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Headlines from Week Beginning 12 December

 

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

 

Monday 12 December

Scotland’s greenspace in decline?  - Greenspace Scotland

A survey published today by greenspace scotland shows that Scots are using urban greenspaces less often than in previous years. Fewer people thought their local greenspace was a good place for their children to play or a safe place for physical activity. That may explain why fewer Scots are taking a trip to their local park. This could have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing, as well as the resilience of Scotland’s towns and cities.

Since 2004, when greenspace scotland first commissioned its biennial survey of greenspace use and attitudes, the number of people using Scotland’s urban greenspaces regularly had been rising. The 2011 survey shows a dramatic decline with the number of people using their local greenspaces once a week or more often falling from two-thirds (63%) in 2009 to just over half (54%) in 2011.

This decrease in use is mirrored by significant falls in people’s rating of their local greenspaces as: safe places for physical activity (60% in 2009 down to 49% in 2011); places where you can relax and unwind (63% down to 50%); attractive places (57% down to 48%); and good places for children to play (59% down to 52%). This is particularly concerning because the previous surveys had shown clear upward trends with people increasingly agreeing strongly that their local greenspaces where good places for play, physical activity, relaxation. This had suggested that real improvements were being made to the quality of local greenspaces.

Speaking on the release of the finding, Julie Procter, Chief Executive of greenspace scotland said:  “We’ve been hearing about reductions in greenspace staffing and management which inevitably was going to make a difference on the ground but we hadn’t expected this to impact so soon on people’s use and attitudes to greenspace. Difficult decisions on priorities have to be taken in these financially challenging times – just as households have been tightening their belts, so too have local authorities and other organisations. These survey findings are very timely; they should sound an alarm and give us all an opportunity to think again about whether the right decisions are being made. What may seem a relatively easy, low-impact cost-saving on greenspace now could have a disproportionately negative and far-reaching impact on Scotland’s health and prosperity.”

Download the full survey.

 

Ruby tail wasp found in Scunthorpe – the second record in 30 years - Buglife

Survey data published today reveals the second record for 30 years of the Ruby tail wasp (Chrysis viridula) and the second most northerly record for the Roesels bush-cricket (Metrioptera roeselii) and Kent Black Arches moth (Meganola albula).

The survey report is part of a wider project by Buglife with funding from SITA Trust to create and improve habitats on a number of sites across Scunthorpe.

Ruby tail wasp (Chrysis viridula) © Roger KeyRuby tail wasp (Chrysis viridula) © Roger Key

Clare Dinham, Buglife Brownfield Conservation Officer said “This three year project in Scunthorpe is already underway with our exciting bug survey results being published today. The Ruby tail wasp was found in abundance on the Tata steelworks site. We believe that the sandy banks and vertical faces on the site are ideal nest sites for this solitary wasp. This site has great potential so we look forward to improving it even more for bugs”.

Buglife will be improving five sites across Scunthorpe including sites managed by North Lincolnshire Council and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, all of which are ex-industrial land. One active industrial site – Tata Steelworks, also included within the project is proving to be an important site for bugs in North Lincolnshire.

 

New project probes peat's role in reducing effects of climate change - North Pennines AONB

A new national project will map the depth and carbon content of peatlands across England for the first time - and determine how valuable they could be in helping to reduce the effects of future climate change.

Taking peat core samplesTaking peat core samples

The National Peat Survey is a joint project of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership and Natural England and represents the first time the extent, depth and carbon content of England's peat has been mapped.

Despite being a small country England has a wealth of peatlands which are found across the country from the fens of East Anglia to the Border Mires and include the vast blanket bogs of the North Pennines. Internationally acknowledged as important habitats for wildlife, there is now increasing interest in the carbon that peatlands store and their ability to lock away ever more carbon when well managed.

Conservationists know that peatlands are huge carbon stores, but there remains a lot of uncertainty around these carbon estimates. The National Peat Survey will gather existing and new data to establish just how important these landscapes are in terms of locking up carbon. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that carbon released from degraded peat contributes to 10% of the global total.

 

Tuesday 13 December

Welsh Bird List Grows by Two - Birds in Wales

Record number of scarce and rare birds seen in Wales

A new report by the Welsh Records Panel shows that a record number of unusual birds were spotted in Wales in 2010, including two species never previously recorded here. A total of 136 scarce and rare birds were reported during the year, with accurate enough descriptions to be added to the Welsh records. The previous high was 109 birds in 2008.

