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


Campaigners urge Government to tackle mounting pressure on land - CPRE 

Experts say a national approach to land use can unite environment and economy

A new pamphlet released today by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) argues that the case for a national approach to land use is more pressing than ever.

CPRE’s pamphlet, ‘Landlines: why we need a strategic approach to land’, shows that England’s land is under an increasing multitude of pressures, from the drive for economic growth to the effects of climate change. The current, fragmentary approach to land use, with dozens of different organisations responsible for different issues, is failing to address the problems caused by often conflicting demands: environmental degradation, rising costs and harm to health and wellbeing.

The ‘Landlines’ pamphlet brings together a number of experts to argue for greater national coordination on land use, a longer term approach that can enhance both the environment and the economy. Architect Sir Terry Farrell, UK Committee on Climate Change Chair Lord Deben, and Chair of the Woodland Trust Baroness Young are among those who propose different national solutions for how we use our land.

Suggestions for better land use include a Government ‘Department of Land Use’ (Lord Deben); more involvement from the public in defining the value they get from land (Helen Meech); and using the opportunities provided by Brexit to rethink our use of agricultural land (Baroness Parminter).

Download the CPRE pamphlet, Landlines: why we need a strategic approach to land, (PDF)


RSPB's newest reserve is an island paradise for birds - RSPB

The RSPB has acquired a new nature reserve on the Humber after signing a 50 year lease for Whitton Sands, a secluded island, teeming with wildlife.

Marsh harrier gliding over reedbed (image: Graham Catley, RSPB)Marsh harrier gliding over reedbed (image: Graham Catley, RSPB)

Situated off the north bank of the inner estuary, the island had rarely ever been visited by humans until four years ago, when owners Associated British Ports (ABP) granted the RSPB exclusive access to find out what wildlife lived there.  The RSPB discovered that the 120ha island (around 170 football pitches) is an important home for a wide range of birdlife. This includes breeding marsh harriers, avocets and bearded tits, as well as wintering hen harriers and lots of pink footed geese, lapwings and golden plovers.

This summer, the RSPB will be making the island an even better place for wildlife by creating a lagoon and a series of pools. This work will provide habitat for breeding avocets and a safe roost site for some of the thousands of ducks, geese and wading birds that stop off on the Humber during migration or make the Estuary their home during the winter months.   Whitton Island forms part of the Humber Wildfowl Refuge and for this reason will not be open to the public. The RSPB will be working closely with the Refuge Wardens to ensure that the byelaws that prevent disturbance of the roosting wildfowl are fully adhered to.


Mardale Mountain Meadow Launch - RSPB

An exciting new project to restore native alpine plants to the fells around Haweswater, many of which are remnants of the flora that flourished after the last Ice Age, was launched on Thursday 2 March by a partnership involving the RSPB, United Utilities, the Alpine Garden Society and Natural England.  Representatives from the four partners, along with a team of volunteers planted 400 eared willow and juniper at Mardale Head, to mark the start of an important project that aims to rejuvenate this upland site, giving a valuable link to the landscape that would have existed in the past. 

The land surrounding Haweswater reservoir, which is owned by United Utilities and partly managed by the RSPB, is home to oak woodland, ancient juniper scrub, bogs and upland hay meadows as well as rocky cliffs that host alpine plants. Birds such as ring ouzels and peregrines can be spotted at the site as well as red squirrels and rare mountain ringlet butterflies. However, the native mountain plant communities, have seen serious declines in the area due to years of grazing by sheep and deer.  Now, thanks to funding from the Alpine Garden Society, this project aims to bring these plants back from the brink. The site to be restored is at Mardale Head, easily accessible from the visitor car park at Haweswater. An area the size of around 42 football pitches has been fenced off to exclude grazing animals and allow the planting of native trees, shrubs and herbs. A walk will also be incorporated to allow visitors to get a closer look and discover what the uplands could look like when nature is given priority.


