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


91% back UK lynx reintroduction trial - Lynx UK Trust

A public survey launched last month by the Lynx UK Trust has returned a remarkable 91% in favour of a trial reintroduction of lynx to the UK, with 84% believing it should begin within the next 12 months. 

European Lynx, (image: Erwin van Maanen via Lynx UK Trust)European Lynx, (image: Erwin van Maanen via Lynx UK Trust)

Almost seven weeks ago the Lynx UK Trust, a team of international wildlife and conservation experts, announced their hopes to carry out a trial reintroduction of Eurasian lynx to the UK. Wiped out in the UK over 1,300 years ago by fur hunters, lynx have been successfully reintroduced across Europe, and the team hope that reintroduction here will provide a valuable natural control on the UK's overpopulated deer species, leading to forest regeneration and a boost to the entire ecosystem. 

A public survey by the Trust, carried out with support from the University of Cumbria, was launched with the news and the results, released by the Trust today, reveal a huge weight of public support behind the reintroduction. Over 9,000 people took part in the survey, with 91% supporting a trial reintroduction and 84% believing it should begin within the next 12 months. 

“We've been blown away by the level of interest and support from the public.” comments chief scientific advisor to the project, Dr Paul O'Donoghue, “This is by far the biggest survey of its kind ever carried out in the UK, with almost five times the feedback of the original beaver reintroduction survey in Scotland which recorded an 86% approval rating. That led to government approval for the trial reintroduction, so we're expecting to see a consistent response from Scottish Natural Heritage and hope for similar in England and Wales. The UK public have spoken; people overwhelmingly want these animals to be given the chance to come back and we've got an extremely capable team to deliver it. 

The survey results were analysed by Dr Ian Convery and Dr Darrell Smith of the University of Cumbria. Dr Convery commented; “It's an impressive sample size of people who feel really strongly about lynx reintroduction, and consistently all of the results and analyses are extremely positive.” 

A further survey was commissioned following traditional opinion polling techniques canvassing just over 1,000 people representatively spread across age and social demographics which recorded support levels of up to 70% for lynx reintroduction.  Convery explained “As with the pro-active online survey, this representative sample shows very strong support for lynx, again at rates comparable with that for beavers, and with those against lynx reintroduction numbering very low.” 

Applications to Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage are expected to be completed by summer for sites in Norfolk, Cumbria, Northumberland and Aberdeenshire, with the Trust still evaluating potential release sites in Wales. Up to six lynx would be released at each site and closely monitored via satellite collars over a trial period likely to last for 3-5 years.

See the data, you can download details here (pdf) courtesy of Lynx UK Trust/University of Cumbria


Natural England statement on the possible introduction of lynx

Any application to introduce lynx into England would need serious consideration in terms of its impact right across the UK.

The Eurasian lynx has been absent from Britain for about 1300 years. As it is no longer recognised as a resident species, the release of lynx into the wild in Britain would be unlawful unless licensed. Natural England is the appropriate licensing body in England. So far Natural England has had a single preliminary meeting with the Lynx Trust’s legal advisers to describe the extensive process that would need to be undertaken before any licence submission could be considered.

Any application to introduce lynx into England would need very serious consideration in terms of its impact right across the UK. If such an application were made, Natural England would consider it in line with prevailing legislation; international guidelines; following proper public consultation and evidence gathering, and taking into account any input from government.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines consider the socio-economic impacts of the introduction as well as impacts on the environment and the animals themselves.


Why do you care about Nature? - Friends of the Earth

What have bitterns and grey wolves got in common? What connects London’s Epping Forest to the Bavarian Forest National Park in Germany? Or the cliffs of Robin Hood’s Bay to the sea turtle beaches of Crete? 

These are just some of the special places and species protected by the European Birds and Habitats Directives, known collectively as the Nature Directives.

These laws protect the most important wildlife sites across the European Union and have been instrumental in the recovery of some iconic birds and animals.

But they are now under threat as part of a review of regulation by the European Commission, called the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT).

But as we begin our drive to defend nature laws, it’s important to know what you think.


Plans To Safeguard National Park Approved - Loch Lomond National Park Authority

The board of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority has today (27.04.15) unanimously approved comprehensive plans to protect the Park’s unique environment following an extensive public consultation, which received more than 300 responses.