An Iberian Chiffchaff, usually found only in Spain and Portugal, sang in Gwent’s Wentwood Forest for five weeks from the middle of May, and the following month a Marmora’s Warbler, from the eastern Mediterranean, was found on the Blorenge, near Abergavenny, only the sixth ever seen in Britain.

 

Scotland's white-tailed eagles soar to new heights - RSPB

White-tailed eagle chicks on nest2011 has proved another record-breaking year for breeding pairs of Scotland’s largest bird of prey. White-tailed eagles soared to new heights despite heavy storms throughout the 2011 breeding season.

Conservationists, and many sea eagle enthusiasts, had been concerned that the high winds felt across the country in May could have had a detrimental impact on breeding white-tailed eagles at the vulnerable part of the season when most nests contain small chicks. Indeed, some nests failed including that of BBC Springwatch star, nicknamed “Itchy”, who experts fear lost his chicks in the storm.

However, the bad weather failed to blow the species off course.  Recent survey figures for the 2011 breeding season reveal that there were 57 territorial pairs in Scotland, an increase of 10% on the previous year. A total of 43 young fledged successfully from these nests.

 

Official report confirms massive misuse of EU fisheries funds - Ocean 2012

Billions of euros to promote sustainable fishing are doing the reverse

Brussels -  The EU Court of Auditors today published a report damning costly failures to eliminate overfishing in Europe. 

The report found that the multi-billion euro European Fisheries Fund designed to balance fishing activities at sustainable levels is actually doing the reverse. Loopholes mean that fleet owners are receiving subsidies to increase the capacity and fishing power of their vessels, adding to fleet overcapacity. A small fraction of the money available for scrapping is being used as intended, with most being spent on vessels that are old or no longer active.

The court did not stop at criticising the misspending of taxpayers’ money, but highlighted fundamental flaws in the existing fleet adjustment rules. 

The report warns that fleet overcapacity is driving the depletion of fish stocks, threatening marine life and the viability of fishing sector and coastal communities. The result is that three out of four European fish stocks are overfished. 

Birdlife Europe, Greenpeace, OCEAN2012, Seas At Risk and WWF are urging the European Parliament and Council of Ministers to follow the court’s recommendations. The report shows that the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform will be meaningless unless measures are based on a full assessment of the fishing capacity coupled with deadlines for fleet reductions, the groups argue. 

Read report (pdf)

 

Devon’s heathland reptiles get healthy boost - Devon Wildlife Trust

Sand LizardThe Trust has this month received funding to support a new project which is set to boost populations of reptiles and amphibians at four sites across the county.
The project is being undertaken by Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) thanks to a grant of almost £50,000 from Biffaward, a multi-million pound environment fund managed by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT), which utilises landfill tax credits donated by Biffa Waste Services through the Landfill Communities Fund.  DWT was able to secure this grant thanks to generous donations from The Marjorie and Geoffrey Jones Charitable Trust and Sibelco UK.
The project will run over three years, starting this month, and will take place at the following DWT nature reserves: Bovey Heathfield and Chudleigh Knighton Heath in the Bovey Basin, along with Lickham Common and Ashculm Turbary in the Blackdown Hills.
The programme of work will help reptiles and amphibians animals by restoring lowland heathland habitat and enhancing existing areas. Along with this work, ponds, egg laying heaps and hibernacula for hibernation will be created for a variety of species including adders, great crested newts and grass snakes. 

 

Squirrel pox confirmed in Ayrshire - National Trust for Scotland

Red SquirrelConservation charity the National Trust for Scotland has today confirmed that a grey squirrel from Culzean Country Park in Ayrshire has tested positive for the squirrel pox virus (seropositive).

