"The Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme is brilliant and I would definitely encourage other BES members to apply in future"

Anna Renwick BES Shadowing Scheme, 2010-04-09

Ecological Issues

Ecological Issues


A non-specialist? You’ll find all you need in the Ecological Issues. 

Discover the scientific evidence behind selected topics in ecology. 

The series grew out of concern within the Society that a lack of information could lead to contention rather than constructive action at the time when many ecological issues are being considered in economic, social and political domains. Each of the booklets deals with one topic and represents work by a specially convened group of experts working in that field.


New Ecological Issues is published

The original series was published between 1990 and 2003. To celebrate the Society’s Centenary we have published a new Ecological Issues document on ‘The Impact of Extreme Events on Freshwater Ecosystems’. The document was launched at a parliamentary reception at Westminster on 25th June, as part of the BES’s Festival of Ecology. A blog about the event and report can be found here.

A two-page policy brief and summary of the report can also be found here.

On 19th September we also presented the document at Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, where Mary Scanlon MSP sponsored the event. As such, a Scottish Executive Summary  has also been produced which provides relevant Scottish case studies.

Pol_Ecological Issues Front cover imageThis Ecological Issues document provides a much needed look at the current knowledge surrounding the problems freshwater ecosystems can face when exposed to extreme weather events. While the impacts of extreme events such as floods, droughts and heatwaves on people and their properties receives a lot of policy and media attention, the effect of such events on freshwater ecosystems is less obviously known and communicated to policy makers. The document explores the wide variety of effects on rivers, lakes and ponds, ranging from alterations in water quantity and quality to loss of species and changes in river structure.

The report concludes with recommendations for land managers and policy makers in how to limit the impact of extreme events and how to maximise the resilience of freshwater ecosystems. In particular, natural flood management and sustainable drainage systems are advocated as sustainable techniques that could achieve ‘win-win’ solutions for both society and the environment. It is hoped that taking more practical steps at a landscape level and managing land and water more wisely could result in greater resilience of such systems to extreme events.

See also our ‘Virtual Issue’ of the Journal of Applied Ecology, which brings together relevant research articles in freshwater ecology to accompany this installment in the Ecological Issues series.

Tell us what you think of our freshwater report by taking part in our survey.


Ecological Issues

Aquaculture Cover11. Aquaculture: the ecological issues

Davenport, Black, Burnell, Cross, Culloty, Ekaratne, Furness, Mulcahy and Thetmeyer, 2003

A fast-growing, essential industry, aquaculture provides food and income to millions of people. It offers the only prospect of expanding food supply from freshwater or sea because capture fisheries have reached their limits. However, many current aquaculture practices are ecologically unsustainable. This publication looks at controversial topics such as habitat loss, the introduction of alien species, genetic pollution by escapees and the spread of disease from farmed to wild populations. Attention is drawn to the heavy reliance of the industry on fishmeal and fish oil derived from industrial fishing that in turn impacts on the food supply of seabirds and fish such as cod and haddock. The booklet is aimed at policy makers, environmental managers and professional scientists who seek a compact overview. It is also an invaluable reference book for undergraduates and Masters’ level students. It takes a worldview and so is relevant to aquaculture across the globe.

Land Management Cover10. Land management: the hidden costs

Hindmarch and Pienkowski, 2000

Mature ecological criticism of agricultural policies is not easy : targets agreed in Biodiversity Action Plans must be achieved within a framework of agricultural and economic policies. Developing a balanced solution is the essence of sustainability. Until recently the hidden costs of high-production systems on biodiversity have been ignored. This book identifies some of the hidden costs of unsustainable production, and also considers examples where conservation management has failed. Land managers and planners, ecologists, and agriculturalists will, in particular, find this book an invaluable resource but it will also appeal to those with a more general interest in the issues of land management.

Commercial Fishing Cover

9. Commercial fishing

Moore and Jennings, 2000

Fishing provides food, income and employment for millions of people. However, fishing has environmental costs that threaten rare species, marine ecosystems and the sustainability of the resource. This book provides a lively, timely and accessible account of fishing activities and their impacts on marine habitats, biodiversity and species of conservation concern.

