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


News from over the Christmas break


Government news, announcements and policy plus reaction 

Farming for the next generation - defra

Secretary of State Michael Gove sets out his vision on the future of our farming industry at the Oxford Farming Conference 2018

Full text of his speech. 


Responses from Campaign for National Parks, CPRE, Ramblers, Dorset Wildlife Trust, NFU, Confor 

Campaign for National Parks hopeful over proposals for future of environmental payments - Campaign for National Parks

Campaign for National Parks is hopeful that today’s announcement from the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, that future payments of public money to farmers, will incentivise environmentally friendly practices and usher in positive enhancements for National Parks in England.

In his comments at the Oxford Real Farming Conference today (4 January) (ORFC), which reflected his speech to the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC), Mr Gove argued that the current Basic Payment Scheme was unjust and inefficient and should be relaxed with funding that rewarded land managers who were working hard to enhance our natural environment.

Campaign for National Parks supports the shift towards the use of public money to reward the delivery of public goods. Mr Gove also recognised the important role that upland farmers have played in keeping rural communities alive. Campaign for National Parks believes the upland landscapes in our National Parks provide a significant contribution to the economy and in shaping England’s iconic landscapes. However, current management practices fall short in delivering the full spectrum of public benefits that these areas can deliver.

Fiona Howie, chief executive of Campaign for National Parks said “The current system has largely failed to deliver the environmental improvements our National Parks desperately need. We have been consistently calling for a payments system based on the provision of public money for public goods, so we welcome Mr Gove’s intention to develop such an approach.  We want to see a new system that supports farmers and land managers to protect and enhance our National Parks. It must enable these beautiful areas to be more resilient to climate change and deliver a wide range of public benefits, including more wildlife, better protected cultural heritage, high quality landscapes and even more appropriate, recreational opportunities."  


CPRE comment on post-Brexit agriculture subsidies - CPRE

CPRE welcomes Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s announcement today (4 January) that the current subsidy regime for farmers, in which most payments are related to the amount of land owned, will be replaced by a scheme focused on public benefits and enhancing the countryside.

CPRE made the case for this in our 2016 report New Model Farming.

Belinda Gordon, Head of Rural Policy at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: “It is great to hear Michael Gove commit to putting his money where his mouth is and redirecting public money to public benefits. If designed well the new scheme should help enhance the landscapes and countryside from which we know Michael Gove, as well as the rest of us, derives so much pleasure and inspiration. We particularly welcome his recognition of the need to support smaller farms for the vital role they play in rural areas and in maintaining the diversity of our landscapes. The devil will be in detail so CPRE looks forward to working with Defra to develop a policy that will enhance our landscapes and stem the loss of farms from the countryside.”


Public access is a public good - Ramblers

Today (4/1/18) we welcomed the recognition by Environment Secretary - Michael Gove - of the need to invest in public access for the public good post-Brexit, as part of the reform of agricultural payments. 

We hope that the Government ensures that new legislation also enforces current landowner responsibilities to maintain access to existing footpaths. Landowners who are recipients of public money must demonstrate their compliance with their existing legal obligations relating to path maintenance, to be eligible for payments from the public purse.


"Simon says" - The future of farming and wildlife - "We stand on the cusp of a revolution" - Dorset Wildlife Trust blog by Chief Executive Simon Cripps


Confor welcomes Gove's fresh approach - Confor

Stuart Goodall has reacted to Michael Gove's speech to the Oxford Farming Conference on post-Brexit support for the UK's rural areas.

Confor's Chief Executive said: “Confor welcomes Michael Gove’s confirmation that, post-Brexit, we can do things differently, and more sustainably, in our rural areas. There is scope for our land to deliver more for society and for the environment, and Mr Gove’s speech recognised that, with specific mention of planting more trees as part of a new direction - away from the Common Agricultural Policy and towards a broader natural capital approach.  There is scope for all to benefit from a new way of working - farmers, foresters, local communities and wider society. Following the publication of its Common Countryside Policy paper, Confor will continue to contribute constructively to that debate and looks forward to the Command Paper on our rural future promised in the spring. It is heartening to see that Mr Gove also recognises the need to reduce the unnecessary complexity of grant applications. Confor is working closely with the Defra team in this area and has already seen some positive changes.


