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A round up of the top countryside, conservation, wildlife and forestry stories as chosen by the CJS Team.


National Trust launches ambitious plan to nurse natural environment back to health – National Trust

The National Trust today (Monday, 23 March) launched an ambitious plan to nurse the natural environment back to health and reverse the alarming decline in wildlife – as it warned time was running out to save the countryside from further harm.

Europe’s biggest conservation charity said climate change now poses the single biggest threat to the places the Trust looks after, bringing new, damaging threats to a natural environment already under-pressure, and a growing conservation challenge to its houses and gardens.

The countryside had been damaged by decades of unsustainable land management, which has seen intensive farming and now climate change undermine the long-term health of the land. 60% of species have declined in the UK over the last 50 years, habitats have been destroyed and over-worked soils have been washed out to sea.

The Trust said it would challenge itself to develop new, innovative ways of managing land on a large scale, which were good for farmers, good for the economy and good for the environment. It also pledged to work with partners to help look after some of the country’s most important landscapes, reconnecting habitats and bringing back their natural beauty.


The Forestry Commission is urging importers to comply with regulations to protect Britain’s trees and plants from invasive pests and diseases - Forestry Commission

image: Asian Longhorn beetle, Forestry CommissionThe Forestry Commission is urging importers who use wood packaging in shipments to comply with regulations to protect Britain’s trees and plants from invasive pests such as the Asian Longhorn Beetle – an increasing risk as summer approaches.

image: Forestry Commission

Wood packaging and dunnage (loose wood to support cargo) arriving at ports of entry in Britain is being destroyed if it poses a risk of carrying invasive insect pests – which are a threat to British plant and tree health.

There are strict international regulations for the standard of wood packaging material and dunnage which is used to ship goods and materials. It must be treated and marked according to the International Plant Protection Convention standard (ISPM 15 ) as a precaution against the movement of live pests or pathogens that may be present in the wood before it is exported.

As the weather warms up, the risk that insect pests such as Asian Longhorn Beetle can become established increases.  Larval life stages develop more quickly in warm weather and the resulting adults can then take flight and establish in Britain.

Asian longhorn beetle (ALB), Anoplophora glabripennis, is a native of China and the Korean peninsula, and poses a serious threat to a wide range of broadleaved trees. In March 2012 a breeding population was confirmed by Forest Research scientists in the Paddock Wood area near Maidstone in Kent.


Seasonal timing of biological events is shifting under a changing climate – Rothamsted Institute

Five decades of change in migrating aphids

image: Rothamsted Insect Survey (RIS) image: Rothamsted Institute

Rothamsted Insect Survey (RIS) image: Rothamsted Institute

BBSRC funded scientists at Rothamsted Research, have shown how long-term data collected by the Rothamsted Insect Survey (RIS) are crucial for linking national scale changes in the climate with the changing behavior of Britains’s insects.

In a Journal of Animal Ecology paper, published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of collecting long-term data on Britain’s insect populations, the RIS team show that trends towards a warmer climate are dramatically altering the biological responses of aphids.

Aphids, sometimes also known as greenfly or blackfly, are important pests of crops and garden vegetables because they cause feeding damage and transmit viruses to plants.   The first flights of all 55 aphid species studied were found to be occurring earlier and 85% of aphids showed increased duration of their flight season. Importantly, the seasonal timing of these migrations was shown to be statistically linked to a changing temperature, an indication of the impact of a changing climate on pests.


