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


Save London's Bees – Queen Mary University of London

Nature lovers and green-fingered enthusiasts are urged to plant bee-friendly flowers to help ailing pollinator populations and to attract one of the many hundreds of bees due to be released later this summer from the rooftops of Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in a competition launched by the London Pollinator Project.
The public are urged to plant bee-friendly flowers now to attract one of the hundreds of QMUL tagged bees due to be released later this summer. (Queen Mary University of London)The public are urged to plant bee-friendly flowers now to attract one of the hundreds of QMUL tagged bees due to be released later this summer. (Queen Mary University of London)

Bees are under threat from habitat loss and lack of suitable flowers. Biologists from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences want to tap into any green space the public might have access to such as a garden, roof terrace or window sill, and encourage Londoners to plant flowers which are rich in nectar and pollen, like English lavender, viper's blugloss, or spiked speedwell.  

The QMUL bees will each have a weather resistant number tag on its back, which will allow the public to track the bees and let researchers uncover how successful urban gardening efforts have been.

A new website launched as part of the London Pollinator Project will help the public learn which flowers are most beneficial for bees and the best gardening methods to improve their chances of spotting a busy bee carrying a QMUL identification tag.  

Project coordinator, Dr Clint Perry, from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: “We hope the London Pollinator Project will encourage the public to plant flowers in our urban spaces that will help supply the right nectar and pollen resources for our threatened urban bees, and hopefully increase urban pollinator populations if a large enough effort is made across the city.”

The researchers hope to discover how much urban gardening can affect the pollinating practices of urban bees and learn what flowers are most attractive for pollinators in our London urban settings.


Study probes birds’ flexible nesting ability - The University of Edinburgh

Birds’ ability to alter spring nesting times as temperatures rise could help safeguard their long-term survival in changing climates, research suggests.

A study of British woodland birds shows that they use spring temperatures to decide when conditions are ideal for egg-laying, helping to ensure chicks get the best possible start in life.

The timing of egg-laying is crucial, as it affects how much food is available to chicks after they hatch, scientists say. Chicks need to hatch at a time when their main sources of food are plentiful – hatching outside of this period reduces their chances of survival.

For more than fifty years, birdwatchers have recorded the first egg-laying dates of British birds and submitted them to the British Trust for Ornithology.

Researchers at the University and the British Trust for Ornithology combined 100,000 observations of laying date for blue tits, great tits, chaffinches and pied flycatchers with daily temperature records covering the same period.

They found that all four species are able to alter their egg-laying times in response to spring temperatures and that this flexibility may enable the birds to continue to lay at the optimum time as climate changes.

When spring temperatures were low, birds delayed egg-laying by several days. Warmer weather caused them to begin nesting earlier in the year, the team says.


Biological insights to help protect coastlines - National Oceanography Centre

Minsmere, one of the case study locations (National Oceanography Centre)Minsmere, one of the case study locations (National Oceanography Centre)

The first project to investigate the role of biological processes on the future evolution of the UK coastline is expected to produce valuable insights that will shape coastal protection policy. This project, called BLUE-coast, is led by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) alongside nine partner organisations.

The research will improve our ability to accurately predict regional sediment budgets on time scales of years to decades. Professor Alejandro Souza from the NOC who is leading the project said “BLUE-coast will help create a step-change in coastal management strategies.”

This will be achieved by improving our understanding of the origin, flux and characteristics of the sediment, including biological or ecological mediation, and how to build that knowledge into complex models.  The project will also assess how sensitive this sediment system is to external factors such as human intervention and climate change.


Marine traffic pressures on Scotland’s cetaceans to be studied using navigation safety technology - Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust 

Electronic navigation safety technology is to be used to study the potential impacts of marine traffic on whale, dolphin and porpoise species off western Scotland in a new season of research expeditions launched by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust this week. 