NFU welcomes commitment to British farming from Secretary of State - National Farmers Union

The NFU has welcomed a commitment to a national food policy and recognition from the Secretary of State that food production is ‘at the heart of all farming businesses’, announced at Oxford Farming Conference today (4 January).

The NFU has also welcomed a pledge for Defra to champion high-quality British food at home and abroad. 

NFU President Meurig Raymond said that Michael Gove’s speech was a positive signal for the farming industry.

Mr Raymond said: "I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State talking about the need to invest in technology, skills and rural resilience - all of which he says are public goods. Michael Gove also spoke about the importance of delivering benefits for the environment, something that farmers already advocate and perform highly on. Mr Gove was absolutely right to recognise the vital contribution that uplands farmers have in maintaining their iconic landscape. Without the productive, resilient and profitable farm businesses across the country, we will not have the people to look after the natural environment. 


Linked but not in direct response:

Call for Government to support nature friendly farming policies post-Brexit - National Trust

A group of more than 100 farmers with a new vision for the future of British agriculture is launching the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) on Friday 5 January 2018, at the Real Farming Conference in Oxford.

The independent organisation is calling on the UK and devolved governments to create a post-Brexit framework that will help farmers restore British wildlife, reverse declines in soil quality and help manage the impacts of climate change, at the same time as growing affordable, healthy food.

Leaving the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) necessitates a new approach to British farming policy. The NFFN believes the UK should use this opportunity to help farmers across the UK transition towards a nature friendly future. 

Thousands of British farmers already use nature friendly farming practices, but NFFN says that the scale of the decline in wildlife and soil quality and the challenges presented by climate change mean that this work needs to be scaled up rapidly with strong policy support.

The NFFN aims to provide a political voice for the thousands of farmers who are committed to managing their land for wildlife and public service, as well as growing and providing food.

Farmers can join the NFFN by visiting www.nffn.org.uk, to read the high level policy ask click here.


Also: Welcome to the Nature Friendly Farming Network writes Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director on his RSPB Community blog


MPs call for "latte levy" on coffee cups - Environmental Audit Committee, UK Parliament

The Environmental Audit Committee calls on the Government to introduce a 25p latte levy on disposable coffee cups and for all coffee cups to be recycled by 2023. The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups

Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Mary Creagh MP, said: "The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year; enough to circle the planet five and a half times. Almost none are recycled and half a million a day are littered. Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and Government has sat on its hands.  The UK’s coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick start a revolution in recycling. We’re calling for action to reduce the number of single use cups, promote reusable cups over disposable cups and to recycle all coffee cups by 2023."

The Committee has called on the Government to:

  • Introduce a 25p “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups, and use the money raised to improve the UK’s recycling ‘binfrastructure’ and reprocessing facilities.
  • Set a target that all disposable coffee cups should be recycled by 2023. If this target is not achieved, the Government should ban disposable coffee cups.
  • Make producers pay more for packaging which is difficult to recycle.
  • Improve labelling to educate consumers about how best to dispose of their cup.

Access the documentation:

Read the interactive report summary

Read the report summary

Read the conclusions and recommendations

Read the full report: Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups


Response: CPRE welcomes coffee cup recommendations  

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) welcomes today’s (5/1/18) clear recommendation from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) that the UK Government should continue to use economic measures to reduce packaging and increase recycling.

The EAC is recommending a 25p charge on disposable coffee cups in its new report, Disposable packaging: Coffee Cups, the second report following its major inquiry into packaging.