Beavers return home with clean bill of health – Devon Wildlife Trust

image: Devon Wildlife Trustimage: Devon Wildlife Trust 

Devon Wildlife Trust has expressed ‘delight and relief’ at the re-release of five healthy beavers on to a Devon river. The news comes after the animals were temporarily removed from the wild in February for testing for disease.
The release took place on Monday 23rd March in the evening at a location on the River Otter, close to Ottery St Mary, East Devon. Speaking from the scene, Devon Wildlife Trust’s Peter Burgess said: “Today’s re-release means that these beavers are back where they belong, in the wild on the River Otter. We’re delighted and relieved that they’ve coped very well with a short period in captivity and been given a clean bill of health. They’ve tested free of serious infectious diseases and we’re now looking forward to starting the next phase of our work: studying the long term effects of these wild beavers on the local landscape, on local communities and local wildlife.”
The beavers are thought to have been living on the River Otter for a number of years, but they became national news in February 2014 when film evidence emerged showing kits (youngsters) with their parents. This proved that a population of breeding beavers were present in England, the first time this had happened since the animal’s extinction through hunting several centuries ago.  
Five beavers including four adults and a juvenile were caught in February by the Animal and Plant Health Agency. They were taken to a specialist facility in Devon where they were tested for a range of diseases. The trapping and testing were done as a condition of a licence granted by Natural England to Devon Wildlife Trust. The licence allows the beavers to stay on the River Otter for the next five years. Natural England’s Chairman, Andrew Sells, said: “I am pleased that the beavers were found to be in good health. In accordance with its licence, Devon Wildlife Trust has supplied in-depth information on its monitoring programme and management strategy. We are satisfied that the plans have formally met the licence conditions. This is an exciting time for conservation and I will take great interest in how the trial progresses.”


‘Most attractive’ male birds don’t have the best genes – University College London

‘Attractive’ male birds that mate with many females aren’t passing on the best genes to their offspring, according to new UCL research which found promiscuity in male birds leads to small, genetic faults in the species’ genome. Although minor, these genetic flaws may limit how well future generations can adapt to changing environments. 

The study, published this week (w/c 23 March) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and funded by the European Research Council, shows for the first time the power of sexual selection – where some individuals are better at securing mates than others – in shaping broad patterns of genome evolution.

Study author, Professor Judith Mank, (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment), said: “We've found that promiscuous bird species that have to fight others for mating rights have a genome that evolves faster than bird species which are monogamous and pair for life. What’s interesting is that this evolved genome includes mildly negative mutations. So a male may be attractive to a female and fight hard to mate with her but he doesn't deliver at the genetic level. As a result, his descendants will be less fit.”

The researchers studied a 90 million year old group of birds called the Galloanserae which including the mallard duck, swan goose, wild turkey, helmeted guineafowl, Indian peafowl and common pheasant. The birds all share similar genomes but the way genes are expressed between males and females varies considerably across the group, as does their sexual selection.

The team analysed genetic material from the spleen and gonads of male and female birds and the information was used to assess the relationship between the features of sex-biased genes and the visual characteristics used by the birds when choosing mates.


The nations’ favourite wild flower? - Plantlife

A national vote has been launched to find the nations’ favourite wild flower.

Could underdog chickweed wintergreen be the nations' favourite wildflower? © Bob GibbonsCould underdog chickweed wintergreen be the nations' favourite wildflower?

© Bob Gibbons

As part of celebrations for it’s 25th anniversary, Plantlife has launched a poll to find the nations' favourite wild flower.

From today (Tuesday 24 March), the UK public can choose one of 25 wild flowers, shortlisted by Plantlife members over the winter, discover their conservation status and cultural importance and, of course, place their vote. As the people have their say, see what difference it makes to the chart...

“I love this shortlist produced by Plantlife members" says Plantlife expert Dr Trevor Dines. "It’s slightly bonkers and in many ways reflects us as a nation. There are country icons we can be proud of, like dog rose for England and wild daffodil for Wales. There are familiar plants we all know and love – bluebell, primrose and foxglove. But then there some real oddities... Who would have thought chickweed-wintergreen, a rare plant of woods in Scotland and northern England, would have made the list? I’ve only seen it once, although that was enough to confirm its undeniable beauty. On the contrary, cow parsley is seen as road verge weed by some, but is clearly loved by many. There are powerful symbols too – we cherish poppies to remember our fallen soldiers – while legend has it that Pasqueflowers grow on the graves of Viking warriors, springing up from their blood. It’s an eclectic mix; one that perfectly reflects our countryside and our relationship with it.”   


Non-native plants are ‘not a threat’ to floral diversity – University of York

New research by scientists at the University of York has shown that non-native plants are not a threat to floral diversity in Britain.

Phacelia tanacetifolia is native to California, and a neophyte in Britain. Photo credit: Kevin Walker Phacelia tanacetifolia is native to California, and a neophyte in Britain.

