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


Sweet chestnut blight found in South East London – Forestry Commission

Sweet chestnut blight, a disease that affects sweet chestnut trees, has been found in South East London, the UK Government’s Chief Plant Health Officer has confirmed.

Action is being taken to identify and control the disease in line with the Government’s plant disease contingency plans. The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and Forestry Commission are carrying out extensive surveillance of sweet chestnut trees in the area, working closely with local stakeholders. Further action will be taken on the basis of surveillance information and the best available scientific evidence.

The disease, caused by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica, causes foliage to wilt and die and cankers to develop on the tree surface, which may eventually kill the tree. Chestnut blight does not pose any risk to people, pets or livestock, and is only known to seriously affect sweet chestnut (Castanea) species.


Euphoria as Lake District becomes a World Heritage Site – Lake District National Park Authority

The Lake District has become a World Heritage Site joining iconic locations such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef and Grand Canyon as a place of international acclaim.

View of Ullswater from Gowbarrow Park (Lake District National Park/Andrew Locking)Today’s (Sunday 9 July) announcement in Krakow has led to jubilation among 25 organisations in the Lake District National Park Partnership who had put the bid together for UNESCO recognition in the cultural landscape category.

Chairman of the Partnership, Lord Clark of Windermere, described the prestigious status as momentous and will bring great benefits for locals, visitors, tourism, businesses and farming. It now joins just over 1,000 World Heritage Sites worldwide.

View of Ullswater from Gowbarrow Park (Lake District National Park/Andrew Locking)

Three key themes underpinned the bid for World Heritage Site status, recognising the Lake District National Park as a cultural landscape of international significance. These include world ranking examples of identity - the dramatic farmed landscape; inspiration - art, literature and love of the place. This in turn sparked the birth of conservation - people fought and invested to look after this special corner of England.

Lord Clark explained: “It is this exceptional blend which makes our Lake District so spectacularly unique and we are delighted UNESCO has agreed. A great many people have come together to make this happen and we believe the decision will have long and lasting benefits for the spectacular Lake District landscape, the 18million visitors we welcome every year and for the people who call the National Park their home.”


Ordnance Survey releases open dataset and free map of Britain’s Greenspaces - Ordnance Survey

A Government initiative to make it easier for people to locate and access greenspaces has launched today with the release of a new database and interactive digital map identifying accessible recreational and leisure greenspace in Great Britain.

OS's Philip Wyndham with Universities & Science Minister Jo Johnson (Ordnance Survey)OS's Philip Wyndham with Universities & Science Minister Jo Johnson (Ordnance Survey)

Delivered by Ordnance Survey (OS), the free map contains data from OS and other sources, and can be used immediately, for free, through the popular leisure mapping app and online service, OS Maps. This comprehensive map of Great Britain’s greenspaces is also available as an open dataset, called OS Open Greenspace, for communities, businesses and developers to create products and services that will encourage healthier and greener lifestyles.

OS CEO, Nigel Clifford, says: “Geospatial data can transform Governments, businesses and communities for the better. We see that through our work in Great Britain and internationally, and we’re excited to be one of those at the forefront leading this and making contributions of consequence and benefit.”


Study examines increasing likelihood of extreme sea levels – University of Southampton

Scientists at the University of Southampton are warning that future coastal impact studies must take account of extreme sea levels – a phenomenon expected to occur more frequently as rising waters combine with high tides and storm surges to potentially devastating effect.

A family is evacuated during the great storm of 1953. Credit: Canterbury City CouncilA new study published today (Friday 7 July) in Nature Communications – led by the University of Central Florida and involving experts from Southampton, Germany and the Netherlands – suggests that extreme events currently expected to happen on average once every 100 years could, in vulnerable coastlines around the world, occur every decade or even every year by 2050.
A family is evacuated during the great storm of 1953. Credit: Canterbury City Council
As sea levels continue to rise because of global warming, much less intense and far more frequent moderate storms could cause as much damage to vulnerable coastal communities in the future as currently only occurs during rare extreme storms.
Densely populated coastal regions of the USA and large parts of Australia and Europe, including the UK, are thought to be particularly at risk from these future extreme sea levels.
The researchers suggest that vulnerable communities can protect themselves by creating or upgrading infrastructure such as dykes, pumping systems and barriers. New building regulations or flood zones to prevent new infrastructure from being built in high-risk areas could also help mitigate the effects of future extreme sea levels.

