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


SNH report on game bird hunting published – Scottish Natural Heritage

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has published a report comparing the game bird hunting regulations in 14 European countries.

This report reviews regulations on game bird hunting in 14 European countries. It focuses specifically on the legal controls on game bird hunting, including licensing and permitting arrangements, as well as on the requirements for monitoring, protecting and managing game birds.

The report found that all 14 countries regulate game bird hunting through legislation, including licensing individual hunters, with the strictest requiring harvest quotas and bag reporting. All 14 countries are able to revoke hunting licences if the legislation is contravened and most also penalise serious breaches of hunting law. In many of the countries examined, hunters must pass a two-part practical and theoretical examination in order to qualify for a hunting licence.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, said: “I welcome the publication of this report. It shows that there is more regulation of gamebird hunting in many other countries than we have in Scotland. We will be looking very carefully at these different management approaches to see whether they offer the means to address issues such as raptor persecution. Already we have committed to a number of new measures to tackle wildlife crime within Scotland including; increases in criminal penalties, a prevention review and the creation of a dedicated investigative support unit within Police Scotland. These measures clearly demonstrate our resolve to tackle raptor persecution. This new report and the forthcoming review of satellite tagging data will help determine our next steps.”

SNH chairman, Ian Ross, added: “This review provides an in-depth look at how other countries in Europe control game bird hunting to make sure it’s safe and sustainable. It can also inform our thinking on tackling wildlife crime.”

The Scottish Government requested this report as part of a package of work to tackle wildlife crime and, particularly, the illegal killing of raptors. It also forms part of an ongoing, broader discussion about how land is owned and managed for public benefit. 

Access the report: SNH Commissioned Report 942: A Review of Game Bird Law and Licensing in Selected European Countries





Birds, bees, ponds and trees: threats facing natural world gain National Lottery attention – Heritage Lottery

The decline of pollinators, threats facing trees and new habits for birds of prey are the subjects of projects across the East of England receiving funding thanks to National Lottery players.

More than £300,000 has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to the five projects which focus on how local communities can get involved in securing a bright future for their natural heritage.

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said: “Whether roosting in a cathedral, buzzing round a pond or growing in a park, our natural world is something to be treasured and enjoyed. It is also something that we all need to play a role in protecting for the future.Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re pleased to support these projects which will equip people of all ages with the skills – and the inspiration – to appreciate, celebrate and protect our wonderful natural heritage.”

Click through to see the successful projects.


Fish killed in pollution incident – Natural Resources Wales

Hundreds of fish have been killed in a pollution incident on a tributary of the river Gwili in Carmarthenshire.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is investigating the incident after receiving reports of pollution of the tributary near Llanpumsaint. About 200 trout, 40 lamprey and hundreds of bullheads have been killed. NRW officers identified the pollution as slurry from a nearby farm and put measures in place to stop further pollution entering the tributary.

Kimberley Redman, Natural Resource Management Team Leader for NRW, said:  “Our rivers provide a home to rich, diverse and valuable species of plants and animals so it’s important to deal with pollution as quickly as possible.  The pollution has had a significant impact on the fish in the river. Following quick action from our officers to identify the source and stop the pollution, it’s unlikely that we’ll see further impact."


Watching birds near your home is good for your mental health – University of Exeter & BTO

People living in neighbourhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress, according to research by academics at the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland.

Being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home benefits mental health. (image: University of Exeter)Being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home benefits mental health. (image: University of Exeter)

The study, involving hundreds of people, found benefits for mental health of being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or more leafy suburban neighbourhoods.

The study, which surveyed mental health in over 270 people from different ages, incomes and ethnicities, also found that those who spent less time out of doors than usual in the previous week were more likely to report they were anxious or depressed.

After conducting extensive surveys of the number of birds in the morning and afternoon in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton, the study found that lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. The academics studied afternoon bird numbers - which tend to be lower than birds generally seen in the morning – because they are more in keeping with the number of birds that people are likely to see in their neighbourhood on a daily basis.

In the study, common types of birds including blackbirds, robins, blue tits and crows were seen. But the study did not find a relationship between the species of birds and mental health, but rather the number of birds they could see from their windows, in the garden or in their neighbourhood.

Access the paper: Daniel T. C. Cox, Danielle F. Shanahan, Hannah L. Hudson, Kate E. Plummer, Gavin M. Siriwardena, Richard A. Fuller, Karen Anderson, Steven Hancock, Kevin J. Gaston; Doses of Neighborhood Nature: The Benefits for Mental Health of Living with Nature. BioScience 2017; 67 (2): 147-155. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biw173


Planned protection area would help basking sharks – University of Exeter and SNH

A proposed Marine Protected Area (MPA) off Scotland’s west coast would help basking sharks, researchers say.

