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


World deforestation slows down as more forests are better managed - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

FAO publishes key findings of global forest resources assessment 

An old-growth tree in the Nkula Forest, Democratic Republic of Congo.An old-growth tree in the Nkula Forest, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The world's forests continue to shrink as populations increase and forest land is converted to agriculture and other uses, but over the past 25 years the rate of net global deforestation has slowed down by more than 50 percent, FAO said in a report published today (7/9/15).

Some 129 million hectares of forest - an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa - have been lost since 1990, according to FAO's most comprehensive forest review to date, The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.

It noted however, that an increasing amount of forest areas have come under protection while more countries are improving forest management. This is often done through legislation and includes the measuring and monitoring of forest resources and a greater involvement of local communities in planning and in developing policies.

Main findings

  • While in 1990 forests made up 31.6 percent of the word's land areas, or some 4 128 million hectares, this has changed to 30.6 percent in 2015, or some 3 999 million hectares, according to FRA.
  • Meanwhile, the net annual rate of forest loss has slowed from 0.18 percent in the early 1990s to 0.08 percent during the period 2010-2015.
  • Today, the bulk (93 percent) of the world's forest area is natural forest - a category that includes primary forest areas where human disturbances have been minimized, as well as secondary forest areas that have regenerated naturally.
  • Planted forest, another subcategory, currently accounts for 7 percent of the world's overall forest area, having increased by over 110 million hectares since 1990.
  • FAO's report stresses the critical importance of forests to people, the environment, and the global economy.
  • The forest sector contributes about $600 billion annually to global GDP and provides employment to over 50 million people.

Download the report and references (both PDF)

Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015

The FRA desk reference (includes statistical tables)


Forestry Careers Portal goes live - inspiring a new generation - Royal Forestry Society

A unique on-line forestry careers portal, supported by a wide range of organisations and hosted by the Royal Forestry Society (RFS), is being launched in time for the new academic year.

Developed in partnership with the Forestry Learning and Development Group, the Portal is the first on-line resource of its kind. It will be officially launched at the Confor Woodland Show at the Longleat Estate on 11 September, and can be accessed via a careers portal tab on the RFS home page at www.rfs.org.uk or at http://www.rfs.org.uk/forestry-career-portal/

RFS Education Manager Phil Tanner said: "The Forestry Sector is growing and we need to inspire many more people to consider forestry and woodland management as worthwhile careers.

"Recent statistics suggest that 53% of forestry workers are over 40, and only 11% are under 25, indicating that in the coming years we will see a shortage of skilled and experienced foresters. This potential shortage could become of greater concern if the Government’s proposals to increase the number of UK woodlands and foresters under management are met.

"One of the acknowledged barriers to entry was the lack of comprehensive information on the type of careers available to those entering the sector, the range of qualifications and the colleges and universities that provide them. As a group we have come together to bring all that information under one single site."


RSPB calls for a Restoration Investment Fund for orphaned coal mines

RSPB is calling for the UK Government to use tax revenues from coal power stations to establish a Restoration Investment Fund to help restore areas across the UK damaged by open cast coal mining and to support sustainable jobs.

Image: Andy HayImage: Andy Hay

Tomorrow (Wednesday 9th September) MPs will debate in Westminster how ‘orphaned’ open cast coal mines across the UK can be restored, where operators have failed to set aside the millions needed for clean-up after operations have ceased. This has proved to be a huge challenge in Scotland, where the collapse of the two largest open cast operators in 2013 exposed systemic failures to secure adequate restoration bonds, resulting in a network of unrestored voids and a funding shortfall of £200 million. Some mines are within areas protected for wildlife and were consented under strict conditions that quality restoration would be delivered. Issues have also come to light in Wales, as the Welsh Government commissioned a review following the collapse in Scotland, which found significant issues at a number of sites.

RSPB is calling for a ‘Restoration Investment Fund’ to be set up using existing revenues from coal power stations, to support restoration at priority sites and to deliver sustainable benefits for the environment, communities and local jobs.


Wet summer delays garden dragonflies - BTO

Garden dragonflies were slow to emerge this year, according to preliminary British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch results. Reports of common garden dragonflies, such as Large Red Damselfly, peaked much later this year than in previous years, possibly due to the bad weather at the start of the summer. Will this poor summer affect their numbers next year?

