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This Week in Biodiversity News – 31st January 2022

Hana Ketley
Hana Ketley

River pollution is a significant issue in the UK; many rivers are contaminated with sewage, agricultural and road run-off, microplastics and litter. One council is now attempting to protect one river from this by looking to grant it the ‘Freedom of the City’, usually granted to people and organisations to recognise their contributions to a city. Norwich City Council hopes that this honorary title, in combination with other new measures, such as developing planning policies to protect biodiversity, will protect River Wensum from pollution and invasive species. The council will also be asking Anglian Water for evidence on what is being done to prevent sewage spills.

A new leafhopper has been discovered on a student field trip to Kibale National Park, in west Uganda. Dr Alvin Helden of Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge named the insect Phlogis kibalensis and said it’s from an “incredibly rare” group of leafhoppers, whose “biology remains almost completely unknown”. The last recorded sighting of a species from the Phlogis genus was in the Central African Republic more than 50 years ago, in 1969.

After the devastating bushfires between 2019 and 2020, some koala populations in Australia were on the brink of extinction. Now, the Australian federal government has committed a further $50 million for the next four years to aid koala population recovery, bringing the total federal investment to $74 million since 2019. This funding will also go towards habitat and health protection projects and extending the national koala monitoring program.

A new species of angel shark (Squatina mapama) has been identified in the Central American Caribbean. Angel sharks are flat-bodied, bottom-dwelling species that resemble stingrays. The species was identified through genetic analysis, as it’s a cryptic shark species: they’re morphologically indistinguishable from one or more other Squatina species. S. mapama, whose suggested common name is the ‘small-crested angel shark’, is the fourth new Squatina species to be identified in the last decade.