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


logo: British Wildlife Photography AwardsBritish Wildlife Photography Awards - The leading competition for British wildlife photography


The British Wildlife Photography Awards 2018 are now open for entries.


Little owl by Ian Watson (BWPA)All ages are welcome. Whether a characterful animal portrait, interesting behaviour, animals in their habitat, the secret world in the undergrowth, coastal and marine creatures, or atmospheric woodland scenes we want to see your pictures and films. Help us raise awareness about our wonderful natural heritage and encourage discovery and conservation.


Be part of a competition and community that is supported by the UK's major conservation charities and celebrates excellence in wildlife photography.

Little Owl by Ian Watson

What can you win?

Win a prestigious award and prize from a prize fund worth up to £20,000, including £5,000 cash for the overall winner and camera kit from lead sponsor Canon, vouchers towards clothing and holidays.

New this year: Wildlife Worldwide are delighted to be sponsoring the Habitat category in the BWPA and will provide the lucky winner with a place on one of their dedicated wildlife photography tours – full details of the prize to be announced soon.

Your photos could be featured in a touring exhibition launching in London that reaches millions across the UK through National Media and a beautiful book published by Ammonite Press.


CJS is delighted to be sponsoring the Botanical Britain category once again. This category includes botanical subjects photographed in Britain, including: trees, plants, flowers, fungi and algae. Capture the essence, beauty and diversity of the botanical world, whether close-up, macro or as part of a wider scene.

Read about the categories here.


Be inspired by recent winners, photos and videos 

Enter now: Read the rules and submit your entries at www.bwpawards.org.uk

Leading the fight against plastic - Truro and Penwith College

Truro and Penwith College in Cornwall has introduced a wave of environmental improvements and initiatives aimed at reducing single-use plastics and creating a cleaner environment for Cornwall.

(image: Truro and Penwith College)Truro and Penwith College is joining the growing global movement looking to reduce the amount of plastics and waste being washed up on our shores through sustainability champions at each of the College’s campuses in Truro and Penwith.

(image: Truro and Penwith College)

The training restaurant at Penwith College, Senara, has led the charge with support to help Penzance become the first location in the UK to meet the criteria for Plastic Free Coastlines (PFC).

Senara has worked to help achieve PFC status for Penzance by introducing biodegradable cups, containers and straws within the restaurant, and has undertaken beach cleans with students. The restaurant even recycles bar milk into ricotta to use in the kitchen to increase sustainability, and is currently working with milk supplier Trink Dairy to switch its milk supply from plastic bottles to reusable glass bottles.

Jaime Gaspare, catering lecturer at the College, said: “We recently undertook a beach clean and plan to implement this into tutorials once a month. We are fully supportive of Surfers Against Sewage and have also joined the campaign to support The Final Straw.”

After successfully completing the Five Objective Guidelines in the SAS Plastic Free Coastlines (PFC) toolkit in early December, Penzance has become the first location in the UK to meet the criteria to be awarded this prestigious recognition.

Spires Coffee Bar in Truro city centre has also taken steps to improve sustainability by switching to biodegradable take-away mugs and cutlery. They also offer a re-usable Travel Mug to encourage customers to reduce their plastic waste.

Those interested in reducing their own plastic footprint and help to create plastic free coastlines, can visit www.plasticfree.org.uk to download a Plastic Free Coastlines Individual Action Plan.


Results of the National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2017! – Sea Watch Foundation

As announced on TV’s BBC Countryfile last night, results of the 2017 National Whale and Dolphin Watch are in!

During last year’s event, which took place 29th July – 6th August, a record-breaking 1,529 hours of dedicated watches took place. Some 300 hours more than any previous occasion, this represents 2,500 volunteers all around the British Isles getting involved to report on the UK’s whale and dolphin species.

