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


'Blue Belt' extended to protect 8,000 square miles of UK waters - Defra

Twenty-three new areas along the UK coast were today (17/1/16) announced as the latest Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to be awarded environmental protection by the government, extending the country’s ‘Blue Belt’ to cover over 20% of English waters and providing vital protection for the diverse array of wildlife in our seas.

Marine Environment Minister George Eustice announced the new sites, which will protect 4,155 square miles of our most stunning and rich marine habitats and bring the total number of MCZs in waters around England to 50, covering 7,886 square miles - an area roughly equivalent to the whole of Wales, or 13 times the size of Greater London.

The new MCZs will cover areas across the country from as far north as Farnes East off the coast of Northumberland down to Land’s End in the South West, and will protect 45 different types of habitat, geological features and fascinating species - including stalked jellyfish and spiny lobsters.

Welcoming the designation of the new sites, Marine Environment Minister George Eustice said: " As an island nation, the UK is surrounded by some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world - from the bright pink sea-fan coral colonies off the south-west coast, to the great chalk reef stretches in the east. It’s vital that we protect our marine environment to ensure our seas remain healthy, our fishing industry remains prosperous and future generations can enjoy our beautiful beaches, coastline and waters. By designating these new Marine Conservation Zones and creating a Blue Belt of protected areas around the country, we can better protect our environment through careful marine management in years to come."

The 23 additional sites are the second of three planned phases of MCZs; the first phase covered 3,731 square miles of water over 27 sites, while a third phase of proposed MCZs will be put out to wider public consultation in 2017, and designated in 2018.

Today’s announcement supports further work by government to protect the marine environment, as new consultations on Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for harbour porpoise and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to protect feeding and bathing areas used by iconic birds, such as spoonbills in Poole Harbour and puffins on the Northumberland coast, are expected to launch later this month. This adds to the 37 SACs and 43 SPAs already designated in English waters.

You can see where the zones are on JNCC’s interactive map.


Marine conservation zones: January 2016 update - defra Policy Paper

An update on Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), covering the approach and timings for the third phase of MCZs.

This document provides an update on:

  • plans and timings for the third phase of MCZs
  • how sites will be selected for the third phase

Access the full Marine Conservation Zones: January 2016 update here (PDF)


Reactions to the announcement:

23 MCZs designated - Wildlife Trust

Second wave of protection in place

Today (17/1) we got the excellent news that the Government is designating the 23 Marine Conservation Zones that it consulted on at the start of 2015. Designation of these sites will secure protection for some fantastic habitats, from deep mud habitat and sea pens in Fulmar MCZ in the north east, to rock and sea fan habitat in Lands End MCZ in the south west; from biogenic reefs and peat and clay habitats in Allonby Bay MCZ off Cumbria to the longest chalk reef off the Norfolk coast in Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ.

These sites are not intended as no-take zones. They are intended to protect the habitats and species for which the site has been designated from the most damaging and degrading activity, whilst allowing sustainable and non-damaging activity to continue.

Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to the comprehensive network of sites needed to help our seas recover and thrive. But there is still work to do- the Government have confirmed that they intend to consult on a third tranche of sites in 2017 for designation in 2018. These sites should be our final gap fillers, completing our MCZ network and helping to complete the UK wide network of MPAs (made up of MCZ, national sites from Wales, NI and Scotland and sites of European importance). It is vital that this final tranche is ambitious and in particular addresses some of the large gaps that still exist in our network, for example for mud in the Irish Sea and seagrass in the south of England.


A step in the right direction for our marine wildlife - RSPB

The RSPB welcomes today’s (17/1) Defra announcement of the creation of 23 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and the proposal of seven Special Protection Areas (SPAs) around the English and Welsh coast as an important step in protecting our coasts and seas. However, the job is not yet complete and more needs to be done to protect the UKs seabirds.

Bringing the total number of MCZs to 50, this is an important step towards establishing a functioning network of marine protection for our seas. The new MCZs will cover areas across the country from as far north as the Farne Islands off the Northumbrian coast down to Land’s End in the South West. Totalling 4,155 square miles of rich marine habitats, these new protected areas bring the entire protected area around our coasts to 7,886 square miles.