Read the paper here: Wahl, T. et al (2017) Understanding extreme sea levels for broad-scale coastal impact and adaptation analysis. Nature Communications 8, Article number: 16075 (2017) doi:10.1038/ncomms16075


logo: in depthDisability Awareness Day will be on Sunday 16 July.

It is the world's largest 'not for profit' voluntary-led disability exhibition, held annually in a huge tented village within the grounds of Walton Hall Gardens in Warrington.

Find out more here: https://www.disabilityawarenessday.org.uk/index.shtml

In 2016 we produced CJS Focus on Overcoming Barriers with lots of information and articles about the problems faced by people with disabilities in being able to enjoy the great outdoors and how countryside sites can help with the problems and become more accessible.

Download this edition here. (PDF)


Heroes Wanted - To Help our Hedgerows! – Surrey Wildlife Trust

Hedgerows are a haven for wildlife such as hedgehogs, butterflies and birds, but this vital habitat may be under threat. Now Surrey Wildlife © Jon HawkinsTrust is a launching an exciting new project called ‘Hedgerow Heroes’, to train an army of volunteers to help save the county’s precious hedge network.

© Jon Hawkins

“Hedgerows are fantastically important for lots of different species, providing excellent habitat for dormice and commuting routes for bats. Hedgehogs use them for foraging and shelter and they are a magnet for birds and bees,” said Jim Jones, the Trust’s Living Landscapes Project Manager. “Hedgerows form vital natural highways, enabling wildlife to move around. They can also help prevent flooding and slow down soil erosion. But hedgerows are very under-recorded in Surrey. A lot of them may be in a very poor state – surveys suggest just 10 per cent are in good condition - and that needs to change.”

Hedgerows are at risk from intensive farming and development and many are being damaged by over pruning or neglect. Since the Second World War more than 120,000km of hedgerows have been lost. Some of the ancient hedges that remain are rich in plants such as hawthorn, hazel, blackthorn and oak – an amazing 130 species of conservation concern are known to rely on them.

As part of the Hedgerow Heroes project, teams of volunteers will be shown how to carry out hedgerow surveys and trained in traditional hedgerow management techniques. They will also plant new hedgerows in some areas. Information collected by the volunteers will be used to build up a database of information about the current state of the county’s hedgerows.


First gannet chick hatched at St Abbs – National Trust for Scotland

Staff at the National Trust for Scotland's St Abb's Head National Nature Reserve are celebrating a first this summer, as the first northern gannet chick ever to be recorded there was seen on 7 July.

Image: National Trust for Scotland Up until the spring of 2016 there had only been three occasions in the last 30 years or so when gannets had been seen settling down on the cliffs at St Abb’s Head, which has been in the care of Scotland’s largest conservation charity since 1980. 

Image: National Trust for Scotland 

Last year, for the first time on record, gannets attempted to nest at St Abb’s Head. In late May, a number of birds started prospecting one of the large seabird stacks with a few settling onto the stack and pairing up, looking like they were getting ready to breed.  One pair even brought in nesting material, but nothing came of it.

This year, the prospecting birds came earlier and in larger numbers, with around 70 gannets scouting out the same stack, and with many pairs settling on the stack and performing courtship displays.  However, as with last year, after a short flurry of activity most of the birds left, leaving just three pairs of birds which have been sitting tight since then.


British Cycling and Welsh Cycling welcome consultation aiming to make it easier for cyclists to access the countryside – British Cycling

British Cycling and Welsh Cycling have welcomed a consultation document ‘Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Image: British CyclingResources’ published by the Welsh Government which sets out their plans to make it easier for cyclists to access the countryside.

