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


Warming world will affect fish size and fisheries - Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Current fishery targets may become unachievable as the planet warms. 

A new study, led by PML, has found that the proportion of large fish in the North Sea may decrease as climate change unfolds, by as much as 60% in some areas. The effects of warmer waters and ocean acidification may mean proposed fisheries management targets based on fish size could be unachievable if the effects of environmental change on fish size are not considered. 
Using state-of-the-art modelling, the researchers demonstrated how they can simulate how fish size is changing in our marine environment, under the pressures of fishing and environmental factors. This form of modelling, combining important indicators and environmental change, can help with sustainable exploitation of fished stocks by helping policy makers consider how wild populations are impacted by changing, warmer and more acidic oceans into the future.
Indicators based on fish size are widely used in the study and management of wild populations exploited by commercial fishing. The Large Fish Indicator (LFI) is one such example, determining the biomass of fish above a certain size in a community, and used to inform policy and guide the fishing industry.
While widely used, however, the LFI has not previously been used alongside predictions of future conditions in line with expected climate change. Fish size is closely linked with the environment, and a warming world will change the conditions in which fish live. It has been suggested that rising water temperatures in the North Sea, for example, are driving down fish size in key species. By modelling North Sea fish populations alongside predicted climate change scenarios for the indicator LFI, scientists have shown how climate change may affect fish communities, and what it may mean for fisheries.
Lead author Dr Ana Queiros, of PML’s Marine Ecology and Biodiversity group, said: “In European waters, including our UK waters, as in many other regions of the world, fish populations are responding very clearly to warmer ocean conditions, exhibiting smaller individual sizes alongside other more complex evolutionary processes. What we show here is that climate modelling has evolved so much that we can already simulate how these changes are happening (which we compared to historical data). Policy targets regulating the fishing industry already take into account strict scientific advice at present, but this advice rarely takes into account how climate is and will continue to impact these wild populations. 


TCV launches refreshed strategy - Connecting People and Green Spaces 2018-21

TCV has launched its refreshed strategy - Connecting People and Green Spaces 2018-21.

Image: TCVThis strategy reflects the views of all parts of the “TCV Community” and we are proud that it was developed with input from our people, funders, partners, trustees and, of course, our volunteers.   

Image: TCV

The strategy provides an important reminder of why TCV is here, highlighting both the challenges facing communities in the UK and sharing the individual stories from our varied programmes across the country.

This insight underlined the importance of the outcomes of our work and the need to focus on these rather than purely services and programmes. The four TCV outcomes are:

  • Communities - Communities are stronger, working together to improve the places where people live and tackle the issues that matter to them
  • Environment - Green spaces are created, protected and improved, for nature and for people
  • Health & Wellbeing - People improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing, by being outdoors, active and connected with others
  • Learning & Skills - People improve their confidence, skills and prospects, through learning inspired by the outdoors


Bottlenose dolphin numbers stable in Moray Firth, with increase on east coast, says new report - SNH

The number of bottlenose dolphins using the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation (SAC) off the coast of Scotland remains stable, according to a report published today by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). This is the most northern resident bottlenose dolphin population in tBottlenose dolphins, Moray Firth. ©Lorne Gill/SNHhe world, and recognised as a major tourist attraction along Scotland’s northeast coast, generating upwards of £4m per year for the local economy.

Bottlenose dolphins, Moray Firth. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Around 200 bottlenose dolphins call the coastal North Sea near Scotland home. More than half of these dolphins frequently use the Moray Firth, part of which is an EU-classified SAC to help protect these marine mammals.

The new report indicates that although there is some variability in the numbers of dolphins using the Moray Firth SAC each year, the numbers appear to be generally stable over the long term. Additional monitoring indicates there is an overall increase in dolphin numbers on the east coast. The research, commissioned by SNH and carried out by the University of Aberdeen, also suggests dolphins use the SAC outside the summer months more often than was previously thought.

Despite these positive results, the North Sea’s only resident bottlenose dolphin population is still considered to be vulnerable, though no change is suggested to their current favourable and recovered condition status. Stretching from the Moray Firth to Fife and further south, the population is relatively small and dolphins reproduce slowly. While many of the dolphins travel along the coast between these different areas, the population remains isolated.


