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


Swans unfairly singled out for yobbish behaviour - Wildfowl & Wetlands Trusts 

Mr Asbo and other headline-grabbing swans may be being unfairly stigmatised according to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), which is behind the world’s largest study of aggression among birds.

Moorhens fighting (image: WWT)Moorhens fighting (image: WWT)

The study, published in the scientific journal Animal Behaviour, left researchers under no doubt that some swans are aggressive. However, after studying 555 groups of birds from 65 different species they found that swans are no more or less aggressive than any other birds.

They found that aggressiveness in birds varies hugely, with some individuals spending as much as a third of their lives strutting about and trying to fight their neighbours.

Although there was no significant difference between birds, what does make a difference is being male and an adult. The study confirmed that males are more aggressive than females, and that adults are more aggressive than youngsters, which is to be expected as most of the time it is the adult male that has to win and defend food and nesting sites.

WWT have written a blog post to accompany this research: Are some birds more aggressive than others?  Read it here.

Access the paper: Kevin A. Wood, Jessica Ponting, Nathan D'Costa, Julia L. Newth, Paul E. Rose, Peter Glazov, Eileen C. Rees, Understanding intrinsic and extrinsic drivers of aggressive behaviour in waterbird assemblages: a meta-analysis, Animal Behaviour, Volume 126, April 2017, Pages 209-216, ISSN 0003-3472, DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.02.008. 


Birds choose their neighbours based on personality - University of Oxford

Birds of a feather nest together, according to a new study which has found that male great tits (Parus major) choose neighbours with similar personalities to their own.

Oxford University researchers investigated whether the personality of birds influences their social lives – in particular who they choose to nest near. The study involved analysing social network structure in a population of wild great tits at Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire, over six consecutive breeding seasons.

Great tits (image: University of Oxford)Great tits (image: University of Oxford)

Lead author and doctoral student Katerina Johnson explained: 'We found that males, but not females, were picky about personalities, with males opting for like-minded neighbours. Our results emphasise that social interactions may play a key role in animal decisions.'

This tendency for males to associate with other males of similar personality may be particularly important during the breeding season when aggression peaks. Males fiercely defend their territories and compete for opportunities to mate with females and so shyer males may avoid setting up home near bolder, more aggressive individuals. Females, however, likely choose where to nest based on the attractive qualities of males.

The results also showed that this personality assortment amongst males was not affected by local environmental conditions. 'Just like students choosing their flatmates”, Katerina commented, 'birds may pay more attention to who they share their living space with than simply location.” She added: “Animal personalities can influence their social organisation and humans are likewise known to form social networks based on shared attributes including personality.' 

Access the paper: Katerina V.-A. Johnson et al. Male great tits assort by personality during the breeding season, Animal Behaviour (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.04.001


Scottish badgers highlight the complexity of environmental change - Uppsala University 

In a new study researchers have found that although warmer weather should benefit badger populations, the predicted human population increase in the Scottish highlands is likely to disturb badgers and counteract that effect. These results emphasise the importance of interactive effects and context-dependent responses when planning conservation management under human-induced rapid environmental change.

The new findings, published in the scientific journal Diversity and Distributions, result from a collaboration between researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden and Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. Building on data from 168 camera trap stations actually collected originally to look at Scottish wildcat distributions, the team was also able to detect local badger (Meles meles) presence and absence. They found that different factors, such as weather conditions, land cover type and human disturbance interact to determine which locations badgers choose to populate across the Scottish Highlands.

Heat- and motion-activated camera-traps were used to document badger presence in Northern Scotland.  (Photograph: Kerry Kilshaw / WildCRU)Heat- and motion-activated camera-traps were used to document badger presence in Northern Scotland.  (Photograph: Kerry Kilshaw / WildCRU)

Overall, badger occupancy was more likely at sites with higher minimum winter temperature and lower elevation. But when study areas of similar temperature and elevation were grouped together, more complex patterns emerged.  While medium estimates of a 1–3°C increase in mean minimum winter temperature for Northern Scotland by the 2050s would lead to better conditions for badgers in Highland Scotland, forecasts based on this factor alone are likely to prove simplistic and naïve. Disturbances associated with a predicted parallel 5% increase in human population in the Scottish Highlands by 2037 may counteract the benefits of increasing temperatures.
It may therefore prove faulty or superficial to assume that species will simply benefit from warming conditions along the former cold-edge of their distribution if other environmental factors are not considered.

