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


Crown Estate Scotland – Scottish Government

Control of multi-million pound assets will benefit local communities.

Powers over the revenue and management of Crown Estate resources in Scotland have been transferred to the Scottish Government, giving communities a stronger voice in how these assets are managed. 

From April 1, Scottish Ministers will have control over thousands of hectares of rural land, approximately half Scotland’s foreshore and leasing the seabed for rights to renewable energy. 

New body Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) will ensure continuity, while ministers finalise a long term strategy that will include opportunities to place local communities at the heart of the new arrangements for managing assets, which in total were worth £271.8 million in 2015/16 and generated a gross annual revenue of £14 million.

Land Reform Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “This is a historic day. The management and resources of the Crown Estate now rest with the people of Scotland and we have a genuine, once in a lifetime opportunity to use them to change the fabric of Scottish society, placing the needs of local and coastal communities at the centre of our long term planning for these considerable assets."


Kew Launches Plants of the World Online – Kew

Kew's first digital resource for the world's flora

  • Information on all known seed-bearing plants online by 2020
  • Kew opens 250 year old archives to allow global access
  • Floras of Tropical West, East & southern Africa + orchids, grasses and palms
  • Resource for taxonomy, policy, conservation, management, sustainable agriculture and teaching
  • User friendly interface with search by Latin or common name, place, or trait
  • An example of science at its most openly collaborative 

Plants of the World Online (POWO) is a new portal aimed at digitising and sharing known data on flora so that it can be accessed by anyone, anywhere,  used for research purposes, and to inform decisions about conservation, land use, policy and practice.   POWO will ultimately enable access to information on all the world’s known seed-bearing plants by 2020. 

With over 8.5 million items, Kew houses the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world in its Victorian Herbarium and Fungarium in West London. They represent over 95% of known flowering plant genera and more than 60% of known fungal genera and yet, only 20% of this knowledge is available online. The Plants of the World Online portal (POWO) is Kew’s way of turning 250 years of botanical knowledge into an open and accessible online global resource. 


Environment groups strongly welcome new report on deer management in Scotland – Scottish Wildlife Trust

Environmental charities have welcomed a report published by the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Red deer in woodland © Lister CummingCommittee on deer management in Scotland.

Red deer in woodland © Lister Cumming

The Scottish Wildlife Trust, John Muir Trust and RSPB Scotland fully endorse the key findings of the report, including that the current system of deer management is failing to protect important habitats, and that Scottish Natural Heritage appears to have insufficient resources to enforce legislation.

The charities have also welcomes a key recommendation to establish an independent working group to provide clear advice on the way forward for deer management in Scotland.

Our Head of Policy Dr Maggie Keegan said: “Meeting Scotland’s biodiversity targets requires a step change in deer management. Unsustainable numbers of deer in some areas are preventing regeneration of native woodland and causing damage to other important habitats.

Read the report here


Rare birds in the New Forest facing extinction – New Forest National Park

Alarming new figures suggest that the curlew is at risk of extinction in southern England, including in its New Forest stronghold.

The iconic sight and sound of curlews in the Forest could soon be a thing of the past according to survey work by conservation group Wild New Forest

Eurasian curlew © Mike ReadWild New Forest is led by local wildlife experts, who co-ordinate volunteer-based surveys and provide data to the Forestry Commission, Natural England and New Forest National Park Authority.

Eurasian curlew © Mike Read

The group located just 40 breeding pairs of curlews across the National Park last year. This represents a shocking population decline of almost two thirds in the last 10 years.

Across the UK, curlews have declined by 24 per cent in 25 years2, with less than 200 pairs left in southern England, making the New Forest situation particularly worrying.


Taking Pride In Our Parks And Open Spaces – Dover District Council

Dover District Council launches in-house grounds maintenance team

Dover District Council (DDC) has brought the maintenance of its parks and open spaces in-house with effect from 1 April 2017 as a new team of 25 directly employed staff gets to work on Council-owned land across the district.  The launch of the new team follows a Council decision in September 2016 to take the service back in-house at the end of the contract with English Landscapes, which expired on 31 March 2017.  Most of the English Landscapes staff are transferring to DDC. 

