CJS Logo & link to homepage

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


Red Admiral thrives despite wet summer - Butterfly Conservation

One of the UK’s most striking and widespread butterflies, the Red Admiral, has experienced a record summer despite soggy weather conditions causing problems for other species, results from the Big Butterfly Count have revealed.

Red Admiral (image: Butterfly Conservation)Red Admiral (image: Butterfly Conservation)

The Red Admiral saw its numbers rise by 75% compared to 2016, with more than 73,000 seen during the Count’s three-week recording period.

This number is as many as were counted in the last three years of the Big Butterfly Count put together and the highest number by far for the butterfly since the project began.

Big Butterfly Count 2017 – top 10 species ranking

  1. Gatekeeper                       93,171 seen
  2. Red Admiral                      73,161
  3. Meadow Brown                 69,528
  4. Small White                       61,812
  5. Large White                       61,064
  6. Peacock                            29,454
  7. Comma                             22,436            
  8. Small Tortoiseshell            20,267
  9. Common Blue                   19,567
  10. Speckled Wood              18,639
But wet July and August weather meant that 2017 was not a vintage summer with the UK’s three common species of white butterfly all experiencing declines.

The admiral boom was helped by a good year in 2016 followed by a mild winter and warm spring this year.  Red Admirals that had overwintered in the UK and fresh immigrants arriving in spring from southern Europe enjoyed an early and successful breeding season giving rise to a bumper summer brood.  Although a common sight in gardens, a few decades ago the Red Admiral was strictly a summer visitor to the UK. Butterflies arrived from warmer parts of Europe in the spring and summer, bred here and then their offspring flew south before winter.  While migration is still a major feature of the Red Admiral’s lifestyle, many now overwinter in the UK and it is the most commonly recorded butterfly during the winter months.

Results can be found at www.bigbutterflycount.org


West Wales rescue efforts helped 220 Manx shearwater - RSPCA Cymru

Some 220 Manx shearwaters were rescued in West Wales by RSPCA Cymru last week, following stormy weather conditions – and the public are being urged to be on the look-out for more.

Rescued Manx shearwater (image: RSPCA)The new figure follows an initial rescue operation on Newgale beach, where some 144 of the seabirds were saved following a mass landing.

Rescue efforts continued – with a further 50 seabirds rescued from Pembrokeshire’s Druidstone beach, in addition to many more on Tenby’s beaches, and some found in jeopardy in-land.

Rescued Manx shearwater (image: RSPCA)

Sadly, the rescues are necessitated by the struggles Manx shearwaters often face on land. They are very able in flight, or on water – but their shape means walking on land presents challenges, and they can become stranded.

The 220 Manx shearwaters were taken into RSPCA care, with the majority going to specialist wildlife facilities for rehabilitation at the RSPCA’s West Hatch Wildlife Centre in Somerset.

RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben said: “This was a major rescue operation, with many RSPCA officers working in challenging conditions to rescue so many troubled Manx shearwaters. Thankfully, the rescue has proven a success – with the birds, after rehabilitation, starting to be returned to the wild – ahead of migration to South America. All birds released will have rings attached, so vital information can be gained on a bird should they be found again in the future.  Sadly, some of the Manx shearwater transferred to our specialist facilities didn’t make it. However, a big majority of them are expected to be released, safe and well, which just highlights the vital nature of the RSPCA’s work here, along with the many volunteers and others agencies who kindly supported our efforts.”


New peatland restoration toolkit launched – Moorland Association

A new toolkit has been launched to enhance land managers’ understanding of the current condition of blanket bog and allow them to implement peatland restoration methods to make improvements.

There is currently more carbon stored in the UK’s peatland than in the combined forests of Britain and France, representing 42% of the UK’s soil carbon stock, so it is vitally important to keep the UK’s peatlands healthy.

The guidance, which was launched at this year’s BogFest 2017 in Edale, has been collaboratively produced by representatives of the Uplands Management Group in response to a request from DEFRA’s Uplands Stakeholder Forum for best practice guidance.

