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


News from over the Christmas break 

Government announcements and policy plus reactions 

New Environmental Protection Act needed after Brexit – Environmental Audit Committee 

MPs are warning the Government that environmental protections must not be weakened during the process of leaving the EU or afterwards. The Environmental Audit Committee is calling on the Government to introduce a new Environmental Protection Act during Article 50 negotiations to maintain the UK's strong environmental standards.

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP: "Changes from Brexit could put our countryside, farming and wildlife at risk. Protections for Britain's wildlife and special places currently guaranteed under European law could end up as 'zombie legislation' even with the Great Repeal Bill. The Government should safeguard protections for Britain's wildlife and special places in a new Environmental Protection Act. UK farming faces significant risks – from a loss of subsidies and tariffs on farm exports to increased competition from countries with weaker food, animal welfare and environmental standards. The Government must not trade away these key protections as we leave the EU. It should also give clarity over any future farm subsidies."

The Environmental Audit Committee report suggests that protections for wildlife and habitats could be weaker after the UK leaves the EU if the Government doesn't take action before, or in the early stages of the Article 50 process.

The MPs looked at the legislative, trade, and financial issues and make recommendations for action to secure the future of the natural environment. They call on the Government to allow full parliamentary scrutiny of its plans for the future of environmental legislation after Brexit.



Response: EAC report warns wildlife and farming could be harmed by Brexit - CPRE

A new report from the Environmental Audit Committee warns that wildlife and farming could be harmed by the Brexit process. MPs are calling on the Government to introduce a new Environmental Protection Act during Article 50 negotiations to uphold the UK's strong environmental standards. The report suggests protections for wildlife and habitats could be weakened while farmers could face lost subsidies, export tariffs and increased competition after Brexit.

Belinda Gordon, head of rural affairs at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), says:

“The report is right to recognise that future support for land management should encourage innovation. We also agree that funding should be tied to public benefits beyond food production, and be tailored to the local landscape.

“Brexit could have a huge impact on farming and the natural environment, but it also gives the Government a chance to develop an ambitious agricultural policy that supports the distinctive attributes of English farming that make our countryside so beautiful and vibrant. We should also look to redirect public funding towards things that really benefit the public as well as farmers – wildlife, distinctive and varied landscapes, and flood and soil protection, alongside food production.”


Response: MPs warn Government that countryside and farming are at risk – Wildlife Trusts

Farmland (c) Zsuzsanna Bird via Wildlife Trusts Farmland (c) Zsuzsanna Bird via Wildlife Trusts

Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts responds to the new report, saying: “This report is good news. It shows that politicians from all parties see the need for positive action for our natural environment as we approach Brexit. 80% of our environmental laws are tied in with the EU so preserving and improving them during and after Brexit is critical. The Wildlife Trusts fully support the proposal for a positive ambitious Act of Parliament. A new Environment Act should set a world standard in environmental legislation and ensure that wildlife recovers in diversity and abundance. It is also essential that every piece of green legislation that can be rescued in the Repeal Act, is rescued. In the next few years we will be defining the nation in new terms. Helping our wildlife to recover from decades of decline will not happen by accident. Unless we set ourselves goals and provide the legal, financial, and market mechanisms to achieve them we can be sure that wildlife will continue to decline. Given that 70% of our land area is farmed, intelligent financial support and regulation for land management will be critical to this. As a society we ultimately depend entirely on the natural world - the government must recognise this and reflect this in a during and after the process of leaving the EU.”


First ever garden villages named with government support - Department for Communities and Local Government  

The first ever garden villages, which have the potential to deliver more than 48,000 homes across England, have been given government backing.

In an expansion of the existing garden towns programme, these smaller projects of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes continue the government’s commitment to support locally-led development and make sure this is a country that works for everyone.

The 14 new garden villages – from Devon to Derbyshire, Cornwall to Cumbria – will have access to a £6 million fund over the next 2 financial years to support the delivery of these new projects. This money will be used to unlock the full capacity of sites, providing funding for additional resources and expertise to accelerate development and avoid delays. The government also announced today (2 January 2017) its support for 3 new garden towns in Aylesbury, Taunton and Harlow & Gilston – and a further £1.4 million of funding to support their delivery. Together with the 7 garden towns already announced, these 17 new garden settlements have the combined potential to provide almost 200,000 new homes across the country.


Response: Government plans for new garden towns and villages - CPRE

 The Government has today announced plans to create 14 new garden villages in England, of between 1,500 to 10,000 houses. It has also announced support for three new garden towns in Aylesbury, Taunton and Harlow & Gilston. These garden towns and villages will be distinct new settlemtents, rather than extensions to existing urban areas.    

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, comments: "CPRE welcomes efforts to tackle the housing crisis in the form of high quality, well-planned and well-located developments. Done well with genuine local consent, garden villages and garden towns can be part of the solution and certainly preferable to what is currently happening in too many parts of the country - poor quality new estates plonked down on the edge of villages and market towns, in the teeth of local opposition and in defiance of good planning principles.

"But CPRE will look closely at these specific proposals to ensure that they really are locally led; that they respect the Green Belt and other planning designations; and that they meet housing need, particularly the need for genuinely affordable housing for local people, and are not driven by over-ambitious, centrally dictated housing targets.

"Where communities support new settlements, they should be protected from speculative planning applications for a long time to come."


Environment Secretary announces £120 million support for rural communities – Defra

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom announces funding boost for rural businesses across England.

£120 million of funding will be made available to support farmers, grow businesses, and generate thousands of jobs in rural communities, announced Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom today (4 January) at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Rural and farm businesses will soon be able to apply for the next round of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme, which will help new businesses get off the ground and support existing companies to grow, develop new products and access new export markets.

Funding has already benefited dozens of businesses across England, including the Biddenden fruit handling company in Kent, which received £70,000 to install new equipment – leading to two new products and three new jobs – and Carvannel Free Range Dairy Ltd in Cornwall, which received over £80,000 to diversify their business and develop a new milk processing factory.

Speaking after the Oxford Farming Conference, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: "A quarter of England’s businesses are based in the countryside and this funding will give rural start-ups, family-run businesses and farmers looking to diversify the boost they need.  The RDPE has already supported a range of projects, from installing cutting-edge equipment to restoring flood plains, and the next round will help create more jobs, sell more products and help us access new markets."

As well as boosting businesses and creating jobs, past RDPE projects have benefited the natural environment – with money granted to Dovecote Farm in Northants helping restore flood-plain meadows and grassland along the Nene Valley, while supporting species like otters.


Budget for land reform increased – Scottish Government

Increased funding to shape future land reform measures and provide greater transparency.

Overall funding for land reform will be increased by £3.4 million in 2017, with the existing Scottish Land Fund budget maintained at £10 million. 

The Scottish Land Fund awarded money to 49 projects in this financial year, with a similar number currently in the pipeline, supporting communities to develop proposals for purchasing land. 

The additional funding will support the introduction of new measures which offer greater transparency around land ownership in Scotland for communities, tenants and land owners. 

It will also support plans introduced in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 Bill to allow the Scottish Government’s programme for land reform to be taken forward. 


Scientific research, results and publications

Year of strong grass growth was bad for bees and butterflies – National Trust

Bee and butterfly numbers have slumped after a tenth year of unsettled weather, National Trust experts have said.