Access the paper:  Silva A.P. et al. 2017. Climate and anthropogenic factors determine site occupancy in Scotland's Northern-range badger population: implications of context-dependent responses under environmental change.  Diversity and Distribution DOI. 10.1111/ddi.12564


Tillage farming damaging earthworm populations, say scientists - University College Dublin 

The digging, stirring and overturning of soil by conventional ploughing in tillage farming is severely damaging earthworm populations around the world, say scientists.  The findings published in the scientific journal Global Change Biology show a systematic decline in earthworm populations in soils that are ploughed every year. The deeper the soil is disturbed the more harmful it is for the earthworms. 

The scientists from the University of Vigo, Spain, and University College Dublin, Ireland, analysed 215 field studies from across 40 countries dating back as far as 1950. Each of the studies investigated earthworm populations under conventional tillage and other forms of reduced tillage. 

“What we see is a systematic decline in the earthworm population in the soil after continued ploughing and a significant increase in the abundance of earthworms in less disturbed soil,although some soils would need more than 10 years to show good signs of recovery” says Associate Professor Olaf Schmidt, from the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin. 

According to the findings, the earthworm populations most vulnerable to tillage are larger earthworms that move between layers of soil and create permanent burrows between them (anecic earthworms). Small earthworms that live in the top layers of soil and convert debris to topsoil (epigeic earthworms) were also found to be highly susceptible.

Farming practices that involve no-tillage, Conservation Agriculture and shallow non-inversion tillage were shown to significantly increase earthworm populations.  The scientists note that these reduced tillage practices are increasingly being adopted world-wide due to their environmental benefits in terms of erosion control and soil protection.

Access the paper: Maria J. I. Briones, Olaf Schmidt. Conventional tillage decreases the abundance and biomass of earthworms and alters their community structure in a global meta-analysis. Global Change Biology, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13744


Councils failing to protect countryside in growth plans - CPRE

The Campaign to Protect Rural England today (8/5/17) shows that councils are failing to apply planning guidance that is designed to protect precious countryside.

Councils are expected by Government to establish and have a plan to meet an 'Objectively Assessed Need' (OAN) for housing in their area, which takes into account issues such as projected population growth and future employment opportunities. Yet planning rules also state that this number should take into account constraints such as protected countryside.

CPRE research today shows that, since 2012, 24 councils out of the 62 local authorities for which there is clear data have heeded national policy and established housing targets in approved local plans lower than their OAN, with the majority reducing their targets due to environmental or countryside constraints


Consumers asked to challenge supermarkets on the source of Scottish farmed salmon – Salmon & Trout Image: Salmon & Trout Conservation UKConservation UK

Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (S&TC UK) is inviting consumers to help identify those supermarkets that are stocking salmon from farms which are failing to control deadly sea lice parasites. 

Image: Salmon & Trout Conservation UK

The inexorable growth of the salmon farming industry in recent years has occurred at considerable environmental cost, particularly the impact of high numbers of sea lice parasites spreading from fish farms to threaten highly vulnerable juvenile Scottish wild salmon and sea trout populations. In many areas, despite the intensive use of aggressive chemicals and other methods to control sea lice on salmon farms, numbers of the parasites are frequently over the industry’s recommended Code of Good Practice threshold for treatment.

Research by leading fisheries charity S&TC UK indicates that there are some 120 salmon farms in Scotland within regions where the industry’s own aggregated sea lice figures exceed the recommended threshold limits. 