New research highlights skills gaps in the environmental conservation sector – Ulster Wildlife Trust

Lantra, in conjunction with Ulster Wildlife, recently undertook research looking at employability skills in Northern Ireland’s environmental conservation sector.

The research was commissioned as part of Ulster Wildlife’s Grassroots Challenge project, an environmental youth empowerment programme supported by the Big Lottery Fund under the “Our Bright Future” programme.

Results will help shape environmental training for young people (Ulster WT)Results will help shape environmental training for young people (Ulster WT)

The research identified a range of skills gaps in the industry and highlighted that environmental specific skills account for 68% of identified shortages. The key gaps identified include sustainable grassland production including issues such as sustainable soil management to prevent phosphorous enrichment of water bodies, soil analysis for nutrient management planning, hedgelaying, fencing, recognising and planting trees, habitat management, drystone walling, pond management, and hedgerows.

As well as a deficit in ‘technical and practical skills’ (cited by a third of the businesses surveyed), a shortage in ‘soft skills’ also exists, such as communication, health and safety, and teamwork.

Download the NI Environmental Conservation Skills Survey: 2016 report (PDF from Lantra)

  logo: in depth CJS 

Read what CIEEM has to say about skills shortages and the need for work experience to help address the issue in their article in the latest CJS Focus on Volunteering.

So you want to work in ecology and environmental management?

Getting onto the career ladder in our profession is challenging as any aspiring ecologist, environmental manager or conservation officer will tell you. Whilst there are a wealth of degree programmes and some (not enough) apprenticeships, getting that first paid job can be a struggle.

There are jobs out there though. One way to give yourself the best chance to maximise your chances of landing a job is to make sure you have the knowledge and skills that employers are looking for. So what are they looking for?


Campaign Celebrates Great Dog Owners In South Downs National Park - South Downs National Park Authority

Recruiting dog ambassadors, films sharing ‘canine confessions’ and an Instagram parody are all part of the National Park’s latest campaign to encourage people to Take the Lead in the South Downs.Take the lead (South Downs NPA)

With over a million dogs living in the South East of England and more than 3,300km of rights of way across the National Park the South Downs welcomes many thousands of dogs for walks every day. While the vast majority of dog owners behave responsibly there are still a few that are ‘giving dogs a bad name.’

Recently it has been the turn of Malling Down Nature Reserve in Lewes where ten sheep have been killed in the past few months by dogs allowed to run wild. Traumatised sheep may go on to abort their lambs. These attacks are distressing for everyone involved, affect farmer’s livelihoods and can even jeopardise work to conserve and protect rare habitats.

The issues are brought to life in a new series of films called ‘canine confessions’, featuring local dogs recruited while out walking in the National Park. The first two launch today (6 March) and tackle the serious subjects of sheep worrying and disturbance to ground nesting birds in a humorous and engaging way.


Bristol is buzzing – life is better for bees – University of Bristol

A report which outlines how local organisations have made life better for bees and pollinating insects in Bristol and the surrounding area over the last two years will be published on March 7 to coincide with a meeting of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership at the SS Great Britain.

image; University of BristolThe Greater Bristol Pollinator Strategy’s report for 2015 and 2016 has been led by the University of Bristol and is a key element of the Get Bristol Buzzing initiative.

It outlines the fantastic progress and initiatives made across the local area in the last two years to raise awareness of the importance of the UK’s 1,500 species of pollinating insects and to protect and increase their environmental habitats.

First introduced in spring 2015 as part of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital, the Strategy, was the first of its kind in the UK and is a joint project between partners Avon Wildlife Trust, Bee Bristol, Bristol City Council, Bristol Friends of the Earth, Buglife, South Gloucestershire Council, the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England.

Dr Katherine Baldock from the University of Bristol’s Urban Pollinators Project and author of the new report said: "This unique collaboration of councils, environmental groups and universities working in partnership with community groups and individuals, has enabled action for pollinators across the entire city.

