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


Study finds pet owners reluctant to face up to their cats’ kill count – Queen Mary University London

Cat owners fail to realise the impact of their cat on wildlife according to new research, published today, from QMUL and the University of Exeter.

Image: Queen Mary University LondonCats are increasingly earning themselves a reputation as wildlife killers with estimates of animals killed every year by domestic cats in the UK numbering into the millions. This new study on the attitudes of cat owners suggests that proposals to keep cats indoors in order to preserve wildlife would not be well received.

Image: Queen Mary University London

The researchers studied cats from two UK villages, Mawnan Smith in Cornwall and Thornhill near Stirling. They found that although cat owners were broadly aware of whether their cat was predatory or not, those with a predatory cat had little idea of how many prey items it typically caught.

Regardless of the amount of prey returned by their cats, the majority of cat owners did not agree that cats are harmful to wildlife and were against suggestions that they should keep their cat inside as a control measure. They were however willing to consider neutering which is generally associated with cat welfare.

The results, which are published in Ecology and Evolution, indicate that management options to control cat predation are likely to be unsuccessful unless they focus on cat welfare.

Professor Matthew Evans, Professor of Ecology at Queen Mary University of London, said: “In this paper we examined how aware cat owners were of the predatory behaviour of their pet. Owners proved to be remarkably unaware of the predatory behaviour of their cat, they also did not agree with any measures that might limit the impact that cats have on local wildlife. This study illustrates how difficult it would be to change the behaviour of cat owners if they are both unaware of how many animals are killed by their pet and resistant to control measures. This presents conservationists who might be attempting to reduce cat predation with serious difficulties, as owners disassociate themselves from any conservation impacts of their cat and take the view that cat predation is a natural part of the ecosystem.”


Nominations open for 2015 National Parks Volunteer Awards – National Parks UK

The UK's National Parks are now accepting nominations for the annual National Parks Volunteer Awards. The Awards are a way of thanking volunteers for the thousands of hours of service they offer up each year to help make the National Parks some of Britain's most treasured landscapes.

Nominations are being accepted in four categories – Individual, Young Person, Group, and Project. The group and project winners will receive a £1,000 bursary toward future volunteering efforts. The individual and young person winners will receive outdoor gear. Nominations are being accepted until midnight 20 September 2015.

"The Volunteer Awards are among our favourite projects of the year," said National Parks UK Director Kathryn Cook. "We love the awards because they serve as an opportunity to celebrate all the amazing and inspirational work taking place across the 15 National Parks. The awards recognise the hard work of volunteers deemed to have gone above and beyond the usual expectations of volunteer service. Past award recipients include a young man who travelled by bus and sometimes skateboard to attend volunteer events, a fascinating project to "heal" the damage caused by wildfire with wool, and an inspiring individual who found volunteering helps ease the challenges caused by mental health issues.”

Unintended consequences of Land Reform plans revealed - BASC

Image: BASCThe British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has warned that the removal of sporting rates relief will have devastating consequences for rural Scotland and will damage rural livelihoods, conservation, jobs and tourism. BASC has published evidence revealing the far-reaching and negative unintended consequences the plans will have for Scotland.

Image: BASC

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill proposes the reintroduction of sporting rates for shoots and deer forests. Much of shooting in Scotland is run as much as a recreation as a business and 88% of shooting businesses either break even or run at a loss. This additional tax burden – including an increase of up to 58% on employment related tax burdens – would result in shoot closures and job losses in rural Scotland which is already vulnerable in terms of social and economic disadvantage. Job losses in these areas would hit local communities particularly hard.


Urgent action needed now to avoid increasing costs and impacts of climate change in the UK - Committee on Climate Change

Early action in the new Parliament is needed to keep the UK’s emissions reductions on track and to adapt to climate change, the Committee on Climate Change says today.

Image: Committee on Climate ChangeImage: Committee on Climate Change

Many policies designed to reduce future emissions are due to expire over the course of this Parliament. This includes funding for low-carbon electricity and heat, measures to encourage low-emission vehicle use and energy efficiency. Uncertainty created by the lack of policies after 2020 will lead to stop-start investment, higher costs for all and risks failing to meet legal obligations to reduce emissions.

The UK also needs to prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change caused by continuing emissions. The Committee’s evaluation of the UK National Adaptation Programme concludes that more households will be at high risk of flooding, despite the increase in spending on flood defence. In addition, farming in some of the most productive parts of the country is at risk within a generation, and higher temperatures pose risks to health that are not being properly addressed.