The recommendations from officers at the National Park Authority approved by their board include the creation of four camping management byelaw zones on its busiest lochshores, covering 3.7% of the Park’ total area, and investment in improved camping facilities. It is proposed that this will see the creation of 300 camping places, through a mixture of camping permits and low-cost campsites, in the first year in which the new byelaws would be operating. This is in addition to a continued focus on education around responsible camping and promotion of the access and recreation opportunities throughout the Park.

Linda McKay, convener of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority board, said: “The Board was unanimous in its decision. The consultation showed tremendous support for the proposals at both a local and national level including from all our community councils and constituent local authorities, as well as national agencies concerned for the protection of the National Park’s sensitive environment.       We appreciate the range of views from many different interests. However, on balance, we believe our duty first and foremost is to conserve the environment of this special place for the enjoyment of this and future generations. Conscious of our responsibility to promote access and recreation in the Park, the Board has sought to take a proportionate approach; introducing a range of measures designed to protect the special characteristics of this designated area of Scotland, while also striving to enhance provision for those who will continue to want to camp. We hope these new proposals show just how far we have travelled from the original position. Our proposals build on the success of wide-ranging measures introduced at east Loch Lomond and if we are successful in seeking Scottish Government approval for these new steps, we feel absolutely confident we can provide an outstanding National Park experience for all.”

Full details of the proposals, including maps of the proposed management zones, available at www.thisisyourpark.org.uk


A prickle of hedgehogs and a scurry of squirrels among garden wildlife secrets - RSPB

Hedgehog via RSPB image Ben HallThe RSPB is encouraging people to get out and uncover the secrets of their gardens and outdoor spaces, after the second round of RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results highlighted the importance of gardens to threatened UK wildlife. 

Sixty-five per cent of RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch participants reported seeing a hedgehog snuffling around their garden at some point in the year. But over half revealed they’d never set eyes on a slow worm or grass snake slithering in and around their garden.  

There are thought to be less than one million hedgehogs left in the UK. Image: Ben Hall

In excess of 585,000 people across the UK took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch during the weekend of 24 and 25 January, with 72 per cent of them also supplying information on the other garden wildlife they saw throughout the year.

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Once again the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch survey has highlighted how important our gardens are for an amazing variety of wildlife living there. A lot of garden wildlife is in desperate need of our help. By providing shelter and a safe place to make a home, gardens provide an invaluable resource and are a key element in helping to save nature, perhaps even playing a pivotal role in reversing some declines.”

For the first time, Big Garden Birdwatch participants were asked to keep an eye out for slow worms and grass snakes slithering around their gardens. These secretive reptiles are often found in compost heaps or near a source of water. The results revealed that eight per cent of people spotted a slow worm regularly throughout the year, while only two per cent saw a grass snake.

For the second year running, grey squirrels remained the most widely-spotted non-bird visitor, with 74 per cent of participants spotting one scurrying across their garden or climbing up a tree at least once a month. At the other end of the scale, the grey’s native relative, the red squirrel, continued to struggle and was one of the least-seen species – with just two per cent of people seeing one on a monthly basis. 

The red squirrel is under threat by loss and fragmentation of woodland habitat, and a lethal virus carried by the grey, and has been lost from large parts of the UK. This virus is relatively harmless to grey squirrels, but is fatal to reds. 

However, in rural Scotland, where 75 per cent of the red squirrel population is found, almost one in six people spotted one at least once a month scampering around their garden.

Hedgehogs remained a popular garden visitor for the second year running. Over 65 per cent of people set eyes on the spiny species throughout the year, although it is thought populations have declined by 30 per cent since 2003 – with less than a million left in the UK.  

Badgers were spotted by twice as many people living in rural areas than those living in suburban or urban areas, with over 40 per cent reporting to have seen one during the year. The contrast in sightings between rural and urban areas was mirrored by reports of muntjac and roe deer; around 35 per cent of rural residents saw either species of deer compared, to only seven per cent of urban dwellers. 


Britain’s most famous Cuckoo is back! - BTO

A Cuckoo named Chris, after the wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham, has defied all the odds and returned to his Suffolk home for the fifth summer since he was fitted with a satellite-tag to follow his amazing journey. In May 2011, Chris was fitted with the latest in cutting edge technology to help scientists at the British Trust for Ornithology understand why his species is undergoing a catastrophic decline; we have lost almost three-quarters of his kind since the late 80s. 

