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


Research shows how environment plays key role in changing movement behaviour of animals - University of Leicester

University of Leicester mathematicians develop theory which helps to unravel long-standing mysteries of animal movement

  • Theory explains how animals such as bats, insects and birds adjust movement behaviour based on environment
  • Environmental cues which could change animal movement include seeking out food, avoiding predators and locating mating partners

Animals have to continuously exert force to overcome environmental drag and friction and adapt behaviour accordingly

Mathematicians from the University of Leicester have developed a theory which explains how small animals, such as bats, insects and birds, adjust their movement behaviour based on cues within their environment.

In a paper published in Scientific Reports, the researchers propose a unified theory of animal movement that relates the movement pattern to an animal’s biological traits such as its mass and body shape and to the properties of the environment.

The theory shows how different movement patterns may arise naturally from the interplay between an animal’s force, the environmental drag, and an animal’s behavioural response to the environmental cues. The cues include information about an animal’s movement environment, in particular the information about the location of food sources, predators and mating partners.

The theory works best for small animals such as insects, small fish and small birds.

The study, which is funded by The Royal Society, makes an important step to understanding animal movement behaviour and could help to provide answers to issues such as management of biological invasion, control of epidemics spread, and protection of endangered species.

Access the paper:  Paulo F. C. Tilles, Sergei V. Petrovskii & Paulo L. Natti.  A random acceleration model of individual animal movement allowing for diffusive, superdiffusive, and superballistic regimes. Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-14511-9


TCV’s Green Gym is to be featured in a new study commissioned by BBC2’s Trust Me I'm A Doctor.- TCV

We are delighted that TCV’s Green Gym was selected to take part in the BBC2 programme, Trust Me I’m a Doctor’s new study into the effects of different activities on stress levels. This follows a survey by the BBC team which found that “how to beat stress” was people’s top mental health question.

The BBC commissioned this study, undertaken by the University of Westminster, to monitor changes to the level of the stress hormone cortisol in separate groups of participants taking part in Green Gym, Yoga and Mindfulness against a control group. The University will be writing up a full report on this study which is planned to be published in a peer reviewed journal.

The BBC chose TCV’s Green Gym due to our success in connecting people with the outdoor environment to improve health and wellbeing and tackle social isolation.

The University study showed that Green Gym participants reported higher levels of well-being and lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

Green Gym participants showed the greatest reduction in anxiety of all the groups when assessed by a validated questionnaire.

Importantly the Green Gym sessions were also appreciated by the participants, particularly the social aspect, they enjoyed meeting friendly like-minded people who cared about each other and the local environment. Participants also mentioned a great sense of achievement at the end of each session knowing that they had improved a place to benefit wildlife and to be enjoyed by the local community.


Stormy weather leads to influx of seal pups at RSPCA wildlife centre - RSPCA

Recent stormy weather has led to an influx of seal pups at an RSPCA wildlife centre in Cheshire.

There are currently 10 seals at Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, in Nantwich, who have been admitted after becoming stranded on beaches and separated from their mums due to high winds. It is the largest number of seals the centre has had at any one time.​

A diet of fish soup is being fed to them at least three times a day to help them gain weight. It is hoped that all of the seals will be released back into the wild, however it can take many months – sometimes as many as five – before they are well enough to be released.

Lee Stewart, manager at Stapeley Grange, said: “When seal pups arrive they are unable to feed for themselves and have to be tube-fed. The 10 seal pups in our care were all initially tube-fed a ‘rehydrate’ solution and then later moved across to their liquidised fish soup. After some time in care we will then try them on whole fish which can be quite a time-consuming process. They are initially tube-fed until they work out what they need to do. Once they are taking fish it’s then plain sailing with regards their care, as soon after they will be taking fish by themselves. We always worry for young seal pups at this time of year when the weather is bad because they are so vulnerable and can become separated from their mothers, as has happened with most of our seals. The storms cause real problems for the seal colonies.”