Mild winter and spring weather led to extremely high grass growth, leading to a good year for farmers with livestock and for making silage or hay. But the grass growth meant a difficult year for warmth-loving insects, including common meadowland butterflies.

The assessment comes as the National Trust marks ten years of its annual weather and wildlife review, which is aimed at understanding how changing weather patterns is affecting wildlife at its places.

Matthew Oates, nature and wildlife specialist at the National Trust, said: “Another year of unsettled weather has seen extraordinary grass growth – good for livestock and hay making, but bad for many plants and insects which like short turf grassland, like the common blue butterfly. Our rangers have had to work closely with farmers and graziers to get grazing levels right for these plants and insects. In many places it’s been a struggle, but at a handful of places like Somerset’s Collard Hill – home to the large blue butterfly – graziers have triumphed. 2016 comes on top of an unsettled decade, with many species struggling in the face of climate change and more intensive farming practices.”

A mild winter, cold spring and mild, wet weather in May and June led to very high grass growth in early summer. Grass grew at a rate almost a third faster than in previous years, according to Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board figures.

Rampant grass growth was good news for farmers making hay in many parts of the country. But in much of the country strong grass growth badly affected butterfly and bee species reliant on small plants that were crowded out by vigorous-growing grasses.


Ash dieback: Insect threat to fungus-resistant trees – University of Exeter

Ash trees which can resist the killer dieback fungus may be more vulnerable to attacks by insects, according to new research.

Scientists from the universities of Exeter and Warwick examined trees which are resistant to ash dieback and – unexpectedly – found they had very low levels of chemicals which defend against insects.

With efforts under way to protect ash trees from dieback, the scientists warn that selecting trees for fungal resistance could put them at risk from insects.

Aside from ash dieback, the other major threat to European ash trees is the Emerald Ash Borer beetle, which has already devastated vast tracts of ash in the USA and is currently spreading westwards across Europe.

“Our research highlights the danger of selecting trees for resilience to ash dieback at the expense of resistance to insects that threaten this iconic UK tree species,” said joint lead author Dr Christine Sambles, of the University of Exeter. “Ash dieback, which is caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, can kill young trees in a season, while older trees tend to decline and die over several years.”

The research, published in the journal Nature, is part of a study involving several universities and Government institutes which looked at the DNA of ash trees in the hope of identifying ash dieback resistance. Instead of focussing on DNA, the Exeter and Warwick scientists looked at differences in chemical composition between tolerant and susceptible ash trees. “Plants use a vast range of chemicals to defend against fungal attack, and the primary objective was to identify differences which could be used to screen young ash trees and choose the best ones for replanting,” said co-author Professor Murray Grant, Elizabeth Creak Chair in Food Security at the University of Warwick.  “Our findings underline the need for further research to ensure that we select ash trees resilient to present and future threats.”


Mass insect migrations in UK skies – Rothamsted Research

For the first time, scientists have measured the movements of high-flying insects in the skies over southern England – and found that about 3.5 trillion migrate over the region every year.

Scientists recorded movement above radar sites in southern England and found large seasonal differences, with mass migrations of insects generally going northwards in spring and southwards in autumn. Until now, radar studies have measured migrations of relatively few nocturnal species of agricultural pests, and no study previously examined the vast numbers of daytime migrants. Researchers from the University of Exeter and Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from the BBSRC, captured the movement of 3,200 tons of biomass, using specialised radar techniques. This movement is more than seven times the mass of the 30 million songbirds which depart the UK for Africa each autumn. It is also the equivalent of about 20,000 flying reindeer. The study is published today in the journal Science.

Dr Jason Chapman, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: “Insect bodies are rich in nutrients and the importance of these movements is underappreciated.”

“If the densities observed over southern UK are extrapolated to the airspace above all continental landmasses, high-altitude insect migration represents the most important annual animal movement in ecosystems on land, comparable to the most significant oceanic migrations.”

Although the origin and destination of each insect was not recorded, evidence from previous research suggests many will have been travelling to and from the UK over the English Channel and North Sea.

The scientists recorded movement above radar sites in southern England and found large seasonal differences, with mass migrations of insects generally going northwards in spring and southwards in autumn.


Access the paper: By Gao Hu, Ka S. Lim, Nir Horvitz, Suzanne J. Clark, Don R. Reynolds, Nir Sapir, Jason W. Chapman. Mass seasonal bioflows of high-flying insect migrants Science 23 Dec 2016 : 1584-1587 DOI: 10.1126/science.aah4379


Breeding birds struggle with wet 2016 - BTO

Information collected by British Trust for Ornithology volunteers show that 2016 was a poor breeding season for many bird species, in part due to periods of heavy spring and summer rainfall. In a reversal of fortunes from last year, conditions were better for populations in northern England and Scotland than they were in the south.

The 2015-16 winter was the UK’s third warmest on record and results generated from survey work undertaken by British Trust for Ornithology volunteers indicate that these mild conditions, which extended over much of the northern hemisphere, benefited many species. "At the start of the breeding season, bird ringers taking part in the Constant Effort Site (CES) scheme recorded above average numbers for many of the songbirds nesting in scrub and woodland habitats, such as Wren, Robin and Song Thrush."

However, March and April brought cold, wet weather to much of the country, particularly in the southern half of Britain, resulting in a late start to the nesting season in these habitats. Carl Barimore, NRS Organiser noted that "The cool, damp spring delayed egg production for 12 species, including both residents and summer visitors, many laying their first egg over a week later than average. This delay was most obvious for those birds that typically start to nest in April, such as Great Tit, Chaffinch and Blackcap." 

More heavy rain in June caused further problems for birds attempting to rear young. "Unsurprisingly, species nesting in wetlands were particularly badly affected", continues Carl. "Numbers of Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting fledglings fell by a third and a half respectively, largely due to nests being flooded out."

Many young birds leave the nest in June and the impact of unseasonable weather doesn’t end there. CES results show that the number of juvenile birds caught per adult in 2016 was significantly lower than average for 17 of the 24 species monitored. As Dave Leech, a Senior BTO Research Ecologist, notes "The figures recorded by ringers paint an even more negative picture of the 2016 season than those from BTO nest recorders. Adverse conditions immediately after fledging can really reduce the survival rates of the inexperienced young as they struggle to acclimatise to their new-found independence."

The full set of 2016 preliminary results for the Nest Record Scheme (NRS) and Constant Effort Site ringing surveys can be found at www.bto.org/nrs-preresults2016 and www.bto.org/ces-preresults2016 respectively


Scientific publications

Maren Rebke, Peter H. Becker, Fernando Colchero. Better the devil you know: common terns stay with a previous partner although pair bond duration does not affect breeding output Proc. R. Soc. B 2017 284 20161424; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.1424.


Kohei Koyama, Ken Yamamoto, Masayuki Ushio. A lognormal distribution of the lengths of terminal twigs on self-similar branches of elm trees Proc. R. Soc. B 2017 284 20162395; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2395.


Vera H. Hausner, Sigrid Engen, Ellen K. Bludd, Nigel G. Yoccoz, Policy indicators for use in impact evaluations of protected area networks, Ecological Indicators, Volume 75, April 2017, Pages 192-202, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: /10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.12.026.


Friedrich J. Bohn, Andreas Huth. Research article:  The importance of forest structure to biodiversity–productivity relationships. R. Soc. open sci. 2017 4 160521; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160521.


