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


MBA sent what is probably oldest message in a bottle ever found!

A postcard returned to the Marine Biological Association in April may be the oldest message in a bottle ever found.

The bottle was released into the North Sea between 1904 and 1906 as part of research carried out by George Parker Bidder. G P Bidder was One of Bidder’s bottles used to elucidate ocean currents. Image: MBA archive.MBA President from 1939-1945 and was remembered for his scientific research and also the large financial contributions he made to the Association.


One of Bidder’s bottles used to elucidate ocean currents. Image: MBA archive.


G P Bidder contributed to knowledge on the hydraulics of sponges, and was the inventor of the bottom-trailer. Bidder’s ‘bottom bottles’ (as he calls them in his notes) were a powerful tool for the study of bottom water movement. A bottom-trailer is a bottle adjusted to trail a wire so as to float with the current two feet above the sea bed, and to be caught in trawl nets. Bidder released a total of 1020 bottles between 1904 and 1906 and he reported that his bottles were trawled up by the fishermen at the rate of 55% per annum. Some bottles were never returned, assumed to be lost in the open ocean forever. However, over 100 years on, Marianne Winkler found a bottle washed up on the shore at Amrun island, Germany, and returned the enclosed postcard to the MBA.


Bidder’s postcards offered one shilling as a reward for returning the postcard. The MBA will be sure to write to Marianne Winkler to send her reward!


The search is on for the nations’ top Meadow Makers - Plantlife

Award for landowners, smallholders and farmers, who have successfully juggled the challenges of running farm businesses, while conserving meadows & grasslands

Lugg Meadow, Herefordshire © Chris Harris/PlantlifeLugg Meadow, Herefordshire © Chris Harris/Plantlife

The search has begun for the nations’ most successful ‘Meadow Makers’ across Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. We are looking for landowners, smallholders and farmers, who have successfully juggled the challenges of running farm businesses, while conserving wildflower meadows and grasslands.

As part of Save Our Magnificent Meadows, the UK’s largest partnership project transforming the fortunes of vanishing wildflower meadows, grasslands and wildlife, this Award will acknowledge their efforts. Led by Plantlife, the partnership of 11 organisations is working to restore 6,000 hectares of wildflower meadows and grasslands, primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

These people are the unsung heroes of the conservation world, setting a fantastic example of how to protect our meadow heritage, and inspiring others to follow suit. Recognising their achievements with this national Award is our opportunity to appreciate and celebrate their commitment to the conservation of the UK’s last surviving meadows. Perhaps they have taken challenging steps to adopt wildlife-friendly management of grassland, or restored wild flowers to a neglected site or protected a threatened meadow. We want to share their stories.

Entries for ‘Meadow Makers’ are welcome from now to 31 July with the winners for each nation (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) announced in September 2015. For more information and details on how to enter www.magnificentmeadows.org.uk.


Moorland Butterfly Project Receives Funding Boost – Butterfly Conservation

A project to protect the south west’s threatened moorland butterflies has received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Butterfly Conservation (BC) has revealed.

The All the Moor Butterflies scheme will operate across the region’s three major moorland landscapes – Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and Exmoor.

Much of the UK’s most important moorland mosaics occur in South West England and it is here that many threatened butterflies and moths have suffered the most severe declines, brought about by habitat loss due to changes in land management practices, inappropriate grazing or neglect.

Image: Butterfly Conservation - High Brown FritillaryHigh brown fritillary, Image: Butterfly Conservation

The three-year scheme aims to reverse the declines of our rarest fritillaries and encourage local communities to get closer to butterflies and appreciate the area’s amazing natural heritage.
A development grant of £22,700 has been awarded to BC by the HLF to help draw up detailed plans for the project over the next nine months.
Butterflies found on the region’s moors include the Marsh Fritillary and High Brown Fritillary - both are among the UK’s most threatened species and both urgently need targeted conservation work to help secure their future.

Alongside conservation work, training and specialist advice will be provided to land management professionals, advisers and site managers to promote best practice in conserving moorland for butterflies and moths.
Dan Hoare, Butterfly Conservation’s Head of Regions said: ‘I am delighted that HLF has given us this support which brings us a step closer to realising this ambitious scheme.