For the first time, scientists and trained volunteers onboard the conservation charity’s specialized research yacht Silurian will use an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder to collect detailed data on other vessels’ movements. This will be combined with sightings and underwater acoustic monitoring of cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – to gain new insights into how species are affected by ships’ movements and noise. 

AIS – an automatic tracking system that electronically identifies and locates nearby vessels, continuously transmitting details of their identity, position, speed and course – is more commonly used in navigation safety, allowing ships to ‘see’ each other in all conditions.  With marine traffic from a large range of industries growing, known threats or pressures for cetaceans from shipping include ship-strikes – in which vessels accidentally hit whales – and noise pollution from poorly designed or poorly maintained vessels, which can mask out whale sounds used for communication and navigation.

Dr Conor Ryan, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust Science Officer, said: “This innovative approach provides us with an opportunity to enhance our long-term research, which is providing unprecedented insights into the distribution and range of cetaceans in Scotland’s seas, as well as the challenges they face – including the unintentional consequences of human activities.  The Hebrides may seem like a wilderness, but human impacts on the marine environment are significant – and likely to increase with expansions in marine industries, such as aquaculture and renewable installations. Strengthening scientific understanding is crucial if we are to help industries ensure that their impacts on Scotland’s remarkable whales, dolphins and porpoise populations are minimal.”


It's Hedgehog Awareness week!

Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and takes place every year.  It aims to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them.

This year efforts are focussed on strimmers and cutting machines – every year we hear of many terrible injuries and deaths caused by garden machinery. BHPS is asking people to check areas carefully before using any machinery.  They have produced a sticker to be placed onto machines and are asking councils and tool hire companies to get in touch and request the free stickers for their machines.


so here's a hedgehoggy story - with a happy ending :)

Hedgehog rescued from cattle grid in Swansea - RSPCA

The poor hedgehog was stuck in the cattle grid at Applegrove, Reynoldston, Swansea.

Hedgehog Swansea rescue (image: RSPCA)Hedgehog Swansea rescue (image: RSPCA)

Following a call to the RSPCA, animal collection officer (ACO) Ellie West, attended and found the hedgehog had become jammed in a tight hole.  “He had got himself into quite a predicament,” she said. “When I arrived, I tried to pull him backwards by getting my hand around his waist but because of his spines catching on the sides and the top of the hole, I couldn’t move him at all.  I tried pushing him through from the other side with a padded pole but again, just couldn’t move him.”

ACO West contacted wildlife rehabilitation centre Gower Bird Hospital, to see if they could help find a way to free the hedgehog.  “Simon Allen came and after a lot of scratching our heads, we asked if a neighbour could bring us a ruler or something long and flat that we could get into the hole and push through above the hedgehog, along the roof of the hole, to try and push the hogs spines down.  Amazingly, it worked and we managed to get the poor hog out. Once freed, he tried to curl up but his rear end was so swollen and sore that he couldn’t.”

The hedgehog was taken to Gower Bird Hospital where they gave him fluids by injection under the skin to get him rehydrated.   He was given a few days of peace and quiet with heat, food and water to allow him to recover and, following a clear bill of health, was released on Tuesday (26 April) back into the area he was found in. His weight on arrival was 776g but had increased to 920g on release.

AWO West said: “The hedgehog has been marked so if found again he can be identified – and this would not affect the hedgehog in the wild."


£1.3m health check for Sheffield’s green spaces - The Parks Alliance

The Parks Alliance has long called for studies into green prescribing and the benefits that urban parks and green spaces have on public health. We are pleased to see that the Department of Landscape at Sheffield University has been awarded £1.3m for new research to understand how parks and green spaces throughout Sheffield affect the health and wellbeing of residents in a bid to improve the quality of natural spaces available in cities.

The Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (IWUN) project has been awarded £1.3m from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to study how people from different neighbourhoods across Sheffield use local parks and how the quality and quantity of available green space impacts their health.

