CJS Logo & link to homepage

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


Wales continues to lead the way in UK on revealing the immense benefits of urban trees - Natural Resources Wales

Results of new surveys on tree cover across two urban areas in south Wales have been published.

The surveys were carried out by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Forest Research last year, in partnership with Bridgend County Borough Council, and in the Tawe catchment with local authority partners - Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Powys and Dŵr Cymru.

Using i-Tree Eco, an innovative US assessment tool that uniquely quantifies the important benefits trees provide, this is the first time Bridgend and Tawe’s urban trees have been assessed to understand the range of tree species, their condition and location. 

Dafydd Fryer from Natural Resources Wales said:  “Most of us would agree that living, working and playing in areas surrounded by trees create attractive places that help to improve health and well-being.  However, how many of us appreciate their role in removing air pollution, reducing flood risk and storing and capturing carbon from the atmosphere? What the i-Tree Eco studies show us is the huge contribution trees, especially the long-lived trees to the many critical challenges facing our towns and cities.   Crucially it demonstrates that, by fully integrating trees into future planning and road projects, they offer cost-effective solutions. With the studies identifying 25% of land available to be planted with trees, there is a clear opportunity to invest for the future.”

The annual ecosystem services provided by the Tawe catchment’s 530,000 urban trees are valued at £1,720,000 with the 440,000 trees in Bridgend County Borough worth £950,000. The studies also calculated how much it would cost to replace all trees, totalling £816 and £686 million.

The findings are now available to view on the Forest Research website; Bridgend report here and Swansea report here 


Circular economy policies should target cuts in resource use - Scottish Environment LINK

Environmental organisations in Scotland have welcomed growing interest in creating a more circular economy, but warn that government should set resource use targets if it is to secure environmental benefits.

In advance of the Scottish Government releasing its forthcoming strategy on the circular economy late in February, Scottish Environment LINK commissioned a report to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the concept from the point of view of environmental NGOs. LINK thinks that the aspiration to create a more circular economy has enormous potential but only if its adoption drives genuine changes in the ways in which enterprises and government work.

Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, speaking on behalf of LINK’s Economics Group says: “The Circular Economy concept has great potential to reduce waste, save citizens and businesses cash, create jobs and reduce climate change emissions.  It’s a great idea but it needs to be done right. We’ll be looking for the Scottish Government to produce a strategy which measures the fundamentals of our current over-use of materials, and demonstrates how its policies will make a real difference. Scotland has a chance to be a leader in tackling resource use in Europe if the Government produces a strong strategy next week.”

Download the Scottish Environment LINK reportThe Circular Economy: Implications for the Environment Movement’  (PDF)


Europe’s grasslands, woodlands, and marine areas face increased threats - European Environment Agency 

Europe’s ecosystems face increasing pressure to stay healthy amid rising pollution, overexploitation, urban sprawl and the effects of climate change. These are the findings of a European Environment Agency (EEA) report published today (22/2/16) which takes stock of the condition of Europe’s ecosystems.

The EEA report ‘Mapping and assessing the condition of Europe’s ecosystems: progress and challenges’ gives a snapshot of current ecosystem health in Europe. It identifies key gaps in data which are essential to properly assess the health of Europe’s many ecosystems. The report concludes improved mapping and assessments are needed in order to understand the problems faced by Europe’s ecosystems and to restore these key life-sustaining systems to better health. This understanding is vital for policymakers to come up with suitable responses.

The well-being of our societies is heavily dependent on our thriving ecosystems, which provide the basic building blocks of our day-to-day survival, including fertile soil, fresh water, pollination, natural flood protection and climate regulation. This ‘natural capital’ is being degraded or lost as a result of human activity.

The report looks at eight broad ecosystem types in Europe: urban, cropland, grassland, heathland and shrub, woodland and forest, wetlands, freshwater, and marine. It assesses the pressures and challenges each of the different types face as well as the impacts on habitats and species. 

Access the EEA reportMapping and assessing the condition of Europe’s ecosystems: progress and challenges


Rethinking how parks are funded - Nesta

‘Learning to Rethink Parks’ presents the lessons from Rethinking Parks, an 18 month programme designed to find and test ways for Britain’s parks to source new sustainable funding in the future.

