CJS Logo & link to homepage

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


Bid to Ban Sky Lantern & Balloon Releases to Protect Wildlife – Glasgow City Council

Sky lantern and balloon releases could soon be banned from all Glasgow City Council premises in a bid to protect wildlife.

The move comes a month after the council pledged to end the use of plastic straws in support of Sunnyside Primary School's successful #NaeStrawAtAw campaign.

Image: Glasgow City CouncilThe Craigend primary is a School of Conservation with pupils learning about, and campaigning on, a range of environmental issues.

Image: Glasgow City Council

The school's Ocean Defenders group recently made national news when #NaeStrawAtAw convinced the council to stop using plastic straws in all its restaurants and cafes as well as helping pupils in Ullapool inspire the entire village to go plastic straw free.

#NaeStrawAtAw has also gained support from Best Bar None Glasgow, the SSE Hydro and restaurants and businesses at Glasgow Fort including Nandos, Harvester, Pret A Manger and Marks & Spencer. The Ocean Defenders also travelled to Arran to encourage primary pupils to lobby island businesses to end the use of plastic straws.

Now Sunnyside's #PrettyDeadly campaign is prompting action on another form of pollution. It highlights the environmental threat from decorative balloons and lanterns which are often released at celebrations and launch events. Birds and other wildlife can die after becoming entangled in the wire frames of lanterns when they land in woods, fields and rivers and the candles inside also pose a fire risk.

Wild animals and livestock can also choke to death on balloons when they fall to earth - often miles from the release site. Even items claiming to be biodegradable can take many months to finally break down.

Councillor Anna Richardson, City Convenor for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, said: "I've been so impressed by Sunnyside Primary School's environmental campaigns. The pupils are so knowledgeable and passionate about protecting the planet. Their #NaestrawAtAw campaign was discussed at the Scottish Parliament and made national headlines, but more importantly, it convinced businesses to stop using plastic straws, preventing hundreds of thousands going to landfill or ending up in our rivers, streams and oceans."


New green corridor for the red squirrels on Anglesey – Keep Wales Tidy

As part of the Long Forest project in partnership with the National Trust, RSPB and The Red Squirrel Trust Wales, a large green corridor in the form of hedgerows are being planted across the width of Anglesey to help the population of the precious red squirrels.

As part of a larger three-year plan, work is already underway to create vital links across the south west of the island. One new hedge has been created at Coed Llwynonn where 150m of hedgerow has been planted with over 600 trees by local Long Forest volunteers. This will connect to a squirrel bridge, which is awaiting planning permission, that will help ensure safe passage over the A4080 to woods at Plas Newydd. This woodland then links directly onto 400m of existing hedge which Long Forest volunteers are currently restoring. Once completed, Image: Keep Wales Tidythis will act as a corridor to another woodland in Plas Newydd which will link to another squirrel bridge back over the A4080 to another woodland at Coed Llwynonn.

Image: Keep Wales Tidy

The aim is to complete the circle next year by planting a further 200m of hedge.

The Long Forest Project has been developed by Keep Wales Tidy in partnership with the Woodland Trust, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. It aims to raise awareness on the importance of hedgerows and their uses, highlight their historical value and survey their condition.


London welcomes its first CityTree – a pollution absorbing innovation with the power of 275 trees – The Crown Estate

London is to benefit from a revolutionary new technology – the CityTree – which harnesses the power of nature to remove harmful particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide from the air.

Launching on Glasshouse Street, just off Piccadilly Circus, CityTree is a breakthrough technology designed to specifically combat air pollution and heat in cities. It has been brought to London by The Crown Estate, with the support of Westminster City Council, and cleantech company Image: The Crown EstateEvergen Systems, the exclusive UK supplier of CityTree.

Image: The Crown Estate

Delivering 275 times the air cleaning capability of a single tree, CityTree is a pioneering technology which takes just 1% of the space that would be needed to achieve the same results using real trees.