Martin Harper said: “To save nature, we need the most important places on both land and at sea to be protected and well managed. This new announcement is an important step towards this goal. However, it is disappointing to see that some of the UK’s marine jewels – sites for seabirds – haven’t been used in the designation process. We hope that the third round of marine protected designations, due in 2018 will offer the chance to finally designate sites for that provide protection for our seabirds.”

Despite threats such as marine pollution and the impacts of climate change, charismatic at risk species such as the puffin have not been included in the current designations.  Previous designations have not included seabirds as it was thought too difficult to identify important sites for highly mobile species such as seabirds.

The RSPB also welcomes the proposal for the designation of seven new or extended Special Protection Areas for seabirds under the European Birds Directive. These sites will provide much-needed and long overdue protection for a range of seabirds from the wintering grounds of internationally important populations of divers, ducks and grebes to the foraging areas relied upon by breeding tern colonies, and we look forward to seeing the details of what is proposed. However, despite the global importance of the UKs seas for seabirds, 34 years after the European Birds Directive substantially strengthened protection for birds in the UK; the network of SPAs remains substantially incomplete. 


also see: Martin Harper's blog- The marine conservation wheels keep on turning (but very slowly for seabirds)


Little protection for whales and dolphins in Government’s new UK Marine Conservation Zones - WDC

Whilst WDC welcomes the Government’s announcement over the weekend to create 23 new Marine Conservation Zones, we remain critical of the decision not to include any sites that would protect species of whale, dolphin or porpoise.

Thirty species of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) are known to occur in UK waters, twelve of which are resident seasonally or year-round in English waters, meaning that these waters are vital to them for breeding, feeding and other biologically important activities.

What is surprising is that the original consultation document states that ‘The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (the Act) requires government to establish a network of MPAs that protects habitats and species which are representative of the range of habitats and species in our seas’, yet none of the cetacean species living in UK waters have been included.


Scotland’s sub-tropical oasis afflicted by tree disease - National Trust for Scotland

One of the world’s most renowned gardens, Inverewe, near Poolewe in Wester Ross, has been affected by the nationwide spread of the tree disease Phytophthora ramorum.

National Trust for Scotland, announced today (18/1)  that it is embarking on the removal affected Japanese larch trees, as well as some other susceptible plants, and introducing a containment zone to prevent further spreading.
Phytophthora ramorum, a pathogen better known as ‘sudden oak death’ or ‘Ramorum dieback’, doesn’t often affect oak in Britain but does affect larch, including the Japanese larch at Inverewe, which are located in the garden’s east shelterbelt and parts of the main garden.
Staff at the garden, which was created from scratch by Osgood Mackenzie beginning the 1860s, spotted signs of the pathogen before Christmas. As is required by law, Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) was notified and has subsequently issued two Statutory Plan Health Notices for the felling of the affected trees.
The NTS Property Manager for Inverewe, Kevin Frediani said: "Fortunately, the affected larch are not in a core part of the garden, though the shelterbelt will have to be re-planted with a less susceptible species in order to ensure the garden is protected from harsh winds in future. We are required to fell the affected trees plus others up to 250 metres out as part of a containment zone, as well as removing the self-sown Rhododendron ponticum in the vicinity that can also be infected. We will be able to do this using in-house teams by the February deadline, though the costs incurred to our charity will exceed £10,000. There will be very little impact on visitors or the overall integrity of Inverewe Garden, though we will be asking everyone to respect guidance which is designed to prevent any further infections or transference elsewhere.”
The source of the infection is unknown, but given the propensity of spores to be blown over very long distances it is unlikely it will ever be identified. Felling will be completed at Inverewe by the end of February and the wood will be disposed of using approved methods. Monitoring will continue thereafter to enable prompt action should a further outbreak be detected.


MPs targeted in myth busting mission - Moorland Association

Two leading conservation organisations have united to deliver a series of messages to MPs following flawed and damaging claims about grouse moors and flooding.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the Moorland Association are distributing their Briefing Note as a major upland hydrology conference gets underway today (January 18).

Erroneous claims in the press and parliament that grouse moor management has deliberately contributed to flooding in northern England are addressed in the publication aimed at setting out facts and dispelling myths.

Director of the Moorland Association, Amanda Anderson, explained it was important to set the record straight, adding good moorland management could in fact prevent flooding. She said: “Grouse moor managers are working hard across vast tracts of land in northern England. They are rewetting peat by blocking up thousands of kilometres of historic, ill-advised, agricultural drains, slowing and cleaning water, revegetating hundreds of hectares of bare peat and reintroducing the king of bog plants, Sphagnum moss. “Understanding the importance of healthy peat, informed by science, has led to a step-change in attitude and progress.”