Searching for hedgehogs with BBC Springwatch - Royal Parks Foundation

Royal Parks Foundation (Jonathan Dean)Hedgehogs are one of the nation’s favourite species, yet there’s been a worrying nationwide decline in hedgehog numbers in the last 25 years and The Regent’s Park is now the only central London Royal Park with a breeding population.

Image: Royal Parks Foundation (Jonathan Dean)

With the help of top wildlife scientists and over 100 volunteers, we discovered a small population of around 40-50 animals living and breeding in the Park in 2014. Our hedgehog team returned to The Regent’s Park in May this year to see how the population has fared over the winter and find out more about their nocturnal activities. You can read all about the research and our findings here.


Riverwatch scheme set to launch – Scottish Natural Heritage

A Riverwatch scheme is set to launch in Ardnamurchan this week (w/c 1 June).

It will provide additional surveillance and protection to the populations of pearl mussels in the burns of the Ardnumurchan peninsula. The populations of mussels are important as they lie in the extreme west of the population range on the mainland.

The Riverwatch initiative is part of the Pearls in Peril project which aims to safeguard freshwater pearl mussels, a critically endangered species threatened by illegal fishing across Scotland.
The scheme relies on using the local community and river users as volunteers to protect pearl mussels by increasing awareness and vigilance.

Freshwater pearl mussels have historically been fished for the pearls they can produce, which are similar to an oyster. However only rarely do they contain pearls. They are protected by law - it is a crime to kill, injure, take or disturb freshwater pearl mussels. And over the past two years there has been evidence of suspected illegal pearl fishing taking place across northern Scotland.

Natalie Young of the Riverwatcher project, said: "The species is now in such decline that from 1970 to 1998 pearl mussels became extinct from an average of two rivers every year in Scotland.


Murky past of Britain’s rarest duck revealed by Big Ben - Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

Hannah Robson with the 'Big Ben' corer (c) jonathan Reeves WWTThe downfall of Britain’s rarest duck, the common scoter, could be written in the murky sediment at the bottom of lochs in the Flow Country, the UK’s largest expanse of wetland.

To find out, scientists from WWT and UCL have been driving a giant sediment corer known as Big Ben into the bottom of the lochs. Big Ben removes cores made up of the layers that have built up over 30 to 50 years.

Like an archaeologist digging down through time, but in miniature, WWT’s Hannah Robson painstakingly sliced the cores and is now analysing each layer for microscopic fossils. By looking at what food was available and other factors, she can reconstruct the ecological history of the lochs and compare those where scoters still nest with those that have been abandoned.

Hannah Robson with the 'Big Ben' corer (c) Jonathan Reeves WWT

Over the same period, the number of common scoters breeding in the UK has fallen steeply and is down to just 40 pairs confined to remote parts of Scotland.

The core taken by ‘Big Ben’ represents 30 to 50 years of history that has built up in the sediment

Hannah Robson said: “The wetlands of the Flow Country are an incredible place. More than double the amount of carbon is stored here than in all the UK’s forests combined. And many of the UK’s most at-risk birds breed here. But the one that brings me here is the biggest concern of all: the inappropriately named common scoter. There’s much speculation as to what has pushed the UK’s breeding scoters so close to the edge, but so far no definitive answer. So we’re taking a painstakingly detailed approach – analysing the sediment that builds up over decades at the bottom of the lochs for the microscopic fossilised remains of insects, aquatic plants and algae. We hope to reveal the causes of the scoter’s decline and also, crucially, be able to recommend what needs to be done to help it recover.”


Wildlife-rich areas must not suffer at the expense of land development - Buglife

Following the Government’s recent proposal to introduce a statutory register for brownfield land, environmental charities call on the Government to honour its original commitment to ‘protect previously developed or brownfield land that is of high environmental value for wildlife’.

To help Government fulfil this commitment - originally set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) - Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) has today (Tuesday 2 June) published guidelines to determine ‘high environmental value’. The definition will make it easier for local authorities and developers to appropriately prioritise brownfield sites for development while honouring the Government’s commitment to protect wildlife.

