LEADING conservationists, led by Sir David Attenborough, have condemned plans to close the scientific research centre at Monk's Wood, near Alconbury. In a letter to The Times last week, Sir David and 15 other wildlife and conservation experts tore into plans by the National Environment Research Council to close Monks's Wood and four other of its nine Centre for Ecology and Hydrology sites to save money. More than 100 jobs are at risk at Monk's Wood which, together with another site at Winfrith, the naturalists described as internationally acclaimed research stations. They are "in the forefront of the study of natural habitats and the impact on them of pollution and climate change". "The UK has made a commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2010. In the face of rapid climate change, pollution, intensive agriculture and building development, this is an ever more daunting challenge. Key to success will be properly-resourced research. "CEH presently does much of that, tackling wide-ranging environmental problems and fulfilling a unique role in the gathering, maintenance and analysis of long-term data," they wrote. "CEH has a well-deserved reputation for scientific excellence in the UK and across the world. Cutting CEH resources would damage out science base." They accused NERC of failing to justify the cuts, either financially or scientifically, or to offer any convincing alternative arrangements. NERC is due to make its decision on the future of the sites today (Wednesday).