Common Blue Damselfly by Dawn Balmer/BTOCommon Blue Damselfly by Dawn Balmer/BTO

Many of our common garden dragonfly species emerge as adults in June and July, spend a few weeks on the wing, lay their eggs and then die. Our most common garden dragonfly is the Large Red Damselfly, which in 2013 was seen in 15% of Garden BirdWatch gardens at its peak in late May. It is one of the earliest emerging dragonflies and usually peaks in May, but this year it only reached a peak of 12% and not until early June, a week later than witnessed in 2014.

The Large Red Damselfly was not the only dragonfly to attain its peak later than in previous years. The Common Blue Damselfly was seen at its highest peak this year, in 10.4% of Garden BirdWatch gardens, but peaked three weeks later than in 2014, in early July. This pattern was also seen in Azure Damselfly, which is usually most common in June.

It wasn’t all bad news, however. Some of our Hawker species, which are rarer in gardens, followed patterns similar to previous years, suggesting that it must have been adverse weather that affected the early emerging species.

Clare Simm, from the Garden BirdWatch team, commented, "It’s been a poor summer for many species, not just dragonflies, as the bad weather hit at a key time of year. As you can see, our volunteers do not just focus on birds, but also provide us with vital information on other wildlife groups too which help us understand how gardens are used by different species."


£5 million to fund innovative projects for farmers and foresters - defra

New grants available to boost productivity in the farming industry.

£5 million of funding is now available under the latest phase of European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-agri) grants.

The grants can be used to boost productivity in the livestock, arable, horticultural and forestry sectors and create ground-breaking new technology – unlocking innovation in the farming industry.

The grants worth between £5,000 and £150,000 will be available for projects for up to three years to encourage new farming techniques, as well as improve the sustainability of the farming and forestry sectors.

Commenting on the scheme Farming Minister George Eustice said:  "This fund will enable groups to come together to test and implement exciting new ideas to solve problems and increase farm and forest productivity. By looking to other sectors, such as medicine, for inspiration and knowledge transfer, it facilitates even greater innovation. I look forward to seeing the interesting work that will follow to boost and protect rural productivity."

For more information on the new scheme visit here  


Big Lottery Fund commits £20m further funding to revive public parks - Heritage Lottery Fund

Today, the Big Lottery Fund announced it will invest a further £20million in England’s public parks and cemeteries, £10million a year until 2018.

The Level, Brighton after its National Lottery-funded restoration (Image: HLF)The Level, Brighton after its National Lottery-funded restoration (Image: HLF)

Combined with HLF’s commitment of £20m per year under the Parks for People programme in England, this takes the total budget available to £30m per year for new projects.

HLF will also continue to make an additional £4m available for projects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This news extends the agreement between the Big Lottery Fund and HLF, which has seen a total of nearly £290m of National Lottery cash invested in reviving over 126 historic green spaces since 2006.

Parks for People provides grants of between £100,000 and £5million to restore and rejuvenate historic parks and cemeteries. Organisations can apply for funding for projects that repair heritage features, open new facilities and run volunteering and activity programmes, involving the community in the running of the park.

Peter Ainsworth, Chair of the Big Lottery Fund, said: “Green spaces are vital to the happiness and health of our communities, so we’re really pleased to be continuing our support for the Parks for People programme. In partnership with HLF we’ve invested almost £290m since 2006 in rejuvenating our parks to help make sure they can be enjoyed now and for years to come.”

The news comes a year after HLF pledged to continue investing in public parks after its report State of UK Public Parks 2014: Renaissance to Risk revealed that they are at serious risk of decline unless innovative new ways of funding and maintaining them are found. An update on this report is set to be published next summer.

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of HLF, said: “Parks are rightly among the UK’s most highly valued and well-used public spaces and inspire much local pride. There is increasing demand on National Lottery players’ money but I’m sure they will welcome the continuation of this productive partnership with the Big Lottery Fund. Our 'Parks for People' programme plays a major part in ensuring these precious green sanctuaries thrive. I hope even more communities across the UK will come forward to bid for a share of this funding.”

Applications for the next round of Parks for People funding are now open until 29 February 2016 and the first grants from this new investment will be awarded in June 2016. 

If you're in need of funding don’t forget to have a look at our Grants and Funding page.


Cigarettes and alcohol ... and moths - Butterfly Conservation

Back gardens across the UK will be baited with tobacco and alcohol over the next few nights as part of a cunning bid to lure in a massive continental moth whose tongue is longer than its body.

Moth-lovers are hoping to attract the palm-sized Convolvulus Hawk-moth into their gardens with ornamental tobacco plants, planted en masse earlier in the year.