The report is available to read here


It’s National Apprenticeship Week. 

CJS in-depth featuresRead this In-Depth feature from the National Apprenticeship Service:  There’s never been a better time to employ an apprentice 

An apprenticeship in environmental conservation reflects the dynamism and importance of the environmental sector. Apprentices will acquire knowledge, understanding and skills through “doing” and therefore gain a clear idea of what working life will be like.  Apprenticeships are thriving in England, with significant Government investment making it the ideal time for businesses in the countryside to hire one. They deliver real returns for businesses and the economy and enable employers from all sectors to grow their own talent and hone the skills they need to compete.  The environmental industry increasingly values apprenticeships as a route into the sector and it is vital that those entering the industry can gain the high levels of technical skills required to work in this area, which has never been more important with the issues of climate change, loss of biodiversity, energy, food and fuel security and the need for sustainable business practice.


Public asked for sightings of rare hen harriers – Scottish Natural Heritage

After a successful call for hen harrier sightings last year, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Heads Up for Harrier project are once more asking people to report sightings of this special bird.

The Heads Up for Harriers Project wants to hear from anyone who is lucky enough to see these birds. The project is led by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland) and encourages people to report sightings, as well as trialling nest and roost cameras, and encouraging land managers to retain hen harrier-friendly habitat.

Hen harrier nest at Langholm (image: SNH)Hen harrier nest at Langholm (image: SNH)

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said:  “Hen harriers remain one of Scotland’s rarest and most spectacular birds of prey. As we are rapidly approaching the breeding season, it’s important to locate and record where these stunning birds are prospering in Scotland. I encourage anyone who is out in the countryside to take note of any hen harrier sighting and send it to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) so they can be followed up by the team.”

Professor Des Thompson, Chair of the ‘Heads Up for Harriers’ Group, explained: ‘Last winter was the first time we asked for winter sightings of hen harriers from the public, and we’ve had an excellent response, with several potential new roosts identified. Numbers are low across much of mainland Scotland, so the more people looking out for these threatened birds, the better. This will help us build a complete picture of how hen harriers are doing across the country.”

The project will publish maps of sightings on the Heads Up for Harriers web page, although these won’t be in enough detail to compromise their specific location. Cameras are being trialled at a winter roost to monitor the birds at a distance, and in the nesting season.


New good-practice guides to prevent diffuse pollution in forests – Forestry Commission Scotland 

Protecting Scotland’s water courses is the focus of new, on-the-ground guides for forest workers.

A new booklet – ‘Know the Rules’ – and vehicle sticker – ‘Keep your Distance’ - convey straightforward messages for all those who work in forests to protect water quality.

The useful reminders aim to get operators to raise the bar on how forestry operations are planned, communicated and managed in order to minimise diffuse pollution risk and protect the water environment.

Initiated by FCS and SEPA, and with the assistance of Confor, Forestry Contractors Association (FCA) and Scottish Government, the new Forestry & Water Scotland guidance promotes the message of prevention rather than cure.

The guidance covers issues such as storing fuel, fertilisers and pesticides, forest roads and water supplies.

The booklet and vehicle sticker join other useful materials, including videos on water management when cultivating and harvesting, on a new Forestry & Water Scotland website.


Excluded pupils improve behaviour by attending Woodland Workshops – Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

Building on the successful results of last year’s Woodland Workshops, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is delighted to be able to offer an opportunity for pupils again this year to attend sessions thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

(image: Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust)During spring 2016, a group of 6 pupils from several schools in Broxtowe joined Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust for a six week block of Woodland Workshop sessions at Attenborough Nature Reserve. All of the primary school aged pupils had been subject to a fixed period exclusion and had been absent from learning in the classroom due to regular incidents of violent or disruptive behaviour in school.