The project, which is being led by the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape, brings academics from four universities together with the Wildlife Trusts, Recovery Enterprises and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare.

The three-year study aims to promote the creation of well-designed urban green spaces as cost effective ways to boost mental and physical health in the context of public sector spending cuts.

Project lead Dr Anna Jorgensen said: “this project will develop a more nuanced understanding of the distribution of urban natural environments and health inequalities. We aim to understand the cultures and values that influence how people of different ages and backgrounds interact with the natural environment as well as find out more about which aspects of the natural environment are beneficial for health and wellbeing. The aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of city residents through well designed green spaces.”

Although it is already well known that spending time in natural spaces is good for people, the project will investigate which particular features of green space – their design, location, biodiversity or other features – boost people’s health and personal enjoyment.

The IWUN project will start on 1 June 2016 and has been funded by the Natural Environment Research Council for three years.


And finally for Wednesday a reminder that National Parks are more than a land management team

National Park managers add up to a top team - Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

Account managers in the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) are number one when it comes to paying bills on time.

Latest figures show that the Authority paid 99.81 per cent of its debts within 30 days – making it a good organisation to do business with.

Richard Burnett, the YDNPA’s Director of Corporate Services, said: “We are required by statute to monitor whether we are paying our invoices within 30 days. We’ve managed to achieve more than 99 per cent payments in this timescale for the last four years but this is our best ever performance and hopefully our suppliers and contractors know they will be paid in good time.   But we won’t be complacent – there’s still room for improvement.”


Sheep killed within 24 hours of arriving at nature reserve. - Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

A  Hebridean ewe belonging to Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has been killed by a dog less than 24 hours after arriving at the charity’s Spalford Warren Nature Reserve off the A1133 north of Newark.  The sheep was part of the Wildlife Trust’s flock used for conservation grazing and was delivered to the reserve yesterday evening. By 7am this morning, (4/5) the Trust had received a call to say an animal had been found dead.

The charity uses traditional breeds of sheep and cattle to help manage its nature reserves to help preserve wildlife habitats and prevent sites becoming overgrown with scrub and trees; but each year the charity loses a number of animals as a result of dog attacks.  The grazing programme at Spalford Warren, a rare example of a blown sand heath, has been running for a number of years and special signage has been installed to make it clear to visitors when livestock is present. Following the attack, additional signs have been erected and the Wildlife Trust is calling on dog owners visiting the reserve, and its other sites, to keep dog’s on leads when livestock are on present.  

Speaking about the incident, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s Head of Communications Erin McDaid said: “Every year we lose a number of sheep due to dog attacks and this is both distressing for our staff and costly to The Trust as we need to replace the lost animals. This particular incident is very worrying as the sheep had been on site less than 24 hours – to lose an animal so quickly is shocking. Our sheep and cattle are vital to helping us care for our nature reserves and we need dog owners to be responsible when around livestock. Most owners are, but a small minority don’t seem to realise the damage that dogs can do. This is a problem across the countryside and more needs to be done to raise awareness of the issue. Even the most trusted and docile pet can react in unexpected ways around livestock which is why we put up signs and encourage people to keep their dogs on leads when visiting sites where we are grazing.”

The incident has been reported to the Police and anyone with any information should call Nottinghamshire Police on the non-emergency 101 number.  


RSPB to create million pound wildlife haven in Norfolk Broads - RSPB

Berney Marshes, Norfolk (Image: Chris Gomersall, RSPB)Berney Marshes, Norfolk (Image: Chris Gomersall, RSPB)

Thanks to nearly £1 million funding from WREN the RSPB has purchased an area of land equivalent to around 100 football pitches in the Broads National Park, and has plans to transform it into a vital and vibrant new wetland home for vulnerable wildlife. 

