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


Health of seabirds threatened as 90 per cent swallow plastic – Imperial College London

Photo: Peter HarrimanPhoto: Peter Harriman

The majority of seabirds are swallowing pieces of plastic waste, a new study has found; many become unwell and some die as a result.

The number of birds found to have plastic in their stomachs has increased from 5% in 1960 to 80% in 2010, and an estimated 90% of all seabirds alive today have eaten plastic of some kind, according to a research paper published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Plastics including bags, bottle caps, and plastic fibres from synthetic clothes, wash out into the oceans from urban rivers, sewers and waste deposits. Birds mistake the brightly coloured items for food, or swallow them by accident. The items often block their guts so they cannot properly digest food, which causes them to lose weight, and can lead to their death.

CJS carried an article about marine pollution from the Marine Conservation Society in May's Focus on Marine & Coastal Environments. Read it here


National Survey Reveals Changing Status of Britain’s Whales and Dolphins – Sea Watch Foundation

The National Whale and Dolphin Watch, involving more than a thousand volunteers from all around the British Isles, conducted between 25th July and 2nd August, has revealed striking trends in the status and distribution of Britain’s Whales and Dolphins. Organised by the Sea Watch Foundation, Britain’s oldest marine mammal research charity, and with funding support from the BG Group, preliminary analyses have provided some very interesting results.

Breaching UK killer whale taken by voluntary observer John Irvine/ Sea Watch FoundationThe aim of the survey was to obtain a snapshot picture of the status and distribution of some of the 29 species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) recorded in UK waters. Systematic watches from both land and sea were undertaken at locations all around our coasts and inshore waters from Shetland in the north to the Isles of Scilly and Channel Islands in the south. Over just this one-week period, around six hundred sightings of eleven different species were reported, and more records are still coming in.

Breaching UK killer whale taken by voluntary observer John Irvine/ Sea Watch Foundation

UK waters are some of the richest for whales, dolphins and porpoises in the whole of Europe and scientists at Sea Watch Foundation with help from members of the public, various wildlife organisations and boat operators monitor their populations with a UK-wide sightings scheme, the largest citizen science project of its kind.

“Residents of the UK can be delighted that the seas around us are so rich in marine wildlife, and heading to our shores to spot whales and dolphins is surely one of the most satisfying wildlife experiences offered anywhere on the planet” says Sea Watch Foundation’s Sightings Officer, Kathy James. “Despite often inclement weather, the National Whale and Dolphin Watch has produced a large crop of sightings and some striking results”, continues Kathy.

Kathy wrote an article about the importance of marine monitoring for our May Focus on Marine & Coastal Environments. Read it here


Red Kite Deaths from Last Year Condemned, but Concerns Raised - Scottish Land and Business

Scottish Land & Estates condemns absolutely the illegal killing of these red kites last year and any other birds of prey. We are committed to working with Police Scotland, the Scottish Government and our partners in PAWS to eradicate the remaining vestiges of wildlife crime in Scotland and at the same time to develop positive projects that build understanding and knowledge and are good for bird of prey conservation. Projects such as the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, the Heads Up for Harriers project and Wildlife Estates Scotland being just three examples.

Suggestions that sporting estates and landowning interests are responsible is premature and not supported by any evidence we have seen.  Our commitment above is resolute; however it is also imperative that general accusations and finger pointing at the sporting estate and shooting sector community without evidence are not allowed to go unchallenged. Such unfounded assertions smear a whole section of society unfairly. Whoever committed these crimes needs to be brought to justice, we are all agreed on that, but as we have said repeatedly in the past, this should be on the basis of sound evidence and due police investigation and judicial process, not by general slurs and accusations. Such actions just alienate possible allies and perpetuate division and conflict.

We are also concerned that we heard about this first from the RSPB, not from official sources and many months after the actual incident. This is something we will be raising at the next PAWS Executive meeting. It is also regrettable that the RSPB neglected to mention in their media release that another breeding female has arrived at the Cawdor Castle nest they refer to and has fledged three chicks. Something we understand all locally are delighted about.”


Following media reports that a red kite was found killed on land close to the Cawdor Estate, and the inaccurate and ill-informed speculation on social media, Cawdor Estate has issued a statement, read it here.


Blue Whale photographed in English waters - National Oceanography Centre (NERC)

The Blue Whale surfacing, image from NOCThe Blue Whale surfacing, image from NOC

An incredibly rare sighting of a Blue Whale in English waters was captured on camera by scientists on-board the RRS James Cook.

The huge mammal, twice as long as a double-decker bus, was spotted on 24 August approximately 400 km southwest of Cornwall, over a deep-sea canyon on the northern margin of the Bay of Biscay.

It was photographed by NOC’s Prof Russell Wynn, who said “I was undertaking our daily marine mammal survey and enjoying watching up to seven Fin Whales around the ship, when the Blue Whale suddenly surfaced about a kilometre away. I had just enough time to secure some conclusive photos before the visibility decreased and the whale disappeared into the gloom.”


