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


Offshore wind farms could be more risky for gannets than previously thought, study shows – University of Exeter

Offshore wind farms which are to be built in waters around the UK could pose a greater threat to protected populations of gannets than previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at the universities of Leeds, Exeter and Glasgow.

It was previously thought that gannets, which breed in the UK between April and September each year, generally flew well below the minimum height of 22 metres above sea level swept by the blades of offshore wind turbines.

Credit Tom BodeyCredit Tom Bodey

However, while this is the case when the birds are simply commuting between their nest sites and distant feeding grounds, this new study shows that they fly at an average height of 27 metres above sea level when actively searching and diving for prey.

Crucially, the study also shows that the birds' feeding grounds overlap extensively with planned wind farm sites in the Firth of Forth, heightening their risk of colliding with turbine blades.

The researchers estimate that up to 12 times more gannets could be killed by turbines than current figures suggest, although they stress that the figure is based on calculations using current typical turbine sizes, which could be different to those actually installed, and that there is great uncertainty over actual turbine avoidance rates.

Professor Keith Hamer, of the School of Biology at Leeds, oversaw the study, published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology. His research group, together with colleagues from Exeter and Glasgow, based their work at Bass Rock, the world’s largest colony of gannets with some 70,000 breeding pairs, situated in the Firth of Forth in south-east Scotland, less than 50 kilometres from several planned wind farm sites.

Dr Ian Cleasby, of the University of Exeter and lead author of the study, said: “Previous data had seriously underestimated the number of birds potentially at risk of colliding with turbine blades. There’s a lot of uncertainty over how many birds would actually be killed this way, but our predictions – if realised in the field – are high enough to cause concern over the potential long-term effects on population size. Our predictions suggest extra care be taken when designing and assessing new wind farms to reduce their impact on gannets.”

You can read all about the Gannets on Bass Rock in our Focus article here (page 4)


A greener future for Ceredigion metal mine – Natural Resources Wales

Work by Natural Resources Wales to tackle pollution from an old metal mine in Ceredigion is giving the local environment a new lease of life.
Image: Before and after (NRW)Streams have been diverted away from the mine, and areas of contaminated waste have been capped with soil and clay. The scheme could prevent up to 15 tonnes of toxic metals from entering streams and polluting the River Ystwyth each year. The work was completed in June 2015 and NRW will continue to monitor the water quality and ecology in these streams to see how well it has worked.

Image: Before and after (NRW)

And it’s not just water quality and river life that will benefit. The landscape at Frongoch is already turning greener, improving habitats for rare mosses and lichens, and making it a better place for wildlife, the local community and visitors to the area.

Natural Resources Wales is holding an Open Day on Friday 2 October 2015, inviting everyone with an interest to come and see the transformation for themselves.

Paul Edwards, Project Manager said: “Our work at Frongoch is reversing more than 100 years of contamination stretching back to the 1800s, when Frongoch Mine was one of the most productive lead and zinc mines in Wales, employing hundreds of people from as far afield as Italy. There are around 1,300 old metal mines in Wales. They are an important part of our heritage, but abandoned mines have left a distinct mark on our environment and have caused pollution to more than 100km of rivers and streams. They need to be cleaned up to revitalise today’s environment for wildlife and people.


South West National Parks essential for the region’s economy – Dartmoor National Park Authority

The contribution made by Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks to the region’s economy has been highlighted in a new economic prospectus.

The two National Parks are living, working landscapes that are home to approximately 44,000 people and 3,145 businesses with an annual turnover of £770m a year.

National Parks are also world renowned brands, recognised for quality of environment and visitor experience. Dartmoor and Exmoor attract over 8 million visitor days and generate £428 million for the greater Dartmoor and Exmoor areas annually.

The prospectus highlights the high quality of the National Park environment underpins economic activity both within the National Parks and the wider Heart of the South West area. National Park Authorities bring together key players to support and enable sustainable economic growth within these deeply rural landscapes.

Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities have been at the forefront of supporting pioneering new ways to unlock economic growth within the National Parks, the prospectus highlights some of these success stories.


Pine martens arrive in Wales – The Vincent Wildlife Trust

Britain’s first carnivore recovery scheme on a nationwide scale is underway. Native pine martens from Scotland are beginning a new life in Pine Marten by James A MooreWales, and more are on the way.