Chris the Cuckoo. Photograph by Phil AtkinsonChris the Cuckoo. Photograph by Phil Atkinson (BTO)

Since leaving our shores in 2011, Chris has flown over, or visited, twenty-eight different countries, crossed the Sahara Desert eight times and reached speeds of up to 60mph. 

Dr Chris Hewson, lead scientist on the project at the BTO, said, “Chris was one-year old when we fitted the satellite-tag, which makes him five-years old now, and quite an age for a Cuckoo; the oldest we have on record is almost seven. The tag was also given a life of two-to-three years, so that is getting quite old too. We had everything crossed for Chris to make it back again this year and give us another complete migration route, and he hasn’t let us down.”  He added, “The information this remarkable bird has given us is unparalleled. He has helped identify many of the pressures that our Cuckoos face once they leave the UK and, more importantly, the routes that they take to get to their winter quarters in the Congo rainforest – a mystery until the first tagged Cuckoos went there in 2011. He deserves a medal for his massive contribution to science.” 


RSPB Scotland searches for leading lights of conservation

The search for Scotland’s leading lights of conservation has begun with entries now open for the RSPB’s prestigious Nature of Scotland Awards.  The annual competition is a celebration of the people and projects that go the extra mile to protect Scotland’s precious wildlife and the natural environment.

RSPB Scotland is inviting entries from individuals, schools and organisations that demonstrate an innovative approach to wildlife conservation and work hard to enhance the nation’s natural heritage.

This year, the expert judging panel will be looking for the very best across eight categories including a brand new category for 2015. The Nature Tourism Award will go to the nature-based tourism organisation that stands heads and shoulders above the rest for its contribution to conservation in Scotland. Tour companies, accommodation providers, attractions, wildlife guides and engagement activities are all welcome to apply.

The other categories for entry include: Marine Conservation, Sustainable Development, Politician of the Year, Youth and Education, Community Initiative, Innovation and RSPB Species Champion.

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: “There are a tremendous number of people and organisations working hard to give nature a home by protecting and enhancing the wonderful wildlife, special landscapes and wild places we have across Scotland. Each year I am truly impressed and inspired by the high quality entries we receive for these awards

 The closing date for entries is Friday 12 June 2015. To find out more or to submit an entry to the Nature of Scotland Awards, please visit: http://www.rspb.org.uk/natureofscotland


UK Supreme Court orders Government to take “immediate action” on air pollution - ClientEarth
The UK Supreme Court has quashed the Government’s ineffective plans to cut illegal levels of air pollution in Britain and ordered it to deliver new ones by the end of the year.
The Supreme Court Justices were unanimous in their decision, handed down this morning (29/4/15), saying: “The new Government, whatever its political complexion, should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue.”
The historic ruling is the culmination of a five year legal battle fought by ClientEarth for the right of British people to breathe clean air.   The ruling will save thousands of lives a year by forcing the Government to urgently clean up pollution from diesel vehicles, the main source of the illegal levels of Nitrogen Dioxide found in many of the UK’s towns and cities.
ClientEarth Lawyer Alan Andrews said: “Air pollution kills tens of thousands of people in this country every year. We brought our case because we have a right to breathe clean air and today the Supreme Court has upheld that right. This ruling will benefit everyone’s health but particularly children, older people and those with existing health conditions like asthma and heart and lung conditions.  The next Government, regardless of the political party or parties which take power, is now legally bound to take urgent action on this public health crisis. Before next week’s election all political parties need to make a clear commitment to policies which will deliver clean air and protect our health.”
The Supreme Court ruling means the Government must start work on a comprehensive plan to meet pollution limits as soon as possible. Among the measures that that it must consider are low emission zones, congestion charging and other economic incentives.  ClientEarth is calling for action to clean up the worst polluting diesel vehicles, including through a national network of low emission zones.


Access the judgement and summary statement from the Supreme Court

R (on the application of ClientEarth) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Respondent)  Judgment (PDF)  and Press summary (PDF)


Reaction:Sustrans responds to Supreme Court Judgement on air pollution

Claire Francis, Head of Policy for Sustrans commented: “It’s outrageous that something as fundamental to our basic needs as clean air must be fought for through legal proceedings in the highest court in the land. Poor air quality reduces life expectancy by an average of over eleven years; the failure of the Government in dealing with air pollution is a travesty and a national embarrassment.  The next Government must act urgently to remedy the situation. That will mean serious, dedicated investment and an effective programme of action through the publication of the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy to help more people out of their polluting cars for short journeys. That won’t just mean fewer deaths from pollution – it will also tackle obesity and other diseases, climate emissions and congestion, benefiting our health and economy.”

