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


New environmental protections to deliver a Green Brexit – Defra

Environment Secretary Michael Gove announces plans to consult on a new, independent body for environmental standards

Plans to consult on a new, independent body that would hold Government to account for upholding environmental standards in England after we leave the European Union have been set out by Environment Secretary Michael Gove today (Sunday 12 Nov).

Image: DefraImage: Defra

Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to put the environment at the heart of policy making, while ensuring vital protections for our landscapes, wildlife and natural assets are not only maintained but enhanced.

To help deliver a Green Brexit, ministers will consult on a new independent, statutory body to advise and challenge government and potentially other public bodies on environmental legislation – stepping in when needed to hold these bodies to account and enforce standards.

A consultation on the specific powers and scope of the new body will be launched early next year.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said today: "We will deliver a Green Brexit, where environmental standards are not only maintained but enhanced. Today we are setting out our plans to ensure the powerful are held to account. We will consult on creating an independent body – encouraging transparency and preventing careless or irresponsible behaviour damaging our natural environment. We will consult as widely as possible on these proposals to ensure we get this important decision right for future generations."

Just the one response so far from CIEEM


Forecasts help predict future of UK birds – University of Exeter

Forecasts which predict how climate change will affect UK birds are improving, new research suggests.

Models have been developed in recent years to predict how the area where a bird species lives – known as its range – will change as the climate does.

The accuracy of these models had never been tested, but the new research by the University of Exeter and the University of Adelaide found they are working well.

The models would have correctly predicted changes to the range of sparrowhawks (University of Exeter)The models would have correctly predicted changes to the range of sparrowhawks (University of Exeter)

“Our findings are a real win for bird conservation in the UK and beyond,” said Dr Regan Early, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter.

“This is because we now have tools that not only better forecast climate-driven range movements, but can be used to target conservation management resources more effectively.”

Dr Early, who heads the Fundamental and Applied Biogeography research group, was part of a team of scientists who tested how accurately different types of ecological models predicted the contraction and expansion of the ranges of 20 UK bird species over the last 40 years.

They found that the latest generation of models, which directly account for important ecological responses to climate change, do much better at forecasting recent range shifts.


8,000 new trees to be planted this year in Sheffield – Sheffield City Council

The first trees have been planted to mark the start of  the city’s tree planting season.  The Lord Mayor, Councillor Anne Murphy attended the ceremony held in Burngreave.   Over 8, 000 large and small trees will be planted from now until March 2018.

Lord Mayor, Councillor Anne Murphy and Community Forestry Manager, Tim Shortland with scouts from the 76th Sheffield St Peter’s Ellesmere Scout Troop planting a large tree, opposite St Peter’s Church (Sheffield City Council)Lord Mayor, Councillor Anne Murphy and Community Forestry Manager, Tim Shortland with scouts from the 76th Sheffield St Peter’s Ellesmere Scout Troop planting a large tree, opposite St Peter’s Church (Sheffield City Council)

Scouts from the 76th Sheffield St Peter’s Ellesmere Scout Troop planted the first large tree,  known as a heavy standard,  in a small grassed area opposite St Peter’s Church.  Smaller trees were planted near to the scout headquarters on Grimesthorpe Road.

The bigger trees will be planted following requests from the public and to replace those removed from parks and green spaces due to health and safety issues.  Planting will take place across the city including Handsworth,  Stannington,  Richmond,  Shirecliffe,  Firth Park and Whirlow.

6, 800 smaller trees are being planted as part of an initiative to create new woodland and increase biodiversity.  All of the planting areas are designed so as to cause no shade to homes or gardens and improve drainage.

The mix of trees are species native to the UK and consist of oak, hazel, alder and cherry. The trees are young,  two to three years old,  so they can grow with the community around them.


The pros and cons of large ears – Lund University

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have compared how much energy bats use when flying, depending on whether they have large or small ears.

Photo: Anders HedenströmPhoto: Anders Hedenström

Large ears increase air resistance, meaning that long-eared bats are forced to expend more energy than species with small ears. On the plus side, large ears generate more lift and provide better hearing.

Good hearing is a prerequisite for bats’ ability to echolocate, i.e. sense the echo of the sound waves they emit in order to locate and home in on their prey.