CPRE is very pleased with the depth of the inquiry and the strength of the measures that the EAC has recommended. CPRE have long campaigned for financial incentives, such as charges and deposits, to encourage recycling and the reduction of litter and waste. As the success of the 5p charge for single-use plastic bags demonstrates, these are often the most effective way to achieve large-scale changes in behaviour quickly.

Another vital recommendation from the EAC is that packaging producers should be made financially responsible for the packaging they produce. Currently, packaging producers only pay for 10% of the cost of packaging disposal and recycling, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for the remaining 90%. The EAC urges the Government to adopt a fee structure that rewards producers who design recyclable packaging and increase charges on packaging that is difficult to recycle


More frequent cattle testing to boost fight against bovine TB - defra

Grants for badger vaccination schemes and six-monthly testing in high risk areas will help to prevent disease and catch it more quickly.  

Bovine TB will be caught and stamped out more quickly in England’s cattle herds under plans to strengthen testing in the highest-risk areas of the country.

Six monthly routine tests will be introduced for all herds in the High Risk Area – mainly the South West and parts of the Midlands – with annual tests preserved for herds that have gone five or more years without disease, and farms accredited under the Cattle Herd Certification Standards (CHeCS) scheme, requiring tougher biosecurity measures to be observed.

Grants to vaccinate badgers in the Edge Area of the country – the ‘buffer’ between the High Risk and Low Risk Areas – are also available now for schemes to run next year.

These moves are part of the government’s comprehensive 25-year plan to eradicate bovine TB in England and come as recent peer-reviewed research shows badger control in Gloucestershire (58%) and Somerset (21%) – where culling began in 2013 – has contributed to significant reductions in the disease in herds.

Results published today (21/12/17) also confirm that all 19 licensed intensive badger control operations achieved the badger population reductions needed to realise disease control benefits.


Bovine TB: Chief Veterinary Officer’s advice on the outcome of the 2017 badger culls - defra policy paper

Chief Veterinary Officer’s advice on the outcome the badger culls in parts of England in 2017.

Download: Chief Veterinary Officer’s advice on the outcome of the 2017 badger culls (PDF) 


Response: Trust appalled that 20,000 badgers culled in 2017 - Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is appalled that almost 20,000 badgers have been culled this year. 

Badgers, (photo: Elliott Neep , via Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)Badgers, (photo: Elliott Neep , via Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

The shocking number was announced earlier today by the BBC. The animals were culled in 19 counties including Cheshire, each badger sadly killed as part of the Government plan to control the spread of bovine TB.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the Wildlife Trusts across the UK are strongly opposed to the badger cull. Killing badgers can lead to increasing the spread of bovine TB.

Jo Smith, Chief Executive at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said “With figures like this being released, now more than ever we need to look at more effective and ethical ways of controlling bovine TB. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has been leading the way for 5 years with a hugely successful badger vaccination programme and we will continue to vaccinate Derbyshire’s badgers and prove that vaccinating is more humane and less costly to the UK Tax Payer than the cull. The Trust remains steadfast that the focus for eliminating the disease should be on cattle and their movements across the country. A vaccine for cattle remains a top priority and we continue to call for the cull to end.”

Whilst the cull figures are not welcomed, the Trust is pleased to hear that DEFRA are making grants available once again to vaccinate badgers against bovine TB in 2018.  A fund worth £700,000 is becoming available in the New Year for organisations who want to vaccinate badgers. Under this scheme the Government will provide 50% of the funds that are spent on vaccinating badgers. 

Wildlife news


Quarter of a billion flame shells find lights up Marine Protected Area - Scottish Natural Heritage

The world’s largest known colony of a brilliant but shy species of shellfish has been discovered in a west coast Marine Protected Area (MPA).

An eye-watering quarter of a billion flame shells have been found living in nests which have merged to form a huge 185 hectare bed at the bottom of Loch Carron. Flame shells are small bivalve molluscs with fiery orange tentacles. Flame shells spend most of their lives completely hidden away inside nests, built from old shells, stones and other materials around them and bound together with thin wiry threads.