It is imperative to assess the current condition of blanket bog and this new toolkit categorises it into six different states, ranging from bare peat bog which will entail complete revegetation, to blanket bog where regular monitoring is required to ensure a favourable state is maintained.


Scientists call for more research on how human activities affect the seabed – University of Southampton

A group of UK scientists, co-ordinated by the University of Southampton, has published extensive research into how industry and environmental change are affecting our seafloors, but say more work is needed to help safeguard these complex ecosystems and the benefits they provide to people for the future.

CTD device used to measure Conductivity, Temperature and Depth being recovered to RSS Discovery (Credit: Rachel Hale)CTD device used to measure Conductivity, Temperature and Depth being recovered to RSS Discovery (Credit: Rachel Hale)

Researchers from eight institutions and organisations have worked together to examine areas of sea or ocean located on the UK continental shelf to understand the sensitivity of these systems to human activities. The societal importance of these ecosystems extends beyond food production to include biodiversity, carbon cycling and storage, waste disposal, nutrient cycling, recreation and renewable energy.
Martin Solan, lead principal investigator and Professor in Marine Ecology at the University of Southampton, comments: “Our seafloors are teaming with life, from microscopic organisms to larger creatures such as fish and crabs. All interact as part of a complex system which plays a vital role in maintaining the health of the seabed and the rest of food web.

World's botanic gardens contain a third of all known plant species, and help protect the most threatened – University of Cambridge

The most in-depth species survey to date finds an “astonishing array” of plant diversity in the global botanic garden network, including 41% of all endangered species. However, researchers find a significant imbalance between tropical and temperate plants, and say even more capacity should be given to conservation, as there is “no technical reason for plant species to become extinct”.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden (CUBG) Cambridge University Botanic Garden (CUBG)

The world's botanic gardens contain at least 30% of all known plant species, including 41% of all those classed as 'threatened', according to the most comprehensive analysis to date of diversity in 'ex-situ' collections: those plants conserved outside natural habitats.

The study, published today (25/9) in the journal Nature Plants, found that the global network of botanic gardens conserves living plants representing almost two-thirds of plant 'genera' (the classification above species) and over 90% of plant families.

However, researchers from the University of Cambridge discovered a significant imbalance between temperate and tropical regions. The vast majority of all plants species grown ex-situ are held in the northern hemisphere.

Consequently, some 60% of temperate plant species were represented in botanic gardens but only 25% of tropical species, despite the fact that the majority of plant species are tropical.

For the study, researchers analysed datasets compiled by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). They cross-referenced the working list of known plant species – currently sitting at 350,699 – with the species records of a third of botanic gardens on the planet, some 1,116 institutions. They say this provides a "minimum estimate" for the plant diversity held in botanic gardens.


Asian hornet identified in Devon - defra

An Asian hornet has been found in the Devon area.

An example of an Asian hornet. (image: defra)An example of an Asian hornet. (image: defra)

The National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of the Asian hornet at an apiary near Woolacombe in Devon.

The Asian hornet is smaller than our native hornet and poses no greater risk to human health than a bee. However, they do pose a risk to honey bees.  This is the first confirmed sighting since last year, when a nest was discovered in the Tetbury area in Gloucestershire. That Asian hornet incursion was successfully contained by bee inspectors who promptly tracked down and destroyed the nest.

Work to identify, destroy and remove any nests is already underway, which includes:

  • setting up a surveillance zone around North Devon
  • opening a local control centre to coordinate the response
  • deploying bee inspectors across the area who will use infrared cameras and traps to track hornets and locate any nests
  • readying nest disposal experts who will use pesticides to kill the hornets and destroy any nests


General licences restricted in light of wildlife crimes - Scottish Natural Heritage

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has restricted the use of general licences in two separate cases this week. The decision was made on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds.

These are the third and fourth such restrictions imposed by SNH. A property in Perthshire and an individual will have their licences restricted. They may still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.