This is the first time the virus has been found to be present in the area and its presence represents a concerning leap to the north.
The discovery of this seropositive animal was made recently by Trust Rangers onsite, working closely with staff from the Red Squirrels in South Scotland Project (RSSS) and has been confirmed by expert testers. The squirrel pox virus is now the single largest threat to red squirrels. The disease is carried by the introduced grey squirrel, but while it is harmless to them, it is lethal to our native red squirrel. Once infected with the virus red squirrels suffer a slow, lingering death dying within approximately 15 days of contracting the virus.
National Trust for Scotland nature adviser Mr Lindsay Mackinlay said: “This is a very worrying development as we had until now hoped that the Southern Uplands, together with the active control of greys by many concerned landowners further south, were acting as a barrier and preventing the further spread of this virus north. However, we now know that there are some other areas in Ayrshire with ‘positive squirrels’, near Mauchline and Stair, suggesting the disease has spread south-westwards from there. "

    

Wednesday 14 December

CCW scoops major Award for work to assess the Welsh coast’s sensitivity to tidal stream developments

A study, commissioned by the Countryside Council for Wales, to assess the sensitivity of coastal landscapes and seascapes to tidal stream developments has won the Landscape Institute’s Strategic Landscape Planning Award for 2011.

The study forms a key part of the evidence which CCW will use to advise Government and marine planners to help ensure that tidal stream energy devices are sited in the right place, where they cause the least damage to Wales’ coastal landscapes and seascapes.

Elinor Gwynn, Countryside Council for Wales’ Head of People and Places said: “Renewable energy developments are likely to play a key role in the UK’s current shift towards a low-carbon future. CCW is committed to working with developers and regulators to support the development of marine renewable energy in locations, and using technologies, that avoid significant impacts on Wales’ natural heritage, including our seascapes and coastal landscapes. It is vital that the advice we provide is based on the best possible information and this Award reflects the importance we attach to this work.”

The study, commissioned from Land Use Consultants (LUC), has provided CCW with a pioneering GIS-based tool which identifies the levels of sensitivity of Wales’ coastal landscapes and seascapes to impacts from tidal stream developments. The study focussed on areas around Wales where the tidal stream energy resource is greatest (North West Anglesey, the Llyn Peninsula, Pembrokeshire and the Glamorgan coast) and covers the coastline as well as areas out to sea.

 

Washed up whales - Zoological Society of London

More than 3400 whales, dolphins and porpoises have stranded on UK beaches over the past six years, reveals a new report published today.

© ZSL The report by the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) details the investigation of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans), marine turtles and basking sharks found stranded around the UK coast between 2005 and 2010.

The CSIP has investigated some of the UK’s most high-profile strandings during this time, from the northern bottlenose whale that swam up the Thames in 2006, to the mass stranding of 26 common dolphins in Cornwall in 2008.

The collaborative CSIP, coordinated by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and funded by Defra, Scottish Government and Welsh Government, recorded a decline in the number of reported strandings of harbour porpoises and common dolphins on UK shores, but saw a small increase in strandings of some species like the humpback whale.
CSIP scientists also conducted over 750 post-mortem examinations on stranded animals during the six year period. They discovered that infectious disease, starvation, entanglement in fishing gear (bycatch) and bottlenose dolphin attacks on porpoises were amongst the most common causes of death. Cases of bycatch were still common, but occurred in lower numbers than during the first half of the decade.

Defra and the Devolved Administrations have recently agreed to additional funding for a further three years, allowing the CSIP to continue their investigation of UK strandings- but they can only do so with help from the general public.  

Read the report (pdf)

 

 

Update on measures to tackle Bovine TB - defra

The devastating problems caused by bovine TB are to be tackled by a package of measures which include controlled culling of badgers as part of a science-led and carefully managed badger control policy. The policy is expected to be piloted initially in two areas in early Autumn next year, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman confirmed today.

Nearly 25,000 cattle were slaughtered in England last year alone because of bovine TB, with the cost to the taxpayer set to top £1 billion over the next ten years. The problem is particularly bad in west and south-west England, where nearly a quarter of all cattle farms were affected by the disease during 2010.

The two pilots, carried out over a period of six weeks, will be closely managed and monitored to examine how safe, effective and humane a method this is. An independent panel of experts will be asked to oversee and evaluate the pilots and report to Ministers, before a decision is made on whether to roll out the policy more widely.

 

The Government has today published a policy document, The Government’s Policy on Bovine TB and Badger Control in England which can be found together with Guidance to Natural England via www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/a-z/bovine-tb:

 

First reactions

Shooting Badgers Is No ‘Magic Bullet’ For Controlling Bovine TB  - Mammal Society

BadgerNew research from Ireland casts doubts over culling policy

A badger cull in England is unscientific, unlikely to lower the incidence of Bovine TB in cattle, and may even exterminate badgers from local areas, potentially placing the UK Government in breach of international wildlife law. That’s the reaction from the Mammal Society to today’s announcement from Defra on proposals to cull badgers in England.