The research results therefore show that large ears have both pros and cons. Christoffer Johansson Westheim, senior lecturer at Lund University, believes that evolution has made a compromise.

“The crux is being able to fly as efficiently as possible while also having optimal echolocation ability. Bats can’t be the best at both these things at the same time”, he says.


logo: in depthThis is our final article from this year's featured charity Plantlife.  We'll be introducing our new featured charity next month. 

Conservation - History in the making

Wild plants have suffered at our Greena Moor reserve, says Plantlife’s Reserves Manager Joe Costley. However, we all now have the chance to reverse their fortunes.

Plantlife’s only Cornish nature reserve, Greena Moor, is located within a remote and sparsely-populated region known to geographers as The Culm. Nestled between the more celebrated areas of Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin.

Culm grassland has always had a restricted distribution, being confined to north Devon and north Cornwall, with similar grassland types found only in south Wales, south-west Scotland, north-west France and a few other places. Yet it is also increasingly rare; a staggering 92% has been lost in the past 100 years, with 48% disappearing between 1984 and 1991 alone. Greena Moor is one of the largest surviving fragments of Culm grassland in Cornwall. Yet even here, historical evidence from the Early Bronze Age indicates that the reserve is now only a fraction of what was once a much more extensive area of open, heathy downland, of uninterrupted flower-rich pasture.

Read the article in full


Pioneering new trust proposed to protect Newcastle’s parks and allotments – Newcastle City Council

On 20 November, the Cabinet of Newcastle City Council will take a decision on pioneering and innovative plans to set up an independent charitable trust to run the city’s parks and allotments – protecting these green spaces for future generations.

Exhibition Park (Newcastle City Council)Responding to continuing cuts in Central Government funding for the Council over the last seven years (resulting in a 91% fall in the parks budget), the Cabinet discussion follows three years of planning and one of the Council’s biggest-ever programmes of public consultation.

Exhibition Park (Newcastle City Council)

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) provided a grant towards the development of the new proposals, which are also being supported by the National Trust.

The public consultation programme was also supported by Newcastle University’s Open Lab with a specialised online project and community workshops.

The Cabinet will now consider the creation of a new independent body, Newcastle Parks Charitable Trust, to take over responsibility for the city’s parks and allotments. Subject to Cabinet approval, a recruitment process to appoint a Chair and Board of Trustees to run the new Trust could begin in January. Following detailed planning and preparations, the Trust could assume responsibility for Newcastle’s parks and allotments by the end of 2018.

To demonstrate its commitment to the future of the city’s parks and allotments, the Council is considering making a £9.5 million revenue contribution to the proposed Trust over the first 10 years of its operation. This would enable the Trust to source new income streams not available to the Council; have a stronger focus on the future of parks and allotments in the city; achieve additional efficiency savings; and ring-fence and recycle income purely for the benefit of the parks and allotments.


People in cities want segregated space for cycling – Sustrans

Bike Life, the UK’s biggest assessment of cycling in cities, reveals four out of five people (78%) want more protected bike routes on roads built to make cycling safer, even when this could mean less space for other road traffic.

Image: SustransBike Life, produced by Sustrans and seven major UK cities, reveals that out of the 7,700 people surveyed over two-thirds (69%) say more cycling would make their city a better place to live and work. Most residents interviewed think that more space for cycling and walking or buses, as opposed to more space for cars, is the best way to keep their city moving, improve people’s health or air quality.

Image: Sustrans

Sixty four per cent would cycle more if on-road cycle routes physically separated from traffic and pedestrians were available. Even people who said they never ride a bike still overwhelmingly support the provision of segregated routes (74%), even when this could mean less space for other road traffic.

However, currently a total of just 19 miles of cycle routes on roads, physically separated from traffic and pedestrians exist in six of the seven cities (excluding Birmingham where no data is available).

Bike Life also found that people cycling in the seven cities take up to 111,564 cars off our roads each day. If these cars were lined up this would equate to a 333-mile tailback – a distance greater than from Cardiff to Newcastle.

Read the report here


Study offers detailed insight into early-life behaviour of grey seal pups at sea – Plymouth University

Scientists believe the insights provided could be important for the development of future protection of key habitat for these animals

Male and female grey seal pups show distinct behavioural differences as they learn to forage in the early stages of their independence, according to new research which scientists believe could be crucial to the future protection of their habitat.