A flame shell on a shallow water maerl bed in outer Loch Carron (image: SNH)A flame shell on a shallow water maerl bed in outer Loch Carron (image: SNH)

The discovery was made during a joint Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Marine Scotland (MS) and Heriot-Watt University (HWU) survey to learn more about habitats in Loch Carron. The latest find further highlights the global importance of Scotland for the species, following on from a 2012 discovery in Loch Alsh of a colony of more than 100 million flame shells.

Mike Cantlay, SNH’s Chair, said: "Scotland’s Seas clearly still have many secrets left to tell. This is a remarkable discovery and I think we should be proud that our rich waters are so important to flame shells, and as our marine research and survey work continues to reveal, many other wonderful species too.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “This is a fantastic discovery which shows that the new Marine Protected Area is making an even more valuable contribution to safeguarding these waters than we first thought.

“I am determined to protect Scotland’s rich marine environment as this example shows the importance of considering how our seas are conserved beyond the MPA network. We are continuing to work with SNH to review the most vulnerable Priority Marine Features in our coastal waters.”


NRW breakthrough in breeding endangered freshwater pearl mussel - Natural Resources Wales

Work to save a critically endangered mollusc in Wales has taken a big step forward thanks to a pioneering programme by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

Their population is no longer viable because they are all old and there aren't many of them left. But a breeding programme at an NRW hatchery means they are thriving beyond 6 months for the first time, due to a new tub rearing technique using sediment and algae. This could signal a breakthrough which could see populations of this ancient and elusive mollusc revived in Welsh rivers.

NRW’s captive breeding and re-introduction programme at its Cynrig hatchery in Brecon aims to ensure the short to medium term survival of this species. The first juvenile mussels have now been hatched.

Only the Mawddach river catchment in the north and the Wye river catchment in the south have any sizable populations of freshwater pearl mussels - one of the longest living invertebrates. 


Land and Countryside Management 

Forecasting coastal erosion - Scottish Government

Research to map the effects of climate change.

The damage that climate change could cause to nearly one fifth of Scotland’s coastline and the steps that could be taken to mitigate it will be forecast in a new two year research project.

The next phase of DynamicCoast.com will use the latest monitoring techniques to map and categorise the resilience of the Scottish coast and identify the links between erosion and flooding.

The research, led by the Scottish Government and SNH and carried out by the University of Glasgow launches in January 2018 and is funded by CREW (Centre for Expertise in Water). It will focus on specific study sites including Montrose Bay, St Andrews and Skara Brae to forecast future change and erosional damage and also work with stakeholders like local authorities, SEPA and Historic Environment Scotland to develop plans to mitigate these effects.

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said: “Rising sea levels, increased coastal erosion and flooding have caused substantial damage to our coastlines and communities over the last few decades and the pace of erosion is increasing. We need to take action now to adapt and adjust to these changes. This research will forecast the extent of damage that could be caused to our precious coastlines through the effects of climate change and will work with communities, local authorities, transport agencies and other planning bodies to develop plans to manage coastal change before it’s too late.”

Scottish Natural Heritage is managing DynamicCoast.com.


Environmental education and recreation

New professional standards for Forest School Trainers - Forest Schools Association

The inspirational process of Forest School has been developing over the past twenty years in the UK, but there has been concern about the variable quality of some Forest School Training.  As a response to this the Forest School Association has spent five years developing the first set of nationally recognised professional standards for those delivering Forest School Training.  The Forest School Association is the professional body setting professional standards and managing a new Quality Assurance (QA) Scheme for Forest School Trainers.

The Quality Assurance Scheme has been officially launched in consultation with the Forest School Training community (over 50 members of the GB Forest School Trainers Network). It was piloted during 2017, resulting in 3 Trainers gaining FSA Registration and a further 5 going on to gain full FSA Endorsement.  