Scientists from the University of Exeter and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) satellite tracked 36 basking sharks in summer months of 2012-2014 and found 86% showed “some degree of residency” in the proposed Sea of the Hebrides MPA.

Sharks also returned year after year, and the scientists believe the area provides conditions for key activities such as foraging and possibly breeding, making it an area important for essential parts of the shark’s life cycle for which MPAs can be designated.

Dr Suzanne Henderson, managing the project for SNH, said: “We have known for some time that basking sharks are frequently seen in Scottish waters during the summer, and they are a big attraction for visitors to our west coast.

“But this research shows for the first time that some individuals return to the Sea of the Hebrides in consecutive years, emphasising the importance of the area for sharks.”

Scottish government ministers are currently considering proposals for an MPA in the Sea of the Hebrides, from Skye to Mull, to protect the basking sharks – which are officially endangered in the north-east Atlantic – and minke whales.

“Understanding the conservation potential of an area is key to the successful creation of MPAs,” said lead author Philip Doherty, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“It is important to gather data to ensure the evidence-base that underpins the design of MPAs is robust. The data from this project, along-with information gathered over many years by boat-based surveys and from public reports helps to demonstrate the importance of this region for this species”.

Access the paper: P.D. Doherty, J.M. Baxter, B.J. Godley, R.T. Graham, G. Hall, J. Hall, L.A. Hawkes, S.M. Henderson, L. Johnson, C. Speedie, M.J. Witt, Testing the boundaries: Seasonal residency and inter-annual site fidelity of basking sharks in a proposed Marine Protected Area, Biological Conservation, Volume 209, May 2017, Pages 68-75, ISSN 0006-3207, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.01.018.


New housing will impact bat populations – British Trust for Ornithology

New research led by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) shows how data collected by volunteers taking part in the BTO’s Norfolk Bat Survey can inform planning decisions nationwide.

Housing is expected to increase both in Norfolk and throughout the country over the next 10 years or so, resulting in a wave of government planned housing developments. These developments will potentially have an impact on local wildlife due to loss of habitat as new roads and houses are constructed, so it is vital to examine their effects on local wildlife whilst they are still at the planning stage.

The BTO researchers, working with Norfolk County Council used data from the Local Planning Authorities to investigate the impact of the proposed housing on bat distribution and found that different species respond differently.

Noctule by Jan SvetlikNoctule by Jan Svetlik

Planned housing is expected to reduce the activity and distribution of all bat species in Norfolk. At a local level the impact of housing is likely to be severe, with loss for some species as high as 40%. However, at a county level the impact is likely to relate to a maximum 1-2% reduction in bat activity and occupied range, as a result of loss of the bats' preferred habitat.

Importantly, the study showed that the impact of new housing could definitely be reduced; the habitats of least importance for bats could be developed first. Local Authorities could develop areas less likely to impact the bat populations, for example by avoiding forest clearance and instead building more houses in existing city centres.

Lead author, Dr Jenni Border of the BTO, said of the research, “The effect of housing depended on the type of habitat that was replaced. For example, new developments around forest habitats would have greater impact than developing in existing urban areas.”


Cities taking action, learning from each other to adapt to climate change – European Environment Agency

Despite budgetary challenges, cities and towns across Europe are taking action to put in place measures that will help them adapt to the impacts of climate change. A new European Environment Agency (EEA) report released today (Monday 27 Feb) highlights the opportunities Image © Areal picture: Mathias Friedel, vision: Triebhaus Landschaftsarchitekten Hamburg, montage: Rolf Kuchlingopen to municipalities to share best practices and how they can support projects like green roofs or expanding city parks to help alleviate the negative effects of climate change.

Image © Areal picture: Mathias Friedel, vision: Triebhaus Landschaftsarchitekten Hamburg, montage: Rolf Kuchling

The EEA report “Financing urban adaptation to climate change,” takes a closer look at innovative funding options now being used, such as green bonds and crowdfunding, alongside traditional funding channels. The report includes case studies that analyse how 11 cities across Europe are developing, funding and implementing urban adaptation measures. The case studies outline various projects that will help cities better protect themselves from the damage caused by extreme weather events. These include building more green spaces and installing green roofs, which enhance water retention and provide cooling as well as thermal insulation.

The publication is meant to serve as a resource for adaptation financing providers and project developers from international, national or regional public bodies and private institutions. The report also includes a helpful annex providing an overview of European-level financing options available to municipalities.


