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


Artificial shelters could help trees survive climate change – Aberystwyth University

Catherine Duerden with a tree shelter (Aberystwyth University)Catherine Duerden with a tree shelter (Aberystwyth University)

It is a common sight to see plastic shelters placed on young tree saplings to protect them when growing, but new research suggests that this may also prepare them to survive climate change.

Aberystwyth University graduate Catherine Duerden unearthed the truth about tree shelters while writing her MSc dissertation and the findings have been published in the Quarterly Journal of Forestry.  

In it she sets out to determine the long term effects of tree shelters used for protecting young tree saplings against the environment and herbivores.

Speaking of her research Catherine said: “It was surprising that we have used so many of these shelters without really knowing what they do to trees in the longer term. Several million are produced and used in the UK alone each year. There are so many used that wherever you go in the developed world you are likely to be within just 1 km of a tree shelter.”

As part of her dissertation Catherine tried to identify past experimental sites where the tree shelters had been tested. But this proved a challenge as decades had passed, experiments had been abandoned, paper records lost and many experimenters retired.

However, in a filing cabinet in a broom cupboard in the Llandovery Forestry Commission offices, detailed records were unearthed from a comprehensive study of Welsh oak trees established in 1994.

Catherine said: “I then revisited this site, which had tested 20 tree shelter types, and was able to look at the success of the sessile oaks after 20 years of growth. What I discovered was that 17 of the 20 shelter types promoted survival, and 12 of the shelter types had significantly increased trees’ stability compared to those grown without tree shelters.”


Basking sharks seek out winter sun – University of Exeter

The winter habits of Britain’s basking sharks have been revealed for the first time.

Scientists from the University of Exeter have discovered some spend their winters off Portugal and North Africa, some head to the Bay of Biscay and others choose a staycation around the UK and Ireland.

Little was known about basking sharks’ winter behaviour as they spend little time at the surface and are often far from land, so the researchers used cutting-edge satellite tracking to carry out the most detailed ever study of their migrations in the north-east Atlantic.

It was once thought that the giant, plankton-eating fish hibernated in the waters off the UK and Ireland, but evidence in recent years has undermined this theory.

“Knowing where these animals are all year round allows us to understand the threats they face,” said lead author Philip Doherty, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

The primary drivers behind basking shark migrations are still unclear. Image courtesy of Philip Doherty.The primary drivers behind basking shark migrations are still unclear. Image courtesy of Philip Doherty.

“This is essential information if we want to protect them, especially as they swim far outside UK waters, meaning any conservation efforts must be international. In terms of man-made threat they may face, we tend to think of commercial fishing as the only danger to these animals, but other issues such as boat strike, marine litter, civil engineering and ocean noise might also have an effect.”

The researchers tagged 70 sharks and, of the 28 tags which continued transmitting for more than five months, they found most sharks either stayed near the UK or swam to the waters off Spain, Portugal and North Africa. A smaller number spent the winter in the Bay of Biscay, west of France.

Those which swam south left in late summer and autumn, and returned in spring and early summer.


Mapping our special places in Wales -  Natural Resources Wales

Image: NRWPeople can now ‘walk’ some of Wales’ iconic trails and paths from the comfort of their armchair after Natural Resources Wales (NRW) teamed up with Google to add our special sites to Google Street View.

These give people a 360̊ panoramic view, so anyone with internet access can virtually ‘walk’ the trails using Street View on Google Maps.

Image: NRW

This project is part of NRW’s commitment to help more people get active and enjoy the outdoors.

Max Stokes, Natural Resources Planning Officer said: “We look after loads of sites across Wales where people can go running, walking and mountain biking. Launching the digital maps with Google means we can now showcase these special places on a global platform. We hope that this ‘virtual warden’ experience will encourage more people to get out and enjoy the outdoors."


Winning in a changing climate: a jewel wasp new to Britain found in Kent – Kent Wildlife Trust

The jewel wasp is a species new to Britain and new to Kent, found on our reserves and most likely enabled by a changing climate – we always think of climate change as bad, but as species are pushed out of their continental range and expand north, they have to find stepping stones of habitat further north or go extinct. We are going to lose species to climate change, but also gain them.