RSPB response to Committee on Climate Change report: Wildlife must not be overlooked

27% of blanket bog have lost peat-forming vegetation due to regular burning (Image: RSPB - Jerry Wilson)27% of blanket bog have lost peat-forming vegetation due to regular burning (Image: RSPB - Jerry Wilson)

The RSPB is urging Government not to overlook wildlife as the UK responds to the impacts of climate change outlined in a major report released today [Tuesday 30th June]. 

The Committee on Climate Change report highlights that the UK is heavily exposed to the likely effects of climate change.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, added: “We know that wildlife across Britain will be increasingly affected by climate change – we’re already seeing changes on RSPB nature reserves and in the wider countryside. This report on the early stages of the UK’s adaptation plans should serve as a wake-up call to Government about the natural environment. It shows that some progress has been made but there is still a great deal of work to do in order to safeguard nature and avoid the worst impacts on people and nature.”


Uniting nations for a green and pleasant land – GWCT

The way we manage the land is changing. A new report highlights a way which is better for wildlife, crop production, soil and water, as well as people.

A ground-breaking study reviewing The Role of Agroecology in Sustainable Intensification has taken a multi-national approach. It was commissioned by the Land Use Policy Group (LUPG), funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural Resources Wales and written by two leading English farming research institutions; the Organic Research Centre, and the GWCT’s Allerton Project.

A new report on agroecology shows how farmed land can provide for wildlife as well as people and do it better for both. (Credit: Malcolm Brockless, GWCT)A new report on agroecology shows how farmed land can provide for wildlife as well as people and do it better for both. (Credit: Malcolm Brockless, GWCT)

Dr Alastair Leake from the GWCT’s Allerton Project and contributor to the report explains; “We are now demanding more and more from our farmed land, requiring it to increase food production to cope with a rapidly expanding national population while delivering more for nature and people. To do this we need to have the right tools in the box and to share knowledge on how we inject agroecology into sustainable intensification.”

The 151 page report covers big issues and takes a close look at the relationship between sustainable intensification and agroecology. Both are wide ranging subjects and the report raises important questions, particularly on how readily these concepts will be adopted by the average farming business in England, Scotland and Wales without loss of productivity and economic viability.

To download the full report here


New strain of amphibian fungus found in the UK - ZSL

Studies have shown the endangered great crested newt is highly susceptible to the pathogen. Image (c) Mihai Leu. A newly-discovered species of chytrid fungus which can infect and kill a wide range of newts and salamanders has been found in captive UK populations for the first time by scientists from the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL’s) Institute of Zoology. 

Studies have shown the endangered great crested newt is highly susceptible to the pathogen. Image (c) Mihai Leu.

Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (B.sal) has become established in a few wild amphibian populations in parts of Europe where it is causing devastating population declines. It is thought to be spread internationally by the amphibian trade.

ZSL is now urging all concerned, including people who have pet amphibians, amphibian keepers, pet traders and scientists, to take great care and take simple measures to prevent this new strain from spreading to wild amphibian populations. Species at risk in the wild include the endangered great crested newt, which studies have shown is highly susceptible to the pathogen.


Green Light Given to New Potash Mine – North York Moors NPA

Plans for the world’s largest potash mine were today (30 June) approved by Members of the North York Moors National Park Authority (NYMNPA). The mine head at Dove’s Nest Farm near Whitby and much of its associated infrastructure will be within the North York Moors, a very sensitive and highly protected landscape.

Andy Wilson, Chief Executive of the NYMNPA said: “Today’s decision is the culmination of hard work, of thorough examination and in-depth discussions of the largest planning application this National Park, and indeed any English National Park, has had to consider. I appreciate that there will be many disappointed by today’s decision but Members felt that the long term benefits for the local, regional and national economy were transformational. This truly exceptional nature plus the measures proposed by the company to mitigate harm and deliver widespread environmental benefits to the Park over a long period of time tipped the balance in favour of approval.”

Members acknowledged the considerable harm a development the size of the proposed mine will have on the special qualities of the North York Moors, particularly during the construction phase. They felt however that the projected long-term economic and social benefits to some of the most deprived parts of the region outweighed these concerns and provided the truly exceptional circumstances required by national planning policy to grant approval to a major development within a National Park.