Woodland Play (image: Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust)

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, which is committed to making its nature reserves accessible for all and to delivering inspiring educational activities for children of all ages designed a 6 week programme including team building activities, and using tools safely.  This flexible programme allowed children free choice and enabled them to develop at their own pace. Feedback from teachers highlighted the improved behaviours including confidence, level of engagement, self-esteem, and social skills.

The pupils under supervision used various tools such as bow saw, loppers, secateurs, hand drill and sheath knife to make wooden pendants and toasting sticks etc. They learned how to light and extinguish a fire safely and how to cook on a fire. They also investigated woodland wildlife and learned how to look after it.

The sessions proved to be so successful in improving their behaviour that another block of sessions were booked in Autumn 2016.


Bumblebees’ smelly feet help determine where to find lunch – University of Bristol

Scientists from the University of Bristol have discovered that bumblebees have the ability to use ‘smelly footprints’ to make the distinction between their own scent, the scent of a relative and the scent of a stranger.

And by using this ability, bees can improve their success at finding good sources of food and avoid flowers that have already been visited and mined of nutrients by recognising who has been there previously.

Richard Pearce led the study, he said: "Bumblebees secrete a substance whenever they touch their feet to a surface, much like us leaving fingerprints on whatever we touch.

"Marks of this invisible substance can be detected by themselves and other bumblebees, and are referred to as scent-marks. We performed three separate experiments with bumblebees, where they were repeatedly exposed to rewarding and unrewarding flowers simultaneously that had footprints from different bees attached to them.”

Each flower type either carried scent-marks from bumblebees of differing relatedness (either their own marks, sisters from their nest, or strangers from another nest), or were unmarked. They discovered that bees were able to distinguish between these four different flower types, showing that not only can bees tell the marks of their own nest mates from strangers, but also that they can discriminate between the smell of their own footprints and those of their nest mate sisters.

Access the paper: R. Pearce, S. Rands and L. Giuggioli. Bumblebees can discriminate between scent-marks deposited by conspecifics. Scientific Reports. doi:10.1038/srep43872


New online service to help inform decisions affecting the quality of water and ecosystems in the UK – The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Lake District scene with river and fields (image: CEH)The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is leading a community project to deliver a new online service which has been launched to help better manage the quality of water and ecosystems in the UK.

Lake District scene with river and fields (image: CEH)

The service provides a comprehensive resource base with information on more than 100 datasets and 10 models and tools of practical help for local and national action by government and public agencies, utility companies and conservation organisations who manage and model water quality in catchments.

The Catchment Management and Modelling Platform (CaMMP) provides freely available data, models and tools which are used for informing decisions on catchment management for meeting targets for improving water quality. It also provides resources for exploring the wider impacts of these management practices for other benefits which catchments provide such as food production, carbon storage and habitat for our wildlife.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) hosted the launch of the service which was attended by a range of organisations including the Environment Agency, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments, 10 water utility companies and 14 different university and research organisations. 


Condition of wildlife habitat to be assessed through insect DNA – RSPB

With UK wildlife struggling to survive, Europe’s largest conservation charity and one of the UK’s leading building materials supplier have collaborated on a new project that for the first time used insect DNA to test the natural condition of wildlife habitat on a CEMEX quarry site.

Common blue damselfly (image: RSPB - Mark Eaton)Common blue damselfly (image: RSPB - Mark Eaton)

The recent State of Nature report revealed that more than half of species assessed in the UK, including well-known species like starlings, sand lizards and hedgehogs have declined in the last 50 years. Off the back of the groundbreaking report, which was launched by Sir David Attenborough, conservation organisations issued a rallying call for individuals, governments and businesses to help reverse the declining fortunes of nature.

Providing first class natural habitat for wildlife is one aim of the partnership between CEMEX and RSPB, which was launched in 2009 to look at, amongst other projects, how worked-out areas in quarries could be turned into nature havens. Working together with the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) and Systems Applications Products (SAP), this new project saw insects collected in a Malaise trap – a mesh tent with an opening for insects to fly in to – and their DNA sequences taken to be compared to BIO database of 5.5 million specimens to create a digital map of species found on the quarry site. 


