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


National Parks review launched - Defra

Nearly 70 years after National Parks and AONBs were first established, a new review will ensure designated landscapes are fit for the future.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has today (Sunday 27 May) committed to conserve and enhance England’s most cherished landscapes as a new review launches into the nation’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

Nearly 70 years after the country’s National Parks were first established, opening up the countryside and allowing more people to connect with nature, an independent panel will look at how these iconic landscapes meet our needs in the 21st century – including whether there is scope for the current network of 34 AONBs and 10 National Parks to expand.

The review, led by writer Julian Glover, will also explore how access to these beloved landscapes can be improved, how those who live and work in them can be better supported, and their role in growing the rural economy.

Weakening or undermining their existing protections or geographic scope will not be part of the review, which will instead focus on how designated areas can boost wildlife, support the recovery of natural habitats and connect more people with nature.

Undertaking a review is one of the key commitments of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which outlines our vision for improving the environment over a generation by connecting people with nature and helping wildlife to thrive.



Review of designated landscapes announced – Campaign for National Parks

Campaign for National Parks welcomes the Westminster Government’s announcement of Julian Glover as the chair of a 21st century ‘Hobhouse’ review into England’s designated landscapes over the bank holiday weekend. The charity urges the panel to consider how to make the Parks even more beautiful, better protected and enjoyed by all.

Chair of Campaign for National Parks, Janette Ward, said: “England’s world famous National Parks are beautiful and precious national assets. We welcome this review as an opportunity to consider how they can be further supported and enhanced to make sure the National Park family is strong and healthy for current and future generations. Campaign for National Parks looks forward to working with the panel to secure better protections for the Parks, but also make sure they are accessible to all and thriving with wildlife.”


CPRE reaction to review of National Parks and AONBs – CPRE

Emma Marrington, Senior Rural Policy Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “CPRE warmly welcomes the appointment of an independent panel led by Julian Glover to carry out this potentially game-changing review. This is a fantastic opportunity to shine the spotlight on National Parks and AONBs – which are the leading lights of England’s landscape – and to consider whether there should be new additions to our current network of landscapes designated for their national importance. Next year will be the 70th anniversary of the legislation that led to the creation of National Parks and AONBs, which makes this 21st century review all the more exciting.”


Unified habitat classification system is launched – Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

A new unified and comprehensive classification coding system for all terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats in the UK has been published.

The UKHab system will be useful for those carrying out surveys (CEH)The UKHab system will be useful for those carrying out surveys (CEH)

UKHab, which is free to use, has been published by the UK Habitat Classification Working Group, which includes Dr Lisa Norton of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH).

Thanks to its flexibility and simplicity, the scientists behind the project expect it to rapidly become the standard habitat classification used by professional ecologists across the UK.

A major benefit of widespread adoption of a single system is the potential to combine new field data with existing regional and national habitat datasets managed by organisations such as CEH, National Parks, local authorities and other statutory agencies. UKHab can be used either for collecting field data on handheld GIS-enabled devices or using paper maps.

One of UKHab’s key strengths is the combination of a primary habitat hierarchy and secondary codes, integrating all major classifications in use in the UK and Europe. A series of letters and numbers make up the complete code for each habitat.

The system is the culmination of nearly five years work of development, testing and revision.


WWT response to LAG update report – Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

The extent and cost of wildlife being poisoned by spent lead ammunition is higher than previously thought, according to figures in a new X-ray of wood pigeon showing fragments of shot with circles (WWT)report by an expert advisory panel.

Ducks, geese and swans are the main victims. They gobble up some of the 5,000 tonnes worth of tiny lead shot pellets discharged across the UK each year, mistaking them for grit which they use to grind food in their gizzards because they don’t have teeth.

X-ray of wood pigeon showing fragments of shot with circles (WWT)

The report also shows one route of lead exposure is more hazardous than previously thought. Around a quarter of quarry birds are shot at but survive and concern has now grown around how much lead they absorb from the embedded pellets left in their bodies.

Symptoms include disorientation, inability to digest food, and fewer and poorer eggs.
New estimates in the report suggest:

Up to 400,000 wildfowl could be made sick by embedded lead pellets in the UK each year, on top of up to 300,000 already estimated to be affected by ingesting poisonous pellets.

It’s already known that up to 100,000 of these wildfowl die. But for the first time the report suggests a financial cost for these deaths – being the equivalent market value of that number of captive-bred birds – which would be around £16m per year.