The newly purchased land sits alongside Breydon Water and Berney Marshes, both currently managed as nature reserves by the RSPB.  The new area of nature reserve will create additional high quality coastal and floodplain grazing marsh within the Broads landscape, a wildlife habitat that is crucial for vulnerable wading birds such as lapwings and redshanks. Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh is sadly lacking in the UK, and remaining areas of habitat are now under severe pressure from human activities and sea level rise.  

Over the next few years the RSPB will be turning this area of grassland into an area rich in wildlife by creating a series of carefully designed scrapes and shallow pools. These new wetland features will provide suitable breeding conditions for wading birds such as lapwings, avocets, redshanks and yellow wagtails, all of which are red- or amber-listed species of conservation concern. The new landscape will also provide new areas to help birds move between sites across the Broads and support those using the estuary in the winter.  The site will also become an important place for other wildlife in decline such as brown hares, water voles and a range of plants including divided sedge and sea barley. 

In the long term, the project will help the UK to create homes for new species, on the move to the Norfolk Broads due to the changing climate, such as black-winged stilts, spoonbills and egrets.


The National Forest Company Secures Charitable Status and Announces a New Partnership with Forest Holidays

The National Forest Company (NFC), the body charged by government to lead the creation of The National Forest, has formally received charitable status and today announces the signing of a new partnership with Forest Holidays.  This significant development comes at an important time for The National Forest as it celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2016.

In its first 25 years, The National Forest has demonstrated how the planting of trees can boost the local economy, create new wildlife habitats and restore the landscape, improving the quality of life for those who live and work here.  With more than eight and a half million trees planted and forest cover trebled from 6% to more than 20%, The National Forest stands as a national exemplar of sustainable development.

The launch of the new charity is accompanied by a new partnership with Forest Holidays, an organisation which specialises in luxury short breaks in woodland settings across the country, and has its headquarters in the heart of The National Forest; Forest Holidays itself is ten years old this year.

John Everitt, the National Forest Company Chief Executive, said:  "Achieving charitable status is a major milestone for the National Forest Company and sets us up for the next 25 years of The National Forest project.  The Company will continue to be at the forefront of environmental regeneration, and moving to charitable status will enable us to be more entrepreneurial, innovative and flexible in our work. Our new partnership with Forest Holidays is a perfect example of this."


Unusual number of birds in gardens during April cold snap - BTO

At this time of year most birds are starting to think about raising young, and many head out of gardens for that purpose. During the unusually cold start to April, however, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch had more reports of some species than normal. Will this change as the weather warms or is something else at play? Your help is needed to find out.

Reed Bunting by John Harding via BTOReed Bunting by John Harding via BTO

The UK nesting season is well underway and most winter migrants have left.  A colder than average March and April, however, seems to have encouraged some birds to remain in gardens that would normally be moving out. Wintering Blackcaps normally start migrating back to their breeding grounds in central Europe from February. Unusually, however, they were reported from almost 16% of BTO Garden BirdWatch gardens last week; almost 50% more than in April 2015. We assume that these are winter migrants rather than summer migrants arriving, as breeding Blackcaps rarely visit gardens during the spring and summer.

Other species are also being seen in more gardens than usual for the time of year. Reed Bunting, a bird that would normally be breeding in farmland and wetland areas at this time of year, has been reported from almost a third more gardens than April 2015, and even Blue and Great Tits are being seen by more Garden BirdWatchers than normal.


Floods and coastal erosion may expose contents of UK landfills, study finds - Queen Mary University of London

The contents of historic coastal landfill sites could pose a significant environmental threat if they erode, according to a new study from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). 

There are 1264 historic coastal landfill sites in England and Wales, all of which are sealed and no longer receive waste, but fall wholly or partially within the Environment Agency’s Tidal Flood Zone 3.

In the first academic study of its kind, researchers from QMUL investigated the contents of two sites in Essex: Leigh Marshes Landfill, used from 1955 to 1967; and Hadleigh Marsh Landfill, used from 1980 to 1987, to determine the potential consequences should the sites be tidally flooded or erode.