Photo credit: Kevin Walker

Non-native plants are commonly listed as invasive species, presuming that they cause harm to the environment at both global and regional scales. New research by scientists at the University of York has shown that non-native plants – commonly described as having negative ecological or human impacts – are not a threat to floral diversity in Britain.

Using repeat census field survey data for British plants from 1990 and 2007, Professor Chris Thomas and Dr Georgina Palmer from the Department of Biology at York analysed changes in the cover and diversity of native and non-native plants in Britain. Their study, available online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that native plants are unlikely to be out-competed by communities of non-native species, and that most non-native species remain too localised to have national-scale impacts.

Co-author Dr Palmer said: “Our research has shown that non-native plants are less widespread than native species, and are not increasing any more than native plants. It therefore seems likely that factors other than plant invasions are the main causes of vegetation change.” 

The study found that locations with high diversity of non-native species also support high diversity of native species, suggesting that high diversities of native and non-native plant species are compatible with one another.


UK Government field study proves that neonicotinoids harm bumblebees - Buglife

A Government field study which had previously used as the basis of the UK’s position that a controversial group of insecticides were safe for bumblebees, has been re-analysed by a leading bee expert - only to find the reverse, the toxins were extremely harmful in miniscule quantities.

The paper, which was published today (Tuesday 24 March) in PeerJ, took the data from a 2012 field study by the Government’s Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) looking at the effects in the field of neonicotinoids on bumblebees. The re-analysis found a strong negative relationship between neonicotinoid contamination and both colony growth and queen production.

Read the paper here


Hedgehogs vs KFC! - British Hedgehog Preservation Society

After a long time and a lot of negotiation KFC are changing their packaging to prevent littered cups from harming hedgehogs.

David vs Goliath – Round 2!

You may remember the media mayhem a few years ago when the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), a tiny charity based in the South Shropshire hills, took on McDonald’s and won.  The design of McFlurry cup lids meant that when a hedgehog sought out the left over ice cream inside, it got the cup stuck on its head. After much pressure from BHPS and a considerable amount of time, the lid design was changed to reduce the size of the hole, preventing hedgehogs getting their heads in if the cups were littered.  There was also a “litter harms wildlife” warning stamped onto every new lid.

Now they’ve been giant-slaying again following reports that the KFC Krushems milkshake packaging was causing the same problem.  It has taken a long time and a lot of negotiation, but the charity is delighted that KFC has also agreed to alter their packaging in order to save hedgehogs. 

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS said “We are delighted that KFC are changing their packaging to prevent littered cups from harming hedgehogs.  We would ask that people dispose of litter responsibly as it can have a devastating impact on wildlife.”

A spokesperson from KFC said “From today, KFC in the UK and Ireland will cease production of the current lid for the Krushems cup. After consultation with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, KFC UK/I has developed a new lid with a smaller aperture to prevent potential harm to wildlife and will introduce this into all restaurants over the coming months.”


A New B-Lines Plan for Putting the Buzz Back into South Devon - Buglife

Today (Wed 25/3/15) an ambitious new plan for helping our bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinating insects is being launched by Buglife and South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). 

The South Devon B-Lines project will create rivers of wildflowers across the countryside connecting the South Devon’s best wildlife sites from the west to the east, and from the north to the south, linking Dartmoor to the coast, and linking our towns and urban areas to the countryside.  The new B-Lines map launched by the partnership shows the proposed routes and invites farmers, landowners and the public to get involved to put the buzz back into our countryside.

Andrew Whitehouse, Buglife South West Manager, said “Bees and other pollinators are disappearing from our countryside because of a lack of wildflower-rich habitats.  By creating B-Lines we can help wildlife move across our countryside, saving threatened species and making sure that there are plenty of pollinators out there to help us grow crops.”

Phil Stocks, Lead Advisor Natural England said “We’re really looking forward to seeing how the B-lines map can help promote and extend the network of wildflower-rich grasslands across South Devon. It’s vital that a network exists and wildlife isn’t restricted to isolated islands. The grasslands will also help enhance the landscape which is enjoyed by both residents and tourists.’ 


England Coast Path in Kent: two steps forward - Natural England

 Folkestone to Ramsgate route has been approved and Ramsgate to Whitstable route proposals have been published.