What makes CityTree unique is its combination of mosses, which are naturally powerful in absorbing pollution and particulates, and plants, which provide the shade that mosses need to thrive in an urban environment. The CityTree also has built-in watering and IoT monitoring, which maintains and measures the performance of the living structure.

The London trial will see CityTree tested on the streets of the West End, and comes following successful launches in cities across Europe including Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and Oslo.

Cllr David Harvey, Cabinet Member for the Environment, Sport and Community at Westminster City Council said: “It will be fascinating to see what impact The CityTree has on pollution in the local area. This is just one example of the new technology we want to test across Westminster. Air quality is the number one concern for our residents and with over a million people moving into and travelling to our neighbourhoods each day it is crucial that we make more strides to clean up our air and tackle poor air quality for residents and visitors alike.


New funding scheme to improve lakes and rivers in England - Defra

The Water Environment Grant scheme will help improve the English water environment (Defra)A new £27 million scheme is open for applicants to help improve the country's waterways

A new £27 million scheme to improve the water environment across England has been jointly launched today by Defra, Natural England and the Environment Agency.

The Water Environment Grant scheme will help improve the English water environment (Defra)

The Water Environment Grant scheme will provide £9 million each year over the next three years to applicants applying for funding to restore local eco-systems and deliver substantial benefits to people and the environment.

Potential projects could include river restoration activities, removal of obstacles to help fish moving along rivers and streams or actions to improve the water quality.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “The Water Environment Grant scheme offers a fantastic opportunity for applicants from across the country to secure funding for projects to enhance the environment, boost wildlife and benefit their rural community.”


NOC contributes to major new government report on future of the sea - National Oceanography Centre

A major new report looking at the future of the sea, published by the Government Office for Science, sets out the opportunities available for the UK to capitalise on its existing strengths in research, technology and the diversity of ocean industries.

The report’s expert advisory group included the National Oceanography Centre’s Executive Director, Professor Ed Hill, and Director of Science and Technology, Professor Angela Hatton.

Speaking at the launch of the report Ed Hill said, “I am pleased to welcome the Government Office for Science’s Foresight Future of the Sea report. As the report shows, marine science is a real UK strength – we are currently third in the world for the number of marine science publications. However, there is still more work to be done to achieve greater knowledge of the marine environment and the impacts of climate change. This will be critical for making a success of the future that this report anticipates.”

The report identifies four major areas that can deliver opportunities for the UK by exploiting its science and innovation – an improved understanding of the sea, greater co-ordination, a long-term approach to decision making and the increasing global nature of the challenges we face.

Autonomous vessels, robotics and other emerging technologies are creating a new generation of economic activity. They will allow us to observe and map previously unexplored areas of the sea and improve our understanding of the marine environment. The increase in potential from autonomous vehicles means that areas such as data transfer, sensing, communication technology and improved data transfer between autonomous vehicles and satellites, will be of growing importance across the marine economy.

Science, industry and government all have a shared interest in a productive, healthy and well-understood sea. There are many opportunities for closer collaboration to achieve greater marine exploration, protection and economic output.

The marine environment changes over inherently long timescales and emerging industries require a long-term commitment in order to demonstrate success. For these reasons, a long-term approach to decision making is important from both an economic and environmental perspective.

Read the report: The full report from the Government Office for Science can be found on the GOV UK website here.


Grey reef shark's ecological role not to be poo-pooed, new study reveals - ZSL

© Katie DavisSharks transfer crucial nutrients from their open ocean feeding grounds, to shallower coral reefs via their faeces - according to a pioneering study that is published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Working in the waters surrounding Palmyra Atoll, a remote reef and wildlife refuge south of Hawaii, scientists used acoustic tags to track the movements of the grey reef shark (​Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos​) - a predatory species known to be associated with coral environments, but whose wider ecological role was previously not fully understood.

