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


Rare yellow bird's-nest discovered at RSPB Scotland Skinflats - RSPB

An usual plant with a complex relationship to its surroundings has been found growing at RSPB Scotland Skinflats.

The yellow bird’s-nest was uncovered in an area of scrubby woodland at the Forth reserve, only the fourth time it has been seen in Scotland since 2000. All other records were at sites near Glasgow.

The flower is pale yellow in colour due to the fact that it lacks the green pigment chlorophyll, which is vital for photosynthesis. This means that instead of using the sun’s rays to create energy, yellow bird’s-nest has to look elsewhere for food.

RSPB Scotland’s Niall Traynor, the warden who discovered the plant, said: “Yellow bird’s-nest is very unusual and interesting, and as a fungus buff I was really very excited to find it growing so close to where I work! Yellow bird’s-nest is unique in the way it gains its energy. It steals nutrients from a type of fungi which in turn is gaining its food thanks to a mutual relationship with nearby trees. This complicated relationship may well be one of the reasons it’s so rare in Scotland, though a lack of the right type of habitat is likely to be another factor. Either way, I feel very lucky to have found it, and I’ll be making studies of the woodland in the coming months to learn more about it and make sure it’s properly protected.”


Shipping agreement helps tackle problem species – Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

A new international agreement to reduce the spread of water-born invasive species between countries due to shipping has been warmly welcomed by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.

Large ships take on ballast water from coastal waters in one region for stability due to the weight they are carrying, then discharge it in another when they unload. In doing so, they inadvertently pick up water-born plants and animals and deposit them in another region’s water. Species that accidentally stow away in ships’ ballast tanks include mussels that can block pipes, “killer shrimp” that can decimate fish fry and fast-growing plants that can outcompete native varieties. The new agreement will oblige all shipping to treat ballast water before discharging it from their tanks. It will come into effect in 12 months time to give shipping companies time to adjust.

Peter Morris of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust said: “Non-native invasive species are a growing threat to the British wildlife as trade and travel increases. They already cost the UK economy around £2bn per year and that will only increase if we don’t stop their spread. Treating ballast water is a great way to tackle the problem because it is cheaper, quicker and easier to prevent species arriving in the first place rather than trying to deal with them after they’ve spread. This is very, very welcome for us personally because we’re already dealing firsthand with the impacts of water-born species arriving in Britain. We regularly have to clear Asian zebra mussels that block our pipes, and we are endlessly having to pull out virulent non-native plants that choke our native water life of light, oxygen and space.”


Rise in cliff-fall hospital admissions and emergency responses sparks warning from councils and fire authorities – Local Government Association

A worrying rise in cliff-related emergency responses and hospital admissions has sparked a beach safety warning from councils and fire authorities.

Firefighters are responding to people getting stuck climbing 200ft high cliffs, stranded dogs - whose owners have themselves become trapped trying to rescue them – walkers falling down cliffs after straying into closed-off areas and huge rockfalls onto beaches near bathers.

A 13-year-old boy was airlifted to hospital last month with life-threatening injuries including a fractured skull, a collapsed lung, broken ribs and a broken leg after falling down a cliff while playing on rocks in North Tyneside.

New figures show the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) undertook 166 launches to people on cliffs in 2015, compared with 118 in 2014 – a rise of 41 per cent – while firefighters are rescuing people stranded on cliffs and beaches due to rising tide on an average of once a month.

Further figures from the The Health and Social Care Information Centre show 121 people were admitted to hospital with injuries sustained due to falling from cliffs in 2014/15, compared with 112 in 2013/14 – an 8 per cent increase.

To help reduce avoidable 999 responses, the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils and all 48 fire and rescue authorities, is calling on government to launch a national campaign to highlight the risks of climbing, walking along or bathing near cliffs and is urging people to assess the risks and use their judgement.


New report reveals potential climate change impact of recycling and it’s out of this world – Welsh Government

A new report published at the start of National Recycling Week has uncovered the potential climate change impact of recycling in Wales and it’s enough CO2 savings to power 1,200 journeys to the moon by car. 

The Climate Change Impacts of Recycling Services in Wales report, produced by WRAP Cymru on behalf of the Welsh Government, compares the current climate change benefits from recycling in Wales to what could be seen if all local authorities adopt the preferred kerbside collection method and meet the 70% recycling target.
The report concludes the move combined with the achievement of the recycling target, which Wales is well on course to meet, would result in an additional annual saving of nearly 86,000 tonnes CO2 equivalent.
This is the same amount of CO2 produced by a car travelling for a staggering 290million miles. The same distance as 1,200 trips to the moon.
The report also suggests recycling just 20% more waste would result in a 47% increase in climate change benefits. 