Leading this project is The Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT), a charity with 30 years’ experience of pine marten research, and today (29 September) the Trust is delighted to announce that the translocations to Wales have started.

Pine Marten by James A Moore

The VWT’s ‘Pine Marten Recovery Project’ has involved meticulous planning by a charity renowned for its expertise with this elusive mammal – a mammal that carries the title of Britain’s second rarest carnivore after the wildcat.

Pine martens are thriving in Scotland, but in England and Wales the pine marten population is in danger of extinction. To help Wales’ marten population recover, the Trust aims to translocate 20 pine martens to woodlands in mid Wales, with a further 20 animals next autumn. This number should result in a self-sustaining population that over time will spread to other forests of Wales and across the border into England.

Natalie Buttriss, VWT’s CEO said “My team of mammal conservationists has been working tirelessly over the last two years to make this happen. We have left no stone unturned to ensure that our approach is rigorous, and we have involved a wide range of people in the planning of this project including numerous experts in the field of mammal conservation. In our many conversations, we have been boosted by the positive response and support we have received at every stage of the project’s development.”


Otter dies after being caught in illegal crayfish trap - Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has warned of the dangers of illegal crayfish traps after an otter was found drowned near Bridport, Dorset.

The remains of the otter were discovered by a dog walker in the River Asker. The animal entered the trap, but was unable to escape because the device hadn’t been fitted with an otter guard. This is the second incident in recent weeks. A drowned otter was found in a similar trap in Cornwall.

Sandie Moors for the Environment Agency said: “It is tragic this otter met its end by drowning in such a horrendous way. The trap was being used illegally on an unauthorised site. Eel nets and crayfish traps can only be used with permission from the land owner and the consent of the Environment Agency. Illegal traps put other species such as water voles and small dogs at risk.”

Eel nets and crayfish traps are licensed by the Environment Agency in a similar way that anglers need to licence their fishing rods. Each net/trap should display a numbered tag to allow identification and be fitted with a guard to prevent otters entering and becoming trapped.

If found guilty of an offence you could be sent to prison for up to 6 months and be fined £5,000 for each offence.

Anyone who sees illegal nets, or who has information about this incident should contact the Environment Agency’s free 24 hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. 


Watch out for Nuthatches; new online tool reveals the garden birds to look out for - BTO

Autumn is always an interesting time of year for garden birdwatchers and up-to-date movements of birds into gardens can now be tracked, for the first time, using the new interactive Garden BirdWatch results pages.  Developed by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), these tools show that Nuthatches, in particular, are taking refuge in gardens this autumn, showing their second-highest monthly peak in twenty years.

Nuthatch by Mark R Taylor/BTONuthatch by Mark R Taylor/BTO

The average numbers of seed-eating bird species vary dramatically every year depending on the amount of natural food available in the wider countryside. The last two years have seen low numbers of many seed-eaters in gardens thanks to spectacular crops of seeds like beech and Sitka Spruce. This year, however, seems to be a different story.

Many seed-eating birds are already being seen in surprisingly high numbers for early autumn, suggesting that the seed crops may be poor this year. The most exciting increase is that of Nuthatch which has already been reported from a quarter of BTO Garden BirdWatch gardens, the second highest reporting rate since the survey started in 1995. Coal Tit and Siskin are also using garden resources more this autumn, both having been seen in the highest average numbers since 2012.


Free app will help track UK’s dragonflies - CEH

iRecord Dragonflies, a free mobile phone app to help monitor the UK’s dragonflies and damselflies, is launched today, 30 September.

The new app will help people to identify dragonflies and damselflies and record sightings to support study and conservation. The results will go to the Dragonfly Recording Network whose work has already shown the dramatic changes in distribution of many dragonfly species within the UK, and to the UK from the continent, due to our changing climate.

Colourful dragonflies and damselflies zooming about over water is one of the quintessential sights on warm summer days. They can be very numerous in some habitats and play an essential ecological role as predators of flying insects, helping to control pests such as mosquitoes. They are also important indicators of water quality and wetland health.

Karolis Kazlauskis from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, who helped to create the app, said, "Many species have expanded their distributions in recent years and some have arrived from the Continent. The British Dragonfly Society maps and analyses distributions, identifies important sites and monitors population changes due to wetland condition and climate. This work would not be possible without the help of people reporting where they find dragonflies, and we hope the app will make this easier."