Topi Tanhuanpää, Ville Kankare, Heikki Setälä, Vesa Yli-Pelkonen, Mikko Vastaranta, Mikko T. Niemi, Juha Raisio, Markus Holopainen, Assessing above-ground biomass of open-grown urban trees: A comparison between existing models and a volume-based approach, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, ISSN 1618-8667, DOI: 10.1016/j.ufug.2016.12.011.


Matthias Schleuning et al Ecological networks are more sensitive to plant than to animal extinction under climate change Nature Communications 7, Article number: 13965 (2016)  doi:10.1038/ncomms13965


Land and countryside management

The high cost of clearing up after fly-tippers – Scottish Wildlife Trust

Fly-tippers and litter bugs who dump their rubbish on our wildlife reserves are costing the Trust around £15,000 per year.

The total cost of clearing up the Trust’s reserves includes staff time as well as hiring contractors to remove large items and hazardous substances such as asbestos. This figure does not include the additional costs of dumped rubbish collected by local authorities from roadsides adjacent to the wildlife reserves, or time spent by local volunteers collecting litter.

Fly-tipped litter (image: Scottish Wildlife Trust)Fly-tipped litter (image: Scottish Wildlife Trust)

Further costs are incurred by putting preventative measures in place. These include installing height barriers at our car parks and reducing public access on some parts of reserves through the erection of gates and closure of tracks.

Our Head of Reserves Alan Anderson said: “Fly-tipping is illegal and it poses a danger to both people and wildlife. It’s sad that some thoughtless individuals are dumping their waste on our reserves, forcing us as a charity to use our supporters’ money to clear up after them. Unfortunately the actions of a few people mean that many of our staff and volunteers have to spend a great deal of time clearing up rubbish when they could be working on more important projects such as creating and restoring wildlife habitats.”


Conviction – trade in wild plant bulbs – Cumbria – National Wildlife Crime Unit

William Adams aged 64 years of Great Orton, Cumbria has pleaded guilty to uprooting and trading wild plant bulbs.

Since 2014 residents of Dalston Village, Cumbria notice large numbers of wild plants were going missing from local woodland. On several occasions witnesses saw a man fitting Adams’s description digging in the area, some witness actually found bin bags containing Snowdrop and Bluebell bulbs near where the man was digging.

Bluebell bulbs (image: NWCU)Bluebell bulbs (image: NWCU)

Investigations indicated that the man responsible was Adams and on 28th April 2016 officers from Cumbria Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit executed a search warrant at his home address. Adams immediately admitted that he had been uprooting wild plants for around 2 years. He identified around 5000 bulbs and plants that he said had been illegally uprooted from the wild. He admitted that he was a trader and that he had set up a small business selling plants and bulbs when he had gone bankrupt. During the search officers also recovered invoices indicating that he was trading on Ebay and Amazon.

The plants included Bluebells, Wild Garlic and Snowdrops, which are all protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are also included on Annex ‘B’ to the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997, so can only be sold if they have been legally acquired or lawfully imported. The fact that the bulbs had been illegally removed from the wild meant that their sale would have been prohibited.

Adams was charged with three offences relating to the uprooting of wild plants and one of keeping unlawfully acquired snowdrops for sale. He also admitted that his adverts indicated the plants had been offered for sale as artificially propagated, when they were actually unlawfully uprooted, which resulted in him also being charged with ‘fraud by misrepresentation’ contrary to the Fraud Act 2006.

Adams appeared at Carlisle Magistrates Court on 20th December 2016 where he pleaded guilty to all the charges. Magistrates took into account Adams personal circumstances and his cooperation throughout the investigation and gave him maximum credit for his early guilty plea. He was fined £475 including costs.

All the 5000 bulbs and plants seized from his home were replanted back into the wild by local volunteers.


Power cables will make a “large wound in the Cumbrian countryside” – Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Red squirrels live & feed in areas set to be lost. Photo: Andrew Walter, Cumbria Wildlife TrustRed squirrels live & feed in areas set to be lost. Photo: Andrew Walter, Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Cumbria Wildlife Trust has expressed disappointment and concern about “significant levels of habitat loss” that will occur if plans by National Grid go ahead, connecting a proposed new nuclear plant at Moorside to the power station at Heysham.

Responding to the consultation document North West Coast Connections, Neil Harnott, Senior Conservation Officer at the Trust said: “Almost 60 hectares of woodland (some of it ancient), 16 hectares of flower-rich grassland and over 17km of hedgerows will be destroyed to make way for the power lines. All of these small cuts add up to one rather large wound in the Cumbrian countryside.” 

He says the Trust is particularly disappointed that where loss is impossible to avoid, there’s very little in the way of compensation habitat offered: “Where compensation is being considered, it’s only on a 1:1 basis. This is the equivalent of chopping down a 200 year old tree, with all the wildlife it supports, and replacing it with a single small sapling – but red squirrels, owls or a host of other species cannot live in a five-foot sapling.”

He proposes compensation at a ratio of 30:1, in other words for every hectare of habitat lost to the development, 30 hectares of new habitat should be created elsewhere.


Wildlife news

Kingfisher mystery in Montrose – Scottish Wildlife Trust

Kingfisher with sticklebacks © Ron Mitchell (via Wildlife Trust)An unusual series of images that appear to show a kingfisher hanging sticklebacks out to dry has stumped wildlife experts. 

Sticklebacks are common prey for the resident kingfisher at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Montrose Basin Visitor Centre and Wildlife Reserve, which kills the fish by striking them against its perch. This softens the stiff spines of the sticklebacks, making them easier to swallow. 

Kingfisher with sticklebacks © Ron Mitchell (via Wildlife Trust)

However, the bird appears to have gone a step further by using the spines to pin three sticklebacks to its regular branch.  

Anna Cheshier, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Angus Ranger said: "It’s hard to tell if the kingfisher has hung the fish on the branch accidentally or on purpose, but this is really unusual behaviour that no-one seems to be able to explain. We’d like anyone who has seen anything like this before to get in touch.”


Farmers in Fife and Angus are heralded as saviours of one of Scotland's fastest declining birds - RSPB Scotland

Actions by farmers are responsible for improved fortunes of corn buntings

Corn bunting feeding on ground (image: Andy Hay, RSPB)Corn bunting feeding on ground (image: Andy Hay, RSPB)

Winter seed food and other management deployed on a number of farms and estates in Angus and Fife as part of Corn Bunting Recovery Project have changed the fortunes of this iconic species.

The survey work earlier this year saw the highest increase in corn bunting numbers in Fife in any single year since monitoring began: between 2015 and 2016, the number of territories increased by 18%, from 62 to 73 on participating farms.

Birds had also recolonised areas, where they hadn’t been seen in years. This first local range expansion in the East Neuk is very encouraging and gives hope that the species may start to spread once again.

This good news comes after decades of dramatic declines for the UK corn bunting population. In Eastern Scotland numbers fell by 83% between 1989 and 2007, earning them the unfortunate accolade of being one of the fastest declining birds in Scotland.


Recreation, rights of way and volunteering  

Ramblers want your help to put more Scottish paths on the map – Ramblers Scotland

Ramblers Scotland is calling for outdoors enthusiasts’ help to get all Scottish ‘core paths’ shown on Ordnance Survey maps for the first time.