Hedychrum nobile by Grant HazelhurstHedychrum nobile by Grant Hazelhurst

Hedychrum nobile is a jewel wasp, a large one at that and a truly stunning little beast. Jewel wasps are members of the cuckoo wasp family Chrysididae, and are generally parasites or cleptoparasites (parasitism by theft). They lay their eggs in the nests of other insects, where their larvae consume the host egg or larvae alive. They are aptly named, generally being vibrant shades of bright metallic colours, and with minutely detailed and sculptured bodies. Most species in the family are found in desert regions of the world, as they are typically associated with solitary bee and wasp species, which are also most diverse in such places. This particular jewel wasp is a parasite of another wasp, the weevil hunting wasp Cerceris arenaria. The jewel wasp sneaks into the burrow of the weevil hunting wasp while she is away hunting weevils and lays her eggs. The weevil hunting wasp larvae consume the provisioned weevils, only to then be consumed themselves, a grim but exquisite intricacy of the struggle for life in the natural world. 


CEH-led €3 million EKLIPSE project supporting policy on Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystem services launches first report – Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Experts from the Centre of Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) are playing a key role in a major EU-funded project to provide policy makers with the information needed to make decisions on conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services and solve environmental problems across Europe.

logo: EKLIPSECEH scientists are coordinating the EKLIPSE project which consists of a consortium of international scientists who invite policy-makers to put in requests that answer their information needs.

The European Commission-funded project works by sending out 'calls for expertise' to scientists and other knowledge holders who then share their knowledge to help inform Europe’s policy-makers on environmental challenges.

EKLIPSE has now reached a landmark in its four-year cycle by producing its first report, published by CEH.


Walkers and climbers asked to assist campaign against wildlife crime – Mountaineering Scotland

Walkers and climbers out in the countryside are being asked to report any dead birds of prey they may come across to Police Scotland. The call comes as part of a campaign, by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, to counter raptor persecution.

Dead Golden Eagle near Bridge of Orchy. Photo courtesy of RSPBBirds of prey are widespread over Scotland's varied landscape. In general, golden eagles favour remote, mountainous regions while buzzards, red kites and peregrine falcons prefer lower wooded ground or cliff faces.

Dead Golden Eagle near Bridge of Orchy. Photo courtesy of RSPB

A Scottish Government study indicates that the public are covering large areas of the countryside. The report, “Let's Get Scotland Walking: The National Walking Strategy" (published in 2014) shows that, in 2012, visitors took 2.2 million walks (of up to two miles or up to one hour) and 1.8 million long walks (more than two miles or more than one hour) in Scotland. 

This makes the walking community, from the adventurous hill walker down to the weekend family stroller, a valuable resource as "eyes on the ground,” in tackling wildlife crime. It also means that walkers are getting to places which criminals think are out of sight.


Greener UK coalition launches manifesto urging government to use Brexit to restore and enhance the environment – Wildlife Trusts on behalf of the coalition

The Greener UK coalition of 13 major environmental organisations, including WWF, the National Trust, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts, has today (22/2) launched its manifesto calling on the government to restore and enhance the environment as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

The Greener UK coalition of 13 major environmental organisations, including WWF, the National Trust, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts, has today launched its manifesto calling on the government to restore and enhance the environment as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

It is the first time so many environmental organisations across the UK have come together to express such a wide range of concerns, across all environmental policy areas. They say, “We are depleting our soils and water supplies, generating mountains of food and plastic waste, changing our climate and making the air in our cities dangerous to breathe. Our wild places are dwindling, and we face the sadness of once familiar animals and plants fading away from our gardens and countryside.”

The Greener UK manifesto follows a House of Lords report last week, which identified the risk of a vacuum in the the oversight and enforcement of environment legislation, and the challenge of effectively maintaining the extensive existing environmental protections through the Repeal Bill.

However, the coalition also says that Brexit offers the chance for the government to make a greener UK a reality, by:

  • Securing the benefits of existing environmental laws and principles through the Repeal Bill, as the UK leaves the EU.
  • Passing an ambitious new Environment Act, building on a 25 year plan with measurable milestones for environmental restoration and high standards for pollution and resource efficiency.
  • Ensuring the UK continues to co-operate with the EU on energy and climate change, and affirming ongoing investment in, and deployment of, clean energy infrastructure.
  • Introducing new policies and investment that create thriving farming and fishing industries, working with the grain of nature to return our land, seas, lakes and rivers to good health.

194 MPs from across the UK’s political parties have so far signed up to the Greener UK coalition’s Pledge for the Environment.