In the UK, the Government decided in 2016 to still allow lead ammunition in much of the country because, regardless of how many thousands of birds suffer or die, it wouldn’t take action unless entire species populations were affected. However the new report found:

“Several new studies have examined population-level effects in birds. Population modelling and correlative studies suggest that lead poisoning may be affecting population growth rates and sizes in a number of species, including freshwater ducks in the UK and along their flyways, as well as Grey Partridge, Common Buzzards, and Red Kite in selected locations in Europe including the UK. Particular concern has been expressed about the possible impact of lead poisoning on the population of the globally threatened Common Pochard.”


Single-use plastics: New EU rules to reduce marine litter – European Commission

With the amount of harmful plastic litter in oceans and seas growing ever greater, the European Commission is proposing new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

Together these constitute 70% of all marine litter items. The new rules are proportionate and tailored to get the best results. This means different measures will be applied to different products. Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market. For products without straight-forward alternatives, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; design and labelling requirements and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers. Together, the new rules will put Europe ahead of the curve on an issue with global implications.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development said: "This Commission promised to be big on the big issues and leave the rest to Member States. Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food. Today's proposals will reduce single use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures. We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favourite products."

Across the world, plastics make up 85% of marine litter. And plastics are even reaching people's lungs and dinner tables, with micro-plastics in the air, water and food having an unknown impact on their health. Tackling the plastics problem is a must and it can bring new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation.


Lough Erne Landscape Partnership receives National Lottery boost - Heritage Lottery Fund

A major new initiative to protect and conserve the Lough and its surroundings is underway thanks to a £2.6million investment from the National Lottery over five years.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) confirmed the award for the new Landscape Partnership project at Lough Erne led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds NI (RSPB NI).

The beautiful Fermanagh Lakeland landscape consists of numerous islands, long shorelines, rivers, wet meadows, blanket bog, grasslands and woodlands.  It is home to an array of internationally important species and habitats, and contains a wealth of natural, built, archaeological, cultural and industrial heritage spanning 9,000 years. 

The Lough Erne Landscape Partnership (LELP) plans to deliver 23 individual projects to improve access, protect habitats and species, and engage communities with the heritage in 500km2 of landscape.  It will support an innovative partnership approach to the ongoing, integrated management of the natural environment, led by the RSPB NI in partnership with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Waterways Ireland, Fermanagh Rural Community Network, Upper Lough Erne Tourism Development Association, and the National Trust.


Are water voles at risk from development? WildCRU research questions efficacy of mitigation technique - WildCRU

The water vole, immortalised as ‘Ratty’ in Kenneth Grahams’ Wind in the Willows was formerly a common sight on waterways throughout mainland Britain. However, catastrophic declines due to predation from invasive American mink combined with habitat loss and fragmentation have resulted in the water vole now being considered one of Britain’s most endangered wild mammals. As such, water voles and their burrows are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Development works affecting the bankside create an additional pressure on remaining populations. 

(image: © Andrew Harrington)Natural England created a licence to permit intentional disturbance of water voles with the idea of giving the voles a chance to move to safety before developers set to work. The procedure involved removing riverside vegetation, encouraging the voles to relocate, and then to destroy their burrows when they were safely out of harm’s way to prevent the animals’ return once works had commenced.  Such activities, intended to conserve the water voles while enabling approved development, are licensed between mid-February and mid-April and must not exceed 50m of bankside length.

(image: © Andrew Harrington)

The WildCRU study found that the voles had other ideas. Radio-tracking water voles subjected to this procedure found that they often steadfastly stayed put. These findings published today in Conservation Evidence revealed no overall movement of water voles out of areas where displacement works had occurred. On the contrary, many voles remained faithful to their burrows.  The guidelines had always insisted that destruction of burrows should be undertaken cautiously, and only during spring, in the hope of saving the lives of any water voles remaining. However, that was in the expectation that at most only a few bankside denizens would stubbornly refuse to shift. Now it seems the majority stand firm, shifting the balance of risks. 

Read the Paper: Gelling M., Harrington A.L., Dean M., Haddy E.C., Marshall C.E. & Macdonald D.W. (2018) The effect of using ‘displacement’ to encourage the movement of water voles Arvicola amphibius in lowland England. Conservation Evidence, 15, 20-25 


National Assembly for Wales Climate Change Report supports planting trees - Confor

Concern about the severe lack of new woodland creation in Wales and under-ambitious tree-planting targets are central messages in a new report from the National Assembly for Wales on Climate Change.