Moorland Association members, who manage a million acres of uplands in England and Wales, have helped spearhead a new approach on areas of deep peat, focused on outcomes set to benefit everyone.

Mrs Anderson added: “The gains are widespread and apart from slowing and cleaning water include carbon capture and storage, better biodiversity, wildfire mitigation and economic stock grazing  – while safeguarding and improving the wild red grouse population. We are determined that MPs, journalists and the public at large understand what is happening on the ground  and are not influenced by flawed and damaging claims which have increasingly been levelled at grouse moor management.”

Read the Briefing Note – Grouse Moors and Flooding covers peatland restoration, explains why ‘wetter is better’ and the role of peatland in flood mitigation: here (PDF)


To clean up ocean plastics focus on coasts, not the Great Pacific garbage patch – Imperial College London

The most efficient way to clean up ocean plastics and avoid harming ecosystems is to place plastic collectors near coasts, according to a new study.

Plastic floating in the oceans is a widespread and increasing problem. Plastics including bags, bottle caps and plastic fibres from synthetic clothes wash out into the oceans from urban rivers, sewers and waste deposits.

Image: Imperial College LondonImage: Imperial College London

Larger plastics are broken down into smaller fragments that can persist for hundreds or even thousands of years, and fragments of all sizes are swallowed by animals and enter the food web, disrupting ecosystems.

One area of open ocean in the North Pacific has an unusually large collection of microscopic plastics, or microplastics, and is known as the Great Pacific garbage patch. The patch is enclosed by ocean currents that concentrate the plastics into an area estimated to be larger than twice the size of the United Kingdom.

The patch has gained international attention, and there is now a project called The Ocean Cleanup that plans to deploy plastic collectors to clean up the region. However, a new analysis by Dr Erik van Sebille and undergraduate physics student Peter Sherman from Imperial College London suggests that targeting the patch is not the most efficient way to clean up the oceans.

Dr van Sebille, from Imperial’s Grantham Institute, and Sherman used a model of ocean plastic movements to determine the best places to deploy plastic collectors to remove the most amount of microplastics, and to prevent the most harm to wildlife and ecosystems. The study is published today in Environmental Research Letters.

They found that placing plastic collectors like those proposed by The Ocean Cleanup project around coasts was more beneficial than placing them all inside the patch. The project proposes a system of floating barriers and platforms to concentrate and collect plastics and remove them.

Access the paper here: Sherman, P. & van Sebille, E. (2016) Modeling marine surface microplastic transport to assess optimal removal locations. Environmental Research Letters doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/1/014006


More Plastic than Fish in the Ocean by 2050: Report Offers Blueprint for Change – World Economic Forum

  • Most plastic packaging is used only once; new report reveals that 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80 billion-$120 billion annually, is lost to the economy
  • Report predicts that, on the current track, oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050 (by weight)
  • Report offers vision for a global economy in which plastics never become waste, and a blueprint for the systemic change and collaboration needed to realize that vision

Read the full report here


South Downs Way becomes first fully inclusive National Trail - South Downs National Park

The South Downs Way has become the first National Trail in the country to become fully inclusive now that anyone in any wheelchair can travel on any part of it from Eastbourne to Winchester.

Simon Mulholland of Pony Access has designed a special pony cart which enables any wheelchair user to access rough terrain anywhere along the National Trail.

“It’s very exciting to be able to see people able to enjoy everything that makes the South Downs special for the first time,” says Simon. “People will be able to turn up, have a go and leave again without leaving any trace on the protected landscape. They don’t even have to get out of their wheelchairs, which some people just aren’t able to do. This is just the start of my aim to make the whole UK countryside inclusive and accessible to all.”

Vehicles are forbidden on UK bridleways and footpaths so the pony cart has had to be specially designed to both take a wheelchair and be allowed on the trail.

Andy Gattiker, South Downs Way Trail Officer, said: “More than 20,000 walkers, cyclists and horseriders travel the South Downs Way each year. We’re really pleased that it can now be opened up to even more people to enjoy.”