Fish farm cages can contain hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon, which, where treatments fail, act as efficient hosts for the sea lice parasite, which then reproduces, releasing huge numbers of mobile juvenile sea lice out into the local marine environment.


New paths for people and nature across the South - Sustrans

Thousands of miles of paths across the south of England are being improved for nature. We created the National Cycle Network in 1995 and now, 22 years later, we are turning 22 cycling and walking routes across the south into wildlife friendly ‘greenways’.

If you’re out on foot or on your bike over the summer you may see teams of volunteers improving greenspace and surveying the wildlife living We survey, protect and enhance biodiversity along traffic-free sections of the National Cycle Network (Sustrans)along the path network. Some walking and cycling routes in the West Country are due to benefit from this green-fingered approach, including Bath’s Two Tunnels path and the popular Bristol and Bath Railway Path.

Further south, sections of Devon’s Plym Valley Trail will receive a green makeover, as will the Thames and Medway Canal path between Gravesend and Rochester in Kent and the wildlife-rich Phoenix Trail in Oxfordshire.

We survey, protect and enhance biodiversity along traffic-free sections of the National Cycle Network (Sustrans)

Stretching more than 14,000 miles across the length and breadth of the UK, the National Cycle Network has served pedestrians, cyclists, joggers, dog walkers and horse riders for more than 20 years.

But, says James Cleeton, Sustrans’ Director for England South, it isn’t only people who require a network to move around safely. “Since the creation of the Network in 1995, our understanding of nature has improved hugely,” says Cleeton. “We now know that wildlife uses corridors to find its way much in the same way that people use cycling and walking routes. So the National Cycle Network really is a perfect framework for a hands-on project that can benefit both people and nature.”


Global warming kills gut bacteria in lizards – University of Exeter

Climate change could threaten reptiles by reducing the number of bacteria living in their guts, new research suggests.

Scientists from the University of Exeter and the University of Toulouse found that warming of 2-3°C caused a 34% loss of microorganism diversity in the guts of common lizards (also known as viviparous lizards).

Image: Univresity of ExeterImage: University of Exeter

In the experiments, lizards were put in temperature-controlled enclosures and samples of their gut bacteria were tested to identify which bacteria were present.

The diversity of bacteria was lower for lizards living in warmed conditions, and the researchers found this had an impact on their survival chances.

By raising the temperature by 2-3°C in their experiment, the researchers reflected warming predicted by current climate change models.

“Our research shows that a relatively small rise in temperature can have a major impact on the gut bacteria in common lizards,” said Dr Elvire Bestion, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall. “More testing is now needed, and it is highly possible that we will see similar effects in other ectotherms (cold-blooded animals such as reptiles and amphibians which depend on external sources of body heat).”


Plans for habitat and wildlife conservation need to consider the risk of Lyme disease – University of Glasgow

Lyme disease – an infection contracted from the bite of an infected tick– is an important emerging disease in the UK, and is increasing in Image: University of Glasgowincidence in people in the UK and large parts of Europe and North America.

Image: University of Glasgow

A new study, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, found that some types of conservation action could increase the abundance of ticks, which transmit diseases like Lyme disease.

The research – led by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage, the James Hutton Institute and Public Health England – examined how conservation management activities could affect tick populations, wildlife host communities, the transmission of the Borrelia bacteria that can cause Lyme disease and, ultimately, the risk of contracting Lyme disease.

The paper, ‘Effects of conservation management of landscapes and vertebrate communities on Lyme borreliosis risk in the United Kingdom’ is published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. The paper was funded by the BBSRC.


England's first 'Swift City' takes flight - RSPB

Swifts have declined by 47% since 1995 Image: Nigel BlakeKnown for their aerobatic displays over our gardens, swifts fly over 6000 miles from central and southern Africa every year to the UK to nest and raise their young. Although numbers of the migratory bird have almost halved in the past twenty years. 

Swifts have declined by 47% since 1995 Image: Nigel Blake

Ahead of UN World Migratory Bird Day on 10 May, the RSPB has teamed up with nine partners to launch England’s first ‘Swift City’ in Oxford. 

