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There's no doubt about it, when you join us for our Big Nature Day extravaganza this Sunday on 22 May, you'll get your hands dirty.


But that's pretty essential if you're going to help our scientists and wildlife experts in the Big Nature Count to find and identify how many different species of plant and animal there are in our Museum Wildlife Garden. It's a 24-hour census - or a bioblitz race for those familiar with the term -  to celebrate International Day for Biological Diversity and International Year of Forests, as well as the start of the UN's Decade on Biodiversity.

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Can you handle it? Find out which worm charmer to be on Big Nature Day with our experts in the BBC film clip on our website

As Stuart HIne, manager of our Centre for UK Biodiversity says: 'We have many visitors to the Wildlife Garden, from our regular human ones to more unusual visitors such as honeybees, damselflies and hawkmoths. In fact, since the garden opened in 1995, we’ve recorded more than 2,000 different species and it would be great to know what's about on Sunday.'

 

Along with the regular Big Nature Count guided tours, worm charming (above) will be a popular highlight of the day. There are two sessions at 12.00 and 15.00. The recent rain should help lure the worms to the ground's surface. Although we're hoping that the sun will shine gloriously on the day, of course.

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Spot the spots on the ladybirds you find and watch out for cockchafer May bugs on the Big Nature Count guided tours. Select images to enlarge

Other garden action includes the Bugs Count, Tree Hunt, moth trap checking, investigating pond life, and check out the Bee Tree.

 

Inside the Darwin Centre, head over to the Specimen Roadshow to identify your favourite specimens (or bring in a picture) and there are nature talks in the Darwin Centre's Attenborough Studio.

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Look around and above, plants and trees may hide moths (like this Poplar hawkmoth, left) and butterflies. There are eight common trees in the Wildlife Garden to identify. Select images to enlarge

Take pictures on the day

Most important of all, though, bring your cameras or have your mobile phone to the ready to snap the species you do manage to spot. With these, you can help us create a spectacular Photo Wall in the Darwin Centre atrium at the Interactive Media area. You can print your pictures here for the display or upload them with your comments to our Big Nature Day guestbook on the computers available or at home afterwards.

 

Big Nature Day is a free, drop-in event that will appeal to all ages, but you'll need to book on the tours and worm charming sessions.

 

When you arrive at the Museum head for the West lawn or Darwin Centre atrium where you'll be directed to the Base Camp in the Darwin Centre Courtyard, the hub for the day's activities, and where you can see lots of special displays.

 

Keep up to date on our Big Nature Day website for the Big Nature Count tours schedule and latest information

 

Get prepared for the activities on Big Nature Day by watching some great how-to nature videos on our website

 

Explore the Museum's Wildlife Garden

 

Discover what else is on for the International Year of Biodiversity

 

Visit our newly-launched Decade on Biodiversity website

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Yann Arthus-Bertrand film treats at the French Institute on 22 May and on the International Year of Forests website

If you want to see an amazing nature documentary by The Earth From Above photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, head over to the nearby French Institute for a special free screening of Home at 18.30. Our Museum botanist Sandy Knap is introducing the film. Although it's free you need to book a place on their website.

 

Find out about booking for the special screening of Home at the French Institute

 

You can also catch a glimpse of Yann's special short fiilm for the International Year of Forests on the official website

 


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Phew, hot off the press, we've just released tickets for our October evening event.....Biodiversity: The Next Step

 

If you enjoyed the Big Nature Debate, or you're interested to know more about biodiversity, why it's important and what's being done to conserve it, then this is the event for you!

 

We've got some fantastic speakers and the event will be discussion based, so there'll be lots of opportunity for you to ask questions and discuss your ideas and concerns.

 

Details below or look on our website.

 

Biodiversity: The Next Step

 

Why is biodiversity important? In this, the International Year of Biodiversity, are we any more aware of its significance in our lives, and the fact that it is declining at an unprecedented rate?

This October, the United Nations is holding a global conference to discuss the continued decline in animal and plant species and set new targets to prevent a global disaster. But is it too late? We have already failed to meet the targets set in 2002. Will this time be any different?