UK Biodiversity Indicators - JNCC publication 

The UK is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is committed to the biodiversity goals and targets ‘the Aichi targets’ agreed in 2010 and set out in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.  We are also committed to developing and using a set of indicators to report on progress towards meeting these international goals and targets.  There are related commitments on biodiversity made by the European Union, and the UK indicators may also be used to assess progress with these.

The UK indicators were comprehensively reviewed during 2011 and 2012 to ensure they continued to be based on the most robust and reliable available data; and remained relevant to the new international goals and targets1.  Since then the indicators have been refined to improve their relevance/quality, and new indicators developed to fill gaps.  In this version of the publication each of the indicators has been updated with the most recent data wherever possible.  In some cases, however, development work is ongoing, and where this is the case, the work to develop them has been described briefly.

Download full report here (PDF)  


Nature Improvement Areas: Thousands more hectares for our wildlife - defra

A final report published today (20/1/16) showcases the achievements of the 12 Nature Improvement Areas established in 2012Habitat Restoration in context at Park End (image: © Bart Donato via Natural England)

Habitat Restoration in context at Park End (image: © Bart Donato via Natural England)

Nearly 20,000 hectares of natural habitat – the equivalent of almost 23,000 football pitches – has been created, restored or preserved across England over the past three years thanks to an innovative £7.5 million government project.

Published today, the ‘Monitoring and Evaluation of Nature Improvement Areas: Final Report’ showcases the achievements of the 12 Nature Improvement Areas – established in 2012 with funding from Defra – in helping protect wildlife and connect people with nature, while providing a boost to rural economies.

From the vast green plains of the Humberhead Levels to the glacial landscapes of the Meres and Mosses wetlands and the urban backdrop of the Greater Thames Marshes, the three-year initiative saw local authorities, communities, conservation groups and the private sector come together to change and improve local areas in both rural and urban locations. This unique partnership approach means these natural spaces now not only provide a sanctuary for wildlife to thrive, but also ensure people can enjoy them for generations to come.

In total, work across the areas has preserved or enhanced over 13,500 hectares of habitat, such as the 1,700 hectares of woodland and wetland in Morecambe Bay, while an additional 5,000 hectares of habitat has been created, providing much-needed homes for our precious wildlife.

The Nature Improvement Areas have also helped people reconnect with nature, with volunteers contributing over 47,000 days, school children earning their green fingers by planting trees, and communities getting involved in decision making.

Thanks to work carried out through the initiative, the areas could now see a boost to tourism, helping to generate jobs and enhance our valuable rural economy which is worth £210 billion to the UK’s growing prosperity.

Natural England Chairman Andrew Sells said: "I warmly congratulate all 12 Nature Improvement Areas on the enormous contribution they have made to conservation in such a short space of time. It is clear that this approach to coordinated landscape scale activity in England has delivered multiple benefits. The positive lessons learnt from this initiative serve as shining examples of what can be achieved by an ‘outcomes focused partnership approach’ and I hope that inspires others to follow suit in the future."

Learnings from the Nature Improvement Areas will now help to inform Defra’s 25 year plan for action on the environment which will be published later in the year as part of a comprehensive, long-term vision to protect the country’s natural heritage.

Access all the reports and summaries including the final report from here.


Fifty years counting ducks - BTO

January 16th was the 50th anniversary of the International Waterbirds Census (IWC) in which volunteers from over one hundred countries will get out in search of their waterbirds. The IWC is the most globally extensive, and one of the longest running, biodiversity monitoring programmes in the world and UK birdwatchers have been there from the start.

Curlew, (image: John Harding / BTO)Curlew, (image: John Harding / BTO)

This winter the volunteer effort is even more impressive, as a special Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey (NEWS) is taking place along the British and Irish coastlines. This will increase our knowledge of species such as Turnstones and Great Northern Divers that depend on our beaches and inshore waters.                                 

Why is the IWC important? Thanks to WeBS volunteers we now know that populations of some of the birds counted in the UK are changing. However, the situation in other countries can be very different and it is vital to get a more complete assessment of the populations that use the whole East Atlantic Flyway which extends from Arctic Greenland and Russia to southern Africa. This international context helps us understand, for example, that whilst declining UK trends in the numbers of wintering Dunlin may be due to climate change-related 'short-stopping' of birds over-wintering closer to their breeding grounds, Oystercatchers - in contrast - are declining throughout Europe.                                  