Reaction: Supreme Court orders UK Govt to act on air pollution - Friends of the Earth

Welcoming today’s UK Supreme Court ruling, ordering the Government to produce a new air pollution plan following a case brought by Client Earth, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said:  “UK air pollution kills tens of thousands of people prematurely every year and places a huge burden on our over-stretched NHS - it’s a scandal that it has been allowed to continue for so long."


SNH releases reports on Tayside beavers

More than 150 beavers living in the River Tay and Earn catchments have been found to be well adapted to living in Scotland; are Eurasian beavers once native to Britain; and are free of diseases of concern to humans, domestic animals and other wildlife, according to three reports published today (29 April) by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on behalf of the Tayside Beaver Study Group.

Impacts on various land use interests are also documented together with the results of trials of various techniques for managing the effect of beavers, and a series of conclusions on the likely implications if beavers remain in Scotland.

The beavers have been in Tayside since at least 2006, and are thought to originate either from escapes or illegal releases from private collections. They have been found in rivers and lochs stretching from Kinloch Rannoch, Kenmore and Crieff in the west to Forfar, Perth and Bridge of Earn in the east.

In March 2012, Scotland’s Minister for Environment, Stewart Stevenson, opted to allow the Tayside beavers to remain in the wild for the duration of the official trial reintroduction of beavers in Knapdale, Argyll. At his request, the Tayside Beaver Study Group was set up to gather information and monitor their impacts on land uses and find out more about how to manage them. The findings, along with those from the Knapdale trial and other research, will help Scottish Ministers decide later this year whether or not to permanently reintroduce beavers to Scotland.

The final report on the work of the Tayside Beaver Study Group shows the beavers are well adapted to living in Scotland. They are successfully producing young and still spreading through the Tayside catchment. The group made an early decision not to repeat ecological studies carried out in Knapdale, but to focus resources on documenting the interactions between the beavers and the wider range of land management interests in Tayside.

A second report on tests on 21 beavers from across the catchment found they were all healthy and free from any parasites or diseases of concern to humans, domestic animals and other wildlife.  Genetic tests on a further sample of 25 beavers, documented in the third report, show them to be Eurasian rather than North American beavers, and of German (most likely Bavarian) origin. They were from three family lines, providing adequate genetic diversity for the short-term. There could, however, be a need for genetic monitoring and management in the future if beavers were fully reintroduced to Scotland.

David Bale, Chair of the Tayside Beaver Study Group and SNH’s Area Manager for Tayside & Grampian, said: “I am grateful to the members of the Tayside Beaver Study Group for working so well together to produce these reports. They will go to the Scottish Government along with other beaver studies in late May, so the decision on the future of beavers in Scotland is based on the best information available.”  

To download the full reports, see:

Trapping and health screening of free-living beavers within the River Tay catchment, east Scotland

Genetic assessment of free-living beavers in and around the River Tay catchment, east Scotland

Tayside Beaver Study Group Final Report


Most of Britain’s national parks don’t have the “right rocks” for fracking– Durham University

Most of Britain’s national parks are unsuitable for fracking due to their geology, according to experts at Durham University.  

map of suitablity for frackingAfter reviewing existing geological data, scientists at Durham’s Department of Earth Sciences highlighted the potential suitability of each of the country’s 15 national parks for fracking activity according to their rock type.

The review has been published as a policy briefing document by the Durham Energy Institute (DEI).

  • The briefing categorises the suitable geology for fracking in the UK’s national parks as:
  • Red (fracking possible). There are four national parks - North York Moors, Peak District, South Downs, and Yorkshire Dales - with rocks of possible interest to companies looking to frack for shale gas, shale oil, or coalbed methane.
  • Amber (fracking unlikely). Another four parks - Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, New Forest, Northumberland – were shown to have shales or coals present, but other aspects of the geology make fracking unlikely.
  • Green (no fracking). A final seven National Parks - Broads, Cairngorms, Dartmoor, Lake District, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Pembrokeshire Coast, and Snowdonia – had geology which rules out fracking for shale gas, shale oil, or coalbed methane, according to the brief.