The RSPCA advises that if members of the public spot a seal on a beach that they observe them from a distance and do not approach them. Seals are wild animals and have a nasty bite. It is also advised they keep dogs on leads on beaches that have seal colonies too.​

If you see a pup whose mother hasn’t returned within 24 hours, is on a busy public beach, or if you think the seal may be sick or injured, please call the RSPCA’s 24-hour advice and cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.


Very rare ‘strangler’ fungus discovered…just in time for Halloween – National Trust

An extremely rare fungus with a lethal survival technique and eerie name has been discovered on our land – the Powdercap Strangler.

The Powdercap Strangler is a parasitic fungus that grows by body-snatching another grassland fungus.

Visitors taking part in an organised foraging hunt at Clumber Park made the unsettling discovery of the two-coloured toadstool, caused by the strangler infecting and eventually overcoming, its host.

Dr Gareth Griffith, Reader in Mycology at Aberystwyth University, said, ‘The Powdercap Strangler (Squamanita paradoxa) is an intriguing fungus. Rather like the monster in the film ‘Alien' it takes over the body of its host (Cystoderma amianthinum) and its mushroom erupts in place of the host's mushroom. This is a really exciting find.’


National Lottery support to transform the birthplace of conservation - Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

A £4.1m National Lottery grant has been awarded to WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire, in a three-year project that will pay tribute to founder, Sir Peter Scott in a range of developments aimed at creating inspirational wildlife experiences.

Described as “the patron saint of conservation” by Sir David Attenborough, Scott’s pioneering instinct led to the inception of the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust (WWT) in 1946 at Slimbridge, not only as a centre for science and conservation but also, unusual for the time, opening its doors to the public. Scott was particularly enthusiastic about giving anyone and everyone the opportunity to get close to nature and, in turn, inspire them to take action to protect it. For this reason, Slimbridge is often referred to as the birthplace of modern conservation.

WWT Slimbridge development plans (image: WWT)WWT Slimbridge development plans (image: WWT)

The team at Slimbridge are looking to continue Scott’s legacy through a range of ground-breaking experiences that show how Scott’s work continues to influence modern conservation globally.

In addition to the celebration of conservation history, WWT is planning a ground-breaking multi-level, fully wheelchair accessible bird hide with open rooftop terrace. The tower hide will offer visitors spectacular access to thousands of waders and geese as well as breath-taking views of the River Severn. Seasonal walkways, viewing platforms and hides are being added to allow access right out to the edge of the estuary itself.

At the centre of the site, a walk-through aviary will allow visitors to experience a range of British wetlands and get up close to wetland species normally too secretive to spot.  Attached to the aviary, a Living Wetland Theatre will offer the perfect open-air venue for live demonstrations and activities. Elsewhere are interactive exhibits celebrating the close relationship between people and wetlands, telling the story of WWT’s pioneering conservation work, and conveying what it is like to be an intrepid conservationist carrying out work in the arctic tundra.

To keep up-to-date with developments, interested parties can keep an eye on the Slimbridge 2020 microsite at slimbridge2020.wwt.org.uk and find out more about what’s going on at WWT Slimbridge here.


Natural flood management – part of the nation’s flood resilience - Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has published data, case studies and evidence about the role of natural flood management in reducing flood risk.

Holnicote, Somerset - National TrustHolnicote, Somerset - National Trust

The Environment Agency has today (31 October) published data, case studies and evidence about the role of natural flood management in reducing flood risk. Working with natural processes to reduce flood risk is not a new concept but this is the first time that all the evidence has been brought together, with the intention of enabling more uptake.

‘The evidence behind natural flood management’ contains more than 60 case studies from across England and explores how successful the approach is, how it could be used elsewhere and what research may still be needed. 