Download the manifesto (PDF)


Coca-Cola to back deposit return scheme in major U-turn - Holyrood magazine exclusive


Coca-Cola gives its backing to a deposit return scheme for cans and bottles in Scotland – Marine Conservation Society 

In what appears to be a U-turn by the soft drinks giant Coca-Cola, the firm says the "time is right" to try new measures "such as a well-designed deposit scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are under way".

The statement comes just weeks after Sky News said it had seen an internal document that revealed the extent of Coca-Cola's opposition to the introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme in the UK. 

MCS has welcomed the move from Coca-Cola. Dr Sue Kinsey, MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer said: “We’re delighted that Coca Cola has decided that a Deposit Return System for Scotland is a positive step forward. MCS believe that a properly designed system will reduce litter on our beaches and in our seas as well as increase recycling rates, reduce carbon emissions and deliver good value for local authorities and tax payers. We also believe a system, custom made for Scotland, will benefit companies such as Coca Cola, providing them with a steady supply of clean recyclate, and smaller businesses will benefit from increased footfall and handling fees.”

Calum Duncan, MCS Head of Conservation in Scotland added: "A deposit return system for drinks containers is the easiest next step we could take to reduce plastics in the marine environment. It's great to see Coca-Cola recognise the advantages for them, and for society more generally, and we welcome their support for this campaign."

John Mayhew, director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS), said:  "This is truly a landmark moment and we are very pleased to add Coca-Cola to the list of companies which agree that Scotland needs a deposit return system for drinks containers."

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "We very much welcome this move by Coca-Cola and encourage other drinks manufacturers, retailers and businesses to follow their lead. Well-planned deposit return systems have a major role to play in helping to cut wasteful use of resources and preventing marine pollution."


Response: Positive step by industry to tackle litter – Keep Scotland Beautiful

Derek Robertson, Chief Executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said:  The announcement by Coca Cola is a positive step in the right direction and I am pleased that they have acknowledged the need for new, innovative solutions to tackle litter and littering behaviour.  However, it is clear that a deposit scheme won’t be the silver bullet that solves Scotland’s litter problem. We should also not underestimate the hard work and challenges that that lie ahead if such a scheme is to be implemented in Scotland.  It is vital that all stakeholders are fully engaged in the design and development of any scheme to ensure delivers for Scotland." 


Response: Coca-Cola U-turn on opposition to bottle deposit schemes - Greenpeace comment


Reaction: Coca-Cola makes a refreshing decision about Scotland’s bottles and cans - CPRE

Campaign to Protect Rural England this morning welcomed news that major drinks multi-national Coca-Cola has changed its global position on deposit return systems, with an announcement that the company will support a deposit return system in Scotland. The decision comes after the soft drinks giant took a fresh look at the evidence and agreed that only a deposit system for drinks containers can deliver the step-change in recycling and litter reduction that is needed.

Samantha Harding, CPRE Litter Programme Director, says: ‘This is fantastic and heartening news. It’s admirable that Coca-Cola has been bold enough to change its position after seeing the benefits of deposit return. Our hope is that such positive progress in Scotland will encourage England’s ministers to follow the success of the carrier bag scheme with the best solution for drinks litter – a deposit return system.’

Ministers in Westminster are also considering the same opportunity, with England facing the same challenges with regard to plastic pollution, wasted resources and high levels of littered bottles and cans.


Wintering ducks connect isolated wetlands by dispersing plant seeds – Utrecht University

Plant populations in wetland areas face increasing isolation as wetlands are globally under threat from habitat loss and fragmentation. Erik Kleyheeg and Merel Soons of Utrecht University show that the daily movement behaviour of wintering mallards is highly predictable from the landscape they live in and that their daily flights contribute to maintaining the connections between wetland plant populations across increasingly fragmented landscapes. The researchers and co-authors are publishing their results today in the academic journal Journal of Ecology.

Mallards are among the most numerous and widespread duck species in the world, their global population estimated at approximately 19 million individuals. They are strong flyers, able to cover long distances at great speed (about 80 km/h) and part of the population migrates over long distances from their breeding areas to their wintering areas. Mallards are omnivorous and in their non-breeding range, during autumn and winter, they feed largely on plant seeds. Many of these seeds are not digested and survive gut passage. In this way, the mallards play an important role in transporting the seeds between wetland feeding and resting areas.

Access the papers:

E. Kleyheeg, H.J. Treep, M. de Jager, B.A. Nolet and M.B. Soons (2017) Seed dispersal distributions resulting from landscape-dependent daily movement behaviour of a key vector species. Journal of Ecology, online early DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12738.