How to reduce the environmental impact of a loaf of bread? – University of Sheffield

  • Ammonium nitrate fertilizer used in wheat cultivation contributes 43 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in a loaf of bread
  • 100 million tonnes of fertiliser used globally every year
  • Findings vital to providing solutions to global food security challenge

With an estimated 12 million loaves sold in the UK every day, bread remains a staple of the British diet. In a groundbreaking study researchers from the University of Sheffield have now calculated the environmental impact of a loaf of bread and which part of its production contributes the most greenhouse gas.

The group of interdisciplinary researchers from the University’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, analysed the complete process from growing and harvesting the wheat; milling the grain; producing the flour; baking the bread and the production of the final product, ready to be sold by retailers.

The findings, published today (27 February 2017) in the journal Nature Plants, show ammonium nitrate fertiliser used in wheat cultivation contributes almost half (43 per cent) of the greenhouse gas emissions – dwarfing all other processes in the supply chain.

Dr Liam Goucher, N8 Agrifood Research Fellow from the University of Sheffield who carried out the study, said: “Consumers are usually unaware of the environmental impacts embodied in the products they purchase - particularly in the case of food, where the main concerns are usually over health or animal welfare.


Farmers help protect rare bird, leading to hopes of long-term recovery – RSPB

Success for rare stone-curlews after four-year collaboration between farmers, RSPB and Natural England

Nearly 300 safe nest plots created each year and 3000 hectares of habitat – the size of a small city – for this beguiling bird, reducing dependency on labour-intensive conservation methods

RSPB hopes the UK stone-curlew population will be self-sustaining within five years – but support from land owners and government schemes still crucialto enable farmers to continue to create safe nesting habitat.

Farmers in the UK, together with the RSPB and Natural England, have helped secure the long-term recovery of a rare bird. Thanks to their work as part of a four-year EU LIFE+ project, stone-curlews now have more safe nesting habitat away from crops, leading to hopes that their UK population will become sustainable within the next five years.

Stone-curlews are crow-sized birds with large, yellow eyes which help them see at night when they are most active. Once widespread across farmland and heathland, numbers crashed by 85% between the 1930s and 1980s due to habitat loss and changes in farming methods. Today, most of the breeding population is concentrated to small areas in the Brecks on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, and around Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.


After a series of rescues were reported in the national press

Mountain rescue team blames ill-equipped charity fundraisers for spate of farcical call-outs - Telegraph  

CJS in depth featuresRead our in-depth feature: “Can’t see why I’d ever need Mountain Rescue”  – famous last words

No matter how experienced or careful you are, in the blink of an eye you can find yourself in need of rescue - your life in the hands of a rescue team. And, should you be unfortunate enough to need their help, you'll receive a professional, world-class service - from a group of highly trained, highly motivated individuals.

This article includes details of some simple precautions you can take before and during your trek out into the great outdoors, so take five minutes to read it and to make sure you won’t feature in the latest incident report

Written by  Andrew Simpson, MREW Press Officer, in 2011 but just as relevant today. 


Revealed: only 1 in 10 think their air quality is bad despite toxic levels of air pollution across the UK – Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth is calling on the UK public to take part in a ground-breaking nationwide experiment on air pollution as a YouGov poll reveals that although nearly two thirds of British adults (61%) say they are concerned about air pollution, only 1 in 10 (11%) rate their own air quality as bad, on a scale of 0 to 10 - despite large parts  of the UK breaking pollution limits.

Friends of the Earth is today (1 March) launching what they hope will be the biggest ever citizen science air pollution experiment to help people find out more about the air they’re breathing. Friends of the Earth’s ‘Clean Air Kits’ enable people to test the air quality near them, as well as providing people with tips on how to avoid air pollution and what they can do to help support the fight for clean air.

The environmental charity is hoping thousands will join in the experiment so that they can create a comprehensive national air pollution picture. The data generated by the experiment will feed into a national map which will help create a “state of the nation” report on air pollution. 

Oliver Hayes, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said: “With only 1 in 10 British adults rating their air quality as poor despite swathes of the country breaking legal limits for air pollution, it seems the message about the scale and danger of air pollution isn’t getting through. Often you can’t see it, or smell it, but it’s there – and air pollution is risking the health of an entire generation of children. Our Clean Air Kits help people to find out about the air quality in the places they care about most: on the street where they live, where they work, where their children go to school and at the heart of their communities. The results will help us build up a localised picture of the state of our nation’s air to really bring home why everyone, from individuals, to businesses and politicians must do all they can to make the air we breathe safer.”