New Forest fishermen do their bit in battle against invasive species - Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Fishermen, anglers and river keepers have joined forces with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to raise awareness about invasive non-native species in the New Forest’s waterways.

Today over thirty people met for a training session led by the New Forest Non-Native Plants Project. Hosted by the Wildlife Trust, the project aims to stop the spread of invasive non-native species in the New Forest area, particularly along rivers and in wetland habitats.

The event, held at the Wildlife Trust’s Testwood Lakes nature reserve in Totton, highlighted the problems caused by invasive non-native species, particularly aquatic plants sThe Wildlife Trust's Jo Gore holding a 'Check Clean Dry' sign (image: HIWWT)uch as creeping water primrose, parrot’s feather and floating pennywort. For example floating pennywort can grow an amazing 20cm per day, choking watercourses and blocking out the light, with serious consequences for fish and other wildlife.

The Wildlife Trust's Jo Gore holding a 'Check Clean Dry' sign (image: HIWWT)

Catherine Chatters of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said “Anglers and fishermen play a vital role in helping to stop the spread of invasive non-native plants and invertebrates, by being able to recognise invasive species and taking action to control them”.

The event, which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the New Forest ‘Our Past, Our Future’ Landscape Partnership Scheme, emphasised the importance of biosecurity, to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species and diseases.

Jo Gore of the Wildlife Trust said “It’s really important that people clean their fishing tackle thoroughly and follow three simple steps - ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ – so they don’t unwittingly spread non-native invertebrates, diseases or fragments of invasive plants to other watercourses”. To find out more about the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ campaign, see the Great Britain Non-Native Species Secretariat’s website at www.nonnativespecies.org/checkcleandry


CJS in-depth featuresIn-Depth features for Disabled Access Day  

On Disabled Access Day read CJS Focus on Overcoming Barriers, full of ideas and solutions to help people enjoy nature and the countryside, with articles covering subjects as diverse as pony pulled wheelchairs to sensory activities encouraging people to use all of their senses and a model to overcome multiple barriers to getting outside.  Full edition available as PDF download or read the individual articles, access the article index here.


New Shared Apprenticeship Scheme for the Forestry Sector – Scottish Land and Estates

A new initiative has been launched in response to the growing demand for a more flexible approach to apprenticeships in the forestry sector.

The Fife Forestry Shared Apprenticeship Scheme is a pilot and has been established in response to concerns from the forestry industry about an ageing workforce and shortage of new entrants as well as the ability of forestry businesses to employ new staff and provide continuity of work all year round.

Employed by Rural Skills Scotland Ltd (RSS), a not-for-profit company, the Apprentices will undertake a Modern Apprenticeship in Trees & Timber and a number of industry-recognised training courses. 

Stewart Christie, Director at Rural Skills Scotland said, “It is our hope that by developing this shared apprenticeship model we can encourage micro and small forestry businesses to provide training opportunities for young people, without them facing the burden of employing someone on a full time basis.”

Forestry Commission Scotland’s, Head of Social & Planning Policy, James Ogilvie added, “The forestry sector is characterised by small businesses, many of which need extra staff but for periods of time only. This approach is a great way to test the shared apprenticeship model and I am pleased that FC Scotland is helping to partner this pilot.”

Forestry businesses keen to be involved or find out more about this initiative should contact Stewart Christie by e-mailing stewart@ruralskillsscotland.com


Why guillemot chicks leap from the nest before they can fly - McGill University  

Before they have the wing span to actually permit them to fly, young guillemots (also known as murres) leap hundreds of metres off towering cliffs and flutter down towards the sea, guided by their fathers. Scientists have long wondered why these tiny chicks make this remarkable leap, hoping to avoid the rocks below them, in what seems an unlikely survival strategy for a species.