E. Kleyheeg, J.B.G. van Dijk, D. Tsopoglou-Gkina, T. Woud, D. Boonstra, B.A. Nolet and M.B. Soons* (2017) Movement patterns of a keystone waterbird species are highly predictable from landscape configuration. Movement Ecology, online early DOI: 10.1186/s40462-016-0092-7.


Rare species discovered at ‘lost world’ estate near Loch Ness – Trees for Life

Surveys at Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Conservation Estate near Loch Ness have revealed a range of rare species, including a midge never recorded in the United Kingdom before – underlining the site’s growing reputation as a ‘lost world’ for biodiversity.

The discovery of the non-biting midge (Chironomus vallenduuki) by entomologist Peter Chandler last August brings the total of UK biodiversity firsts found at the estate in Glenmoriston in Inverness-shire to 11.

Peter Chandler sweep-netting for fungus gnats by lone pine (image: Trees for Life)Peter Chandler sweep-netting for fungus gnats by lone pine (image: Trees for Life)

Other key findings during the charity’s 2016 survey season included two rare gnats whose larvae feed on fungi. One of these (Sciophila varia) is only known from four other UK sites. The other (Mycomya nigricornis) is only known in the UK from a handful of Scottish sites and had not been seen since 1990.

The charity also found two parasitic wasps (Homotropus pallipes and Diphyus salicatorius), for which there are very few Scottish records, and – for the first time in Scotland north of the River Tay – a pseudoscorpion called the knotty shining claw (Lamprochernes nodosus).

A micro-moth, the small barred longhorn (Adela croesella) – only documented at three other locations in Scotland, and never before this far north – was found by volunteer Richard Davidson. Richard had been taking part in one of Trees for Life’s popular volunteer Conservation Weeks at Dundreggan when he found the moth.

New species for the UK discovered on the estate in recent years were three sawflies (Nematus pravus, Nematus pseudodispar and Amauronematus tristis), an aphid (Cinara smolandiae), two aphid parasitoids (Ephedrus helleni, Praon cavariellae), three fungus gnats (Brevicornu parafennicum, Mycomya disa, Sceptonia longisetosa), and a mite (Ceratozetella thienemanni).


Protection extended for mid Cornwall’s wildlife-rich landscape – Natural England

Rare butterflies and birds will benefit from a much larger area of protected land in mid Cornwall from today, says Government wildlife adviser Natural England.

Marsh fritillary butterfly (image: Natural England)Marsh fritillary butterfly (image: Natural England)

The new Mid Cornwall Moors site of special scientific interest (SSSI) merges the six original SSSIs which previously dotted the landscape either side of the A30 and east of Indian Queens, extending their boundaries and protecting around 50% more of the countryside. The SSSI includes several closely located patches of land, connecting important habitats and helping wildlife to withstand pressures from climate change in the future, creating a stronger refuge and network for rare plants and animals.

The countryside across the Mid Cornwall Moors is a rich and varied mix of heathland, woodland, and wildflower meadows; a vital sanctuary for wildlife, as well as an important asset for local people, visitors, and businesses. Fens and mires in the headwaters of the Fal and Par catchments also help to provide clean water and have the potential to reduce flood risk to homes and properties located further downstream.

Natural England has joined forces with landowners, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation, building on the successes of the Mid Cornwall Moors LIFE project to create the perfect conditions for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly, which should see its fortune improve as a result. The wet woodlands throughout the area are important for the diminutive willow tit, which has virtually disappeared from large parts of the UK and declined by an estimated 81% since the mid-1990s. The new areas added to the SSSI include important breeding sites for both of these special species.


New wildlife record for WWT Washington – The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

The regionally rare avocet has made its earliest ever return to one North East wetland reserve.

Avocet on Wader Lake (image: David Dinsley)An unringed female adult was spotted on Wader Lake at WWT Washington Wetland Centre yesterday morning (21 February 2017) – two days earlier than the site’s previous record of 23 February set in 2014.

Avocet on Wader Lake (image: David Dinsley)

Reserve warden David Dinsley said: “It’s always very exciting to see the first avocets return each season and we’re thrilled that a new record has been set this year.

“We now expect numbers to start gradually building as more birds move further north during this mild weather and we’ve already begun reducing the water levels on Wader Lake in anticipation of their arrival.