General licences allow landowners or land managers to carry out actions which would otherwise be illegal. This includes controlling common species of wild birds, by shooting or trapping, to protect crops or livestock. General Licences are a light-touch form of regulation and they rely on trust. In situations where that trust has been lost, General Licences are not appropriate.

Mike Cantlay, SNH chair, said: “We’re working hard to protect our birds of prey. Raptor persecution doesn’t just damage Scotland’s nature, it also affects tourism which in turn impacts on the economy. Yet, because of the remote locations where most wildlife crime takes place, it’s often difficult to prove. We’re committed to stamping out wildlife crime in Scotland, and will continue to work strongly in partnership with Police Scotland and other members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW Scotland).”

Nature-based tourism is worth £1.4 billion a year to Scotland’s economy.

See the full licence restrictions details here.


Response: Video evidence supporting restrictions revealed - RSPB Scotland

RSPB Scotland has welcomed the announcement by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) today of two restrictions imposed on the use of General Licenses on a sporting estate in Perthshire and on an un-named individual. These follow previous similar restrictions imposed on grouse moors in Stirlingshire and the Scottish Borders.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management for RSPB Scotland said: “We are pleased to read the SNH announcement restricting the use of the General Licence in these cases. In May 2017, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment announced a package of new measures designed to protect birds of prey, including the consideration of all legal measures that could be used to target geographical areas of concern, and this is part of that approach. We look forward to hearing soon what other measures are to be implemented to act as meaningful deterrents to the continuing crimes against our vulnerable birds of prey. We believe that these current measures also need to be allied to an effective licensing scheme for driven grouse shooting in particular, where any illegal and bad practice substantiated by the public authorities, would also result in the ultimate sanction of licence removal.  We envisage that any licensing system could work along similar lines to those that SNH have used here for Open General Licence removal, that is based upon stringent checks and balances of police evidence and SNH advice, to provide safeguards for those sporting businesses which work within the law and follow best practice”

Video evidence supporting these restrictions is available to view on Vimeo here.


Noise pollution found to be disruptive for schooling fish - University of Bristol

New research from scientists at the University of Bristol has found that noise from human construction projects can disrupt the schools that are so impressive in marine fish.

Human activities, like spreading cities, transport and construction, generate a lot of noise that travels faster in water than in air.  But cohesion and coordination in fish schools are essential in helping some animals avoid predators and exchange information socially.  Recordings of pile-driving, used in the construction of marine infrastructure like windfarms and piers, were played back to small schools of seabass.  The fish became less cohesive and coordinated during the playbacks, compared to when only normal ambient sea sounds were played to them.

Dr Christos Ioannou from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, said: "By using state-of-the-art computer tracking software, we were able to measure and analyse the movement of individual fish and the shoal as a whole in great detail. This is one of the few studies to explore how pollution from human activity impacts schooling behaviour in fish.  Previous work has mostly focused on the effect of noise on the physiology and behaviour of individual animals."

The changes in the fish’s behaviour when exposed to noise suggests they may be more susceptible to predators, as schooling behaviour is so useful in avoiding being eaten.

Now changes due to noise are established in the lab, the next step is to test this under natural conditions.

Click through for recording of Seabass responding to anthropogenic noise (youtube)

Access the paper: James E. Herbert-Read, Louise Kremer, Rick Bruintjes, Andrew N. Radford, Christos C. Ioannou Anthropogenic noise pollution from pile-driving disrupts the structure and dynamics of fish shoals Proc. R. Soc. B 2017 284 20171627; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1627.


Gwent Wildlife Trust M4 campaign - Gwent Wildlife Trust

Gwent Wildlife Trust (GWT) is battling to save Wales’ own equivalent of the Amazon rainforest - the Gwent Levels.

On September 26-27, GWT gave our final evidence to the Public Inquiry into a new M4 motorway across a large area of precious wetlands. It is the UK’s most damaging road building scheme currently under consideration.