In the section dedicated to Access to Outdoors the consultation sets out the following proposals that are particularly relevant to cyclists.

Image: British Cycling

These are:

  • To enable cycling and horse riding on footpaths to occur under the same conditions as those provided for cycling on bridleways under section 30 of the Countryside Act 1968.
  • To allow, with appropriate authority, organised cycle racing on bridleways in order to bring rules relating to bridleways into line with footpaths.

Writing in the consultation document, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “Together, the proposals demonstrate the Welsh Government’s commitment to systematically identify where we believe reform is necessary to ensure we are equipped to sustainably manage our natural resources in preparation for the significant challenges and opportunities we face in the future. I am committed to ensuring we maintain and enhance the resilience of our natural resources and ecosystems – to achieve this we need to consider all the potential opportunities to modernise and improve the regulatory framework for the benefit of Wales.”


Caterpillars Key To Urban Blue Tits' Low Breeding – Glasgow University

Many animal species suffer reduced reproductive success in urban habitats, despite wide-spread supplementation of breeding and feeding

opportunities. In some years, the breeding success of city birds is devastatingly low.

Biologists have now shown conclusively that in urban blue tits, reduced breeding success is linked to poor nestling diet and in particular to scarcity of caterpillars, their preferred nestling food.

Image: Glasgow UniversityThe research adds to growing concerns that urban environments can become ecological traps for urban-dwelling species. The increasingly rapid process of urbanisation has now placed more than 50% of the human population in cities. Birds and other species can be attracted to these habitats by human food and shelter, but these benefits can be offset by major ecological deficits, as now shown for blue tits.

Image: Glasgow University

Although blue tits are widespread songbirds that appear to do well, their breeding failure in cities can be severe. In 2015, blue tit parents fledged less than one chick per nest in city parks in Glasgow, compared to more than five chicks per nest in the Loch Lomond National Park. Suburban sites showed intermediate breeding success. Researchers from the University of Glasgow and NERC’s LSMSF Facility (National Environment Research Council’s Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility) at SUERC (Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre) used a holistic study approach to reveal the reasons for this drastically low breeding success. Their research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Read the paper: Pollock, C. J., Capilla-Lasheras, P., Helm, B. & Dominoni, D. M. Integrated behavioural and stable isotope data reveal altered diet linked to low breeding success in urban-dwelling blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 5014 (2017) doi:10.1038/s41598-017-04575-y 


Global trade networks are the key to distribution of invasive non-native species - Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Scientists at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) have conducted an analysis of invasive non-native species occurrence in 48 countries to show that global trade networks play a key role in the distribution of invasions across Europe.

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) (image: CEH)The CEH team of Dr Daniel Chapman, Dr Beth Purse, Professor Helen Roy and Professor James Bullock looked at more than 420 non-native plant pest species – including 173 invertebrates, 166 pathogens and 83 plants – to show that invasion was strongly linked to agricultural imports from countries in which the focal species were present.

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) (image: CEH)

The scientists used sophisticated statistical models to consider trade in all agricultural products, as well as live plants, forest products, fruit and vegetables and seeds. This showed that invasion was more strongly linked to the structure of global trade networks than to other possible ways in which the species could be spread, such as by airline routes or simply through geographic proximity.  The results show that overall invasion is most strongly correlated to agricultural imports but that there is also a role for climate. Species presence in a climatically similar exporting country strongly increased the risk of invasion.  However, recent invasions were best explained by live plant imports from nearby countries, implying that dispersal of invasive non-native species among European countries dominates recent spread.

Dr Chapman, lead author of the study published in Global Ecology and Biogeography, says that "the assumption that global trade networks explain the large-scale distributions of non-native species remained largely untested until now."

He continued, "This study enhances the potential to predict the spread and distribution of economically damaging invasive non-native pests – such as emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) and ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) – to improve risk assessment, biodiversity and surveillance."

The scientists also suggest that many non-native species are transported accidentally and that no data exists on their movement rates. Nevertheless, using data on trade flows it may be possible to better predict their arrival probabilities.