© Katie Davis

Combining their existing knowledge about the sharks' feeding habits in open ocean (pelagic) environments, the team were able to estimate the quantities of nitrogen deposited around the reef, via the sharks' faecal material. Astonishingly, they discovered that this specific population of reef sharks - believed to number around 8,300 - contributed to an approximate total of 9.54kg of nitrogen into the reef ecosystem, each day.

This is a substantial amount of nutrients, which contribute to reef primary productivity, "which in turn effectively act as a fertiliser for thousands of other species that call these reef environments home", said Dr David Jacoby, senior co-author from ZSL's institute of Zoology.

Commenting on this study, Dr David Jacoby went on to say: "While estimating quantities of shark poo may not sound like the most glamorous of pastimes, the findings of this research have fascinating implications for our understanding not only of fragile coral reef ecosystems but also the ecological significance of grey reef sharks - a species currently classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN ​Red List.

​"Coupled with their better-known role as predators, our study underlines another, less obvious role played by reef sharks in improving the resilience of these fragile habitats and again underlines the vital importance of conserving these and other wide-ranging predators."

Access the paper: Jessica J. Williams, Yannis P. Papastamatiou, Jennifer E. Caselle, Darcy Bradley, David M. P. Jacoby Mobile marine predators: an understudied source of nutrients to coral reefs in an unfished atoll DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2456


Rural communities are being failed by Government - House of Lords

The Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 concludes that the Government has diminished the resources given to departments and bodies which protect the UK's natural environment and promote the needs of rural communities. The Committee argues that this has had a profound, negative impact on England's biodiversity, environment and the social and economic welfare of rural areas, and must be addressed.

Chairman of the Committee, Lord Cameron of Dillington said:"It is clear that the Government are failing to take proper account of the needs of rural communities.  Departmental decisions and policies continue to demonstrate a lack of rural understanding among Whitehall policymakers. Each and every Government department should be required to think about the ways in which their policies affect rural people, and the Government must take action to ensure that this 'rural-proofing' of policy happens. The Committee also heard concerning evidence of the ongoing decline of biodiversity, species and habitats. The 2006 Act, which created Natural England and introduced a new biodiversity duty, was supposed to address this, but has failed to do so. The biodiversity duty suffers from weak wording and poor enforceability, whilst Natural England's status has been diluted and weakened over recent years, so that it now struggles to perform all of its key functions. The Government needs to act now, before our natural environment, protected species and cherished landscapes suffer further damage. The Committee's overall vision is for balanced protection and promotion of the natural environment and a reversal of the biodiversity decline. This must be coupled with better recognition of the potential of rural communities and the rural economy, and a greater effort from the Government to ensure that policy changes do not work to the detriment of rural areas."

Reaction: House of Lords report supports public access - Ramblers

A report from the House of Lords Select Committee has recognised the need to include public access as part of the reform of agricultural payments, to support our network of National Trails for the long-term and to promote responsible access to the countryside.
Last year the Ramblers gave evidence to an inquiry in the House of Lords which considered whether the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) is still fit for purpose. This Act led to the creation of Natural England, which is responsible for managing the natural environment and public access.

At the inquiry, we highlighted the need to maintain the path network and are encouraged to see that the new report recommends that maintenance and enhancement of public access should form part of the new system of agricultural payments.

We're asking people to show their support for countryside access by signing our petition, which we will submit to government in response to its consultation on proposals for the future of food, farming and the environment. This will shape the upcoming agriculture bill and have a significant impact on the future of access to the countryside. We want to ensure the bill includes measures which protect and enhance access to the countryside.
Our evidence also raised concerns over the long-term future of National Trails, the jewels in the crown of our footpath network. We are pleased to see that the report recommends that “Natural England and Defra work with the Ramblers… [and other groups] to develop proposals for long-term management and maintenance funding”. We look forward to working together to find a sustainable funding model.

Response: CLA comment on the Lords’ report scrutinising the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 - CLA

A House of Lords Select Committee has recommended that the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government should take over responsibility for rural policy from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The CLA which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses reacted to the Lords’ report scrutinising the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.

