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Science
COSTING THE EARTH
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Costing the Earth tells stories which touch all our lives, looking at man's effect on the environment and at how the environment reacts. It questions accepted truths, challenges the people in charge and reports on progress towards improving the world we live in.
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Listen to September 4
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MIRIAM O'REILLY
Miriam O'Reilly
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Thursday September 4 2008
We don't like to be beside the seaside

Urban Gulls

For three decades now Lesser Black Backed and Herring gulls have been abandoning the harshness of windy coastal cliffs for the safety and comfort of the urban high rise.
Cities such as Bath, Bristol, Gloucester and Aberdeen have seen populations of nesting birds double in five years. Such is the rate of growth of some colonies that the Scottish Parliament and many local authorities now believe we have a national problem on our hands.
What worries councils across the country is that gulls are breeding so successfully in our towns and cities, that current control measures are having little effect. Urban gulls produce three times as many chicks as their coastal cousins and return to the same nesting spot each year. If fifty gulls lay their eggs on a factory roof one year, that’s one hundred and fifty coming back the next. The mess they cause to buildings and cars by splattered guano means considerable cleaning costs and there are health concerns over the pathogens it contains;
From a gull point of view it’s easy to see how our throwaway, fast food culture has created perfect living conditions in towns and cities. But while we may have encouraged gulls to colonise urban cliffs, there are growing signs that climate change also plays a part. Research shows urban gulls are increasingly dispensing with winter migration that usually begins at this time of year. But it’s ironic that while we wrestle with the problem of how to control multiplying gulls in towns and cities, coastal gulls have declined drastically. The RSPB wants the Herring Gull to be put on its Red List of endangered species. This would mean local authorities would be required to draw up a ‘Biodiversity Action Plan’ to protect gulls at the same time as deterring them.
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