A close encounter with a killer whale for these boat-users in Shetland! Photo by Rhona Clarke. 2017 was the sixteenth year that this huge citizen science scheme had taken place and clearly the event is building on popularity year on year. “It’s so important for people to join in helping us to track whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK waters. The Sea Watch Foundation database holds hundreds of thousands of records which are used by scientists and governments to inform research and policy on these wonderful animals” says Kathy James, Sightings Officer for Sea Watch. “By taking part, people are directly contributing to their conservation”.

Aside from the expansive effort put in by volunteers in 2017, there were also a huge number of whale, dolphin and porpoise sightings reported as part of the event. 1,410 records of cetaceans, the collective term for whales, dolphins and porpoises, were reported from land and at sea.

A close encounter with a killer whale for these boat-users in Shetland! Photo by Rhona Clarke.

This most recent effort also showed that on average around the UK, a cetacean could be spotted once an hour! North and East Scotland, South Devon, Cornwall and North-east England all had a greater sightings rate than the national average. These excellent cetacean-spotting areas clocked up between 1 and 5 animals per hour on average per site.  Eleven different cetacean species were seen in UK waters during the National Whale and Dolphin Watch. All in all, 29 species of cetacean have been recorded in UK waters although only fourteen are recorded regularly. Seeing a good proportion of these in just nine days goes to show what people can achieve when they work together.

Access the report: Click here to read the full 2017 National Whale and Dolphin Watch report


Biodiversity loss raises risk of ‘extinction cascades’ – University of Exeter

New research shows that the loss of biodiversity can increase the risk of “extinction cascades”, where an initial species loss leads to a domino effect of further extinctions. 

The researchers, from the University of Exeter, showed there is a higher risk of extinction cascades when other species are not present to fill the “gap” created by the loss of a species.

Researchers used plants and insects, such as the parasitoid aphidius megourae, pictured above (University of Exeter)Researchers used plants and insects, such as the parasitoid aphidius megourae (University of Exeter)

Even if the loss of one species does not directly cause knock-on extinctions, the study shows that this leads to simpler ecological communities that are at greater risk of “run-away extinction cascades” with the potential loss of many species.

With extinction rates at their highest levels ever and numerous species under threat due to human activity, the findings are a further warning about the consequences of eroding biodiversity.

“Interactions between species are important for ecosystem (a community of interacting species) stability,” said Dr Dirk Sanders, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall. “And because species are interconnected through multiple interactions, an impact on one species can affect others as well. It has been predicted that more complex food webs will be less vulnerable to extinction cascades because there is a greater chance that other species can step in and buffer against the effects of species loss. In our experiment, we used communities of plants and insects to test this prediction.”

The researchers removed one species of wasp and found that it led to secondary extinctions of other, indirectly linked, species at the same level of the food web.

This effect was much stronger in simple communities than for the same species within a more complex food web.


‘Far too many serious pollution incidents’ says Environment Agency water quality report – Environment Agency

Environment Agency publishes State of the Environment: Water Quality report

317 serious water pollution incidents occurred in 2016 (Environment Agency)317 serious water pollution incidents occurred in 2016 (Environment Agency)

Environment Agency Chair, Emma Howard Boyd has called on water companies and farmers to cut the amount of pollution incidents harming England’s waters and for penalties to be made tougher, as the EA publishes The State of the Environment: Water Quality report today (Monday 19 Feb).

Although the number of serious incidents has fallen by almost two thirds since 2001, the report reveals that 317 occurred in 2016. Agriculture is now the largest sector responsible for water pollution, while the number of serious incidents by water companies has remained at around 60 per year for the past decade – more than one a week.