Natural flood management is when natural processes are used to reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion. Examples include: restoring bends in rivers, changing the way land is managed so soil can absorb more water and creating saltmarshes on the coast to absorb wave energy.  Natural flood management works best when a ‘catchment based approach’ is taken, where a plan is developed to manage the flow of water along the whole length of a river catchment from its source to sea. This way, natural processes can be used upstream and on the coast to compliment engineered flood defences – such as walls and weirs – in populated areas.  Natural flood management not only reduces flood risk it can also achieve multiple benefits for people and wildlife, helping restore habitats, improve water quality and helping make catchments more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The Working with natural processes to reduce flood risk reports can be found here


Red squirrels travel on Cumbria cycle route - Sustrans

A group of red squirrels has been spotted using an off-road section of the popular long distance Sea to Sea (C2C) path which we maintain.

Our volunteers regularly see four red squirrels (one female and three males) at a feeding and monitoring station in Seaton to Broughton moor section, on the former iron ore railway line. They were a few miles away from their local stronghold in Broughton, which the team says is a clear sign the animals are using the linear path to travel between feeding grounds. 

A regular visitor to our Sea to Sea , a male red squirrel with a blonde tail. (Photo credit: Mike Mossop/West Lake Squirrel Initiative)A regular visitor to our Sea to Sea , a male red squirrel with a blonde tail. (Photo credit: Mike Mossop/West Lake Squirrel Initiative)  

We work with the West Lakes Red Squirrel Initiative, which monitors the feeder and sitings, and reports to a red squirrel data base across the North.

Sustrans Project Officer Nikki Wingfield said: “This is clear evidence that red squirrels are using the cycle and walking route to move away from their stronghold in Broughton. It is exciting as it means the path is acting as an important highway to link up isolated squirrel habitats. In the past we’d had reports that there were red squirrels on the cycle path and it’s brilliant we can now confirm that we are actively part of protecting red squirrels across the whole of the north of England. We really need to help protect red squirrels from the greys in this area so if you do spot a grey squirrel in this area please contact the West Lakes Squirrel Initiative.”


Report reveals continued persecution of birds of prey in UK - RSPB

Without urgent action some of UK’s birds of prey face a bleak future after the latest Birdcrime report revealed a minimum of 81 confirmed incidents of illegal raptor persecution in 2016, without a single person prosecuted.

Birdcrime 2016 – the only report summarising offences against birds of prey in the UK – revealed 40 shooting, 22 poisoning, 15 trapping and four other incidents of illegal persecution against raptors. Among the victims were hen harriers, peregrine falcons, red kites and buzzards. However, evidence suggests these figures are just the tip of the iceberg with many illegal killings going undetected or unreported.

The report also revealed close to two-thirds (53) of the confirmed incidents took place in England, with particular concern for raptors in North Yorkshire. Over the last five years the county recorded the highest number of confirmed bird of prey persecution incidents in the UK, with 54 incidents since 2012 and 19 last year alone. 

The problem wasn’t confined to England, with the report highlighting confirmed case in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where there is growing concern over the repeated suspicious disappearance of satellite tagged birds of prey. This year, a study by Scottish Government examined the fate of 131 golden eagles fitted with satellite tags between 2004-16 concluding that ‘as many as 41 (one third) disappeared, presumably died, under suspicious circumstances connected with records of illegal persecution.’

Increasingly, people in the UK are being robbed of the chance to see these spectacular birds because of these illegal incidents, yet in 2016, there wasn’t a single prosecution arising from a confirmed incident, the first time this has happened in 30 years.

For the full copy of Birdcrime 2016 report summarising the extent of illegal persecution offences against birds of prey in the UK, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdcrime


NGO Responds to RSPB Bird Crime 2016 Report - National Gamekeepers Organisation

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has made the following statement in response to today’s (1 November 2017) publication by the RSPB of Birdcrime 2016 – A focus on raptor persecution in the UK.

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation said: "The NGO is an active member of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, and it is well known that the NGO stands for gamekeeping within the law. It is also well known that the NGO believes in cultivating dialogue among stakeholders involved in rural issues. We sincerely wish therefore that the RSPB would take a leaf out of our book in working to promote consensus and, rather than seeking to demonise the many in game management that uphold the law, the RSPB should join with us in working to alienate the very few that operate outside it.