The applicant, York Potash, estimates that the new potash mine could create up to 1,000 jobs and would also bring revenue benefits at a national level. Resources to compensate for the harmful impacts of the development will be paid by the Company over 100 years. The funding will be used for a variety of projects including tree planting and increased promotion of the wider North York Moors to potential visitors. The long term impacts of these would be of huge benefit to the biodiversity of the Park.

The NYMNPA will work closely with York Potash during the construction phase and beyond to ensure the detailed conditions associated with the approval of the plans are met.


The Directors of Sirius Minerals Plc provide an update on the approvals process for the York Potash Project. 

Chris Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of Sirius, comments: 'This is really just the beginning for the Company - we have made a major step forward and now have a pathway to reaching production and unlocking ever more value for our shareholders. We are grateful to the members of the Authority for their positive consideration of the application and we thank our many loyal supporters, investors and customers for their patience in helping us to get to this stage. The case for the Project has always been compelling because it will not only generate so many jobs and economic benefits, but also because it is accompanied by such extensive mitigations, safeguards and environmentally sensitive design.  We now look forward to delivering it."

The Company will provide a separate update to the market next week which will provide a full status update and detail the next steps and milestones on the way to reaching first production. 


Media Statement on the result of the North York Moors National Park Authority Special Planning Meeting to discuss York Potash application - Campaign for National Parks

Following the North York Moors National Park Authority decision today to approve the York Potash application, Ruth Bradshaw, Policy and Campaigns Manager at the Campaign for National Parks said: “We’re really disappointed that NPA members have approved the construction of the world’s largest potash mine in the North York Moors. We have long maintained that this project is completely incompatible with National Park purposes and that the promised economic benefits could never justify the huge damage that it would do to the area’s landscape and wildlife and to the local tourism economy. There was clear evidence of the planning grounds for refusing this project in the report produced by NPA officers but there has also been huge pressure for NPA members to approve a project which has been widely promoted as bringing employment to the area, even though many of the jobs will not go to local people. The only way to ensure that the full implications of this extensive proposal, with its multiple and complex applications  is for there to be a public inquiry covering the whole of the York Potash project and for the final decision to be made by the Secretary of State. We called for such a public inquiry months ago as it would ensure that decisions are based on an accurate understanding of the overall costs and benefits of the whole project and would allow expert witnesses to provide evidence on some of the complex issues that need to be considered. Given there are strong planning grounds for refusing this application, we are confident that any public inquiry would result in today’s decision being overturned so we can finally see an end to this threat to the North York Moors. As a last resort, we will also be considering a legal challenge of the decision, given that this is such an important test case of the protection for National Parks in national planning policy. We have six weeks to apply for a judicial review so we now need to decide whether there are grounds for such a challenge,”

Other reactions to yesterday's planning decision:

North York Moors National Park authority approves York Potash application – Open Spaces Society


Third Heathrow runway would be full frontal assault on Green Belt and tranquillity - CPRE

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) condemned today’s decision of the Airports Commission to recommend a third runway at Heathrow.

If it is ever built, the proposed Heathrow north western runway would be expected to:

  • Destroy 694 hectares of Green Belt and 60 hectares of woodland;
  • Wreck tranquillity in parks and gardens with impacts likely to spread into the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty;
  • Destroy up to 950 homes and require up to 70,800 new homes to be built by 2030, with many more being required afterwards – all in an area of acute housing pressure;
  • Produce 54.6% of the UK’s aviation carbon emissions in 2050.

Ralph Smyth, transport campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments: “The recommendation today for a third runway at Heathrow casts a dark shadow over a wide swathe of the south east. Besides the destruction of much of the ancient village of Harmondsworth to make way for the new runway, a much wider area is at threat. On top of the almost relentless din of jet engines, runaway development and traffic would shatter the remaining fragments of tranquil countryside in the south east, already one of the most densely overflown areas in the world. All of the options short-listed by the Airports Commission would have a devastating impact on the countryside, directly as well as indirectly. But, equally, they would undermine the national imperative of rebalancing our economy away from the overheated south east. London already has 50% more flights to it than any other city in the world and enough’s enough. We believe that the growing political consensus over the need for a Northern Powerhouse will effectively pull the rug from under the Commission’s report . We now need a national spatial plan to rebalance growth and aviation, making the most of the ample spare capacity in other airports. While the Airports Commission in some ways set new standards for public engagement, it was clear that its terms of reference were rigged from the start. Another new runway in the south east was the foregone conclusion, preventing proper consideration of greater use of high speed rail or an ambitious regional rebalancing strategy.” 