The briefing also contains a map of the UK showing the geology of Britain’s national parks in relation to their suitability for fracking.

Author Dr Liam Herringshaw, of Durham’s Department of Earth Sciences, said the briefing had been prompted by confusion around Government policy in relation to fracking in national parks.

In January, in response to public concerns, the Government announced there would be “an outright ban on fracking in national parks”, only to amend this in February to say that “in the case of areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks, given their size and dispersion, it might not be practical to guarantee that fracking will not take place under them”.  The Infrastructure Act 2015 was enacted in February, restricting unconventional oil and gas development in national parks.

However, Dr Herringshaw said the Act’s implications were presently unclear as protected areas are still to be defined, though the Government is required by law to clarify protected areas in legislation by July this year.

Dr Liam Herringshaw, said: “We hope that this review of existing information about the geology of the UK’s national parks will help provide all sides involved in the fracking debate with some clarity about the potential for fracking in these areas, which currently appears to be lacking.” 

Access the briefing documents online here.   

Reaction: Fracking in National Parks: Our position - Campaign for National Parks

"We do not support the use of fracking in or under National Parks, given the potentially significant environmental impacts.  These include the landscape damage caused by the large number of boreholes required to recover shale gas and the fact that increased reliance on gas risks undermining the UK's progress towards meeting climate change targets."

Further information on our Energy Infrastructure Policy Statement can be found at www.cnp.org.uk/policystatements


Tiny technology unlocks the mystery journey of the nightingale - Wildlife Trust BCN

Celebrated for their beautiful song, nightingales have declined by nearly 60% in the last 15 years alone - now a pivotally important electronic programme can help redress that deline by revealing vital data.Nightingale at Grafham Water by Nik Shelton

Nightingale at Grafham Water by Nik Shelton


The birds are long distance migrants, leaving their stronghold in the south and east of England for the perilous journey to west and central Africa in the autumn. At Grafham Water Wildlife Trust habitat management work has paid dividends with nightingales returning annually, and yesterday, 29 April Anglian Water and the British Trust for Ornithology completed this year's tagging of nightingales. The collaboration began two years ago when the tagging programme began so as to gain vital and detailed information about when and where they migrate.

Advances in miniature technology mean the birds this year have now been fitted with the most accurate geo-locater devices yet, bringing greater accuracy to the scientific data. The tiny tags weigh just 1gram, the size of a shirt button, with integral clock, camera and light sensor - tests have proved that they do not affect the welfare of the birds.

Paul Stancliffe, of the BTO, said: “Our work studying nightingale habitats in the UK will also support conservation efforts, not least through our new booklet. And now being able to track these birds as they move between Africa and Grafham Water, seeing the routes they take, where they stop to rest and feed, and for how long, would have been the thing of dreams only a few years ago. The use of these new tags is incredibly exciting; they should help us to inform future conservation action to reverse the declines seen in populations of this iconic bird."

A total of 13 nightingales are now tagged - on these 13 the rest of the nightgale population now depends for the unvaluable data they can supply. 

To coincide with this year’s tagging, the BTO has unveiled a new guide  Managing Scrub for Nightingales highlighting best practice in habitat management for nightingales - a key ingredient for their future survival - with the latest knowledge of what conditions the birds need to exist. 


Wildlife at Home Launched - BIAZA

British wildlife is set to enjoy a bright future thanks to a brand new partnership.
The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) has joined forces with The Wildlife Trusts to help support our native wildlife,

From nightingales and kingfishers to dragonflies and water voles, our native wildlife is struggling to find the habitat needed to thrive due to increased development, intensive agriculture and climate change

This exciting new collaboration will link BIAZA member zoos and aquariums with their local Wildlife Trusts, so they can get more involved in projects in their areas, providing skills, expertise and man-power for projects to support our native species.

Programmes and Policy Coordinator at BIAZA, Nicky Needham, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our members to put their skills to good use on their local patches. Zoo and aquarium conservation work not only stems to exotic locations abroad, but is just as important on our own doorstep.”  


Corporate Plan 2015-18 cover 

SNH Corporate Plan 2015-18

Our Corporate Plan describes how we support the Scottish Government's Purpose to focus government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

Download the report here (PDF)




Public consultation as part of the 'fitness check' for EU nature legislation (Birds Directive, Habitats Directive) - European Commission

Objective of the consultation

This consultation is designed to gather opinions on current EU nature conservation legislation (the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive) and its implementation to date, as part of the 'fitness check' that the European Commission is carrying out under its Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT).