Access the Climate Change Impacts of Recycling Services in Wales report


Teignbridge secures land for new countryside park in Dawlish – Teignbridge District Council

Teignbridge has successfully secured land between Exeter Road and Eastdon Woods north of Shutterton Lane in Dawlish for a new countryside park for the local community. 

Due to open next year, the countryside park will provide a natural recreational area for local people to enjoy now and for future generations, as part of a £2.9m project called Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space (SANGS).  

Dawlish country park (image: Teignbridge District Council)Dawlish country park (image: Teignbridge District Council)

This natural, green space is needed to help protect internationally important conservation sites at nearby Dawlish Warren and the Exe Estuary, providing more leisure choices for the growing population and people living in new developments nearby. 

Teignbridge, in partnership with Exeter and East Devon Councils, recently established the South East Devon Habitat Regulations Executive Committee, to help protect these key conservation sites. The three authorities are working together to provide safe areas for all users to enjoy and care for the bird populations they support.

Cllr Humphrey Clemens, Teignbridge's Executive Member for Housing and Planning, said: "I'm delighted that this site has been secured for the enjoyment of local people and visitors as a countryside park. The new countryside park will be public open space with wild countryside and walks, available to all.  It will be home to native species including wildflower grassland, scrub and woodland, and native wildlife, such as cirl buntings.  In addition to nearby coast and countryside at Dawlish Warren and the Exe Estuary, it will give people more choice about where they go to explore the environment and enjoy nature at its best. "


More than one in ten UK species threatened with extinction, new study finds - The Wildlife Trusts  

It’s not too late to save UK nature but we must act now - that is the conclusion from a coalition of more than 50 leading wildlife and research organisations behind the State of Nature 2016 report

Following on from the groundbreaking State of Nature report in 2013, leading professionals from 53 wildlife organisations have pooled expertise and knowledge to present the clearest picture to date of the status of our native species across land and sea. The report reveals that over half (56%) of UK species studied have declined since 1970, while more than one in ten (1,199 species) of the nearly 8000 species assessed in the UK are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether. 

There are many inspiring examples of conservation action that is helping to turn the tide. From pioneering science that has revealed for the first time the reasons why nature is changing in the UK, to conservation work – such as the reintroductions of the pine marten and large blue butterfly and the restoration of areas of our uplands, meadows and coastal habitats. But more is needed to put nature back where it belongs.

The widespread decline of nature in the UK remains a serious problem to this day. For the first time scientists have uncovered how wildlife has fared in recent years. The report reveals that since 2002 more than half (53%) of UK species studied have declined and there is little evidence to suggest that the rate of loss is slowing down.

Mark Eaton, lead author on the report, said: “Never before have we known this much about the state of UK nature and the threats it is facing. Since the 2013, the partnership and many landowners have used this knowledge to underpin some amazing scientific and conservation work. But more is needed to put nature back where it belongs – we must continue to work to help restore our land and sea for wildlife. There is a real opportunity for the UK Government and devolved administrations to build on these efforts and deliver the significant investment and ambitious action needed to bring nature back from the brink. Of course, this report wouldn’t have been possible without the army of dedicated volunteers who brave all conditions to survey the UK’s wildlife. Knowledge is the most essential tool that a conservationist can have, and without their efforts, our knowledge would be significantly poorer.”

Quick facts in infographic form.  


The RSPB: The State of Nature 2016 report

Working side-by-side, over 50 wildlife organisations have compiled a stock take of all our native wildlife.

The report reveals that 56 per cent of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

However, the report illustrates that targeted conservation has produced inspiring success stories and, with sufficient determination, resources and public support, we can turn the fortunes of our wildlife around.

This report builds on the previous State of Nature report to further highlight the need for conservation projects across the UK, UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

Follow the downloads link for access the State of Nature report in full plus editions covering Scotland and England separately.


State of Nature 2016 – new analytical approaches and knowledge gaps – British Ecological Society, blog

By Dr Daniel Hayhow, Conservation Scientist, RSPB Centre for Conservation Science and author of The State of Nature 2016 report

The State of Nature 2016 report published today (14 September 2016) is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the status of species, across a broad range of taxonomic groups, in the UK.

The report presents measures that will be familiar to readers and others that are newly developed. Take a look at our blog on the pocket guide to the statistics.

In this blog I want to highlight some of the developments we have made in our analytical approaches and the remaining gaps there still are in our knowledge in order to highlight ways that readers might be engage with future State of Nature projects.


State of Nature report reveals continued decline in Scotland's wildlife – Scottish Wildlife Trust

A major report revealing that almost one in ten Scottish species are at risk of extinction has been published today (14/9).