Large-scale changes in environment revealed through land cover map of the UK – University of Leicester

CORINE land cover map 2012 for the UK Large-scale changes to the environment of the United Kingdom, including an apparent loss of habitats and agricultural land, have been revealed through an updated national map of land cover launched by Leicester researchers together with consultancy company Specto Natura.

University of Leicester free land cover map of the UK reveals national loss of habitats and agricultural land

CORINE land cover map 2012 for the UK

A map of Leicestershire’s land cover in 2012 has also been made available, showing artificial surfaces, agricultural areas, forest areas, wetlands and water bodies in the county.  

Professor Heiko Balzter, Director of the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research at the University of Leicester and leader of the study, said: “Environmental information from satellites is hugely important to keep a check on the quality of life in the UK. The European land monitoring service turns satellite data into policy-relevant information. The CORINE map is the only consistent European information on land cover change that allows a comparison with our neighbours.”

The 2006-2012 land cover map reveals that an area of 225,200 hectares (over 2,250 km2) or 1% of the total area of the UK showed a change in land cover / use from 2006 to 2012. Altogether, 167 different types of change were seen from the satellite images.

The dominant change was clear-cutting of coniferous forest (over 100,000 hectares). Almost 50,000 hectares were regrowing or being replanted with coniferous forest, but clear-cutting far exceeded replanting of coniferous forest.

In addition to the new land cover map, the previous 2006 land cover map has also been corrected by the team and updated to make sure the change results more closely reflect reality.


We're backing beavers - RSPB

Wet woodland habitat created by beavers is valuable for many other creatures, too. Image: Jane Sears via RSPBWe’ve written to Dr Aileen McLeod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, calling for the beaver to be fully reintroduced and recognised by the Scottish Government as a resident, native species in Scotland. 

And we’re not alone – RSPB Scotland is just one member of a coalition of more than 20 Scottish environmental organisations, all calling for beavers to make a comeback.

The group also wants the current wild populations in mid-Argyll and Tayside to be added to, and is pushing for permission for further licensed releases across other appropriate areas of Scotland. 

Wet woodland habitat created by beavers is valuable for many other creatures, too. Image: Jane Sears via RSPB

The organisations, which, combined, represent more than a quarter of a million members, agree that a positive outcome for beavers will help ensure that Scotland continues to position itself at the forefront of international biodiversity conservation. We see beavers as a missing element in Scottish environment. There is both an ecological and moral imperative to restore this ‘keystone’ species to benefit our depleted freshwater ecosystems. We also believe that the majority of Scotland’s people are ready and willing to live alongside beavers once again and that this strengthens Scotland’s reputation as a modern society that truly values its environment.

The organisations state that there is now sufficient suitable habitat in Scotland to support a thriving and self-sustaining beaver population. Existing research, and experiences from other European countries, show that beavers can flourish in a wide range of freshwater habitats, and that the restoration of beaver populations would have multiple benefits. Beavers would offer a valuable means of restoring freshwater habitats, and increasing the diversity and robustness of ecosystems in the face of threats such as climate change, habitat fragmentation and pollution from surrounding land. The collective agrees that, as a keystone species in wetland and freshwater ecosystems, the beaver will provide tangible and significant ecological benefits for a wide range of other species through the habitats and ecological niches they create, allowing other species to flourish.  


A boost for bees: £900 million Countryside Stewardship scheme - Defra

Bees are to benefit from £900 million for a new scheme to protect our countryside, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced today (1 July). Over the next five years the new Countryside Stewardship scheme will offer grants to help improve our environment and countryside – with £85 million set aside to support projects in 2016, including those that improve pollen and nectar sources. Bees and pollinators are one of four main priorities for the scheme, which is being run on a competitive basis for the first time this year.

Applications will be ranked and money only awarded to those who will make the biggest improvements in their local area. Extra points will be given to agreements working to support bees and pollinators and other farm wildlife. Work could include year-round food, shelter and nesting places that wild pollinators, birds and other farm wildlife need to survive and thrive; sowing nectar flower and winter bird food mixes; or increasing flower resources on grassland and on field margins and managing hedgerows.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: 'This is the first ever countryside stewardship scheme that specifically combines help for bees and pollinators as well as wildlife, woodland and rivers. This will mean more margins and meadows with colourful wildflowers in our countryside. Productive farming goes hand in hand with improving the environment.'

Evidence suggests there can be meaningful benefits for farm wildlife if the right combination of environmentally-friendly farming practices are adopted on just 3 per cent or more of land.

