New PhD study to examine impact of medicated grit on moorland ecosystem

grit-box-rpuk2-copyExcellent news!

A PhD scholarship is on offer at Leeds University to examine the impact of the drug Flubendazole (the active ingredient in medicated grit) in grouse moor river catchments.

Medicated grit is routinely used by the grouse shooting industry to dose red grouse with high quantities of the worming drug Flubendazole. It’s being used so frequently that it has caused the natural cyclical red grouse population crashes to end, resulting in ridiculously high densities of red grouse available to shoot. These high densities of birds gathering at medicated grit boxes has led to the rapid spread of Cryptosporidiosis in recent years (see here).

There has been considerable concern about the unregulated use of this drug, its potential for reaching the human food chain, and its effect on sensitive moorland habitat. Last year we discovered that some grouse moor managers are using a new super-strength grit, at least 10 times the strength permitted for use in the UK, and that the Government’s statutory agency (Veterinary Medicines Directorate) wasn’t testing any samples because they ‘didn’t know where to find them’ (see here). The VMD promised to start testing in 2016 but so far, according to our enquiries, they’ve only managed to test four red grouse. That’s right, in the whole of the UK, they’ve tested four birds. Shockingly incompetent. We’ll wait until the end of the grouse shooting season (10 Dec) before asking for their full annual sampling results.

Preliminary research by academics at Leeds University has already found high concentrations of Flubendazole on grouse moors in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (North Yorkshire). Quote: ‘Soil samples spread across three different grouse moors contained concentrations ranging between 150 and 850 µg kg-1 dry soil. This is of the same order of magnitude as peak concentrations of veterinary medicines found in agricultural soils following manure application (Kay et al., 2004). These agricultural concentrations are significant enough to have driven the development of policy to better manage the presence of veterinary medicines in the environment (EC, 2001) and it is expected that the proposed work would lead to further development of this policy, specifically risk assessment procedures, for moorlands‘.

This looks set to be a fascinating and important study and an excellent opportunity for a budding academic to make their mark.

The PhD will begin in October 2017. Full title: Analysis, occurrence and effects of Flubendazole in moorland river catchments (details here) under the supervision of Dr Paul Kay, Dr Richard Ansell and Professor Jeanette Rotchell. Deadline for applications is Monday 9 January 2017.

Photo: medicated grit tray with marker post on a Nidderdale grouse moor (RPUK)

9 Responses to “New PhD study to examine impact of medicated grit on moorland ecosystem”

  1. 1 Alex. Milne
    November 24, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    I hope that the PhD is not being funded by GWCT.

  2. 3 steve macsweeney
    November 24, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    All good griste to the mill.Delighted.
    I have always wished there was research into the impact of an estimate 35m game birds on the whole natural environment.How about that for a PhD study?

    • 4 against feudalism
      November 24, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      Agree, we also need to start lobbying the Scottish government about the dual nature of pheasants, are they livestock or wild ? Having suffered damage to both property and vehicles, I want the livestock owners to be liable !! The current situation really is a farce.

    • 5 Les Wallace
      November 24, 2016 at 6:42 pm

      Yes, and wouldn’t it be great if the Scottish parliament set up a proper investigation into the real economics of driven grouse shooting – subsidies, objective analysis of current income (not the biased crap we’ve had so far), externalities AND the other economic options excluded by grouse moors – essentially what they do in other countries such as Norway. If their economic arguments can be shown up as the rubbish they are the estates will be f****d, they are costing not creating jobs on top of everything else, we just need to show that and I can’t see how an independent, objective and comprehensive study won’t do that.

  3. 6 steve macsweeney
    November 24, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    ……on the back of this I have emailed the NERC ceo and suggested Phd research into the impact of 35m game birds per year on the natural environment.
    Will keep you posted…..

  4. 7 against feudalism
    November 24, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    ” its potential for reaching the human food chain ” This should surely be a priority ? what is a safe level of Flubendazole for human consumption ? let alone lead levels.

    And if you are handling / dosing, and medicating wild birds, are they still wild, or have they become livestock ? if so, they cannot be shot !

    • 8 Paul V Irving
      November 24, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      It is also interesting to note that Natural England have stated that all capture and dosing of grouse outside the shooting season ( it is done in spring) is entirely illegal and cannot be licensed.

  5. November 24, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    I guess that grouse and any sheep that graze the hill wont be able to pass soil association criteria, so cant be marketed as organic. Has anyone checked this with the soil association?

    Hopefully the PhD will look at the whole invertebrate food chain and map the impacts of the chemical. One feature of bog plants is that because they are designed to get most of their nutrients from rain water, they are extremely efficient at adsorbing and retaining chemicals. (This was the reason that the hill farms affected by Chernobyl deposition took so long the clear).

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