A father and his offspring contemplating the leap off high cliffs at Saunders, Greenland. (image: Knud Falk)A father and his offspring contemplating the leap off high cliffs at Saunders, Greenland. (image: Knud Falk)

It had earlier been suggested that murre offspring headed off to sea once the chicks reached about one-quarter of their adult size and were large enough to defend themselves from potential predators and too large to be fed at the colony. So that this seemingly death-defying behaviour could be better understood as being, in some ways, a tradeoff between the safety offered in the colony and fast growth rates at sea, where more food is available.

But after tracking the behaviour of murre fathers and their offspring for six weeks in murre colonies in some of the most remote locations on the globe, in Nunavut, Greenland, and islands off Newfoundland, scientists have discovered that mortality rates were similar between chicks at sea and in the colonies. Moreover, the team which was made up of researchers from McGill and Memorial Universities in Canada and Aarhus and Lund Universities in Denmark and Sweden discovered that chicks at sea grew at roughly twice the speed of those at the colony, because the murre fathers no longer needed to fly back and forth to the colony to feed them.

Read the paper: Kyle H. Elliott et al  Variation in Growth Drives the Duration of Parental Care: A Test of Ydenberg’s Model The American Naturalist. DOI: 10.1086/691097   


Trust launches consultation on Land Stewardship Policy – Scottish Wildlife Trust

The Scottish Wildlife Trust has published a draft Land Stewardship Policy setting out a new approach to the way Scotland’s land is managed after Brexit.

The policy sets out how farming, forestry and other activities should be supported in Scotland after the UK leaves the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

It provides a blueprint for how public money could be spent in a way that ensures high-quality food and timber production whilst also safeguarding our natural environment and supporting a vibrant rural economy.

Creating a system of support for sustainable Land Stewardship

The Trust’s policy establishes a new system of support for land stewardship with three tiers of payments available to land owners and managers. For farmers and crofters this means:

  • Natural Capital Maintenance payments – designed to ensure that we maintain, rather than deplete, our stocks of natural capital. These are area based payments for meeting a combination of mandatory criteria for all farms; and optional criteria tailored to farm type. Mandatory measures include providing wildlife habitat on at least 12% of the area of each farm.
  • Natural Capital Enhancement – designed to incentivise actions that will help build our natural capital. These are non-competitive area-based payments available to all farms for carrying out additional optional actions. These include increasing wildlife habitat to more than 12% of each farm area; reducing stocking densities on sensitive habitats; conservation grazing; wildlife friendly cropping; mixed farming; and measures to encourage pollinators
  • Natural Capital Restoration payments – designed to enable the delivery of a greater level of public benefits and address risks such as resilience to climate change. These are competitive additional payments designed to deliver specific public good priorities including natural flood management and habitat and species conservation.

The policy includes plans for a number of dedicated funds to support a specific aims

Click here to read our draft Land Stewardship Policy

Click here to read the four-page summary 

Individuals and organisations can comment on the draft policy by Monday 27 March.


Plans hatched to protect Derbyshire Peregrines – Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

The first ever Derbyshire-wide multi-agency meeting looking at the threat to our breeding peregrines has resulted in plans to coordinate protection efforts across the county, and provide a 24 hour Watch Scheme to prevent disruption to nesting birds and vulnerable chicks including the deployment of surveillance cameras across the county.

Peregrine, (image: Robert Booth via Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)Peregrine, (image: Robert Booth via Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

Breeding peregrines are at particular risk at this time of year from wildlife criminals including egg collectors and chick thieves and birds of prey are a year round target for criminals wishing to injure or kill them. Intelligence suggests that there has been an increase in the theft of peregrine chicks and eggs across northern England and in Derbyshire over the past 2 years. It is thought these birds are being taken for falconry purposes.