Chair of Link’s Land Use Planning Working Group Victoria Bankes Price said: “While the NPPF commits to protecting brownfield land of high environmental value, it fails to define it. As a result, wildlife is continuing to suffer. We have now provided guidelines to clarify the process for everyone. After all, it is important that brownfield sites of high environmental value are properly considered in the planning process. This guidance will give ecologists, planners, developers and land managers the information they need to make good planning decisions.”

Read the guidelines here


Male hen harrier disappears from Cumbrian nest - RSPB

The RSPB and Cumbria Police have launched an appeal for information about the unexplained disappearance of a nesting male hen harrier in the North Pennines.

The bird, which was nesting at the RSPB’s Geltsdale reserve, was last seen at the upland site on Saturday 23 May. He set off hunting at around 7.15am and was last observed by RSPB nest protection staff at around 1pm.

Without the male returning to provide her with food, the female was forced to abandon her clutch of five eggs, resulting in the failure of the nest. Unfortunately, incubating the eggs from the nest was not an option. By the time RSPB staff were sure that the female had abandoned her nest, and that it was safe to approach it, her eggs had already gone cold and were no longer viable.

Male Hen Harrier, Chris Gomersall, RSPBA 2008 government commissioned report found that it was rare in most places for male hen harriers to abandon an active nest. Hen harriers are England’s most threatened breeding bird of prey with only four successful nests in the whole country last year. Police are also calling for information after three male nesting hen harriers disappeared earlier in the season without explanation in Bowland, Lancashire.

A male hen harrier hunting over open moorland - four males have disappeared this summer in England

Image: Chris Gomersall

Steve Garnett, upland warden at RSPB Geltsdale, said: “All of the staff and volunteers who were watching the nest around the clock over the past few weeks are absolutely gutted about the disappearance of the male and the failure of the eggs.”

Cumbria Police Wildlife Crime Officer Sarah Rolland said: “There is no criminal investigation surrounding the disappearance of the male bird at the current time. However, we appeal to anyone with information to come forward by calling Police on 101, as we are keen to trace the whereabouts of the bird.”

Anyone with information about either of the missing birds should contact  the police on 101 or, alternatively, call the RSPB’s confidential hotline on 0845 466 3636. 

Missing Geltsdale hen harrier – statement from Natural England


One fifth of Europe's birds are facing the threat of extinction - RSPB

Eider Duck, Isle of Man Birding, RSPBA new assessment of European birds has revealed that nearly one fifth (18 per cent) are considered to be at risk of extinction across the European Union with habitat loss, climate change and increasingly intensive farming being key causes of threat. This list of threatened species includes 37 birds, including lapwing, puffin and curlew, which occur regularly in the UK.

The eider duck is one 37 familiar UK birds which are facing an uncertain future in Europe

Image: Isle of Man birding

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Conservation Director. Commenting on the publication of the new European bird assessments, he said: “These red list assessments provide another red warning that nature across Europe is in trouble. It would have been unthinkable 20 years ago that birds like lapwing and curlew would be threatened species in Europe – the status of many species is deteriorating across Europe. However, conservation action across Europe, guided by the Birds Directive is helping species like the stone-curlew, Dalmatian pelican, avocet and crane.”

Key findings:            

  • Birds in the UK: Of 246 regularly-occurring birds in the UK, 37 species have been assessed as at risk of extinction in the European Union. The Balearic shearwater, a regular seabird visitor from the Mediterranean to UK shores, is listed as Critically Endangered: the highest category of threat. Other species such as the black-tailed godwit, eider, Arctic skua and kittiwake are listed as Endangered: the second highest category of threat.
  • Birds in the European Union (EU27): 18 per cent of the 451 species assessed across the EU27 are threatened. Of the 82 species: 11 are Critically Endangered; 16 Endangered and 55 Vulnerable.
  • Birds across the wider continent of Europe: 67 (13 per cent) of the 533 species assessed are threatened across the wider continent of Europe. Ten species are Critically Endangered (the highest threat level) including sociable lapwing, yellow-breasted bunting, and slender-billed curlew. The study also found that 18 species are Endangered and an additional 39 Vulnerable.
  • Still in trouble: The conservation status of some species that were identified as being in trouble a decade ago haven’t improved. This list includes: Egyptian vulture, aquatic warbler, greater spotted eagle and little bustard.
  • Improving: a total of 20 species were previously considered regionally threatened and are now classified as Least Concern in Europe. These include some charismatic species, such as Dalmatian pelican, ferruginous duck, stone-curlew, black kite, lesser kestrel, black-throated diver and great bustard. Another 25 species are still threatened in Europe, but now have a lower extinction risk than a decade ago, and have seen their threat level downlisted. For example, Zino’s Petrel and Azores Bullfinch, both previously considered to be Critically Endangered, are now classified as Endangered.