Folkestone to RamsgateBotany Bay,Broadstairs, Kent © Natural England

Botany Bay,Broadstairs, Kent © Natural England

Approval for a new stretch of the England Coast Path has been given by the Secretary of State.

Work can now begin to open up or improve 59 kms long stretch of access along the well-known coastline between Folkestone and Ramsgate This will be ready for walkers to enjoy when it is opened later in the year.

Kent County Council will now lead the implementation work to prepare this new stretch of coast path for public use. Their first step is to contact owners and occupiers to finalise the design and location of any new infrastructure, such as signs and gates. The new walking rights will commence once the route has been established and any necessary works have been completed.

When officially opened, this 59 km route will provide, for the first time, new rights of access to coastal land including foreshore, beaches, and cliffs; including areas where everyone can rest, relax and admire the view. Crucially, the path will be able to ‘roll back’ should the cliffs erode or slip – enabling a replacement route to be put in place quickly if necessary, helping to maintain a continuous route along the coast.

Improved access will support local economies, by attracting visitors to explore this popular coastline, and boosting business for local shops, pubs and hotels.

James Seymour, Natural England Manager for Sussex and Kent, said:

“We are delighted this route, which takes in famous and historic landmarks has been given the green light. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in the preparations, as their significant knowledge and expertise has been invaluable in helping to shape the route. We have worked closely with a wide range of local interests in developing the proposals and we now look forward to working with Kent County Council to put the route in place for everyone to enjoy.”  

Natural England has recently published a map which shows where and when coastal access will be improved over the next five years. 

Access the documentation and information here.

Representations and objections about the report can now be made and must be received by Natural England by 5pm on 20 May 2015. 


Also: England Coast Path in North Yorkshire and Teesside: your chance to comment – Natural England

Natural England has published formal proposals to improve public access between Filey Brigg in North Yorkshire and Newport Bridge in Middlesbrough.


RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results: fewer finches visiting our gardens

More than a million eyes took up the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch challenge of 'seeing things through the eyes of a bird' this year, witnessing some exciting and interesting changes among our most popular garden birds.

In excess of 585,000 people across the country spent an hour during the weekend of 24 and 25 January watching their garden and recording any feathered friends that made a flying visit - close to a 100,000 increase on 2014.

Greenfinch image: Ben Hall via RSPBOverall more than eight-and-a-half million birds were spotted, making it another bumper year. Refreshingly, sightings of every bird that featured in this year’s top 20 increased on the numbers recorded in 2014, apart from the three finches; chaffinch, goldfinch and greenfinch.  

Greenfinch numbers continued a long-term decline of 53 per cent since 1979  (Image: Ben Hall via RSPB)

The average number of robins seen visiting gardens was at its highest since 2011, helping it climb three places to number seven, its joint highest-ever position in the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings. Blackbird was another climber, moving to number three and becoming the UK’s most widespread garden bird after being spotted in more than 90 per cent of UK gardens.

Despite being the UK’s smallest garden bird, twice as many people picked out a wren calling by their garden this year than in 2014, consolidating its place in the top 20 most popular garden birds. However, two species found in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch’s top 20 most popular birds remain on either the red of Birds of Conservation Concern, highlighting just how valuable our gardens can be. House sparrow and starling are on the red list, meaning that they are of ‘highest conservation priority – species needing urgent action’. 

RSPB Conservation Scientist Dr Daniel Hayhow said: 'Many garden birds are in desperate need of our help. During winter, birds need extra food and water, a safe place to shelter and make their home. Gardens providing these things are an invaluable resource for birds and are likely to have a significant effect on their numbers, perhaps even playing a pivotal role in reversing some declines. 'We hope through this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch challenge of seeing things through the eyes of birds really helped people to understand exactly how they use your garden, and will allow them to improve the ways to give nature a home all year round.' Big Garden Birdwatch results also showed a drop in finch numbers this year, but scientists aren’t panicking yet. Daniel added: 'Despite the cold weather birds such as; goldfinch, greenfinch and chaffinch may not have been as reliant on food found in our gardens during the cold snap because of a decent natural seed supply found in the wider countryside this winter following a good summer. The weather can have varied effects on different groups of birds in terms of behaviour and habitats used. This year, a better seed supply in the countryside for finches means that we saw fewer visiting our gardens, On the other hand during the cold spell, birds like blue tit and robin would still be more reliant on food found in our gardens.'