The wide-ranging report by the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee (CCERA) examines Welsh Government (WG) progress towards climate change mitigation. It looks at many sectors - including energy generation, EU Emissions Trading Scheme, land management, transport and housing – noting  the progress in each area and suggesting future action WG can take.

One key message was concern about the severe lack of new woodland creation in Wales. The report said it was “extremely unlikely the Welsh Government will meet its target of 100,000 hectares (ha) of new woodland creation for 2010-2030 without a fundamental change in approach”. It also said: “Although the Welsh Government remains committed to reaching its planting target, there is no evidence that would suggest that the target is achievable or realistic, based on current performance”.

The report also says the new planting aspiration of 2,000ha per year is insufficient. Read the full report here 


New study finds parasites affect flight ability of wild seabirds – University of Liverpool

Image credit: Joe TurnerA study led by the University of Liverpool and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) has found that parasites affect flight ability of wild seabirds, which may make it harder for them to raise chicks.

Image credit: Joe Turner

The researchers studied a population of European shags on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve, Scotland and measured how parasites affect energy levels and behaviour of individual birds, something which hasn’t been done before in a wild population.

They used an endoscope to count individual worms in the birds’ stomachs and miniaturised electronic tags recorded the movement and energy of the birds.

They then calculated the total energy used on each day, and the energy used for flying, diving and resting.

Researchers found that the total energy used per day did not depend on the amount of parasites, but females with higher levels of parasites had more costly flight and spent less time flying each day, presumably to avoid using too much energy.

Access the paper: Olivia Hicks, Sarah J. Burthe, Francis Daunt, Mark Newell, Adam Butler, Motohiro Ito, Katsufumi Sato, Jonathan A. Green The energetic cost of parasitism in a wild population Proc. R. Soc. B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0489.   


Coul Links hangs in the balance - Scottish Wildlife Trust

Highland Council’s planning officials have recommended the refusal of plans for a golf course at Coul Links, which would threaten a highly protected sand dune system in Sutherland.

Coul Links © Susan DaviesThe Council’s North Planning Committee will meet on Tuesday 5 June to discuss the development.

Coul Links © Susan Davies

Our Chief Executive Jonny Hughes said:  “We welcome the recommendation of Highland Council’s officials to refuse planning permission for this damaging development, and we hope that councillors will follow this advice when they meet next Tuesday.

“Scottish Natural Heritage’s clear objection to the golf course demonstrates that the effect on the SSSI goes beyond the area that would be directly damaged, and that the true scale of this impact is in fact still unknown. It would be extraordinary if councillors approve this development against the advice of their officials, in addition to an overwhelming number of objections from environmental organisations and the general public. If it is approved, we believe the Scottish Government should immediately use its powers to put a stop to this misguided proposal, which frankly should never have got so far.”

Coastal sand dunes like those found at Coul Links are one of the world’s fastest disappearing habitats. Globally they are even rarer than rainforests.


Funding secured to build storm-resilient hide at Snettisham - RSPB

RSPB secures funding needed to build new storm-resilient hide at Snettisham to replace hides destroyed in 2013.

The RSPB’s vision of replacing hides lost in the 2013 storm surge at RSPB Snettisham nature reserve on the Norfolk coast will be realised before the end of the year thanks to a generous grant of £73,500 from FCC Environment through the WREN FCC Community Action Fund, taking funding for the hide to a grand total of £140,000. The appeal to raise funds to replace the hides was kick-started by the charity last summer with a month-long Crowdfunder campaign. 366 people supported the appeal, raising a total of £14,801 through online and offline donations.

On the back of the Crowdfunder success, three more community trust grants and further donations from individuals and businesses pushed the total up. This funding, coupled with the money awarded by WREN and FCC Environment, will help the nature conservation charity to replace the two hides destroyed in a devastating storm surge in 2013, with a bigger, better, storm-resilient structure.

RSPB Project Manager, Hayley Roan said: “As you can imagine we are over the moon to receive this funding! We can now achieve the vision of creating a hide that will withstand the pressures of climate change and also encourage future generations to love and understand the very special wildlife and habitats of The Wash.”

WREN is a not-for-profit business that awards grants for community, biodiversity and heritage projects from funds donated by FCC Environment through the Landfill Communities Fund.


Small Blue Week: Big ask for Scotland’s smallest butterfly - Butterfly Conservation

Small Blue on Kidney Vetch (image: Butterfly Conservation)Wildlife lovers are being asked to help Scotland’s smallest butterfly, which has found itself in big trouble.