Since Scottish access rights were established in 2003, local authorities have developed a 17,000km network of their most important routes, known as core paths.  But as of yet, there is no requirement to include core paths on OS maps, meaning some are not shown at all – making it harder for walkers, cyclists, horse-riders and others to plan their days out.

Alongside Scottish Natural Heritage and other members of the National Access Forum, Ramblers Scotland has had encouraging discussions with Ordnance Survey, which is assessing the case for making the change.

Ramblers Scotland is calling on fans of the outdoors to let them know if they would like all core paths marked on Scottish 1:50 000 and 1:25 000 OS maps, by visiting www.ramblers.org.uk/corepaths. Every Scottish local authority and national park authority has published its own Core Path Plans, which are available on their websites, but the attribution of core paths is yet to be added to Ordnance Survey maps.

Helen Todd, Ramblers Scotland’s campaigns & policy manager, said: “We have excellent access rights in Scotland, but fewer paths on the ground than in the rest of Great Britain; something that we know can be a barrier to people enjoying the outdoors on foot. Attributing all core paths on maps would help communities promote their local walks, reassure less confident walkers, and make it easier for tourists to access the outdoors when visiting Scotland. "


New poll shows children like to be outdoors and enjoy wild places – Wildlife Trusts

Children rarely see two wild animals featured in John Lewis Christmas advert

At a time when people prepare to gather indoors for Christmas, a new poll published today shows that an overwhelming majority of children aged 8 – 15 years old feel happy being outdoors, seeing wildlife around them and enjoy visiting wild places. The poll also reveals that two of the four animals – badgers and hedgehogs – depicted in John Lewis’s Christmas advert are rarely seen by children in the wild.

The poll of over a thousand children by YouGov was commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts following the release of the John Lewis Christmas advert #BusterTheBoxer. The Wildlife Trusts are John Lewis’s Christmas campaign charity partner; the advert celebrates the joy of encountering wildlife in a garden using a cast of wild creatures - a fox, badger, squirrel and hedgehog.

The online poll* questioned 1,200 children aged 8 – 15 years old at the end of November 2016. It reveals:

  • 89% children agreed that being outdoors makes them happy
  • 81% like seeing wildlife in their garden or local area like birds or trees
  • 80% enjoy visiting wild places like rivers, lakes or woodlands
  • 70% enjoy playing outside e.g. climbing trees and building dens

The poll also asked children when they last saw the animals depicted in the advert in the wild. Focusing on the highest percentages, it reveals that:

  • Badger – 67% had never seen one in the wild
  • Hedgehog – 20% saw one more than a year ago; 25% had never seen one in the wild
  • Fox – 23% had never seen one in the wild
  • Squirrel – 45% saw one in the last week

Dominic Higgins, The Wildlife Trusts’ Nature & Wellbeing manager, says: “At a time when it’s increasingly hard for children to spend time in wild places – whether because of parental worries, time pressures or simply absence of wild places near to where people live – this new poll sends a clear message: children are happy outdoors and benefit enormously from contact with nature. It also shows that we must do all we can to ensure there are wild havens close to where people live – whether it’s by making our own gardens wilder or taking action to protect our local community green spaces. These findings are complex and illustrate the parallel problems of lack of access to natural places and wildlife decline. It’s harder and harder for children to spend time enjoying the wild places which make them happy. Plus, our natural environment is under huge pressure and wild creatures and plants are under threat."


Volunteers clock up 50,000 hours with the Trust in 2016 – Scottish Wildlife Trust 

Scottish Wildlife Trust volunteers gave an incredible 50,000 hours of their time in 2016. 

Colin Wilson is a regular volunteer with our Reserves Project Group based in Dalkeith. (image: Scottish Wildlife Trust)Colin Wilson is a regular volunteer with our Reserves Project Group based in Dalkeith. (image: Scottish Wildlife Trust)

The Trust is supported by around 1,000 volunteers across a wide range of roles including practical conservation, office-based work and engaging with visitors at the Trust’s four visitor centres. 

Tasks carried out on our network of 120 wildlife reserves include conducting surveys, maintaining footpaths and controlling invasive species. 
Volunteers also organise activities for children, as well as talks and other events in their local area. 

Colin Wilson volunteers for two days a week with the Trust's Reserves Project Group based in Dalkeith.  He said: "Being a Reserve Project Group volunteer is a great opportunity to get out and do something positive now I’m retired. It's very rewarding work that is helping to create lasting change.

CJS: Volunteers  

See all the current voluntary opportunities, including those with Scottish Wildlife Trust here.  Read more about volunteering in our In-Depth articles, see the index here and watch out for CJS Focus on Volunteering to be published on 13 February,


January news


UK coastal towns set for economic boost as National Lottery invests £33m in public parks – Heritage Lottery Fund

Grants to revitalise 13 parks in towns and cities across the UK including Great Yarmouth, Scarborough, Ramsgate, Fleetwood and Brighton.

Today (9/1), the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund are announcing grants totalling more than £33million that will help restore and revitalise 13 public parks across the UK. 

Five of the grants being awarded will directly benefit parks situated in coastal communities, many of which suffer from higher than average levels of deprivation. 

When complete, these projects will not only provide improved green spaces for local people to enjoy but will also help attract more tourism to these areas and as a result, have a positive impact on local economies.  

The coastal parks receiving grants are: Great Yarmouth’s Venetian Waterways; South Cliff Gardens in Scarborough; Ellington Park in Ramsgate; Mount Garden in Fleetwood, Lancashire; and Stanmer Park in Brighton.

HLF’s Chief Executive Ros Kerslake, said, on behalf of HLF and Big Lottery Fund: “It’s well-known that public parks play a vital role in our health and well-being.  But for coastal communities their role is even more critical.  Often a central part of their tourism offering, this investment from National Lottery players will empower local people to maximise the potential of their local park to boost local economic well-being.”


TCV's conservation handbooks online - TCV

TCV’s practical conservation handbooks are going online!

We are busy creating online versions of these fantastically practical guides to creating and managing many aspects of rural and urban green spaces.

They will be available for a very modest subscription. Once subscribed, you'll be able to login to access all ten handbooks and take them with you, wherever you go (* internet required for access).

We're aiming to have the handbooks available in the spring, although it's a huge undertaking, so please take the opportunity to sign up if you'd like us to let you know when they are available. 


Tourists spend £8.2m in Dumfries and Galloway after travelling to see red kites – RSPB Scotland

People visiting Dumfries and Galloway to see the region’s red kites have contributed over £8.2m to the local economy, a new report has found.

Red kites were re-introduced to an area north of Castle Douglas starting in 2001 (Image: Angus Hogg, RSPB)Red kites were re-introduced to an area north of Castle Douglas starting in 2001 (Image: Angus Hogg, RSPB)

Red kites were re-introduced to an area north of Castle Douglas starting in 2001, and the Galloway Kite Trail, which is a partnership project led by RSPB Scotland, was launched in 2003. Between 2004 and 2015, the trail attracted over 100,000 visitors and supported, on average, the equivalent of 19 full-time jobs in the local area every year, with that figure rising to 21 jobs in 2015.