See all the results here 


The shocking state of England’s rivers - Salmon & Trout Association

As the Environment Agency release figures today that reveal just 17% of England’s rivers are in good health, the Blueprint for Water coalition is urging communities across England to make a stand and speak up for the rivers, lakes, wetlands and beaches that they love.

Environment Agency improvements in gathering evidence have led to a truer picture of the health of England’s rivers, which is far worse than previous official figures suggested.

Blueprint for Water, a coalition of 16 environmental and fishing organisations, is urging everyone to respond to the Environment Agency’s current consultation on River Basin Management Plans, which determine how our water ways will be managed over the next six years. The group has developed the Save Our Waters website to enable people to respond to the consultation and help these watery places. Rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, estuaries and beaches are essential for people and wildlife; not only are they used for pleasure (walking, canoeing, fishing), but they’re also essential for drinking water, sanitation and flood management.

Janina Gray, Head of Science and Environmental Policy for the Salmon & Trout Association and Blueprint for Water Chair, said: “The figures released today are shocking and show us that things are worse than we thought. Just 17% of England’s rivers are in good health. This is unacceptable and threatens wildlife and livelihoods. It is more important than ever that everyone gets involved with this consultation. We’re asking everyone, as they plan their Easter break, to take two minutes to respond via the Save Our Waters website.”


Provisional UK greenhouse gas emissions national statistics 2014 - DECC

Provisional estimates of UK greenhouse gas emissions 2014 and final emissions by fuel type and end-user 1990 to 2013.

This publication provides the latest provisional estimates of UK greenhouse gas emissions based on provisional inland energy consumption statistics, which are published in DECC’s quarterly Energy Trends publication. This publication also includes an update to final statistics published in February to include estimates by end-user and fuel type. Updated data tables for these statistics can be found in UK greenhouse gas emissions final statistics.

For the purposes of reporting, greenhouse gas emissions are allocated into a small number of broad, high level sectors as follows: energy supply, business, transport, public, residential, agriculture, industrial processes, land use land use change and forestry (LULUCF), and waste management. Additionally provisional emissions for Carbon Dioxide (CO2) only are allocated into broad fuel classifications as follows: gas, oil, coal, other solid fuels and non-fuel.

These provisional emissions estimates are subject to revision when the final estimates are published; however, they provide an early indication of emissions in the most recent full calendar year. This publication

Read the statistical release here (pdf)


Team approach to tackle illegal off-roading - North York Moors National Park

A recent action day to tackle illegal off-road motorised activity in the North York Moors National Park has been praised by members of the public. Representatives from the National Park Authority, Forestry Commission and North Yorkshire Police received many positive comments from cyclists, walkers and horse riders who were pleased that steps were being taken to prevent trail bikes and 4x4 vehicles using footpaths and bridleways in the area.

The latest operation took place on Sunday 15 March and focused primarily on Dalby Forest, an area which has become a particular hotspot over the past twelve months. Patrols were also carried out in Broxa, Harwood Dale, Wykeham and Langdale Forests.

Further days will be organised in known trouble spots across the National Park over the coming months with the aim of offering face to face advice to recreational riders and drivers, but also to take necessary enforcement action in cases of blatant disregard of the law. Police action can range from issuing warning notices for first-time offenders to confiscating vehicles for repeat offenders.

In addition to speaking to riders and drivers about lawful and unlawful routes in the North York Moors, it is hoped a visible presence will help deter illegal off-roaders who are causing substantial damage to the North York Moors and its wildlife and are making some routes impassable and unpleasant for other users of the National Park. There is also a considerable cost implication for the National Park Authority in resurfacing rights of way to make them safe to use again. The action days are part of an anti-social behaviour working group that meets to tackle issues such as poaching, fly-tipping and illegal camping and involves representatives of the National Park Authority, North Yorkshire Police and Forestry Commission.

