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


Over half of chalk streams and a quarter of rivers in England currently at risk due to poor water management and usage - WWF 

With parts of the UK facing drought after a winter of low rainfall, a new report by WWF finds so much water is being taken out of rivers and groundwater for public supplies and agriculture that the environment and economy is facing critical long-term damage

More than 550 bodies of water in England and Wales are being over-abstracted, affecting iconic rivers like the Itchen and urban chalk streams like the Cray, which have seen their flow decrease and turn to trickles, according to new Freedom of Information requests by WWF.

WWF has also warned if too much water continues to be pumped from rivers and streams we will see a decline in some of the UK’s most favourite wildlife, including kingfishers and the water vole - Britain’s fastest-disappearing mammal. A drought could push them to the brink.

Extreme weather caused by climate change, poor river management and over-abstraction of water has led to over half of the chalk streams and nearly a quarter of the rivers in England being at risk of drying out. April was one of the driest months on record, with less than half the average rainfall for the month, indicating that parts of the UK might be heading for a drought. These effects are already being felt across rivers and chalk streams in the UK and are likely to get worse over the next few months and years unless urgent action is taken.

New polling by Populus has revealed that four out of five people believe wildlife has as much of a right to water as people and nearly 70% are worried about the environmental impact of taking water out of rivers. 83% of people think the UK Government should do more to encourage homes and businesses to use less water in order to protect our environment. 69% of people also think the UK Government should restrict the amount of water taken from rivers.

If new legislation is not introduced soon the effects of poor management of water abstractions and dry weather are likely to have devastating consequences for our rivers.

Click through for case studies.

WWF, supported by rivers trusts and angling clubs across the country, are asking the public to take action to help us safeguard our rivers. Find out about WWF’s Nature Needs You campaign here.


Scientists predict widespread invasion of harmful ragweed across northern Europe - Centre for Hydrology & Ecology

Scientists at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) predict that climate change may well lead to a widespread invasion of harmful ragweed across Northern Europe in the next 60 years unless its path is halted by policy-makers.

Common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) photo by Harry Rose CC by 2.0 via CEHCommon ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) photo by Harry Rose CC by 2.0 via CEH

Researchers at CEH have produced a scientific model – which is able to take account of the effects of changes in temperature and length of exposure to daylight – to see how in future ragweed could spread as far as central UK and Ireland, Denmark, southern Sweden and most of the southern Baltic coast.

Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) is a serious concern because of its harmful effects on agriculture as a crop weed but also on public health as a major allergen. A single plant may produce a billion grains of pollen per season – pollen which may remain airborne for days, affecting people hundreds of miles away.  Those sensitive to ragweed pollen can suffer itching, burning, and swelling of the mouth and throat, runny eyes and nose, hives, and, less commonly vomiting, diarrhoea, asthma and anaphylaxis. It also affects crop production as a weed.

Lead author Dr Daniel Chapman and Professor James Bullock, ecologists at CEH, led an international team of researchers who found that ragweed’s ability to adapt the timing of its lifecycle means the invasion may extend northwards and increase the average suitability across Europe by 90 percent in the current climate and 20 percent in the future climate.

Dr Chapman said, "This work shows that ragweed is adapting to cooler conditions than were previously thought to be suitable for its invasion in Europe. Building this effect into our models shows how much wider areas may be at risk of its serious impacts."

Professor Bullock said, "By combining powerful models with experiments across Europe, we have been able to improve our predictions of the spread of this harmful invasive." 

Read the paper (open access) Chapman, D. S., Scalone, R., Štefanić, E. and Bullock, J. M. (2017), Mechanistic species distribution modeling reveals a niche shift during invasion. Ecology, 98: 1671–1680. doi:10.1002/ecy.1835


UK takes centre stage in global marine protection - defra 

Today (26 June) the UK and Ireland co-hosted the annual meeting of OSPAR to protect the marine environment.  

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey has today set out how the UK continues to play a leading role in protecting the world’s oceans and turning the tide on marine litter.

Speaking in Cork for the 25th annual meeting of the OSPAR Commission – an international convention to protect the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic – the Minister outlined how the UK is leading international efforts to tackle plastic pollution, protect marine species and habitats, and support cutting-edge marine science.

