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Headlines from Week Beginning 1 August 2011


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A round up of the top stories as chosen by the CJS Team.


Another Week - National Marine Week this time.

30th July - 14th August 2011

The UK's marine environment provides a haven for some of our most fascinating wildlife, such as basking sharks, grey seals, puffins and dolphins.

Each year The Wildlife Trusts celebrate the UK's amazing sea animals and plants during National Marine Week. This is your chance to explore the seashore, discover dunes and wallow with whelks - however you don't have to wait for National Marine Week to get out there! 


Monday 1 August

First Ever Seaweed Surveys on the North East Coastline – Durham Wildlife Trust

The first ever survey of seaweed along England’s east coast begins today (Monday 1 August), thanks to The Wildlife Trusts.  

The conservation organisation is working with partners to coordinate Seaweed East, a scheme which will see a team of surveyors exploring 11 locations from Essex to Northumberland.  Renowned marine biologists and Seasearch divers will work with a botanist and a wild food expert, spending an intensive period of 11 days exploring the locations, including several previously unsurveyed Wildlife Trust coastal nature reserves. They will be surveying at Blackhall Rocks Nature Reserve on the 8th of August.  At each site, all species of seaweed will be recorded, and samples taken.  The east coast is an under-surveyed section of the UK’s coastline, often due to the perception of the area being of little ecological importance. This could not be more wrong with the North supporting two of the countries largest subtidal chalk reefs. It is hoped Seaweed East will provide vital evidence of the true variety of life it supports.


Coastal Access - Sinking Fast? - Ramblers

Especially relevant to: Footpath and Access Officers Published: 1st August 2011 For information: The Ramblers are concerned about the future of an All-England Coastal Route and are asking volunteers to take action over the summer to lobby for a commitment to the program

Thanks to the hard work of committed Ramblers’ volunteers, the Marine and Coastal Access Act was passed in 2009. This legislation allows for the designation of a continuous route for walkers along the entire coast of England. Work has already begun to establish the route, which has long been a goal for keen walkers everywhere. I’m writing to you today to tell you the problems facing the coastal route, and to let you know how you can help.

It is becoming clear that the Government does not view coastal access as a priority, and indeed, might delay indefinitely the designation of the new route


Woodland (Image: BBC)Woodland Trust searching for jubilee wood site – BBC news report on a Woodland Trust initiative.

The ambitious 500-acre woodland would take three or four years to complete

The Woodland Trust is searching for a 500-acre site to plant half-a-million trees in a flagship woodland that will celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The ideal location would be an accessible location near a large population, a spokeswoman said.

The team hoped to begin planting trees on the chosen site in the autumn.

As well as planting the jubilee wood, the trust is also looking for volunteer hosts for a further 59 60-acre "diamond woods" across the UK.

"While the jubilee wood is going to be a national, living monument to the Queen, we also want it to be used and enjoyed by people," explained Georgina Mcleod, the trust's head of jubilee woods.


Cairngorms wildness gets better protection – John Muir Trust

The Cairngorms National Park Authority is the first in the UK to issue special planning guidance covering wildness.

Wildness is a recognised special quality of the Cairngorms National Park, which is the UK’s largest. The new guidance means that planning applications will have to be considered against their potential impact on wildness. There is also recognition that wild areas can be enhanced by removing redundant structures such as old electricity pylons.

Matthew Hawkins, Senior Heritage Officer for the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “The Cairngorms National Park is full of wild places – for some it’s in a rugged mountain landscape, for others deep inside a natural pine wood. We’re proud to lead the way in producing and adopting guidance on wildness and shows how important wildness is to the Cairngorms National Park" 


Tuesday 2 August

Marine wildlife survey in Loch Linnhe – Scottish Natural Heritage

Exploration of Loch Linnhe and surrounding sea lochs will get underway this week (3 August) to confirm the presence of some of Scotland's most important marine wildlife.

A team of marine scientists from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and Heriot-Watt University will be surveying underwater wildlife and habitats of high conservation importance, known as priority marine features.