David Smith, Southern Area Ranger for the North York Moors National Park Authority, said:“Illegal off-roading is quite frankly ruining some areas of the North York Moors and is becoming increasingly costly for ourselves and others to repair the damage caused. Off-road vehicles churn up the ground creating deep ruts that make it difficult for people to walk, cycle or ride along. It also disturbs livestock and nesting birds, destroys rare plants and flowers and can ruin visitors’ experiences of what is on the whole a tranquil area. All our voluntary rangers have been trained to spot illegal activity and we fully intend to take enforcement action against anyone found repeatedly riding or driving where they’re not supposed to.”


Environment groups face severe cull from budget cuts - RSPB

Environment and heritage organisations in Northern Ireland today (26/3) received confirmation of the scale of the budget cuts, with Department of Environment (DoE) cutting its Natural Heritage Grants programme by 100%.  The scale of the cuts is severe and has put many local charities into financial crisis. Cuts will potentially see 130 compulsory redundancies across Northern Ireland with some organisations forced to close their doors. 

Approximately 50 local charities such as NI Environment Link, Ulster Wildlife, RSPB, Belfast Hills Partnership, Mourne Heritage Trust, and National Trust have received letters from the Department of Environment telling them that they have three months of funding left. There is massive concern about the breadth and depth of these cuts – a devastating blow that will ultimately lead to many places we all love not being looked after properly and falling into disrepair. 

Patrick Casement of NI Environment Link, the umbrella body for environmental organisations said:  “The budget cuts are short sighted and ill-informed. We all rely upon the health of the environment for our survival – clean air, water, food. The scale of loss for the environment sector will lead to less management of special and protected places and species, less opportunities for people to spend time engaging with the outdoors, less monitoring of wildlife and understanding of the state of nature, less advice services for both built and natural environment, less ways for children and young people to learn about nature in NI, and ultimately less jobs in the environmental sector which does so much for the health of our economy.” 


Trust backs call for national park increase - Scottish Wildlife Trust

Leading nature conservation charity, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, is backing the latest call to increase the number of national parks to rejuvenate Scotland’s rural areas. 

A joint report released this week by the Scottish Campaign for National Parks and The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) claim that designating more National Parks in areas such as southern Scotland or north-west Scotland could generate millions of pounds in extra revenue annually from tourism and other rural industries.

Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Jonny Hughes, said: “Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Jonny Hughes, said: “The Scottish Wildlife Trust firmly believes that an increase in the number of national parks would not just be good for the environment, but also for Scotland’s economy.

“However, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to thinking that national parks should be just in rural areas. The Scottish Wildlife Trust would like to see consideration given to the designation of Urban National Parks and a revisiting of proposals for Marine National Parks which would create jobs and help restore damaged wildlife habitats. National Parks are something of a glaring opportunity for Scotland's people, environment and economy.” 


The Socio-economic Benefits of New National Parks in Scotland.- Scottish Campaign for National Parks

A paper describing the positive socio-economic impacts that new National Park designations could have on specific rural areas in Scotland.

The conclusion of the paper states: This short paper makes the case that National Park designations have much to offer some of the remoter rural areas of Scotland and in considering future National Parks in Scotland the potential positive socio-economic impacts should be taken in to account.

We are not suggesting that National Parks in Scotland should be chosen primarily on rural development grounds and we continue to strongly support the fundamental landscape and environmental conservation objectives of National Parks. But it is clear to the SCNP and the APRS that new National Parks in Scotland could be exemplars of sustainable management and development and that the designation of additional National Parks should be progressed and this would benefit the economy of their local countryside and coastal areas 

Read the report in full (PDF)


Houses planned for Green Belt at highest level since advent of Government’s flagship planning policy - CPRE

New CPRE report reveals erosion of Green Belt despite cross-party political support

Fresh research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) published today (27 March) shows that more houses are planned for Green Belt land than when the Government’s flagship planning reform - the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) - was implemented three years ago today.

The CPRE report, Green Belt under siege: the NPPF three years on, finds that over 219,000 houses are planned for England’s Green Belt, 60,000 more than in August 2013 when CPRE last made a count . Government Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has taken action to address some threats to the Green Belt, in places such as Coventry and County Durham, but other areas remain under threat. In the Metropolitan Green Belt around London, houses planned have nearly tripled since August 2013 .