Download the European Red List of Birds report from the Birdlife International website (pdf)


Road Verge Campaign launches for 2015 - Plantlife

One of the most important & frequently viewed habitats in the country is still being destroyed. But there's hope...

A new Plantlife study shows that Britain’s road verges are home to 703 species of wild plants, more than in any other part of our landscape, and 87 of them are either threatened with extinction or heading that way. In addition, 88% of these wild plants provide nectar and pollen for bees and other insects, making road verges essential refuges for insect life.

Image via PlantlifeBut in much of Britain road verges are still being needlessly cut down in full flower threatening the wildflowers and the wildlife that depend on them. Many councils have already started cutting verges - much too early in the year for flowers to be able set seed, and greatly reducing one of the most important food banks for our ailing bees and other pollinators. 

Under threat. Vistas like these are important for butterflies and bees. Image via Plantlife

Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife’s Botanical Specialist, explains, “Over 97% of meadows have been destroyed in England since the 1930s. In many areas, rural road verges are the last remaining stretches of natural habitat for our wildlife. Road safety is the absolute priority, but we know that verges can be managed better for wildlife whilst remaining safe for motorists. This means adopting some simple changes to management – like a delay in cutting to allow seed to be set - so that wildflowers can thrive”.

21 of the 25 Nation's Favourite Wildflowers grow on road verges. From cowslips and bluebells in spring to swathes of cow parsley and ox-eye daisies in early summer, our verges are home to most of the 25 favourite wild flowers as voted for by the public. And with 30 million drivers in the UK, they’re the most frequently viewed habitat too, providing many people with their only regular daily contact with nature. Bird’s-foot trefoil alone is a food plant for 132 species of insect.

Plantlife has produced new management guidelines and is urging the public to sign a petition asking local councils to adopt them. Some councils are leading the way. Trials in Dorset, for example, are investigating how to combat the over-vigorous growth of grass on fertile verges (which is both detrimental to wildflowers and obscures driver sight-lines), by stripping turf, using semi-parasitic yellow rattle to stunt grass growth and even grazing verges with sheep. Plantlife is helping to showcase the work of councils like Dorset to show others that it can be done. Our guidelines are being currently being applied to 11,700 km of verge covering 2,300 hectares of verges – that’s equivalent to 2.5 times the area of remaining upland hay meadow in the UK - and with the public’s support we can do even more. 


Great Stag Hunt Survey- Precious Time is Running Out for Britain’s Largest Beetle - People’s Trust for Endangered Species

Stag Beetle via PTESOne of Britain’s most recognisable and unique species, the stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) is unfortunately becoming increasingly rare to find. For fifteen years, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has been actively working to halt the decline of this iconic insect. PTES is asking volunteers to join their annual Great Stag Hunt Survey and record any sightings of stag beetles. The survey, which can be found on their website, www.ptes.org, is easy to use and with your input, PTES can better understand how stag beetles numbers are faring in the UK. By the end of May this year, only 384 stag beetles have been recorded, so all contributions are vital to this survey.

Image via PTES

For much of their life cycle, stag beetles stay underground as larvae, feeding on rotten wood for up to seven years before building large ovoid cocoons and eventually metamorphosing into their more recognisable form. Given that they take so much time to develop, it is a shame that fully formed stag beetles can only be expected to survive around three months above ground. Threatened by significant loss of habitat and human interactions, adult stag beetles are also at risk from cats and magpies. If they manage to avoid an early departure, then the winter months will finish the job.