Gareth Wyn Davies, Chief Exec of the Forest School Association says “People in the sector have been crying out for some professional standards relating to trainers for years now and we are thrilled to be at the point where we are launching this rigorous scheme.  The scheme will enable people looking to train as a Forest School Leader to select their trainer with confidence.”


Outdoor Industry Microfibre Consortium confirms future plans - Outdoor Industries Association

The EOG has announced the latest initiatives being undertaken to address the issues of microfibre pollution, as part of the ongoing Outdoor Industry Microfibre Consortium project with biov8tion and the University of Leeds.

The Outdoor Industry Microfibre Consortium has confirmed that it is to start work on an infographic and roadmap, alongside an applied research project.  Both are designed to facilitate a shared understanding of the complex challenges presented by microfibres, and to build knowledge of the factors that will play a role in finding viable solutions for industry to implement.

Microfibre pollution and its sources, fates, and effects present an ongoing challenge for the textile and garment industries.  Working with research partners biov8tion and the University of Leeds, and alongside major brands, the Microfibre Consortium aims to develop improved knowledge of microfibre shedding and to work towards sustainable solutions.

Katy Stevens, sustainability project manager at the EOG comments: “We have been delighted with the proactive and collaborative response of the outdoor and clothing industries to tackle this issue head on and believe that the new projects will undoubtedly contribute to scientific understanding, communications, and the development of solutions.”


Scientific Research, results & publications 

Even wild mammals have regional dialects - Cardiff University

Researchers from Cardiff University’s Otter Project have discovered that genetically distinct populations of wild otters from across the UK have their own regional odours for communicating vital information to each other. The findings could have implications for wild mammal conservation efforts.

The study, which profiled chemical secretions from the Eurasian otter, suggests that genetically distinct populations of wild mammals have different odour dialects, which may have been driven by geographical separation. It also revealed that groups of otters with the most distinctive odour profiles were the most genetically diverse.

Dr Elizabeth Chadwick, from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, said: “Many mammals have scent glands for leaving chemical messages that provide identifying information regarding sex and age. Our new research reveals that these odours might also reveal genetic differences...”

Dr Chadwick added: “Our findings raise some interesting questions. In the same way that people from London may not understand some of the verbal dialect of people from Cardiff, groups of otters with different odour dialects may not be able to pick up identifying information from each other. Without further research, it is unclear how the otters interpret the chemical difference in secretions" 

Read the paper (open access)  Eleanor Freya Kean, Michael William Bruford, Isa-Rita M. Russo, Carsten Theodor Müller & Elizabeth Anna Chadwick,  Odour dialects among wild mammals. Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 13593 (2017) doi:10.1038/s41598-017-12706-8


Britain's birds - winners and losers - BTO

The 20th annual BirdTrends report from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), just published, gives the latest information on the winners and losers in the British countryside. The report highlights the rapid and continuing decline of the Greenfinch, which has declined by 59% in the UK in just ten years, and raised a high level alert against longer-term trends for the first time.
The Greenfinch is a familiar garden bird which was not a conservation concern when the UK’s list was last updated (in 2015), but could be moved straight to the ‘red list’ (which indicates the species of greatest concern) when the list is next updated, should the decline continue at its current rate. The decline is caused by a widespread and severe outbreak of a disease called trichomonosis, which first affected bird populations in 2006.

Chiffchaff by Amy LewisChiffchaff by Amy Lewis

One species that is doing particularly well is the Chiffchaff, which is continuing to increase its breeding range and population. Record numbers of this small green warbler were caught by bird ringers on their constant effort ringing sites. This species is benefitting from warmer winters. Once a very rare sight in winter, it can increasingly be seen on sunny days in sheltered locations throughout the UK, particularly in the milder coastal areas and around inland waterbodies.