Countryside Stewardship grants will help pay for thousands of individual agreements across the country with a special focus on four priorities:

  • Wildlife and nature: restoring habitats, providing food and nesting places for birds, insects and other animals, creating areas for rare flowering plants and managing hedges
  • Pollinators: providing pollen and nectar sources and nesting places and ensuring the right resources for wild pollinators where they are most needed
  • Woodland: funding the creation of new woodland and supporting the management of existing woodlands
  • Water/flooding: making water cleaner and reducing risk of flooding by encouraging changes to farming practice (such as crop management), improving farm infrastructure and establishing woodland


Securing the future of soil and the goods and services it provides - new £1.6m project - Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

The world's soil resources are being put under increasing pressure and there is an urgent need to ensure that soils found across different landscapes continue to deliver vital goods and services for humans. A team of scientists, including from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), are now investigating through a new project how we can provide sustainable soil management practices in the face of current and future environmental change.

The project will see a collaborative team of scientists investigate how soils in different ecosystems, ranging from intensive agriculture through to extensive, semi-natural systems, support these ecosystem services, and to what extent they are able to cope with environmental pressures from climate change and human activity.

They will also look at how management might be used to improve the delivery of the vital ecosystem services provided by soils. The scientists will aim to identify which management practices will benefit the widest range of services, and where trade-offs, such as improving soil fertility but decreasing water quality, might occur.

Dr Rob Griffiths, Dr Niall McNamara and Dr Jeanette Whitaker from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology will work with scientists from Rothamsted Research, Lancaster University, the University of Aberdeen and Imperial College London on the £1.6 million project which is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council's Soils Security Programme.

Dr Rob Griffiths said, "Many of the ecosystem services provided by soils are dependent on the build-up of organic matter. It is incredible that we still don’t really understand the details of how vegetation turns into soil, and then how the soil is maintained under climate or land use change to provide us with these life-sustaining services."


Landfill funds help restore Upper Ray Meadows habitats for wading birds - BBOWT

Snipe via BBOWT credit Adam JonesRare wading birds could soon be a more familiar sight around the Upper River Ray area after plans to restore and enhance an area of floodplain meadows received a £130,000 funding boost.

Snipe will enjoy restored habitats at Upper Ray Meadows. Pic: Adam Jones

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust will begin a programme of work to help wildlife get access to wet areas within the Upper Ray Meadows nature reserve in April 2016, after receiving the money from grant-giving body WREN’s FCC Biodiversity Action Fund.

Estelle Bailey, the Trust’s Chief Executive, hopes the two-year project will create a lasting biodiversity hotspot suitable for breeding waders such as lapwing and curlew, as well as other threatened flora and fauna. Estelle said: “We are extremely grateful to WREN for backing the Upper River Ray - Enhancing and Restoring Floodplain Meadows project. Without support of this kind we really are in danger of losing some of our most endangered habitats, along with the rare and threatened species that rely on them for their survival.”


Reactions to yesterday's announcement about a third runway at Heathrow

Natural environment must not be sidelined as part of airports debate – Woodland Trust

Responding to today's announcement, Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust Chief Executive, said: “Regardless of today's recommendation, what must be recognised is that ‘environmental impact’ should not only be used, as has consistently been the case as part of the expansion debate, as a term to refer to noise and vibration in relation to people and their homes, with damage to the natural environment seemingly just a secondary complication. Any risk of loss or damage to the natural environment, and especially to irreplaceable habitats like ancient woodland or ancient trees, must be taken just as seriously, and every possible avenue investigated to avoid it if we are to adapt to threats such as climate change, and so that communities can exercise their right to a healthy lifestyle. In alignment with its manifesto commitment to deliver new infrastructure in an environmentally sensitive way, Government must now not only seek to avoid loss, but also to integrate new trees and woods into any development plans if expansion goes ahead as recommended by the Airports Commission today, remembering that this is not just about the footprint of a new runway, but all the surrounding development likely to be required that will add more strain on the UK’s natural environment in the long term.”


Wildlife sites threatened by proposed Heathrow expansion – London Wildlife Trust

London Wildlife Trust is disappointed – but unsurprised - to learn of the recommendation from the Davies Commission that a new North West runway at Heathrow Airport is the preferred option for airport expansion. 