Covering Loch Etive, Loch Eil and Loch Leven as well as Loch Linnhe, the aim of the survey is to update existing knowledge about marine life in the sea lochs. The findings will be used to provide advice to Government and others on conservation and development in the marine environment. Previous surveys have revealed the presence of several of the features of interest, including horse mussel beds, spiny lobsters, deep sponge communities, the northern seafan and the rare and beautiful fireworks anemone.

Research work carried out by Heriot-Watt University suggests that the flame shell bed in this area is possibly the biggest in UK waters. 


Why Lord Patton must save the BBC Wildlife Fund writes Nicholas Milton on the Guardian's Environment blog

Ethiopian WolvesThe end of the fund, a vital support for conservation when government spending has dried up, will be a tragedy

The BBC Wildlife Fund has raised £3m to support projects protecting animals such as the Ethiopian wolf. Photograph: Martin Harvey/Corbis

For over 50 years, the BBC has been a leader in wildlife programming: from Animal Magic to Life on Earth and more recently, Springwatch. Now, as part of its cost-cutting measures, the BBC executive board has announced that the BBC Wildlife Fund is to close. This will be a tragedy not just for the BBC and its award-winning Natural History Unit in Bristol but more importantly for wildlife conservation across the world.

Yet as a legally separate charity, abolishing the fund will not save the BBC any money, so why do it? "The BBC has a clear commitment to a number of charities and we are proud of our achievements in support of the Wildlife Fund," said a BBC spokesperson. "However, as with the many difficult choices we currently face, we must focus our efforts in areas where we can have the most impact."


Petition to Save BBC Wildlife Fund: http://www.savebbcwildlifefund.net/


Cities could be the key to saving pollinating insects - BBC News

insect gathering"Some people do think we're a little odd," says Professor Jane Memmott, as she rummages around in someone's front garden, hunting for plants and insects. "But once we explain what we're doing - and we do ask for permission to do this - people are generally very interested."

Professor Memmott and her team, from the University of Bristol, are in a typical residential street just outside of the centre of Bristol.

They are gathering data for a Britain-wide survey, which will provide a snapshot of the number of insect pollinators - bees, butterflies, beetles and flies - that can be found in an urban area like this.

To do this, they are sweeping along a transect - a 1km-long straight line - across the city, and stopping every 10m to count and identify the number of flowers and pollinators they find.

A front garden can offer an array of floral delights for pollinators

It does not matter if it is a car park, roundabout or a residential street like the one they are looking at today - every patch that falls along this line is being scrutinised.

This mammoth task is being repeated in 12 cities all over Britain - from Dundee in the north to Southampton in the south.

Then in addition to these urban centres, the team is carrying out exactly the same survey in 12 farmland habitats and 12 nature reserves, also spread out across the length and breadth of Britain.

Dr Katherine Baldock, from the University of Bristol, who is managing the project, says: "The project is probably the largest field study ever of pollinators and their habitats in the UK. It's a huge logistical challenge.  It will show for the first time how these different habitats compare."


HM Treasury announcement on funding for Mountain Rescue.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, today set out £200,000 additional funding for mountain rescue teams across the UK. This is the first time the UK Government has given direct funding to mountain rescue services and will contribute to the cost of procuring mountain rescue equipment this year.

This is the first of four years of funding set aside in the Spending Review, with at least £200,000 available in each year. Funding will be available to 75 teams performing mountain or cave rescue activity across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Study offers winter lifeline for struggling farmland birds - RSPB

Yellowhammers feeding on groundConservationists have come up with a solution to the ‘hungry gap’ – the annual problem of farmland birds struggling for survival in late winter and early spring.

Small birds like yellowhammers and reed buntings often suffer from a lack of seed food during winter. This is a particular problem in the grassland areas of western Britain. Even the best measures by farmers to tackle the problem run out of seed long before the winter ends leading to what conservationists call the ‘ hungry gap’. But RSPB scientists have published a study proposing a new answer.

The study, funded by Defra and published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment this month, shows that by simply leaving patches of common ryegrass to go to seed instead of cutting them for silage, birds have an abundant supply of seeds to last them through the winter.

RSPB conservation scientist David Buckingham said: “We carried out trials on 12 farms in the West Midlands and found that when small patches of ryegrass around the edge of fields was left to go to seed we managed to attract high numbers of birds. 