Read the paper: Chapman D, Purse B V, Roy H E, Bullock J M. Global trade networks determine the distribution of invasive non-native species. Global Ecol Biogeogr. 2017;00:1–11. DOI: 10.1111/geb.12599

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) (image: CEH)


Threat to new beaver family in the Highlands of Scotland - Trees for Life

A family of beavers found living on a river in the Beauly area in the Scottish Highlands are to be trapped and put into captivity following a decision by Scottish Government Ministers. Trees for Life, the charity which discovered the group, says the family should either stay where they are or be relocated locally.

European Beaver (image: L.Campbell)Film from camera traps set by the conservation experts from the charity in mid-June clearly show the presence of a mother and at least two young kits swimming and playing with their mum. Trees for Life shared news of the discovery with Scottish Natural Heritage and made a case to Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham that the family be allowed to stay.

European Beaver (image: L.Campbell)

Alan McDonnell, Conservation Projects Manager at Trees for Life says: `It is disappointing that government is already starting the process of trapping this family without considering other options. Whilst we understand that the Minister wants to address the concerns of landowners in Tayside, the situation here is very different and we think it is possible to consult and negotiate with landowners in the immediate vicinity of the family and upstream to find an alternative outcome for the animals.’

Beavers have sparked controversy and concern from landowners in parts of Tayside where there is intensive arable farming. In contrast, much of the land neighbouring the newly confirmed beaver home in the Highlands is used for livestock farming.

Alan McDonnell says: ‘We think these beavers have been active at this site for at least five years without any local concerns being raised. Which just goes to show that in the right location, beavers and other land use interests can co-exist successfully.’

Richard Hartland, local resident: ‘Many people in the local community have no idea the beavers are there and they’re having very little impact on their surroundings. Why can’t they be left alone?’


Ambitious project seeks extra funding needed to improve disabled access to great outdoors - RSPB

Hopes are high that underpass project will get green light after successful event

A project that would put Loch Leven at the forefront of countryside access for disabled people in Scotland is one step closer to becoming a reality after a successful exhibition event on Friday.

Four Perth and Kinross Councillors, the MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, a Portmoak Community Councillor, leaders of local community groups and members of the Project Stakeholder Group gathered at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven on Friday to hear more about the plans to replace the current corrugated iron tunnel and steps below the B9097 with a more accessible underpass.

All four local ward councillors, Willie Robertson, Michael Barnacle, Callum Purves and Richard Watters are supportive of the project. The former three attended the event along with Councillor Ian Campbell, Leader of the Perth & Kinross, who last month received a letter co-signed by a Stakeholder Group to ask for financial backing for the popular project.

Following the event, Councillor Campbell said: “I was delighted to see the exciting plans for this project today. Perth & Kinross has been extremely supportive of this project over the years and Councillors Robertson and Barnacle have been stalwart supporters. I am sure that all members of Perth and Kinross Council would like to see this project succeed and we will consider every avenue possible to try to help get a successful outcome”.

MSP AlexRowley, who was also at the event, said: “This project will give even greater accessibility to more of the National Nature Reserve and is very welcome. Everyone involved should be very proud of their achievements to date and their ambition to bring more people to experience Loch Leven”.

The plan is to replace the 35-year old tunnel and steep steps, which are part of the Perth & Kinross Core Path Network and currently connect the “Sleeping Giant” path from Fife to the Loch Leven Heritage Trail, with a more accessible underpass that would incorporate gentle slopes for wheelchair and mobility scooter users and provide unimpeded access for cyclists and families with young children in pushchairs.


Watch out for Pacific pink salmon in Scotland - Fisheries Management Scotland

Salmon (image: Nigel Fell) In recent weeks, anglers in Scotland (Rivers Ness, Dee and Helmsdale) have reported several captures of fresh run non-native Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha). Some captures have also been reported in some salmon net fisheries in Scotland and both rod and net fisheries in England and Ireland.