The options considered by the Commission didn’t even consider expansion outside of London, or consider the case of no expansion; a fundamental flaw if the UK is to effectively meet its carbon emission targets and be a world leader on climate change adaptation. Specifically we are not convinced by the business case for expansion; official figures point to the trend of a 'general decline' in business flights, acknowledged by the Airports Commission itself. Only about 11% of flights abroad are now accounted for by business travel. UK regional airports have ample capacity to accommodate additional business routes if needed. However, there has been a huge growth of short-haul leisure flights including within Europe. Seven out of 10 of all flights are taken by just 15% of UK residents, yet all of London’s residents will be impacted by this recommendation. We urge the Government to reject the recommendation.


New tool will measure impact of man-made noise on sea-mammals – University of St Andrews

Harbour Porpoise A team of scientists from the University of St Andrews has developed a new computer modelling tool for assessing the impact of noise from human disturbance, such as offshore wind development, on marine mammal populations. The team, led by Professor John Harwood of the School of Biology, has created the interim Population Consequences of Disturbance (PCOD) framework for assessing the consequences of human-induced noise-disturbance on animal populations.

Image via University of St Andrews

Changes in natural patterns of animal behaviour and health resulting from them being disturbed may alter the conservation status of a population if the activity affects the ability of individuals to survive, breed or grow. However, information to forecast population-level consequences of such changes is often lacking. The project team developed an interim framework to assess impacts when evidence is sparse. Crucially, the model shows how daily effects of being disturbed, which are often straightforward to estimate, can be scaled by the duration of disturbance and to multiple sources of disturbance.

One important application for the PCOD framework is in the marine industry. Many industries use practices that involve the generation of underwater noise. These include shipping, oil and gas exploration, defence activities and port, harbour and renewable energy construction. For example, offshore wind turbines are installed using a method called ‘pile driving’ – which effectively involves a large hammer driving foundation posts into the seabed – which generates short pulsed sounds every few seconds. The potential risk of injury and/or disturbance to marine mammals during these noise-producing activities has been identified as a key consenting risk for offshore wind projects in UK waters, but many other noise sources are less stringently regulated.

The tool has been designed to use the kind of information that is likely to be provided by developers in Environmental Statements and Habitats Regulations Assessments, and currently covers five key priority species in the UK: bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises, minke whales, and harbour and grey seals. However, the approach can be applied to other marine and terrestrial species. 

The study is published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.


Double boost for species as major work starts at Angus river – Scottish Natural Heritage

Improvements at an Angus river as part of a £3.5 million UK project to improve habitat for freshwater pearl mussels and salmon are set to go ahead next week.

The Pearls in Peril project (PIP) will see 873 metres of boulder bank protection removed from sections of the River South Esk and its White Water tributary in Glen Clova and Glen Doll. Work is expected to start on 6 July.

The South Esk is a site of European importance as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for its pearl mussels and salmon. And it is high priority site due to an increase in illegal exploitation reported in the area. The bank protection was installed in the 1990s to limit riverbank erosion and channel movement. This reduced river habitat quality for freshwater pearl mussels, salmon and trout. And the boulders’ removal will make the riverbank more accessible for water voles around one of the restoration sites. This new population was only found last summer by PIP survey staff – the first record of these rare mammals for this part of Glen Clova.

Dr Lorna Wilkie, project officer from the Pearls in Peril Project, said: “Freshwater pearl mussels in the River South Esk have been affected by pollution, illegal fishing, and river engineering. Habitat loss has made it impossible for populations to recover. But by increasing suitable habitat for juvenile mussels and spawning salmon PIP aims to increase their number and distribution. Although changes to the river environment will be immediately noticeable, we do not expect to see an increase in the mussel population for many years. Freshwater pearl mussels are very slow-growing – they don’t start breeding until they are 15-20 years old and can live for up to 120 years. PIP is a project with long-term aims.”


Environment Agency reveals ‘secret seven’ fish – Environment Agency

A 400-million-year-old rare blood-sucking creature once eaten by Vikings and a relic from the Ice Age top the Environment Agency’s ‘secret seven’ list of England’s rarest fish, which it unveiled today.

The seven species are lamprey, Arctic charr, vendace, spined loach, allis shad, twaite shad and smelt. All seven species of fish are a conservation priority at a national and international level.

The reasons for their previous decline include historically poor water quality, barriers to migration and a changing climate. But now, all seven are starting to thrive again thanks to work by the Environment Agency and other conservation groups.

Alastair Driver, Environment Agency national biodiversity manager, said: 'These rare fish are the unknown jewels of our rivers. The Environment Agency has a range of projects to support them and although England’s rivers are the healthiest for 20 years, there is still more to be done to improve their chances. Reintroducing meanders, breeding fish and removing weirs are among our key work to help these little-known fish thrive.'


