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


5 June - World Environment Day 

'Connecting People to Nature’, the theme for World Environment Day 2017, implores us to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and its importance, and to take forward the call to protect the Earth that we share.

World Environment Day is the biggest annual event for positive environmental action and takes place every 5 June. This year’s host country Canada got to choose the theme and will be at the centre of celebrations around the planet.

World Environment Day is a day for everyone, everywhere. This year’s theme invites you to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it. It challenges us to find fun and exciting ways to experience and cherish this vital relationship.

CJS In-DepthFor World Environment Day we're highlighting:  ‘Cairngorms – A National Park for All’

With such unique qualities the National Park is a fantastic learning resource that inspires people to find out more about its natural and cultural heritage. The landscape begs to be explored and encourages people to get outside and become more active and healthy. 

The Cairngorms National Park is used and enjoyed by 1.5m visitors each year, as well as the 18,000 people who live and work here.  However, we know that there are several groups of people who are under-represented in engaging with the National Park.

Read on…


EU greenhouse gas emissions from transport increase for the second year in a row - European Environment Agency

Total European Union greenhouse gas emissions increased by 0.5 % in 2015, according to new European Environment Agency (EEA) data published on 1 June. Transport was a key reason for that increase: better fuel efficiency in that sector was not enough to counter the effects of an increasing demand for transport.

The EEA’s new reports, 'Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2015 and inventory report 2017’ and ‘Analysis of key trends and drivers in greenhouse gas emissions in the EU between 1990 and 2015’ provide an overview of the EU’s greenhouse gas emission trends.

The EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2015 for the first time since 2010. Higher emissions were caused mainly by increasing road transport, both passenger and freight, and slightly colder winter conditions in Europe, compared to 2014, leading to higher demand for heating.

Other findings for the year 2015

  • The reduction in total EU greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 was 23.7 % if emissions from international aviation are excluded.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions under the EU emissions trading system (ETS) decreased by 0.7 %, excluding aviation, whereas emissions from the non-trading sectors increased by 1.4 %.
  • Spain, Italy and the Netherlands accounted for the largest increases in greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.
  • The United Kingdom showed the largest decrease of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.
  • Total energy consumption and energy-related emissions increased, due to increased use of natural gas and crude oil. However, the reduced use of solid fuels, for the third consecutive year, and the sustained increase in renewables – particularly biomass, wind and solar – offset otherwise higher emissions. Electricity production from hydro and nuclear declined.
  • In spite of the increase in emissions, the carbon intensity of the EU energy system declined due to higher shares of renewables and gas relative to coal in the overall fuel mix.
  • EU greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration and air conditioning decreased, ending an almost exponential increase of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions since 1990.

Download EEA’s new reports, 'Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2015 and inventory report 2017’ and ‘Analysis of key trends and drivers in greenhouse gas emissions in the EU between 1990 and 2015


Funding approved to help improve accessibility at City nature reserve - Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

Visitors to Harrison’s Plantation Nature Reserve off Lambourne Drive Nottingham will be able to get closer to the site’s wetland wildlife thanks to the installation of a new waterside boardwalk and interpretation materials thanks to a grant of £32,259 from funding body WREN. The reserve had previously benefitted from funding from WREN back in 2011.

The money, awarded by WREN’s FCC Community Action Fund, will be used to remove two dilapidated boardwalks and to improve access at the edge of Raleigh Pond, a main feature of the reserve. These will be replaced by a recycled plastic boardwalk allowing visitors close access to the water’s edge and to facilitate access for groups wishing to pond dip, something not currently possible at the site.

New interpretation panels will also be installed at the reserve, which is managed by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust on behalf of Nottingham City Council,  to give visitors more information about the site, its wildlife and history and special coir rolls will be installed along the water’s edge to create habitat suitable for planting with new marginal plants.

The improvements will also enhance access for visitors with limited mobility and two new RADAR gates will be installed to replace current structures designed to exclude motorbikes which make access for wheelchair and mobility scooter users difficult.