Unfortunately, the stag beetle’s tough exterior and formidable looking mandibles encourages some people to kill them without realising they are not harmful to humans. Others, who believe the larvae can destroy living wood or timber are also misinformed, as larvae only feed on decaying wood underground. Added to which, their attraction to the warmth of tarmac and being hunted by natural predators, stag beetles don’t currently stand much of a chance at finding a mate and reproducing before the summer ends.


Forests as places of mental well-being for people with dementia – Forestry Commission

This Research Note is based on a PhD research study ‘Forests as places of mental well-being: the meaning and use of urban forests by people with early-stage dementia’. The study examines and develops ways for people with dementia (especially those in the early stages) to engage with nature, and with other people, in the context of trees, woodlands and forests. Initial results from the study found that a pilot programme of activities, led by Forestry Commission Scotland rangers in an urban woodland setting, provided an overwhelmingly positive experience for people with early-stage dementia, by offering meaningful experiences that contributed to well-being and feelings of self-worth. The woodland environment also provided a ‘library’ of resources and stimulation. The programme helped people with early-stage dementia remain active and connected within the community, enabling them to maintain their independence for as long as possible, and provided support for carers. Such programmes can be seen as a new and innovative way of engaging with people with early-stage dementia, which could complement traditional therapeutic interventions. As the Note stresses, an ‘end of the road’ approach to people with dementia is no longer acceptable. We need to explore more ways of providing care with an emphasis on empowerment and maintaining the best possible quality of life. It is hoped that this Note will provide a valuable resource, not only for people who manage woodlands and other green spaces, but also for health-care professionals.

Download the Research Note here (pdf)


Novel research will unravel Europe-wide patterns of bird migration and distribution - BTO

The EuroBirdPortal (EBP) project and its demo viewer (www.eurobirdportal.org) will be launched tomorrow (Friday 5 June) in Brussels as part of Green Week 2015, the annual conference on European environment policy organised by the European Commission.

The EBP project is a new initiative of the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) through which  European on-line bird recording schemes will collaborate to research European-wide seasonal distributional changes, migratory patterns, and migration timing of  birds and to understand how these patterns are changing over time. EBP data for Britain and Ireland come from the BirdTrack project (www.birdtrack.net) which allows birdwatchers to record their observations online and to contribute to conservation science.

Gabriel Gargallo, EBP Project Coordinator, commented, "The EBP project will allow a better knowledge of the patterns of bird distribution in space and time across Europe and, thus, help to properly address several issues of high concern in relation to bird conservation and management."

Unlike more traditional monitoring projects, which focus on structured data collection, online bird recording portals aim to obtain year-round data from the relatively unstructured but intensive and widespread activities of birdwatchers. However, the vast amount of data contained in these portals and the sheer scale of coverage offer great possibilities for research on the temporal and spatial distribution of birds across large geographical areas. To deliver the full potential of these possibilities, the EBP objective is to create a common data repository and to promote protocols and mechanisms for data sharing and analyses at a European scale.

To help attain these goals the EBP project already includes 29 partners running online bird recording schemes in 21 European countries. The partnership involves biodiversity data centres and key ornithological institutions in their respective countries, enabling the collection of high quality monitoring data from tens of thousands of volunteer birdwatchers and turning this information in sound science. 


Frogs face virus risk in garden ponds – University of Exeter

Pond owners are being urged not to use garden chemicals, or to release goldfish into ponds, because of the risk they could pose to wild frogs.

Researchers from the University of Exeter found that the severity of ranavirosis, a devastating disease that kills thousands of frogs each year, increases in the presence of exotic fish. The use of garden chemicals was also associated with increased severity of the disease.

The study, which is published in the journal PLOS ONE, highlights the risks of releasing fish into garden ponds.  Fish may amplify viral levels in the environment or cause stress hormone production that reduces immune function in wild frogs.  

Lead author Alexandra North from the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall said: “Our results show that we can all help limit the impact of this devastating disease. It is important to reduce the use of garden chemicals like slug pellets and weed killers, which weaken the immune systems of frogs, and to stop stocking ponds with non-native species like goldfish. Crucially, people should not move fish, frog spawn, pond weeds or ornaments from one pond to another as this could spread the disease.”