Salmon (image: Nigel Fell)

These fish are not native to Scotland and are likely to have ‘strayed’ from some of the rivers in northern Norway or Russia. Read more about what you should do if you encounter one of these fish.


Surrey School Children Achieve Coveted Wildlife Award - Surrey Wildlife Trust

A wildlife project in Staines has earned young nature lovers a special ‘John Muir Award’ for their work to help their local environment.

A group of 30 children from Ashford Park Primary School have worked towards the accolade over several months at Church Lammas Lakes in Wraysbury Road.

With the help of Surrey Wildlife Trust the children covered all four aspects of the national award scheme – Discover a wild place; Explore it; Conserve it and Share it.

The John Muir Award encourages people to get outdoors and closer to nature, to learn about wildlife, get involved and take action to help the environment, then pass on their knowledge to others.

Pauline Bartlett, John Muir co-ordinator at Ashford Park Primary, said: “Being outside, learning about the environment, understanding nature and the food chain are so important for children. Lots of children who maybe struggle in class really thrive outside – they come alive and learn so much better. If they go home dirty they’ve had a good day!”


Schemes across the country to receive £15 million of natural flood management funding – Defra

Floods minister announces which projects around the country have been allocated funding for natural flood defences, part of the government’s drive to roll out innovative techniques to reduce flood risk.

Image: DefraImage: Defra

New allocations of flood management funding will allow homes, businesses and communities around the country to benefit from increased flood protection, Floods Minister Thérèse Coffey announced today.

34 community led projects have been named as winners of a £1m government funded competition, the first of its kind, and will now be able to realise their innovative plans to use landscape features such as ponds, banks, meanders, channels, and trees to store, drain or slow flood water.

24 other catchment scale projects have also been allocated funding to develop larger scale projects which will benefit wider areas; with Cumbria, Greater Manchester Merseyside and Cheshire and Wolsingham all receiving over £1m of funding.

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: “This funding will help more than 50 projects around the country take full advantage of innovative natural flood management measures. Flood defence technology and engineering is better than ever and by using a mix of natural and concrete defences, we can provide the best flood protection for individual areas.”


Sir David Attenborough warns of a 'critical' summer for butterflies – Butterfly Conservation

Sir David Attenborough has warned that UK butterflies face a critical summer after a string of poor years has seen the numbers of many common species decline.

Last year was the fourth worst on record for butterflies and Sir David is urging the public to take part in the Big Butterfly Count survey to help reveal if widespread species can mount a comeback this summer.

Image: Butterfly ConservationCommon species such as the Small Tortoiseshell, PeacockMeadow Brown and Gatekeeper experienced declines in 2016 but the warm, dry spring and early summer heatwave experienced over much of the UK has given many species a head start

Image: Butterfly Conservation

The Big Butterfly Count is the world’s largest butterfly survey, which encourages people to spot and record 18 species of common butterflies and two day-flying moths during three weeks of high summer.
Butterfly Conservation President Sir David said: “The next few weeks are a vital period for our butterflies. They need to make the most of this chance to feed and breed. So far the warm weather has given some species like the Meadow Brown, Red Admiral and Ringlet a good start but butterflies really need this to continue.”


Biofuels made from waste are the business, say researchers – Lancaster University

Biofuels have a role to play in meeting the UK’s commitments to climate change mitigation, especially so-called second generation biofuels made from wastes and by-products of other sectors. 

That’s according to a major new review of the sustainability pros and cons of biofuels by the Royal Academy of Engineering, including research from Lancaster University. Such fuels can be sustainable and could make a real impact in reducing carbon emissions, although action is needed to manage the risks involved, improve traceability and avoid fraudulent practice.

Image: Lancaster UniversityImage: Lancaster University

The report, Sustainability of liquid biofuels, was commissioned by the Department of Transport and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) to provide advice on the UK’s future strategy for the development of biofuels. While they have been enthusiastically adopted in some countries, notably Brazil, first generation biofuels manufactured from crops like corn have proved controversial. There have been concerns that increased demand for crops drives the conversion of land to agriculture, with the consequent risks of an increase in deforestation, drainage of peatlands, loss of biodiversity, as well as associated usage of freshwater, fertilisers and pesticides.