Dr Benjamin Barratt, Air Quality Science Lecturer at King’s College London, said: “Friends of the Earth’s Clean Air Kits are a valuable tool in enabling people to discover what air pollution is like in places that matter to them. If enough people take part, the data they gather could shed new light on the reality of pollution at a local level throughout the country.”

Order your Friends of the Earth’s Clean Air Kit here.


Countryside Alliance says “countryside should play its role” in Digital Strategy – Countryside Alliance

The Countryside Alliance has called for rural connectivity parity so that the countryside can play its part in the Government’s newly launched Digital Strategy.

The Government’s new strategy aims to create an exceptional digital economy “that works for everyone”, and recognises that the UK’s digital sector is world-leading and a major driver of growth and productivity. The Strategy will place digital skills, infrastructure and innovation at the heart of the economy and includes proposals to offer digital skills to millions of individuals and businesses.

The bold ambitions of the Digital Strategy are welcomed by the Countryside Alliance as we recognise the benefits that digital innovation and skills can bring to the rural economy. However, we are concerned that this is not a long term commitment to the education and skills that will be crucial to support the UK economy post-Brexit. We are also concerned that rural areas could be left further behind as there are still 1.4 million premises unable to access broadband speeds over 10 Mbit/s and only 59% of homes in rural areas are able to access superfast speeds.

Countryside Alliance Head of Policy Sarah Lee commented: “The Countryside Alliance believes the rural economy should play a significant role in the UK economy and the Digital Strategy could enable it to do so, but for the countryside to play its role to the fullest we must also ensure that rural areas are connected. It is still unacceptable that 960,000 homes in rural areas still cannot get an adequate broadband connection. With the drive for digital by default and the ambition for the UK to have a world-leading digital economy we must get the basics right first by ensuring connectivity in the countryside or it will be left behind in the digital age.


Over-half of the world’s curlew and godwit species face extinction from habitat loss and other pressures. – British Trust for Ornithology 

A new ground-breaking assessment published today in the journal Bird Conservation International has revealed that loss of habitat could lead to the extinction of a number of species of curlew and godwit, some of which are found in the UK.

Curlew by Amy Lewis (via BTO)Curlew by Amy Lewis (via BTO)

The world’s godwit and curlew species occur on all continents except Antarctica, but breed only in the Northern Hemisphere. Over half are of global conservation concern, including two (Eskimo Curlew and Slender-billed Curlew) that are Critically Endangered and may even be extinct, and two others (Far Eastern Curlew and Bristle-thighed Curlew) also threatened with extinction. A further three that all occur in the UK, the Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit and Black-tailed Godwit, are globally Near Threatened.  A recent assessment has canvassed the views of over 100 experts and reviewed the scientific literature, to help highlight the many threats they face. 

Top of the list is the loss of non-breeding habitats. Most species rely on coastal estuaries and wetlands outside of the breeding season, many of which face increasing development and disturbance.

 James Pearce-Higgins, Director of Science at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and lead author of the paper said "These long-lived wader species require wild open landscapes for breeding, and generally occupy undisturbed coastal habitats at other times of the year. Many are long-distance migrants and vulnerable to change throughout their annual cycle. In many ways, they are among the most sensitive bird species to global change. That over half of the species studied are rapidly declining globally should emphasise to us the impact we are having upon the planet. Their long-term future may well depend upon how well we coordinate international efforts to adopt the recommendations of this paper and support their conservation."

Nicola Crockford, Principal Policy Officer, RSPB, said “The Eurasian Curlew is an iconic species; its appearance in spring is announced by one of nature’s most evocative calls. Sadly like many UK species the Eurasian Curlew is in trouble, their numbers have dropped dramatically, putting them at risk of disappearing completely from the UK. The paper recommends that achieving conservation success at the national or international scale will likely require dedicated programmes targeting species at risk, like we have developed for the Eurasian Curlew in the UK where steep declines have been a major factor in the listing of the species as globally Near Threatened with extinction.” Through RSPB’s Curlew Recovery Programme and BTO’s programme of Curlew research, we are working together, in partnership with a range of people from farmers and land owners to statutory nature conservation bodies, to reverse this decline.” 

Download the paper (PDF) James W. Pearce-Higgins et al A global threats overview for Numeniini populations: synthesising expert knowledge for a group of declining migratory birds Bird Conservation International (2017) 27:6–34. © BirdLife International, 2017 doi:10.1017/S0959270916000678


Be Moor aware of new life on Dartmoor – Dartmoor National Park

The breeding season for moorland birds on Dartmoor coincides with the lambing season and, with the arrival of spring, the moorland will be full of new life, so it is particularly important for all of us to be Moor aware.