“This creates more habitat and also exposes the invertebrate-rich mud on which avocets feed; picking prey from the surface or foraging by sweeping their long, up-curved bill from side to side through the sediment.”

Avocets began breeding at WWT Washington in 2006 and since then numbers have steadily increased; hitting an all-time high of 42 on site in June 2016.


New online tool makes broadleaves management easier – Forestry Commission Scotland

An online tool that helps land managers get the right tree in the right place has been upgraded to include key productive broadleaved species as well as conifers.

The move means that forest managers and land owners can now make even better use of this IT-based “ready-reckoner” to optimize their forestry investment

Broadleave Planting (image: Forestry Commission)Broadleave Planting (image: Forestry Commission)

Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) has funded the £30,000 upgrade, being carried out by Forest Research (FR), to the Establishment & Management Information System (EMIS). FCS funding reflects that most hardwood is grown on private sector land, but Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) is looking to play an increasing role in that market.

Accessible to all land managers, this upgraded version of EMIS will help resolve many of the restrictions, concerns and fears identified by forest managers in growing productive broadleaved species.  By inputting location and site details, landowners will be presented with information on a wide range of factors – from assessments of site quality and species selection and planting advice, to preparing restock sites, brash and stump management and other establishment operations. Where possible, it will also highlight site or species specific issues.

A pilot session on the upgraded tool is being organized by FES for March 2017. Anyone wishing to take part should contact andrew.hunt@forestry.gsi.gov.uk


Vital volunteers needed to save our last red squirrels – Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts are leading the largest ever recruitment drive for red squirrel volunteers. With the help of National Lottery funding, the Trusts aim to increase volunteer numbers from 500 to 5000 to save the UK’s last red squirrels.

With the first of this year’s surveys of the endangered mammal due to start on 1st March, a new approach to the conservation of this charismatic species puts volunteers at the forefront of efforts to halt their decline.

Volunteers are needed to help protect red squirrels, as part of community-based teams gathering information about squirrel populations. Tasks include speedy reporting of grey squirrels moving into areas which are currently strongholds for red squirrels. The larger, invasive non-native greys are a major reason for the reds’ decline.

Volunteers will work with partner organisations in their local area, logging squirrel sightings, monitoring feeders for reds, setting up camera traps to film their behavior, controlling grey squirrel populations in key areas, and teaching the public and schoolchildren about our treasured native species, characterized by Beatrix Potter’s ‘Squirrel Nutkin’.

Data about sightings will contribute to the work of Red Squirrels United, a UK-wide network set up to protect the reds, and to the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project. Red Squirrels United came together in 2015. It marks the biggest ever partnership of academics and conservationists working together on a scientifically robust programme of conservation for this iconic native species. RSU is a UK-wide network of nine organisations, led by The Wildlife Trusts, working with local landowners and communities in nine stronghold areas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland RSU works with Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels.

Partners will maintain grey squirrel-free habitat where it already exists, for example on the island of Anglesey and in Kielder Forest in northern England; extend current red squirrel protection zones in mid-Wales and Merseyside and implement a new whole country approach in Northern Ireland.

On the 7th and 8th March 2017, Red Squirrels United will hold a Red Squirrel Knowledge Fair – it will be the first ever time people across the UK have shared experiences and techniques to help stop the declines of this charismatic species.

Find your local partner organisation and what they offer volunteers here www.redsquirrelsunited.org.uk/


Major boost for Scotland’s red squirrels thanks to National Lottery funding – Scottish Wildlife Trust

The Trust has been awarded a grant of £2.46 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels – Developing Community Action project. 

Over the next five years Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels will enlist hundreds of volunteers in three key regions to carry out practical work to protect and strengthen red squirrel populations. 


Red squirrel (image: Stephen Willis via SWT)Red squirrel (image: Stephen Willis via SWT)

Scotland is home to just 120,000 red squirrels, three quarters of the UK population. The main threat to their survival comes from competition with invasive non-native grey squirrels and the spread of the deadly squirrelpox virus, but over the last eight years we have proved that it is possible to change their fortunes. 

“Through targeted control of grey squirrels we can reverse the decline of our native reds and help them return to former territories," said Dr Mel Tonkin, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels Project Manager. “Thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to empower communities to help protect not just their local red squirrels, but major populations of the species in Scotland, and ensure that future generations can continue to see these special animals.”