Roger Wragg, Head of Parks & Open Spaces at Dover District Council, said: “Our parks and open spaces are important local amenities which people value highly.  We’re fortunate to have some of the best public parks in East Kent. Taking maintenance back in-house gives us greater control over the quality and consistency of maintenance of our local parks and open spaces.  We want everyone to take pride in these great assets and to be able to use them to their full potential.”


Explore Great Britain with OS’s ultimate adventure planning tool – Ordnance Survey

Fresh from being named the UK Outdoor Industry’s Digital Product of the Year, OS Maps has become even better with the inclusion of an immersive 3D view of Great Britain in HD.

Aerial 3D image of Cheddar Gorge in Somerset (Ordnance Survey)Timed for the start of the GetOutside season, and offering stunning views of the country, Aerial 3D has been purposely designed to help outdoor enthusiasts stay safe, view routes as never before and discover new places to visit.

Aerial 3D image of Cheddar Gorge in Somerset (Ordnance Survey)

Ordnance Survey’s (OS) award-winning app contains over 750,000 publicly shared routes, including thousands of professional routes published by walking, cycling and mountaineering publications and organisations. Users can either follow one of these published routes or create their own.

In Aerial 3D, the routes can be easily viewed from all heights and angles, and the effect is spectacular. You can look at Ben Nevis, Snowdonia and other mountainous peaks in fine detail from all possible positions while sitting at your desktop. And it’s the same with Britain’s rugged and varied coastline, which users can travel, taking in its impressive cliffs and pathways along the way.


National Park Authority successful in appeal case to uphold public access rights – Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority

Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park Authority has welcomed an appeal decision to uphold public access rights at an estate within the National Park.

The decision found in favour of the Park Authority’s argument that the owners of Drumlean Estate within the National Park were blocking members of the public from enjoying access rights granted by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. As a result, the owners will now need to take steps to comply with an enforcement notice issued by the Park Authority in 2013.

Gordon Watson, Chief Executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said: “The National Park Authority has a duty to uphold the right to responsible access granted to the public by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 so we are delighted with this decision. We took legal action against the estate in 2013 following complaints from members of the public that access to an area between Ben Venue and Loch Ard was being blocked by locked high gates and prohibitive signage and after repeated attempts by us to resolve the issue with the owners directly.”


Scotland’s Natural Capital Asset Index published – Scottish Natural Heritage

Scotland’s plants, animals, air, water and soils – which combine to deliver a wide range of benefits to people – are showing signs of recovery, according to new information released today (Tuesday 4 April).

The Natural Capital Asset Index, published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), states that after decades of decline until the 1990s, these ‘natural capital stocks’ have stabilised or improved slightly.

Natural capital forms a vital part of our economy. Among other things it helps to provide us with food; plant materials; water; natural flood defences, and crop pollination by insects.

Evidence suggests that within lochs, rivers, woodland and coastal habitats, natural capital stocks increased between 2000 and 2015. For example, there have been improvements in the quality of coastal bathing water and the ecological status of our lochs and rivers. For bogs, heathland and agricultural habitats, stocks have declined.


April is National Pet Month  

Now in its 27th year, this year National Pet Month takes place 1st April – 1st May 2017

National Pet Month is a registered charity, unique in bringing together animal welfare charities, professional bodies, pet businesses, schools, youth groups and pet lovers. The trustees are National Office of Animal Health and Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association.  The charity’s key aims are to:

  • Promote responsible pet ownership
  • Make people aware of the mutual benefits of living with pets
  • Increase public awareness of the role of pet care specialists
  • Raise awareness of the value of working and assistance companion animals

CJS In-depth articlesThe CJS Team all have companion animals of varying sorts and numbers and vet trips are considered an acceptable reason to be late / leave early!  We wrote a little about them in 2015 also for National Pet month, things have changed a little since then, different Team Members, fewer office dogs - although Kerryn's two remaining Labradors still fulfil that vital important Office Dog role. CJS has not (yet) ventured into the companion animal caring professions however we frequently advertise posts working with wildlife rescues and in animal hospitals, find out a little of what involved in this kind of work in this in-depth feature from Secret Wildlife Rescue: An unpredictable nature: working with wildlife 


Unique experiment set to reveal the effects of climate change on the forests of the future - University of Birmingham

A major new decade-long experiment to study the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands was launched on Monday.

The Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) experiment at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) will assess the impact of raised carbon dioxide (CO2) levels on whole forest ecosystems by artificially raising the CO2 level around patches of mature woodland.

The results will help scientists to predict the effects of the atmospheric changes expected by 2050, and to measure the capacity of the forest to lock away carbon released by fossil fuel burning.

The BIFoR FACE facility is the first of its kind in Europe, and one of only three worldwide. The experiment will be the first to produce any concrete evidence about the ability of temperate woodland to mitigate future climate change. Multiple experiments will be run alongside the primary CO2 research project, looking at how raised CO2 levels are likely to affect the whole ecosystem, from leaves to soil and from insects to fungi.

Professor Rob MacKenzie, Director of BIFoR, says: 'BIFoR FACE is a technological marvel. Built into existing woodland without the use of concrete foundations or guy ropes, the facility gently delivers its enriched-CO2 atmosphere to 30-metre patches of 160-year-old oaks." 


Exotic species aren't all bad - Netherlands Institute of Ecology 

Ecological value of exotic water plants equals that of indigenous species

When it comes to their role in aquatic ecosystems, exotic water plants are generally no different than indigenous species. In fact, they can be an asset. That doesn't mean all exotic species should be given free rein. But they can be managed more effectively if you focus on their properties and not their place of origin. Ecologist Bart Grutters of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) will defend his PhD thesis research on Wednesday 5 April.

Exotic or indigenous? For most people, submerged water plants are almost impossible to tell apart... (image: NIOO-KNAW)Exotic or indigenous? For most people, submerged water plants are almost impossible to tell apart... (image: NIOO-KNAW)

Exotic species - plants and animals from other parts of the world - tend to get a bad press. But a solid ecological, scientific underpinning is often lacking. With his thesis research, Bart Grutters redresses the balance: "If you look at the role of exotic water plants in an ecosystem, you won't find any significant differences compared to indigenous species."

So how do you make a fair comparison? Grutters and his fellow researchers at NIOO studied seven essential functions of water plants in experiments with indigenous and non-indigenous species. They looked among other things at the impact of the plants on the habitat and food supply of fish and small aquatic animals, on cyanobacterial growth and on greenhouse gas emissions. What they found was that all things considered, the two groups are not fundamentally different.


How to reduce roadkill - Concordia University

A collaborative study shows that more comparable data is needed to protect animals

Hundreds of millions of animals are killed every year by road traffic.

It’s a sad statistic that Jochen Jaeger, associate professor of geography in Concordia’s Faculty of Arts and Science, and his international colleagues hope to reduce.

But rather than focus on a specific location, as most studies do, they’ve taken a less common approach.

Jaeger and an international team of collaborators stepped back to re-examine the results of dozens of studies already conducted in countries around the world — all they could possibly find in the peer-reviewed and grey literature.

They combined the data from many studies and analyzed them together, which allows for the discovery of more general relationships that hold across many locations. They focused on what prevention methods are most consistently useful. The results were recently published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Of the more than 40 prevention methods available, the researchers found that, overall, fences, with or without crossing structures, reduce roadkill by 54 per cent, when considering all species combined. Crossing structures had no detectable effect without fencing.

When large mammals were examined, the combination of fences and crossing structures led to a roadkill reduction of 83 per cent, while animal detection systems (such as laser tripwires or radar), led to a 57 per cent reduction. 