Since its launch in 1999 thousands of people have already contributed to the Dragonfly Recording Network and, with assistance from the new app, the public will continue to support the study and conservation of dragonflies and damselflies.

Within the app each species has a distribution map and habitat information to give guidance on where they are most likely to be found. Additional information, including photos, is provided to assist identification.

The App is now available for both mobile (iOS, Android, Blackberry) and desktop users with any modern browser.

The app is available to install here: http://www.brc.ac.uk/app/irecord-dragonflies

A video explaining more about the app is available to watch on YouTube


Find out more about citizen science projects and surveys here.

And there will be a full list of the most recent updates in this week's edition of CJS Weekly, information here.


Annual wildlife crime report, Reduction in number of wildlife crimes. - Scottish Government

Recorded wildlife crime dropped by 20 per cent in the period 2013-14, according to a report published on Wednesday 30/9.
Latest figures show there were 255 recorded wildlife crime offences in Scotland in 2013-14, compared to 319 in 2012-13. The report also shows that since 2010-11, the numbers of confirmed pesticide poisoning abuse incidents have more than halved from 34 per year, to 13 in 2013-14. The figures in the report show that while fish poaching remains the most commonly recorded type of wildlife crime, there has been a reduction in these offences from 135 in 2012-13 to 90 in 2013-14.
The report brings together data from the Scottish Government, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland and other sources.
Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod said: “I welcome the publication of the third wildlife crime annual report and I am encouraged to see an overall reduction in wildlife crime across Scotland for the period 2013-14. Obviously recent successes in our fight against wildlife crime are not covered in this report, including the first custodial sentence for killing a bird of prey and the first use of vicarious liability provisions. However, serious incidents reported so far in 2015 show that we must not be complacent in our efforts to prevent wildlife crime. Wildlife crimes damage our environment, threaten the survival of vulnerable species and inflict cruelty on others. Working alongside police, prosecutors and other members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, we will continue to increase the pressure on those who persist in breaking the law, until these out-dated practices are consigned to the past where they belong.”  

The full report can be read on the Scottish Government website here.


Reaction: Scottish Land & Estates welcomes publication of annual wildlife crime report

Scottish Land & Estates has welcomed today’s publication of the Scottish Government annual wildlife crime report that shows recorded wildlife crime dropped by 20 per cent in the period 2013-14.

In welcoming the decrease in recorded incidents, the organisation said that momentum needed to be maintained and that government and police should continue to devote resources to the issue, especially in offences linked to organised poaching.

Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates and member of PAW Scotland Executive, said: “We welcome the publication of the annual wildlife crime report which provides an authoritative update on the range and volume of wildlife crime in Scotland. “It is pleasing that there has been a significant reduction in incidents of wildlife crime across most different categories of offence. Working with government and police, I believe that the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, through which Scottish Land & Estates plays an active role, is having a real effect on wildlife crime on the ground and we need to maintain this momentum that has been built up, with all stakeholders playing a full role in the partnership."


Environmental factors changing our woodlands say UK owners and foresters - Sylva

9/10 woodland owners and other forestry professionals who responded to a national survey about environmental change in British woodlands say they had observed at least one form of impact in the past 10 years.

Woodland owners reported increases in vertebrate pests such as deer and squirrels while among professional managers and agents, pathogens and pests were the most commonly-reported impact on the woodlands that they manage.

More than 1470 people responded to the survey. The figures are among the first results revealed by a British Woodlands Survey on Resilience and are being announced today (1 Oct) at a Conference hosted by the Royal Forestry Society and Woodland Trust, Resilient Woods: Meeting the Challenges.

The survey results emphasised that in the past only 44% had specified provenance (origin) when buying trees for new planting. This highlights there may be a lack of awareness of the importance of provenance, and tree genetic diversity in general, when planning resilient woodlands. 69% of owners stated a preference in future for sourcing material grown in UK nurseries, possibly reflecting recent issues around infected imported plants – ash dieback was originally identified in the UK on plants imported from nurseries in continental Europe.

Looking to the future, most respondents believe that climate change will significantly affect our forests, although there is considerable uncertainty among private woodland owners among whom more than 50% are uncertain or don’t believe it will affect forests in the future. This is despite risks highlighted including flooding, drought, wind and fire.

