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


Frustratingly low tree planting rates continue in England - Woodland Trust

Brackfield Wood newly planted sapling (Photo: Michael Cooper via Woodland Trust)The Woodland Trust is disappointed by the continued low rate of new woodland planting confirmed in official figures on Friday (15/6/18).

The figures show only 1500ha of woodland was planted in England last year, far below the Government and Forestry Commission aim of 5000ha. Since announcing the aspiration to increase England’s woodland cover to 12% by 2060, planting has fallen well short of the levels needed to achieve this goal. 

Brackfield Wood newly planted sapling (Photo: Michael Cooper via Woodland Trust)

John Tucker, director of woodland creation, Woodland Trust said: “These figures are all the more shocking considering the growing evidence of the importance of trees and woods in tackling air pollution, improving water quality and offering scope to deliver natural flood management, not to mention what they offer for wildlife and their productive potential for the rural economy. Something is drastically wrong with the way various government departments that share responsibility for trees and woods are failing to get enough new woodland created. Poor planting rates, woodland losses, and weak protection of ancient woods mean that in England, we are highly likely to be in a state of net deforestation, with some areas of woodland canopy felled or destroyed and not replanted. Despite repeated requests there is little sign of government effort to accurately quantify the cumulative losses of woodland resulting from planning, infrastructure, tree disease and intensive land use.”

Poor planting figures are partly due to significant delays in grant agreements, and low uptake due to changes in the system. The Trust says more flexible programmes are needed to grant aid to both smaller and larger areas of woodland creation and attract a wider range of landowners willing to plant.

The Trust hopes the Government’s forthcoming framework for its 25 year plan for nature will herald a fresh approach, and genuinely new and practical solutions to address these issues. 

 Midhope Moor Track (image: Peak District National Park)


A retrospective planning permission for a track on Midhope Moor has been refused - Peak District National Park Authority

Midhope Moor Track (image: Peak District National Park)

Paul Ancell, chair of the Peak District National Park Authority’s planning committee, said: “National Park designation is given to the best and most important landscapes in the UK and Midhope Moor contributes to this quality landscape. In fact, this area is protected by both UK and European law: it is in the South Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation, and forms part of the Peak District Moors Special Protection Area, and is in the Dark Peak Site of Special Scientific Interest. This means it is internationally important for the habitat it provides and it is our job to help protect it.  Today’s decision to refuse the retrospective planning application for a track on Midhope Moor was taken due to the overriding need to protect the open moorland habitat and because of the unacceptable impact the track has in the landscape of the Peak District National Park."


Exotic invasions can drive native species extinct - University of Southampton

Latest research from the University of Southampton has revealed the impact of exotic species upon native wildlife, which could potentially lead to native plant species extinctions within their natural habitats.

The study, published in Nature Communications, underlined that even though competing species have typically lived together following past migration periods, human introduction and assistance may turn today’s invaders into agents of native species extinction.

Jane Catford, Principal Investigator of the study, titled ‘Introduced species that overcome life history trade-offs can cause native extinctions’, said: “It is well established that introduced pests, parasites and predators can result in native species extinctions, but whether the introduction of exotic plants can lead to native plant extinctions has been hotly debated. Our research shows that introduced exotic plants that are free from their natural enemies or are widely planted in agriculture and gardens can competitively exclude natives.” 

Read the paper (open access): Jane A. Catford, Michael Bode & David Tilman Introduced species that overcome life history tradeoffs can cause native extinctions Nature Communications volume 9, Article number: 2131 (2018) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-04491-3


RSPCA rescues terrified buck tangled in netting - RSPCA

Deer caught in netting in Lincolnshire (image: RSPCA)The RSPCA is issuing a warning about the dangers of netting to wildlife after a terrified buck became entangled in some which had been left discarded. 

A member of the public spotted the “distressed” deer with his head and antlers in a twisted tangle of plastic netting at the side of Castle Bytham Road in Swayfield, Lincolnshire last week. 