Water vole on Gwent Levels (image: © Neil Aldridge via Wildlife Trusts)Water vole on Gwent Levels (image: © Neil Aldridge via Wildlife Trusts)

GWT has been trying to halt plans to put a new six-lane motorway - a proposed bypass around Newport - over 15 miles of the Gwent Levels.

Chief Executive of Gwent Wildlife Trust, Ian Rappel said: “In ecological terms the Gwent Levels is Wales’ very own version of the Amazon rainforest and should be protected for people and wildlife, now and for future generations.  Welsh Government say that the proposed M4 scheme is ‘sustainable’ but admit that the scheme does not have ‘respect for environmental limits’. However, ‘not respecting environmental limits’ is the very definition of unsustainability. “The motorway would rupture the essential cohesion of the Gwent Levels, acting as an impermeable barrier to all flightless wildlife and a dangerous permeable barrier to flying wildlife such as rare bats and bumblebees. It would snap the protected habitat like a cracker in two, isolating wildlife populations on either side of the divide, devaluing the habitat on both sides of the motorway making both populations smaller and more vulnerable to local extinction.”

You can read some of the evidence and submissions by experts here.

The Inquiry is now expected to run until the end of the year and we eagerly await the Inspector’s recommendation to the Welsh Government Minister Ken Skates, who has the final say on whether or not the M4 project goes ahead. Mr Skates can agree or disagree with the inspector whichever way he recommends, so ultimately the decision will be a political one.


Summer of discovery for rare insects in the Cairngorms – RSPB

Future conservation efforts for two endangered species of insect have been given a boost after important discoveries in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. The pine hoverfly and the small scabious mining bee were being surveyed by the Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms, a three year partnership project between RSPB Scotland, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, launched earlier this year to save six of Scotland’s rarest insects.

A nest site of the small scabious mining bee has been recorded for the very first time in the Cairngorms. This means that more can be learnt about the bee’s life cycle and the conditions it needs to breed due to the observations of it made by volunteer surveyors, and a film of a bee entering its burrow being recorded, a first for Scotland. Further survey work also located three new sites for these bees with a nest recorded at all of them.

Small Scabious Mining Bee (image: Gabrielle Flinn)Small Scabious Mining Bee (image: Gabrielle Flinn)

This year’s surveying is not due to finish until October but it’s already been an incredibly successful summer for the project with all six invertebrates surveyed and located, including a new Aviemore location of the shining guest ant, with much of this down to the dedication of volunteer surveyors and the support from local landowners. The huge amount of data being collected by the surveys means that next year’s ones will be even bigger in scale. Outside of the national park, survey work by Butterfly Conservation Scotland located a population of Kentish glory moth in Perthshire, where they hadn’t been recorded since 2000.


Plant! reaches 300,000 tree milestone – Natural Resources Wales

A tree planting initiative dreamed up by a Cardiff schoolgirl nine years ago has led to the creation of 15 new woodlands in Wales with the planting for the 300, 000th tree.

(image: Natural Resources Wales / Plant!)In 2008 the Welsh Government made a pledge to plant a native Welsh broadleaf tree for every child born or adopted in Wales. The scheme is called Plant! – the Welsh word for children. 

(image: Natural Resources Wales / Plant!)

Every month, Natural Resources, who run the programme on behalf of Welsh Government Wales and the Woodland Trust, receives the numbers of babies born and adopted in Wales, and arranges for a mixture of native broadleaf trees to be planted, including oak, ash, birch, cherry, rowan and willow.  Every baby is given the location of the woodland which contains their tree.

They also receive a certificate soon after their birth or adoption, stating that a tree has been planted for them.  Kate Thomson, Plant! Co-ordinator for Natural Resources Wales said: 

“Trees are an important part of our environment. They soak up floodwater, absorb carbon and other pollutants, provide a home for wildlife, help us enjoy the outdoors as well as providing a source of sustainable energy and house-building material. 

“Plant! is helping to create new community woodlands for the children of Wales to visit with their families and watch them grow as they do. We hope it will encourage young people to think about their environment and the role they have in managing it sustainably." 