Simon Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Royal Forestry Society (RFS), says : “The survey shows that most woodland owners are already experiencing the adverse impacts of pests and disease in their woods and expect this trend to continue in future. Survey respondents recognise the need to improve the resilience of their woods to environmental change. The challenge is to provide woodland owners with the evidence base to support long term decisions on species choice and management systems. A lot more work is required in this area.” 

Of the survey respondents, 821 (56%) were private woodland owners, with professional agents responsible for managing 3473 woodlands and 13 specialist tree nurseries with a combined annual turnover of more than £7.5m also taking part.

The information from the survey will be used by organisations, policy makers and researchers to help improve the resilience of the nation’s forests, and how better support can be provided to woodland owners and managers. The results will also inform the government’s National Adaptation Programme for England.

A full report will be published before the end of the year and made freely available at www.sylva.org.uk/bws


Protecting marine life in Europe’s seas - European Environment Agency 

Europe´s seas are under pressure. Marine protected areas (MPAs) can act as a key management measures to safeguard marine ecosystems and biodiversity so to maintain their potential to deliver key services to our societies and economies. European countries have been extending marine protected areas across Europe’s seas. More effective management of these marine protected areas and a convergent implementation of related legislation now constitute important challenges. A new report by the European Environment Agency assesses the progress made and concludes with perspectives for the future.

The regional seas surrounding Europe include vast, open oceans as well as almost entirely landlocked seas, covering 5.7 million km2. They are home to a diverse range of habitats, sustaining thousands of species of plants and animals. However, human activities at sea as well as on land are impacting Europe’s seas and putting pressure on marine species: damage and loss of habitats, extraction of resources, introduction of non-indigenous species, pollution and the effects of climatic change. The cumulative effect of these pressures is damaging the state of marine ecosystems. To safeguard biodiversity in areas vital for the health of the seas and to address increasingly complex threats to marine ecosystems, EU Member States have designated networks of marine protected areas.   MPAs operating cooperatively and are designed to meet objectives that cannot be achieved by individual MPAs alone. An MPA network needs to be, among others, representative, i.e. protecting the range of biodiversity found in the seas.

How much progress has the EU made in designating marine protected areas? Can we assess if marine protected areas work? Are Europe’s MPA networks ecologically coherent and well-managed? The EEA report ‘Marine protected areas in Europe’s seas — an overview and perspectives for the future’ addresses these questions by providing an overview of MPAs in Europe´s seas and the relevant EU policy framework. The report aims to support the European Commission’s progress report on MPAs.

 According to the report, Europe needs to implement a more holistic approach to MPA design, management and evaluation. With a better implementation of existing legislation across Europe’s seas, as well as more effective management, MPA networks could play a crucial role in reversing systemic changes observed in Europe’s seas. They can help halt biodiversity loss, achieve clean, healthy and biologically diverse seas, and secure sustainability.

The EEA will also publish a technical report further documenting the methodology and data used for the spatial analysis of EU marine protected areas later in 2015.


Protecting Europe's nature: more ambition needed to halt biodiversity loss by 2020 – European Union

The mid-term review of EU biodiversity strategy shows progress in many areas, but highlights the need for greater effort by Member States on implementation to halt biodiversity loss by 2020.

The mid-term review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy assesses whether the EU is on track to achieve the objective of halting biodiversity loss by 2020. The results show progress in many areas, but highlight the need for much greater effort to deliver commitments on implementation by Member States. Nature's capacity to clean the air and water, to pollinate crops and to limit the impacts of catastrophes such as flooding is being compromised, with potentially significant unforeseen costs to society and our economy. An EU-wide opinion poll, also published today, confirms that the majority of Europeans are concerned about the effects of biodiversity loss and recognise the negative impact this can have on human health and wellbeing, and ultimately on our long-term economic development.

The EU adopted a Strategy to stop this loss of biodiversity by 2020. Today's assessment, which comes midway through the strategy, highlights that much more needs to be done on the ground to translate the EU's policies into action. Firstly, EU nature legislation needs to be better implemented by Member States. More than three quarters of the important natural habitats in the EU are now in an unfavourable state, and many species are threatened with extinction. Halting biodiversity loss will also depend on how effectively biodiversity concerns are integrated into agriculture, forestry, fisheries, regional development and trade policies. The reformed Common Agricultural Policy provides opportunities for enhanced integration of biodiversity concerns, but it will be the extent to which Member States put in place the measures, nationally, that will determine the success of the CAP. Ultimately, our natural capital needs to be recognised and appreciated, not only within the limitations of our protected areas, but more extensively throughout our lands and seas. The Commission is currently undertaking a fitness check of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives to assess whether it is achieving its valuable objectives in the most efficient way.