Wednesday 3 August

Avian pox: public help needed –report from Zoological Society of London, further information from RSPB & BTO

The public are being asked to report sightings of garden birds riddled with lesions as scientists reveal that avian pox is spreading across the UK.

Great tit with avian pox© Liz Cutting

Avian pox has been recorded in bird species such as house sparrows and wood pigeons for a number of years, but its recent emergence in great tits is causing real concern as the birds develop more severe symptoms of the disease.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the University of Oxford recorded the first occurrence of the disease in Oxford last year. Prior to this, affected birds had most often been sighted in Surrey, Kent and Sussex. The researchers are now calling on the public to report sightings of garden birds with symptoms of avian pox to the RSPB Wildlife Enquiries Unit to help the research team track the spread of the disease.

Avian poxvirus causes the disease avian pox which leads to warty, tumour-like growths on different parts of a bird’s body, particularly on the head around the eyes and beak. The disease can be relatively mild in some species, but great tits have been shown to suffer severe symptoms which can prevent them from feeding and may increase their susceptibility to predation.

Wildlife Vet Dr Becki Lawson from ZSL said: “We now believe avian pox has spread as far north as Staffordshire. Public reports of sick birds are essential in helping us to track the disease and determine the wider impact it is having on our garden birds.”

Read more about Avian pox and report any sightings to the RSPB here. 


Calling all landowners of Caledonian pinewoods! - Plantlife

Twinflower, one of the at-risk wildflowers the guide hopes to help thrive. © Laurie CampbellNew Plantlife guide explains the conditions that rare flowers need to survive in this Scottish environment.

Twinflower, one of the at-risk wildflowers the guide hopes to help thrive. © Laurie Campbell

Caledonian pinewoods are home to some of Scotland’s most rare and beautiful wildflowers: from wild orchids such as creeping lady’s-tresses, lesser twayblade and coralroot, to one of Scotland’s smallest and most delicate native flowers, twinflower.

Sadly all have suffered severe losses over the last century. In response, Plantlife has created a guide for anyone that owns pinewoods with some simple steps they can take to protect and encourage woodland wildflowers.

Download your guide here.
“With more native pinewood now being planted in Scotland, it seemed to be the perfect moment to publish some pointers on how to help look after some of the rare wildflowers that make up the floral heritage of the Caledonian pinewoods” says Dr. Deborah Long, Conservation Manager for Plantlife Scotland.


 Scottish farm short-listed for top wildlife prize - RSPB

An upland livestock farm on the Isle of Mull has been shortlisted for this year’s prestigious Nature of Farming Award.

Somerset and Carolyne Charrington of Treshnish Farm impressed the selection panel with their efforts to conserve priority habitats and species such as the corncrake, the transparent burnet moth and wood bitter vetch. Now they face a public vote throughout the summer along with 3 other farms to determine the overall UK winner.

For more about the awards and a chance to vote visit: Nature of Farming Award

The RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award celebrates the fantastic work farmers are already doing for wildlife - with a top prize of £1,000 for the very best!


Woodland Trust data suggests record breaking spring for Mother Nature

 Preliminary results from nearly 40,000 volunteer observations compiled by the Woodland Trust suggest that spring 2011 was the earliest so far this century. Some events recorded were earlier than in any year for which the charity has data - as far back as 1891.

The data, recorded by the general public on the charity's Nature's Calendar website highlighted some startling information for a number of traditional spring events. These include the earliest emergence of orange tip butterfly for over 100 years, the earliest leafing since at least 2000 for 11 out of 13 tree species and the earliest arrival of six species of spring migrant birds. The provisional average emergence date for orange tip in 2011 was April 13, three days earlier than the previous record of April 16 in 2007.


The 'killer' shrimpTraps to catch 'killer' shrimps invading Yorkshire lakes – BBC local news

Traps are being set up in lakes most likely to contain the Dikerogammarus villosus shrimp

Traps are being deployed in a bid to track 'killer' shrimps which could be invading Yorkshire's waterways.