Ocean life facing a corrosive future - new report – IUCN

The ocean moderates human-induced global warming but at the cost of profound alterations to its physics, chemistry, ecology and ecosystems services. These are the findings of a report published today in Science by the Oceans 2015 Initiative and co-authored by IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Marine Vice Chair, Dan Laffoley.

The report evaluates and compares two scenarios under two potential carbon dioxide emissions pathways over this century. Both carry high risks to vulnerable ecosystems, such as warm-water corals and mid-latitude bivalve species (molluscs), but a business-as-usual scenario was projected to be particularly devastating with a high risk of widespread species mortalities.

Lead author, Jean-Pierre Gattuso, Senior Scientist at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France), hopes that the findings of the report will generate the political will to enforce meaningful cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, stating "The oceans have been minimally considered at previous climate negotiations; our study provides compelling arguments for a radical change at COP21 (the UN climate summit in Paris in December)".
Driven by 40% increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), the oceans have already undergone a series of major environmental changes in terms of ocean warming, ocean acidification and sea level rise. Whilst the report finds that emissions cuts in line with the Copenhagen Accord target of less than 2 degrees temperature rise by 2100 would ensure moderate impacts to all but the most vulnerable of species, failure to achieve this goal would lead to high impacts on all the marine organism groups considered. These include high-value species such as corals and finfish as well as pteropods (shell-bearing zooplankton) and krill that form the base of the oceanic food chain.
The report singles out ocean acidification as one of the highest risks with the biggest impacts; shellfish, corals and zooplankton are particularly at risk. "Signs of ocean acidification have now been detected in both hemispheres," warns Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme. "Once thought to be a problem for the future, acidification is already having economic repercussions today and, if carbon emissions continue to grow, these are set to grow rapidly."


Draconian Government cuts threaten the fabric of our English National Parks - Campaign for National Parks

Cuts of up to 40% in real terms to National Park Authority Government funding in England have led to more than 225 job losses over the past five years and huge impacts on the services they are able to provide. New information about the impacts of these cuts was published today (Fri) by the Campaign for National Parks. This was based on responses to Freedom of Information requests sent to all ten National Parks in England.

The cuts mean that National Park Authorities in England received £44.7m for 2015/6 compared with £56m in 2010/11. Based on an English population of 53.5m, National Parks cost the English taxpayer just 83.5p per year.

They have led to the closure of or reductions in public transport services – affecting people wanting to visit and explore our treasured landscapes. But they have also led to the closure of information centres, an end to much work to rights of way to keep footpaths open and a halt to many Authorities work on climate change, flood defence and conservation.

Project and programmes that have had to stop include:

  • Dartmoor National Park Authority has terminated its One Planet Dartmoor, the Sustainable Development Fund and its Action for Wildlife Initiative, which covered climate change, biodiversity and grants for local communities.
  • Northumberland National Park Authority has stopped its climate change and apprenticeship programmes; closed its sustainable business support and two of its three visitor centres.
  • Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has ended its events, branding, geodiversity, climate change, education and public transport programmes and stopped its Definitive Map (Rights of Way) designations.
  • North York Moors National Park Authority has stopped its flood prevention work, work on Green Lanes, climate change mitigation and adaptation work and managing its Definitive Map.
  • The Broads Authority has closed three of its six tourist information centres and withdrawn from virtually all rights of way maintenance.


Red kite confirmed shot in County Down – RSPB Northern Ireland

RSPB Northern Ireland has said its ‘worst fears have been confirmed’ after tests proved a red kite found dead in County Down was deliberately shot.

The female bird was discovered near Katesbridge on 20 May and it was recovered by the PSNI and the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group. The death is a real blow to the small population of this magnificent bird of prey in Northern Ireland.

Red kites were persecuted to extinction more than 200 years ago. Back in 2008 RSPB NI joined forces with the Welsh Kite Trust and the Golden Eagle Trust to reintroduce the species to Northern Ireland’s skies. The current population is thought to stand at around 14 breeding pairs and, although no further releases are planned, the charity is continuing to monitor the population.

It’s thought the population will only reach a sustainable level once around 50 pairs are established.