The report shows that water quality has improved markedly over the last 30 years, following more than a century of poorly regulated industrial practices. England has the cleanest bathing waters since records began and rivers that were biologically dead are reviving. But there is more work to do to achieve the Environment Agency’s ambition of a cleaner, healthier and better managed water environment


Carbon Dioxide ‘Pulses’ Threaten Scotland’s Coralline Algal Reefs – University of Glasgow

Scotland’s marine ecosystems may be more sensitive to carbon dioxide than previously thought, and could be damaged irreparably by the CO2 ‘pulses’ created by industrial activities, land run off or natural tidal processes. 
Until now, scientists had only tested the effect of high CO2 on individual plants and animals, meaning very little was known about how whole marine ecosystems respond to sudden influxes of CO2. 
A team of marine scientists from the University of Glasgow and Heriot-Watt University conducted an experiment on the west coast of Scotland to measure the community response to short-term CO2 exposure. 
The team pumped water enriched with CO2 into chambers placed over the coralline algal ecosystem and monitored the community’s response before, during and after CO2 exposure. The experiment revealed that acute CO2 exposure led to net dissolution: calcified organisms like the coralline algae and star fish were dissolving. 
Dr Nick Kamenos, Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow said: “Coralline algal are common in Scotland and change the shape of the seabed; this makes them very important for providing homes to juvenile species of commercial importance such as scallops. However, the algae are also sensitive to increases in carbon dioxide concentrations such as those used in this experiment. This means that as a whole community, they and the services they provide may be at risk for abrupt increases in carbon dioxide. We found that there was a sudden, community-level, shift to overall dissolution, meaning that within that community, the skeletons of calcifying organisms like the coralline algae and associated star fish were dissolving.”


Open Air Laboratories empower a million new citizen scientists to explore nature – Imperial College London 

A family constructing a bat box (Imperial College London)More than one million people across the UK have taken part in a unique scheme that allows them to contribute to research on their local green spaces.

For the last 10 years, the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) project, led by Imperial College London and backed through the Big Lottery Fund, has brought communities and scientists together to gather environmental evidence and inform wider scientific enquiry.  

A family constructing a bat box (Imperial College London)

People from a huge variety of backgrounds have taken part, carrying out OPAL's nature surveys everywhere from inner-city housing estates to remote rural areas.

Activities including counting bugs, checking trees for signs of diseaseor recording sightings of the invasive New Zealand flatworm, have inspired local people to rediscover the outdoors. Research areas have included soil, air quality, water, climate, biodiversity and tree health, as well as investigations into invasive species.

As well as encouraging the one million people across the UK to get involved, OPAL, based in the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial, has also trained over 4,300 teachers to deliver outdoor learning, getting pupils out of the classroom and bringing lessons to life.


Scottish Natural Heritage reduces carbon emissions by 20 per cent over past two years - Scottish Natural Heritage

Following 2009 climate change legislation by the Scottish Government that requires public bodies to contribute to the delivery of national targets including reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) put into place measures to ensure we would not only meet, but exceed this target. SNH has achieved a nearly 20 per cent reduction over the last two years, far surpassing expectations.

We have achieved these reductions though a wide range of initiatives across the organisation, including:

Evolving Smarter Working so we make space to share our buildings with other public organisations, reducing our gas and electricity use

Reducing reliance on paper by rolling out laptops to all our staff

Reducing business travel by encouraging the use of video-conferencing

Encouraging the use of public transportation, carpools, walking, or cycling when travel is necessary

Choosing sustainable goods, services or works that comply with the Government Buying Standards

SNH has also started replacing petrol and diesel cars, expecting to replace its fleet with electric cars by 2026. This is ahead of the Scottish Government’s target to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032.


RSPB appeals to shooting industry to help root out raptor killers - RSPB

The RSPB has launched a confidential ‘Raptor Crime Hotline’ (0300 999 0101) to help whistle-blowers within the shooting industry come forward with information about bird of prey persecution.

The link between driven grouse shooting and the illegal killing of birds of prey, such as peregrines and hen harriers, has been widely documented. The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report revealed over 80 confirmed raptor persecution incidents had taken place in 2016, with many more likely to have gone undetected. It also showed that North Yorkshire has had more than twice as many confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county for the last five years. 

The RSPB would like to see much more acceptance from shooting organisations about the scale and conservation impact of the persecution and more support to clean up the industry and help root out those involved.