Deer caught in netting in Lincolnshire (image: RSPCA)

RSPCA Inspector Andy Bostock rushed to the scene to help the terrified animal which was running around in circles while his head was trapped.

Inspector Bostock said the netting had been left behind from when the land used to house pens for rearing game birds and said this incident highlights the importance of clearing netting and plastic away because it is very damaging to wildlife. 

The RSPCA receives hundreds of calls every year to rescue animals – often wildlife – who have become tangled in netting, sport or garden nets or fishing litter. 

Inspector Bostock added: “Netted fencing and netting used for gardening or in sport can be really dangerous for animals and also poses a risk for those of us who are trying to rescue any entangled animal. This is a situation which could have been avoided if the netting had been discarded safely.” 

Other forms of garden netting, like pond or fruit netting, can be a real hazard to wild animals like hedgehogs and the RSPCA recommend replacing them with solid metal mesh. 


Ambitious project launches to halt alien invasion – Scottish Natural Heritage

Image: Scottish Natural HeritageThe £3.34 million Scottish Invasive Species Initiative is officially launched today (Tuesday 19 June) by Scottish Natural Heritage with the help of pupils from Ben Wyvis primary school.

Image: Scottish Natural Heritage

The initiative, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and funded by The National Lottery, was set up to tackle one of the countryside’s biggest problems – invasive non-native (alien) species.

On the River Conon, it was a case of many hands make light work, as the P6 class from Ben Wyvis Primary School (Conon Bridge) gamely rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in to helping pull out the invasive Himalayan balsam plant.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Scotland’s habitats and wildlife are internationally important, but they are being threatened in some places by an invasion of non-native species. The Scottish Government has been working hard to tackle this problem for many years so I am very happy to support the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative, through Scottish Natural Heritage funding. The initiative will rely on one of our greatest resources – volunteers – in order to put long-term solutions in place. I would like to thank the volunteers who work so hard on a wide range of environmental projects right across Scotland – they have my respect and admiration.”


Sister species of birds reveal clues to how biodiversity evolves – Imperial College London

Extensive new datasets about the world’s birds are helping to solve the riddle of how life on Earth diversified.

New insights into ecology and evolution are coming from global datasets focused on avian ‘sister species’, including the familiar blue tit Parus [Cyanistes] caeruleus and its closest living relative the azure tit Parus [Cyanistes] cyanus. Photos: gardenbird.co.uk and Krzysztof Blachowiak (Internet Bird Collection).New insights into ecology and evolution are coming from global datasets focused on avian ‘sister species’, including the familiar blue tit Parus [Cyanistes] caeruleus and its closest living relative the azure tit Parus [Cyanistes] cyanus. Photos: gardenbird.co.uk and Krzysztof Blachowiak (Internet Bird Collection).

By combining global datasets on bird characteristics, citizen-science species sightings and genetics, researchers have begun to answer some key questions in biodiversity. The results are published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution, in two parallel studies that include Imperial College London researchers.

“Understanding the factors controlling patterns of geographic overlap between species takes us one step closer to understanding how complex ecosystems are formed and predicting what they may look like in the future as a result of changing climates and land uses.” Dr Joseph Tobias

The first paper compiles body measurements and estimates of evolutionary history for hundreds of closely related bird species (called ‘sister species’) to study how new species evolve.

In most cases, new bird species begin to emerge when one population is isolated geographically from others, such as by a mountain range. Later, the diverging species may extend their geographical ranges, bringing them back into contact.

These encounters can play out in one of three ways: the species can interbreed and form a single species again; they can stay separated but with hard borders between their two ranges; or they can continue to expand their ranges until they coexist over a wide area.


Beavers breeding in Cornwall! – Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Cornwall Beaver Project announced some fantastic news last week with the arrival of at least two kits (juvenile beavers) at the 5 acre fenced site at Woodland Valley Farm in Ladock near Truro. These are the first beavers to be born in Cornwall for over 400 years!