Thoughtless 'tossers' are killing our wildlife – Keep Britain Tidy

As a new report - to be published in our journal of litter and environmental quality - shows, littered drinks and bottles along our roadsides are killing millions of our native mamals every year, we are calling on everyone - 'don't be a tosser!'

Image: Keep Britain TidyImage: Keep Britain Tidy

Drinks bottles and cans that litter our roadside are also acting as graveyards for some of our rarest and most important small mammals - including shrews, bank voles and wood mice.

A study found more than 8% of littered bottles and nearly 5% of cans contained these poor animals' remains.

“We have all seen the impact of littered plastic bottles on our marine environment in recent months. Now, thanks to this research, we know it is killing millions of the small mammals that are a vital source of food for our native birds of prey. It is time for everyone to take responsibility for their rubbish. If you care about our country and its wildlife don’t be a ‘tosser’.” - Chris Packham, Keep Britain Tidy ambassador, naturalist and TV personality


New report – ‘State of the UK Barn Owl Population’ – The Barn Owl Trust

Image: The Barn Owl TrustImage: The Barn Owl Trust

The State of the UK Barn Owl Population – 2017 report has just been published and distributed by email to all our UK conservation contacts. The results are based on the checking of 6,955 potential nest sites by 38 independent Barn Owl projects, and ringing groups. The number of contributing groups has grown from 28 in 2013 to 38 in 2017 and we take this opportunity to send a huge thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to gather the data.

So, how did Barn Owls fare in 2017? Looking at all projects combined, the proportion of sites checked where nesting actually took place was 17% higher than the average of all previous years. The average number of owlets-per-brood was also up, this time by 6.6%. While this is encouraging, there was the usual regional variation and trends were quite negative in some Islands and Western counties. 


75% of Earth's land areas are degraded; wetlands have been hit hardest, with 87% lost globally in the last 300 years – Ramsar

75%of Earth's land areas are degraded; wetlands have been hit hardest, with 87% lost globally in the last 300 years – these are important 87 percent of wetlands have been lost globally in the last 300 years (Credit: Kennedy Warne)findings of the Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The land degradation assessment took three years and more than 100 leading experts from 45 countries.

87 percent of wetlands have been lost globally in the last 300 years (Credit: Kennedy Warne)

More than 75 percent of Earth’s land areas are substantially degraded, undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people, according to the world’s first comprehensive, evidence-based assessment. These lands that have either become deserts, are polluted, or have been deforested and converted to agricultural production are also the main causes of species extinctions.

If this trend continues, 95 percent of the Earth’s land areas could become degraded by 2050. That would potentially force hundreds of millions of people to migrate, as food production collapses in many places, the report warns.

“Land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment,” said Sir Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which produced the report.

Rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the main driver of land degradation, causing significant loss of biodiversity and impacting food security, water purification, the provision of energy, and other contributions of nature essential to people. This has reached “critical levels” in many parts of the world, Watson said in an interview.


Deposit return scheme in fight against plastic - Defra

The government has announced plans for a deposit return scheme to crack down on plastic pollution.

A deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates and slash the amount of waste polluting our land and seas will be introduced subject to consultation later this year, it was confirmed today.

Image: DefraImage: Defra

UK consumers go through an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, but more than three billion are incinerated, sent to landfill or left to pollute our streets, countryside and marine environment.

To tackle this blight, the government has confirmed it will introduce a deposit return scheme in England for single use drinks containers (whether plastic, glass or metal), subject to consultation later this year. The consultation will look at the details of how such a scheme would work, alongside other measures to increase recycling rates. We hope to talk to the devolved administrations about the scope for working together on this important issue.

Similar schemes already operate in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Germany. A deposit return scheme sees consumers pay an up-front deposit when they buy a drink, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, which is redeemed on return of the empty drink container. Possible variants of a deposit return scheme include cash rewards for returning drinks containers without an upfront deposit.

Positive reactions from many organisations including: CPRE delighted by deposit return announcement

Countryside campaigners celebrate as the Government announces the introduction of a deposit return system

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) wholeheartedly congratulates the Government on its decision to introduce a nationwide deposit return system (DRS) for plastic and glass bottles, as well as aluminium cans. The introduction will help boost recycling rates and combat the plague of litter blighting our countryside. This is a watershed moment for recycling in the UK, given that similar systems around the world produce extremely high results.