Innovative moorland campaign is Bogtastic! – Peak District National Park Authority

The wheels are in motion to bring the breath-taking beauty of the Peak District and South Pennine moors to the people, allowing them to step onto a virtual peat bog without having to get their boots wet!

Moors above Ladybower reservoir (Peak District NPA)The Moors for the Future Partnership is working on the first ever “moor in a van” – a Bogtastic mobile exhibition vehicle - welcoming visitors in city and town centres across the Peak District and South Pennines to experience the sights, sounds and even the smells of our iconic uplands.  The partnership hopes to inspire as many people as possible to value and love their local moors.

Moors above Ladybower reservoir (Peak District NPA)

As well as the van, the partnership is exploring new ways to bring the Bogtastic experience to key locations across the area by developing alternatives to traditional noticeboards. The special interpretation will give people the chance to get a hands-on understanding of the vitally important landscape on their doorstep and the opportunity to feel the sensation of Sphagnum moss, a vital bog plant that can hold up to 20 times its own weight in water.

Across vast areas of the Peak District and South Pennine uplands, Sphagnum mosses have been killed off by pollution from the industrial revolution and wildfire, leaving vulnerable peat exposed. These moorlands are home to unique and iconic wildlife including curlew, golden plover, short-eared owl and mountain hare, as well as providing drinking water to millions of people across the UK. Healthy peat moors can also help to reduce flooding in local at-risk towns and villages and contribute to reducing the effects of climate change by storing carbon.


Developers renege on affordable homes as countryside faces housing crisis - CPRE

Council targets to meet local need missed in many areas

New research from the Campaign to Protect Rural England shows a growing crisis of affordable housing provision in many rural areas. 

Using Government data, the research indicates that the proportion of affordable homes being provided by non-metropolitan local authorities has halved in five years. In 2011-12, 35% of new dwellings in shire districts and unitary authorities were affordable; in 2015-16, this had decreased to just 16%. Other than a small recovery in 2014-15, those years showed continued decline. 

CPRE’s research also shows that just five of the 15 most unaffordable districts outside London have met their most recent lowest affordable housing target.

Recent research from the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) shows that councils are increasingly concerned about affordable housing and the effect that viability assessments have on providing it. In the TCPA’s study, over 60% of councils surveyed agreed that the viability test set out in the National Planning Policy Framework has hindered their ability to secure sufficient social and affordable housing to meet local needs. 

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “Many councils are falling woefully short of their targets to provide affordable homes. Yet you also have to look at those developers who continually use shady tactics to renege on promises to build affordable homes and new community infrastructure. These are often the promises that win them permission in the first place.  Developers have councils in a bind. It’s either fewer affordable homes or missed housing targets. And either way it’s young people and local people in need who lose out. As just 8% of rural housing is affordable, much of the countryside is already out of reach to those on average incomes. If we don’t change things this will just get worse. The next Government must reduce the power of these viability studies, stop highly profitable developers gaming the system and give councils the hard cash to start building houses again.”


A 'Wow, lucky you' moment 

Cheeky dormouse dances up Cornwall ranger’s back - National Trust

An experienced National Trust ranger was left reeling after a rare hazel dormouse danced up his back.

James Robbins, a ranger on the conservation charity’s Cotehele Estate, Cornwall, was checking the 60 dormouse nest boxes in a wooded valley on the estate earlier this month.

dormouse on tree (Photo: James Robbins/National Trust)It was the first time the James, whose image of a snoring dormouse was chosen as one of the Guardian’s pictures of the year last Christmas, had checked the boxes this year.

(Photo: James Robbins/National Trust)

He said: “I wasn’t necessarily expecting to see anything. But when I took the box off the tree to look inside the dormouse jumped out. I was caught off guard. It went up my t-shirt and was scurrying around my shoulders for a little while. Then escaped down my leg and away into the wood.”

It is possible that dormouse was the same one that captured public attention last autumn. “It was exactly where I found the dormouse last year,” James said. 

Unfazed, ranger James continued to check the wood’s nest boxes for other dormice – finding one female in a deep sleep.