Earlier this month the UK made a number of voluntary commitments at the first-ever United Nations Ocean Conference in New York. These include joining the UN’s Clean Seas campaign to reduce the use of disposable plastic by 2022, strengthening global ocean observations, and working with Overseas Territories to protect the diverse range of marine life in their waters. 


Monitoring changes in wetland extent can help predict the rate of climate change - University of Exeter

Monitoring changes to the amount of wetlands in regions where permafrost is thawing should be at the forefront of efforts to predict future rates of climate change, new research shows.

Permafrost - frozen ground - holds huge amounts of carbon which may be released into the atmosphere as the climate warms and these soils thaw. For this reason it is critically important to know where thaw is taking place and how much carbon is being exposed.

The study measured rates of methane production from thawing peatlands in the boreal region of northern Canada. (University of Exeter)But a new study says that the effects of thaw on the release of the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, may be better predicted by monitoring changes in the area of wetlands rather than by investigating how much carbon is being exposed.

The study measured rates of methane production from thawing peatlands in the boreal region of northern Canada. (University of Exeter)

Permafrost thaw is caused by climate change which warms northern high latitudes faster than elsewhere on Earth. The release of permafrost carbon to the atmosphere could accelerate rates of climate change, with some estimates suggesting that potential rates of release could rival those from tropical deforestation. If even a small proportion of the carbon is released in the form of methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, then the feedback becomes even more significant.

There are around 1 million km2 of permafrost peatlands on Earth and they store approximately 20 per cent of the total permafrost carbon stock which is predicted to thaw this century. The rate at which frozen organic soils could potentially decompose is up to five times greater than for frozen mineral soils, and peats are disproportionately likely to be water-logged following thaw, the very conditions that promote methane release.


UK hen harrier population suffers decline, according to latest figures – RSPB

Latest hen harrier survey reveals UK population in 2016 of 545 territorial pairs, a drop of 88 pairs since the last national survey in 2010.

Scotland remains the stronghold for the UK hen harrier population, with 460 pairs.

In England the hen harrier remains on the brink of extinction as a breeding species with just four territorial pairs in 2016. Northern Ireland and Wales also both report a decline in numbers in the past six years.

Hen harriers are one of the most threatened bird of prey in the UK (RSPB)Longer term figures show dramatic decline of 204 pairs (27%) in the last twelve years.

Hen harriers are one of the most threatened bird of prey in the UK (RSPB)

The hen harrier population has suffered a decline of 88 pairs (13%) over the past six years with a total UK population estimated to be 545 pairs, according to the latest figures from the fifth national hen harrier survey. 

Scotland remains the stronghold for UK hen harriers with an estimated 460 pairs in 2016, around 80 per cent of the UK population. This estimate is nine per cent below the best estimate in 2010 of 505 pairs. The west Highlands continue to provide a home for the majority of Scotland’s breeding harriers (estimated 175 breeding pairs), while Orkney and the Hebrides were the only areas of the country to show a slight increase in the number these birds.


Real action needed to save our vanishing meadows - Plantlife

New Plantlife study of road names shows cultural and social significance of meadows... but most people living on Meadow View can't view a meadow, even with binoculars.

#NationalMeadowsDay (1 July 2017) has over 115 events across the UK: learn how to scythe like Poldark, spot orchids or make a scarecrow 

The under-reported decline of our meadows - 97% lost since the 1930s - is one of the biggest tragedies in the history of UK nature conservation

Meadow View? Most streets with names containing "Meadow" aren't actually near one (Plantlife)UK's largest grassland partnership is creating or restoring 6,000 hectares of wildflower meadows in just three years

Meadow View? Most streets with names containing "Meadow" aren't actually near one (Plantlife)

Nearly 2,000 roads in Britain include the words “meadow” or “dôl” (Welsh for meadow), including Meadow Road, Meadow Lane and Meadow Way. Yet the flower-rich fields they were named after - once a feature of every parish - are increasingly rare. 

