CJS Logo & link to homepage

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


New review charts evolution of climate change guidance for fluvial flood risk management in England – Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Scientists at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) have undertaken a new review which charts the past, present and future of climate Image: Centre for Ecology & Hydrologychange guidance for fluvial flood risk management in England.

The review was conducted in collaboration with the Environment Agency (EA) and documents how advances in the science of climate change and hydrology over the past 25 years have helped to manage flood risk. The principles can also be applied to drought management.

Image: Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

The paper, published in the journal Progress in Physical Geography, calls for further research on the potential impacts of climate change on floods including incorporating changes to more short-duration, extreme events.

Lead author Dr Nick Reynard, Science Area Lead for Natural Hazards at CEH, said, “This paper illustrates a good example of how science can provide the evidence for the development of environmental policy. CEH has provided data and tools to support climate change policy and decision-making for flood management, complementing the work we do for flood risk estimation through the Flood Estimation Handbook.”

Read the paper: Nicholas S Reynard, Alison L Kay, Molly Anderson, Bill Donovan and Caroline Duckworth, ‘The evolution of climate change guidance for fluvial flood risk management in England,’ Progress in Physical Geography, published 13 April 2017. Doi: 10.1177/0309133317702566


CJS in-depthCJS in-depth features: profile of HighGround

HighGround is a charity started by Anna Baker Cresswell in 2013 to help Service Leavers, Reservists and Veterans to find jobs, careers and vocational opportunities in the land-based sector - outdoor stuff for outdoor people.
How can you help? If you can offer an ex military person a work experience opportunity which would make him or her more employable at the end than when they started (minimum 3 weeks), we’d love to hear from you.


Can barnacle geese predict the climate? - Netherlands Institute of Ecology

The breeding grounds of Arctic migratory birds such as the barnacle goose are changing rapidly due to accelerated warming in the polar regions. They won't be able to keep up with the changes unless they can somehow anticipate them. A team of researchers from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) employed models to assess the future prospects of the geese and their young. Results are being published online today by the scientific journal Global Change Biology.

Flying barnacle geese (©Jasper Koster)Flying barnacle geese (©Jasper Koster)

It's the time of year when barnacle geese and many other migratory birds prepare to depart for their breeding grounds above the Arctic Circle. From their wintering grounds in the Netherlands, the geese go all the way up to the Barentsz Sea in northern Russia, where they should arrive just as the snow has melted. But in the polar regions, the climate is warming much more rapidly than here - a phenomenon known as 'Arctic amplification'.

It's hard enough for humans to get to grips with the accelerated warming, let alone for barnacle geese, as an earlier NIOO-led study showed. After all, how can they tell from their wintering grounds if the snow has begun to melt thousands of kilometres away? So is it possible for the barnacle geese to advance their spring migration nonetheless, and predict climate change? 

Ecologist Thomas Lameris from NIOO says:  "Our results are probably valid for many more species of Arctic-breeding migratory birds, and certainly for other geese such as the white-fronted and the brent goose. On the whole, geese are clever birds. Goslings learn the migration route from their parents, including the best places to stop over and build up reserves. "So if they do change the timing of their arrival, it would be easy to pass that on to the next generation", Lameris argues hopefully. "The main question is whether geese and other migratory birds can adapt as fast as the climate changes, to keep up with the changes."  

Access the publication  Potential for an Arctic-breeding migratory bird to adjust spring migration phenology to Arctic amplification. Thomas K. Lameris, Ilse Scholten, Silke Bauer, Marleen M.P. Cobben, Bruno J. Ens, Bart A. Nolet, 2017. Global Change Biology, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13684 (advanced online edition).


Fire threatens return of extinct butterfly - Lancashire Wildlife Trust

Arsonists are believed to be behind the devastation of one of the last few areas of lowland raised bog in Lancashire and put in jeopardy a project to restore a butterfly to the mossland where it has been extinct for more than 50 years.

Heysham Moss after the fire (image: Lancashire Wildlife Trust)Heysham Moss after the fire (image: Lancashire Wildlife Trust)

Three years ago the Large Heath butterfly was reintroduced to Heysham Moss as part of a joint project with Chester Zoo. The recent fire has swept across the Moss destroying much of the habitat that is currently supporting the establishing Large Heath colony.

While many of the plants will recover slowly over the next few years it is a serious blow to the ongoing restoration of this special place that is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Critically, the fire has also almost certainly wiped out any chance of survival of the Large Heath.

The reserve is owned by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and LWT Reserve Officer Reuben Neville said: “The fire has probably destroyed the caterpillars which are active among the vegetation at this time of the year and any that have survived will struggle to find any remaining food plants."

Sarah Bird at Chester Zoo commented. “We are all devastated after all the work that’s been done restoring the site and raising and releasing the butterflies. It is particularly sad for the children that were so excited to help us with the butterfly releases in the last few years.”