The pups are abandoned by their mothers when they are just three weeks old, with many of them never having ventured into the sea, let alone sourced their own food.

In a critical period lasting around 40 days after going to sea, pups have to find regular sources of food and perfect their diving and prey-catching techniques before their energy stores run out.

Using data from tracking devices, scientists showed that female pups from Welsh colonies were more likely to dive in shallower water than their male counterparts, reaching the seabed more frequently and likely having greater feeding opportunities as a result.

Although adult male grey seals are much larger than females, there is no significant difference in body size at this age and scientists think the differences in behaviour of pups may be driven by underlying physiological processes that prepare them for adult life.

The study also presented data of young seals from Scotland, showing them heading across the North Sea as far as Norway, while individuals from West Wales travelled as far as the northern coast of France. Some of the seals remained at sea without retuning to land for up to two months during this early developmental phase.

The research was conducted by academics from the University of Plymouth, the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews and Abertay University, and is published in Scientific Reports.


International study on the impact of climate change on tree growth - Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Urban trees are growing faster worldwide

Trees in metropolitan areas have been growing faster than trees in rural areas worldwide since the 1960s. This has been confirmed for the first time by a study on the impact of the urban heat island effect on tree growth headed by the Technical University of Munich (TUM). The analysis conducted by the international research team also shows that the growth of urban trees has already been exposed to changing climatic conditions for a long period of time, which is only just beginning to happen for trees in rural areas.

For the study, samples of heartwood from trees in major cities such as here in Vietnam's capital Hanoi were taken and analyzed. (Photo: TUM)For the study, samples of heartwood from trees in major cities such as here in Vietnam's capital Hanoi were taken and analyzed. (Photo: TUM)

"While the effects of climate change on tree growth in forests have been extensively studied, there is little information available so far for urban trees", said Professor Hans Pretzsch from the Chair for Forest Growth and Yield Science at TUM. The study supported by the Bavarian State Ministry for Environment and Consumer Protection as well as by the Audi Foundation for the Environment, which was published in the journal 'Nature Scientific Reports', for the first time systematically examined the growth of urban trees worldwide for trends resulting from changing environmental conditions.
A central motivation for Professor Pretzsch’s team is the prevailing trend towards global urbanization: According to calculations by the United Nations, the urban population worldwide is expected to increase by more than 60 percent by 2030 – with a continuing upward trend. Urban trees already improve the climate in cities and contribute to the well-being and health of city dwellers, and these forecasts show that their significance for the quality of life in cities will increase even further in the future.

Access the paper: Pretzsch, H. et al (2017) Climate change accelerates growth of urban trees in metropolises worldwide, Nature Scientific Reports 11/2017. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-14831-w


Back from the Brink off to a tree-mendous start – RSPB

November 15 sees the official launch of one of one the most ambitious conservation programmes in England - Back from the Brink.

Project partners, volunteers and other distinguished guests are coming together in Windsor to celebrate the launch of the programme, which Image: RSPBaims to bring 20 species back from the brink of extinction. The project has been made possible thanks to £4.6m National Lottery funding, awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Image: RSPB

This is the first nationwide coordinated effort to bring a wide range of leading charities and conservation bodies together to save threatened species.

The National Lottery funding will also help a further 200 species that are under threat including the grey long-eared bat, pine marten, willow tit, lesser butterfly orchid and hedgehog.

Natural England chairman, Andrew Sells, said “This project is nothing short of a revolution in conservation. Never before have so many people pledged to work together to save so many of England’s individual plants and animals. It comes not a moment too soon for many important species and draws together a wide range of people and organisations. “We must thank the players of the National Lottery and our other supporters including the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and People’s Postcode Lottery, whose generosity has presented this great opportunity.”


Government creating gaping Brexit environmental legal loopholes warn charities – WWT

WWT and a major coalition of 28 environment and wildlife organisations are today warning that despite welcome commitments on environmental protections, the UK Government could still create loopholes in environmental law as part of the Brexit transition. This could have damaging consequences for the environment and animal welfare.