The ambitious two-year project will see current nesting sites protected and more than 300 new sites created throughout the historic city to allow the charismatic bird to thrive. 

To help reverse the decline in swift numbers and nesting sites Europe’s biggest conservation charity has teamed up with nine partners to launch England’s first ‘Swift City’ in Oxford. 

Every year the enigmatic swift announces the arrival of the British summer as they complete a 6,000 mile migration from central and southern Africa to nest and raise their young in the UK. These iconic species are truly Olympian birds; landing only to breed, they fly up to 500 miles per day often eating, sleeping and even mating in the air. However with falling population numbers there are now less than 87,000 breeding pairs arriving in the UK, down from almost 150,000 (-47%) pairs just two decades ago. 


Study reveals declining brown hares could benefit from non-native crops grown for bioenergy across Britain’s farmland - PTES

Researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Hull and the Open University have discovered that native brown hares may be benefiting Brown Hare by Silviu-Petrovan (PTES)from exotic, non-native crops growing across Britain’s farmland. The study, published today [Monday 8th May 2017] in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, and funded by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), shows that how crops are planted is just as important as to which crops are grown in determining their effects on farmland wildlife.

Brown Hare by Silviu-Petrovan (PTES)

Aware that changes in agricultural practices over the past century have contributed to major declines in various species of farmland wildlife, the research team led by Dr Silviu Petrovan, set out to investigate what effects biomass energy crops might have on one of Britain’s most charismatic but threatened farmland species, the brown hare.


Estimating the Size of Animal Populations from Camera Trap Surveys - Max Planck Society via British Ecological Society

Camera traps are a useful means for researchers to observe the behaviour of animal populations in the wild or to assess biodiversity levels of remote locations like the tropical rain forest. Researchers from the University of St Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research recently extended distance sampling analytical methods to accommodate data from camera traps. This new development allows abundances of multiple species to be estimated from camera trapping data collected over relatively short time intervals – information critical to effective wildlife management and conservation.

Remote motion-sensitive photography, or camera trapping, is revolutionising surveys of wild animal populations. Camera traps are an efficient means of detecting rare species, conducting species inventories and biodiversity assessments, estimating site occupancy, and observing behaviour. If individual animals can be identified from the images obtained, camera trapping data can also be used to estimate animal density and population size – information critical to effective wildlife management and conservation.

A Maxwell's duiker photographed using a camera trap. (Image: Marie-Lyne Després-Einspenner)A Maxwell's duiker photographed using a camera trap. (Image: Marie-Lyne Després-Einspenner) 

Researchers recently extended distance sampling analytical methods to accommodate data from camera traps. “Distance sampling is a very well-established statistical framework for estimating animal density and population size that is already familiar to many ecologists”, says Hjalmar Kühl of the MPI-EVA and iDiv. “This development will pave the way for researchers to estimate abundances of multiple species from camera trapping data collected over relatively short time intervals, without identifying individuals, and with minimal additional field work.” Kühl adds: “This new approach can be easily integrated into our ongoing camera trap surveys across a broad range of habitats and species; we will also apply it in our monitoring work.” The models are implemented in the free, Windows-based software Distance, and various packages of the statistics software R. Detailed documentation and advice from statisticians is also freely available via the Distance project website.

Read the full article (freely available for a limited time):  Howe, E. J., Buckland, S. T., Després-Einspenner, M.-L. and Kühl, H. S. (2017), Distance sampling with camera traps. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12790


The review of designated landscapes in Wales - Welsh Government

 ‘Future Landscapes: Delivering for Wales’ is the outcome of the review of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks in Wales.