Tree felling in two areas to combat Ramorum disease - Forestry Commission

The trees need to be felled to control an outbreak of Ramorum disease, caused by a fungus-like organism called Phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum). Cutting down the infected trees is the only way to limit spread of the disease to other trees and plants. 

Tree felling at Abbeyford Woods to combat disease 

Tree felling will start in September in Abbeyford Woods, near Okehampton. About 35 hectares of larch and sweet chestnut trees in a 94-hectare area of the woodland will be felled. 

Mark Tansley, North Devon area forester, said: “It is always a shame to have to fell trees before they reach maturity. However, since Ramorum disease was first observed affecting larch trees, in the South West in 2009, our control strategy has proved successful in slowing its spread.  Statistics from the end of last year show that of the 134,000 hectares of larch woodland across Great Britain in 2009, only 13% have had to be felled. The losses would have been much higher if we hadn’t managed the disease in this way.  The felling will undoubtedly change the landscape of the area, but we will be replanting and encouraging the natural regeneration of native broadleaved trees, which links in with our long-term plan of restoring the former ancient woodland site." 

Tree felling in Chawton Park to combat disease 

Larch trees in Chawton Park Wood, near Four Marks, will be felled during September to help control an outbreak of ramorum disease.

Bruce Rothnie, the Commission’s South England District manager, said: “Ramorum disease is very destructive to many species of trees and other plants, so we have a legal obligation and a duty to our neighbours to remove the infected trees as quickly as possible to protect other trees and plants. This is part of our tried and tested approach to disease control which has successfully slowed the spread of the infection to reduce tree losses. We will also ensure new trees will be grown in their place as quickly as possible.  We are fortunate that only a relatively small area of the woodland will be affected - about four hectares (10 acres) – and that Chawton Park is already a very diverse woodland, so the overall impact on the woodland will be no greater than that of a normal forestry operation.”


CIEEM Publish Bat Guidelines for Homeowners

CIEEM has published guidelines on What to Expect from a Bat Survey aimed at homeowners to give them a broad understanding of bat surveys and why and when they are required for renovation or development plans. Bat species are declining across the UK and Europe and so laws are in place to protect these unique mammals.

The aims of the new CIEEM guidelines are not only to equip homeowners with this understanding, but also to protect the ecologist, ensuring the homeowner is aware of the process and providing them with the relevant contacts should they need more information.

The guidelines should be used as bridging the gap between homeowners and ecologists, to ensure a smooth process in surveying and potential mitigation for bats. The guidelines reassure homeowners that the ecologist works with the responsibility of adhering to industry best practice standards and UK and EU legislation.

Download the guidelines


Government Consultations

Wildlife licensing: comment on a new licence to move water voles for development purposes - Natural England

Natural England is seeking views on the proposal to issue a new class licence to permanently move water voles for development purposes (licence CL31).

Water voles and their burrows are protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), which means they need to be kept safe from harm or injury where development is allowed to take place.

Natural England proposes a new class licence for ecological consultants to allow the movement of water voles from locations in England where legal development activities could disturb, injure or kill them or damage their burrows.

Under the new licence ecological consultants can continue with best practice management whilst reducing the risk of prosecution.

Consultation closes at 20 November 2015 5:00pm


The Peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland - Management Strategy 2015 - 2025 - Consultative draft - Scottish Natural Heritage

This is a consultative draft of the second edition of the Management Strategy for the Peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland. It has been produced by The Peatlands Partnership in consultation with a range of partners and organisations.
Any comments on the consultative draft should be sent by email to the document's author Caroline Eccles, by Friday, 9 October 2015 


Litter groups and businesses unite to call on Government to take a lead on litter - CPRE 

Major national litter groups and business organisations have today (2/9/15) made a joint plea to Government to take a firm lead on litter.

In a letter to the Secretaries of State and Ministers at Defra and the DCLG the 25 signatories ask the Government to form an Advisory Committee on Litter in order to deliver a National Litter Action Plan to eliminate all litter. The signatories listed below already have a draft paper that could inform the development of the National Litter Action Plan.

The Advisory Committee will create a single channel to focus resources and will provide advice and expertise to Government Departments and Local Authorities.  It will enable all parties to work together, encourage a more consistent message on littering and will also demonstrate Government commitment to reducing all litter.
As stated in the letter, “The formation of an Advisory Committee is an unparalleled opportunity to take a major step to reduce the societal impact of all litter. Without such Government leadership, efforts to deal with littering will continue to be fragmented and so less effective in delivering significant reductions in littering and in the costs of dealing with it”.