WCL offers cautious optimism: Gove getting drastic on plastic but manufacturers must shoulder responsibility to slash production – Wildlife & Countryside Link

Responding to confirmation that a deposit return scheme on plastic bottles and other recyclable drinks packaging will be implemented in England, Dr Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘This is a great step forward from the Government towards getting drastic on plastic, and a clear signal that Michael Gove is taking warnings from the public and campaigners seriously. But we must make sure that the responsibility to reduce plastic waste is laid squarely at the feet of the businesses who produce it. Consumers have a role to play in cutting their use and recycling, but we must slash plastic at its source if we are to stop swimming in an ocean of plastic waste.’


RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results reveal a golden year for the goldfinch – RSPB

The latest results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch have revealed a golden year for the goldfinch along with a number of other small birds after a surge in sightings in gardens across the country.

Now in its 39th year, the Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden helping the RSPB Goldfinch (RSPB)build up a picture of how they are doing. This year, more than 420,000 people across the country took part counting an impressive 6.7 million birds. 

Goldfinch (RSPB)

The event held over the last weekend in January revealed an increase in goldfinches and other sightings of smaller birds, such as long-tailed tit and coal tit that can usually be seen visiting gardens and outside spaces in flocks. Recorded sightings of the brightly coloured, sociable finch rose by 11% on 2017 figures and its bright red face was seen in more than two-thirds of gardens. Other small birds that are thought to have benefited from the mild January weather include long-tailed tit (+16%), coal tit (+15%), and blue tit (+5%).

It also proved to be a good year for the greenfinch after a 5% rise in sightings, a welcome sign for a species that has undergone a 58% decline in sightings since the first survey in 1979. 

The influx of these species to our gardens is thought to be linked to the favourable conditions during their successful breeding season in 2017. This combined with the kind autumn and winter weather in the run up to the Birdwatch, will have contributed to the rise in sightings.  

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Our garden birds are a part of our everyday life, whether it’s the robin perched on the garden fence or the flock of starlings you see on your way to work. To have hundreds of thousands of people spend an hour watching the wildlife in their garden isn’t only great to see, but it also helps us build up a picture of how our garden birds are doing, which is really helpful.”


Norfolk’s iconic Swallowtail Butterfly at risk from climate change – Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Norfolk’s butterflies, bees, bugs, birds, trees and mammals are at major risk from climate change as temperatures rise – according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Researchers carried out the first in-depth audit of its kind for a region in the UK to see how biodiversity might be impacted in Norfolk as the world warms.

Image credit: Elizabeth DackThe study finds that the region’s Swallowtail Butterfly, which can’t be found anywhere else in the UK, is at risk – along with three quarters of bumblebee, grasshopper and moth species.

Image credit: Elizabeth Dack

Dr Jeff Price analysed local populations of 834 species found throughout Norfolk to show how they might fare as climate change reaches 2oC - the upper end of the UN’s Paris Climate Agreement goals. He also looked at what will happen at 3.2oC - the current global trajectory if countries meet their international pledges to reduce CO2.

The results, published today (Tuesday 27 March) in Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists’ Society, are sobering.

At risk at 2oC of global warming

The project reveals that at just 2oC, 72 per cent of bumblebees in Norfolk could be lost, along with 75 per cent of grasshoppers and bush crickets, and 68 per cent of larger moths.

The new climate potentially becomes unsuitable for 15 species of birds including Lapland Bunting and Pink-footed Goose. Meanwhile the Common Shrew, Roe Deer and European Badger are among seven mammal species which may be lost from Norfolk.

The Swallowtail Butterfly, local only to the Norfolk Broads, and Red Admirals are among 11 types of butterfly which could be affected.

The Common Frog, Great Crested Newt, Adders, and the Common Lizard could also be lost.


Lottery win for capercaillie! – Cairngorms National Park Authority

Official figures put the capercaillie population in Scotland at just 1,114 birds but people power and funding from The National Lottery is set to change all that over the next five years. The Heritage Lottery Fund has committed £346,500 for the 18 month development phase of the Image: Cairngorms NPACairngorms Capercaillie Project with a further £2.25million possible for the delivery phase.