Join us and hear from the following invited speakers:
Prof Geoff Boxshall (Merit Researcher, Zoology Department, Natural History Museum)
Peter Unwin (Director General for Environment and Rural, Defra)
Tony Juniper (Writer and environmentalist)
Prof Tom Burke (Environmentalist and Environmental Policy Adviser to Rio Tinto)


Take part in the discussions as we consider what needs to change, and how the goals set by the UN in Nagoya will influence both our own future and that of global biodiversity.

Part of Nature Live Nights.

Tickets £8 each (£7.20 members) plus £1.50 booking fee. Please book online, visit an information desk or phone 020 7942 5725.
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Dr Bob Bloomfield has coordinated the UK response to the International Year of Biodiversity working with diverse partners from more than 400 partner organisations in the UK (www.biodiversityislife.net). Bob has an academic background in biological science but has devoted his career to science communication and public engagement around science issues including, and especially Evolution and Biodiversity.

 

 

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An interesting development week is the online publication of a report following from the Global Business of Biodiversity conference in the summer. The report, GBOB - A contribution to CBD COP10, has been designed for the CBD to share with the business segment meeting (a side event at the CBD COP10 later this month in Nagoya).

 

As an e-publication the site also links to an easy download and print version of the report. The introduction includes a video keynote from HRH Prince Charles, and a number of extracts and features drawn from other keynote speeches including Secretary of State for Environment, Caroline Spelman. Section 2 highlights comments from the other key speakers from science, policy and industry.

 

However at the heart of the book is Section 1 – a summary of the feedback from delegates. It is their feedback to the CBD, to Nagoya and to international governments which is most important and interesting. This is summarised under seven themes which highlight the main issues and barriers. A strong response from governments at the COP could help address and remove these obstacles and thereby enable businesses to engage more systematically, and not be penalised, in the global market place:

 

 

    • Lack of understanding
    • Communication
    • Markets
    • Regulatory frameworks
    • Reporting and accountability
    • Capacity development
    • Wider integration – the overarching narrative

 


What is most interesting about the report is that while industry is rightly in the frame for being one of the primary causes of biodiversity loss, this shows a growing interest and awareness, and a willingness to address the issues if Governments internationally can set the policy frameworks for them to operate and be regulated within.

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Jonathan Baillie is Conservation Programmes Director for the Zoological Society of London and a global authority on the status and trends of threatened species. He  has played a significant role in some of the most influential documents  on the status of the world's species including the IUCN Red List of  Threatened Species, and has helped lead the development of a series of  species level global biodiversity indicators for the Convention on  Biological Diversity.

 

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and our planet is in crisis. A recent paper in Science (Butchart et al. 2010) demonstrates that indicators looking at the status of species and ecosystems continue to show declining trends while those looking at threats are rapidly increasing. It is unfortunately clear that the 2010 CBD target has not been met, as we have not reduced the rate of biodiversity loss.  ZSL research conducted in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and partners demonstrates that 1/4 of the world’s terrestrial vertebrates – mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians – are threatened with extinction and our initial results indicate that these patterns may be representative of biodiversity in general. ZSL research with WWF indicates that vertebrates have declined by 30 percent since 1970 and this is consistent across marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems.

 

The threats to biodiversity are intensifying with the impacts of climate change and the increased pressure associated with an estimated global population increase of 2.5 billion people over the next 40 years. This century is clearly presenting society with some of the greatest challenges it has ever faced. Our ability to overcome these challenges depends on whether we are capable of transitioning to a world where we manage the world’s species and ecosystems in a sustainable manner. The 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity provides an opportunity for the world’s governments to place biodiversity high on the international political agenda and jumpstart this transition process. If this does not occur, nature will find its own balance with unthinkable consequences for all species, including the humans.

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Dr Bob Bloomfield has coordinated the UK response to the International Year of Biodiversity working with diverse partners from more than 400 partner organisations in the UK (www.biodiversityislife.net). Bob has an academic background in biological science but has devoted his career to science communication and public engagement around science issues including, and especially Evolution and Biodiversity.