CLA Director of External Affairs Shane Brennan said: “The Committee is right to highlight the impact of the loss of key agencies and the focus central government puts on rural economic and community issues. More can be done and the restructuring that Brexit requires is an opportunity to do that.

"Where the responsibility sits within Whitehall departments is less important than there being a dedicated Minister to focus on championing rural affairs across government. We are committed to working with the Ministerial team to improve decision making on key issues from housing, to business growth and delivering rural connectivity."

Access the report: Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006
The countryside at a crossroads: Is the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 still fit for purpose?


Environment Minister announces £600,000 for new Wales Coastal Monitoring Centre – Welsh Government

Minister for Environment Hannah Blythyn has today announced £600,000 of funding towards a new national Coastal Monitoring Centre.

The Minister made the announcement at a meeting of the Welsh Assembly’s Climate Change and Rural Affairs Committee.
The Centre will be led by a collaboration between Conwy, Gwynedd and the Vale of Glamorgan Local Authorities. It will be supported by an expert advisory panel including Natural Resources Wales, the Wales Coastal Groups Forum and our universities. 
Local Authorities currently carry out monitoring of their coastlines in isolation. The new Centre will provide co-ordinated planning along the whole coastline, improving data and supporting robust evidence-based decision making. 
Targeted and sustained coastal monitoring will improve understanding of how complex coastal systems are evolving in response to changes in the environment. It is also used to measure the success of techniques such as natural flood management, including beach nourishment or salt marsh restoration.
The new Centre will collect monitoring data along the length of the Welsh coast, to improve the understanding of the impact of climate change on our coastline and ensure investment in sea defences is targeted at the areas most at risk. 


Woodland Trust calls for greater protection for our ancients as Gilwell Oak comes fifth in European Tree of the Year – Woodland Trust

The Gilwell Oak has come fifth in the European Tree of the Year contest.

It comes as the Woodland Trust calls for the same level of protection for ancient and veteran trees as that proposed for ancient woodland in a review of English Planning Policy. 

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Theresa May announced welcome plans to overhaul England’s planning policy to afford ancient woodland much stronger protection.

New policy wording proposed by the Government in the revised National Planning Policy Framework will state “development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons.”

However, ancient and veteran trees have been separated from ancient woodland as ‘irreplaceable habitat’ for the first time, and were not included in the policy amendments.

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust chief executive, said:

“The UK has some of the best examples of ancient trees in Europe, including the beautiful Gilwell Oak and we would like to thank everyone who voted for it and of course offer our congratulations to the winners. We are disappointed it didn’t garner more support as this perhaps demonstrates a lack of understanding about the value these trees have in our landscape and our cultural history.

“There is now an opportunity to raise awareness of this value and secure better protection for trees like this, and we need the public to help us make it happen."


Tree sparrows take flight at Souter – National Trust

The red-listed tree sparrow is now thriving at The Leas and Whitburn Coastal Park in South Tyneside, tTree sparrows make their home on The Leas and Whitburn Coastal Park (Dougie Holden)he site of an abandoned colliery, which has been turned into a haven for birds.

Tree sparrows make their home on The Leas and Whitburn Coastal Park (Dougie Holden)

Numbers have grown from just one pair six years ago to 120 individual birds this winter. 

The birds - with their red-brown crowns and black and white cheeks – are successfully nesting and breeding on a three mile coastal strip of land, cared for by the conservation charity.

Numbers of the red listed birds nose-dived by a massive 93 per cent between 1970 and 2008 largely due to intensive farming methods which left little grain post-harvest in fields to provide feed for over-wintering birds like the tree sparrow.  

Nationally there was genuine concern that bird numbers would ever recover.  However, two were spotted and successfully caught and ringed by the Whitburn Ringing Group in spring 2012, followed by two more pairs in 2013.

Last year ten pairs were recorded with most ‘couples’ producing at least two broods of five or six chicks.