Rebecca Good, the Woodland Trust’s site manager for Coed y Foel, one of the Plant! sites, says: 

“What better way is there to mark that most important of events, the birth or adoption of a child, than to plant a native tree, one that will grow with the child and help to create a beautiful and sustainable environment for the future, enriching everyone’s lives. If you have a child, born or adopted in Wales from 2008 onwards, why not visit their Plant! site and connect them with their legacy?” 

For more information on Plant! please visit the website


New report reviews role of trees in flood alleviation - Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Further calls for the inclusion of natural solutions in flood alleviation schemes were made following the severe floods in Cumbria, December 2015. Acknowledging ongoing debates around the evidence for tree cover as an effective flood mitigation measure, the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology today have published results of a systematic review of the current evidence in order to inform policy and planning decisions, and to identify knowledge gaps and areas for priority research.

The review, conducted in collaboration with Forest Research, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), National Trust, Woodland Trust, WWF-UK, Environment Agency, Coed Cymru and Lancaster University Environment Centre, looked specifically at the influence of trees in a catchment on flood peak (the maximum river discharge recorded during a flood event). Based on the 71 studies examined by the authors, there is broad support for the conclusion that increased tree cover in catchments results in decreasing flood peaks, while decreased tree cover results in increasing flood peaks.

Considering just observational studies (approximately half of the total number of studies), the authors note that the difference between the numbers of studies reporting an influence and those reporting no influence of trees on flood peak becomes less clear. Analysis of the small number of observational studies that differentiate on the basis of flood magnitude suggests that whilst there is strong evidence of an influence during small floods, the majority of observational studies relating to large floods report that trees have no observable influence on flood peak.

The authors call for an examination of the role of key factors including those associated with characteristics of the forest, catchment and climate, which might explain the more mixed results from observational studies. There is also a need for more empirical data and improved measurement of high flows, to better quantify the effects of woodland creation and evaluate flood risk model outputs.

Lead author, Charlie Stratford, cautions against “the expectation that tree planting is the panacea to all flooding and recommends further research to better understand optimal deployment of natural solutions, their likely downstream impacts on flows, and the role they play in an integrated approach to flood risk management.”

Download the ‘Do trees in UK-relevant river catchments influence fluvial flood peaks?’ report


BASC chairman highlights benefits of shooting ahead of start of pheasant season - British Association for Shooting & conservation

 BASC’s chairman Peter Glenser has extolled the virtues of shooting ahead of the start of the pheasant season.

He said: “The game season unites those who have a common love for shooting, the countryside and the traditions that make our sport such a fantastic presence in our lives. The start of the season is such an exciting time. It’s a chance to look forward to fantastic days with fantastic company. Shooting takes us to such special places we would likely not otherwise see and personally, I’m looking forward to introducing others to my sport over the course of the season. Throughout the season we should use every opportunity to highlight sporting shooting’s undeniable benefits to our health, conservation and to rural economies.”

Game shooting provides habitat and conservation management, delivers high-quality landscapes and provides tasty food.

More than 280,000 people work on shoots each year. The effort put into game management and pest control is equivalent to 7,800 full-time jobs and predator control contributes to reversing the declines seen in farmland birds.

A BASC infographic highlighting the benefits of game shooting can be found here. (PDF)


New consultations invite you to get involved in shaping 21st century Scottish environment regulations - Scottish Environment Protection Agency 

Everyone with an interest in Scotland’s environment, health & wellbeing, and economy is being encouraged to take part in important consultations that will shape the future of environmental regulation.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Scottish Government have published consultation documents for the next stages of the journey to an integrated authorisation framework - designed to bring real benefits to the environment, communities, businesses, and SEPA itself.

SEPA is currently consulting on three key areas:

  • A ‘Public Participation Statement’ - how SEPA will involve you in its decisions on environmental authorisations.
  • Guidance on who can hold an authorisation - ensuring only legitimate individuals and businesses that take their environmental responsibilities seriously are given an authorisation in the first place.
  • An Authorisation Guide setting out how the integrated authorisation framework will apply to the management of radioactive substances.