Red light has no effect on bat activity - Netherlands Institute of Ecology

Artificial light at night can have a disruptive effect on bats, but not if the light is red. Switching to red light may therefore limit or prevent habitat loss for rare, light-shy bat species. The latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B publishes results from five years of pioneering research led by the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW).

It's the first time researchers have succeeded in measuring the effects of light with different spectra on the activity of slow-flying, light-shy bats in their foraging habitat. "We've found these bats to be equally active in red light and in darkness", says principal researcher Kamiel Spoelstra. "White and green light, on the other hand, substantially reduce the bats' level of activity."

Natterer's Bat (image: K Spoelstra)Natterer's Bat (image: K Spoelstra)

The effect of red light on more common bat species such as the pipistrelle is reduced as well. While there's a strong increase in activity of this species in white and green light, activity in red light is comparable to that in darkness. This is caused by the strong attraction of insects to white and green (not red) light. Pipistrelles opportunistically feed on these accumulated insects.

“The lack of effect of red light on both the rarer, light-shy species and the more common non-light-shy bats", concludes Spoelstra, "opens up possibilities for limiting the disruption caused by external, artificial lighting in natural areas, in situations where having light is considered desirable."

One of the things that make this research unique is that the intensity of the light used for the experiments holds up under real-life conditions. "In fact, it's entirely suitable for use on country roads." The scale and duration of the experiments also make them quite unique.

Access the paper: Kamiel Spoelstra, Roy H. A. van Grunsven, Jip J. C. Ramakers, Kim B. Ferguson, Thomas Raap, Maurice Donners, Elmar M. Veenendaal, Marcel E. Visser Response of bats to light with different spectra: light-shy and agile bat presence is affected by white and green, but not red light Published 31 May 2017.DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0075


£12m boost for Wales’ Great Outdoors - Welsh Government

Wales’ iconic National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will receive funding of over £12m from the Welsh Government this year, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs has confirmed. 

Lesley Griffiths has announced Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and the Pembrokeshire Costal Path National Park Authorities will receive grant funding totalling £9.5m for 2017/18.

Meanwhile, Wales’ five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have been awarded £275,000 to help them to continue to deliver the Sustainable Development Fund. Under this fund, AONBs will each receive £55,000 to establish projects which support ways of living and working in a more sustainable way, integrating natural beauty, wildlife, landscape, land use and community.

Earlier this year the Cabinet Secretary confirmed an extra £2.5m, in addition to their core funding, to support projects identified by Wales’ National Park Authorities and AONBs. These include initiatives to promote outdoor recreation and improve mountain safety. 


Rare breeding birds make Panshanger Park their home - Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Two pairs of little ringed plovers have returned to breed at Panshanger Park, near Hertford.

Little ringed plover (Image: Paul Thursh, Hertfordshire Wildlife Trust)Little ringed plover (Image: Paul Thursh, Hertfordshire Wildlife Trust)

The main threat to these birds is loss of suitable habitat, something that Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and the owners of Panshanger Park, Tarmac, have been working hard to combat. The Trust and Tarmac have been maintaining and enhancing the habitat for breeding wading birds, like the little ringed plover and lapwing, by carrying out much needed conservation work. This has included scraping back vegetation to create more bare areas on which these ground nesting birds make their nests and creating more areas of open water to provide good feeding areas.

Jennifer Gilbert, Panshanger Park People and Wildlife Officer, says: “We are very excited to have found little ringed plovers at Panshanger. One of the female plovers is tagged and we have found out that she was ringed in Spain as part of a species specific ringing project to try to understand their movements and habitat needs.  Little ringed plovers are a rare breeding bird in Herts but bred successfully in 2015 at Panshanger Park – this the only known successful breeding pair in Herts that year. It is extremely gratifying to know that our work is having a real impact on priority species in Hertfordshire.”


Peregrine chicks saved after parents found illegally killed - RSPB  

Three peregrine falcon chicks, which were rescued from a nest in Shropshire after their parents were found dead, have found new foster homes. 