The funding has been welcomed by Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, who said: “Red squirrels are a priority species that we need to do all we can to help. Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels has led important work to conserve them since 2009 so it is fantastic that players of the National Lottery will help to mobilise communities to take practical action to protect one of our best loved animals.”

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, RSPB Scotland and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust. 


Early squirrel getting some TLC – Lancashire Wildlife Trust 

A tiny red squirrel is recovering with Wildlife Trust officers after a traumatic start to its life.

The four-week-old male squirrel was found on the forest floor at Ainsdale National Nature Reserve by Natural England volunteers.

Tiny red squirrel being fed (image: Lancashire Wildlife Trust)Tiny red squirrel being fed (image: Lancashire Wildlife Trust)

It is now safely in the hands of Rachel Miller, our Red Squirrel Field Officer. Rachel said: “He was on the ground, with a bloody nose, freezing cold and covered in lice. The first priority was to get him warmed up and then rehydrated. After three days of TLC he now has a lot more energy and a good appetite. He weighed just 89g but now weighs 93g so is putting on weight already."   Rachel worked out his age because his eyes were open by he has no upper incisor teeth. She said: “It means he was born sometime in mid-January.” She added: “He will be with me for the next few weeks and, hopefully, we’ll release him later in the spring. Can I stress that it is really important not to touch or move any baby animal without first seeking advice. Often the mother is nearby and may be in the process of moving her young somewhere else. Young animals have a better chance of long term survival in the wild if they stay with their mum.”

In this case the mother was nowhere around and, last year, Rachel looked after and released a squirrel which had been picked up and dropped by a magpie.


Phase One of HS2 railway given Royal Assent – Wildlife Trusts

On Thursday 23 February, one of the largest construction projects in Europe, and potentially one of the most environmentally destructive, has been given the green light to be built.

The first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham has today (23 February 2017) been given Royal Assent. Since 2010, when the project was first raised, The Wildlife Trusts have campaigned against the proposed route because of the enormous impact that it will have on wildlife, and also to strongly challenge HS2 Ltd to raise their ambition for the natural environment. 

HS2 Ltd has committed to secure ‘no net loss of biodiversity’ on a route wide basis but, from the outset, the environmental impacts of HS2 have not been properly taken into account and we believe that the funds allocated for compensation are wholly inadequate.
 Paul Wilkinson, Head of Partnerships said: “At every step of the way, The Wildlife Trusts have worked tirelessly to encourage HS2 Ltd to properly account for the huge negative environmental impacts of HS2 Ltd and have pressed for them to be much more aspirational in how they deal with them. We developed our own Greener Vision which set out an ambitious vision for large-scale nature restoration along the route – creating and restoring large areas of habitat and providing new access to nature for people”. 


Groundwork to administer £40m HS2 funding for communities and businesses - Groundwork

Groundwork has today (Fri 24 Feb) been named as the administrators of HS2 funding to offset the disruption of Phase One of HS2 on local communities and businesses.  Following Royal Assent, the £40 million HS2 Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF) will be available during the construction and the first year of operation of the high speed rail link between London and the West Midlands over the next 11 years.
The two Funds available which were originally announced in October 2014 are:

  • The Community and Environment Fund (CEF) will provide benefits to local communities demonstrably disrupted by the construction of HS2;
  • and the Business and Local Economy Fund will support and promote local economies that are demonstrably disrupted by the construction of HS2.

Application guidance information for interested organisations is available online from today (24/2)  at www.groundwork.org.uk/hs2funds.  The Funds will be open for online applications from Wednesday 8 March this year.
The management of the Funds has been outsourced to Groundwork as a result of a competitive tender to act as an independent grant-management body, and will see the charity managing the end to end delivery of the £40 million combined Funds, leading on the promotion of the Funds, working with bidders to develop applications, receiving and assessing applications, being responsible for overseeing the payment of grants and monitoring the progress of successful grants. 


Concern grows over rising dolphin and porpoise deaths in UK and France – Whale & Dolphin Conservation

The growing numbers of dolphins and porpoises washing up dead on the south west coast of the UK is continuing to cause concern.

Over 100 have been reported dead on beaches in Cornwall and in fishing boat nets in eight weeks, according to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, bringing the toll for last year to 205.

Of particular concern is the manner of these deaths with many being caught in fishing nets. Of 13 taken for recent post-mortem examinations, five showed signs of being caught in nets. The larger (often French) trawlers operating out to sea have been cited as a possible cause, with local Cornish trawler men reporting that they are often hauling up already dead and rotting dolphins.