"To this end, it is disappointing that the RSPB persists in publishing its own uncorroborated figures on raptor persecution when they are signed up, alongside ourselves, to a formal protocol for publishing verified police data. The RSPB should be working with the rest of us to drive down all wildlife crime, not promoting their own agenda.”


BASC chairman calls for “honesty” in raptor debate - British Association for Shooting and Conservation

BASC chairman Peter Glenser has called for “plain and open” dialogue between all sides of the raptor debate.

Following an article in today’s (2/11) Times newspaper in which BASC’s acting chief executive Christopher Graffius highlighted the damage to shooting from the illegal killing of birds, Mr Glenser has spoken of the need for “honesty” if sustained change is to take place.  


Scientists join forces with farmers, communities and local authorities in major flood mitigation research project – University of Reading

Choosing different crops, building soil organic matter and planting more trees could allow farmers to reduce the risk of nearby rivers from bursting their banks miles downstream, according to an innovative new research project.

Making changes to land management could help reduce river flooding (image: University of Reading)Researchers in a collaborative project led by the University of Reading will work with farmers, advisors, communities and local authorities across the West Thames area to learn how different land management methods impact on flood risk.

Making changes to land management could help reduce river flooding (image: University of Reading)

The LANDWISE (LAND management in loWland catchments for Integrated flood riSk rEduction) proposal was one of only three to be backed with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)’s £4.1m Understanding the Effectiveness of Natural Flood Management (NFM) program, and will receive £1.25m.

A lot of attention recently has been given to ‘slowing the flow’ within river channels using wood to create leaky barriers. LANDWISE aims to look at the wider landscape and investigate ways to reduce the volume of water entering river channels in the first place, and to ‘slow the flow’ by enabling water to move slowly below the ground surface. This can be done by increasing the amount of water that can be absorbed by soil and returned to atmosphere through crops and trees, or stored in deep groundwater.

These more natural methods, including crop choice, land preparation, building soil organic matter and tree-planting, can reduce the amount of water that runs off the land surface. They improve soil structure to allow more rainwater to infiltrate below ground.

Dr Joanna Clark, Associate Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Reading, and project lead, said: “If you think about the land surface as a bucket, then these different land use and management methods can help us to increase the size of that bucket and help to empty it so that it can hold more water when it rains again. This is about making small changes over the large catchment area as a whole, rather than large changes in small areas where flooding occurs.


Turning the tide: National Lottery helping to conserve our rivers, coasts and marine heritage - Heritage Lottery Fund

Eight landscape-scale projects in line to benefit from £20million investment.

Binevenagh and the Coastal Lowlands in Northern Ireland (image: Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust via HLF)Binevenagh and the Coastal Lowlands in Northern Ireland (image: Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust via HLF) 

Water and our connection to it has shaped the UK’s island heritage over centuries. From landform to trade, and intrinsic beauty to the devastating effects of flooding, many schemes in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are in line for £19.7m of National Lottery funding to improve understanding and management of this precious resource.

A number of the Landscape Partnership schemes will work with local, regional and national partners to promote a catchment approach to water management by engaging people, communities and landowners to improve water management in the long term.  Many schemes awarded funding also focus on using nature and heritage to provide opportunities for communities within post-industrial landscapes, from new skills training and educational opportunities, to boosting tourism and local business promoting heritage-led regeneration.

Drew Bennellick, HLF Head of Landscape and Natural Heritage, said: “Across the UK people are increasingly realising that nature is in trouble and it’s time to take a more proactive approach. Schemes like these provide a creative solution to helping people reconnect with landscapes and the environment, to implement solutions at a truly landscape-scale and tackle issues such as soil loss and flooding by supporting partnerships and coalitions of the willing.”

The eight areas given initial support stretch from Ayrshire to Somerset.  Highlighting the range of the UK’s natural heritage - from a World Heritage Site to HLF’s first marine-based LP project


Increases in rats, bedbugs and mosquitoes are unintended consequence of urbanization - University of Toronto expert

The recent uproar about seats on a British Airways flight crawling with bedbugs is only one of the unintended consequences that urbanization worldwide has on evolution, says a University of Toronto researcher whose new study takes a comprehensive look at those consequences.