Senior Investigations Officer Guy Shorrock, of the RSPB, said: “Illegal killing is not only robbing people of the chance to enjoy watching birds of prey but has serious consequences for their populations. We are sure there are people within rural and shooting communities who know who is committing these crimes but are cautious about speaking out. This 24-hour hotline provides a completely safe and confidential way to pass on information – calls are not recorded and are treated in the utmost confidence.

“We would like to see shooting organisations showing their support by including the hotline on their websites and encouraging their members to come forward with information regarding crimes against birds of prey in the UK.”

Over the years RSPB Investigations staff have spoken in confidence with gamekeepers and others within the shooting industry and received graphic reports of routine and intensive raptor persecution on many sporting estates. In addition, it has provided a disturbing insight into management culture and the pressure put on gamekeepers, often from the very start of their careers, to kill protected wildlife. The RSPB will continue to push the government to introduce licensing of driven grouse shooting to improve accountability of these estates and to promote good practise. 


The Conflict Between Males and Females Could Replace the Evolution of New Species - University of Lincoln

New research shows that males and females of the same species can evolve to be so different that they prevent other species from evolving or colonising habitats, challenging long-held theories on the way natural selection drives the evolution of biodiversity.
According to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, first introduced in his book On the Origin of Species (1859), new environments such as mountains and islands with abundant food and habitats, offer species the ‘ecological opportunity’ to colonise an area using those resources.
New research from the UK has shown that exactly the same mechanism of evolution that creates new species also operates within the same species when males and females compete for the ecological resources available in different habitats, such as bushy areas or stony patches with abundant food. The conflict between the sexes can lead to one sex becoming bigger, more colourful or adapting to eat different food, just like a traditional process of evolution by natural selection can lead an ancestor to split into two different species.
This process of evolution between the sexes expands the biodiversity of the area – a development that evolutionary biologists previously thought only occurred when the number of different species using different resources or ‘niches’ increases. This new research challenges that assumption, showing that different species and different sexes of the same species can occupy these niches.


Learning outdoors - More than £860k to increase outdoor learning in the early years - Scottish Government

The number of hours nursery children spend outdoors is set to increase, Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Maree Todd, has announced. 

Inspiring Scotland will receive £862,550 to encourage and support greater use of outdoor learning in the early years. Actions they will take include:

  • Working with eight local authorities to deliver outdoor learning opportunities
  • Producing a ‘how to’ guide for practitioners, with practical advice on how to access outdoor spaces
  • Driving partnership working between councils, third sector and private companies in promoting outdoor learning
  • Helping organisations review the impact of outdoor learning when delivering the expansion to 1,140 hours of funded childcare

Ms Todd made the announcement during a visit to City of Edinburgh Council’s Lauriston Castle Forest Kindergarten.

She said: “The significant expansion of funded early learning and childcare gives us the perfect opportunity to define the type of experience we want to offer our children during their early years. That is why we are committing more than £860,000 to increase the use of outdoor learning, to ensure it becomes a defining feature of childhood in Scotland. “Outdoor learning not only improves mental wellbeing and health and fitness, it can make a huge difference to children’s confidence levels and their ability to risk assess while encouraging a lifelong love of the outdoors. “By supporting our young people to go outside and play we are not only making sure their early years are as happy and healthy as possible we are also ensuring every child in Scotland gets the best possible start in life.”


Dorset Wildlife Trust objects to drilling for oil in Poole Bay - Dorset Wildlife Trust

Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) has objected to the plans to drill an exploratory well for oil six kilometres out to sea in Poole Bay, in a letter written to the Environmental Management Team at the Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

DWT objects to the project because of concerns for wildlife and highly sensitive natural habitats in the area, highlighting three main concerns: pollution from a ‘blow out’ (such as happened on a much bigger scale in the Gulf of Mexico); drill cuttings dumped on the seabed, and vibration known to damage sea life.  The wildlife charity recommends that the effort, time, money and research necessary would be better used to seek alternatives in renewable energy, but at the very least to avoid drilling in this sensitive area.   

