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A gall among the briars

Frankfort, Norfolk It was a knobbly red fist of moss-like filaments, grown to completely envelope the unripe husk of a rosehip

When sauntering this path a few days earlier, my eye had snagged on a scrap of bright crimson amid the green hues of the hedgerow. Closer inspection of a tangle of dog rose briars had proven the brazen flash of colour to be a bedeguar gall. The size of a large conker, it was a knobbly red fist of moss-like filaments, grown to completely envelope the unripe husk of a rosehip.

I returned home to books and found that this strange sticky mass had been caused by a tiny wasp, Diplolepis rosae, which lays its eggs in the leaf buds of wild roses. Weeks later the simple feeding of any resulting wasp larvae causes a tumour-like gall to form. Photos of the rarely seen diplolepis showed a tiny amber-legged wasp that reproduces asexually, never needing and seldom producing a male.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Murray-Darling water buybacks capped at 1,500 gigalitres as bill passes Senate

Greg Hunt describes passage of legislation as a signature moment in water reform as Greens accuse him of ‘caving in to hardline Nationals’

The Abbott government has won Senate support to set a 1,500 gigalitre cap on the amount of water it can buy back from the Murray-Darling basin.

The passage of the legislation – which the government says is designed to promote certainty for farming communities across the river system – comes as the Coalition continues to negotiate with crossbench senators on its push to transfer responsibility for environmental approvals to the states and territories.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Federal environmental oversight costs 'vastly overstated', analysis finds

WWF-Australia and Australia Institute challenge justification for Coalition moves to speed up approvals for mines and ports by devolving powers to the states

The Coalition’s bid to speed up environmental approvals for developments such as mines and ports will not save businesses as much money as claimed and will weaken protection for vulnerable species and ecosystems, according to a new report.

The analysis, by WWF-Australia and the Australia Institute, comes as the federal government presses ahead with plans to devolve environmental oversight of projects to the states, despite the move being blocked in the Senate last year.

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Source: Guardian Environment

EEF calls on Downing Street to scrap 'complex' energy tax system

Group wants to see incentive tax breaks introduced, as opposed to current system of penalising companies

EEF, one of Britain’s leading employers’ groups, has urged the government to scrap the carbon price floor and other green taxes, following on from a series of ministerial moves to slash subsidies on wind and solar schemes.

The demand for more cuts comes as a high profile green crowdfunding scheme, the Trillion Fund, said it would no longer be loaning money to renewable energy projects because the government had “rocked investor confidence”.

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Source: Guardian Environment

The mystery of bat chatter: Country diary 100 years ago

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 17 September 1915

A curious thing happened here yesterday. I am writing in a densely wooded Welsh valley, facing the cloud-veiled heights of Cader. The post brought, enclosed in a small matchbox, a pipistrelle; it was sent from Somerset, and left there on the 13th. In spite of its long journey in so small a box it was slumbering when it reached me, but later it awoke. About 1 30 in the afternoon I placed it on the rough-cast of the wall, and in a few moments it took wing, at once circling round and over the neighbouring trees, and apparently feeding, for flies were abundant. At that time, though many martins were fly-catching, there were, of course, no bats about, but to my surprise in little more than ten minutes it was joined by another bat of its own species. They flew about for some time, though not close together. A bat takes some time to rouse from its diurnal sleep; how then did the stranger manage to communicate with a sleeping pipistrelle, safe in its resting-place? It is hard to say, but if by voice, it is evident that the Somerset dialect of the chiropteran voice is understood by the Celtic bats.

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Source: Guardian Environment

How ozone attacks our food

September marks the end of the UK’s summer and also the end of our risk period for summertime smog. From now on, shorter days and weaker sun mean that ground level ozone won’t pass six on the 10-point UK pollution index.

This year summertime smog in the UK was confined to three main periods; during the early July heatwave over most of England and parts of Wales, in early August across the southern half of England spreading westwards, and then across Scotland and England later in the month.

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Source: Guardian Environment

John Comben obituary

John Comben, who has died suddenly aged 64, was a leading member of Incredible Edible Totnes, a project that plants herbs and vegetables in flowerbeds and disused spaces so that produce can be freely harvested by the public.

He and those involved in the project, backed by the charity Transition Town Totnes, worked regularly on beds and an arboretum in the south Devon town. His career as a gardener and horticulturalist gave him a huge knowledge of plants and growing that he shared with project volunteers, and he supplied plants and seedlings.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Activists occupy British Museum over BP sponsorship

Protesters say the petroleum company is trying to ‘artwash’ its image by sponsoring cultural establishments such as Tate Modern and British Museum

Activists have occupied part of the British Museum, as part of a day of demonstrations against sponsorship of Britain’s cultural institutions by BP.

Hollywood actor Ezra Miller joined members of 15 different groups in the London museum’s Great Court on Sunday, to sing songs and make statements calling for the current deal with the oil firm not to be renewed.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Government passing the buck on air pollution, says campaigners

Critics say plan to make councils responsible for policing pollution in urban areas offers no extra money or new powers

A government plan to meet European air quality limits by letting councils ban diesel vehicles and charge drivers more for parking polluting cars and vans is “disappointing” and could result in further court cases and tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths, critics say.

The plan, drawn up by the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) in response to a supreme court ruling, proposes individual emission limits for four different vehicle types.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Chile plans world's biggest marine park to protect Easter Island fish stocks

Local people say way of life is under threat from industrial vessels, and see plan as chance to protect environment and repair relations with mainland

In the pre-dawn gloom in a small harbour on Easter Island, three fishermen fill their boats. Instead of piling nets, they load rocks which they will use to drop a line tens of metres below the swelling waves. The lines will be hauled up hand over hand with their catch, huge yellowfin tuna.

The technique would be recognisable to the fishermen’s ancestors who have worked these waters for hundreds of years. But this way of life on one of the world’s remotest inhabited islands is under threat, say local people and conservationists, from illegal fishing by industrial vessels that dwarf these tiny boats.

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Source: Guardian Environment