Chair's Introduction

Welcome to the Summer 2011 edition of Nature News. I’d like to start with a Peter Bridgewater, Chair, JNCC with Arbutus menziesii © JNCCpersonal note of congratulation to my fellow JNCC Committee member Judith Webb who has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Judith has worked tirelessly for conservation in England and Wales and the award recognises her commitment. While on people I’d also like to welcome Steve Gibson in his role as Director of Marine Evidence. Steve will work in partnership with John Goold to ensure JNCC can adhere to the Government's strict timetable on improving marine conservation in short order.


It’s been an eventful period since the last edition with the publication of Government’s ambitious new plans for the natural environment - the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) and the National Environment White Paper (NEWP). The NEA report is an assessment of the state of the natural environment in the UK. Using the concept of ecosystem services it shows how human well-being is dependent on resilient ecosystems and economies.  We still need to understand much more, however about the links between  biodiversity and the delivery of ecosystem services; and far too many people still equate biodiversity simply with species! One of the key findings of the assessment is that 30% of ecosystem services in the UK are currently declining and many others are degraded – an unfortunate fact but one which should spur us to action, not simply weep into our beer! The report includes a chapter on the relationship between human activities in the UK and global ecosystems, contributed to by JNCC’s Tony Weighell.


The NEWP sets out the Government’s aspirations for the environment in England, with the concept of ecosystem service delivery at the heart of those aspirations. Although the White Paper deals with England, rather than the UK, the JNCC can help promote debate and discussion on which elements have wider UK applicability, within the policy framework of devolution. There is a section on international action, which includes several commitments in which JNCC has a close interest – helping to achieve the Aichi 2020 biodiversity targets, supporting biodiversity conservation in the Overseas Territories and promoting reform of EU policies affecting the environment. It is clear the NEWP will be a leitmotif over the next few years in defining and implementing government policy at landscape level.


Defra asked JNCC to organise a meeting for the biodiversity science and policy community to input to the forthcoming Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) plenary session in October this year.  There is considerable discussion in the scientific community about how effectively this body can help global debates – and critically actions – to ensure biodiversity change is in a positive direction.  This meeting was held in July and proved to be a useful day.  The meeting report can be found on the JNCC website.


I started with some up-beat personnel news.  But I have to end more sombrely. Staff received tragic news in March with the passing of colleague Mark Crick, who was in the Turks and Caicos Islands assisting the local environment department. Mark was an extremely popular member of the JNCC team, with a passion for his work and a deep commitment to the natural environment. In one of my impromptu Christmas “performances” Mark readily agreed to be part of the sketch, a memory I will treasure, along with my personal knowledge of his professional commitment. The carbon flux and peatlands work featured in this edition was one of Mark’s most recent projects and ever the professional; I know he would be pleased that the project is gathering momentum.     


Peter Bridgewater, Chair, JNCC



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