Calum Murray RSPB Scotland Community Liaison Officer, said: “The re-introduction of red kites in Dumfries and Galloway has been a massive conservation success story, and we now have over 100 pairs breeding across the region. But this survey clearly demonstrates how nature can bring economic benefits to communities as well. Tourists are visiting the Galloway Kite Trail from all over the UK, and many are coming here specifically to see our amazing red kites, as well as the other wildlife this region is rightly renowned for. It also demonstrates the fantastic support given to the trail by local businesses, and with many visitors making repeat visits, it’s a good indication of the high standard of hospitality in the area as well.”


National Trust for Scotland finds cats at two sites – Scottish Wildcat Action

Originally published by National Trust for Scotland.

Wildcats have been spotted at two National Trust for Scotland sites in Aberdeenshire in recent months.

The charity which conserves and promotes Scotland’s heritage has captured video footage of a ‘good hybrid’ exploring the ancient woodlands at Drum Castle from earlier in 2016.

And at Leith Hall, a cat which was first sighted by Scottish Wildcat Action project manager Dr Roo Campbell several years ago, has been captured on camera. The images were taken on a nearby farm, and upon examination Roo confirmed that he had seen this cat several years ago while he was working in the Huntly area.

Roo said: “I detected this cat on camera when I was doing an earlier project putting GPS collars on cats in 2013 - 2014. She was using Leith Hall and a local farm and was a regular visitor to the trail cameras I had placed there. I managed to get a collar on her and was able to look closely at how she used the area.  I always hoped to see her again when we began the Scottish Wildcat Action project in the same area. Then we were sent some recent trail camera images from the farm and I realised it was the same cat! This caused me to double check some of the other images collected by Emma Rawling, our project officer in the area over the winter and true enough, it was the very same cat.”

Photos: Drum Castle 2013 and 2016 (remote camera trap images via Scottish Wildcat Action)

Photo: Drum Castle (2013) and 2016 (remote campture images via Scottish Wildcat Action)

Photo: Drum Castle (2013) and 2016 (remote campture images via Scottish Wildcat Action)

Senior nature conservation advisor for the National Trust for Scotland, Richard Luxmoore said: “It’s great to be able to demonstrate that we have wildcats living on our properties in Aberdeenshire. We tend to associate this elusive beast with the wilder parts of the Highlands but some of our best evidence comes from the more populated agricultural land in the north-east. Some of our most important wildlife sites turn up where we least expect them.”


If you bend it they will come - Salmon success for new curvy section of Lake District river - RSPB

A river restoration project at Haweswater aimed at helping breeding fish has spawned success after only a few months since it was finished.

During the summer a one-kilometre stretch of Swindale Beck, which had been artificially straightened around two centuries years ago, was filled in and replaced with a more natural curving course through a partnership project between the RSPB, the Environment Agency, United Utilities and Natural England. This slowed the flow of the river, creating habitat more suitable for spawning salmon and trout.

In December, 16 salmon were spotted in the new stretch of river, together with five redds, disturbed gravel where eggs have been laid.  Atlantic salmon already spawn in other areas of Swindale Beck, migrating from the sea via the Solway Firth and the River Eden. However, the old straightened part of the river was too fast flowing for salmon to spawn, so the project has created new habitat by putting the curves back in this stretch of Swindale Beck.

Lee Schofield, RSPB Site Manager at Haweswater, said: “Habitat restoration is often a slow process and we normally don’t see the benefits of our work for years and sometimes even decades. It’s really uplifting and inspiring to work on a project where we get the chance to experience success so soon after we’ve finished.”


Rampisham Down saved from damaging solar power station development – Dorset Wildlife Trust

Following two years of campaigning by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) and work by conservation organisations including Natural England, RSPB and others it has been announced that the Rampisham Down Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in West Dorset, will not be developed into a 25MW solar power station.  The site is a legally protected area of rare acid grassland and is of national importance.

The solar panels will now be developed on an alternative site, which is not of high importance for wildlife, adjacent to Rampisham Down.

In January 2015, an announcement was made stating that West Dorset District Council’s Planning Committee had decided to approve a planning application by British Solar Renewables to build a 25MW solar power plant on the former BBC transmission site, Rampisham Down SSSI.  DWT launched a petition which over 10,000 people signed, asking for the decision to be re-considered by the then Communities Minister, Eric Pickles. In June 2015 the decision was ‘called in’ by government and it was announced that a public inquiry would take place to decide the fate of the site.  In the interim the developer, British Solar Renewables, had a change of heart and sought planning permission for the alternative site, which was approved on 22nd December 2016.  

DWT’s Chief Executive, Dr Simon Cripps said, “DWT is the first to applaud British Solar Renewables’ sensible decision not to develop their solar power station on Rampisham Down.  This nationally important wildlife site will now continue to be protected.  Many conservationists were concerned that if this site was built on, other SSSI designated sites in the UK would be undermined and at risk as a result.”


Rampisham Down: a wonderful outcome for conservation – Natural England

Work to save a rare example of ancient acid grassland is hailed today as a “wonderful outcome for conservation” by Natural England.

Rampisham Down in Dorset is a surviving fragment of a once extensive area of marginal common land associated with medieval grazing.

Wild flowers on Rampisham Down, Dorset © Sean Cooch, Natural EnglandWild flowers on Rampisham Down, Dorset © Sean Cooch, Natural England

In 2013 there were plans to create a solar farm on the site, which would have caused significant damage to the mosaic of nationally-important acid grassland and heath plant communities.

Natural England notified the grassland as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) in 2014, giving it vital legal protection through the planning process, and lodged an objection to the proposed development of the site.

Local staff have since worked closely with British Solar Renewables (BSR), West Dorset District Council and other partners, such as the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Team and the Dorset Wildlife Trust, to find a solution. This resulted in BSR submitting alternative plans to create a solar farm on less sensitive land nearby, approved last month by West Dorset District Council.

Natural England’s Chairman, Andrew Sells, said:

This great success demonstrates the power of our outcomes approach, where we work in partnership with local people and businesses to solve problems and achieve significant benefits for the natural environment.

Natural England intervened in the case to save this site from development and has recently worked productively with all partners to find an alternative site. This is a wonderful outcome for conservation, in particular for Rampisham Down and the wildlife it supports.


New team of flood recovery rangers kick start ‘Routes to Resilience’ – Lake District National Park

A new team of park rangers are set to help people in the Lake District enjoy even more of the National Park this New Year.

Kick-starting the Park’s Routes to Resilience flood recovery project, 10 new rangers were appointed this week to repair footpaths and bridges and put in resilience measures for future flooding, following 2015’s Storm Desmond.

The £3m project was announced in November 2016, thanks to funding from the Rural Payments Agency. Routes to Resilience is an 18-month project that will:

  • reinstate 64 bridges
  • complete surface and drainage work on 102 paths
  • replace 56 items of access furniture, such as stiles and gates


National Trust and LGiU survey shows lack of democracy in local planning system – National Trust

A survey of over 1,200 ward councillors in England, carried out by the Local Government Information Unit, and commissioned by the National Trust, reveals councillors’ view that the planning system works in the interests of developers over councils and local communities.