“As we build cities, we have little understanding of how they are influencing organisms that live there,” says Marc Johnson, an associate professor of biology at University of Toronto Mississauga who is also a director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Urban Environments.  “It’s good news that some organisms are able to adapt, such as native species that have important ecological functions in the environment. But it can also be bad news that the ability of some of these organisms to adapt to our cities might increase the transmission of disease. Bedbugs, for example, were scarce two decades ago, but they’ve adapted to the insecticides used to keep them at bay and have exploded in abundance worldwide.”

In the first study to take a broad look at the way urbanization is affecting evolution, Johnson and Jason Munshi-South reviewed all existing research studies about urbanization and evolution and synthesized the results.  

“Traditionally, we’ve thought about evolution as a long-term process driven by environmental pressures and the interactions between species. But now there is a new driver that is rapidly changing many other species, which is how they interact with humans and our built environment," says Munshi-South. “Humans and our cities are one of the most dominant forces of contemporary evolution now.” 

The study raises questions about which native species can persist during urbanization and whether those that adapt will influence the health of ecosystems and human beings. Loss of habitat and urban barriers, such as roads and buildings, pose challenges to all kinds of species and some may adapt in undesirable ways. The researchers assessed various means of genetic adaptation, such as mutation, the movement of genes through dispersal, neutral evolution and adaptive evolution through Darwinian natural selection, concluding that the urban environment has an impact on each of these mechanisms of evolution. 

Access the paper: Marc T. J. Johnson, Jason Munshi-South. Evolution of life in urban environments. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aam8327


Rangers undertake mass litter pick at Breydon Water - Broads Authority

Litter picks along the waterways of the Broads National Park are a daily task for Broads Authority Rangers. Aside from removing unsightly litter that spoils the landscape, the work is essential for maintaining the navigation and protecting the Broads’ flora and fauna from potentially harmful waste.

Broads Authority rangers litter pickAs a result of low tides and shallow mud flats, litter picks are particularly difficult to complete at Breydon Water near Great Yarmouth. Litter can build up to considerable levels as it becomes stuck in the inaccessible mud, and can only be removed when high tide levels are present.

(image: Broads Authority)

Due to the very high tides recently experienced, a team of Broads Authority Rangers were able to conduct a mass litter pick on Monday 30 October. The pick was highly successful, with over 50 bin bags of rubbish and a skip full of driftwood removed from the edge of the water. Other than masses of plastic bags, bottles and hypodermic needles, a number of more surprising items were removed; including a television, children’s car seat, multiple traffic cones and even a children’s toy castle.


Scientific Publications 

Katarzyna Turzańska-Pietras Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus breeding in a House Martin Delichon urbicum nest  Bird Study doi: 10.1080/00063657.2017.1385592


Filip Harabiš, Aleš Dolný, Military training areas as refuges for threatened dragonfly species: Effect of spatial isolation and military activity, Biological Conservation, ISSN 0006-3207, doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.10.021.


Montambault, J. R., Dormer, M., Campbell, J., Rana, N., Gottlieb, S., Legge, J., Davis, D. and Chakaki, M., Social equity and urban nature conservation. Conservation Letters. doi:10.1111/conl.12423


Tom Finch, Nina O'Hanlon, Steve P. Dudley Tweeting birds: online mentions predict future citations in ornithology R. Soc. open sci. 2017 4 171371; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.171371.


Planillo, A., Mata, C., Manica, A. and Malo, J. E. (2017), Carnivore abundance near motorways related to prey and roadkills. Jour. Wild. Mgmt.. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21384


Christian Kerbiriou, Clémentine Azam, Julien Touroult, Julie Marmet, Jean-François Julien, Vincent Pellissier, Common bats are more abundant within Natura 2000 areas, Biological Conservation, doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.10.029.


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