The fitness check looks at whether the current regulatory framework is proportionate and fit for purpose, and delivering as expected. Specifically, it assesses the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU added value of the legislation. However, the fitness check does not consider possible future changes to the legislation. If required, this would be done in a separate impact assessment.

Details of the fitness check timetable and process

The results of this consultation will be assessed and summarised in a report, which will be made publicly available on the fitness check website. 

Access the consultation here.  

All members of the public and organisations are welcome to contribute

Period of consultation: From 30.04.2015  to 24.07.2015


Blog from Martin Harper, RSPB: Are you ready to Defend Nature? A reaction to the launch of the public consultation on the future of the EU Nature Directives


Scottish Showcase at the World Forum - Scottish Forum on Natural Capital

The Scottish Forum on Natural Capital is looking for the best examples of natural capital work from across Scotland to be part of a 'Scottish Showcase' at the second World Forum on Natural Capital in Edinburgh on 23-24 November 2015. Bringing together business leaders, government representatives and environmental experts from around the globe, the World Forum will examine the most up-to-date developments in this rapidly evolving field, with a focus on managing risk and driving innovation.

Scotland, as host nation of the World Forum on Natural Capital has an opportunity to highlight the ground-breaking work taking place here. The Scottish Forum Steering Group is seeking outstanding case studies to create a Scottish Showcase at the World Forum that will engage, inspire and inform an audience of business leaders, finance leaders, environmental experts and governmental representatives when they come together in Edinburgh in November.

Submissions are sought from businesses, financial institutions, government agencies, NGOs and other organisations which have developed their understanding of natural capital to bring about a strategic change in decision-making. Case studies must have a clear focus on environmental benefits, supported by a strong business or economic case, and must involve lessons learned that are relevant to a wider audience.

If you would like to submit a case study for consideration, please complete the form online. If you would like to discuss your ideas before submitting please contact Mike Elm, Project Officer on 0131 312 4765 or email melm@naturalcapitalforum.com

The closing date for submissions is Monday 1st June 2015 and a shortlist will be drawn up soon afterwards.


TV wildlife presenters urge public to join the Great British Bee Count 2015 - Friends of the Earth

Wildlife presenters Steve Backshall, Michaela Strachan and Miranda Krestovnikoff are urging people to get outside and take part in the Great British Bee Count 2015, which is taking place throughout the month of May (1-31 May 2015).

Organised by Friends of the Earth, Buglife and Waitrose, the Great British Bee Count aims to build on the huge success of last year’s inaugural event, when over 23,000 people took part, spotting over 830,000 bees.

Gardeners are also being encouraged to take easy steps to make their gardens more bee-friendly, and help provide crucial havens for our threatened pollinators. The forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend provides an ideal opportunity to get started.

Allotments (with an average of 12 bees spotted per count) and gardens (8) were two of the top three most popular habitats in last year’s bee count – with the countryside (10) being the third.

Friends of the Earth Nature Campaigner Sandra Bell said: “Discover how bee-friendly your garden, park or countryside is by taking part in the Great British Bee Count 2015 – it’s fun, informative and easy to take part. Bees are the gardener’s friend, pollinating their fruit and flowers. With a little effort, more of our gardens and allotments could become crucial havens for these under-threat pollinators.”

Bee expert Professor Dave Goulson, of the University of Sussex, said: "It is fantastic that the Great British Bee Count got 23,000 people out looking at our wild bees last year, let’s hope for even more in 2015. The idea of including photo uploads this year is really important as it will allow the records to be checked by experts.”

The data can be easily recorded via the free smartphone app, which goes live on 1 May. The app can be downloaded from Itunes or the Google Play store. To find out more about the event, including how to take part, click on: http://www.greatbritishbeecount.co.uk/


New research to help farmland birds - BTO

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has launched a new appeal today (1/5/15) to help tackle the continuing decline of many once familiar farmland birds. Skylark by Mike Weston

Skylark by Mike Weston (via BTO)

You might think that the decline of farmland birds is an old story and that the conservation efforts directed towards species such as Skylark and Yellowhammer mean that everything is now fixed. However, farmland bird populations have not recovered to former levels and while some populations have stabilised, others are continuing to decline. There is an urgent need to find out why things have not improved, which is why the British Trust for Ornithology has today launched its Farmland Bird Appeal. 