The Mammal Society - which is the only organisation involved in the study and conservation of all British mammals - believes the Government should examine the emerging evidence from a badger study in Ireland showing that individual animals move greater distances than the Government has allowed for in its control zones. These movements have the potential to completely undermine the policy, with badgers needlessly paying the ultimate price.

 Marina Pacheco is the Mammal Society’s chief executive. She said: “Everyone is eager to help the livestock industry control this devastating disease, but we believe today’s announcement only offers farmers false hope. The Government has based its culling policy on flawed science, while proper research seems to have been disregarded in the lurch towards a policy fix.  Perhaps this is not a surprise as the advice of an Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB has also been ignored.”

 

NFU relief at Defra TB announcement

NFU President Peter Kendall has said today’s decision from Defra to commit to two pilot areas for badger controls as part of its plan to tackle bovine TB is the right way forward.
Mr Kendall expressed his relief on behalf of the farming industry after Defra Secretary of State Caroline Spelman said today that she had listened to all of the evidence put before her during the lengthy consultation into a government-led TB Eradication Programme. And she had now concluded that a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger controls would be introduced.
Mr Kendall said: “Today is another massive step forward in achieving our end goal of a healthy countryside – both for badgers and for cattle. I commend Defra for introducing these two pilot areas to confirm the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of controlled shooting.  We must tackle this terrible disease, a disease that sees tens of thousands of cattle destroyed each and every year. The most recent science shows badger controls are absolutely necessary, together with cattle controls, to get on top of TB. No other country in the world has successfully tackled this devastating disease without first addressing the reservoir of TB in the wildlife."

 

Cull decision is shot in the dark - The Wildlife Trusts

Image: Neil AldridgeImage: Neil Aldridge

The Wildlife Trusts today express disappointment and regret at the Government’s decision to press ahead with a cull of badgers in pilot areas in England.

The Wildlife Trusts call on the Government to put biosecurity and vaccination at the centre of efforts to tackle this disease and avoid wasting more time and money on a badger cull.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “A badger cull is the wrong tool to address this serious and complex problem and a distraction from other measures to tackle bovine TB. An industry-led cull with open shooting in the countryside is untested and these pilots will not provide a scientific evaluation of the impact on bovine TB. The rationale for any cull of native species needs to be extremely clear and well proven. We do not believe this is the case with the proposed badger cull.”

The Wildlife Trusts believe that Defra should pursue the following as a matter of priority:
• Support landowners to improve on-farm biosecurity and the deployment of the injectable BadgerBCG vaccine;
• Continue to develop an oral vaccine for badgers;
• Complete development of a cattle vaccine and secure change to EU regulation to permit its commercial deployment.

 

CLA welcomes confirmation of badger control programme

CLA President Harry Cotterell said: "We are very pleased the Government has confirmed its intention to allow a badger control programme to begin in early autumn next year. The CLA backs a controlled cull, carried out by farmers and landowners, as part of a science-led, well-managed and sustained bTB control policy. Badger culling, bTB testing, cattle movement control and removal and slaughter of infected animals are all essential tools to tackle the disease."

   

Thursday 15 December

Planned wind farm would kill 214 geese every year - Scottish Wildlife Trust

The Scottish Wildlife Trust has today (13/12/11) objected to the Clyde extension wind farm in the Upper Clyde Valley. If consented, the 57 turbine wind farm could hold the dubious record for the highest risk of collisions to pink-footed geese in the UK.  It is estimated that there will be about 214 pink-footed goose fatalities per year. The wind farm would also cause significant damage to a European protected blanket bog habitat.

View objection in full. (pdf) 

 

Millions of GM moths could be released to combat crop pests - report the Telegraph

Millions of genetically modified moths could be released into the countryside to help kill off crop pests, under plans being considered by the Government.

A British company has proposed releasing a GM strain of the diamondback moth, which it has developed, which would reduce the population of the vegetable-eating insects.

Males carrying a lethal gene would be released which would cause their offspring to die almost immediately. The subsequent fall in their numbers could help increase yields for farmers.

Oxitec, the company behind the idea, hopes to begin trials next year but faces opposition from groups who say the untested technology could threaten wildlife and human health.