Male black bream nest guarding by Matt-DoggettMale black bream nest guarding by Matt-Doggett

The exploration zone sits within the boundary of the proposed Solent and Dorset Coast Special Protection Area, and DWT believes oil exploration should not occur within such a Marine Protected Area.  There is concern for the short-snouted seahorse, that have been recorded in Poole Bay.   

DWT is also worried about the timing of the exploration drilling, which is proposed to start during the spawning season of many commercially important fish and long-lived species, including cod, lemon sole, black bream, sandeels and common cuttlefish, potentially causing huge disturbances to their reproduction cycle.  The area is important for commercial fishing and aquaculture (shellfish farms) which would be decimated if there was any pollution. 


Moor to Enjoy - It really is good for you! - Exmoor National Park

Recent research proves that being in National Parks improves mental and physical wellbeing. Evidence has been published in light of action research carried out in two linked 3-year long projects by Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities.

Partners from Public Health England, Devon and Somerset County Council Public Health Teams and other guests gathered on Friday 16th February to hear about the results of the ‘Moor Health and Wellbeing’ report. The evaluation, carried out by Plymouth University, weighs up the challenges and successes faced by Exmoor’s Moor to Enjoy Project and Dartmoor’s Naturally Healthy Project. Some of the reported positive changes identified from participants’ experiences within the National Parks included a sense of belonging, feeling physically or mentally energised, enjoyment, a sense of achievement and increased opportunities for creativity and learning.

Exmoor’s Moor to Enjoy Project focused on supporting groups and group leaders in communities within striking distance of the National Park developing and delivering exciting activities and ‘taster’ days out on Exmoor. “The Project aims to bring together public health and social care professionals and groups and group leaders with the amazing opportunities to get out on Exmoor and enjoy the stunning landscape and wildlife. We hope that through these taster days, we are able to give groups and individuals the confidence and skills to discover more of Exmoor independently in the future,” said Lucy McQuillan from Exmoor National Park. “Getting active outdoors doesn’t have to be a full on hike with all the kit. We are trying to encourage people to take that first step to explore the National Park in a way that suits them. This might be as simple as sitting by a river or having a picnic at a favourite view point,” she continued.


WDC joins call for legally binding targets on packaging waste in the UK - WDC

Responding to new waste and recycling figures published by the UK government today, WDC, along with 17 environmental groups co-ordinated by the UK’s Wildlife and Countryside Link are warning that the UK Government must set ambitious and legally binding targets to deal with the growing ‘packaging waste mountain.’

The call comes as the latest figures, released today, show that overall recycling rates have continued to stall and packaging waste recycling has fallen from 2013. Although the packaging waste recycling rate in 2016 had increased from 2014 (up to 71.4% from 64.1%), it is still lower than in 2013 when 72.7% of packaging waste was recycled.  The amount of recyclable packaging waste ending up in landfill or destroyed is up by 15.7% compared to 2013 - an extra 446,000 tonnes.

With China refusing to take our plastic, cardboard and paper waste adding an extra driver, it is essential that the UK Government takes urgent steps to slash UK waste production and revolutionise recycling, to give us the capacity to deal with waste sustainably. The UK Government has stepped-up on the issue of microbeads and they need to continue being a world leader by addressing waste production and management in the UK, not exporting problems to other nations.


New report: how supermarkets drive food waste on UK farms - FeedBack

Our new report reveals how supermarkets drive food overproduction and waste on UK farms.  Our investigations into international supply chains and our work with UK farmers through our Gleaning Network, which involves going to farms to harvest surplus produce, has shown us first-hand the scale of food waste, largely unseen to the public. To address this, we have released a new report that highlights farm level food waste and the systemic role that supermarkets play in this issue. The report draws on our investigations into global food supply chains, a survey of UK farmers in 2015 and case studies.