David Stroud, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), commented, “Data and information from the IWC underpins so many aspects of the work of governments to conserve waterbirds and their wetland habitats – from conservation status assessments; to the identification, designation and monitoring of important sites; and the provision of essential international contexts for species management issues.  It is imperative that we maintain the IWC and continue to develop and enhance its activities as the basis for the next 50 years of waterbird conservation.”    


Tagging project confirms Sea of the Hebrides importance to basking sharks - Scottish Natural Heritage

A pioneering three-year project to learn some of the secrets of Scotland’s basking sharks by using satellite tag technology has shown an area off the west coast to be truly important for these giant fish.

Sharks tracked during the Basking Shark Satellite Tagging Project tended to spend most of their summer in the Sea of the Hebrides and returned to the same area the following year, according to the final project report published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) today (12/1/16).

Between 2012 and 2014, 61 basking sharks were tagged in the project, a partnership between SNH and the University of Exeter (UoE), and the first known to use a variety of satellite tagging technologies and to track the near real-time movements of basking sharks.

Map showing path of tagged basking sharks (image: SNH)Map showing path of tagged basking sharks (image: SNH)

Tags were attached to the sharks near the islands of Hyskier, Coll and Tiree, where each summer large numbers of basking sharks can be seen feeding near the surface. The tagged sharks were particularly drawn to the waters around these islands which are an exciting place for wildlife watchers. Scientists at SNH and UoE believe the sharks return each year to feed in the area’s plankton-rich seas. The sharks’ behaviour suggests the waters could also be important to the sharks for other reasons and that they could benefit from a proposed MPA off the west coast.

Suzanne Henderson from SNH, who is managing the project said:  “It’s been really exciting to learn that the same individual basking sharks return in consecutive years to use Scottish waters. It’s something we thought happened - but we now have the first proof that this occurs. It really does emphasise that the Sea of the Hebrides is highly important for this migrating species.”

Protecting highly mobile species, such as basking shark and whales, is difficult due to the large areas they cover. So identifying and managing areas where the animals gather to feed, or for important life-cycle events, such as courtship, can play an important role in their conservation.

As part of the Scottish MPA Programme, SNH has recommended that an area of the Sea of the Hebrides from Skye to Mull be designated an MPA to protect the basking sharks, and also minke whales. Scottish Ministers are currently considering the proposal. 

Read the final report: SNH Commissioned Report 908: Basking shark satellite tagging project: insights into basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) movement, distribution and behaviour using satellite telemetry - Final report


Several defra consultations on potential Special Protection Areas

All close 21 April, use the links below to read the proposals, see the supporting information and submit your comments.

Morecambe Bay and Duddon Estuary Special Protection Area changes: comment on proposals 

Northumberland Marine potential Special Protection Area: comment on proposals

Solent and Dorset Coast potential Special Protection Area: comment on proposals

Poole Harbour Special Protection Area extension: comment on proposals

Hamford Water Special Protection Area extension: comment on proposals

Outer Thames Estuary Special Protection Area extension: comment on proposals


SEPA publishes guidance on natural flood management

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has published a new handbook to help local authorities and landowners implement natural flood management measures.

The Natural Flood Management Handbook was launched at an event held by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management. The impact of recent flooding has shown that new ways to manage flooding are needed, and the handbook details how natural flood management can contribute, as part of a suite of measures, to help reduce the impact of frequent flooding on a smaller scale.

A key element of sustainable flood risk management involves finding ways to manage flooding at its source, rather than solely focusing on traditional engineering further down the catchment. This can include, for example, riparian planting, reinstating flood plains, restoring coastal areas or returning watercourses back to their natural shape.

These measures can play an important role in reducing flooding during smaller, more frequent, events while simultaneously delivering many other benefits.

SEPA has responsibility, under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009, for co-ordinating the delivery of sustainable flood management in Scotland, and in particular to set objectives and identify actions to manage flood risk with relevant partner organisations, including natural flood management.

Heather Forbes, Senior Policy Officer in SEPA’s Flood Risk Management team, said: “Flooding has caused devastation and misery for many people across Scotland in recent weeks, and highlighted the increasing pressure on flood risk defences. To continue to focus only on managing flooding through these traditional means is not sustainable. By managing the sources and pathways of flood waters further up the catchment, we can help to reduce the impacts on any defences downstream. This new handbook has been produced to guide those responsible for implementing natural flood management approaches, and provide them with the necessary information. This document will be updated as our understanding of natural flood management develops.”


