Habitat of rare bumblebees under threat from plan to build 120,000 new homes
Britain's threatened bumblebees have some of their biggest strongholds on the derelict brownfield sites of the Thames estuary east of London - but these may vanish when the area is redeveloped, a new book says.
It's not just wildflower meadows or gardens that matter for bumblebee conservation. The old quarries, disused railway lines, gravel pits, former wharves, ex-industrial land and patches of waste ground of the Thames Gateway are home to an "astonishing assemblage" of insect species, many of them rare, according to the study, by one of Britain's leading bumblebee experts, Professor Ted Benton.
The reason: the grassland and scrub in these places has never been sprayed with pesticides or fertilisers, or been subjected to the intensive farming which has caused bumblebees to disappear from much of the countryside.
Three of the 25 bumblebee species traditionally found in Britain have gone extinct and several more are in danger - so The Independent is backing the new pressure group set up to protect and save them, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
The forthcoming redevelopment of Thames Gateway, seen as environmentally friendly because building will be on brownfield rather than greenfield sites, is another shadow over the future of Britain's favourite insects after butterflies.
Under the Sustainable Communities Plan promoted by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, it is one of four priority target regions for housing growth in the South over the next 15 to 30 years.
Many of its brownfield sites are likely to disappear as 120,000 new homes are built on both banks of the river. Areas such as Stratford, Barking and Thurrock in Essex, and Greenwich, Woolwich and North Kent Thameside, between Dartford and Gravesend, on the Kentish bank, are already marked down for major residential and retail redevelopment. Unless safeguards can be put in place this is likely to do away with some of the best habitat for bumblebees and other insects, Professor Benton warns.
Canvey Island, the industrialised settlement on the Essex side of the river, is home to colonies of two of our rarest bumblebees, the shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum) and the large carder bee (Bombus humilis) on land next to an old oil refinery. The former is only known from four sites in all of Britain.
Through the intervention of English Nature, the Government's conservation agency, the Canvey Island bee sites have been saved from supermarket redevelopment, but many others are at risk, Professor Benton warns. "We need to value and protect urban nature, especially because so much of our countryside has been rendered sterile by industrialised agriculture," he says.
Professor Benton sounds the alarm about vanishing brownfield bee havens at the end of his monumental study, entitled Bumblebees, which has just been published as part of a long-running (and much-collected) series of weighty wildlife books, the Collins New Naturalists.
'Independent' book offer
Independent readers can obtain a 15 per cent discount on the cover price of Collins New Naturalist Bumblebees by Ted Benton - which is regarded as the most authoritative work on British bumblebees ever published - while directly helping the new Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT). The £45 hardback is available for £38.25, while the £25 paperback is available for £21.25, both with free postage and packing on all UK orders. For every copy sold through The Independent, the BBCT will also receive 15 per cent of the cover price. To take advantage of this offer, please call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798897 or visit our online bookshop at www.independentbooks direct.co.uk
Greenpeace comes to the aid of Britain's small fishing vessels
Frilled shark: Australian fishermen capture terrifying shark from the deep
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
Scientists call for destructive seabed trawling to be banned
Brazil drought: It's a really dry January in the South American country, with rainfall is at its lowest level since 1930
- 1 Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Superb opportunity for a BUYING...
£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers personalise...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...
£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...