 

 

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In some extraordinary scenes at the United Nations General Assembly the threats associated with biodiversity loss discussed in today’s special session began with the stark message that; addressing biodiversity loss was not a luxury but a duty. In his remarks Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon rang the alarm bells saying biodiversity loss needed an emergency, internationally-agreed rescue package akin to the global bank crisis. He underscored the imperative stressing that Governments had to stop thinking about environmental (biodiversity) protection as a loss but as an investment which Heads of State and all areas of government had to consider alongside the other measures needed to ensure long-term stability.

 

Speakers in the assembly were in accord with the significance of the problem, the European Commission President Jose-Manuel Barroso highlighting that mitigating climate change and adapting to its impact would be impossible without effective measures to protect ecosystems and biodiversity. While the spokesperson for the Group of 77 developing countries and China said that without comprehensive measures to address biodiversity loss the Millennium Development Goals would be unobtainable.

As the main session took place in the assembly Ahmed Djoghlaf, Chief Executive of the Convention on Biology, held a press conference with biodiversity experts and celebrity champion of the International Year of Biodiversity actor Edward Norton.  Norton urged people to use their purchasing power to influence opinion - saying that in some ways this could have a bigger impact on industry, which is a primary driver of biodiversity impacts, than the progress of government policy. This press conference ended in slightly chaotic scenes as the panel rose to ring a Memorial Bell as a call for recognition of the issues at stake. This event coincided with bell-ringing in sympathy around the world, including here in England by Anglican Churches. Peterborough Cathedral tolled 492 times – one for each species known to have become extinct in England in recent history.

 

However, while the International Year of Biodiversity and the International Bell-ringing were intended to celebrate the importance of Biodiversity there were signs that behind the scenes in the UN the international negotiators were not pulling in harmony, but more like a group of new bell-ringers desperately trying to get into rhythm. There was an undercurrent of concern that next months crucial meeting in Nagoya could end up in a cacophony as efforts to meet agreement falter.

 

There are two primary causes of concern. The first is that one county won’t fully join in. The CBD has almost universal support, now with 194 countries having full status. However, as Ed Norton highlights, the rope left dangling pulls the primary bell in the bell tower – the United States, which only has observer status at the CBD. This is not only hugely politically embarrassing, it has a major impact on key decisions which need to be made in Japan in October when the CBD meets to agree the way forward for the next decade.

 

The second and bigger threat to the world chiming in unison became apparent as the nuances emerged from the speakers in the main assembly meeting. While Brazil, Germany and the EU all heralded the establishment of IPBES (Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) as a major breakthrough, a threat has emerged over its full implementation. This panel, biodiversity’s equivalent to the International Panel on Climate Change is seen as essential in getting better informed responses and action at global and national levels – so what’s the crack in the mould that could put it out of tune?

 

Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira emphasised that there were three components to the Nagoya negotiations which were indivisible, these include:
•    A comprehensive Strategic Plan with new country targets to implement measures to protect biodiversity and ecosystems.
•    An agreement on access on benefits – that is how particularly developing countries with important genetic resources in their biodiversity will benefit from any commercial development of these ‘assets’.
•    The creation of an essential strategic and financial plan to build capacity and mobilise the resources required to make the difference.

 

The political problem lies in the indivisible nature of these components and at least some of the countries in the Group of 77 wanting clear agreements on financial support for them – and potentially not supporting the implementation of IPBES if this cannot be agreed.

 

While these issues are surmountable what the CBD and the United Nations are saying is that global society has to change, change fast and change dramatically if the consequences of biodiversity loss are to be avoided – including major setbacks to address climate change and global poverty alleviation. The subtext was clear, that rate of damage caused by man in recent years and in the few decades to come will have a monumental impact for thousands of years to come. And the call is for an unprecedented programme of global ecosystem restoration which has to be supported in all areas of governance from heads of state, through all government departments. The value of ecosystems natural assets has to be in our economic accounting – and this is currently in the RED. The movement towards a green economy places biodiversity centre stage and the greatest challenge of the decade ahead. The representative for Japan – the incoming Presidency of the CBD recognised the imperative calling on the UN accept a resolution that the 2010-2020 be called the International Decade of Biodiversity.