The bird which was found shot was born in Wales in 2010 and was part of the re-introduction scheme’s final release. It was also ‘adopted’ by Ballyclare High School in 2011 and given the name Fawkes. Teacher Dr Adrian Witherow said: “We are extremely disappointed about what has happened to Fawkes. Both the staff and pupils at Ballyclare High School were fully behind the red kite re-introduction scheme and it is a real shame that the bird which we have followed for a number of years has been deliberately targeted.” He added: “RSPB NI has offered us the chance to adopt a chick born this year, which will be doing to show our ongoing support for the project.”

The bird was found near a nest site usually occupied by a male and female known as Black K and Black M. Worryingly, they have not been seen in recent months and their nest, which was freshly lined in preparation for breeding, has not been active for weeks. 


And some good news to end the week…

Rare butterfly returns to Exmoor – Exmoor National Park

Heath Fritillary via Exmoor National ParkThe population of one of the UK’s rarest butterflies has been strengthened following the introduction of the Heath Fritillary to a new site in the Exmoor National Park.

Image via Exmoor National Park

Butterfly Conservation (BC) and the National Trust have worked closely with the National Park Authority to introduce the Heath Fritillary into newly created coppiced clearings at Hawkcombe near Porlock, Somerset. The butterfly is already found in a nearby heathland combe on the National Trust’s Holincote Estate at Halse Combe, around 3km from the introduction site.

Following extensive work by the Park Authority to create suitable coppice clearings within their woodland at Hawkcombe Wood, the right habitats have now been created and it is hoped the diminutive fritillary will thrive on the site following the introduction.

The Heath Fritillary is one of the UK’s rarest and most threatened butterflies and is restricted to just four locations in the UK - Exmoor on the Devon and Somerset border, the Tamar Valley on the Devon and Cornwall border, the Blean Woods in Kent and the South Essex Woodlands. Historically, the butterfly has been referred to as the ‘Woodman’s Follower’ as it is linked to the traditional coppice management of woodlands, following the cycle of cutting around a wood.

Jenny Plackett, Butterfly Conservation’s Two Moors Threatened Butterflies Project Officer, said: “I am really delighted that the butterflies have bred at the new site and made it through their first year. More colonies in Exmoor will undoubtedly make the population here stronger and we are hopeful that the butterfly will spread into new sites from Hawkcombe.”


Coquet Island reaches 100 - RSPB

Roseate TernThe UK’s rarest breeding seabird, the roseate tern, is enjoying a bumper breeding season on RSPB Coquet Island with a hundred pairs currently nesting at the Northumberland site.

It is a success story that can be attributed to a programme of ongoing conservation work over the past 15 years on the island, aimed at reversing the fortunes of the red-listed threatened species.

Image: Chris Gomersall via RSPB

Roseate terns have never been very common and have suffered global declines since the 20th century. RSPB Coquet Island, situated off the Northumberland coast, is their only regular UK breeding colony.

The RSPB began successfully managing the island for roseate tern conservation in 2000 with the introduction of nest boxes on specially created shingle terraces.

Paul Morrison, warden at RSPB Coquet Island, said:“The whole project kicked off when I visited Rockabill in Southern Ireland, which is home to Europe’s largest roseate tern colony. I noticed they used boxes there so I brought the idea back to Coquet Island. Roseates like to nest in tight communities in sheltered locations, so the boxes on terraces are perfect for them.” 

The nest boxes had an immediate effect with the number of pairs breeding on the island rising from 24 in 1999 to 34 the following year. Since then, the RSPB on Coquet Island has continued to turn around the fortunes of roseate terns in the face of continuing national decline.  


Scientific publications

Piper, A. T. et al. (2015) Response of seaward-migrating European eel (Anguilla anguilla) to manipulated flow fields. The Royal Society Proceedings B. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1098


Wenger, A. S. et al (2015) Effects of reduced water quality on coral reefs in and out of no-take marine reserves. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12576


Ogden, R. et al. (2015) Population structure and dispersal patterns in Scottish Golden Eagles Aquila chrysaetos revealed by molecular genetic analysis of territorial birds. Ibis. DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12282


Jantz, S. M. et al (2015) Future habitat loss and extinctions driven by land-use change in biodiversity hotspots under four scenarios of climate-change mitigation. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12549


McCloskey RM, Unsworth RKF. (2015) Decreasing seagrass density negatively influences associated fauna. PeerJ 3:e1053

We included an article about Dorset's Seagrass meadows in CJS Focus on Marine & Coastal Environments here.


Ou, M. et al. (2015) Responses of pink salmon to CO2-induced aquatic acidification. Nature Climate Change. doi:10.1038/nclimate2694


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