Small Blue on Kidney Vetch (image: Butterfly Conservation)

The Small Blue is rare and declining in Scotland and urgent conservation work is needed to protect its remaining colonies and create the right conditions to allow the butterfly to spread back into its former territory.

Butterfly Conservation (BC) Scotland estimate the total area occupied by the Small Blue is less than 10 football pitches and at almost all sites, the tiny butterfly is only just hanging on - sometimes in colonies of thirty adults or fewer.

Several of the Small Blue’s former strongholds have seen numbers decline or completely disappear and there is concern that a 2013 re-introduction project in Ayrshire has not yet produced a viable colony, with no butterflies seen in 2017.

This year the second ‘Small Blue Butterfly Week’, organised by BC Scotland in conjunction with the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership, will run from 1 to 10 June to highlight the plight of the butterfly and the work carried out to save it.


BASC warns of impact on lead restriction - British Association for Shooting and Conservation

BASC has told a European consultation on the use of lead ammunition that too broad a definition of a ‘wetland’ would damage shooting in the UK.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) – an agency of the European Union – this week closed its final public consultation on the use of lead shot over wetlands.

The proposal is to restrict the use of lead over wetlands or where spent shot would land within a wetland. ECHA is also considering a ban on lead shot within 300 metres of a wetland.  BASC believes this 300m ‘buffer’ could make it illegal to use lead over as much as 90 per cent of the UK.

BASC scientific advisor Matt Ellis said: “Whether ECHA committees recommend an explicit 300m buffer around wetlands or not, the wording of the restriction would enact a de facto buffer due to the requirement that lead shot not fall in to wetlands.  To give us an indication of how this may affect the UK, we analysed land and water courses in North Wales and this found that more than 90 per cent of land was within 300m of wetland.  Given the estimate of the land affected in North Wales it is likely that a similar proportion of the total landmass of the UK would be affected, meaning it could be illegal to use lead shot over 90 per cent of the UK. In our submission to the ECHA consultation, we have argued that the unintended consequences of this restriction would have a significant adverse impact on the 600,000 people who shoot in the UK. For example, there are 24,000 clay pigeon shooting providers in the UK, providing 3.9 million gun days to the 400,000 UK shooters that shoot clays at least once a year. Many clay shooting providers are diversified farms, recreational fishing venues or outdoor activity centres and so tend to be surrounded by lakes, ponds and ditches. They would be unfairly caught up in the loose terminology of this restriction.”

John Dryden, chair of BASC’s wildfowling committee, said: “If ECHA’s restriction is imposed, a significant number of people shooting clays and quarry other than waterfowl would be adversely affected."


30 Days Wild starts today! Stars back national nature challenge 30 Days Wild - The Wildlife Trusts

54,500 – and rising – sign up to go wild in June 

Naturalists, TV presenters and authors are backing The Wildlife Trusts’ national nature challenge to do something ‘wild’ every day during June. Author Abi Elphinstone, TV presenter Gillian Burke, Olympian Alex Gregory, and chart-topping James McVey from The Vamps have all put their weight behind the campaign to reconnect people with wildlife in a fun and inspirational way. 54,500 people, schools and workplaces have signed up to 30 Days Wild which starts on Friday June 1st.  Sign-ups are rising, and we hope to beat last year when an estimated 250,000 took part. 
New research shows that 30 Days Wild is unique in improving people’s perception of beauty in nature, and that noticing natural beauty makes people happier and want to care for it.

Nick Baker, naturalist and television presenter and Vice President of The Wildlife Trusts says:
“Ever since I was a small boy I’ve been fascinated by wildlife and the natural world. It’s so important for us all to have regular contact with nature – I know it makes me feel happier and healthier. Taking the 30 Days Wild challenge is a brilliant way to reconnect with your own wild side so why not get out and go wild this June?”

New research shows that 30 Days Wild is unique in improving people’s perception of beauty in nature, and that noticing natural beauty makes people happier and want to care for it.

30 Days Wild is encouraging people to make their neighbourhoods wilder and green-up their streets, to help wildlife and to share the joy of nature.

Lucy McRobert, Campaigns Manager for The Wildlife Trusts says: “30 Days Wild is a lovely way to get closer to nature and marvel at the everyday wildlife that lives all around you. Sit quietly and enjoy watching dragonflies dance over a pond or take a moment to sow a window-box of wildflowers to help bees. Get together with your neighbours to create hedgehog highways or sow front-garden meadows along the length of your street. No matter how small the action, it all counts!”