Image: WWTThe warning coincides with amendments being debated during ‘environment day’ (today Weds 15 Nov) in the Committee stage of the (EU) Withdrawal Bill. These amendments could help close these legal loopholes if they are backed by MPs.

Image: WWT

Environmental groups have warmly welcomed recent commitments to a strong new environmental regulator in England and to consult on retaining environmental principles. However, they are concerned that the UK Government has omitted vital EU legal principles, which protect our environment, from the current Withdrawal Bill. They are warning that unless the full range of environmental principles are underpinned with legislation, we are at risk of drastically weakened environmental legal protections which could have major repercussions.

Martin Spray CBE, Chief Executive of WWT, said: ‘The environmental integrity of decision-making could be compromised if MPs leave out these core green principles. But by integrating them properly in law and policy the UK could set a new global standard in environmentally-rational thinking. We welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement of a consultation and urge him to give the House confidence that any principles policy will have a strong foundation in law.’

Around 80% of our environmental law and policy is currently based on EU law. Standards jointly adopted with our European neighbours have enabled the UK to meet national and international environmental targets. So it is essential that these EU environmental and animal welfare protections are completely translated into domestic law as part of the EU Withdrawal Bill. The Withdrawal Bill does not currently set out a clear pathway for this, and the risk is that essential environmental protections will be lost if amendments to the Bill are not made.


Detailed detective work leads to rediscovery of rare snail - Buglife

Thanks to the dedication and hard work of volunteers and Buglife staff, Buglife Scotland’s HLF funded Marvellous Mud Snails project has rediscovered two populations of the rare Pond mud snail (Omphiscola glabra). One population in Falkirk had not been recorded in 100 years! A key component of this project is to reassess the known populations of the Pond mud snail and look through historical records to try and rediscover old populations.

The project was launched in April 2017 and is working to conserve this small freshwater snail. Things are now in full swing and the team are busy out talking to the people of Scotland about this once overlooked species and going into schools to teach pupils about this amazing little mollusc.

Surveys undertaken in 2005/6 looking for the Pond mud snail showed a 64% decline from historically recorded sites with current populations only found at fives sites in Scotland. However due to some of the historical records coming from 1917 it was worth further investigating the sites associated with these records. Due to volunteers and Buglife staffs detective skills and hours of research two populations previously thought lost have been rediscovered.


SNH and partners testing new ways to protect lambs from sea eagles - SNH

Trials are underway by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and its partners on how to reduce the impact of sea eagle predation on sheep farming.

Removing trees where sea eagles nest next to lambing areas and new scaring methods are two techniques being tested on a small number of 'monitor farms' in west coast locations. These methods are being trialled in places where other management measures, such as extra shepherding, have failed to prevent loss of livestock.

SNH granted a licence this week to Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) to fell two trees where sea eagles have nested previously. The trees are on the National Forest Estate, north of Oban, next to a farm where losses of lambs from sea eagle predation has been thoroughly investigated and demonstrated.

It’s hoped that removing nest trees will encourage birds away from areas where they’re feeding on lambs, as eagles can move nest locations when nests are destroyed by natural causes. The licence will only be granted for periods outside the breeding season to ensure that nesting birds aren’t disturbed. The effectiveness of these techniques, and the response of the sea eagles, is being closely monitored by SNH contractors.

New scaring techniques are another method being researched, including audio or light-based scaring methods.

If successful, these techniques could be used in the future as one of a range of options to protect livestock where impacts are thoroughly demonstrated.


Pesticides may cause bumblebees to lose their buzz, study finds – University of Stirling

Pesticides significantly reduce the number of pollen grains a bumblebee is able to collect, a new University of Stirling study has found.

Image: University of StirlingThe research, conducted by a team in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, found that field-realistic doses of a neonicotinoid pesticide affects the behaviour of bees – ultimately interfering with the type of vibrations they produce while collecting pollen.

Image: University of Stirling

Dr Penelope Whitehorn, the University of Stirling Research Fellow who led the research, said: “Our result is the first to demonstrate quantitative changes in the type of buzzes produced by bees exposed to field-realistic levels of neonicotinoid. We also show that buzz pollinating bees exposed to the pesticide also collect fewer pollen grains.”