Land management could help wildlife beat the challenges brought by climate change - University of Exeter

The harmful effects of climate change on wildlife habitats can been counteracted by localised land management, a new research paper has suggested.

Scientists from the University of Exeter have suggested that habitats could be controlled through various focused practices to help ‘buffer’ species against the worst effects of continued climate change.

The research team, based at the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) at the University’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, acknowledge that some species can adapt to changing conditions to meet new challenges, such as moving to cooler habitats as temperatures rise.

However, the team believe that mankind can provide crucial assistance to species across the globe by manipulating the nearby region to suit the needs of the local wildlife.

The review paper features in the respected scientific publication, the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Owen Greenwood, a Bioscientist at the University of Exeter and lead author of the paper said: “We know that climate change has a huge impact on biodiversity, and one aspect is that many species are unable to migrate to less hostile habitats due to unfavourable conditions, such as farmlands providing a barrier for example.

“What we have shown in this paper is that, by managing the land in a smarter way, we can help species adapt and survive despite the problems associated with climate change. And these are all things that can be done on a local level, and so could be acted upon in a relatively short space of time.”

Access the paper: Greenwood, O., Mossman, H. L., Suggitt, A. J., Curtis, R. J., Maclean, I. M. D. (2016), Using in situ management to conserve biodiversity under climate change. Journal of Applied Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12602


Exmoor Rural Crime Initiative arrests - Exmoor National Park and National Wildlife Crime Unit

A joint wildlife crime operation took place in North Devon recently under the auspices of the Exmoor Rural Crime Initiative.

On 20 January officers from both Avon & Somerset and Devon & Cornwall Police along with staff from Devon and Somerset Trading Standards, Environmental Health and the National Wildlife Crime Unit visited nine premises in the Barnstaple area as part of a wildlife crime operation.

This activity follows a two and a half year investigation and intelligence gathering by both police forces into organised crime and poaching networks.

Using Trading Standards and Food Safety powers along with a number of warrants obtained under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, business and residential properties were searched by officers as part of investigations into alleged offences surrounding poaching and the illegal supply of meat into the food chain.

Two men aged 37 and 42 have been arrested for poaching offences and bailed until the 9th March pending further enquires.  Two men aged 19 and 57, and a 53-year-old woman has also been arrested in connection with firearms offences and have been bailed until the 18th March.

A number of meat samples have been taken and will be tested to establish the species of the animal product on sale. Carcasses were also located at a number of address and further tests will take place to establish the type of weapon used to kill these animals.  Cash, phones, computers and other weapons were also seized during the operation.

Sgt Andy Whysall, from Avon and Somerset Police, who is currently working with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “This type of joint operation between police forces and other agencies sends a clear message to those who don’t believe that wildlife crime is taken seriously. It demonstrates that by working together with our partners we have the ability to deal with a wide range of offences and those involved in wildlife crime, poaching and trading standards offences are brought to justice.

"These are not victimless crimes, landowners loose out and ultimately the public are potentially at risk from food that isn’t checked and tested by the usual food standards. I would like to thank all agencies involved in making sure that such a response to this issue was possible.”


Iconic harvest mouse returns to Hampshire village - defra

Iconic harvest mouse immortalised by Beatrix Potter returns to Hampshire village where it was first discovered

The iconic Harvest Mouse has been found in a Hampshire village more than 25 years after it was thought to have been locally extinct thanks to an innovative new farming method.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss today (22/1/16) announced the discovery of more than 150 nests around Selborne village, the birthplace of the famous naturalist Gilbert White who was responsible for distinguishing micromys minutus, or the Harvest Mouse, as a species in 1767.

The Selborne Farmer Cluster has brought together local farmers so they can achieve greater ecological benefits by protecting a wider landscape than just their own individual farmland. Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss is visiting the cluster around the village where the mice were last seen in 1990.  The 25-year Environment Plan is set to help conserve our precious environment by boosting co-ordination and encouraging people to work more closely together, which is exactly what this farmer cluster model is achieving.  The Selborne farmers joined forces with volunteers to conduct surveys of field mice nests and carried out vital work such as hedge laying, hedge planting and the maintenance of grass headlands around arable fields to create habitats. By working collectively, the Selborne cluster has created a connected habitat for birds, small mammals and insects. In addition to biodiversity improvements, the farmer cluster method of working can bring economic benefits. Managing flood resilience, for example, is more effective if the land is looked at as a whole within a water catchment area, as opposed to individual units.