The BirdTrends report covers 120 of Britain’s commonest and most widespread birds, from Mute Swan to Corn Bunting, and it makes for interesting reading. The data covered in the report were gathered by thousands of volunteer ‘citizen scientists’ who each year record the birds on their patch to track how well they are doing.
To access the report, please visit https://www.bto.org/about-birds/birdtrends/2017

Cite as: Massimino, D., Woodward, I.D., Hammond, M.J., Harris, S.J., Leech, D.I., Noble, D.G., Walker, R.H., Barimore, C., Dadam, D., Eglington, S.M., Marchant, J.H., Sullivan, M.J.P., Baillie, S.R. & Robinson, R.A. (2017) BirdTrends 2017: trends in numbers, breeding success and survival for UK breeding birds. Research Report 704. BTO, Thetford. 


UK farmers offer hope for farmland birds - RSPB
UK farmers have the potential to help reverse the dramatic declines of farmland birds over the past 40 years if given the funding and support, according to a new study published today (2 January).

New research, funded by Natural England and Defra, and published in leading science and conservation journal Animal Conservation, used six years of survey data to track changes in the abundance of birds on farms.

Yellowhammer singing (Image: RSPB)Yellowhammer singing (Image: RSPB)

The study involved over 60 farms under HLS agreements in three English regions between 2008 and 2014. It revealed that 12 of the 17 priority farmland bird species showed a positive change in abundance, going against the 56% decline in the number of farmland birds nationally since 1970.   

The Farmland Bird Index, one of our most important measures of biodiversity, increased by between 31% and 97% in different regions under Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) during 2008-2014. The average response of 17 priority bird species to HLS management was an increase in abundance of 163% (i.e. bird numbers more than doubled). 

Results from farmers and land managers working on HLS agri-environment schemes were compared with farms in the UK’s wider farmed landscape. Results show farmers have the potential to deliver large and rapid population increases in a number of struggling farmland birds, such as skylark, starling and linnet, if they are given the funding and support to manage their land in a wildlife-friendly way.

Dr Will Peach, RSPB head of research delivery section said: “The UK has experienced a massive loss of farmland wildlife since the 1970s, and Defra’s Wild Bird Indicators published only last month shows this loss has continued during the last 5 years. Our latest study shows that when farmers are supported to adopt wildlife-friendly approaches, then bird life will rapidly bounce back. Many farmers are doing great things for wildlife, and without their efforts, the countryside would undoubtedly be in a much worse position. We have the knowledge and the tools to reverse farmland bird declines, what we need now is the political will to implement them more widely.”


UK honey: Study finds one in five samples contain neonicotinoids - CEH

One in five samples of UK honey were found to contain neonicotinoid pesticide residues following the introduction of the EU-wide ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticide seed dressings on flowering crops.

The low level residues of neonicotinoids found pose no risk to human health. However, previous studies suggest that while such concentrations are low, they could potentially have negative impacts on honeybee populations.

Honey comb (image: CEH)Honey comb (image: CEH)

Neonicotinoids were also found in around half of the honey samples taken prior to the ban’s introduction. Whilst the percentage of samples that tested positive after the ban was introduced had declined, the persistence of such pesticide residues indicates the need for further research.

The new results are from a national survey conducted by scientists at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE this week.

The researchers analysed 130 honey samples, provided by bee keepers across Great Britain during 2014 and 2015, to assess the effectiveness of the current EU-wide ban on neonicotinoid pesticide seed dressings on flowering crops, such as oilseed rape – a policy that aims to reduce exposure risk to honeybees and other pollinators.

Lead author Dr Ben Woodcock said, “While the frequency of neonicotinoid contaminated samples fell once the EU-ban was in place, our data suggest that these pesticides remain prevalent in the farming environment.”

The concentrations of neonicotinoids in honey were found to have declined between May to September during 2015. The researchers also found a positive association between neonicotinoid concentrations in honey and the amount of oilseed rape grown in the vicinity of the hive.