A recent report from CPRE and the University of the West of England, From wasted space to living spaces, showed that there is capacity for at least one million homes on suitable brownfield land, 194,000 of which could be built in the south east. It also showed that brownfield land is a renewable resource.

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments: “Ministers have quite rightly resisted the siren calls of some organisations to relax controls over development in the Green Belt. Yet, our new research shows that large scale development is already planned - despite existing protections, the availability of brownfield land and community objections. We need to strengthen Green Belt protection, not weaken it.  We welcome recent interventions made by Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, to address growing local threats to the Green Belt, but Government does not and cannot always prevent inappropriate and unnecessary development. Whoever forms the next Government must look to improve Green Belt protection and focus development behind the one million homes we could build on brownfield land - for the benefit of both town and country.”

Access the report here.


Marine Plan published - Scottish Government

Framework to protect marine environment.

Scotland’s first ever National Marine Plan has been published today by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.

The plan sets out a single statutory planning framework for all marine activity in Scottish waters. This will include policies for the sustainable management of a wide range of marine industries, including those which are long established such as fishing and ports and those more recently emerging such as offshore wind and marine renewable energy. It also includes sectoral plans for offshore wind, wave and tidal energy in Scottish waters and removes the options for offshore wind development in the Solway Firth.

The framework covers all of Scotland’s seas out to 200 nautical miles and applies to existing and emerging activities as well as devolved and reserved functions. The plan will be reported on within three years of adoption.

Mr Lochhead said: "Our seas provide energy, food and recreation and many other crucial goods and services. This is why it is so important the marine environment itself is at the heart of the plan, ensuring it remains a prized asset for future generations. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the economic activity of the marine industry while ensuring the marine environment is protected and enhanced.  I am delighted to have adopted Scotland’s first ever National Marine Plan following a consultation process, it is an important step towards achieving sustainable management of our important marine resources.  This marks the beginning of a long term commitment to protect our seas for future generations and I would like to thank the wide range of marine interests who have been involved in the development of the plan. We now have an easy to use framework with planning information available online through National Marine Plan interactive.”

Access the documentation including the map here.


Reactions: Environmental groups urge caution on new Marine Plan - Scottish Environment Link

Environmental groups have expressed reservations about today’s publication of Scotland’s first National Marine Plan. Following several years of consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny, the Plan paves the way for a more coordinated approach to developments at sea. A coalition of environmental groups have welcomed the general principles underpinning the Plan, but remain concerned that it supports growth for some sectors which could risk environmental health of the seas. 

Full press release (PDF) 


Trust gives broad welcome to first ever National Marine Plan - Scottish Wildlife Trust

Alex Kinninmonth, Living Seas Manager for the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “The adoption of Scotland’s first ever National Marine Plan is a welcome step forward in efforts to ensure that our use of the seas is sustainable and Scotland’s amazing wildlife is safeguarded. Implementing the plan around the Scottish coastline will be challenging and will require significant resources and collaboration but after many years of campaigning we are pleased that the broad foundations now exist for a marine planning system that aims to secure healthy seas for future generations.”

Jonny Hughes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust added: “The publication of Scotland’s first ever National Marine Plan is a milestone in the history of Scottish seas" 



Scientific Publications 

Tara J. Conkling , Jerrold L. Belant , Travis L. Devault , Guiming Wang , James A. Martin Assessment of variation of nest survival for grassland birds due to method of nest discovery. Bird Study DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2015.1010140


Paz-Vinas, I. & Blanchet, S. Dendritic connectivity shapes spatial patterns of genetic diversity: a simulation-based study. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jeb.12626


György Kröel-Dulay et al, Increased sensitivity to climate change in disturbed ecosystems. Nature Communications  doi:10.1038/ncomms7682 


Curton, A. C et al (2015) Wildlife camera trapping: a review and recommendations for linking surveys to ecological processes. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12432


Fung, T., Farnsworth, K. D., Reid, D. G. & Rossberg, A. G. (2015) Impact of biodiversity loss on production in complex marine food webs mitigated by prey-release. Nature Communications. doi:10.1038/ncomms7657


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