The 25-year Environment Plan is set to help conserve our precious environment by boosting co-ordination and cohesive working between people, which is exactly what this farmer cluster model is achieving.


Largest-ever survey of Scottish wildcats commences - Scottish Wildcat Action

The largest-ever survey of Scottish wildcats is now underway with more than 300 trail cameras live.

The survey focuses on the six wildcat priority areas of Scotland, including Strathpeffer, Strathbogie, Strathavon, North Strathspey, Morvern and the Angus Glens.

As part of Scottish Wildcat Action, these motion-sensitive cameras will monitor cats living in parts of the Highlands over a 60-day period.

Survey methods are informed by published scientific studies and a practical hands-on approach.

More than 130 volunteers will check the cameras. Data gathered will help inform wildcat protection measures including an extensive neutering campaign to stop feral and pet cats from interbreeding with the endangered wildcats and passing disease on to them.

The project would like to send an enormous thank you to all the dedicated volunteers who have given up their time to help gather this crucial intelligence. This impressive volunteer collaboration is supported by an award from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Dr Roo Campbell, the priority areas manager, said: “This is a significant step towards creating safer places for wildcats in Scotland. The winter survey will provide a huge source of information about what cats are out there, where they are and the degree of hybridisation between our native wildcat and the domestic cat.

“This is the first time a wildcat survey of this scale has been carried out and will be very important for assessing the current threats to wildcats.”


Study demonstrates value of green spaces to society - The Land Trust

Every pound invested in parks and nature reserves contributes £30 towards health and wellbeing benefits and £23 towards crime reduction and community safety.

Those are the findings uncovered by national land management charity, the Land Trust, which commissioned an independent study by economic consultants, Carney Green to assess the value of the green spaces in its portfolio.

The study also found that for every £1 spend by the Land Trust in maintaining its parks and nature reserves; people value this at two and a half times higher.

The study measured the impact of Land Trust services to identify the value that people place on their local green space as well as to estimate the financial value it contributes to the health and social sectors.

The results were emphatic, demonstrating that green spaces are not just good for the environment, they are good for society.

Among those surveyed (as part of the study), nine out of 10 people visiting Land Trust’s spaces felt that they play a positive part in their happiness and wellbeing.  The study revealed that people using Land Trust green spaces have higher levels of satisfaction and wellbeing and lower levels of anxiety compared to the national averages (the survey used the same wellbeing questions as those from the Office for National Statistics annual household survey).

Euan Hall, CEO of the Land Trust said “We have always known that well managed green spaces provide significant benefits for society, but the results of this study are really encouraging and they reinforce the importance of our work in sustainably managing our green spaces. Seeing the results quantified so starkly in this context is fantastic. This is a major step forward for us and reaffirms the opportunities we have for providing even more benefits to society.”

The study shows that the Land Trust’s sustainably managed green spaces deliver multiple benefits and make a significant contribution for local people to feel healthier, happier, safer and wealthier.

See the summary report here (PDF)


Scientific Publications

Lauren Fuller and Christopher P. Quine.  Resilience and tree health: a basis for implementation in sustainable forest management Forestry (2016) 89 (1): 7-19 first published online December 20, 2015 doi:10.1093/forestry/cpv046


Gleckler, P. J., Durack, P. J., Stouffer, R. J., Johnson, G. C & Forest, C. E. (2016) Industrial-era global ocean heat uptake doubles in recent decades… Nature Climate Change doi:10.1038/nclimate2915


Kettel E. F., Perrow, M. R. & Reader, T. (2016) Live-trapping in the stalk zone of tall grasses as an effective way of monitoring harvest mice (Micromys minutus). European Journal of Wildlife Research. 10.1007/s10344-016-0985-1


Mueller, A. K., Chakarov, N., Heseker. H. & Krüger, O. (2016) Intraguild predation leads to cascading effects on habitat choice, behaviour and reproductive performance. Journal of Animal Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12493

Bodil K. Ehlers, Christian F. Damgaard, Fabien Laroche Intraspecific genetic variation and species coexistence in plant communities. Biology Letters. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0853  


Terrado, Marta et al Integrating ecosystem services in river basin management plans. Journal of Applied Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12613 


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