Plantlife research released today (Tuesday 27 June) demonstrates meadows' special place in our social and cultural history: frequent names include references to the size of the meadow (e.g. Long Meadow and Little Meadow) or past owners (Church Meadow, King’s Meadow and Castle Meadow). Other rare names include references to people who were probably associated with the meadow in the past (Barbara’s Meadow, Hob’s Meadow and Lawrence’s Meadow) and to wildlife (Buttercup Meadow, Sandpiper Meadow, Badger Meadows). The three most common names are Meadow Road (4.7%), Meadow Lane (2.8%) and Meadow Way (2.7%). Meadow View is 6th at 1.9%.


National Park seeks to shape post-Brexit farming policy – Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has today committed itself to bringing forward detailed policy proposals for upland farming by the end of this year.

The chief executive, David Butterworth, told the authority’s annual meeting that now was the time to seek to influence the government’s policy on agriculture post-Brexit.Upland farming in Coverdale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority)

He described farming as a “critical industry” to the Dales and said the starting point should be to set an “extremely ambitious” target of retaining the present number of farm holdings in the National Park.  

Upland farming in Coverdale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority)

Members agreed to set up a formal working group, made up largely of Dales farmers, to develop proposals for new farm payment and agri-environment schemes.  

Mr Butterworth said: “The Brexit negotiations have begun.  The day when the government puts in place a new agricultural policy for England is getting nearer.   We need to make sure that the voice of Dales farmers is heard.  One thing is for sure:  a one-sized-fits-all policy will not work for us. This is a time of great uncertainty for many farmers.  As they do more than anyone to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the National Park, it is an uncertain time for the Authority, too.  However, Brexit does represent a significant opportunity to improve the profitability of farming and the environmental outputs that are so critical to achieving our statutory purposes.”


New proposals go on display to protect internationally important birds and natural habitat along Devon’s Exe Estuary – Devon County Council

Conservation experts have looked at how the Exe Estuary is used by visitors and businesses, and have recommended proposals aimed at balancing tourism, business and leisure needs, with the estuary’s role as a sanctuary for protected birds and other natural habitat.

New proposals go on display to protect internationally important birds and natural habitat along Devon’s Exe Estuary (Devon CC)New proposals go on display to protect internationally important birds and natural habitat along Devon’s Exe Estuary (Devon CC)

Amended proposals are now being suggested following widespread public consultation this year by the Exe Estuary Management Partnership (EEMP), on behalf of South East Devon Habitat Regulations Partnership (SEDHRP).

The consultation asked people’s opinion about dedicated areas, ‘Wildlife Refuges’, within the estuary that would request that certain activities, such as water sports, allow space for birds.

These ‘Wildlife Refuge’ areas will play an essential part in the ongoing conservation of the estuary, providing areas of protection for the most vital feeding and roosting grounds for internationally important bird populations that rely on the estuary for survival on long migratory journeys. 


Marine Code Buoys Hit The Water - Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum

Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, the company behind the Pembrokeshire Marine Code, have developed an innovative way of protecting our coastline.

image: Pembrokeshire Coastal ForumWorking with local boat tour operator Tenby Boat Trips, Marine Code Buoys have been deployed around Caldey and St. Margaret’s Island with the aim of protecting the wildlife found along these coastlines.

Image: Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum

Caldey Island is an SSSI and has a grey seal population of approximately 100, whilst St Margaret’s Island is a designated Nature Reserve, and is a nesting ground for many Atlantic sea birds. There have been concerns surrounding the behaviour of some leisure users around these areas and there have been reports of kayakers consistently getting too close to the seals. Personal Water Craft have also been recorded disturbing protected species.

The buoys have been placed to mark the boundaries for key wildlife areas around the island, to encourage water users to slow down and keep their distance. This project is the first of its kind in Wales, and the request for this new novel approach came directly from wildlife tour boat operators. As members of the Marine Code these operators also follow the voluntary codes of conduct in order to reduce the potential for disturbance of wildlife.


National Park reflects on first four months of camping byelaws – Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National park Authority

Feedback gathered during the first four months of new National Park camping seasonal byelaws is being used to help inform improvements to the camping experience in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

Three Lochs Forest Drive Permit Area (LLTNPA)Three Lochs Forest Drive Permit Area (LLTNPA)

The Park Authority has welcomed the positive response from campers so far and is taking proactive steps to address any teething issues and negative feedback.