Eleven UK parks received a share of £1m in grant funding and specialist support to explore new ways of raising income or reducing costs. Models tested included greater use of herbaceous and wild meadow planting, public donations, mobilising volunteers and friends groups to help with maintenance and even the creation of a pop-up meeting space.

While there is no one ‘silver bullet’ for replacing local authority funding, some promising new models emerged during the programme:

  • Burnley Go to the Park project involved moving from a culture of “controlling nature” to one of “working with nature”, turning some areas of parks over to meadows and planting some traditional beds with perennials rather than annuals.  This has created savings of nearly £70,000 since its launch and is forecast to save the council £119,000 per year (10 per cent of their parks budget) by 2020. 
  • Bournemouth Parks Foundation has proved that people are willing to donate to public parks, including via text, projecting a donation stream of £46,000 a year by 2020/21.
  • The Heeley People’s Park subscription scheme has shown people will donate on an ongoing basis to their local park, demonstrating it is not just flagship parks that can tap into people’s willingness to give.
  • The Bristol ParkWork project worked with volunteers and saw 40 per cent of participants transitioning into employment and training, while delivering £27,000 worth of improvements to parks across the city.


image: Keep Britain TidyProject launched with Lidl and Chris Packham – Keep Britain Tidy

Last week, we announced our latest initiative which will focus on engaging with young people, with the aim to encourage them to reduce litter and waste and help them to get them involved in improving their local parks and green spaces.

The work is being funded thanks to a £500,000 donation from supermarket chain Lidl, which is giving some of the process of the single-use bag charge.

This exciting initiative was launched at a celebration event held at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Nature photographer and TV presenter, Chris Packham, attended the event and unveiled a series of specially commissioned images he took which shows the impact of litter on wildlife and the natural environment.


Safeguarding the future of Scotland's best loved trees – Forestry Commission Scotland

In the face of climate change threats and increasing risk of attack from pests and diseases, Forestry Commission Scotland has taken steps to help safeguard the future of Scotland’s best loved and most vulnerable trees.

Photo credit Colin Leslie.Photo credit Colin Leslie.

FCS is one of a new consortium of 15 Scottish organisations that is working with Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank as part of the UK National Tree Seed Project. Other participants include Scottish Wildlife Trust, Trees for Life, and the Woodland Trust.

The project aims to create the first UK national tree seed bank which would provide a vital resource for researchers working to develop more resilient woodlands across the UK. As well as providing an insurance policy against extinction, the project will also raise the capacity for collection and supply of seed of native species for planting across Scotland.


Revitalising natural landscapes can reduce flood risk – Environment Agency

The Chief Executive of the Environment Agency says revitalising natural landscapes can reduce flood risk

Sir James Bevan being shown the Clough Woodland tree planting scheme in the Peak District (Environment Agency)Sir James Bevan being shown the Clough Woodland tree planting scheme in the Peak District (Environment Agency)

Sir James Bevan visited the uplands in the Peak District National Park on Friday to see firsthand how the Environment Agency’s investment is supporting the Moors for the Future Partnership in reversing the effects of hundreds of years of industrial pollution and helping to reduce flood risk.

The partnership is leading a series of visits for Environment Agency staff to moorlands in Derbyshire, near to Sheffield, where conservation work has transformed the peat landscape that had been damaged by more than 150 years of pollution from coal-fired factories on either side of the Pennines, and devastating wildfires.

The work also ‘slows the flow’ of water running down from moorland into the River Derwent, which in turn reduces the flood risk and improves water quality for communities in Derbyshire and the Trent Valley.

In the past 12 years the partnership has brought over 5 square kilometres of bare and eroding peat moorland back to life, covering the ground with a protective layer of heather cuttings and temporary grasses while native species are re-introduced. This has prevented thousands of tonnes of carbon from being washed away into water courses and reservoirs where it has to be removed before the water is used for domestic supply.

Healthy peat bogs are naturally wet but bare peat is vulnerable to drying out. In the past 12 years the partnership has built more than 10,000 dams to help hold water on the moors and trap peat sediment. It has also reintroduced sphagnum moss to 10 square kilometres of moorland. This moss was virtually wiped out by pollution dating back to the industrial revolution and is essential for the formation of new peat.