8. Wildlife diseases

Hudson, 1997

Wildlife diseases have had a long association with mankind, either directly because the pathogens are shared between man and wildlife (e.g. rabies) or indirectly because of their impact on livestock and conservation problems. Ecology now provides an understanding of the epidemiology of the relationship between hosts and their parasites. This insight into the interaction of hosts and parasites and can be used to help solve problems of control and conservation along with ethical questions. How can we control rabies in Europe? What is the relationship between badgers and TB? What initiated the disease epidemic in seals? Why do we apparently see new diseases emerging? All these questions are examined in this booklet along with other clearly described topical examples.

Coral Reefs Cover7. The exploitation of coral reefs

Douglas, 1996

Coral reefs are well known for their beauty and for the impressive variety of marine life that inhabits them but also constitute an important economic resource. Reef fisheries are a major source of protein for millions of people and reef related tourism has become important for many developing countries’ economies. But now there is a rapidly growing concern that many reefs are being degraded or destroyed by human activities. Both coastal development (often stimulated by tourism) and intensification of reef fisheries can readily result in destruction of coral communities. This booklet describes both the potential economic benefits to be derived from coral reefs and the problems of exploiting them. It also discusses new management practices that seek to combine the needs of conservation with the sustainable use of reef resources.

Biodiversity Cover6. Actions for biodiversity in the UK

Hill, Pienkowski, Treweek and Yates, 1996

One of the major products of the earth summit at Rio was the Convention on Biological Diversity. A central feature of this treaty is that nature conservation should not be just a special land use but should be integrated fully into the policies influencing all other land- and sea-uses. This booklet explains the ways in which the United Kingdom has set about implementing its responsibilities under the Convention. Whilst based on ecology, effective biodiversity conservation must involve people at all levels of activity from local to international. As the United Kingdom is one of the first states to produce a national action plan in response to the requirements of the Convention, both its successes and any mistakes may provide useful information also for others.

Nitrogen Cover5. The ecological effects of increased aerial deposition of nitrogen

Bell, 1994

This booklet explores the current knowledge of the impacts on natural and semi-natural ecosystems of inputs of a range of nitrogenous pollutants from the atmosphere. The effects of increased nitrogen on agricultural systems are well known and viewed as highly beneficial in terms of crop production, and it could be anticipated that further inputs of nitrogenous air pollutants in general may have little impact. However, for many other ecosystems it is now apparent that a wide range of adverse effects can arise as a consequence of nitrogen input from industrial, transport and agricultural sources. Consequently the protection of ecosystems by emission controls has complex policy implications.

GM Cover4. The release of genetically-engineered organisms

Shorrocks and Coates, 1993

The invasion of exotic species has always been an intriguing and important ecological topic. With the advent of modern molecular techniques that enable the transfer of genes from one organism to another, whether or not they are closely related, we have a new class of “exotic” organisms which may escape or be released into the environment. What will be the consequence of such new invasions? Will they be more or less damaging than the more traditional foreign exotics? The purpose of this fourth ecological issues booklet is to address some of these questions.

Barrages Cover 3. The ecological impact of estuarine barrages

Gray, 1992

In recent decades barrages have been proposed for many estuaries, usually for tidal power but also as protection against storm surges, or for road links, recreation or fresh water storage. This booklet summarises the effects of such schemes on the tidal and sedimentary regimes and water quality of estuaries. The impact of these changes on marine and benthic invertebrates, inter-tidal and marginal plants, fish and birds is considered. Some recommendations for further research are included.

Moorland Cover2. Red Grouse populations and moorland management

Lawton, 1990

Understanding red grouse populations and their moorland habitat is important for the long term future and conservation of upland Britain. This book is an attempt to summarise the balance of views that emerged at a recent workshop on the dynamics of red grouse populations. It presents up to date information on the background research, the data which are available and their interpretation. It concludes with a list of recommendations for sound management of moorland and grouse populations, including approaches that may help to restore heather habitats. Priorities for future research work are also covered.

1. River water quality

Calow, 1990

River water quality is an issue which affects us all; whether through the quality of water that we drink, in the effects on fish and birds, or in the impact on less obvious communities of animals, plants and micro-organisms. A combination of limited funding in the past and the inherent difficulty of investigating rivers means that our knowledge of their ecology is still very incomplete. This book presents up-to-date information on the research in this field, the available data and their interpretation. It concludes with a list of priorities for further research work.

Hard copies

Booklets number 9, 10 & 11 are available from Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Booklets number 1-8 are out of print.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close