Environment Agency officers are investigating the extent of the spread of the invasive species known as Dikerogammarus villosus.

It grows up to 30mm long and kills a range of native species, particularly native shrimps and young fish.

Traps are being set up at selected lakes in Yorkshire which are thought to be most likely to contain them.


Thursday 4 August

Studland Bay recommended as a Marine Conservation Zone – Dorset Wildlife Trust

Studland Bay is being put forward as one of the new Marine Conservation Zones being created around the country as a result of the Marine & Coastal Access Act 2009. Together these will form a network of protected areas in our seas which aims to allow our marine wildlife to recover from past decline. Studland Bay has been selected because of its nationally important seagrass meadows, both species of British seahorse, nursery area for the endangered undulate ray, for its native oysters and other features.

Human activities can continue in Marine Conservation Zones as long as they do not damage the listed species and habitats within them.


Green light for new Essex power station – Department for Energy and Climate Change

Energy Minister Charles Hendry will today (4/8/11) give the go-ahead for InterGen’s proposals to construct a new 900MW gas power plant at the London Gateway Logistics Park, Coryton, Essex.

The plans are for a new £600 million power station comprising of up to two CCGT generating units, each around 450MW in capacity. This brings the total new capacity consented by the Government since May 2010 to 5,456MW – enough to power more than seven million homes if developed.


Fatal Virus Strikes Again – Red Squirrel Survival Trust

Yesterday we received the most devastating news when we heard that once again, the deadly squirrelpox virus has been found in our treasured red squirrel populations near Ainsdale in Merseyside. 

As you will probably know, in 2006 and then again in 2008, the virus rampaged through Merseyside and we were forced to witness the agonising deaths of hundreds of our most rare and iconic woodland creatures (see picture below). Population numbers dropped from 1,000 to below 150 animals and there was extreme concern that there might be no way back from this precipice. 

SquirrelpoxWe moved into action and helped set up the Merseyside Red Squirrels Project and with the help of committed volunteers, donors and project staff, the long journey to restore the region's red squirrels to their rightful habitat commenced. A few weeks ago we heard that we were well on track and that numbers were at 60% of 2002 numbers. Hopes were high.

Yesterday's news is obviously a very sad setback but we are acting quickly - TODAY - in an effort to stop a repeat of history. The project has allowed us to learn much more about the disease and how to stop it in its tracks so we are better placed now to fight!


Work starts to protect wildlife at RSPB Minsmere – Environment Agency

Work to continue protection from flooding to internationally important flora and fauna including bitterns, avocets and marsh sow-thistle, is starting at RSPB Minsmere this month.

The Environment Agency will be raising and improving banks at the reserve which lies on one of the UK's fastest-eroding coastlines. Freshwater habitats on this coastline are increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels and potential saltwater flooding.

Minsmere valley is legally protected by various national and international designations, including 246ha of Natura 2000 habitat, protected under European legislation. The work will also protect 12 properties and the reserve’s new visitor centre.

The Environment Agency will raise and improve the Coney Hill Cross Bank (also known as the North Wall). This will allow continued protection of the Minsmere valley without interfering with natural coastal processes or damaging important coastal habitats, landscape and access to the coastal path.


The axis of weevil – British Waterways

British Waterways is set to release thousands of weed munching weevils into the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal as it steps up its efforts to tackle invasive plant species.

The 2mm-long weevils will be released into the canal to eat the invasive North American water fern (Azolla filiculoides). The weed can be particularly problematic to the canal network due to its voracious growth which, if left unchecked, can cover the surface of a waterway with a thick weedy mat. This reduces light and oxygen levels in the water, killing fish and other wildlife.

The activity follows the trial of a similar weevil release on the canal at Maunsel Lock last summer. The weevils are an effective natural means of tackling the problem of water fern. They are at their most active at this time of year and breed quickly so they can very rapidly munch their way through a very large mass of the water fern. The weevils are known to feed exclusively on azolla and don’t cause damage to native species.


Friday 5 August

Ariel reports: End for Wildlife Fund (published after letter and comment – see below)

The BBC Wildlife Fund, a charity which uses BBC creative skills to highlight conservation issues, is to be wound up as the BBC focuses its charitable activities on its bigger, better-known fund-raisers like Children in Need.