Click through to sign up and join in the fun. 


Countryside being lost to housing at an alarming rate, despite increase in brownfield development - Campaign to Protect Rural England

New government data shows that despite promising signs of an increase in brownfield development, greenfield land is still being lost to housing development at an unnecessary rate.

The amount of farmland, forests, gardens and greenfield land lost to housing development each year has increased by 58% over the past 4 years, according to an analysis by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

CPRE’s analysis of an annual report highlighting changes in land use, published by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government on 31 May, shows that the area of ‘non-previously developed land’ lost to housing annually has been steadily rising, from 2,105 hectares of land in 2013, to 3,332 hectares of land in 2017.

This alarming loss of countryside to housing is taking place despite a promising increase in the proportion of housing development taking place on brownfield land. Previously, Government data showed a worrying decrease in the proportion of land developed for housing that was brownfield, which down to 28% in 2016, from 41% in 2013. However, last year’s data shows that the proportion of land used for housing had increased to 44% brownfield, back to levels similar to 2013.

CPRE is calling for the introduction of an explicit policy in the revised National Planning Policy Framework that ensures suitable brownfield sites are developed before greenfield sites are released, and which prevents developers from cherry-picking greenfield sites. More should be done to encourage councils to be proactive in identifying opportunities to provide new homes on brownfield sites and to use Brownfield Registers to bring suitable sites forward for development.

Access the report: Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government - The Land Use Change statistics 2016 to 2017


Grizzled Skipper set to return to Derbyshire! - Butterfly Conservation

The Grizzled Skipper was recorded on the Calke Estate during the 1940s and 50s. Over time, tree and shrub cover increased in the area, closing off much of the open quarry floor and banks that contained the butterfly’s food plants, wild strawberry and bugle. Now, the National Trust is working in partnership with Butterfly Conservation and Natural England, to embark on a project to reintroduce this increasingly rare butterfly species to the area.

Grizzled skipper (image: Butterfly Conservation)Grizzled skipper (image: Butterfly Conservation)

It is a priority of the National Trust to restore the estate to a healthy, natural environment where all wildlife can thrive.

On the site where the Grizzled Skipper will be reintroduced, several trees have been removed to open up the area and Hebridean sheep were introduced to graze off the regrowth. This encouraged the growth of grassland and plants that love the calcium-rich soils, such as the Common Spotted Orchid and the Fragrant Orchid.

Due to its geology, the area was suggested by Butterfly Conservation East Midlands as the first site in Derbyshire to reintroduce the Grizzled Skipper.


City Nature Challenge – the results are in! - National Biodiversity Network

Bristol and Bath win best in Europe in the first global City Nature Challenge.

Between 27-30 April 2018 Bristol and Bath competed with 65 cities on five continents to show the world how amazing its region is for people and nature. Together they embarked on an epic contest: to discover and record as much wildlife as possible over 4 days. Observations counted towards local, national and international efforts to learn about and protect the regions’ amazing wildlife.

The data collected has a great impact locally, helping local authorities, land managers and nature reserves make informed decisions about looking after the regions’ wildlife and green spaces. On a national and international level, the data contributes to massive open and shared datasets that allow researchers and conservationists to monitor species distributions in a changing world.

The Bristol and Bath effort was coordinated by the Natural History Consortium which runs the annual Festival of Nature and BioBlitz activities in the region. Chief Executive Savita Willmott said: “Huge thanks to everyone who got involved and sent in their observations. It’s a great reflection of the West of England as a real centre for wildlife lovers!

City Nature Challenge in Numbers

65 Cities | 5 Continents | 4 Days | 1 Mission: To record as much wildlife as possible!

Bristol & Bath City Region: >9500 Observations | >1000 Species | >300 Observers | >35 events

We identified: 631 Plant species | 93 Fungi species | 78 Bird species | 37 Mollusc species | 33 Mammal species | 22 Arachnid species | 5 Amphibian species

#1 in Europe: with more than 3 times the observations of our local rivals in London

#13 in the World: Of the cities covering an area less than 1000km2, only New York City made more observations 

View all the wildlife observations made on the city nature challenge website. 


Scientific publications

McClure, C. J. W., Martinson, L. & Allison, T. D. (2018) Automated monitoring for birds in flight: Proof of concept with eagles at a wind power facility. Biological Conservation doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.04.041


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