Since the byelaws were introduced on 1st March, the Park Authority has been gathering feedback through online surveys sent to everyone who books a permit and through on the ground engagement with visitors, communities and partner organisations. The byelaws are in effect from 1st March and 30th September each year.

Online surveys have received a strong response rate, and show that 85% of respondents would recommend staying in one of the new permit areas and 92% found it easy to buy a permit.*

The Park Authority’s Rangers are also experiencing a largely positive response from visitors to the Camping Management Zones with the vast majority adhering to the new byelaws.  Communities in some of the areas have also passed on observations of changing attitudes and increases in day visitors.

As well as inviting and acting on the feedback from visitors throughout the first four months, the National Park Authority has been continuing dialogue with key partners on the operation of the byelaws.


Conflict between yield maximization and species conservation in agriculture appears reconcilable - Technical University of Munich

The intensive management of grasslands is bad for biodiversity. However, a study by the Terrestrial Ecology Research Group at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has brought a ray of hope: If different forms of management are optimally distributed within a region, this can lead to higher yields without the loss of insect species. In ideal cases, this will allow even more species to find habitats that are optimal for them. What is crucial here is that management is planned at the landscape level.

For this study, data for more than a thousand species of arthropods were evaluated. This data was collected from over a hundred grassland sites (meadows and pastures). The dataset comes from the years 2008 to 2012 and were sampled in the study regions of the Biodiversity Exploratories: Swabian Jura, Hainich-Dün, and Schorfheide-Chorin. Along gradients typical for grassland management in the region — from intensive agriculture to medium-level and extensive management — it was observed how the populations of frequently encountered insects and spiders change. 
"In the case of intensive management of grasslands, for example, mowing is carried out three times a year and the grassland is fertilized", explains Dr. Nadja Simons, lead author of the study – "while another grassland is, for example, only used for grazing sheep once a year and is not fertilized. This is the minimal form, so-called extensive management." In Central Europe, grassland that is protected by nature conservation laws is also subjected to management, as they would otherwise gradually turn into forests. Simultaneously, the management of unprotected areas is taking place with increasing intensity. This is fatal for species which can only cope with extensive or medium-level use. Frequently discussed approaches include the maximization of use on a percentage of the areas in order to be able to place additional areas under protection, or alternatively to manage all areas with medium intensity.

Read the paper Nadja K. Simons & Wolfgang W. Weisser: Agricultural intensification without biodiversity loss is possible in grassland landscapes, Nature Ecology and Evolution 6/2017, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0227-2.


The Land Trust goes wild for wildflowers on National Meadows Day 2017 – The Land Trust

We're taking part in National Meadows Day on Saturday 1st July to highlight the importance of the country’s wild and wonderful habitats.

We manage over 278 hectares of wildflower meadows at dozens of sites across the UK. In its own way, each one supports local populations of native pollinators such as butterflies and bees, and provides a home and food source for a wide variety of insects, small mammals and even reptiles.

Notable wildflower areas managed by the Land Trust include:

  • Multiple meadow areas across Warrington, including roadside verges
  • Wellesley Woodlands in Aldershot, where a new meadow is being created out of a former tennis court
  • Canvey Wick Nature Reserve, a brownfield site that has become one of the best grasslands in Britain for endangered invertebrates
  • Port Sunlight River Park in Wirral, a site of special protection on former landfill
  • Haig, part of the Colourful Coast and boasting clifftop meadows
  • Hassall Green, a two hectare closed site which is fast becoming a wildflower haven
  • Northumberlandia, where areas around the human landform sculpture are left to grow as wild grasslands
  • Corn chamomile, corn flowers and field poppies at Haig. Copyright Chris Gomersall.Langdon Lake and Meadow in Essex, which is home to the Grizzled skipper and many other butterflies, as well as grazing livestock

Many of the Land Trust sites were former coalfield, landfill or industrial sites and sustainable management by the charity and our partners has seen them transform into vibrant and beautiful community and wildlife spaces.

Corn chamomile, corn flowers and field poppies at Haig. (image: © Chris Gomersall, via Land Trust).