The meeting brought together key people and organisations already working hard to protect Derbyshire’s peregrines, including Derbyshire Ornithological Society, Derbyshire Police, hosts Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, National Trust, Peak District National Park Authority, Peak District Raptor Groups, and RSPB. There are high hopes that by working collaboratively, this influential group will be able to secure a brighter future for these birds; already this is taking shape as the knowledge sharing at this first meeting has created an integrated picture of the threat to peregrines across the county level, rather than just isolated areas. In addition a directory of key breeding sites at risk was catalogued.

Tim Birch, Head of Living Landscapes, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust; “This meeting is an important step up in our efforts to protect our peregrines. We will be working closely with many different nature conservation organisations including the police to ensure that our peregrines can breed safely and securely this spring. It is shocking that wildlife criminals will take peregrines from the wild and deprive all of us of the opportunity to see these iconic birds in the skies above Derbyshire.”


Grey squirrel fertility control funding "top priority" says RFS – Royal Forestry Society

An oral contraceptive for grey squirrels could be the only chance future generations of people will have to enjoy the benefits of fully mature English oaks and other broadleaved trees in our UK towns and countryside, says the Royal Forestry Society (RFS).

Squirrel stripping bark (image: RFS)Squirrel stripping bark (image: RFS)

The education charity warns that current populations of grey squirrel are reaching proportions which threaten the survival of some of our most loved species of trees. While the new contraceptive offers a very real opportunity to reverse the tide of damage, it needs the government and forestry sector to get behind a long term commitment to fund the five-year research programme required.

RFS Chief Executive Simon Lloyd explains grey squirrels represent the greatest threat to the health of broadleaved trees but currently, woodland owners can only trap and shoot the pest, methods which are not always wholly effective. “Without more effective controls, grey squirrels will continue to strip bark of many broadleaves, including the iconic English oak, when they are young,” he says. “This exposes trees to stress and disease, causes irretrievable damage and can kill them. The cost of damage by grey squirrels to trees is conservatively estimated at £14 million a year.

News that research into a grey squirrel oral contraceptive by the government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in York has received an initial £39,000 investment from Defra, is therefore welcome, says Mr Lloyd.

There are an estimated 3.5million grey squirrels in the UK. Scientists estimate around £1m will be needed to carry out a five-year oral contraceptive test programme and believe the oral contraceptive would cause populations to fall by around 90% over a few years. As a concept, it has received the backing of Prince of Wales.


Scientific Publications

Francksen, R. M., Whittingham, M. J., Ludwig, S. C., Roos, S. and Baines, D. (2017), Numerical and functional responses of Common Buzzards Buteo buteo to prey abundance on a Scottish grouse moor. Ibis. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/ibi.12471


O’Hanlon, N.J. & Lambert, M.S. 2017 Investigating brown rat Rattus norvegicus egg predation using experimental nests and camera traps.. European Journal of Wildlife Research. DOI: 10.1007/s10344-016-1063-4.


Haldre S. Rogers et al Effects of an invasive predator cascade to plants via mutualism disruption Nature Communications 8, Article number: 14557 (2017)  doi:10.1038/ncomms14557


Schmidt, M., Aschwanden, J., Liechti, F., Wichmann, G. and Nemeth, E. (2017), Comparison of visual bird migration counts with radar estimates. Ibis. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/ibi.12473


Stephanie A. Henson et al Rapid emergence of climate change in environmental drivers of marine ecosystems Nature Communications 8, Article number: 14682 (2017) doi:10.1038/ncomms14682  


Rodríguez, A., Moffett, J., Revoltós, A., Wasiak, P., Mcintosh, R. R., Sutherland, D. R., Renwick, L., Dann, P. and Chiaradia, A. (2017), Light pollution and seabird fledglings: Targeting efforts in rescue programs. Jour. Wild. Mgmt.. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21237


Arenas A, Roces F (2017) Avoidance of plants unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus in leaf-cutting ants: Learning can take place entirely at the colony dump. PLoS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171388 


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