RSPB Rainham Marshes nature reserve, dating back to Medieval times, has become a small part of a big £50 million effort to fight climate change around the world.
On Thursday July 10, 20 employees from HSBC, the world's largest bank, abandoned their offices for one day to help out with some essential enhancement of the Marshes, removing ragwort. The day was one component of the largest known employee programme on climate change spearheaded by Earthwatch - a major partner in the five-year HSBC Climate Partnership that launched last year.
Earthwatch is partnering with RSPB, to develop and manage one day volunteering projects at the site, where HSBC employees have so far helped to construct and extend boardwalks around the nature reserve, improving access. Marshes provide vital habitat for birds such as avocet and lapwing, they also play an essential role in reducing the impacts of flood events, which are predicted to increase in frequency and severity under climate change.
"The motivation to make lasting change starts when the employees get their hands dirty and see up close how climate change affects the natural world," said Hannah Rooley of Earthwatch. "We are delighted to be working with such a great organisation as the RSPB to bring people together to make a positive change in the world-which is what Earthwatch is all about."
Carys Morgan of the RSPB says ‘London and the surrounding countryside are under intense development pressure. Here at Rainham Marshes, we are aiming to maintain a greener and healthier environment for the benefit of people and wildlife. Our relationship with HSBC and Earthwatch includes ongoing volunteering projects that make a vital contribution towards that goal'.
Rainham Marshes is one of around 40 volunteering projects that Earthwatch is running with five local partner organisations around the UK throughout 2008 as part of the HSBC Climate Partnership.
Those who participate at Rainham Marshes are eligible to apply to become ‘Climate Champions' who spend 12 days at Earthwatch's new Regional Climate Centre near Oxford - one of five around the world. Other centres are located in Brazil, China, India and the USA. At the climate centre the employees work side-by-side with scientists doing forest research during the day, learn about climate change in evening sessions, and develop long-term sustainability projects that they implement on their return to work.
By the end of the HSBC Climate Partnership in 2012, 22,000 HSBC employees will have participated in local volunteering projects around the world like the one at Rainham Marshes, and 2,200 employees will have become Climate Champions.
The HSBC Climate Partnership is a five year global partnership between HSBC, The Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF to reduce the impact of climate change for people, forests, water and cities.
HSBC Climate Partnership
The HSBC Climate Partnership (HCP) is a US$100 million, five-year partnership funded by HSBC, working with the Climate Group, the Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF. Launched in May 2007, the HCP will:
• make some of the world's great cities - Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, New York and Shanghai - cleaner and greener, which the partners will promote as models for the world;
• create 'climate champions' worldwide who will undertake field research and bring back valuable knowledge and experience to their communities;
• conduct the largest ever field experiment on the world's forests to measure carbon and the effects of climate change; and
• help to protect four of the world's major rivers - the Amazon, Ganges, Thames, and Yangtze - from the impacts of climate change, benefiting the 450 million people who rely on them.
Earthwatch Institute (Europe) is an international environmental charity whose mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.
As part of the HSBC Climate Partnership, Earthwatch is carrying out climate change research in temperate and tropical forest locations worldwide. Research will determine how we can best manage forests to reduce the negative impacts of climate change.
Earthwatch and HSBC have developed the largest ever employee engagement programme on climate change. HSBC's entire global workforce will have access to an online-learning programme, 25,000 HSBC staff will take part in local volunteering projects and a further 2,400 will join Earthwatch scientists on forest research projects to gather critical climate change information.
The RSPB is Europe's largest conservation charity. Our work is driven by a passionate belief that we all have a responsibility to protect birds and the environment. Bird populations reflect the health of the planet on which our future depends.
The RSPB operates globally thanks to the support of more than a million members. We manage more than 200 natures reserves with over 350 miles of nature trails across the UK.
Rainham Marshes protects an ancient, low-lying grazing marsh in the Thames Estuary. Its complex of wet grassland and ditches, together with grassland and scrub, supports many breeding and wintering birds. Wildlife also includes scarce wetland plants and insects, and a key population of the nationally declining water vole.
The site has a history of neglect, but the RSPB is working to restore important habitats and improve their biodiversity. This will transform a former wasteland into an important natural asset, and help raise public awareness of local conservation issues.
• Rainham Marshes is next to the River Thames, just inside the M25 and within sight of the Dartford Crossing. An ancient marshland, it survived because the Ministry of Defence used the area as a firing range until the 1990s. The RSPB bought the 870-acre site in 2000. It was opened to the public in November 2006.
• The volunteers' work will help preserve and enhance Rainham's natural environment as extensive ragwort growth can impede good land management practices, thereby affecting the favourable condition of the habitat. Volunteers will be provided with protective clothing and supervised by RSPB wardens.
• To find out more about Rainham Marshes nature reserve visit www.rspb.org.uk/rainham.
• Ragwort, if eaten in copious amounts, is poisonous to grazing stock and to humans. The most effective method of control is to pull it from the ground by hand. Ragwort is a common wildflower found across Europe. It's also known as, tansy ragwort, stinking ninny/willy and mare's fart.
• Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is one of the five plants named as an injurious weed under the provisions of the Weeds Act 1959. The word injurious in this context indicates that it could be harmful to agriculture not that it is dangerous to animals, as all the other injurious weeds listed are non-toxic. Under the terms of this act, a land occupier can be required by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to prevent the spread of the plant. However, the growth of the plant is not made illegal by the act and there is no statutory obligation for control placed upon landowners in general.