The Land Trust is encouraging people to celebrate National Meadows Day by heading out for a walk in their local meadow, grassland or wildflower area and taking time to appreciate the natural space.

Alan Carter, Director of Portfolio Management at the Land Trust, said: “From road verges and garden corners to emerging grasslands and established meadows, there’s wildflower wonder all around us. We’d encourage everyone to make time to get out and about to appreciate their nearest green open space, and do their bit for pollinators by planting some wildflowers in their own garden.”


Fruit-full Communities reaches finals of Lottery Awards – International Tree Foundation

We’re very excited to be one of the National Lottery Awards finalists for our project Fruit-full Communities, which works with young homeless people in the UK. Alongside our partners in the project Learning through Landscapes, the YMCA and The Orchard Project, we’re working with thousands of young people.

Through training sessions including lots of outdoor learning, Fruit-full Communities gives young people the skills to cultivate their own produce whilst improving their skills, confidence and health. The project also raises the awareness of residents to questions such as where their food comes from, and the importance of trees for communities globally.

Sue Pitt, ITF’s Fruit-full Communities Officer, is really excited about reaching the finals of the National Lottery Awards.

 “I have met some wonderful young people through this project – they are very aware of the need to take action on the environment and welcome the opportunity to do something really positive for themselves, their local communities and the planet”, says Sue. “It has also been great to see them connecting with young people on some of our projects in Kenya and Uganda and realising that they are part of a global movement for change.”

Situated in 50 centres for the homeless across the country, Fruit-full Communities is also engaging with communities in the localities by transforming the grounds into beautiful and inspiring places to visit. Local residents are getting involved in activities with the young people, which breaks down the stigma of the homeless in society.


First pan-European field study shows neonicotinoid pesticides harm honeybees and wild bees - CEH

Researchers from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) publish results of a large-scale, field-realistic experiment to assess neonicotinoid impacts on honeybees and wild bees across Europe, in the peer-review journal Science today (29 June 2017).

The experiment – undertaken in the UK, Germany and Hungary – exposed three bee species to winter oilseed rape crops treated with seed coatings containing neonicotinoid clothianidin, from Bayer CropScience, or Syngenta’s thiamethoxam.  Neonicotinoid seed coatings are designed to kill pests such as the cabbage stem flea beetle, but were effectively banned in the EU in 2013 due to concerns regarding their impact on bee health.

The researchers found that exposure to treated crops reduced overwintering success of honeybee colonies – a key measure of year-to-year viability – in two of the three countries. In Hungary, colony number fell by 24 percent in the following spring. In the UK, honeybee colony survival was generally very low, but lowest where bees fed on clothianidin-treated oilseed rape in the previous year.  No harmful effects on overwintering honeybees were found in Germany.

Lower reproductive success – reflected in queen number (bumblebees) and egg production (red mason bee) – was linked with increasing levels of neonicotinoid residues in the nests of wild bee species buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) and the Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis) across all three countries.

According to the CEH lead author, Dr Ben Woodcock, "The neonicotinoids investigated caused a reduced capacity for all three bee species to establish new populations in the following year, at least in the UK and Hungary."  He suggests the differing impacts on honeybees between countries may be associated with interacting factors including the availability of alternative flowering resources for bees to feed on in the farmed landscape as well as general colony health, with Hungarian and UK honeybees tending to be more diseased.

Robust statistics explain findings of neonicotinoids field experiment CEH blog by Dr. Peter Andrew Henrys

Access the paper: Woodcock, B A, Bullock, J M, Shore, R F, Heard, M S, Pereira, M G, Redhead, J, Ridding, L, Dean, H, Sleep, D, Henrys, P, Peyton, J, Hulmes, S, Hulmes, L, Sárosspataki, M, Saure, C & Pywell, R F. Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honeybees and wild bees, Science, VOL 356, ISSUE 6345, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1190, published online 29 June 2017.


UK Government urged to re-examine support for bee killing pesticides - Buglife

Two new scientific studies published today in the top ranking Science journal throw further light on the profound damage that neonicotinoid insecticides are doing to wildlife and beneficial insects.  Buglife is calling on Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove to consider the new evidence of harm and undertake a review of the Government’s opposition to measures to protect bees from pesticides.

