so they could continue to pursue it. The role the bears played in this negotiation was unrecorded.”
P198 “The impacts of the American genocides might have been felt throughout the northern hemisphere. … Recovering forests drew so much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere – about 10 parts per million – that they could have helped trigger the cooling between the 16th and 17th centuries known as the Little Ice Age. …. Native American civilisation may have begun with a similar impact. The biologist Felisa Smith proposes that the extermination of the American megafauna by Mesolithic hunters may have been responsible for another mini ice age, the Younger Dryas, which began 12,800 years ago and lasted for 1,300 years … The wild herbivores of the Americas were, like sheep and cattle, magnificently flatulent. Smith calculates they produced around 10 million tonnes a year of methane.”
P244: “The Scania herring of the western Baltic … Became extinct inthe Middle Ages as a result of improved netting technologies. Significant ecological change may go back even further. The excavations at Bouldnor Cliff, on the Isle of Wight … Suggest that the Mesolithic people who lived there 8,100 years ago could have been running a oat yard. The woodworking techniques they used were previously believed to have arisen on Britain only 2,000 years later, in the Neolithic. … This suggests a fishing capacity gather and more sophisticated than previously imagined. Whenever a new fishery opens, the largest animals tend to be caught first. Who knows what monsters might have been extracted then? Ours is a dwarf and remnant fauna, and as its size and abundance decline, so do our expectations.”
P.246 “The world’s continental shelves are being trawled, destroying their sessile life forms – the trees of the sea – at 150 times the rate at which forests are being cleared on land. … Every year half the global continental shelf is trawled. … It is impossible for the delicate animals destroyed when nets, beams, rakes and chains were first dragged over the to re-establish themselves. … Until recently, much of the seabed was protected by the fact it was rocky, and would damage nets dragged over it…. But the rockhopper equipment developed in the 1980s and now used widely has made almost every hidden corner accessible…. Trawlers turn over boulders of up to 25 tonnes, either flushing out or smashing the fish and crustacean s they harbour, destroying the habitat as effectively as a bulldozer in the rainforest.”
P. 248 “In 2002′ at two world summits, governments promised to protect at least 10 per cent of the world’s seas by 2012. In 2003 the World Parks Congress called for at least 20 or 30 per cent of every habitat at sea to become a strict reserve by the same date. … A the time of writing less than 2 per cent of the world’s seas has any form of protection, and only in some places is fishing wholly excluded.
In 2004″,the British government’s official advisers, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, proposed that 30 per cent of the United Kingdom’s waters should become reserves in which no fishing or any other kind of extraction happened. In 2009 an environmental coalition launched a petition for the same measure … Which gathered 500,000 signatures… A the time or writing we have managed to protect a spectacular 0.01 per cent of our territorial waters, five of our 48,000 square kilometres. This takes the form of three pocket handkerchiefs: around Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran and Flamborough Head in Yorkshire. The are plenty of other nominally protected areas but they are no better defended from industrial fishing than our national parks are defended from farming…
When fishing stops, the results are remarkable. On average, in 114 marine reserves studied around the world, some of which have been I existence for only a few years, the total weight of animals and plants had quadrupled since they were established…. bigger fish produce more eggs, and the quality of the eggs improves as the parent mature, so the offspring are more likely to survive… The suppressed life of the sea awaits only the chance to reemerge.”