The RSPB’s Investigations Unit was called to Clee Hill quarry on 31 May after a dead adult peregrine falcon was discovered on the ground, leaving a nest of three young chicks dependent and vulnerable. On attending the scene, the RSPB found a second body, thought to be the bird’s mate.  

Female peregrine at nest feeding chicks (Image: Chris Gomersall, RSPB)Female peregrine at nest feeding chicks (Image: Chris Gomersall, RSPB)

A specialist climber abseiled down the cliff to rescue the orphan chicks. They were examined by a local vet then cared for by a specialist rehabilitator in Yorkshire and have now found new homes in foster nests in the wild.

The dead parent birds have been sent for post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death. A dead pigeon found beside the bodies has also been sent for analysis.  

West Mercia Police Wildlife Crime Officer PC David Walton said: "We urge anyone with information about the death of these magnificent birds to come forward, quoting incident ref 0676 S 30/5/17. I believe that, had it not been for the fast action of all parties working together, we would have certainly lost the chicks as well as the adults, which look to have been poisoned."

Tim Jones, RSPB investigations officer, attended the rescue. He said: “We are delighted that all three chicks, which are about three weeks old, have found foster homes. Parent birds will happily raise a new chick which joins the family if placed with other chicks of a similar age. We have done this several times before as a last resort and have every hope for their success."  


But there has been a breakthrough in wildlife crime forensics: 

Feather fingerprint research presented to conference - Abertay University

Pioneering Abertay University work to enable the recovery of fingerprints from the feathers of birds of prey has been presented to the international Society of Wildlife Forensic Science conference.

Fingerprint on feather (image: Abertay University)Fingerprint on feather (image: Abertay University)

Abertay PhD student Helen McMorris delivered a presentation detailing her innovative project, which is investigating techniques to take fingerprints from bird feathers in a bid to prove human involvement in wildlife crime.

The conference in Edinburgh, which runs until June 9, comes after figures in the latest RSPB Birdcrime report revealed almost 200 bird of prey crimes in the UK in a single year.

At present, toxicological tests can prove a raptor was poisoned and DNA swabbing can confirm dog attacks, however there is no accurate measure of human involvement.
McMorris, a part-time teaching fellow with Abertay’s Division of Science, said a lack of forensic evidence could hamper wildlife crime investigations, where it is already difficult to secure a prosecution.

She added: “We only have to look to a few weeks ago when at least two cases in the UK were dropped by the courts for what they considered to be non-admissible video footage. My research has been investigating the development of fingerprints on bird of prey feathers in an attempt to help confirm human involvement in wildlife crime and potentially provide more evidence for court.  The structure of a feather is very similar to the fine weave structure of some fabrics such as silk. It has recently been found that fabric with a thread count of three per millimetre can sustain a fingermark or grab mark, and after microscopic examination, it was found that bird of prey feathers have a barb count of three per millimetre, suggesting that they could sustain a fingermark.  Fingerprint development is about having a strong colour contrast between the background surface and the developed print. On feathers, this proved to be very difficult as they can be black, brown, grey, white, and therefore commonly used CSI powders such as black magnetic powder, or aluminium powder, were unsuitable for use.  It was green and red magnetic fluorescent powder that were most effective. When excited with a blue wavelength of light and viewed through a yellow filter, they fluoresce. This fluorescence suppresses the background colour, no longer making it problematic and allowing the developed fingerprint to be clearly visible.”


Scientific Publications

Müller, J. J. A., Massen, J. J. M., Bugnyar, T. & Osvath, M. (2017) Ravens remember the nature of a single reciprocal interaction sequence over 2 days and even after a month. Animal Behaviour. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.04.004


Schall, P., et al The impact of even-aged and uneven-aged forest management on regional biodiversity of multiple taxa in European beech forests. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12950


Nicole E. Miller-Struttmann, David Heise, Johannes Schul, Jennifer C. Geib, Candace Galen. Flight of the bumble bee: Buzzes predict pollination services. PLOS ONE, 2017 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179273


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