Read the paper (open access) Trina Rytwinski, Kylie Soanes, Jochen A. G. Jaeger, Lenore Fahrig, C. Scott Findlay, Jeff Houlahan, Rodney van der Ree & Edgar A van der Grift How Effective Is Road Mitigation at Reducing Road-Kill? A Meta-Analysis Plos One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166941


CPRE welcomes new brownfield registers across the country - Campaign to Protect Rural England 

Regulations requiring local authorities to develop and publish brownfield land registers come into force on Easter Day (16 April).

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has campaigned for brownfield registers since the requirement was dropped for local authorities to submit brownfield data to the National Land Use Database in 2010.

We believe that identifying brownfield land effectively will make it easier for planning authorities to make sure brownfield development is prioritised over green field sites. Our campaigning initially helped to secure a place for the registers in the Housing and Planning Act (2016). Now, secondary legislation has been laid requiring local authorities to develop, by the end of 2017, a register of brownfield land that they have identified as suitable for housing development. 

CPRE’s research of 53 registers piloted last year estimated that at least 1.1 million homes could be delivered on suitable brownfield sites.


Bexley Heritage Trust: Last Press Release - Parks for London

Bexley Heritage Trust, which has managed Hall Place and Gardens for the past 17 years, ceased it’s operations in March 2017, as Bexley Council withdrew its financial assistance.  Tony Leach, CE Parks for London, commented: ‘This sobering news shows that park trusts do not immunise parks from the need to adequately fund their long term maintenance and management.’

You can view the full press release here: Bexley Heritage Trust – Press Release 28.3.17 (PDF)


Conservation breakthrough for Scotland’s rare aspen tree – Trees for Life

In an exciting step forward for the biodiversity of Scotland’s forests, Trees for Life has successfully encouraged the rare but ecologically important aspen tree to flower under controlled conditions - enabling it to produce much-needed seeds that can be used for propagation.

Female catkins on aspen tree in Trees for Life’s tree nursery (image: Trees for Life)Trials to stimulate aspen branches to flower at the charity’s Dundreggan Conservation Estate in Glenmoriston, near Loch Ness, have progressed significantly this spring, following some initial success and experimentation over the past two years.

Female catkins on aspen tree in Trees for Life’s tree nursery (image: Trees for Life)

Trees for Life may now be able to secure its own source of aspen seed to dramatically increase the availability of aspens for planting in native woodlands and to strengthen the species’ genetic diversity.

“This is a major breakthrough for us that offers hope for the beleaguered but hugely important aspen tree in the Highlands,” said Doug Gilbert, Dundreggan Operations Manager at Trees for Life.

“Having a seed supply to grow a new generation of aspen will help us transform the fortunes of a beautiful tree that provides a habitat for a wide range of organisms including mosses, lichens and invertebrates - many of which are rare and endangered in Scotland.”

Aspen is thought to have suffered more from deforestation than any other native tree in Scotland - largely because it rarely flowers or set seeds in the country, for reasons that are still unclear. This means that once it has been lost from an area, aspen is very unlikely to return on its own.


Huge public backing for councils to reduce grass-cutting to help save our bees - Friends of the Earth

•    Reducing grass-cutting saves money for cash-strapped councils

•    Nearly two thirds (63%) of public say councils should be doing more to help protect our bees

•    Buglife and Friends of the Earth launch council guide to help pollinators at Bee Summit today (6 April)

Over 80 per cent (81%) of the public back calls for councils to help Britain’s under-threat bees by cutting areas of grass less often in parks and roadside verges to allow wild flowers to grow, a new YouGov poll for Friends of the Earth and Buglife reveals today.

The move would also be good news for cash-strapped local authorities, with councils already saving thousands of pounds every year by reducing grass-cutting.

The Friends of the Earth and Buglife YouGov survey also revealed:

•    almost two thirds of the population (63%) agree that local councils should be doing more to protect Britain’s bees

•    88% support councils reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides

•    92% support local authorities in planting more wildflowers and other bee friendly plants in their local parks and community spaces

Buglife and Friends of the Earth are urging councils to play their part in boosting the nation’s bee populations with a new guide for local authorities on the measures they can take to help pollinators.