 

What is dispiriting is the real lack of Media interest and response to this event. They could be doing so much more to engage the public and we need millions of people to understand, to ring bells, glockenspiels, mobile ring tones, maracas, bang tins and empty plastic bottles and demand that governments take heed. I hope that Nagoya will be cause for celebration and not the knell for biodiversity actions because of short-sighted and narrow political positioning. To coin a phase, For whom the Bell Tolls, The Bell Toll for You, and Me, and You and You and You….

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batperson-ally-pally.jpgLondon’s Alexandra Palace Park played host to a Wild Day Out on Saturday 5 June. Natural History Museum and OPAL scientists went on a mission to record as much wildlife as they could in the park over 24 hours, including some strange batmen, like this one. OPAL is the Open Air Laboratories Project network.

 

Over 8,000 people joined in the Ally Pally BioBlitz, making the event a huge success. The final species count is to be confirmed but is expected to be in the region of 700.

 

The bioblitz event was partnered by the BBC who helped to rally lots of local people to assist with pond dips, worm charming, nature surveys and other activities in a bid to record all the plants and animals that live in the park. There were also arts and crafts activities for kids.

 

See some BBC pictures of Wild Day Out

 

For the uninitiated, a bioblitz is a kind of wildlife hunt against the clock, and anyone can join in. It can be a really big event in a large public space or a small one in your garden.


As well as the Ally Pally event, our Museum scientists and OPAL researchers staged another bioblitz at South Devon's Mothecombe Beach on 11 June. Here, local residents, schools and holiday-makers helped scientists record over 700 different species in just 28 hours.

 

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kids-alexandra-palace-bioblitz.jpgBoth bioblitz events are part of our national International Year of Biodiversity in the UK celebrations.

 

There are lots more bioblitzes happening around the country and you can find details on the National Bioblitz Programme 2010 website

 

Find out more about other UK biodiversity events on our Biodiversity is life website

 

OPAL, the Open Air Laboratories Project network, run lots of surveys and citizen science activities you can join in your local area and online. They have a base in our Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity.


Browse the OPAL website and explore nature

 

Read about a bioblitz in a journalist's back garden conducted by some of our scientists, on the Guardian website


Click on the images to enlarge them.

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elephant-mosaic-800-tall.jpgTwo magnificently decorated elephant sculptures appeared on our West lawn after the Bank Holiday weekend. You can't miss Seymour and Phoolan if you head towards our Wildlife Garden, facing the main Museum entrance.


Phoolan (right) created by Carrie von Reichardt and Nick Reynolds, is covered in 1000s of mosaic tiles, with gaps revealing bones damaged by human actions. Seymour, the white elephant below, was hand painted by artist Emma Elizabeth Kemp. They will be joined by a third elephant for International Day for Biological Diversity which we're celebrating on 22 May.

 

The three life-size baby elephants grace us with their colourful presence until the end of June..

 

Our hand-decorated elephants are part of The Elephant Parade in London, the Capital's big public art event led by the Elephant Family charity, to help raise awareness for endangered Asian elephants. This unique urban savannah will feature 250 baby elephants displayed across London landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square, the South Bank and our own Museum. Look out for them.

 

A host of celebrities and artists from the art and design world have been involved in painting and decorating the elephants. Well-known names include Marc Quinn, Diane Von Furstenberg, Lulu Guinness, Julien Macdonald, Issa, John Rocha, Jonathan Yeo, Jack Vettriano, Nina Campbell and Nicky Haslam.

 

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In early July, the herd of elephants will get together for one big exhibition and then be auctioned for charity at Sotheby's.

 

Read about The Elephant Parade on our International Year of Biodiversity in the UK (IYB-UK) website.

 

Find out more about the endangered Asian elephant on our Species of the Day website.

 

Browse more elephant pictures on The Elephant Parade website.

 

The Elephant Family charity is a partner organisation of IYB-UK.