The Trustees of the fund made the closure decision today, after the BBC executive board decided to cease support. In a statement this afternoon the BBCWF said: 'It is with sadness that the trustees have had to make this decision for they agree the potential of the charity to make a great and lasting difference to threatened wildlife throughout the world is clear.'

Helen Kellie, chair of the BBCWF said: 'We are proud to have generated funds enabling us to support vital conservation work for a variety of wildlife. This includes bringing species back from the brink of extinction.'


BBC Wildlife Fund must not be axed – letter in The Guardian

We are concerned and disappointed at the proposal of the BBC executive to close the BBC Wildlife Fund (Environment blog, 2 August). The fund, in its relatively short life, has been an extraordinary success both in raising some £3m for conservation in the UK and overseas, and in bringing together a large number of environmental and development NGOs in support. Many have given a great deal of their time and support to the board of trustees and the excellent small staff team. Together they have attracted substantial public support.

The major factor in bringing such a group together has been recognition of the unique position, role and reputation of the BBC in being able to promote the need for conservation of the natural world to so many across the world, and its ability to engage the public and generate much needed additional resources to enable more conservation work to be achieved. Indeed, in establishing the fund, we believe the BBC recognised the respect in which its natural history unit is so widely held and the value of its wonderful and groundbreaking wildlife documentaries to the corporation over several decades.

The fund provided a mechanism to further this influence and put something back into environmental conservation, as well as championing sustainable outcomes which enable economic betterment for local communities. At a time of obvious crisis for the world's biodiversity, we can only ask what message it sends for such an iconic and respected organisation as the BBC to appear to be drawing back from its support of the living world. It is our hope that the tremendous work already achieved can continue and that the decision to close the fund can be reversed.

Click to see the signatories.


Green groups condemn decision to axe BBC Wildlife Fund, Guardian article following the letter

The heads of 45 groups have written to the BBC chairman, expressing 'considerable disappointment' at proposed closure

Green groups have called on the BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten, to reverse the BBC's decision to close its Wildlife Fund. The heads of 45 conservation groups including Greenpeace UK and the RSPB have condemned the BBC's decision to scrap a major fund that allows viewers to contribute to projects aimed at bringing back dwindling species from the brink of extinction.

The BBC Wildlife Fund was set up in 2007 amid a blaze of publicity, as part of the popular series Saving Planet Earth, to celebrate 50 years of the corporation's famous Natural History Unit. Similar in concept to the more famous Red Nose Day and Sport Relief, its role was to fight for the preservation of wildlife under threat. andIts success has been built on in subsequent years with new appeals centred on conservation TV shows.

 Forest path in Yosemite National Park, US (Image: BBC)

Model works out trees' maximum height, BBC news report following a paper published in Plos One

Researchers hope the model will help ecologists improve their understanding of forest ecosystems

Scientists have developed a mathematical model that predicts the maximum height trees can reach in particular environmental conditions.

They hope their model will help ecologists get a better understanding of the relationship between trees and the surrounding ecosystem.

The tool could also help policymakers calculate how climate shifts could affect timber yields, they added.

The findings have been published in the journal Plos One.

"The real goal of the model was to produce something that was based in fundamental mechanisms," explained co-author Chris Kempes, a PhD researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Planetary Sciences.



British lakes and canals hit by toxic algae scum, reported in The Guardian

blue green algaeAlgal blooms caused by mild weather and high levels of phosphate nutrients from agriculture washed into the water


A bald coot swims through blue-green algae. Photograph: Roland Magunia/AFP/GETTYIMAGES


British canals and lakes have been blighted this summer by green porridge-like toxic scum that has been caused by an unusually high number of algae blooms. A combination of the mild weather and high levels of phosphate nutrients from agriculture and homes are to blame, says the Environment Agency.

This year there have been 83 algal incidents so far, just a month into the three month-long algae season - a higher than usual amount, according to the agency. In 2010, the number of incidents reached 225, while the peak year was recorded in 2005 with 226 reports. 



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Disclaimer: the views expressed in these news pages do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CJS. 

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