The State of Nature 2016: Scotland is a follow up to the first State of Nature report, which was published in 2013. It has been compiled by a coalition of 53 wildlife organisations including the Scottish Wildlife Trust and represents the clearest picture to date of the status of native species across land and sea.

While some species have increased there are declines within many groups. These include more than half of vascular plants, such as juniper, and 39% of butterflies.

There are also serious concerns for a quarter of Scotland’s birds including upland species such as dotterel and curlew, and seabirds such as puffins and kittiwakes.

Across Great Britain 19% of plants, 11% of invertebrates and 11% of fungi are now at risk of extinction, and specialist butterflies, which are most sensitive to changes in habitat, have decreased by 32%.

The Trust's Head of Policy and Planning Dr Maggie Keegan is one of the authors of the report. She said: "The State of Nature report shows an urgent need to address the decline of Scotland’s wildlife. It is vital that people and organisations work together now to restore native habitats for future generations. Nature is important in its own right but it also provides a huge range of essential services, ranging from the clean air that we breathe to the pollination of our crops. The value of many of the services that nature provides is immeasurable, but a recent estimate of those that can be measured shows that nature is worth between £21 - £23 billion per year to Scotland’s economy. The findings in the new report support the creation of a National Ecological Network that would link up protected areas and fragmented semi-natural habitats, helping wildlife move more freely and become more resilient to threats such as climate change. Increasingly we will need to deliver conservation on a landscape scale through initiatives such as our Living Landscapes, and ensure that people are better connected with nature. We also have to radically reform Scottish agriculture to ensure that the billions of pounds of public funding that are spent on it are used in a way that allows wildlife to thrive alongside food production and bring benefits for many people and not just a few.”

Download the State of Nature 2016: Scotland  (PDF)


NGO Statement on the State of Nature 2016 report - National Gamekeepers Association.

The following is the response by the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation to the State of Nature report, which is published today (14 September 2016). The report has been produced by a partnership of more than 50 organisations involved in the conservation of nature in the UK and its Overseas Territories.

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation said: “The State of Nature 2016 report claims that policy-driven agricultural change is by far the most significant driver of wildlife declines and the loss of nature in recent decades. It goes on to say however that well-planned conservation projects can turn around the fortunes of wildlife, so the NGO is hugely disappointed to see that the widespread and effective conservation management done by gamekeepers in the name of game management receives scant attention.

“It is no secret among knowledgeable conservationists that gamekeeping is uniquely placed to offset the intensive management of much agricultural land. It is able to help wildlife in the farmland environment to a greater extent than almost any other type of land management. In fact, much of the conservation work the report calls to be implemented is routinely carried out by gamekeepers every day of their working lives. The incentive provided by game retains hedgerows, ponds and marginal land. It also ensures that woods are planted and managed with wildlife in mind, some of the areas where the report precisely urges action to be taken.

“We also notice State of Nature hardly dwells on the severe impact that predation can have on wildlife. We feel this is a mistake. It is a serious gap in the authority of the report and shows to us that its authors simply do not understand the finer points of wildlife management. Remember gamekeepers are the original champions of biodiversity, who were successfully employing wildlife conservation long before others followed our lead.


Groundwork staff pledge to promote pedal power

Groundwork UK colleagues have put down car keys and picked up cycle helmets today in honour of National Cycle to Work Day.

Cycling to Groundwork’s head office near Brindley Place, Birmingham, colleagues rode in from as far afield as Dorridge to do their bit for the environment and cut down on C02 emissions.

After taking up the pledge to cycle to work, colleagues were then rewarded with a well-deserved cup of coffee and a croissant to celebrate their success.

Nabila Gardner, Programmes Office at Groundwork UK said: "Like several of my colleague’s I cycle to work most days so it’s great for us all to be able to make this pledge as a team and an organisation to help the environment. It’s a wonderful achievement and we encourage other work places to get involved."


State of Nature 2016, personal reflections from CEO – Wildlife Trusts 

The news in this week’s State of Nature report is all too familiar. Things are generally getting worse for the species living around us. Over the last 50 years, 56% of species have declined, while 15% are at risk of disappearing from our shores altogether. The Wildlife Trusts' CEO Steph Hilborne shares her personal reflections...


New east Scotland findings of tree disease – Forestry Commission Scotland

Forestry Commission Scotland’s annual early summer tree health aerial surveys have detected new outbreaks of Phytophthora ramorum at 24 sites across Scotland. 

The early detection of the disease has allowed for swift action to help limit the impact of the disease at the affected sites and surrounding areas. Although the majority of new findings are near sites of previously known infections, seven sites in Angus and Perthshire – an area out-with the most suitable climatic area for this disease – and some are over 10km away from known existing infections.  All appear to be highly localised in extent. These findings include the first known P. ramorum on larch both in the Cairngorms and the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Parks – both infected sites are close to the respective Park boundary.