The researchers analysed a long term dataset of mortalities in the common frog from across Britain to identify which characteristics were associated withranavirosis. Since 1992, UK pond owners have reported common frog mass mortality events to the charity Froglife which administers the dataset.

Ranavirus causes systemic haemorrhaging and severe skin ulcers in amphibians which can result in a loss of limbs, and often death. It is thought to have entered the UK via the pet trade and has contributed to the global decline in amphibians.

Anthropogenic and Ecological Drivers of Amphibian Disease (Ranavirosis) by AC North, DJ Hodgson, SJ Price and AGF Griffiths is published in PLOS ONE.


Best year yet for British bustards – Great Bustard Group

2015 marks the 12th year of the trial reintroduction of the Great Bustard to Britain, and the 11th annual release of birds. The project has given the Great Bustard Group a steep and steady learning curve with improvements being made each year.

The biggest breakthrough came in 2013 with the first release of Great Bustards reared from Spanish eggs. Prior to this the GBG had operated an egg rescue programme in Saratov in the Russian Federation, but a genetic study undertaken by Dr. Paul O’Donoghue at the University of Chester showed that the Spanish birds were closest to the original UK population.

Eggs, collected under licence in Castilla La Mancha, have been transported to the UK for the last two years with collection undertaken early in the season to encourage the females to lay a second clutch. The eggs are transported to Madrid Zoo where incubation is continued until they are moved to Birdworld, a specialist bird park in Farnham, Surrey. Here the team continue the incubation and oversee the hatching of the eggs.

The day old chicks are then taken to the GBG Project Site in Wiltshire and reared by the Great Bustard Group. The chicks need to be bill fed with a puppet and exercised as they grow so the rearing team wear dehumanisation suits to stop the chicks becoming attached to humans.

Last year, the first using Spanish Great Bustards, saw 33 birds released and a spring census showed a survival rate of over 50% through the first winter. This percentage is much better than was achieved when using chicks imported from Russia, and is significantly better than the 22% which may be expected in a natural wild population.

2015 promises to an excellent year for the wild UK Great Bustard population, with at least four nests discovered in Wiltshire and healthy chicks already seen.


Resumption of aerial application of fungicide trial in Millbuie Forest, Black Isle – Forestry Commission Scotland

Forestry Commission Scotland is to resume its assessment trials of an aerial application technique to help reduce the impacts of a serious fungal disease of pine woodlands.

A 14 hectare area on the national forest estate within the 2,500 hectare Millbuie Forest on the Black Isle will be treated with a fungicide that has had a long history of use in agriculture to see if the technique could potentially mitigate the impact of Dothistroma needle blight.

Weather conditions permitting, the trial is expected to take place over one hour, on one day, between 11 June and 5 July, with initial monitoring work by Forest Research being completed the same day.

It follows from a similar test in 2013 on a 5 hectare Scots pine site in Monaughty forest near Elgin. The planned 2014 trial was postponed due mainly to unsuitable weather conditions during the application ‘window’.

Hugh Clayden, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Tree Health Policy Adviser, said: “Scotland’s forests, including our precious Caledonian pinewoods, are an intrinsic, vitally important economic and environmental asset. Limiting significant damage to them from tree pests and diseases is a continuing challenge and we need to consider all options when looking at the most effective way of managing these threats. One disease in particular - Dothistroma needle blight – is already widespread and could pose an increasing threat to these woodlands. These trials will help us determine whether this aerial application technique has a place in future disease management strategies. "We will assess whether there is any significant impact on non-target species - such as fungi, lichens, insects and plants - and we are also looking to see if there are other, more effective fungicide products that could be considered for aerial application.”

The copper fungicide being applied in the tests poses no risk to human or animal health and has long been used on cereal and potato crops. It has also been used successfully in forest applications in New Zealand over several decades. 


Stoats present real and long-term challenge on Orkney - SNH

Stoats on Orkney are likely to cause long-term damage to native species – in particular to the native Orkney vole population – and should be managed, a new report commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has recommended.

The unwelcome predator has been introduced over the past five years. There is some evidence its presence could lead to significant dips in populations of Orkney voles and hen harriers. There is also concern that stoat numbers, if unchecked, could affect the wildlife tourism industry by depriving it of species of interest for visitors to watch.