Dr Whitehorn, working with Associate Professor Mario Vallejo-Marin, looked at a complex type of pollination, called buzz pollination, in which bees use vibrations to remove pollen from flowers. They studied captive colonies of bumblebees visiting buzz-pollinated flowers, monitoring their behaviour and collecting bee buzzes using microphones.

The scientists then analysed the acoustic signal produced during buzz pollination to detect changes in buzzing behaviour through time. They found that chronic exposure to the pesticide, at similar levels to those found in agricultural fields, interfered with the vibrations of the bees as they collected pollen which, in turn, reduced the amount of pollen collected.

Dr Whitehorn explained: “We found that control bees, who were not exposed to the pesticide, improved their pollen collection as they gained experience, which we interpreted as an ability to learn to buzz pollinate better. However, bees that came into contact with pesticide did not collect more pollen as they gained more experience, and by the end of the experiment collected between 47% and 56% less pollen compared to the control bees.” 


logo: In-DepthToday is World Falconry Day

Each year, on 16th November, associations and falconers worldwide, public and private entities and generally anyone interested in developing activities within the framework coordinated by the IAF, from largest number of countries, working with a common theme related to falconry. The first edition took place on November 16th, 2013, the third anniversary of the recognition of falconry by UNESCO. 2013 was also the tenth anniversary of the UNESCO ICH Convention.

Falconry is a wonderful world but not for the faint hearted!  Working with what are fundamentally wild birds and persuading them to do what you want them to is no easy task and every time you fly your bird there, at the back of your mind, is the thought, "please come back - don't disappear over the far horizon"!  There are no days off, days are long (up until the early hours tracking an errant bird) but varied and if it's your passion then there's nothing like it.

Find out more about working with birds of prey in this article from Jemima Parry-Jones MBE of the International Centre for Birds of Prey, her insightful straight forward honest article which will really make you think if it's the path for you.


Natural England has officially designated the Mid Cornwall Moors as a Site of Special Scientific Interest – Natural England

Rare species like the marsh fritillary butterfly and willow tit bird have been given a conservation boost today, with Natural England officially recognising the Mid Cornwall Moors as one of the country’s most important wildlife sites.

Following a four-month public consultation, Natural England has confirmed the designation of the Mid Cornwall Moors as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), giving the area legal protection for its important wildlife and habitats.

Goss Moor (image: Natural England)This brings certainty and purpose to conservation work in Mid Cornwall, where the rich mix of heathland, woodland, and wildflower meadows provides a vital sanctuary for wildlife.

Goss Moor (image: Natural England)

Wesley Smyth, manager of Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly team in Natural England, said:

This rich and diverse landscape of Mid Cornwall is home to an array of rare plants and insects, alongside one of the highest densities of willow tit breeding pairs in England.

That’s why we’ve designated this area as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, recognising its vital contribution to our natural heritage and helping its precious wildlife thrive for generations to come.

Natural England is working with landowners and local organisations, such as the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation, to create the perfect conditions for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly. With further help from the Eden Project and Highways England, swathes of devil’s-bit scabious – the main food plant for the marsh fritillary caterpillars – have been grown and planted alongside the A30 road corridor.


It’s official, white-clawed crayfish are back in the South West Peak! – Peak District National Park Authority

White Clawed Crayfish (image: Peak District NPA)While it may seem small to us the white-clawed crayfish is the UK’s largest native freshwater invertebrate and is an important component of our waterways. This often hidden and largely defenceless species is now globally endangered due to non-native competitors, disease and widespread habitat loss.

White Clawed Crayfish (image: Peak District NPA)

However, with funding from the Environment Agency, the Crayfish in Crisis project, part of the South West Peak Landscape Partnership, (supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund), is doing something about it. The goal of the project is to eventually re-establish permanent and stable populations in the South West Peak. The project team is surveying isolated headwaters in the Peak District to identify the best locations for white-clawed crayfish to call home. Once suitable new homes are found, then crayfish need to be sourced from so-called ‘donor’ populations which have good numbers of healthy native crayfish at present, but which may be at risk in the future.

One such example of a donor population is from the Forestry Commission’s Cannock Chase in Staffordshire. Nick Mott from Staffordshire Wildlife Trust has been working with the Forestry Commission and Staffordshire County Council at this site for the last few years. Here, there are good populations of native crayfish but sadly their time is limited due to ever-expanding populations of American signal crayfish nearby. Cannock Chase represents a good donor population to use for populating headwater streams.