Many visitors and local people exercise their dogs when enjoying Dartmoor. Although a dog may not be actively chasing livestock, its presence can still cause disturbance.  During the lambing and calving season, expecting ewes or cows are particularly vulnerable.  A frightened animal may abort or abandon its young – a tragedy for the animal and a financial loss to the farmer.

The worrying of livestock by dogs is a year round concern and the law requires that dogs be kept under close control at all times.  It is a criminal offence for dogs to worry livestock. The dog owner can be fined and in some cases have their dog destroyed.

Young animals are often at the roadside and when vehicles approach may run across the road to join parents. It is important to be Moor aware when driving and keep speeds down to enable safe stopping.

If you see a young animal which appears to be on its own out on the moor, please do not attempt to move it. You may be separating it from its parent which may be grazing some distance away and will return.


Fly tipping in England - Defra Official Statistics

Annual incidents of fly tipping in England. 

This publication summarises the number and type of incidents of illegally deposited waste, the cost of dealing with them and the actions taken against fly tipping in England.

Local councils and the Environment Agency (EA) both have a responsibility in respect of illegally deposited waste. Local councils deal with most cases of fly tipping on public land, whilst the EA investigates and enforces against the larger, more serious and organised illegal waste crimes.

Download the report: Fly-tipping statistics for England, 2015 to 2016 (PDF) 


Response: LGA responds to new fly-tipping statistics - Local Government Association

Responding to new fly-tipping statistics, which show councils dealt with 936,000 fly-tipping incidents in 2015/16, (a 4 per cent increase on the previous year), and the annual clear-up cost for councils is £50 million, LGA Environment spokesperson Cllr Judith Blake said: "At a time when social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020 and councils' overall funding shortfall is predicted to reach £5.8 billion within three years, local authorities are having to spend a vast amount each year on tackling litter and fly-tipping. This is money that would be better spent on vital front line services. Litter and fly-tipping is environmental vandalism – it's unpleasant, unnecessary and unacceptable. The Government has responded to our call for councils to be able to apply Fixed Penalty Notices for small scale fly-tipping – and this is a big step in the right direction. We need a new streamlined system which helps councils - one that is nimble, flexible and effective. Not only does fly-tipping create an eyesore for residents, it is also a serious public health risk, creating pollution and attracting rats and other vermin. There are a number of additional changes that would help tackle littering and fly-tipping, including sharing more of the responsibility with product producers. This includes manufacturers providing more take-back services so people can hand in old furniture and mattresses when they buy new ones."


Scientific Publications

Schuler, M. S. et al (2017) How common road salts and organic additives alter freshwater food webs: in search of safer alternatives. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12877


David Baines, Michael Richardson, and Philip Warren. The invertebrate diet of Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix chicks: a comparison between northern England and the Scottish Highlands. Bird Study Vol. 0 , Iss. 0,0  DO: 10.1080/00063657.2017.1295018


Wu, X., Cao, R., Wei, X., Xi, X., Shi, P., Eisenhauer, N. and Sun, S. (2017), Soil drainage facilitates earthworm invasion and subsequent carbon loss from peatland soil. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12894


Cooke, S. J., Nguyen, V. M., Kessel, S. T., Hussey, N. E., Young, N. and Ford, A. T. (2017), Troubling issues at the frontier of animal tracking for conservation and management. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.12895 


Michaël C. Fontaine, Oliver Thatcher, Nicolas Ray, Sylvain Piry, Andrew Brownlow, Nicholas J. Davison, Paul Jepson, Rob Deaville, Simon J. Goodman Mixing of porpoise ecotypes in southwestern UK waters revealed by genetic profiling R. Soc. open sci. 2017 4 160992; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160992


Marta Maziarz, Richard K. Broughton, Tomasz Wesołowski, Microclimate in tree cavities and nest-boxes: Implications for hole-nesting birds, Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 389, 1 April 2017, Pages 306-313, ISSN 0378-1127, DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2017.01.001.


Richard K. Johnson, David G. Angeler, Simon Hallstan, Leonard Sandin, Brendan G. McKie, Decomposing multiple pressure effects on invertebrate assemblages of boreal streams, Ecological Indicators, Volume 77, June 2017, Pages 293-303, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.02.020.


Sherley, R. B., Botha, P., Underhill, L. G., Ryan, P. G., van Zyl, D., Cockcroft, A. C., Crawford, R. J.M., Dyer, B. M. and Cook, T. R. (2017), Defining ecologically relevant scales for spatial protection with long-term data on an endangered seabird and local prey availability. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.12923



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