Everyone is encouraged to make their views known, whether you respond to all questions or only the areas you are most interested in.

The consultation is in two parts:

The integrated authorisation framework will bring together environmental authorisations relating to water, waste, radioactive substances and pollution prevention and control. The regulations will standardise, simplify and streamline the process for complying with environmental legislation in Scotland, providing clarity for businesses about the authorisations they need and what is required of them to comply - and a better understanding for communities about how we will regulate the sites they live beside. 


A stinging report: FSU research shows climate change a major threat to bumble bees - Florida State University

New research from a team of Florida State University scientists and their collaborators is helping to explain the link between a changing global climate and a dramatic decline in bumble bee populations worldwide.

In a study published Friday, Sept. 29, in the journal Ecology Letters, researchers examining three subalpine bumble bee species in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains found that, for some bumble bees, a changing climate means there just aren’t enough good flowers to go around. 

Bombus bifarius, one of the three species of bumble bees studied by researcher Jane Ogilvie and her team. (image: FSU)Bombus bifarius, one of the three species of bumble bees studied by researcher Jane Ogilvie and her team. (image: FSU)

The team analyzed the bees’ responses to direct and indirect climate change effects.

“Knowing whether climate variation most affects bumble bees directly or indirectly will allow us to better predict how bumble bee populations will cope with continued climate change,” said FSU postdoctoral researcher Jane Ogilvie, the study’s lead investigator. “We found that the abundances of all three bumble bee species were mostly affected by indirect effects of climate on flower distribution through a season.”

As the global climate changes gradually over time, delicately poised seasonal cycles begin to shift. In the Rocky Mountains, this means earlier snowmelts and an extended flowering season.

On the surface, these climatic changes may seem like a boon to bumble bees — a longer flowering season might suggest more opportunity for hungry bees to feed. However, Ogilvie and her collaborators found that as the snow melts earlier and the flowering season extends, the number of days with poor flower availability increases, resulting in overall food shortages that are associated with population decline.

Access the paper: Ogilvie, J. E., Griffin, S. R., Gezon, Z. J., Inouye, B. D., Underwood, N., Inouye, D. W. and Irwin, R. E. (2017), Interannual bumble bee abundance is driven by indirect climate effects on floral resource phenology. Ecol Lett. doi:10.1111/ele.12854 


New survey on street trees - Woodland Trust

Almost three-quarters of city people want access to greenspace or parkland within walking distance from their home, a new survey shows.

Seventy-eight per cent believe that trees are essential for relaxing and making them feeling happier. A similar percentage cited their importance for health and removing air pollution.

The survey (click through to see more results) was commissioned by the Woodland Trust and comes as it launches a nationwide 'neighbourhood watch scheme' for trees – to inspire city people to value and protect the natural wonders on their doorstep.

People are urged to join forces with their neighbours and apply for one of 500 Street Trees Celebration Starter Kits. They’ll get bunting, badges and funky wheelie-bin transfers to show their appreciation for their trees. The scheme was initially piloted with success in Wrexham, Leeds and Glasgow, with some exciting events already taking place.

Joseph Coles, Project Lead for Street Trees, said the scheme, which is funded by a £500K boost from players of  People’s Postcode Lottery, aims to rally people to look after threatened trees on their doorstep. A recent report showed Councils are felling more than 50 trees a day nationwide.

He said: “Street Trees face unprecedented threats. Be it climate change, tree disease, development or council budgets. However, they bring a huge array of benefits to people – from recreation to combating pollution. With 80 per cent of the UK’s people living in urban settlements, street trees are their main daily contact with nature. If we are to keep people connected with nature we need to preserve it on their doorsteps. 

More results from the survey.


Scientific Publications

Hauke Koch, Philip C. Stevenson Do linden trees kill bees? Reviewing the causes of bee deaths on silver linden (Tilia tomentosa) Biol. Lett. 2017 13 20170484; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2017.0484.


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

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