Formerly the site of the Whitburn Colliery, the Trust took on a long-term lease of the coastal site from South Tyneside Council in 1990 and the creation of the 32 hectare Whitburn Coastal Park started in 1992.  Working closely with volunteers and the Whitburn Coastal Conservation Group (WCCG), the conservation charity has managed to successfully re-wild the landscape over the past 25 years.  

The industrial waste ground and coal spoil that dominated the landscape in the 1960s and 1970s is now a wildlife rich haven planted with small woodland copses, wildflower meadows and scrub.


Breakthrough could aid development of bee-friendly pesticides - University of Exeter

Efforts to create pesticides that are not toxic to bees have been boosted by a scientific breakthrough.

Breakthrough could aid development of bee-friendly pesticides (University of Exeter)A joint study by the University of Exeter, Rothamsted Research and Bayer AG has discovered the enzymes in honeybees and bumblebees that determine how sensitive they are to different neonicotinoid pesticides.

Breakthrough could aid development of bee-friendly pesticides (University of Exeter)

The potential impact of neonicotinoids on bee health is a subject of intensive research and considerable controversy, with the European Union having restricted three compounds on crops that are attractive to bees in 2013.

However, both honeybees and bumblebees exhibit profound differences in their sensitivity to different members of this insecticide class. The researchers aimed to understand why this is, in order to aid the development of pesticides that are non-toxic to them.

Just as in other organisms, toxins in bees can be broken down by enzymes called cytochrome P450s. The study identified one subfamily of these enzymes in bees – CYP9Q – and found it was responsible for the rapid breakdown of certain neonicotinoids.

“Identifying these key enzymes provides valuable tools to screen new pesticides early in their development to see if bees can break them down,” said Professor Chris Bass, who led the team at the University of Exeter.

“It can take a decade and $260 million to develop a single pesticide, so this knowledge can help us avoid wasting time and money on pesticides that will end up with substantial use restrictions due to intrinsic bee toxicity.”

Dr Ralf Nauen, insect toxicologist and lead investigator of the study at Bayer added: “Knowing the mechanisms contributing to inherent tolerance helps us and regulators to better understand why certain insecticides have a high margin of safety to bees”.


Local councils should improve the quality of footpaths so more people can be active, says NICE

NICE is calling on local councils to encourage people to be more physically active by improving routes for pedestrians, cyclists and other users.

Image: NICENICE’s updated guidance on physical activity and the environment published today (22 March) aims to help people be more active through improvements to the built environment and public transport and better access to the countryside.

Image: NICE

Among a number of recommendations the guideline says councils should ensure that footpaths and cycle routes are convenient, safe and attractive to use. It says paths and cycle routes should be maintained to a high standard, including the removal of any hazards like tree roots and keeping obstructions such as parked cars, hanging baskets or bins out of the way.

NICE is also calling for additional support for those with limited mobility. This could be people with disabilities, visual impairments or those who may find it challenging to get around, such as parents using prams. Recommendations for this group include providing step-free access on public transport, such as buses or trains, to ensure that it is accessible for everyone.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, said: “Handing back some of the roads to pedestrians and cyclists will help people to become more active. Simple things such as ensuring street lights along footpaths are working and hedges are kept trimmed makes walking a more attractive option which will lead to people living healthier lives. People with limited mobility need extra help from their surroundings such as adapted crossings, public transport that can be used with a wheelchair and step free access. With a little thought these measures can be designed into our public spaces to help everyone be more active.”

The guidance says councils should make more areas pedestrian only and refer to NICE’s recent guidance on air pollution which advised that smoother driving would reduce fumes, and help improve air quality.


Reaction: New national guideline to improve the environment for walking and cycling – Paths for All

We welcome the new ‘Physical activity and the environment’ guideline published by NICE this week. The guideline sets a standard for local councils, transport providers and those responsible for open spaces to improve the environment to support the general population to get more active.


Great Pacific Garbage Patch Growing Rapidly, Study Shows – The Ocean Cleanup

New analysis reveals the region contains as much as sixteen times more plastic than previously estimated, with pollution levels increasing exponentially.