Longer-distance migratory birds may be smarter – University of Oxford

Birds that migrate the greatest distances have more new neurons in the regions of the brain responsible for navigation and spatial orientation, suggests a new paper published in Scientific Reports.

For some time scholars have widely accepted the view that neurons, the cells that specialise in processing and transmitting information and contribute to brain plasticity, continue to be generated in the brains of animals even when they are adults. After being created in one part of the brain, the neurons then migrate to those regions of the brain that need them most.

The international research team, which included scientists from the University of Oxford, focused on the role played by neurons in two species, turtle doves and reed warblers, making their way from Africa to the Middle East or Europe. In both species, the researchers found that the proportion of new neurons increased in line with the migration distance. Interestingly, however, there was a distinct difference between the two species in the areas of the brain that incorporated the new neurons. In reed warblers, birds that migrate as individuals at night, new neurons were found mainly in the hippocampus – a region associated with navigation. In turtle doves, a species that migrates as a group, the new neurons were found mainly in the nidopallium caudolateral, an area associated with communication skills.

Access the paper here:  Barkan, S., Roll, U., Yom-Tov, Y., Wassenaar, L.I. & Barnea, A. (2016) Possible linkage between neuronal recruitment and flight distance in migratory birds. Scientific Reports. 6 doi:10.1038/srep21983


Tackling wildlife crime - Scottish Government

Tough new penalties for wildlife offences.

Environment Minister Aileen McLeod has accepted recommendations from the wildlife crime penalties review group to introduce tough new maximum penalties for those who commit crimes against wildlife.

Subject to the necessary legislative steps this could mean fines of up to £40,000 and 12 months imprisonment for certain offences.

The Scottish Government will take forward a number of other recommendations including:

  • Greater use of alternative penalties such as forfeiture of equipment used to carry out offences
  • Greater use of impact statements in court to better explain the impact a wildlife crime may have
  • Explore creation of new sentencing guidelines

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr McLeod said: “Wildlife crime has no place in modern Scotland, this is why I have decided to increase the maximum available penalties to bring wildlife offences into line with other environmental crimes. It is important we have appropriate penalties that deter criminality but also reflect the impact these crimes can have on our environment and Scotland’s reputation as a wildlife tourism destination. Work will now begin on bringing together a list of relevant offences this change would apply to. " 


The announcement was widely welcomed. Reactions:


Wildlife licensing: comment on new policies for European protected species licences - Natural England Open consultation

Natural England is seeking views on whether 4 new policies could be permitted under licence to benefit European protected species whilst improving flexibility for development.

Consultation closes 7 April 2016

Access the consultation and associated documents.


Rare butterfly gets new railway home - Network Rail

A team of Network Rail’s orange army have volunteered their time to help create a new habitat for one of the UK’s rarest butterfly at a new site next to a Buckinghamshire railway line to ensure their survival.

Duke of Burgundy butterfly (image: Network Rail)Duke of Burgundy (image: Network Rail)

On Thursday 25 February 2016 24 volunteers from the EWR Alliance joined the Upper Thames Branch of wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) to create new habitat for the Duke of Burgundy colony on a patch of land adjacent to the London to Birmingham line.  The colony – one of just three found in the county – currently sits on private land near Princes Risborough, just north of High Wycombe, but the site has recently gone up for sale.  BC hopes that creating new habitat nearby will encourage the butterflies to expand their range, so whatever happens to their current site, they face a more secure future. 

Lucie Anderton, environment manager for Network Rail said: “It’s great to help support Butterfly Conservation.  The habitat site is by the railway line which we will be upgrading as part of East West Rail and confirms our commitment to engage with local conservation groups to help preserve and protect the environment.” 

Upper Thames Branch Chairman, Nick Bowles said: “The status of this butterfly has been improving in other parts of the UK, but it has been completely lost from Oxfordshire and is in danger of disappearing from Buckinghamshire too. We are thrilled that Network Rail not only allowed us to work on this site, a former breeding ground for the butterfly, but also that so many of their staff volunteered to help. This is all part of our efforts to strengthen the Duke's population and increase the number of colonies in Buckinghamshire.”


Scotland Recognised For World Leading Commitment - Keep Scotland Beautiful

The prestigious international Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) has recognised both the Scottish Government and Keep Scotland Beautiful for their contribution to sustainable development education. 