Image: Cairngorms NPA

The funding package overall – should the delivery phase get the go ahead – equates to an investment of around £4million in the Park economy with finance also coming from the lead partner – the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) – along with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES), Cairngorms LEADER, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and The Highland Council through the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund.

The Cairngorms Capercaillie Project is being hailed as an innovative and ambitious project which has the potential to save the species for future generations. The Cairngorms National Park has the last viable populations of the bird with the Badenoch & Strathspey area being particularly significant. With that in mind, the village of Carr-Bridge has been chosen as a pilot community where they will have a major say on key elements of the project, helping to work up practical ideas that can be tried and tested with successful initiatives being replicated throughout the National Park in the future.

The five year project will be focusing on two main areas; providing suitable, improved habitat for capercaillie and involving the public in the future survival of the species. Healthy habitats are extremely important with enhanced pine forests and better connectivity, but what will be key to the project’s success is how capercaillie and people can live together.


Air pollution impact on childhood asthma – University of Leeds

New research suggests that up to 38% of all annual childhood asthma cases in Bradford may be caused by air pollution.

The study, led by the University of Leeds, also shows traffic-related air pollution could be specifically responsible for up to 24% of the total number of cases.

An international team of researchers has used a newly-developed model to assess the impact exposure to nitrogen oxides – gases that make up air pollution – has on the development of childhood asthma.

Their study, published today in Environment International, used a model that knits together four distinct models of traffic, emissions, atmospheric dispersion and health impact assessments in Bradford. This allowed the researchers to chart the full chain of impact – from the source of air pollution through the pathways in which it impacts children’s health.

Study lead author Dr Haneen Khreis carried out this research while at the Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds. She said: "Overall rates of childhood asthma cases in Bradford are higher than the national average, as were emergency hospital admissions for asthmatic children under 16. Traffic-related air pollution is a real concern to the community."


£2m funding for rural communities to restore historic buildings - Natural England

A new grant scheme is being piloted this year in five National Parks, offering funding for land managers to restore their historic farm buildings.

The Historic Building Restoration Grant is being piloted in Dartmoor, Lake District, Northumberland, Peak District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks with £2 million of funding available.

The aim of the scheme is to help save the iconic historic farm buildings in the English National Parks from falling out of use. Owners of these buildings from today can apply for a grant offering 80% towards the cost of restoration. This can include replacing the roof, weatherproofing the exterior, or other restoration works so that the building can be used again for farming purposes.

The scheme is open for applications until 31 January 2019 and, once approved, agreement holders will have two years to complete the works.

The grant is also supported by an implementation plan so that applicants can work with National Park advisors on developing a management plan to deliver the restoration, working with conservation consultants as necessary. This work is 100% funded so applicants can seek the advice they need to develop high quality applications and secure funding for their projects.

Lord Gardiner, Defra Minister for National Parks said: “The British countryside, including those historic farm buildings that dot some of our most iconic landscapes, is a truly precious natural asset. I am delighted that we are able to open this new set of grants supporting the restoration of traditional farm buildings. Land managers who apply for this scheme will not only be safeguarding our rural history and culture, but also regenerating traditional buildings for use today and for future generations.”


I wish I'd Adder sighting like that... - Lancashire Wildlife Trust

The UK’s only venomous snake has been spotted in Lancashire. Though we’ve lost most of our scary animals like bears, wolves, and lynxes. The Adder is one of our last ‘claims to fame’ of a wild dangerous animal inhabiting our island.

Photo credit: Darin SmithAlthough having highly developed venom injecting mechanisms, Adders are actually not aggressive animals at all, and although we would never advise touching them, now is actually the time, in which you’re most likely to see them.

Photo credit: Darin Smith

During warm sunny days the males can be seen basking out near their hibernation spots. This can mean you get several males together.

Snakes, and in fact all reptiles are ectotherms, meaning cold blooded. This means they use the environment around them to warm up, rather than being warm blooded. This is the reason they like curling up in open sunny glades as they heat up in the sun, allowing the adder to mobilise. What’s also quite unusual about adders is that they don’t lay eggs, only a miniature sized adder that looks the same size and shape as an earthworm. Unfortunately, these beautiful animals are massively in decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation, which has resulted in a small genetic pool. They are already locally extinct in some counties such as Warwickshire and Nottingham but in Lancashire we still have the rare sighting.