‘Helping Pollinators Locally – Developing a Local Pollinator Action Plan’ written by Friends of the Earth and Buglife is published today at a Bee Summit in central London. The summit is organised by Friends of the Earth and the Women’s Institute.

Another new-to-Britain bee buzzes in to Greenwich - The Land Trust

A second new bee has been discovered around Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park and Southern Park – the small-headed resin bee (Heriades rubicola).

Female Small-headed resin bee, (image: © Natural History Museum)Female Small-headed resin bee, (image: © Natural History Museum)

The species was first spotted in the UK back in 2006 and reported then as an accidental introduction or vagrant. With two sightings in 2016, in Greenwich and Dorset, it is now officially recognised as a new species for Britain. It is widespread in southern Europe, north Africa and Asia, with the nearest populations to Britain in France and the Channel Islands, and could have been overlooked previously due to its small size. It is known as a resin bee because it builds its nest from plant resin.

Researchers David Notton of the Natural History Museum and Ian Cross explained in their paper in the British Journal of Entomology & Natural History: “The discovery of a second specimen 10 years later at a different locality suggests that it may have established in Britain at low density. It is an inconspicuous bee, and could easily have been established for some time without detection. There is no evidence to suggest how H. rubicola might have reached Britain although it could easily have been imported with wood products or horticultural plants with hollow stems containing nests. In time it may become widespread in southern Britain because it appears that its pollen host and nesting requirements can be easily met. The occurrence of this bee in Britain has been notified to the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat however, there is no evidence currently to suggest that it poses any threat to native bees.”

Read the full paper here.

Two other new-to-Britain species have been discovered in Greenwich in recent months – Viper’s bugloss mason bee and grass-carrying wasp. 


Fish stocks boost for endangered pearl mussel - Environment Agency

The Environment Agency releases sea trout with pearl mussel larvae attached in effort to increase numbers in the North East.

Close up of pearl mussel larvae (white dots) attached to the sea trout gills (image: Environment Agency)Close up of pearl mussel larvae (white dots) attached to the sea trout gills (image: Environment Agency)

Thousands of sea trout have been released into rivers in Northumberland to stock rivers for anglers and help protect the future of a critically endangered species, the freshwater pearl mussel. Pearl fishing and water pollution from industry have led to worldwide decline of the pearl mussel. A healthy population of endangered freshwater pearl mussels is important for water quality – each mussel filters 50 to 70 litres of water. They improve the quality of the habitat, increasing the ecological diversity, which includes juvenile trout and salmon numbers.

The Environment Agency’s Kielder Salmon Centre staff Richard Bond and Jess Anson have developed a technique to enable pearl mussel larvae to attach to the fish gills, replicating their natural life cycle in the wild. The larvae will drop off the sea trout gills towards the end of May where they will settle on to the river bed. Given the right conditions, these juveniles could survive into adulthood and live for up to 100 years.


Seabird hit by oil slick makes great recovery - Natural Resources Wales

Male common scoter (image NRW)A species of duck decimated by one of the UK’s worst ever environmental disasters more than two decades ago is making a remarkable recovery.

Male common scoter (image NRW)

Common scoters were the worst casualties of the Sea Empress oil disaster near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire in 1996. Of a population of up to 10,000 birds, around 1,700 corpses were washed up on to the shore. By 2003 numbers had recovered to around 17,000.

But now surveys for Natural Resources Wales (NRW) reveal that it’s been a bumper year for the black sea duck with the population in the Carmarthen Bay Special Protection Area (SPA) more than doubling to nearly 36,000 last winter. Experts from NRW say this shows the resilience of marine wildlife and how we are working together in Wales to manage our marine environment in a way that helps wildlife thrive.

Carmarthen Bay SPA was the first fully marine SPA in the UK. It was created in 2003 purely for wintering common scoter.


Can you identify your swallows from your swifts? - RSPB 

The British public struggles to identify the nation’s birds according to new research commissioned by popular pre-school series Twirlywoos, in partnership with RSPB. 