The Independent Review of Designated Landscapes in Wales, commissioned by the Welsh Government, reported in the summer of 2015. This report made many recommendations covering proposals and observations on purposes, principles, vision, governance models, planning and funding.
Following this report, a Future Landscapes Wales Working Group, chaired by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, was established. Their purpose was to explore the Marsden recommendations and the case for change and to report their findings. The Working Group involved representatives of the national parks, AONBs, interest groups and businesses.  
On 09 May 2017 the ‘Future Landscapes: Delivering for Wales’ report was published. The proposals set the designated landscapes on a path to drive the sustainable management of natural resources in their areas and working beyond their current boundaries. It draws on the strengths and opportunities of genuine partnership and collaboration. In doing so, it advocates greater flexibility in structures in order to meet the needs of places and communities.

Download the Future Landscapes: Delivering for Wales - 9 May 2017 (PDF)


Response: Future Landscapes Wales and the missing C-word - Snowdonia Society 

The long-awaited report of the Future Landscapes Wales programme was published today: ‘Future Landscapes; Delivering for Wales‘ report.

The report includes statements of commitment to National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty by Welsh Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths; such commitment is welcome.

There is little scope for comment on the report’s content.  It is a deeply confusing document, rich in jargon but with little substance.  Even after reading it 5 or 6 times it is hard to pin down what it is trying to say; it would undoubtedly benefit from greater clarity.

Of greater concern is what is missing from the document.

Sixty years of work have vanished into thin air – the six decades of work and collaboration driven by the National Parks’ statutory purposes –

to conserve natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and to promote opportunities for  public understanding and enjoyment of those special qualities

We searched the Future Landscapes document for the key words in National Parks’ existing purposes – ‘natural beauty’, ‘conservation’, ‘wildlife’, ‘cultural heritage’ ‘enjoyment’ ‘access’, ‘recreation’

None of the words occurs in the body of the document.  ‘Conservation’ is the C-word spectacularly missing from the Future Landscapes document. 

 Wood Ant Nest (© Gabor Pozsgai via Buglife)

New project launched to save Scotland’s rarest insects - Buglife 

A new project is being launched in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park to save six of Scotland’s rarest invertebrates.

The shining guest ant, dark bordered beauty moth, small scabious mining bee, northern silver-stiletto fly, pine hoverfly and Kentish glory have all been identified by experts as needing urgent conservation action, with many of them having their last strongholds within the national park

Wood Ant Nest (© Gabor Pozsgai via Buglife)

RSPB Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), Buglife, Butterfly Conservation and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) will work in partnership on the Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms project over the next three years to improve the conservation fortunes of these six insect species.


CJS In-DepthNational Walking Month meets Mental Health Awareness Week.


The lead article in our Focus on Overcoming Barriers last autumn was titled Nature–based interventions for mental health and wellbeing written by Jane Houghton and Sarah Preston of Natural England on behalf of the Outdoor Recreation Network. Read it here. 

Mental illness is a large and growing challenge in the UK, often with heart-breaking consequences for countless numbers of individuals and families, and poses a strategic economic and social challenge for 21st Century Britain. 

Today in the UK, 1 in 4 people experience a ‘significant’ mental health problem in any one year, with 1 in 10 of school aged children suffering from a diagnosable mental health disorder - that is around three children in every school class. The annual total cost of mental illness is currently estimated to be £105 billion (The Centre for Mental Health, 2010). 

Studies show that simply spending time in or being active in natural environments is associated with positive outcomes for attention, anger, fatigue and sadness, higher levels of positive affect and lower levels of negative affect (mood/emotion)2 and physiological stress.  

More about National Walking Month here and Mental Health Awareness Week here.

And a blog post by the CJS Ed about the solace found on the North York Moors.


Modernising Forestry - Scottish Government

Forestry and Land Management Bill introduced to parliament.

The Scottish Parliament will consider forestry legislation for the first time in its history after the introduction of a Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill.

Scotland’s £1 billion forestry sector, which supports 25,000 jobs, will benefit from the bill’s modern approach to forestry development, support and regulation.  New organisational structures for forestry in Scotland are also being announced.

Together these changes will enable the Scottish Government to better support the industry to create growth in the rural economy, mitigate climate change and develop the role forestry plays in health, education and recreation.