It’s important to raise awareness of adders and the habitats they live in, as they have been heavily persecuted in the past. They can be found in lots of places such as sandy heaths, common lands, woodlands and grasslands but aren’t too keen on wet areas.

If you’re a reptile-lover it’s essential that whenever you do see an adder you record it to your local records centre.


New powers to crack down on waste crime - Environment Agency

The Environment Agency now has new powers to stop illegal waste sites posing a risk to the environment.

  • Environment Agency given new powers to tackle the problem of illegal waste sites.
  • Powers include ability to lock up sites and force rogue operators to clean up all waste
  • Body worn video cameras will be rolled out to all waste enforcement officers

New powers to tackle waste crime come into force today as the Environment Agency is given the authority to lock up illegal waste sites and block access in order to prevent tonnes of waste piling up and posing a risk to the environment.

The Environment Agency has also been granted the power to require rogue operators to clear all the waste at a problem waste site, not just the illegal waste. The changes are in response to a public consultation where 90% of respondents supported proposals for the regulator to take physical steps to curb illegal waste activity.

As the fight against waste crime ramps up, the Environment Agency has also announced that its waste enforcement officers will be equipped with body worn video cameras on their visits to waste sites. The move follows a growing number of abusive incidents during site inspections.

The measures follow an extra £30 million of funding from the Government in November 2017 to tackle waste crime – an issue that drives business away from legitimate operators, blights communities and endangers the environment.


HS2 Ltd amend their Environmental Statement after concerns raised by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust - Cheshire Wildlife Trust

Cheshire Wildlife Trust have welcomed a new supplementary Environment Statement released by HS2 Ltd for Phase 2a last week. Noctule bat c. Tom Marshall A number of the inaccuracies in the amount of habitat that will be lost were raised by the Trust back in September 2017 and these have now been amended.

Noctule bat c. Tom Marshall

“In Autumn we challenged the figures that HS2 Ltd had provided for the loss of wildlife habitat in south Cheshire as a consequence of Phase 2a of the scheme,” said Rachel Giles, Evidence and Planning Manager at Cheshire Wildlife Trust. “We were highly critical of their Environmental Statement because we could see it had been rushed and the losses of habitat reported in the statement did not match the areas we could see on the maps. On Friday the company admitted in a new report that it had indeed got its figures wrong. The report now identifies that an additional 3.1 hectares of lowland deciduous woodland and a further 8.8 km of hedgerows will be lost (a total of 21km loss of hedgerow). HS2 Ltd have also finally admitted that important semi-natural grassland will also be impacted after this had been flagged up in our response,” said Rachel. “Although we are reassured that the scale of the losses have finally been recognised we are disappointed that new amendments to the footprint of the scheme will result in even more losses of woodland. These new losses bring the total amount of native woodland lost in the south Cheshire area to 11 hectares.”


Organisations focussed on securing the future of the New Forest – New Forest National Park

The results of the ‘Future Forest’ public consultation held last year have been published, giving a real insight into the views of the public on priorities for managing recreation.

 Walking routes Milford (New Forest NPA)

Walking routes Milford (New Forest NPA)

More than 1,500 people and 50 organisations responded to the consultation, which revealed that some people believe certain activities are having an impact on the special qualities of the Forest. 
Many consultees recognised the need to raise greater awareness and understanding of the fragile habitats, vulnerable wildlife species and vital role of the commoners’ animals.
New Forest organisations with a remit for protecting the area’s fragile landscape while enabling people to enjoy it sustainably are working up proposals to ensure the Forest is fit to face the future.
The Forestry Commission, Natural England, Hampshire County Council, New Forest District Council and the Verderers asked the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) to lead a review of how recreation is managed. 
The aim of the review is to update the recreation management strategy agreed in 2010. New work is needed to protect the spectacular, yet fragile, wildlife-rich landscape that people come to see and help both local people and visitors enjoy it in sustainable ways. At the same time, limited resources also need to be used wisely. The consultation alongside other information and evidence, will be used to update the 2010 recreation strategy.

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