The survey results revealed that over half of the respondents couldn’t identify a house sparrow and a third didn’t know a greenfinch from a goldfinch. It also highlighted that a quarter of adults thought penne was a  species of bird rather than a pasta and two in 10 thought that male and female mallards were completely different  species of duck.  Meanwhile a fifth of respondents weren’t aware a red kite was a bird - with some believing it was a baddie from batman and others under the impression it was a species of fish.  And when asked about the dawn chorus, a number of respondents thought it was the name of Gareth Malone’s latest choir.  However the news wasn’t all bad.   Nine in ten adults had heard of a swift and seven in ten adults knew that a waxwing was a bird - although some thought it was a waterproof coat.  And nine in 10 parents said they want their children to learn more about birds and British wildlife in general. 

The research of over 2,000 adults, which included 1,265 parents, was commissioned by Twirlywoos, to celebrate a new partnership with RSPB that aims to give families more confidence to get outside and enjoy nature with improved wildlife knowledge.


Sensing technology identifies trees affected by deadly larch disease - University of Leicester

Researchers from the University of Leicester have used remote sensing technology by Leicestershire-based aerial mapping company Bluesky in order to identify trees affected by a destructive disease.  Maps collected by airborne Laser sensors have, for the first time, been used to successfully pinpoint individual trees affected by the deadly larch tree disease.

The laser scanning surveys (LiDAR) were undertaken by aerial mapping company Bluesky and used to model tree canopy height as part of a wider study to prove the effective use of the technology for disease identification and monitoring.  Phytophthora ramorum is a fungus-like pathogen which causes extensive damage and mortality to a wide range of trees and other plants. Generically referred to as ramorum, the disease was first discovered in the UK back in 2002 and has now spread to sites from Cornwall to Scotland, causing destruction in high profile areas including Epping Forest and the Forest of Dean.

Professor Heiko Balzter, Director of the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research, lead investigator of the study at the University of Leicester and Co-investigator of the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation, said: “Invasive tree diseases pose a huge threat to Britain's forestry. Diseases like Dutch Elm disease and Sudden Oak Death can wipe entire tree species from our landscapes within a few years. Climate change increases the risk of new tree diseases spreading across the UK. We hope that better ways of monitoring the outbreaks and spread of these diseases in our forests will help the Forestry Commission and private land owners to respond more effectively to such outbreaks."

Read the paper (open access): Chloe Barnes, Heiko Balzter, Kirsten Barrett, James Eddy, Sam Milner and Juan C. Suárez.  Individual Tree Crown Delineation from Airborne Laser Scanning for Diseased Larch Forest Stands Remote Sens. 2017, 9(3), 231; doi:10.3390/rs9030231


Scientific Publications 

Russ, A., Lučeničová, T. and Klenke, R. (2017), Altered breeding biology of the European blackbird under artificial light at night. J Avian Biol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/jav.01210


Eichhorn, G., Bil, W. and Fox, J. W. (2017), Individuality in northern lapwing migration and its link to timing of breeding. J Avian Biol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/jav.01374


Suneeti K. Jog, Jason T. Bried, Xiao Feng, Andrew R. Dzialowski, Monica Papeş, Craig A. Davis, Can land use indicate wetland floristic quality and taxonomic distinctness?, Ecological Indicators, Volume 78, July 2017, Pages 331-339, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.03.033


R.G.S. Soares, P.A. Ferreira, L.E. Lopes, Can plant-pollinator network metrics indicate environmental quality?, Ecological Indicators, Volume 78, July 2017, Pages 361-370, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.03.037.


Scopel, L. C. and Diamond, A. W. (2017), The case for lethal control of gulls on seabird colonies. Jour. Wild. Mgmt.. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21233


Albert, C. H., Rayfield, B., Dumitru, M. and Gonzalez, A. (2017), Applying network theory to prioritize multi-species habitat networks that are robust to climate and land-use change. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.12943


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