Ravens parallel great apes in their planning abilities – Lund University

Research from Lund University in Sweden shows that ravens can plan for different types of future events, while also demonstrating self-control and sensitivity to different lengths of time. Such skills are central to humans, and previous research has indicated that they are Photo: Mathias Osvathunique to humans and great apes. The new findings reveal that complex cognition can arise several times independently of common descent, which is an important factor in charting the underlying principles of cognition.

Photo: Mathias Osvath

Anyone who has spent time in London sees the merits of carrying an umbrella, despite the inconvenience, and the sky currently being blue. This type of planning, which is based on expectations and sometimes requires one to forgo immediate wants and comforts, has historically been thought to be unique to humans and great apes.

Previous research has shown that corvids can plan for, among other things, the next day’s breakfast by stashing food in different compartments; however, this behavior is considered to be different from the planning exhibited by apes. As most corvids habitually hide food, their admittedly impressive behavior might reflect a specific adaptation confined to the food hoarding domain. The new study, published in the journal Science, now reveals that ravens are at least as good as apes at general planning tasks as well.


National Trust rangers go to extreme lengths to monitor storm petrels - National Trust

With ghetto blasters pumping into the early hours, this remote night spot has a very exclusive guest list: elusive sea birds only.

National Trust rangers are going to extreme lengths to monitor storm petrels, setting up high-powered speakers to lure them in at night.

A small team of passionate ornithologists at The Leas in South Tyneside will work into the early hours to coax the birds by transmitting their sound out to sea.

Image: Douglas HoldenStorm petrels, which don’t usually come inland in the daytime as they’re easily predated by gulls, are caught in mist nets before being ringed, recorded and set free again.

Image: Douglas Holden

The data is passed onto the British Trust for Ornithology and provides vital information in understanding the survival rates, population sizes and movement of storm petrels. 

Dougie Holden, ranger for the National Trust on The Leas said: “A small team of us regularly monitor storm petrels in July and August. We construct 120 foot of fine netting on the beach and begin playing the sound of the breeding colony as soon as it gets dark, usually around 10pm at this time of year. When the birds fly inland they are caught in the net and trained handlers ring the birds and record their data. We prefer the weather conditions to be a little overcast as the nets are more visible to the birds on a clear moonlit night. The information we gather through bird ringing and monitoring provides a small part of a much bigger picture when it comes to understanding how a species lives and thrives. The National Trust is passionate about wildlife conservation. We work closely with volunteers and other like-minded organisations to care for our natural world.”


Scientific publications

Bessa, E., Geffroy, B & Gonçalves-De-Freitas, E. (2017) Tourism impact on stream fish measured with an ecological and a behavioural indicator. Aquatic Conservation. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2804


Alderton, E., Sayer, C.D., Davies, R., Lambert, S. J. & Axmacher, J. C. (2017) Buried alive: Aquatic plants survive in ‘ghost ponds’ under agricultural fields. Biological Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.06.004


Hitchmough, J., Wagner, M. & Ahmad, H, (2017) Can the addition of a shade-tolerant under-canopy layer allow designed herbaceous vegetation to be flower rich and resistant to weed colonisation? Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2017.06.022


Alison, J., Duffield, S. J., Morecroft, M. D., Marrs, R. H. & Hodgson, J. A. (2017) Successful restoration of moth abundance and species-richness in grassland created under agri-environment schemes. Biological Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.07.003


Mason, T. H. E., Keane, A., Redpath, S. M. & Bunnefeld, N. (2017) The changing environment of conservation conflict: geese and farming in Scotland - Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12969


Ashley J. W. Ward, Timothy M. Schaerf, James E. Herbert-Read, Lesley Morrell, David J. T. Sumpter, Mike M. Webster Local interactions and global properties of wild, free-ranging stickleback shoals R. Soc. Open Sci. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170043

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