The survey found that:

  • Over half of councillors say that sites that are not in line with the Council’s plan are being approved for housing in their area;
  • There are also concerns about Green Belt release and the loosening of the planning system through the introduction of permitted development rights for home extensions, office to residential use conversion, barn conversions and other changes of use;
  • Councillors also have concerns about the under-resourcing of planning teams.
  • In debates on the future of the planning system the views of councillors are often overlooked – and yet, as local decision-makers, and an important link with local communities, they have an essential role to play in ensuring development is sensitive to the needs of an area.

There are concerns the new Housing White Paper, expected later this month, could make matters worse, if it sets rigid housing numbers for local plans which don’t take account of local factors such as Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

As the Government puts the final touches to the Housing White Paper, the National Trust and LGiU hope that Ministers will take a number of sensible steps to improve the confidence that councillors have in the way the planning system works.

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the LGiU, said: “The planning system is one of the fundamental pillars of local democracy, allowing communities to help shape the physical structure of the places they live. Councillors are the most important link between communities and that system. Our survey with the National Trust shows that many councillors feel that this democratic tool is at risk of being undermined.”

Ingrid Samuel, Historic Environment Director at the National Trust, said:“It’s now almost 5 years after the Government’s planning framework was adopted, so it’s worrying that councillors feel it hasn’t delivered the localism that was promised. If ministers are serious about Local Plans being at the heart of the planning system, then they should invest in council planning teams and use the Housing White Paper to give them the tools to deliver good quality housing in the right places.”


Environment Agency crackdown continues on illegal activity – Environment Agency

During 2016 almost £220,000 in fines and costs were imposed by courts following Environment Agency investigations in the North East.

Almost £220,000 in fines and costs have been imposed by courts following Environment Agency investigations into those flouting waste and fishing laws in the North East. During 2016 there were 25 prosecutions of individuals or companies for waste offences, amounting to total fines of £93,390 and costs of £109,683. There were also three custodial sentences, two suspended sentences, a curfew, community orders and two formal cautions, as well as compensation awarded to a landowner who had to clear waste illegally dumped.

In fisheries enforcement, there were six serious offences resulting in £460 in fines and £600 costs, plus forfeiture of equipment and a crushed vehicle.  There were a further 54 offenders prosecuted for 59 rod licence offences resulting in fines of £14,327, with four offenders also given conditional discharges.

Enforcement activity has taken place right across the North East in Teesside, Tyne and Wear, County Durham and Northumberland. The Environment Agency’s enforcement teams work alongside other specialist teams to support businesses in abiding by their permit conditions, but take tough action against those who deliberately flout regulations. And fisheries enforcement officers carry our regular patrols and act on information and intelligence to target illegal activity on our rivers.


Children ‘mesmerised’ as RSPCA inspector rescues swan from nursery playground - RSPCA

Swan at Golden Manor Nursery (image: RSPCA)Swan at Golden Manor Nursery (image: RSPCA)

Nursery school children in Pembroke got an unexpected education in wildlife – after a swan crash landed into their playground. RSPCA Cymru rescued the swan, which was found at Golden Manor Nursery, on Golden Lane, on Tuesday 10 January. The bird was found unable to take-off, due to a lack of space. She was safely rescued by an RSPCA inspector, and released at the nearby Mill Pond, where she flew away strongly, and showed no signs of distress. The RSPCA officer also spoke to the nursery children about wildlife, and how important it was to help the swan to safety.

RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben, who rescued the swan, said: “Every day is different as an RSPCA inspector – and rescuing a swan from a nursery school playground was certainly a first for me! It was great to chat to the children at the nursery about wildlife too – they were absolutely fascinated by the swan. Fortunately, following this remarkable ordeal, the swan flew off impressively after being released at a local pond.”


Grant will help recruit an army to care for the coast – Northumberland Wildlife Trust

Coast Care, an initiative that will recruit and train an army of volunteers to look after the North Northumberland Coastal area, has been awarded a grant of £522,600 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The North Northumberland Coastal area, much of which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), is a stunning landscape popular with local people and visitors alike. It includes nature reserves, wildlife habitats and historic buildings of national or international importance, but it is a fragile landscape that requires careful management. Made possible by National Lottery players, the grant from the HLF will enable a ew project, aptly named Coast Care to employ a small team of staff to recruit and support volunteers who will help care for this special place. Coast Care is a partnership initiative bringing the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership, Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Seahouses Development Trust together to oversee the project. The staff team will be based in Seahouses in the heart of the Coast Care area and it is anticipated that a project co-ordinator will be recruited early in 2017.

Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we are very pleased to be able support Coast Care. The project will increase capacity to look after the landscape by effectively ‘match making’ volunteers with volunteering opportunities and co-ordinating effort so that, collectively, local people, communities and visitors are able to contribute to the management of their amazing natural and cultural heritage. Training, support and resources will be provided to enable as many people as possible to contribute and to maximise the potential of an, as yet untapped, volunteer ‘army."

Steve Lowe, Head of Conservation at Northumberland Wildlife Trust said “The Coast Care project will provide volunteering opportunities such as beach clean-ups, site management and a host of other opportunities that help in taking care of this special part of Northumberland.


Birds and butterflies struggling to cope with climate change under intensive land use – University of Reading

Some of Britain’s much-loved birds and butterflies could be wiped out in certain areas if they do not have sufficient natural habitat to allow them to adapt to warming temperatures, a new study shows.

Scientists looked at more than four decades’ worth of bird and butterfly records from more than 600 monitoring sites around England and found that cold-associated birds like the meadow pipit, willow tit and willow warbler have already been lost from many bird communities.The willow tit is one cold-weather bird that has already been lost from some areas (image: Edmund Fellowes, via University of Reading) 

The willow tit is one cold-weather bird that has already been lost from some areas (image: Edmund Fellowes, via University of Reading)

We have known for some time that climate change affects individual species differently, with those associated with colder regions impacted most severely. This research, a collaboration between the University of Reading, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the British Trust for Ornithology, Butterfly Conservation and Natural England, shows for the first time how habitat loss combines with climate change pressures to drive the loss of species from local areas.

Dr Tom Oliver, Associate Professor of Landscape Ecology at the University of Reading, who led the study, said: “There is a clear signature of climate change on our country’s wildlife, and for many species the situation is worse where the landscape is dominated by arable land and intensively managed grasslands. Bird communities are struggling to successfully adapt to the warming we’ve had over recent decades.

“Although butterflies are coping much better, in both cases a lack of natural habitat in our landscapes is putting cold-associated species between a rock and a hard place by limiting their ability to find resources and survive.”

The study, published in Global Change Biology, shows numbers of both cold-associated and warm-associated birds have dropped over time, but cold-associated species have declined more so as temperatures have risen and, on balance, communities are now more dominated by warm-loving species.

Dr Simon Gillings head of population monitoring at the British Trust for Ornithology, said “Loss and degradation of habitats, whether in farmland, grasslands or uplands are primary factors in reducing key resources for birds, leading to population declines. Intensive management is making it harder for cold-associated birds to find cool corners of sites, or to disperse away from warming regions, thereby exacerbating the effects of climate warming.” 

Access the paper Oliver, T.H., Gillings, S., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Brereton, T., Crick, H.Q.P., Duffield, S., Morecroft, M.D., Roy, D.B (2016). ‘Large extents of intensive land use limit community reorganisation during climate warming’. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13587


Climate Change brings 11 Species of Dragonfly to the UK - British Dragonfly Society

Since 1995, no less than eleven species of dragonfly or damselfly have been recorded from Britain either for the first time ever, or after a long period of absence.