Beaver kit by Nina ConstableBeaver kit by Nina Constable

Farmer Chris Jones alerted project partner Cornwall Wildlife Trust after his first view of one of the kits at the beginning of the week. The Cornwall Beaver Project team were all hoping for some good views during their regular Wednesday night beaver walk and invited filmmaker Nina Constable in the hope of getting some footage for BBC Springwatch. The kits did indeed come out and were enjoyed by thousands nationwide on the last episode of Springwatch 2018.

The Cornish beaver pair have been busy since their release last summer making themselves at home in their 5-acre enclosure on the farm. The Cornwall Beaver Project has witnessed the first beaver lodge being built in Cornwall for hundreds of years. As well as this, a smaller lodge appeared on site earlier in the year which initially caused confusion. However, it was soon realised this was the male beaver building a temporary bachelor pad, as he had likely been asked to leave the lodge while the female was nursing. All the signs were there and the team have sat poised for the last month waiting in anticipation for the first glimpse of a beaver kit.


NRW to invest £2.6 million in innovative projects to improve the environment – Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is set to invest £2.6 million in projects to improve the environment across Wales.

The successful projects will help some of our most threatened wildlife, improve habitats plus increase access to some of Wales’ most spectacular landscapes and will deliver real improvements for the Welsh environment, people and economy over the next two years.

The projects selected will help meet the challenges identified under the four themes of reducing the risk from environmental hazards such as flooding and pollution; improving habitat management, biodiversity and connectivity; improving access to the outdoors and using the natural environment to support the economy and develop skills. 

Rhian Jardine, NRW’s Chair of Strategic Funding Board said: “Improving the natural environment, and the wildlife that lives there is incredibly important for us and for Wales, its wildlife and people’s quality of life. We have been delighted at the quality and innovation of applications in response to this funding opportunity that will help us to achieve that. Our commissioning approach, where we set out the challenges for specific areas of Wales generated interest across all sectors and we have several partners who receive funding for the first time including the National Farmers Union and Denbighshire Housing Department.”

Discussions between NRW and the successful bidders over the next few weeks will refine this year’s projects before contracts are signed over the summer.


Pair of nesting red kites found poisoned in County Down – RSPB

Tests find illegal poison Carbofuran was the cause · Rescue mission launched in attempt to save three orphaned eggs found in nest beneath the deceased mother · Latest in a series of incidents involving red kites in Northern Ireland

RSPB NI and the PSNI are appealing for information after a pair of protected red kites died through illegal poisoning in County Down.
A male bird was found in distress close to a known nest site in the Katesbridge area on April 24. A member of the public alerted RSPB NI but the bird died shortly afterwards. When the RSPB NI red kite project officer attended the scene, she found the female parent bird immobile on the nest – she too was dead. A rescue mission was launched in an attempt to save three orphaned eggs found in the nest beneath the deceased mother.  The bodies of the parent birds were collected and taken for toxicology testing by the PSNI. This has now revealed that both birds – known as Blue 21 and Red 63 because of their identifying tags - died from Carbofuran poisoning. Red kites, along with all birds of prey, are protected in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (NI) Act 2011. Carbofuran is a highly toxic pesticide which has been banned across the EU since 2001 due to its high toxicity towards wildlife and humans.  Red kites mostly hunt within 2.5km of their nest site. The male bird brings food for the incubating female bird, so it is possible that the male bird found a poisoned bait – such as a rabbit – and likely brought this back to the nest to feed the female bird. The dead male’s first partner (Blue 13) also died by poisoning in 2014 in the same area.

Under licence from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), the rescue operation ensured that the three eggs were fostered into two wild red kite nests, alongside other eggs, in the hope of saving them.

In one of the nests two transferred eggs failed as they were found intact (unhatched) during a follow-up inspection. In the other nest - which hosted one adoptive egg alongside two other eggs - one chick was found on the nest. As there were no egg shell remains it’s unknown if the sole chick on this nest was from the donor egg. 