Whilst it is still not completely clear what is behind the recent strandings, or indeed how unusual the number of deaths maybe, unless a post mortem (or necropsy) is carried out on the individuals quickly, it becomes very difficult to ascertain the cause of death. It has not been possible to carry out necropsies on many of these dead whales and dolphins because the bodies are too decomposed, but potential causes include illness, the effects of pollution as well as entanglement in fishing nets.

An entangled dolphin (image: © Steve Dawson, via WDC)An entangled dolphin (image: © Steve Dawson, via WDC)

Since February 3rd, almost 200 dolphins and porpoises have been found stranded along the French Atlantic coast, between the Loire and Gironde estuaries. Ninety eight percent of the recorded stranded animals were common dolphins most examined by Observatoire PELAGIS or members of French stranding network (Reseau National Echouage or RNE).  Of the 68 examinations 85% showed evidences capture in fishing gear or nets. These included broken beaks, cut-off fin or tail fluke, external net marks, and froth in lungs.

Next week sees the launch of a new campaign by WDC to try to reduce the scale of these terrible deaths.


And finally football playing bees! 

Ball-rolling bees reveal complex learning – Queen Mary University of London 

Bumblebees can be trained to score goals using a mini-ball, revealing unprecedented learning abilities, according to scientists at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Bee holding a mini-ball (c) Iida Loukola Bee holding a mini-ball (image: © Iida Loukola, via QMUL)

Their study, published in the journal Science, suggests that species whose lifestyle demands advanced learning abilities could learn entirely new behaviours if there is ecological pressure.

Project supervisor and co-author Professor Lars Chittka from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: “Our study puts the final nail in the coffin of the idea that small brains constrain insects to have limited behavioural flexibility and only simple learning abilities."

Previous research has shown that bumblebees could solve a range of cognitive tasks, but these have so far resembled tasks similar to the bees’ natural foraging routines, such as pulling strings to obtain food.  

This study examines bees’ behavioral flexibility to carry out tasks that are not naturally encountered by the insects.

“We wanted to explore the cognitive limits of bumblebees by testing whether they could use a non-natural object in a task likely never encountered before by any individual in the evolutionary history of bees," said Dr Clint Perry, joint lead author and also from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.   

The experiment required the bees to move a ball to a specified location to obtain a reward of food. The insects were first trained to know the correct location of the ball on a platform. Subsequently, to obtain their reward, the bees had to move a displaced ball to the specified location.The bees that observed the technique from a live or model demonstrator learned the task more efficiently than those observing a “ghost” demonstration or without demonstration.

Joint lead author Dr Olli J. Loukola, said: "The bees solved the task in a different way than what was demonstrated, suggesting that observer bees did not simply copy what they saw, but improved on it. This shows an impressive amount of cognitive flexibility, especially for an insect." 

Access the paper: Olli J. Loukola, Clint J. Perry, Louie Coscos, Lars Chittka Bumblebees show cognitive flexibility by improving on an observed complex behaviour Science 24 Feb 2017 : 833-836  DOI: 10.1126/science.aag2360


Scientific Publications

Odgaard, M. V. et al (2017) A multi-criteria, ecosystem-service value method used to assess catchment suitability for potential wetland reconstruction in Denmark. Ecological Indicators. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.12.001


Broome, A., Long, D., Ward, L. K. & Park, K. J. (2017) Promoting natural regeneration for the restoration of Juniperus communis: a synthesis of knowledge and evidence for conservation practitioners. Applied Vegetation Science. DOI: 10.1111/avsc.12303


Cornwallis, C. K., Botero, C. A., Rubenstein, D. R., Downing, P. A., West,  S. A. & Griffin, A. S. (2017) Cooperation facilitates the colonization of harsh environments. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, Article number: 0057 doi:10.1038/s41559-016-0057


Emily Rall, Claudia Bieling, Sharon Zytynska, Dagmar Haase, Exploring city-wide patterns of cultural ecosystem service perceptions and use, Ecological Indicators, Volume 77, June 2017, Pages 80-95, ISSN 1470-160X, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.02.001.


Davidson, K. E., Fowler, M. S., Skov, M. W., Doerr, S. H., Beaumont, N. and Griffin, J. N. (2017), Livestock grazing alters multiple ecosystem properties and services in salt marshes: a meta-analysis. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12892


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