What emerges from the two studies is a picture of a global agricultural landscape heavily contaminated with persistent toxins that are destroying populations of wild bees and harming captive honeybee health.

(The first study is above.)

The second paper, a Canadian study on neonicotinoid treated maize (Tsvetkov et al. 2017), found that neonicotinoids killed honeybee workers, reduced bee hygiene activity and resulted in queenless hives.  The bees were not getting poisoned primarily by crop pollen and nectar however, the main route of acute exposure was neonicotinoid contaminated dust and the biggest exposure throughout the year was from neonicotinoids in wild flowers. The Canadian study also found that the common fungicide boscalid almost doubled the toxicity of neonicotinoids to bees.  This is significant because a recent paper showed that 70% of the plants that people buy from garden centres to help garden bees contain neonicotinoids, and 48% also contain boscalid (Lentola et al. 2017).  This suggests that gardeners may be unknowingly poisoning pollinators in their efforts to try to help them, a factor that may be associated with recent declines in numbers of urban butterflies (Dennis et al. 2017).

“The horror story is clear, we have contaminated our land and water with persistent neonicotinoid pesticides, already 40% of UK wild bees have been effectively exterminated across large parts of their range.  We are calling on Michael Gove to review the Government’s position and to get fully behind international efforts to secure a global ban on the use of these toxins; let’s get them out of our meadows, streams and gardens and give our bees, butterflies and birds a chance to recover.”  Said Matt Shardlow, Buglife CEO.


Strengthening deer management - Scottish Government

Actions to improve practices and protect the environment.

Improvements will be made to the way wild deer are managed in Scotland, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has confirmed.

The Scottish Government will take steps to protect habitats and help biodiversity, including:  

  • Urging the deer sector and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to do more to improve deer management planning, with progress to be reviewed in 2019 to consider if a fundamental change is needed
  • Ensuring SNH take a tougher approach to dealing with non-cooperative landowners, using the full range of enforcement powers at its disposal
  • Setting up an independent group to look at deer management issues, including a separate panel to look at lowland deer management
  • Testing current intervention powers before making further legislative changes


SNH Board approves new deer management approach - Scottish Natural Heritage

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) today considered proposals to implement a stronger approach to deer management in light of damage to fragile habitats and the consequences of vehicle collisions on our roads.

The proposals considered are in direct response to a recent review concluded by the Environment Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee of the Scottish Parliament on deer management in Scotland. In some areas of Scotland, deer populations are sufficiently large that deer affect forest re-growth and cause damage to important natural heritage sites. Reducing deer numbers is an effective way to protect trees, wildlife and crops in some parts of Scotland, as well as to reduce road accidents.

Measures agreed by SNH include further use of statutory powers in support of collaborative deer management. This will see an increased pace of change, combining continued support for good deer management practice with a greater willingness to use regulation where required. These measures are designed to lend further help and support to those responsible for managing Deer populations across Scotland to sustainable levels.


Smart detectors to monitor urban bat life - Bat Conservation Trust

The activity of urban bats in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) in London is being monitored in real-time using new, automated smart detectors that have been developed and installed by UCL and Intel scientists in collaboration with Arup, the Bat Conservation Trust, and the London Wildlife Trust.

Bats are a good indicator species, so are often used to measure how healthy our environment is. By detecting bat ultrasonic calls, the monitors will track species present and their activity levels and display the information to the public. This will provide an insight into the wildlife health of the park over the next year, and help to inform its management.

“We are trialling a network of smart bat monitors that listen to the environment, and figure out what species are present, all in real time. It’s a ‘Shazam’ for bats! It’s a huge step forward for detection technology - an Internet of Wild Things, and we hope it will help understand how wildlife is being impacted by rapid environmental change,” said Professor Kate Jones, project lead and Chair of Ecology and Biodiversity at UCL.

The detectors are the result of a project called Nature Smart Cities, which brought environmental, statistical, and computing researchers together with technologists to develop this pilot of the world’s first end-to-end open source system for monitoring bats.


LEAF and FACE merger confirmed - full press release from LEAF (PDF) 

The merger between two of the leading farming and food educational charities, LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) and FACE (Farming and Countryside Education), has been confirmed and will take effect from 30th June 2017.