Many of these have also bred successfully here and some have gone on to become well-established residents. The Small Red-eyed Damselfly, which first appeared on our shores in south-east England in 1999, can now be found breeding successfully right across to Wales and North Yorkshire. Others on the list of new species are less familiar, with the stunning Large White-faced Darter (Leucorrhinia pectoralis) making its first ever appearance here in 2012.

These species account for around 20% of the current UK dragonfly fauna, with a variety of factors underlying the numerous new British records. The increasing numbers and experience of local dragonfly watchers plays a role, greatly increasing the likelihood that rare events are accurately reported. However, most new sightings are a reflection of the large-scale range expansions that are currently being shown by many European dragonfly species, almost certainly as a result of climate change. With climatic trends still continuing, such changes are progressing apace, making it highly probable that further new species of dragonfly will appear in Britain over the next few years. Likely candidates for future British species include the beautiful Southern Skimmer (Orthetrum brunneum), with one individual already recorded from the Channel Islands in July 2001.

The British Dragonfly Society runs the Migrant Dragonfly Project, improving our understanding of dragonfly migration and the reasons for it. The Society also runs DragonflyWatch, Britain’s dragonfly recording network. Adrian Parr, co-ordinator of the Migrant Dragonfly Project, says: ‘now is a particularly interesting time to be involved in dragonfly recording, with the number of new species appearing in Britain soaring and changes also happening to the distributions of our own resident species. There’s never been a better time to get involved.’


New study reveals lost birdsong of Britain - RSPB

Yellowhammer singing (image: Chris Gomersall)Yellowhammer singing (image: Chris Gomersall)

  • New study reveals that yellowhammer dialects which it’s thought previously existed in the UK have now been lost, but can still be heard in birdsong overseas, shedding new light on the cultural evolution of birdsong.
  • Citizen science project to collect recordings enabled scientists to make comparisons between yellowhammer dialects in the UK and New Zealand, where over 600 birds were introduced in the 19th century.
  • Due to rapid decline in UK yellowhammer population, some dialects may have been lost here, yet they have been retained in New Zealand yellowhammers.

New research into bird accents has shown that some regional accents, once thought to be lost in the UK, can still be heard on the other side of the world.

The study, published in Ecography, examined yellowhammer dialects in the UK and New Zealand, where the birds were introduced in the 1860’s and 1870’s and later became pests. It found some dialects that likely existed in the UK appear to have gone extinct, yet they still exist in New Zealand- a phenomenon which also occurs in human languages.

The research was led by a Czech research team who encouraged volunteers to collect and submit recordings of singing yellowhammers using smartphones and cameras. Using these recordings from the citizen science project, scientists compared the patterns of yellowhammer dialects in the native range of Great Britain, and in the invaded range of New Zealand.


Independent Review of Tidal Lagoons

On 12 January 2016 Charles Hendry published his final report and recommendations of the Independent Review of tidal lagoons.

The final report can be found here in English 


Hendry Review into tidal power published – Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts welcome plans to develop our understanding of tidal power but believe that any tidal lagoon development in the UK should be subject to strict monitoring of any impacts of the technology on the marine environment.

The Wildlife Trusts in Wales welcomes recognition by the Hendry Review, released today, that any tidal lagoon development in the UK should be subject to strict monitoring of any impacts of the technology on the marine environment. The Hendry Review, an independent study, was commissioned by the UK Government following Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP)’s plans to build tidal lagoons along the Severn Estuary to harness tidal power, has come out in support of the development of a pathfinder tidal lagoon project at Swansea.

The Hendry Review recognised that tidal lagoons are an as-yet untested technology, and as such was unable “to give an absolutely factual assessment of full life-cycle of environmental consequences” of the Swansea lagoon. The Review also stated that “[i]t will be necessary in many cases for developers of potential tidal lagoon sites to make good the loss of existing habitat for wildlife in order to comply with the Habitats and Birds Directives. Although this would not affect Tidal Lagoon in Swansea Bay, it is anticipated that Tidal Lagoon Cardiff alone would require a very significant amount of such ‘compensatory habitat’.”

The Wildlife Trusts believe that mitigation in the Severn Estuary will be very difficult due to the substantial loss of mudflats that are essential for 75,000 migratory birds. However we are pleased that the Review has recognised this and it recommends that “should tidal lagoons be built, the Government should require a high level of on-going monitoring of environmental impacts to ensure that mitigation can be put in place where impacts are judged to require it.”

The Wildlife Trusts in Wales are also pleased that the report recommends a pause between Swansea becoming operational and other plans for lagoons starting. We would like to see at least 8 years pause to cover two fish-spawning cycles.


Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon - project must be seen as a test says MCS  

Hendry review takes no account of adverse longterm ecological impacts   

An independent review into the viability of the proposed Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, published today (Thursday 12th January), has not taken ecological impacts into account.

Although we support marine renewable energy as a potentially ecologically sustainable form of electricity production, we believe that renewables must be developed utilising the technologies and placed in locations with least environmental impact. Lagoons, like the  £1.3bn project proposed for Swansea Bay, will be located in estuaries and bays that have complex and diverse ecosystems supporting rare and threatened fish, birds and other wildlife and habitats, all of which may be adversely affected by these massive developments. 

"The Hendry Review takes no account of the adverse ecological impacts of the development of tidal lagoons. They will be located in estuaries and bays that are complex and diverse ecosystems supporting rare and threatened fish, birds and other wildlife and habitats all of which will be may be adversely affected by these massive developments," says Clare Reed, Marine Policy Officer at MCS.   

"If Swansea Bay tidal lagoon goes ahead, it should be considered a test site and be operational and monitored for at least five years prior to commissioning further lagoons to fully understand the extent and scale of environmental impacts. For example other proposals in the Severn could impact the ever decreasing populations of Atlantic Salmon and other rare Shad species." 


Backing for Swansea tidal lagoon welcomed - but Govt mustn’t ignore solar and wind investment – Friends of the Earth

Welcoming an independent review by former energy minister Charles Hendry, published today, which backs the development of a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay, Haf Elgar, acting director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said: “This is welcome news - a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay could play a significant role in generating clean energy in Wales, and will be an important test of this exciting new power source. Tidal lagoons could have a big future, however it is crucial that any potential impacts on wildlife and the wider environment are properly considered and addressed before any new developments are given the go-ahead."


Greenpeace Reaction to Charles Hendry's Tidal Lagoon Report

Greenpeace reaction following the appearance of Charles Hendry on BBC Radio 4 Today, talking about the viability of tidal lagoons, in which he said, "We know it absolutely works...We can start a new industry at an affordable cost to consumers":

Greenpeace UK's Chief Scientist, Dr Doug Parr, said: “Tidal lagoon energy is the most reliable source of renewable energy for the UK and the Swansea Bay project is an opportunity to lead in generating clean power from Britain's tides. Up to now, cost has been considered a barrier but the Hendry report suggests that tidal lagoons can potentially play a cost-effective role in the UK energy mix. And the government should get on with it because it could be the first of a wave of tidal lagoons across the UK, and even internationally. So we can lead the world in providing a new, renewable innovation to meet our clean energy needs. If Swansea is successful it could prove the investment case for further major projects that could potentially generate a significant chunk of the UK's electricity needs, and help towards meeting our carbon targets, whilst creating thousands of new infrastructure jobs too."