The bill will deliver:

  • Improved accountability, transparency and policy alignment. Forestry will be fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament
  • A modernised legislative framework to develop, support and regulate the sector in Scotland
  • More effective use of Scotland’s publicly owned land. The National Forest Estate will be managed to deliver economic, environmental and social outcomes and the Scottish Government will be able to offer land management experience and expertise to others.
  • Separate to the bill, the Scottish Government will create a new executive agency Forestry and Land Scotland and a dedicated forestry division within government.

Read the Forestry and Land Management Bill (Scotland)


Second discontinued prosecution for alleged raptor persecution offences - RSPB Scotland 

RSPB Scotland has expressed its frustration and disappointment after another prosecution of an individual charged with alleged wildlife crime offences was discontinued by the Crown Office in Scotland.

The latest case began on 9th July 2015 when RSPB Scotland staff, walking on the Brewlands Estate in Glen Isla, Angus, discovered an illegally set spring trap placed on top of a pheasant carcass that had, in turn, been placed a post just a few metres inside a pheasant pen. The trap was in effect a baited “pole trap”, which has been illegal since 1904, and is designed to snap shut and break the legs of a bird of prey, holding the victim until it can be dispatched by the trap operator.

The RSPB team, having no mobile phone signal to allow contact with the police, made the trap safe to ensure no birds would be caught. They then deployed a video camera focussed on the area, with a view to securing the evidence until the police could attend and recover the trap.

A few days later, RSPB Scotland staff accompanied a police wildlife crime officer to the scene, where it was found that the trap had been reset. The police seized the trap as evidence, and the camera was recovered.

RSPB Scotland’s Head of Species and Land Management, Duncan Orr-Ewing said: “For one case, where there was excellent video evidence to support the prosecution, to be discontinued inexplicably by the Crown Office so close to the trial was baffling. For a second case to be discontinued, again with no explanation from the Crown Office, and again without the opportunity for the evidence to be tested in court, is deeply concerning, and significantly undermines our confidence in the ability of Scotland’s justice system to bear down on the criminals who continue to target our protected birds of prey.”


Response from Scottish Gamekeepers Association

A statement was made by RSPB Scotland this morning (May 12th) regarding the handling of a legal case by the Crown Office.A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: "The SGA has no membership interest in this case and has an unequivocal approach to wildlife crime. Our members are made acutely aware of what is required in setting traps. Those who fail to comply should consider the affects this has on the reputation of others in the profession.

Judgements on what is admissible or not in terms of deploying video surveillance are judgements to be made by independent law officers, qualified to make them, not membership organisations like ourselves.” 


Information on the first discontinued prosecution can be found here: Alleged illegal killing of a protected hen harrier - RSPB Scotland


CJS In-DepthIn CJS Focus on Wildlife & Animal Work published in November 2015 we carried an interview with Wildlife Crime Officer PC Gareth Jones, Beat Manager for the Ripon Rural Area.

In his interview Gareth praised the Scottish vicarious liability statute, saying: "If a gamekeeper commits an offence against wildlife the owner of the estate is equally liable and will be prosecuted for the same offence, their single farm payments are also reduced. There was an estate in Dumfries & Galloway where a raptor was killed by a gamekeeper and the estate lost a large sum of money in subsidies from the EU as a result of that one case so it is very powerful legislation."

Read the interview in full here.


Iconic seabird colony polluted with ocean plastic, Greenpeace expedition finds - Greenpeace

A research expedition by the crew of Greenpeace’s ship the Beluga II has revealed high levels of plastic pollution on the iconic Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth, home to the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets.

With studies showing that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic, these shocking images reveal plastic around eggs in nests and strewn across the island, and even in the beaks of seabirds.

Plastic waste and gannets at Bass Rock in Scotland. (Image: Kajsa Sjölander / Greenpeace)The findings come on the first day of research during the Beluga II’s scientific voyage around Scotland, which runs until the end of June, documenting the impact of plastic pollution on some of the UK’s most precious wildlife like puffins, gannets and basking sharks. 