The Scottish Government supports the delivery, in Scotland, of the largest sustainable schools programme in the world - which currently reaches more than 800,000 pupils - and encourages all of Scotland’s educational establishments to embrace Learning for Sustainability.  The award recognises continued commitment to providing all school children with sustainable development education through the Eco-Schools Scotland programme - supporting the Government’s commitment to delivering a low carbon economy. 

Minister for Learning, Science & Scotland's Languages, Dr Allan MSP, commented: “This award cements Scotland’s position as a leading player in the international Eco-Schools movement. The initiative is very successful Scotland-wide in encouraging pupil-led action for the environment across a range of issues, including water and energy use, sustainability and waste minimisation.  The Scottish Government is working with Keep Scotland Beautiful to encourage schools in Scotland to maintain their commitment to the initiative and keep improving and innovating their approach to Eco-schools. Programmes, such as Eco-Schools, play a vital role in helping Scotland to realise its ambitions and move towards a low carbon, zero waste future. By providing opportunities for learners to engage with their own environment, the initiative equips our children and young people with the skills, values and attributes for life and work in a sustainable and fair Scotland and contributes to our aims for excellence and equity in education.”


Commission launches Action Plan to crack down on wildlife trafficking - European Commission

Today (26/2/16)  the European Commission adopted an EU Action Plan to tackle wildlife trafficking within the EU and to strengthen the EU's role in the global fight against these illegal activities. The Action Plan is an ambitious blueprint that mobilises all EU diplomatic, trade and development cooperation tools to crack down on what has become one of the most profitable criminal activities worldwide.

Recent years have seen a dramatic surge in wildlife trafficking. An estimated 8 to 20 billion euro pass annually through the hands of organised criminal groups, ranking alongside the trafficking of drugs, people and arms. It not only threatens the survival of some emblematic species, it also breeds corruption, claims human victims, and deprives poorer communities of much-need

The Action Plan comprises 32 measures to be carried out between now and 2020 by the EU and its 28 Member States. It focuses on three priorities:

  • Prevent trafficking and reduce supply and demand of illegal wildlife products: for example by the end of 2016 the Commission will prepare guidelines aiming to suspend the export of old ivory items from the EU
  • Enhance implementation of existing rules and combat organised crime more effectively by increasing cooperation between competent enforcement agencies such as Europol
  • Strengthen cooperation between source, destination and transit countries, including strategic EU financial support to tackle trafficking in source countries, help build capacity for enforcement and provide long term sources of income to rural communities living in wildlife-rich areas

More information

European Commission MEMO on Wildlife Trafficking

The Action Plan and the Staff Working Document 


Scientific Publications

Needham, J., Merow, C., Butt, N., Malhi, Y., Marthews, T. R., Morecroft, M. and McMahon, S. M. (2016), Forest community response to invasive pathogens: the case of ash dieback in a British woodland. J Ecol, 104: 315–330. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12545


Ignasi Torre, Lídia Freixas, Antoni Arrizabalaga, Mario Díaz, The efficiency of two widely used commercial live-traps to develop monitoring protocols for small mammal biodiversity, Ecological Indicators, Volume 66, July 2016, Pages 481-487, ISSN 1470-160X, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.02.017. 


Madalena Vaz Monteiro, Kieron Jochem Doick, Phillip Handley, Andrew Peace, The impact of greenspace size on the extent of local nocturnal air temperature cooling in London, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, ISSN 1618-8667, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2016.02.008.


Suraci, J. P., Clinchy, M., Dill, L. M. Roberts, D. & Zanette, L. Y. (2016) Fear of large carnivores causes a trophic cascade. Nature Communications. doi:10.1038/ncomms10698


Dahl, M. et al. (2016) Effects of shading and simulated grazing on carbon sequestration in a tropical seagrass meadow. Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12564


Swindles, G. T. et al (2016) Resilience of peatland ecosystem services over millennial timescales: evidence from a degraded British bog. Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12565


Skar, M., Wold, L. C., Gundersen, W. & O’Brien, L. (2016) Why do children not play in nearby nature? Results from a Norwegian survey. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning. DOI: 10.1080/14729679.2016.1140587


CJS is not responsible for content of external sites.  Details believed correct but given without prejudice.

Disclaimer: the views expressed in these news pages do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CJS.