 



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Bee happy this year. Bombus distinguendus © D Goulson

Get fit. Give up cigarettes and alcohol. No chocolate. Move... Resolutions, resolutions. How about sparing a thought for a species every day?


To celebrate the fact that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity we're bringing you news each day of a different species that our Museum scientists feel important to draw to your attention.


So 365 days, 365 species.

 

From the tiniest algae and bacteria to powerful plants and mighty whales, each species is written about by a Museum scientist. A different species' fact-file will be published on our website and announced on the homepage each day. Some will features video clips too.

 

On New Year's Day we launched our Species of the Day online. We paid homage to the much-loved great yellow bumblebee whose survival here is under threat because of habitat changes and the loss of deep flowers. You can find out more about great yellow bumblebees and their conservation on the Bombus distinguendus species fact-file.

 

Our bumblebee expert Paul Williams explains, ‘Species of the day is a great opportunity for people to find out aboutsea-urchin-490.jpg what we can do to help valuable species that are facing challenges from man-made environmental change’.

 

But it's not just endangered species that will be featured. Some scientists have chosen species which are part of their research or that have particularly interesting or unusual behaviour, or because of their value to science or economic impact.

 

Read the Species of the Day news story and have a look at what we have featured online already on Species of the Day. Today’s little wonder is the strong-muscled sea urchin, Eucidaris metularis (shown right). Did you know that sea urchins have been around for the last 150 million years?


Watch out, there are some really bizarre and quirky organisms coming your way.

 

Species of the Day is part of our involvement in the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity in the UK. It also highlights the work of the Museum’s many scientists who work here behind the scenes.

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250 guests enjoyed the evening atmosphere in the Central Hall at the launch of the UK's International Year of Biodiversity

The International Year of Biodiversity starts officially in 2010, but here at the Museum we celebrated the launch of the UK's Year of Biodiversity on Wednesday evening, 25 November.

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We also launched our great new website for IYB-UK (as it's known to those working on it) which will bring together what you need to know about what's going on in the UK.


The Museum is coordinating all the IYB organisations and groups across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who are joining the biodiversity activities from now through next year. It's going to be a busy but inspiring time.

 

If you're new to the concept of 'biodiversity', have a look at our news article about the event, featuring a video interview with some of theliz-sharp.jpg speakers including Liz Bonnin (pictured here) who presented the BBC science show Bang Goes The Theory. Biodiversity is a word you'll hear lots about in the coming months.

 

When the United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity, they asked the world to celebrate the rich variety of life - biodiversity - all through next year. The sad fact is we may be losing species 1,000 times faster than the natural rate because of human activities. So we need to make 2010 count. That's why we've started early.

Marie Clements, our communications officer, was at the event and told me about some of the things that are being planned for the future:

 

'There will be exhibitions, talks, artworks, citizen science experiments and festivals. People of all ages can get involved. They can join surveys, including dormice, farmyard birds, butterflies, hedgehogs and water. And fun activities like bat walks, bird-watching, honey and apple tasting, orchard visits and tree planting.'

 

Sounds like a 'biodiversity' of things to mark up in your calendar ahead! To guide you through, use our local IYB events search on our IYB-UK website. (Check back regularly as it is a work in progress.)

 

From farmers to charities, wildlife rangers to councils, schools and colleges to zoos, museums and botanic gardens, the UK has one of the strongest programmes in the world to celebrate IYB2010.

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Celebrate the biodiversity of life we have all around us

While we gear up our local and national celebrations, there will be big decisions and moves to be made on a global scale too. One of the key speakers at last night's launch was Ahmed Djoghlaf from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), who heads the global campaign. He highlighted the pressing issue of biodiversity loss, describing how, ‘Climate change is emerging as one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss.'

 

It seems fitting that on the same night as our launch, President Obama announced he would attend the crucial Copenhagen Climate Summit which kicks off on 7 December. Some are pinning their hopes on the decisions made at this conference, others are less optimistic. See my previous blog post on the warnings from Pavan Sukhdev at our Annual Science Lecture about the world's disappearing coral reefs.

To explore the wider picture, visit our biodiversity web pages and the 2010 International Year of the Biodiversity website.