National Trust outlines ambitions to build a bright future for hill farming, nature and heritage in upland communities

The National Trust today pledged to work in close partnership with farmers to build a ‘bright’ post-Brexit future in which upland hill farming can thrive, nature can be revived, and cultural heritage is protected in some of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes.

Helen Ghosh, the director general of the National Trust, said livestock farming would continue to be right at the heart of the charity’s plans for managing upland areas, and that its tenant farmers were essential partners in helping to restore the health of the natural environment.

Hill farming in the UK is facing a complex set of challenges, with uncertainty over the future of the £3bn-worth of EU subsidies, pressure on incomes and declining wildlife, falling soil quality and increased flood risks in many areas.

The Trust, which has over 1,500 farm tenants across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has called for the current ‘broken’ model for funding farming to be radically reformed after Brexit, with farmers receiving taxpayers’ money for improving the environment and helping wildlife – rather than being paid simply for owning land.

In a speech to the Uplands Alliance in Cumbria, Helen said: “While there are some big challenges and – yes, threats – I am much more in the camp that believes that there is an unprecedented opportunity for the uplands post-Brexit. If we work together we can grab the chance to make their future more sustainable than it has ever been.  Reliance on CAP subsidy as now is not the future. But the opportunities are there, we believe, for the uplands to take advantage of new income streams – alongside maintaining some core public financial support – which deliver the benefits that the public want and the nation needs.”

The conservation charity said its long-term ambition of helping to reverse the alarming decline in nature would only succeed by working, listening and developing plans in partnership with farmers.

The Trust said it was actively exploring a number of areas aimed at helping to secure a sustainable economic future for upland farming and would be setting out its thoughts for discussion with farmers and other partners in the spring.


Wildlife licensing: comment on new policies for European protected species licences – Natural England Consultation outcome

Read the outcome report for full details of the proposed new policies for European protected species licensing. The report shows where proposals were changed as a response to public feedback.

Policy summaries

Policy 1 - Greater flexibility when excluding and relocating European Protected Species (EPS) from development sites

Defra considers that compensation for EPS impacts can be delivered without the need to relocate or exclude populations, where: exclusion or relocation measures are not necessary to maintain the conservation status of the local population; the avoid-mitigate-compensate hierarchy is followed; and compensation provides greater benefits to the local population than would exclusion and/or relocation.

Policy 2 - Greater flexibility in the location of newly created habitats that compensate for habitats that will be lost

If the licensing tests are met and the avoid-mitigate-compensate hierarchy is followed, off-site compensation measures may be preferred to on-site compensation measures, where there are good reasons for maximising development on the site of EPS impacts, and where an off-site solution provides greater benefit to the local population than an on-site solution.

Policy 3 - Allowing EPS to have access to temporary habitats that will be developed at a later date

Where development (such as mineral extraction) will temporarily create habitat which is likely to attract EPS, Defra favours proposals which enable works to proceed without the exclusion of EPS, where the conservation status of the local population would not be detrimentally affected. On completion of development such sites must contribute to the conservation status of the local population as much as or more than the land use which preceded development. The measures to achieve this should be set out in a management plan and secured by a legal agreement.

Policy 4 - Appropriate and relevant surveys where the impacts of development can be confidently predicted

Natural England will be expected to ensure that licensing decisions are properly supported by survey information, taking into account industry standards and guidelines. It may, however, accept a lower than standard survey effort where: the costs or delays associated with carrying out standard survey requirements would be disproportionate to the additional certainty that it would bring; the ecological impacts of development can be predicted with sufficient certainty; and mitigation or compensation will ensure that the licensed activity does not detrimentally affect the conservation status of the local population of any EPS.

Read the full consultation outcome report (PDF) 


Lesley Griffiths: Have your say on fly-tipping – Welsh Government

A public consultation on the possible introduction of fixed penalty notices to combat fly-tipping has been launched by the Welsh Government. 

Currently, Local Authorities can issue fixed penalty notices for a number of offences, such as littering and dog fouling. The only way to penalise those who undertake small scale fly-tipping though is to prosecute through the Magistrate Courts. Many consider this to be expensive, time consuming and disproportionate for small scale offences.
The majority of respondents to a previous consultation felt introducing fixed penalty notices offered a relatively simple, quick and cheap way of dealing with offenders, which would remove existing financial and resource burdens on enforcing authorities and on the Court system.
The 12 week consultation launched today (12/1) proposes Local Authorities should have the ability to set the fixed penalty amount at between £150 and £400, depending on their local circumstances. If no amount is specified then the default would be £200. Local Authorities could then use the money raised to help contribute to the costs of enforcement and the clear-up of fly-tipping.
Larger fly-tipping incidents such as a van tipping a load of building waste would still be prosecuted through the courts.

Acccess the consultation Consultation End Date: 6 Apr 2017


Scientific Publications

Zimmermann Teixeira, F., Kindel, A., Hartz, S. M., Mitchell, S. and Fahrig, L. (2017), When road-kill hotspots do not indicate the best sites for road-kill mitigation. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12870


Ronny Steen. Bird monitoring using the smartphone (iOS) application Videography for motion detection  Bird Study DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2016.1271772


Davide Scridel, Jonathan D. Groom & David J. T. Douglas. Native woodland creation is associated with increase in a Black Grouse Lyrurus tetrix population.  Bird Study DOI:  10.1080/00063657.2016.1273879


Paloniemi, R., Hujala, T., Rantala, S., Harlio, A., Salomaa, A., Primmer, E., Pynnönen, S. and Arponen, A. (2017), Integrating Social and Ecological Knowledge for Targeting Voluntary Biodiversity Conservation. Conservation Letters. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/conl.12340 


Cas Eikenaar, Florian Müller, Clara Leutgeb, Sven Hessler, Konstantin Lebus, Philip D. Taylor, Heiko Schmaljohann Corticosterone and timing of migratory departure in a songbird Proc. R. Soc. B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2300


Tobey Ben-Aderet, Mario Gallego-Abenza, David Reby, Nicolas Mathevon Dog-directed speech: why do we use it and do dogs pay attention to it? Proc. R. Soc. B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2429


Moor, H., Rydin, H., Hylander, K., Nilsson, M. B., Lindborg, R. and Norberg, J. (2017), Towards a trait-based ecology of wetland vegetation. J Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12734 


Laura Coquereau, Julie Lossent, Jacques Grall, Laurent Chauvaud Marine soundscape shaped by fishing activity R. Soc. open sci. 2017 4 160606; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160606.


Timo Pukkala; Does management improve the carbon balance of forestry?. Forestry 2017; 90 (1): 125-135. doi: 10.1093/forestry/cpw043


Vítězslav Maňák, Mats Jonsell; Beetle diversity in two types of fine woody debris: lessons for bioenergy harvest. Forestry 2017; 90 (1): 82-87. doi: 10.1093/forestry/cpw028


Hooker, O. E., Van Leeuwen, T. E. and Adams, C. E. (2017), The Physiological Costs of Prey Switching Reinforce Foraging Specialization. J Anim Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12632


Dick, J. T.A.,  et al  (2017), Invader Relative Impact Potential: a new metric to understand and predict the ecological impacts of existing, emerging and future invasive alien species. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12849


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