Birds vs. bees: Study helps explain how flowers evolved to get pollinators to specialize - Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Work by Robert J. Gegear at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) shows that flowers that were thought to have evolved to lure hummingbirds, actually have combinations of traits that discourage wasteful visits by bumblebees.

Bird vs. Bee (image: Worcester Polytechnic Institute)Ecologists who study flowering plants have long believed that flowers evolved with particular sets of characteristics - unique combinations of colors, shapes, and orientations, for example - as a means of attracting specific pollinators. But a recent paper in the journal Ecology suggests that flowers that are visited almost exclusively by hummingbirds are actually designed not to lure birds, but to deter bumblebees and their wasteful visits.

Bird vs. Bee (image: Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

The paper, “’Hummingbird’ floral traits interact synergistically to discourage visitation by bumble bee foragers,” demonstrates that traits of so-called “hummingbird flowers” work together to confuse bees and cost them precious time as they move from flower to flower. This extra cost leads most bees to seek nectar rewards from floral alternatives that they can more easily exploit, thus enabling the plants to more effectively attract more efficient hummingbird pollinators.

Most hummingbird-pollinated flowers evolved from bee-pollinated ancestors, according to lead author Robert J. Gegear, assistant professor of biology and biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). While the “bee” floral variants tend to be upright and have blue or purple coloration, the “bird” variants have a horizontal orientation and red or orange coloration. Also, bee flowers typically contain small amounts of concentrated nectar, while bird flowers have larger amounts of dilute nectar.

While it has long been thought that the characteristics of bird flowers operate independently to make it difficult for bees to access their nectar (or in the case of the red coloration, to even see the flowers), Gegear’s research shows that, in fact, the traits interact synergistically to encourage bees to look elsewhere for nectar rewards.


Suffolk residents called to survey precious wood pasture & parkland sites across the county - People’s Trust for Endangered Species

Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is launching a new conservation project this April to help protect Britain’s precious wood pasture and parkland habitats, which are home to several endangered species such as the lesser-spotted woodpecker, violet click beetle and the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. The first phase of this new project will be piloted in Suffolk, a county which is home to 1,250 of these ecologically important and iconic habitats. PTES is calling for local volunteers to help by trialling a simple survey that has been devised to assess the condition of these important habitats.

Fallen dead tree decaying (image: PTES)Fallen dead tree decaying (image: PTES)

With the help of local volunteers testing the survey, PTES aims to record the extent and condition of Suffolk’s existing wood pasture and parkland areas, the results of which will help refine the survey for wider use across England. The results from Suffolk will comprise the first comprehensive and robust inventory in the country, which PTES hopes will significantly improve the quality of information known about this habitat.

Megan Gimber, Key Habitats Officer at PTES said: “Despite the value of wood pasture and parkland, it is a habitat that is little understood and has historically been overlooked – often being mistaken for other habitats such as degraded woodland or grassland containing trees. Here at PTES we are excited to launch the first phase of this new project. This pilot in Suffolk is the first step towards preserving this key habitat. We believe Suffolk may have a plethora of remaining wood pasture fragments, so we hope that local residents will help us by surveying these sites.”


Lead fragments from shot wildlife threat to Golden Eagles - Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Golden Eagles face a known yet underestimated threat. Fragments from lead-based ammunition in carcasses and gut piles of shot wildlife eaten by Golden Eagles poison the eagles and deteriorate their flight performance. A ban of lead-based ammunition is vital, if we are to remove this threat to their survival.

The researchers took blood samples from free-ranging Golden Eagles in Sweden and equipped the eagles with transmitters.  Lead concentrations in blood of the eagles increased with the progression of the moose hunting season, a period when many Golden Eagles are scavenging and feed on lead-contaminated carcasses and offal of shot wildlife.  Thanks to the transmitter data, the researchers show that eagles with elevated lead concentrations moved less and flew at lower height than the eagles with lower lead concentrations. This behavioural effect was even evident at lead concentrations that so far have been considered as baseline levels.

The researchers also analysed the lead concentrations in the liver of dead eagles stored at the museum and the veterinary institute whose cause of death was identified. Their results indicate that even at low concentrations of lead, the risk of death due to e.g. starvation and collision with traffic was high.

The identified lead problem is most likely not restricted to Sweden but occurs globally wherever lead-based ammunition is used, and possibly also threatens other scavengers.

Access the paper: Frauke Ecke et al. Sub-lethal lead exposure alters movement behavior in free-ranging Golden Eagles Environ. Sci. Technol. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b06024 


Scientific Publication

Pulsford, S. A., Driscoll, D. A., Barton, P. S. and Lindenmayer, D. B. , Remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences are beneficial for reptiles in agricultural landscapes. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12923


CJS is not responsible for content of external sites.  Details believed correct but given without prejudice.

Disclaimer: the views expressed in these news pages do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CJS.