Restoring natural habitats and building green infrastructure remains a challenge for Europe. The EU Green Infrastructure Strategy – once implemented – should deliver multiple benefits across a range of sectors including agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Invasive alien species are also one of the fastest growing threats to biodiversity in Europe, causing significant damage to agriculture, forestry and fisheries, costing the EU at least EUR 12 billion a year. A new EU Regulation has entered into force to fight the spread of invasive alien species and work is underway to establish a list of invasive species of EU concern by early 2016.

For more information:

The Mid-Term Review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 – Commission Report

EU biodiversity strategy to 2020

State of Nature 2015 Report

Eurobarometer on biodiversity


Reaction: Five years left to tackle Europe's wildlife crisis, warns RSPB

Europe’s wildlife remains in crisis, that’s the clear finding from the European Commission’s latest assessment of nature, published today.

The mid-term review of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy shows limited progress towards many of the key targets to restore wildlife set at the start of this decade, and time is running out.

The RSPB is urging the European Commission to take pressing action to reverse the decline in wildlife, as many species, such as the Balearic shearwater, kittiwake and black-tailed godwit, listed as being under the threat of extinction within the European Union.The black-tailed godwit is listed (Image: Frank Vassen, RSPB)

The black-tailed godwit is listed (Image: Frank Vassen, RSPB) 

A bright spot in an otherwise gloomy review is the success of the European Union’s nature directives, which are helping to underpin the favourable conservation status of several threatened species, including birds of prey, Dalmatian pelican, Iberian lynx and Mediterranean monk seal.

The European Commission’s review matches warnings from the RSPB and BirdLife Europe earlier this year that the continent’s nature remains in crisis and needs urgent action to save it. In June the organisations published a review entitled Halfway There? that highlighted the need to do more to tackle the ecological crisis facing wildlife, especially those species reliant on agricultural habitats across the EU. There have been huge reductions in the number of farmland birds, such as shrikes, storks, skylarks and buntings, in the EU since 1980 and these negative trends show no sign of reversing.

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Conservation Director. He said: “This review sadly confirms our analysis that the EU’s formerly splendid wildlife tapestry is becoming increasingly threadbare, with many of the greatest holes appearing because of intensive agriculture.  We remain anxious that Europe is not on track to protect its wildlife treasures. However, the review does confirm that when the Birds and Habitats Directives are properly implemented they play a pivotal role in the recovery of threatened species.”


Scientific papers

Atwood, T. B. et al (2015) Predators help protect carbon stocks in blue carbon ecosystems. nature climate change. doi: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2763


Cleasby, I. R., Wakefield, E. D., Bearhop, S., Bodey, T. W., Votier, S. C. & Hamer, K. C. (2015) Three-dimensional tracking of a wide-ranging marine predator: flight heights and vulnerability to offshore wind farms. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12529


Li, S. et al (2015) Interactive effects of seawater acidification and elevated temperature on biomineralization and amino acid metabolism in the mussel Mytilus edulis. The Journal of Experimental Biology. DOI: 10.1242/​jeb.126748


Tamburini, G., De Simone, S., Sigura, M., Boscutti, F. & Marini, L. (2015) Conservation tillage mitigates the negative effect of landscape simplification on biological control. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12544



Cordingley, J. E., Newton, A. C., Rose, R. J., Clarke, R. T. & Bullock, J. M. (2015) Can landscape-scale approaches to conservation management resolve biodiversity–ecosystem service trade-offs? Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12545


Méndez, V. et al (2015) Use of environmental stratification to derive non-breeding population estimates of dispersed waterbirds in Great Britain. Journal for Nature Conservation. doi:10.1016/j.jnc.2015.09.001


Richard F. Pywell, Matthew S. Heard, Ben A. Woodcock, Shelley Hinsley, Lucy Ridding, Marek Nowakowski, James M. Bullock  Wildlife-friendly farming increases crop yield: evidence for ecological intensification. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: biological sciences. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1740


Tulloch, Ayesha I.T., Barnes, Megan D., Ringma, Jeremy, Fuller, Richard A., Watson, James E.M. Understanding the importance of small patches of habitat for conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology.  DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12547

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