James Stewart, Forestry Commission Wildlife Ranger said: “We have been working hard with Nick for several to years protect the crayfish and improve their habitat. It is great to have such a healthy population and be in a position to support an important project like this. The thought that our work could contribute to a new, safe population of native crayfish is something we are proud of.”


Man-made fibres and plastic found in the deepest living organisms – Newcastle University

Animals from six of the deepest places on Earth found to contain man-made fibres and plastic in their stomachs, scientists have shown.

A study, led by Newcastle University’s Dr Alan Jamieson, has uncovered evidence that not only have plastics now reached the deepest chasms of our oceans but they are being ingested by the animals that live there.

Revealing their findings today (15th November) as part of Sky Ocean Rescue - a campaign to raise awareness of how plastics and pollution are affecting our seas - the team tested samples of crustaceans found in the ultra-deep trenches that span the entire Pacific Ocean - the Mariana, Japan, Izu-Bonin, Peru-Chile, New Hebrides and Kermadec trenches.

These range from seven to over 10 kilometres deep, including the deepest point, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, at a staggering 10,890 metres deep.

Using state-of-the-art facilities at Newcastle University and Shimadzu UK Ltd in Milton Keynes, the team examined 90 individual animals and found ingestion of plastic ranged from 50% in the New Hebrides Trench to 100% at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The fragments identified include semi-synthetic cellulosic fibres, such as Rayon, Lyocell and Ramie, which are all microfibres used in products such as textiles, to Nylon, polyethylene, polyamide, or unidentified polyvinyls closely resembling polyvinyl alcohol or polyvinylchloride - PVA and PVC.

Research lead Dr Jamieson, said:

“We published a study earlier this year showing high levels of organic pollutants in the very deepest seas and lots of people asked us about the presence of plastics, so we decided to have a look.

“The results were both immediate and startling. This type of work requires a great deal of contamination control but there were instances where the fibres could actually be seen in the stomach contents as they were being removed.

“We felt we had to do this study given the unique access we have to some of the most remote places on earth, and we are using these samples to make a poignant statement about mankind’s legacy.


Asthma attacks reduced in tree-lined urban neighbourhoods – University of Exeter

People living in polluted urban areas are far less likely to be admitted to hospital with asthma when there are lots of trees in their neighbourhood, a study by the University of Exeter’s medical school has found.

Study into the impact of urban greenery on asthma (University of Exeter)Study into the impact of urban greenery on asthma (University of Exeter)

The study into the impact of urban greenery on asthma suggests that respiratory health can be improved by the expansion of tree cover in very polluted urban neighbourhoods.

The study, published in the journal Environment International, looked at more than 650,000 serious asthma attacks over a 15 year period. Emergency hospitalisations were compared across 26,000 urban neighbourhoods in England.

In the most polluted urban areas, trees had a particularly strong association with fewer emergency asthma cases. In relatively unpolluted urban neighbourhoods trees did not have the same impact.

In a typical urban area with a high level of background air pollution - for example, around 15 micrograms of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) per cubic metre, or a nitrogen dioxide concentration around 33 micrograms per cubic metre - an extra 300 trees per square kilometre was associated with around 50 fewer emergency asthma cases per 100,000 residents over the 15 year study period.  

The findings could have important implications for planning and public health policy, and suggest that tree planting could play a role in reducing the effects of air pollution from cars.  


Warmer water signals change for Scotland’s shags – Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

An increasingly catholic diet among European shags at one of Scotland’s best-studied breeding colonies has been linked to long-term climate change and may have important implications for Scotland’s seabirds, according to research led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

Shag in nest (Gary Howells)Shag in nest (Gary Howells)

Three decades of data from the Isle of May, off Scotland’s east coast, found that the proportion of sandeels – the bird’s usual fayre - declined by 48% between 1985 and 2014. Over the same period, the number of other fish prey in the diet increased, from an average of just one species per year in 1985 to eleven in 2014.

Crucially, the results, presented in the Marine Ecology Progress Series this week and produced in collaboration with researchers from the University of Liverpool, the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, show that the increase in diet diversity was linked to warming trends in Sea Surface Temperature, an indicator of climate change in the region.