Plastic waste and gannets at Bass Rock in Scotland.Greenpeace is there working on the campaign to highlight the problem of ocean plastics. Studies have shown that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic.   (Image: Kajsa Sjölander / Greenpeace)

This week scientists aboard the Beluga II conducted sea surface sampling for microplastics around the Bass Rock, finding suspected plastics in the water which will undergo further analysis on board and at Greenpeace’s Research Laboratories at Exeter University. The Beluga II’s crew then accessed the Bass Rock, accompanied by experts from the Scottish Seabird Centre, and investigated nests and surrounding areas for plastic. 


 Scotland sees newest nature reserves - Scottish Natural Heritage 

The Board of Scottish Natural Heritage today (11/5) approved the award of the National Nature Reserve accolade to Glencoe and Mar Lodge Estate. 

SNH chief executive Ian Jardine said: “The Board took the view that both sites were deserving of National Nature Reserve status in recognition of their outstanding nature and the chance for people to enjoy it. They represent some of the finest natural visitor experiences that Scotland has to offer.”

National Trust for Scotland chief executive Simon Skinner said: “We are delighted to hear of SNH’s decision and very grateful to its Board Members. NNR status gives recognition to one of the Trust’s very first properties, Glencoe, in which we initially acquired land in 1935, and our largest, Mar Lodge Estate.”

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform said: “I congratulate Scottish Natural Heritage on this positive decision. Glencoe and Mar Lodge are two of Scotland's most cherished landscapes and it is our duty to protect and enhance these special places. We are already witnessing the biodiversity benefits which careful land management in these areas is delivering and I look forward to seeing that work continue in the years ahead.” 


The Proportion of Scotland's Protected Sites in Favourable Condition 2017 - Scottish Natural Heritage Statistical News Release

Scottish Natural Heritage has today (12/5)  released the latest figures tracking the proportion of Scottish protected natural features in favourable or recovering status. 

The main findings show that of the over 5,000 natural features on protected nature sites in Scotland, 80.3% are either in favourable condition, or unfavourable but recovering towards a favourable condition. This figure represents a 0.1 percentage point decrease in the proportion of natural features in favourable or recovering condition between 2016 and 2017. 

 here has been an 8.9 percentage point increase since assessment reporting began in 2005.

Invasive species and over-grazing are the main challenges to improving condition from unfavourable to favourable. The proportion of assessments recording invasive species as a negative pressure has risen for the past 5 years to 20.5% in 2016/17. This includes both non-native species, such as rhododendron in woodlands, and native species, such as birch encroaching on to raised bog habitats. 

The proportion of assessments recording over-grazing by wild herbivores and/or domestic stock has decreased from 18.4% in 2015/16 to 18.0% in 2016/17.

The full statistical publication can be accessed here.


Scientific Publications

Douglas, D. J. T. et al. (2017) Changes in upland bird abundances show associations with moorland management. Bird Study. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00063657.2017.1317326


Martin, S. A., Rautsaw, R. M., Bolt, R., Parkinson, C. L. and Seigel, R. A. (2017), Adapting coastal management to climate change: Mitigating our shrinking shorelines. Jour. Wild. Mgmt.. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21275


O’Mahony, D.T., Powell, C., Power, J. et al. Non-invasively determined multi-site variation in pine marten Martes martes density, a recovering carnivore in Europe Eur J Wildl Res (2017) 63: 48. doi:10.1007/s10344-017-1108-3


David J. T. Douglas, Alison Beresford, Jen Selvidge, Steve Garnett, Graeme M. Buchanan, Philippa Gullett, and Murray C. Grant. Changes in upland bird abundances show associations with moorland management. Bird Study DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2017.1317326 


Bender, I. M. A., Kissling, W. D., Böhning-Gaese, K., Hensen, I., Kühn, I., Wiegand, T., Dehling, D. M. and Schleuning, M. (2017), Functionally specialised birds respond flexibly to seasonal changes in fruit availability. J Anim Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12683 


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