  

Friday 16 December

'Unique opportunity' for farm study - Lake District National Park

Farmers in the Lake District are being urged to work with the national park authority and University of Cumbria in a unique land survey case study which could result in potentially boosting farm incomes and helping to manage the impacts of climate change.

A partnership project between the LDNPA and university is looking for Lake District farms – which could be sheep or beef farms - to take part in a special carbon and land management project.

Farmers who take part in the case study will need to be prepared to have national park and university staff visit their farms four times each between February and July next year to carry out specific project-related tasks:

 

National Park Authority shortlisted - Yorkshire Dales National Park

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has been shortlisted for a national award for its work in reducing its carbon footprint.

The Local Government Chronicle (LGC) – the local government newspaper – holds annual awards that pit local authorities against each other in the quest for a top place in each of 17 categories.

This year the YDNPA has been shortlisted in the Low Carbon Council category along with six city and county councils

Each of the finalists will give a presentation to the judging panel in January and the winners will be announced at the LGC Awards on March 14 in London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.

The Authority’s Chief Executive David Butterworth said: “The Authority exists to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and we believe climate change will have the biggest single impact on the special qualities of the Park in coming years.  For that reason we have made carbon reduction an integral part of our day-to-day work and I am delighted we have been shortlisted for a national award as a result.”

 

White-tailed eagle in flight over seaThe Eagle Returns - RSPB

A White-tailed eagle in flight

Staff and visitors at RSPB Vane Farm Nature Reserve have welcomed the first sightings of a White-tailed Sea Eagle to the reserve this season.  Bird ‘H’, a two and a half year old female, recognisable by her turquoise wing tag, was first seen on Monday 5 December and has shown up daily to delight visitors since then.

The arrival has come to signal the start of winter for staff at the reserve, as for the last three years the cold winter weather has attracted up to three of these magnificent birds of prey to the nature reserve at Loch Leven, perhaps drawn to the area by the large numbers of wintering pink-footed geese and other wildfowl on the loch.

Vane Farm Warden, Vicky Turnbull remarked: “During the cold winter months, when water bodies can freeze up, the eagles can benefit from the stress this puts on wildfowl and other wildlife who experience increased mortality at this time of year.  Last year we witnessed a Sea Eagle with a rabbit carcass being repeatedly charged by a fox, obviously hoping to steal the meal for itself.  Hopefully if eagle ‘H’ stays around for a while, we can witness more of these wildlife spectacles”.

 

Lock gates of the future: British Waterways helping to save native elm trees

British Waterways is planting 100 native elms trees by canals and rivers across the country in order to enhance the nation’s natural waterside heritage.

The elm, which was a favourite riverside subject of 19th century British artist John Constable, has a long-standing relationship with Britain’s canals and rivers as their timber withstands wet conditions very well, making them the traditional material for making lock gates and cills with for more than 200 years.

Before the 1960s, many millions of native elms had thrived on our soils for centuries, however more than 90% of them were wiped out in a decade by a deadly fungus, Dutch elm disease, which is spread by the elm bark beetle.

British Waterways has sourced the elm saplings from The Conservation Foundation, which has taken cuttings from mature parent elms found growing in the British countryside, which appear to have resisted Dutch elm disease. The saplings, which are 50cm tall, will be planted by volunteers working alongside British Waterways’ environment team.

 

Adder disappearance in Nottinghamshire 'very worrying' - BBC report

A female adder in the Forest of Dean, taken by Rob WardThere has not been a confirmed sighting of adders in Nottinghamshire for six years

Wildlife experts fear that the adder may be extinct in Nottinghamshire after another annual survey failed to find any evidence of the reptile.

The last confirmed sighting of the venomous snake in the county was in Sherwood Forest in 2005.

Nick Crouch, a conservationist, said its disappearance was "very worrying" as the species was a key indicator of the health of the food chain. The wildlife expect has appealed for the public to report any sightings.

Mr Crouch, a nature conservation leader for Nottinghamshire County Council, said the species was once quite widespread across Sherwood. Adders are in rapid decline in the UK and experts put this mainly down to habitat loss and disturbance. "These snakes require areas of heathland and woodland," Mr Crouch said. "These areas are being lost or are not being managed properly but quite why the adder seems to have disappeared in Nottinghamshire is a bit of a mystery.

 

 

 

    

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