Image: The Ocean Cleanup

Image: The Ocean Cleanup

Delft, the Netherlands, March 22, 2018 - 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons are currently afloat in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - and it is rapidly getting worse. These are the main conclusions of a three year mapping effort conducted by an international team of scientists affiliated with The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company. Their findings were published today in the journal Scientific Reports.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), located halfway between Hawaii and California, is the largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth. Conventionally, researchers have used single, fine-meshed nets, typically less than a meter in size, in an attempt to quantify the problem. However, this method yields high uncertainty because of the small surface area that is covered. Additionally, these methods could not measure the magnitude of the problem to its fullest extent, because all sampling nets - small and large - were unable to capture objects greater than the size of the net.

In order to analyze the full extent of the GPGP, the team conducted the most comprehensive sampling effort of the GPGP to date by crossing the debris field with 30 vessels simultaneously, supplemented by two aircraft surveys. Although most vessels were equipped with standard surface sampling nets, the fleet's mothership RV Ocean Starr also trawled two six-meter-wide devices, which allowed the team to sample medium to large-sized objects.

To increase the surface area surveyed, and quantify the largest pieces of plastic - objects that include discarded fishing nets several meters in size - a C-130 Hercules aircraft was fitted with advanced sensors to collect multispectral imagery and 3D scans of the ocean garbage. The fleet collected a total of 1.2 million plastic samples, while the aerial sensors scanned more than 300 km2 of ocean surface.

The results, published today in Scientific Reports, reveal that the GPGP, defined as the area with more than 10 kg of plastic per km2, measures 1.6 million square kilometers, three times the size of continental France. 


£260 million of clean air funding launched by government - Defra

A £220 million Clean Air Fund to tackle roadside emissions is part of a £260m plus package to improve air quality

A package of funding worth more than £260 million has today been launched by the government to help improve air quality in some of the most polluted areas.

The UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations was produced by the government in July last year, and outlined that councils with the worst levels of air pollution at busy road junctions and hotspots must take robust action in the shortest time possible.

Fulfilling a commitment to support local authorities to deliver these plans, the government has today launched a £220m Clean Air Fund to minimise the impact of local plans on individuals and businesses. A range of options local authorities could consider to utilise this money such as new park and ride services, freight consolidation centres, concessionary travel schemes and improvements to bus fleets have been set out.

At the same time, more than £40 million from the £255 million Implementation Fund has been awarded to support local authorities take action as soon as possible to improve air quality.


Nationwide school science programme helps scientists discover effects of climate change on soils - BTO

  • 15,000 school children participate in ‘What’s under your feet?’ project to study soil in school grounds
  • Research from ongoing study makes link for the first time that dry summers are affecting breeding birds, which rely on earthworms and other soil invertebrates for food
  • Number of UK earthworms has declined massively during periods of dry weather
  • Schools encouraged to participate in further digs this month and later in the year to further aid research

This ongoing study, supported by EDF Energy and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), has been able to identify that dry summer weather may be putting some of our favourite bird species at risk as it triggers a significant drop in the number of earthworms and invertebrates in parts of the UK. The research, undertaken by thousands of schoolchildren in a nationwide science project to understand the effects of climate change on our soils and ecosystems, published some if its findings today in a new report in an international scientific journal. 
Working with EDF Energy’s environmental education programme, The Pod, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has designed the What’s Under Your Feet? project to enthuse young people about the natural world and encourage the next generation of ecologists so we are better informed about what’s needed to maintain the delicate balance of lifecycles on our planet and the impact we have on them.

Scientific publications

Mirta Zupan et al (2018) How good is your marine protected area at curbing threats? Biological Conservation https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2018.03.013


Martay, B. & Pearce-Higgins, J. W. (2018) Using data from schools to model variation in soil invertebrates across the UK: The importance of weather, climate, season and habitat. Pedobiologia. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedobi.2018.01.002

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

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