The analysis found that 100 per cent of the Leigh Marsh waste samples and 63 per cent of the Hadleigh Marsh samples contained contaminants at concentrations that exceed marine sediment quality guidelines ‘probable effects levels’, indicating that adverse effects to flora and fauna could be expected if the waste was to erode into surrounding coastal wetlands.

The findings are from a forthcoming report for the Environment Agency, “It’s important to state clearly that we’re not saying these sites are currently eroding. What our findings show is that in the event of erosion, there would be serious environmental consequences due to the level of contaminants that would pollute the surrounding protected ecological sites.” Say the authors.

The main risks to these landfills come from the effects of climate change, including erosion and flooding with salt water from storm surges and higher water levels.  The study says that while a policy of relocating the waste away from vulnerable sites would be preferable, it is likely that the waste will continue to be protected in situ due to the enormous costs and risks associated with relocating the waste.

The next stage of the research will create a vulnerability index for historic coastal landfill sites, to determine where resources and attention might best be focused.


£200m polar research ship named in honour of Sir David Attenborough - NERC

NERC's new £200m state-of-the-art polar research ship is to be named after world-renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.

Following a call for suggestions that sparked global interest, Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough has been selected as a name that captures the ship's scientific mission and celebrates the broadcaster's contribution to natural science. The name was revealed today by Science Minister Jo Johnson, who also announced the government will be investing up to £1m in a new Polar Explorer programme to engage young people and inspire the scientists, engineers and explorers of the future.

The decision to name the ship after Sir David Attenborough comes only days before Sir David's 90th birthday and is in recognition of his legacy in British broadcasting, inspiring a love of the natural world over generations.

Reflecting the global interest that the campaign drew, Science Minister Jo Johnson has also confirmed the popular suggestion Boaty McBoatface will live on as the name of one of the high-tech remotely operated sub-sea vehicles. The 'Boaty' sub-sea vehicle will be dispatched from RRS Sir David Attenborough to allow the ship's research crew to collect data and samples from the deepest waters of the Arctic and Antarctic.

Sir David Attenborough said: "I am truly honoured by this naming decision and hope that everyone who suggested a name will feel just as inspired to follow the ship's progress as it explores our polar regions. I have been privileged to explore the world's deepest oceans alongside amazing teams of researchers, and with this new polar research ship they will be able to go further and discover more than ever before."

The £200m ship, being built in the UK on Merseyside, is due to set sail in 2019. Tonne for tonne, it will provide the UK with the most advanced floating research fleet in the world, conducting vital research into the world's oceans and how we address climate change.  As the biggest commercial shipbuilding contract in Britain, the construction of RRS Sir David Attenborough is supporting 400 jobs and 60 apprenticeships.


ASULAM Available Again for 2016 - Scottish Land and Estates

The Chemicals Regulation Directorate has issued an Emergency Authorisation that will allow asulam to be sold and transferred from 16 May 2016, and applied in the period 1 July - 12 September 2016.  There will be a use-up period until 31 October 2016, which will allow stocks to be applied or returned (if in unopened containers).  From 1 November 2016, it will once again be illegal to hold any stocks of asulam.


Scientific Publications

Pocock, M J O, Roy, H E, Fox, R, Ellis, W N & Botham, M. (2016) Citizen science and invasive alien species: Predicting the detection of the oak processionary moth Thaumetopoea processionea by moth recorders. Biological Conservation. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.04.010


Read the blog Citizen science, tree health and invasive species by Dr. Michael Pocock  on  Centre for Ecology & Hydrology


Maartje J. Klapwijk, Helena Bylund, Martin Schroeder, and Christer Björkman Forest management and natural biocontrol of insect pests Forestry  doi:10.1093/forestry/cpw019


Massimo Faccoli and Paola Gatto. Analysis of costs and benefits of Asian longhorned beetle eradication in Italy Forestry  doi:10.1093/forestry/cpv041


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