The North Sea is one of the most rapidly warming marine ecosystems on the planet, and warmed by 0.037 degrees Celsius per year between 1982 and 2012. Lead author, Richard Howells, explained that the study, "ties in with many observations of changes in the abundance, distribution and phenology of many species in the North Sea, and a decline in the availability and size of sandeels.


One in ten historic coastal landfill sites in England are at risk of erosion – Queen Mary University of London

Coastal erosion may release waste from ten per cent of England's historic coastal landfills in the next forty years, according to research from Queen Mary University of London and the Environment Agency.
There are at least 1,215 historic coastal landfill sites in England, mostly clustered around estuaries with major cities, including Liverpool, London, and Newcastle on Tyne. An investigation by researchers, published today in WIREs Water (Thursday 16 Nov) finds that 122 sites are at risk of starting to erode into coastal waters by 2055 if not adequately protected.

Historically it was common practise to dispose of landfill waste in low-lying estuarine and coastal areas where land had limited value due to the risk of it flooding. Historic landfills are frequently unlined with no leachate management and inadequate records of the waste they contain, which means there is a very limited understanding of the environmental risk posed if the waste erodes into estuarine or coastal waters.


The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change – German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Leipzig. Forests fulfil numerous important functions, and do so particularly well if they are rich in different species of trees. This is the result of a new study. In addition, forest managers do not have to decide on the provision of solely one service – such as wood production or nature conservation – as a second study demonstrates: several services provided by forest ecosystems can be improved at the same time. Both Biodiverse autumn forest with Norway spruce, beech and birch trees. (Photo: Christian Hueller)studies were led by scientists from Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), and published in the prestigious journal Ecology Letters.

Biodiverse autumn forest with Norway spruce, beech and birch trees. (Photo: Christian Hueller)

Forests are of great importance to humans: the wood grown in forests is used in our houses for furniture, roof timbers and flooring; forests store carbon from the air and thus counteract climate change, they help prevent soil erosion and regulate the water cycle. Also when we go for a walk in a forest, we use it for recreation. The basis for these benefits are functions that constantly take place in a forest: the trees carry out photosynthesis, grow, produce offspring, defend themselves against hungry insects and deer, fight off pathogens and protect themselves against drought. Nutrients are taken up by the trees and are then released when the trees die and are decomposed.

A new study, led by researchers from Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), demonstrates that many of these ecosystem functions perform better in forests with a higher level of biodiversity, i.e., when forests are made up of multiple rather than just a single tree species. 


Red kites project puts the ‘our’ into RKites – RSPB

Red kites are one of our most stunning birds of prey and this year 20 territorial pairs have been recorded in Northern Ireland, with 13 pairs successfully fledging 28 chicks - the highest number on record.

image: RSPB

Image: RSPB

RKites, a new funded partnership project officially launched today (Thursday 16 Nov), will focus on a dedicated public engagement programme reaching out to 40 schools in counties Down and Armagh, young people and members of the public in communities where the red kites are present, as well as working alongside the Mourne Heritage Trust’s Youth Rangers programme. This work aims to ensure that the population of red kites in Northern Ireland thrives, flourishes and expands despite the many challenges that they face. 
The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, RSPB NI, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, with support from the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group and the Mourne Heritage Trust.
Next year will mark 10 years since the ground-breaking reintroduction of red kites in Northern Ireland, after they had been persecuted to extinction around 200 years ago.
Despite the growing numbers, we are still a long way from reaching a sustainable red kite population. Sadly in August of this year a young red kite was found dead after being shot near Moneyslane in County Down. 
The aim is to engage local people, especially young people, to become passionate about this majestic species and to raise awareness of the story of these remarkable raptors.


Scientific publications

Alcock, I. et al (2017) Land cover and air pollution are associated with asthma hospitalisations: A cross-sectional study. Environment International. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2017.08.009


Wilson, R. P. et al (2017) Long necks enhance and constrain foraging capacity in aquatic vertebrates. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2072 


Germain, R., Schuster, R., Tarwater, C. E., Hochachka, W. M. & Arcese, P. (2017) Adult survival and reproductive rate are linked to habitat preference in territorial, year-round resident Song Sparrows Melospiza melodia. IBIS. DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12557


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