BTO research has been central to the whole ‘farmland bird story’, from identifying declines, through diagnosing causes, to designing solutions for this conservation problem. The chief policy response has been to instigate agri-environment schemes. These schemes, which are funded through the EU Common Agricultural Policy, were set up to support farmers and land managers to farm in ways that support biodiversity, protect soil and water and enhance the landscape. Some of the scheme options were wholly or partly designed to provide resources for declining farmland birds.

Previous BTO research has highlighted limitations in some of the schemes, prompting modifications to improve their design. Although agri-environment schemes have succeeded in reducing the rates of decline of a range of farmland bird species, we have yet to see populations recover to former levels and, for some species, the rate of decline has increased over recent years

Dr Gavin Siriwardena, Principal Ecologist at BTO, commented, "Many of us thought we had solved the problem of farmland bird decline, but the latest evidence suggests more research is needed to find conservation solutions that really work. It is evident from our latest results that there is still much that we do not understand about how to reverse the declines, making our Farmland Bird Appeal all the more important. If we can secure the funding then we can address some key questions and offer the best advice for  farmers to deliver biodiversity benefits."

The BTO is looking to raise £100k through the appeal, which will be used to answer a suite of questions, including some that look at the declining Skylark – a species whose populations fell by 63% between 1967 and 2012. BTO data show that Skylarks have been affected negatively by agri-environment scheme options but we don’t yet know why. One potential project would see BTO researchers using GPS tracking devices to find out how Skylarks use today’s farmed landscape so that they can then identify where problems are occurring.


Hedges, edges and woodland feed the bees’ needs - Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

A new study published in the science journal Biological Conservation identified that double the amount of uncultivated land currently being devoted to bees and other pollinators on farmland needs to be created to boost declining insects such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

The five-year study, which formed part of the Farm4bio project, and carried out by entomologists from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and Rothamsted Research, suggests that at least a seven per cent increase in flower-rich habitat is needed in order to double pollinator abundance. The study was carried out in two regions of England – Wessex and East Anglia.

A new study by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and Rothamsted research showed that double the amount of flower-rich land currently being devoted to bees and other pollinators on farmland needs to be created to boost declining insects such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Photocredit: Peter Thompson, GWCTA new study by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and Rothamsted research showed that double the amount of flower-rich land currently being devoted to bees and other pollinators on farmland needs to be created to boost declining insects such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Photocredit: Peter Thompson, GWCT

Dr John Holland, head of farmland ecology with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust explains the results of the study, “Our study confirmed that the lack of flower-rich habitat was a limiting factor in the recovery of wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators. However, the study showed that we do need to balance the creation of new flower-rich habitats to ensure this does not detract pollinating insects away from existing natural wild plants and crops that also need to attract pollinators."

To mitigate the large amount of uncultivated land needed for bees and butterflies, Dr Holland says that the study identified several ways in which the existing farmland landscapes can be improved for pollinators, thereby reducing the need to take more land out of production.

The study identified the importance of woodland edges for bees and butterflies and the need to increase management in these areas for the benefit of pollinators. 

The study concluded that the success of current Agri-Environment Scheme (AES) habitats for pollinators is variable and depends on their type and quality, which is very much determined by their management. At present the uptake of flower-rich habitats within AES is low nationally, and the study showed that farmers need encouragement to try these options. Consequently the quality of advice provided by farm advisers is critical.


Scientific Publications

Jonathan S. Lefcheck et al. Biodiversity enhances ecosystem multifunctionality across trophic levels and habitats. Nature DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7936  


Hoffmann, M. et al (2015) The difference conservation makes to extinction risk of the world's ungulates. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12519


Sutcliffe, P.R., Klein, C.J., Pitcher, C.R. and Possingham, H.P. (2015), The effectiveness of marine reserve systems constructed using different surrogates of biodiversity. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12506


García-Valdés, Raúl, Svenning, Jens-Christian, Zavala, Miguel A., Purves, Drew W. & Araújo, Miguel B. Evaluating the combined effects of climate and land-use change on tree species distributions.  Journal of Applied Ecology doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12453


Hermoso, Virgilio, Cattarino, Lorenzo, Kennard, Mark J., Watts, Mathew &  Linke, Simon. Catchment zoning for freshwater conservation: refining plans to enhance action on the ground. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12454

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