Dr Anna Brown, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Head of Tree Health, said; “Our helicopter surveillance & monitoring programme has ensured early detection and action is already underway via statutory measures. Furthermore, our system for managing disease outbreaks, including handling of statutory measures and impact arising from increased harvesting of infected trees, is well embedded and understood by the sector. Therefore, we would not expect these findings to disproportionately impact on businesses or any negative reaction from industry.”

The recent detections might be an early indication that the wet and windy conditions experienced during summer/early autumn 2015 might have led to a ‘jump’ of the disease into areas normally less favourable for P.ramorum.  Further aerial surveillance currently underway will help to determine whether there is a new trend of spread rather than the sort of isolated occurrences previously seen. 


Over 2,000,000 square kilometers of UK Ocean to be protected - RSPB 

A combined area of UK ocean bigger than Germany and France will be placed in fully-protected marine reserves (1.05 million km²)

  • Further 1.1 million km² to be placed under sustainable-use protections          
  • Turtles, seabirds, whales and sharks will all benefit from world-leading joint announcement by government at Our Oceans conference

The UK and several UK Overseas Territory Governments have jointly announced that over two million square kilometres of British waters will be protected for future generations. 

This far-reaching agreement, announced at Our Oceans conference in Washington D.C. by the UK and UK Overseas Territory governments, recognises the global importance of our marine wildlife. This commitment will protect these ocean areas from unsustainable and pirate fishing, damaging deep-sea mining and other activities that could be deadly or disruptive for nature, plus help the world meet its global target of protecting 10% of the marine environment by 2020. 

Jonathan Hall, RSPB’s Head of UK Overseas Territories, said: “This is simply enormous and shows world-leading vision. In the week where 53 organisations came together to launch The State of Nature report which showed continuing declines for UK wildlife, the Government and those of our Overseas Territories have now shown fantastic ambition in recognising that we need to protect our rich oceans and the amazing wildlife they hold.” 

When taking all 14 of its Overseas Territories into account, the UK is responsible for the fifth largest area of ocean in the world, measuring 6.8 million square kilometres, over twice the size of India, and nearly 30 times the size of the UK itself.  This gives the Overseas Territories and the UK a unique opportunity for global leadership in meeting UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve 10% of the ocean by 2020. Some 94 per cent of unique British wildlife exists in these Territories, including more penguins than any other nations on earth, and the world’s largest coral atoll. 


Oxford to become England's first 'Swift City' - RSPB

The RSPB and its partners were granted £83,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a new Oxford ‘Swift City’. The two-year project will maintain current swift nesting sites in the city and add 300 further sites onto new and existing buildings, in an effort to combat a decline in the swift population in recent years.
This iconic aerial migrant bird, which lands only to breed and can fly at least 560 miles a day gathering food during the breeding season, nests almost exclusively in urban areas. But the birds face an uncertain future. Numbers in the UK have fallen by 38% since 1994.

Flying swift (image: Graham Catley, RSPB)Flying swift (image: Graham Catley, RSPB)

One possible cause of the swifts’ decline may be losses of nesting sites, as old buildings are renovated and new builds do not include spaces for them to nest. To address this, the project will research Oxford’s present swift populations and nest sites, and use this information to work closely with builders and planners to maintain them and also incorporate new sites into the city’s infrastructure.

Oxford has a long scientific and cultural association with swifts. The swift colony nesting at the Oxford University Natural History Museum has been intensively studied by the Edward Grey Institute of Ornithology since 1948; one of the longest continuous studies of a single bird species in the world.
The Oxford community will be vital to the success of the project. Volunteers will be needed to help monitor swift numbers. Wildflower plots will be planted in green spaces and gardens to increase public awareness of the need to rebuild food-webs across habitats, and a showpiece ‘Swift Tower’ is planned, that will combine new nest sites with a public arts project.

Charlotte Kinnear, local RSPB Conservation Officer, said: “Like much urban wildlife, swifts are under pressure in the UK. HLF funding of this exciting project gives us the opportunity to study swift nesting and feeding habits more closely and to involve the local community to monitor and protect them. We hope that as well as improving the outlook for swifts, lessons will be learnt which can be applied to species recovery plans for other urban wildlife.” 

Starting in January 2017, the RSPB will work alongside partners including Oxford University, The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford City Council, Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre, Environment Resources Management and the local Wildlife Trust to improve the breeding prospects of swifts in the city.


Scientific Publication 

Dyer, R.J., Gillings, S., Pywell, R.F., Fox, R., Roy, D.B. and Oliver, T.H. (2016), Developing a biodiversity-based indicator for large-scale environmental assessment: a case study of proposed shale gas extraction sites in Britain. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12784


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