Read the Joint letter to ministers on litter here (PDF)


Celebrating success and saying thank you  - National Biodiversity Network

New UK awards for biological recording  
The National Biodiversity Network, in conjunction with the National Forum for Biological Recording and the Biological Records Centre, has established a new award scheme to celebrate outstanding achievement in biological recording and information sharing here in the UK. 
With so many people working in our industry - recorders, verifiers, curators, educators, researchers and infrastructure experts – it will undoubtedly be hard to choose. But that should not deter us from using these awards to say thank you to the experts and amateurs alike, who work tirelessly to create an unprecedented knowledgebase about nature. Flicking through the pages of the NBN’s annual report it is clear we (the Network) are increasing our effectiveness at providing the evidence for environmental decision-making in the UK where more than 30,000 biological records are made every day. High tech data capture platforms are facilitating faster and more accurate recording and increasingly sophisticated campaigns are engaging more people in the survey, documentation and protection of our natural world. 
We want to celebrate the tremendous work being done nationwide in documenting our natural world and learning about and understanding environmental and ecological change.  So please take some time to think about who might be worthy of a national award, and tell us who they are by sending in your nominations. 
Make your nomination here 


£17 million in the bag for good causes says Minister - Welsh Government

The use of single use carrier bags has declined by 71% in Wales and donations to good causes are estimated at between £17 million and £22 million according to the findings of a report commissioned by the Welsh Government.

The Post Implementation Review of the Single Use Carrier Bag (SUCB) Charge in Wales examines the impact of the charge, since its introduction, on consumers, businesses and the environment, and the impact of the voluntary agreement with retailers to donate the net proceeds to good causes.

Wales’s Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant said the introduction of the Single Use Carrier Bag charge in 2011 has led to a significant shift in consumer behaviour and important benefits to the environment. It has also had the additional benefit of significant  amounts raised for good causes.

Other key findings from the report include:

74% of consumers say they are supportive of the charge

among retailers who charged for their bags, the majority reported that the SUCB charge had made either a positive or neutral impact on their business (87%)

a rise in the use of “bags for life” and other re-useable bags has meant an overall reduction in all bags of 57%.

The report on the SUCB charge in Wales comes a month before carrier bag charges begin in England on 5 October 2015. However, in England, only large retailers will have to apply the charge. Small or medium-sized businesses will not have to charge.


Sea eagle returned to wild - SSPCA

A sea eagle chick who ingested two fishing hooks has been successfully returned to the wild after recovering in the Scottish SPCA's care.

Sea Eagle released by SSPCAConservation officer Lewis Pate rescued the six week old bird of prey at Loch Arkaig, Lochaber, in June.  The white tailed sea eagle was taken to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Fishcross where he underwent a successful operation to remove the hooks.  The bird, who has been named Brahma, was released close to his nest site on 15 August after making a full recovery.

National Wildlife Rescue Centre manager Colin Seddon said, "Brahma is now around 12 weeks old and fully fledged. The release site was prepared by Lewis Pate and staff from the Achnacarry Esate in Lochaber, who have generously provided a boat and engine for logistical support and feeding if he needs it.

"There were several people involved in Brahma's rescue and recovery and without them he would not have survived.

Lewis said, "Everyone, including the Forestry Commission in Lochaber, has been very supportive and it was amazing to see the bird with such strength and attitude when we released him. We are continuing to provide food and have a camera on the feeding platform to monitor any use.  It is a privilege to be able to work with these birds in the wild and hopefully with the on-going work of the raptor study groups we can continue to monitor and care for them as the population expands beyond 100 breeding pairs in Scotland." 


Pollution dispersion in cities improved by trees, research shows  - University of Leicester 

University of Leicester researchers show how trees benefit pedestrians in city environmentsImage shows trees and pedestrians at Victoria Park in Leicester

Image shows trees and pedestrians at Victoria Park in Leicester

Trees in cities throughout the UK could be significantly improving the quality of the air we breathe by decreasing pollution levels for pedestrians, researchers from the University of Leicester have revealed.

The team from the University of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy found that trees have a regionally beneficial impact by increasing turbulence and reducing ambient concentrations of road traffic emissions – by seven per cent in Leicester City at pedestrian height on average.

While previous studies have suggested that trees trap pollution by constructing wind flow in street canyons, the new study focuses on the effectiveness of trees at dispersing road traffic emissions on a city scale.

The study was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the University of Leicester and Bluesky International Ltd and is published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.

PhD researcher Antoine Jeanjean from the University of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy who led the research said: “Predicting the concentration of air pollutants is essential for monitoring air quality in cities. We focused the study on the city centre of Leicester where you have a high density of buildings and traffic. Our fears of trees trapping pollution around streets were revealed to be unfounded. In some situation they can increase pollution locally but on average their impact is beneficial in terms of pollutants dispersion.”  

Access the paper: A.P.R. Jeanjean, G. Hinchliffe, W.A. McMullan, P.S. Monks, R.J. Leigh, A CFD study on the effectiveness of trees to disperse road traffic emissions at a city scale, Atmospheric Environment, Volume 120, November 2015, Pages 1-14, ISSN 1352-2310, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2015.08.003.


Scientific Paper

Hering, D. et al (2015) Contrasting the roles of section length and instream habitat enhancement for river restoration success: a field study of 20 European restoration projects. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12531


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