For instance the value to Scotland’s economy of nature based tourism is £1.4 billion a year and 39,000 jobs (full-time equivalent) are reliant on Scotland’s nature-based tourism. Figures for Orkney from 2011 show sustainable tourism ‘gross value added’ £14.2 million.

Stoats, the report states, are likely to be present in sufficient numbers to cause a population dip in the numbers of Orkney voles. There are 380 ‘reliable’ sightings of stoats since 2010, with detections going up since initial records in that year.

The new report involves wildlife management experts at the University of Aberdeen. They have advised on the impact the stoats could have on the ecology of the Orkney islands and provide advice on potential solutions.  And the stoats could also have a negative impact on already scarce populations of hen harriers and short eared owls by depriving them of prey.

The report concludes that management of the stoats is required to reduce or remove the population. To meet this challenge SNH has established a technical advisory group made up of experienced staff from SNH; renowned academics and representatives of partners like RSPB with the aim of bringing a management project forward, securing funding, and establishing a plan of action.

SNH believes this must be delivered with the support of the community and land management sectors, and is keen to work with them and welcome their interest as the project is developed.

Click Here to download the report 


£3.2m National Lottery grant to help tackle serious path erosion on iconic Scottish peaks - Heritage Lottery Fund

A project which brings together Scotland’s two National Park Authorities to address the serious threat of man-made erosion to paths across areas of outstanding natural beauty has been given a major boost with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) today (5/6/15) announcing a grant of £3.26million.

Vital works undertaken on Ben Lomond  (image: Mick McGurk, from HLF)Vital works undertaken on Ben Lomond  (image: Mick McGurk, from HLF)

Taking in iconic peaks such as Ben Lomond, Ben A’an, Beinn A Ghlo and Lochnagar, the Mountains and the People project will tackle some of the worst path erosion problems in Scotland by training young people and volunteers to care for the upland landscapes and habitats.

The project will give 48 young people the opportunity to learn essential countryside skills while gaining SVQ accreditation to help them into employment. Additionally, a volunteer programme will recruit, train and support volunteers in carrying out basic construction work, maintenance and habitat management, while visitors will be given information to ensure that they don’t damage the special environment that they have come to enjoy through talks, events and social media.

In total, a distance of 124.5km of eroded upland paths will be restored and upgraded. They will then be monitored through an Adopt-a-Path programme through which regular users of the paths will provide feedback on their condition, enabling problems to be tackled before they become a major issue.

Colin McLean, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland, said: “Scotland’s National Parks encompass some of the country’s most iconic landscapes and are vital for their contribution to tourism as well as for the health and social benefits of the millions of people that enjoy them. Thanks to National Lottery players, we are delighted to be able to support a project which encourages people to take ownership of this rich heritage. Their newly-learned skills will not only make a positive difference to their own lives but will play an important part in looking after the future of Scotland’s magnificent landscapes.”

Dougie Baird, Chief Executive of the Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust (COAT), added: “The Mountains and The People is a project designed to bring the people of Scotland together to help look after some of Scotland’s most precious national assets – the mountains of our National Parks. Mountains in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and the Cairngorms are so important for nature and as places people can escape the hustle and bustle of modern life. The HLF funding means we can now get started and with all partners help protect the Scottish landscape for millions of people to enjoy.”


More details from Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park - £6.1M boost for Scottish National Park Mountains

 ‘Scotland’s National Parks - The Mountains and The People’ is a five-year project that aims to engage people in protecting and maintaining cherished Scottish peaks and create training opportunities for 48 young people  

A partnership led by the Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust (COAT) has today welcomed the award of £3.28m by the Heritage Lottery Fund to ‘Scotland’s National Parks - The Mountains and The People’ project, which will protect the mountains of Scotland’s National Parks and engage the people of Scotland in caring for upland landscapes.

The project represents the coming together of Scotland’s two National Parks – Cairngorms National Park and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park – to work on a scale never previously attempted and in conjunction with COAT, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland over a five-year period.

Scotland’s National Parks - The Mountains and The People’ project comprises six different elements.