Convolvulus Hawk-moth by Keith BaldieConvolvulus Hawk-moth by Keith Baldie

With a 12cm wingspan, the Convolvulus is one of the largest moths found in Europe, yet it is capable of pin-point precision flight as it hovers to drink nectar from deep tubular tobacco plant flowers using its amazingly long 7.5cm proboscis.

As part of this year’s Moth Night celebrations organisers Atropos and Butterfly Conservation are asking the public to look for the Convolvulus Hawk-moth and other migrant species as sightings will help build a clearer picture of moth migration into the UK.

Around 40 species of immigrant moths have appeared in the UK for the first time in the last 15 years with a small number becoming established, such as the Black-spotted Chestnut.  Other species that were long considered occasional migrants have now also become established UK residents in recent years such as the Tree-lichen Beauty, Oak Rustic, Sombre Brocade, Blair’s Mocha, Flame Brocade and Clifden Nonpareil.  The apparent increase in migrant records could reveal important information about the effects of climate change on UK moth populations.

Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording, Richard Fox said: “It has already been an amazing year for moth immigration and such activity usually peaks in early autumn. With migrants such as the massive Convolvulus Hawk-moth mixing with beautiful home-grown autumnal species, Moth Night is a great opportunity to discover the hidden wonders of our nocturnal wildlife at a public event or even in your own back garden.”

Moth Night 2015 runs from 10-12 September and will include moth trapping events across the UK.


And for lots of other surveys for you to join have a look at the Surveys and Fieldwork pages


Campaigners warn of funding gap in tackling rural road noise - CPRE

CPRE uses new map and Government data to call for more investment and better management for rural roads

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is calling for national and local action to tackle a worrying surge in road noise and road traffic in rural areas.

New Government statistics show that traffic and hence noise is growing fastest on minor rural roads, with a shocking 5.5% increase in the past year alone. Increased use of satnavs is believed to be part of the reason that traffic is spreading off major roads onto networks of minor roads, eroding rural tranquillity deep into the countryside.

Further Government data also published last month shows how far road noise from busier roads intrudes into the countryside. CPRE has used the data to produce an interactive map for authorities and the public. It demonstrates how roads such as the A31, running through the South Downs National Park and along the Surrey Hills AONB, disturb the tranquillity of villages, protected landscapes and wider countryside.

To combat noise in rural areas, CPRE is asking the Government to divert some funding from Highways England, newly responsible for major roads, to local authorities, so that low-noise surfaces can be laid on locally run A roads as well as strategic national ones. Cuts to local government budgets mean that rural councils are struggling to maintain road surfaces.

Last year the Government announced £350 million of funding to reduce the environmental impacts of motorways and major A roads. This was welcome, but it does not cover roads within local authority control. As a recent Government study estimated the social costs of road noise in urban areas alone to be £7-£10 billion per year, the importance of mitigating the impact of road noise is clear.

Ralph Smyth, transport campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments: “Road noise is estimated to have a similar cost to the economy as road crashes and congestion, yet we barely spend anything to tackle it. This means England is years behind our European neighbours. Besides the huge cost to the health of those who live within earshot of heavy traffic, road noise reaches far into our countryside, damaging tranquillity."


£1.2m National Lottery grant to protect UK’s red squirrels - HLF and Wildlife Trusts 

A unique new project to secure the future of the native Nutkin in the UK is set to receive £1.2million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The much-loved, endangered native red squirrel and its habitat will be protected and promoted through Red Squirrels United, a new four year programme bringing together eight partners from across the UK.Red Squirrel (image: HLF)

Red Squirrel (image: HLF)

Red Squirrels United will operate directly in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and work with the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels partnership on cross-border conservation action and skills-sharing to achieve the development of a truly UK-scale red squirrel conservation initiative for the first time.  The project will deliver key national  conservation objectives with the aim of protecting red squirrels through communication, education and conservation activities.  It is supported by Government nature conservation agencies and the 32 organisations within the UK squirrel accord group.

Community-based rapid response teams will be created involving 1,250 volunteers who will be trained to conserve key red squirrel populations threatened by their interaction with non-native grey squirrels. These volunteers will be supported by partner organisation staff, building the large networks of red squirrel champions essential for conservation success.  

Partners will maintain grey squirrel-free habitat where it already exists, for example on the island of Anglesey and in Kielder Forest in northern England; extend current red squirrel protection zones in mid-Wales and Merseyside and implement a new whole country approach in Northern Ireland. All conservation work will be rigorously monitored contributing to robust scientific research and evaluation to be undertaken by academic partners.