LEAF Chief Executive, Caroline Drummond said: “We are absolutely delighted to be able to confirm the merger between LEAF and FACE.  It will deliver multiple benefits to our partners and stakeholders and enable us to further strengthen LEAF’s public engagement activities and the vital work the FACE team do in taking agriculture into schools.  I am looking forward to working with the new team to deliver an efficient and effective strategy, that will increase and improve the public’s education, understanding and appreciation of farming, food production and the environment.”

Caroline Drummond will continue as Chief Executive of LEAF and a new Director of Education and Public Engagement will be appointed this summer, to replace Dan Corlett, who is leaving FACE to pursue another career.

Commenting on the merger, FACE Chairman, Ian Pigott said: "Since the inception of FACE in 2001, it has achieved outstanding results. Through the training of teachers and farmers, advising industry on the code of practice and leading the on-line resource portal ‘Countryside Classroom’, huge numbers of young people have benefitted. The opportunity to merge with LEAF heralds a new dawn for public engagement and education; we look forward to delivering even greater results for all involved in two of Britain's proudest sectors, farming and education.”


New assessments on state of the marine environment in OSPAR waters - JNCC

The OSPAR Commission has just launched a major new assessment of the state of our marine environment and the pressures caused by marine activities. 

JNCC has played a key part in helping to assess the biodiversity elements of the report. 

The parties to the OSPAR Convention for the Protection and Conservation of the North-East Atlantic produce an overview report every ten years on trends in pressures and impacts and the quality status of the North-East Atlantic and its Regions.  This intermediate report, which will help some countries to report against the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in 2018, is the culmination of a six-year research and development process to both produce and define new indicators of the state of the marine ecosystem. 

JNCC helped to develop a suite of marine biodiversity indicators, including: 

  • leading the assessment of seabirds and waterbirds across OSPAR regions;
  • jointly developing with Germany an indicator of the extent of physical damage on benthic habitats as a result of fishing, and
  • co-leading the assessment of seals with the Sea Mammal Research Unit.


Wild bird populations in the UK (update) - defra Official Statistics 

Annual trends in wild bird populations in the UK.  

Bird populations have long been considered to provide a good indication of the broad state of wildlife in the UK. This is because they occupy a wide range of habitats and respond to environmental pressures that also operate on other groups of wildlife. In addition there are considerable long-term data on changes in bird populations, which help in the interpretation of shorter term fluctuations in numbers.

The bird population indices have been compiled in conjunction with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

Download the: Wild bird populations in the UK, 1970 to 2015 report (PDF)

Full data sets available here.


Butterflies in the wider countryside UK (updated data) - defra Official Statistics

These indicators on butterflies in the United Kingdom contribute to a suite of indicators in the UK Biodiversity Indicators. Early data availability allows their release ahead of that publication. Two measures of annual butterfly population abundance are presented: the first for specialist butterflies (species strongly associated with semi-natural habitats such as unimproved grassland) and the second for butterflies found in both semi-natural habitats and the wider countryside. The measures are multi-species indices compiled by Butterfly Conservation (BC), the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) from data collated through the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UK BMS) and the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS).
The indicators use data from butterfly transect sites on farmland and in woodland from the UK BMS and additionally randomly selected farmland plots from the WCBS. Further details of the methods used to compile the indicators and assess change can be found on the UK BMS website. More information about this indicator is available on the JNCC website.

Full data sets available.


Scientific Publications

Hossaini, R. et al (2017) The increasing threat to stratospheric ozone from dichloromethane. Nature Communications  doi:10.1038/ncomms15962


Esetvo, C. A., Baldy Nagy-Reis, M. & Redrigies Silva, W. (2017) Urban parks can maintain minimal resilience for Neotropical bird communities. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2017.06.013


McHugh, N. M. et al (2017) Agri-environmental measures and the breeding ecology of a declining farmland bird. Biological Conservation. doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.06.023


Christiana Figueres, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Gail Whiteman, Johan Rockström, Anthony Hobley, Stefan Rahmstorf. Three years to safeguard our climate. Nature DOI: 10.1038/546593a


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