Scale of farm level food waste  

Estimating the level of farm waste is challenging. Farmers surveyed for this report wasted on average 10–16% on typical years, equal to around 22,000–37,000 tonnes: enough food to provide 150,000 to 250,000 people with five portions of fruit and vegetables a day for a whole year. WRAP’s most recent research suggests that a conservative estimate of farm level food waste is 2.5 million tonnes, with the associated cost being £0.8 billion. There is a distinct lack of research on farm-level food waste, particularly when compared to household food waste – this needs to be addressed.

How supermarket culture drives waste

Farm level food waste is a symptom of overproduction, UK supermarkets transfer the commercial risk of overproduction onto farmers, and create a food production model that prioritises consistent, high availability  of cosmetically perfect produce over minimal waste. This has led to a food system which is synonymous with waste. 

Read the full Farmers Talk Food Waste report here.(PDF) 


Two men sentenced for destroying bat roosts in Dorset - National Wildlife Crime Unit

A property developer and demolition company manager who admitted destroying roosts for protected species of bats have been sentenced at court.

Developer Christopher Wilson, of Avante Ltd, appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court for sentencing on Friday 16 February 2018 after admitting two offences of damaging or destroying a breeding site or resting place of a European protected species of animal.  He was ordered to pay £2,500 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and was fined £1,750 as well as being ordered to pay costs of £500 and a victim surcharge of £170.  The case featured only the second ever Proceeds of Crime Act application relating to bats in the United Kingdom.

David Stokes, director of South Coast Demolition, had admitted the same offences and was sentenced at Poole Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 13 December 2017, when he was fined £1,600, ordered to pay £400 in costs and a victim surcharge of £120.

In 2016 Wilson purchased the former Ickle Angels Nursery site in Carroll Avenue, Ferndown, which consisted of two buildings that were known to contain roosts for Pipistrelle and Long-Eared Bats.  When he submitted a planning application to redevelop the site, Wilson included a Biodiversity Management Plan that had been commissioned by the previous owner of the site in October 2012 and had an expired date on it.  He should have commissioned a new Biodiversity Management Plan but failed to do so. The original plan also advised that, due to the presence of bats, a licence from Natural England would be required before starting works on the site.

Police Constable Claire Dinsdale, of Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team, said: “What makes this case nationally important is that we applied for a Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 application, which is only the second time this has been done for bat crime in the UK. A POCA arises after a defendant is shown to financially benefit from a crime. The order is to reclaim an amount. If any developers, demolition firms, roofers or public have any concerns or questions please do contact the Bat Conservation Trust Helpline on 0345 1300 228. They will assist. We would rather work with developers to prevent matters. I would like to thank the ecologists who give up their time to assist police in such cases and the Bat Conservation Trust.”

Pete Charleston, Conservation Wildlife Crime Officer for the Bat Conservation Trust, said: “The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) always regrets the need for prosecutions of this nature. These convictions send a clear message to those who might be tempted to cut corners. If you think that costs can be saved by not following due process then think again, you will be held to account with any profit being confiscated. BCT are very grateful to both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service for a highly professional and effective investigation.”


Scientific Publications 

Mathew J. Hardy, Sarah A. Bekessy, James A. Fitzsimons, Luis Mata, Chris Cook, Alex Nankivell, Kate Smillie, Ascelin Gordon, Protecting nature on private land using revolving funds: Assessing property suitability, Biological Conservation, Volume 220, April 2018, Pages 84-93, ISSN 0006-3207, doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.01.026.


Janine Aschwanden, Herbert Stark, Dieter Peter, Thomas Steuri, Baptiste Schmid, Felix Liechti, Bird collisions at wind turbines in a mountainous area related to bird movement intensities measured by radar, Biological Conservation, Volume 220, April 2018, Pages 228-236, ISSN 0006-3207, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2018.01.005.


Lyndsey Graham, Rachel Gaulton, France Gerard, Joanna T. Staley, The influence of hedgerow structural condition on wildlife habitat provision in farmed landscapes, Biological Conservation, Volume 220, April 2018, Pages 122-131, ISSN 0006-3207, doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.02.017.


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