Through the Red Squirrels United project there will also be the opportunity for wider engagement with communities across the UK through workshops and events including mass participation squirrel monitoring.  The Red Squirrels United programme is led by The Wildlife Trusts in partnership with Newcastle University, Forest Research, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Red Squirrels Trust Wales, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Ulster Wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts of South & West Wales. 


A tern up for the books at the Point of Ayr - RSPB

One of Britain’s most threatened seabirds, the little tern, has successfully nested at the RSPB Point of Ayr nature reserve on the Dee Estuary for the first time since the 1960s.

Little tern at nest, stretching wings (image: Chris Gomersall, RSPB)Little tern at nest, stretching wings (image: Chris Gomersall, RSPB)

Staff and volunteers were delighted to discover one pair successfully nested on the reserve, while 136 pairs also nested this year at a nearby large colony at Gronant, which has been managed for over 30 years by the RSPB and for the last decade by Denbighshire County Council.  A five year pot of funding from the EU was awarded in 2013 in an attempt to reverse the fortunes of the declining colonies of these delicate birds in England and Wales.

Geoff Robinson, Assistant Warden for the RSPB Dee Estuary nature reserve, explained: “We were doing our routine checks on the reserve one day in mid-May and noticed a lot of little tern activity above and around the shingle ridge at Point of Ayr. Meanwhile, along the coast at Gronant, there was concern that the established colony was not going to plan.  The next day we found around 30 pairs had started nesting on the reserve, so quickly initiated a volunteer team to help protect the site from other beach users, largely by talking to people and explaining the exciting discovery.  Now that they’ve had a successful breeding attempt, we’re hopeful they will return next year, especially as the Gronant colony grows and available nesting space there lessens. We’ll be more prepared next year, get the electric fence up earlier and hopefully we’ll see more than the one pair nest and successfully raise young at Point of Ayr.”


World-class project helps combat climate change - RSPB

The RSPB and Crossrail have worked to create the right habitat for a wide range of nesting species, including potentially spoonbill

Spoonbill eating ten-spined stickleback, (Image: Kevin Du Rose, RSPB)Spoonbill eating ten-spined stickleback, (Image: Kevin Du Rose, RSPB) 

The UK Government and the European Commission will officially open Jubilee Marsh today (11/9/15), marking the completion of the first phase of the RSPB’s Wallasea Island Wild Coast project - a world-class initiative in Essex in which conservation and business sectors have united to help wildlife and local communities adapt to continuing climate change. 

With climate change predicted to have an increasingly severe impact on wildlife and people, Defra Environment Minister, Rory Stewart, and European Environment Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, will visit Wallasea Island to see how a unique partnership between the RSPB and Crossrail is creating a landscape helping to roll with the punches of climate change. It is hoped this project will inspire similar initiatives between business and conservation elsewhere in the UK and the European Union. 

Over three million tonnes of material excavated from London as part of the Crossrail project was shipped to Wallasea to create Jubilee Marsh, named in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which was held when work on the marsh began in 2012. A five-tonne, seven-metre tall cutter arm from Tunnel Boring Machine Victoria, one of eight machines that created 42km of new tunnels under the capital will be unveiled as a permanent monument to this innovative partnership. 

The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project will safeguard local wildlife and communities from rising sea levels, including providing a habitat for the arrival of species from further south in Europe, such as the black-winged stilt, expected to colonise southern England as the climate continues to change. Additionally, the Kentish plover, a wading bird which became extinct as a nesting bird in the UK, could possibly return with the conditions being created at Wallasea. This is a long-term project and will require a further seven million tonnes of soil to complete. The project is also moving forward the science of landscape engineering by creating inter-tidal habitats on the largest scale seen so far in Europe.  

Mike Clarke is the RSPB's Chief Executive. He said: “We need to care for our coasts as they are vital for people and wildlife. Preparing our low-lying coasts for rising sea levels is a major challenge for society.  The scale of this challenge requires bold and inventive solutions.  This partnership has proven that it’s possible to create the conditions for developing a world-class economy alongside a world-class environment.  We hope that this way of working together will become a model for similar initiatives to recreate threatened habitats and protect threatened species elsewhere in the UK and across Europe.” 


Scientific papers

Hethcoat M. G. & Chalfoun, A. D. (2015) Towards a mechanistic understanding of human-induced rapid environmental change: a case study linking energy development, nest predation and predators. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12513


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