Friday, 31 August 2007

Potential increase in runoff due to plants and carbon dioxide

This weeks Nature is publishing a great step froward from Richard Betts and his team that eloquently model the links betwee carbon dioxide, plants and potential runoff. See:

Richard A. Betts, Olivier Boucher, Matthew Collins, Peter M. Cox, Peter D. Falloon, Nicola Gedney, Deborah L. Hemming, Chris Huntingford, Chris D. Jones, David M. H. Sexton & Mark J. Webb. Projected Increase in Continental Runoff Due to Plant Responses to Increasing Carbon Dioxide. Nature, 448(7157), 30 August 2007, pp. 1037-1041.

Source: Met Office Press Release (29 Aug):


Thursday, 30 August 2007

World Water Congress


The deadline for submissions of outline papers and full papers for the IWA World Water Congress is September 15th 2007. To ensure that your paper is considered for inclusion in the technical programme, submit your paper now via the Congress website.

The 2008 Congress will bring together 3,000 international water industry professionals to discuss the latest developments in sustainable water management and exchange knowledge on all aspects of the water cycle. The Congress is divided into six main themes and three further cross-cutting themes, for which papers are requested:

Congress Tracks

- Water resources and river basin management

- Water treatment

- Wastewater treatment

- Design and operation of water systems

- Managing and planning water services

- Health and the environment

Cross-Cutting Themes

- Climate change in practice: adaptively managing impacts on water

- The science and practice of sustainable development

- Managing urban water metabolism in cities in an IWRM context

For more information about Congress themes and topics and full guidelines for paper submission, please visit the Congress website:

Please note that submissions should only be sent via the Congress website. Unless prior agreement has been made with IWA, submissions made by email will not be considered for inclusion in the technical programme.

Lets' remember the science....

Nature 448 23 August 2007 p.839

An editorial published in Nature this week has questioned the increasing trend for governments, particularly in the UK and US, to consider the economic returns from investment in research, with a growing focus on competitiveness and stresses the need for scientists to continue to highlight the importance of basic research. This sounds like emminent sense to me and is very relevant for land and water science! We must not put the cart before the horse, whilst we need to realise outcomes these must not run ahead of investmenst in basic knwoledge. Outcomes only arise from basic knowledge.


Friday, 24 August 2007

Beacon from west Greenland

Originally uploaded by wq0109
This week I joined an expedition of biogeochemists to Kangerlussuaq in west Greenland. As a soil and water biogeochemist, who focuses for most of my time of the nutrient cycling issues surrounding intensively managed agricultural systems, it is both necessary and exciting to build an understanding of the biogeochemistry of more pristine systems of the world. My objectives this week are to build an nutrient inventory for two remote and contrasting lake catchments, and specifically to test the hypothesis that lake catchments grazed by Musk Ox (introduced within the last centenary) have different nutrient cycling properties than the more extensive systems grazed only by reindeer. More fundamentally these systems present a unique contrast to the more commonly studied intensively managed systems of the world, and may help us understand fundamental processes of nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus cycling, and provide context for a true ‘reference’ condition as we seek ‘good ecological status’ as part of the goals of the catchments in the EU Water Framework directive. On the expedition I am working with some terrific scientists from the UK and US, led inimitably by John Anderson from Loughborough (John is a lake expert who has been studying the west Greenland lakes for 15 years). We stayed both at the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support (KISS) centre and in tents and a selection of the photos from the week’s activities are available here Phil

Monday, 20 August 2007

Paper: Improved surface temperature prediction for the coming decade from a global climate model

Smith et al. (2007) Science, 317, 796-799, have published the results of a new modeling system that predicts both external forcings and internal variability leading to improved forecasts of climate in the next 10 years. Internal variability will partially offset anthropogenic warming until 2008/9. After this point, climate will continue to warm. Richard Kerr in the same issue of Science discusses the importance of natural climate variation e.g. Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) over the next few decades.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Report and Horizon scanning: Environment Research Funders' Forum

The Environment Research Funders' Forum (ERFF) brings together the UK's major public sector sponsors of environmental science, aiming to make best possible use of funding.
Report: 'Using Research to Inform Policy: the Role of Interpretation'
One reason why effective use of research by policy makers is not achieved is because of the challenges of interpretation. Effective interpretation requires that staff in government departments and agencies communicate their needs in a way that can be understood by researchers. Likewise, researchers and intermediaries are required to communicate information from their research in a way that can be used by these staff. This study examines how interpretation is provided for government departments and agencies in the UK. A useful set of recommendations and guidelines for good practice are provided that will improve integration at the science-policy divide if followed by the ERFF member organisations.
Horizon scanning study: 'dimensions of uncertainty'
Horizon scanning study on the most important 'dimensions of uncertainty' for the environment that may impact on the the UK in the next 20 years. If you would like to contribute please email

Monday, 6 August 2007

Consultation: proposed EU Soil Framework Directive

Defra and the devolved administrations are asking for your views on the proposed Framework Directive for Soils by 19th October 2007. I welcome the general thrust of the proposals that our soils require a higher level of protection than is currently afforded them under the current policies e.g SEA and CAP-cross compliance. Soil provides several critical ecosystem services that we benefit from directly and indirectly. Pressures on our soils are increasing due to economic development (e.g. housing, farming and tourism) and a changing climate. A proportional risk and precautionary based approach to managing our soils is required. We also need to be aware of the likely impacts and costs of any future policies. Kit.

'The European Commission adopted the Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection,
including proposals for a Framework Directive for Soils, in September 2006. The proposed Directive lays down a framework for the protection and sustainable use of soil based on the principles of integration of soil issues into other policies, preservation of soil functions within the context of sustainable use, prevention of threats to soil and mitigation of their effects, as well as restoration of degraded soils to a level of functionality consistent at least with the current and approved future use of the land.'

Purpose of consultation
'This consultation, issued jointly by Defra, the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government, is designed to assist us in developing a robust negotiating position to enable us to engage effectively in negotiations. It is important that our negotiating line is well-informed and based on sound evidence. Hence, we are seeking your views on the scope of the proposed Directive and its approach, as well as on the benefits that the proposed Directive may deliver and the likely costs of implementing it.'

'In general terms, your views are sought on the following initial questions:
  • What are your views on the current level of soil protection measures in the UK considering the risks and threats faced by soils, including those identified by the Commission?
  • If you consider these measures to be inadequate, do you believe that any gaps are best dealt with on a common basis across the EU, for example to avoid distortion in competition, or better dealt with at a domestic level?
  • What, if any, gaps exist in terms of addressing soil protection at an EU level in particular the risks identified by the Commission?
  • Does the solution to these gaps lie in amending existing EU Directives, or in introducing a new overarching framework for soil protection?
  • Are there any existing EU provisions that give some protection to soils which, in your view, do not work or which could do with simplification?
  • In terms of the risks and threats identified by the Commission, how urgent are these problems? Is there sufficient evidence to tackle them now?
  • Who should bear the costs involved in any new obligations? Should we follow a polluter pays approach, a market-based system where, for example, a property developer pays the cost of remediation, or should these costs fall to taxpayers?'

  • Consultation website

    Conference:IWA Watershed & River Basin Management Sept 2008

    IWA have a long history of organising valuable meetings on point and diffuse pollution and river basin management. The broad expertise of the programme committee, topical nature of the themes and interest to both process and policy focused scientists will result in a worthwhile international forum. Please see for more details. Call for abstracts closes on the 30th September 2007.