Dr Woodcock said, “Honey samples collected earlier in the year, when oilseed rape is in flower, were more likely to contain neonicotinoid residues than samples collected in late summer when bees feed on other flowers”

Full paper reference: Woodcock B A, Ridding L, Freeman S N, Pereira M G, Sleep D, Redhead J, et al. (2018) Neonicotinoid residues in UK honey despite European Union moratorium. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189681 (open access)


Trees' spring awakening is becoming less and less sensitive to altitude differences - WSL

In the Swiss Alps, the time lag between leafing of trees at high and low altitudes has shortened dramatically since the 1960s due to climate warming. This was the finding of a study published in PNAS and conducted by the WSL and the University of Neuchâtel in collaboration with the EPFL and the universities of Antwerp and Beijing.

Led by biologist Yann Vitasse, three researchers analysed more than 20,000 observations recorded in Switzerland since 1960 by volunteers and collected by MeteoSwiss. The records in question covered the dates on which leaves or needles appeared on four forest species: beech, spruce, larch and hazel.

Five decades of citizen science bear fruit

"These forest species are among the most widespread in Switzerland, especially in mountainous areas. They provide a representative overview of the staggered start to spring along altitudinal gradients", says Yann Vitasse. "The observations recorded by volunteers across the country are enabling the researchers to detect some 'big picture' changes. As data, they are invaluable for better anticipating the consequences of global warming."

The results of this study also highlight one such consequence: a general tendency for leaves to start emerging earlier. This earlier leafing has been taking place faster at high altitudes, thereby reducing the time lag between the date of leaf-out at the top and bottom of a mountain. Back in the early 1960s, the time lag in leafing was roughly 5 weeks per 1,000 m of altitude difference, whereas now it is no more than 3 weeks. The researchers noted that the time lag decreases in particular after a warm winter.

Access the paper: Vitasse V., Signarbieux C., Yongshuo H. Fu. (2017) Global warming leads to more uniform spring phenology across elevations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS); doi:10.1073/pnas.1717342115


Scientific Publications 

Etienne Toffin, Edith Gabriel, Marceau Louis, Jean-Louis Deneubourg, Jean-Claude Grégoire Colonization of weakened trees by mass-attacking bark beetles: no penalty for pioneers, scattered initial distributions and final regular patternsR. Soc. open sci. 2018 5 170454; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170454.


B. Nussberger, M. Currat, C.S. Quilodran, N. Ponta, L.F. Keller, Range expansion as an explanation for introgression in European wildcats, Biological Conservation, Volume 218, February 2018, Pages 49-56, ISSN 0006-3207, DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.12.009.


and finally something to cheer everyone on a grey January day: 

Heart-warming moment seal pup is returned to Wales’ oceans - RSPCA Cymru

A seal pup rescued by the RSPCA in West Wales has been returned to the wild after a period of rehabilitation in the charity’s care.

Stunning video footage shows the moment RSPCA staff returned the pup to the wild, on Friday December 8, after two-months of care at wildlife facilities in Hastings. The release took place on a beach adjacent to the RNLI’s Horton and Port Eynon Lifeboat Station, in the Gower.

RSPCA Cymru has – in recent months – dealt with a “very challenging” period in terms of seal rescues, with dozens brought into the charity’s care in need of support, including in the aftermath of the recent Ophelia and Brian storms.  The male pup was rescued by the RSPCA after being found at Quay Parade in Aberaeron in early August, underweight, wounded and high-up on the beach some distance from the water. The pup was fed zoolyte – a special type of food to help him recover – before being transferred to RSPCA Mallydams Wood, where he was rehabilitated by specialist staff.

RSPCA animal collection officer (ACO) Ellie West said: “Returning seal pups like this to the wild is one of the most rewarding parts of the job. The poor pup had been through a difficult time, and was found alone, underweight and injured in Aberaeron. However, after a period of care at our specialist centre in Hastings, he was brought back to Wales, and returned safely back to the wild – happy and healthy – in the Gower."


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