Aluminium: A new factor in the decline of bee populations? - Keele University

A new scientific study has found very high amounts of aluminium contamination in bees, raising the question of whether aluminium-induced cognitive dysfunction is playing a role in the decline of bumblebee populations.

Aluminium is the Earth’s most ubiquitous ecotoxicant and is already known to be responsible for the death of fish in acid lakes, forest decline in acidified and nutrient impoverished catchments, and low crop productivity on acid sulphate soils. Now, a collaboration between Professors Chris Exley (Keele University) and Dave Goulson (University of Sussex) raises questions on the role of aluminium in the decline of the bumblebee.

Previous research had suggested that when bees forage for nectar they do not actively avoid nectar which contains aluminium. This prompted the suggestion by Exley and Goulson that bees may be accumulating aluminium within their life cycle. Researchers at University of Sussex collected pupae from colonies of naturally foraging bumblebees and sent them to Keele University where their aluminium content was determined.

The pupae were found to be heavily contaminated with aluminium, with individual contents ranging from between and 13 and nearly 200 ppm. Smaller pupae had significantly higher contents of aluminium.

To put these aluminium contents in some context, a value of 3 ppm would be considered as potentially pathological in human brain tissue. While preliminary, these data have shown the significant accumulation of aluminium in at least one stage of the bumblebee life cycle and suggest the possibility of another stressor contributing to the decline in its numbers.

Professor Exley, a leading authority on human exposure to aluminium, from Keele University said: "It is widely accepted that a number of interacting factors are likely to be involved in the decline of bees and other pollinators – lack of flowers, attacks by parasites, and exposure to pesticide cocktails, for example. Aluminium is a known neurotoxin affecting behaviour in animal models of aluminium intoxication. Bees, of course, rely heavily on cognitive function in their everyday behaviour and these data raise the intriguing spectre that aluminium-induced cognitive dysfunction may play a role in their population decline – are we looking at bees with Alzheimer’s disease?” 

Read the paper: Exley C, Rotheray E, Goulson D (2015) Bumblebee Pupae Contain High Levels of Aluminium. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0127665. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127665


Scientific Publications 

Ana Rita Domingues, Sara Moreno Pires, Sandra Caeiro, Tomás B. Ramos, Defining criteria and indicators for a sustainability label of local public services, Ecological Indicators, Volume 57, October 2015, Pages 452-464, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.05.016.


Tian Gao, Anders Busse Nielsen, Marcus Hedblom, Reviewing the strength of evidence of biodiversity indicators for forest ecosystems in Europe, Ecological Indicators, Volume 57, October 2015, Pages 420-434, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: /10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.05.028. 


Will B. Kirby , Paul E. Bellamy , Andrew J. Stanbury , Andrew J. Bladon , Phil V. Grice , Simon Gillings Breeding season habitat associations and population declines of British Hawfinches Coccothraustes coccothraustes Bird Study DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2015.1046368


Eri Ohgushi, Chihiro Mori and Kazuhiro Wada  Diurnal oscillation of vocal development associated with clustered singing by juvenile songbirds. Journal of Experimental Biology  DOI: 10.1242/​jeb.115105


Hatch, Joshua M., Wiley, David, Murray, Kimberly T., Welch, Linda  Integrating satellite-tagged seabird and fishery-dependent data: a case study of Great Shearwaters (Puffinus gravis) and the U.S. New England sink gillnet fishery.  Conservation Letters DOI: 10.1111/conl.12178


Marco, Moreno Di, Butchart, Stuart H. M., Visconti, Piero, Buchanan, Graeme M., Ficetola, Gentile F., Rondinini, Carlo  Synergies and trade-offs in achieving global biodiversity targets.  Conservation Biology  DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12559


Nel, Jeanne L., Roux, Dirk J., Driver, Amanda, Hill, Liesl, Maherry, Ashton, Snaddon, Kate, Petersen, Chantel, Smith-Adao, Lindie B., Van Deventer, Heidi, Reyers, Belinda.  Knowledge co-production and boundary work to promote implementation of conservation plans.  Conservation Biology  DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12560


Abrams, R. W. (2015), Why we should help people understand our scientific literature. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12543



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