A tail of triumph! Hand-reared godwits survive odds to fly the nest - Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

(image: Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust)21 black-tailed godwits were released in the Cambridgeshire Fens after being hand-reared by conservationists at WWT Welney.

(image: Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust)

Many of the birds released today were not expected to hatch due to the terrible condition of the eggs as a result of the late spring downpours. Thankfully the eggs were rescued from muddy farmland and the chicks safely raised until old enough to look after themselves.

This practice is one element of Project Godwit – a partnership between WWT and RSPB – which aims to restore the UK breeding population by collecting eggs for rear and release, known as head-starting.

WWT’s Nicola Hiscock oversaw the hand-rearing process. She said:“Even though we began head-starting godwits in 2017, it didn’t make the release any less nerve-wracking. We had a real issue with flooding this year which meant some of these birds literally started life buried in the ground. So to watch them take their first flight is very, very special. Over the next few weeks we’ll check on them daily to make sure they’re OK. But then, they’ll be off on migration and we probably won’t see them again until they return in the next year or two.”

The fledged godwits are expected to join up with the wild fledged birds and spend time in the Fens before migrating to southern Europe and Africa for the winter. 


Protecting and Connecting Stow Bedon Common - Freshwater Habitats Trust

Freshwater Habitats Trust is delighted to have been awarded a grant of almost £32,000 by Biffa Award to help protect one of Norfolk’s most important yet little known freshwater sites.

Stow Bedon Common in Breckland is home to over 30 natural ponds known as pingos, created over 12,000 years ago by ground-ice thawing during the last Ice Age, leaving behind shallow depressions which filled with water. Free from pollution, these ponds are now exceptionally rich in freshwater life and are home to many rare plants and animals, but they need help to stay that way.

Over the next year the grant from Biffa Award will pay for clearing scrub and putting in new fencing so that livestock can graze the site. The grazing animals will keep the ponds in perfect condition for the special plants and animals that live there by stopping the growth of trees and scrub.

Freshwater Habitats Trust will also be supporting local people to become guardians of the site. The Trust will be running training events and practical work sessions, creating a resource of volunteers to continue caring for the site long into the future.

Celebrate the awesome beauty of the National Parks #summerofbeauty The Campaign for National Parks

We are launching our #summerofbeauty campaign and we are calling on you to join us in celebrating & improving the awe-inspiring beauty of National Parks

Dragon's breath by Grant Hyatt. Showing the breath taking beauty of the Brecon Beacons. What does beauty mean? Campaign for National Parks’ founders (way back in the 1930’s) believed that areas of the country needed to be protected for the good of the nation – to ensure that the beauty of these areas would be preserved but also to make sure they were accessible for everyone to enjoy. This led to the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act and the designation of our favourite parts of the countryside as National Parks.

Dragon's breath by Grant Hyatt. Showing the breath taking beauty of the Brecon Beacons. 

The original first purpose of the National Parks in the Act was stated as ‘preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the areas’ and natural beauty was defined as ‘including flora, fauna, and geological and physiographical features’.  So for us, beauty has always more than just aesthetics. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the legislation that underpins the English and Welsh National Parks, the Parks remain as important and valuable as ever. But the Parks are far from perfect. We want to make the parks even more beautiful.

What does that mean? While we recognise the high quality of National Park landscapes – we want them to be teeming with more wildlife and diverse habitats, contain important sites ofcultural heritage along with thriving communities.

In the coming weeks we will hear from projects from across the National Parks working hard to enhance the landscape, we will be launching our own report on improving wildlife in the Parks and we will be calling for changes to make our Parks more beautiful. Flourishing nature in our National Parks can help us meet the biggest challenges of our time. Whether it is mitigating the impacts of climate change, providing opportunities for recreation and the rural economy or boosting our mental and physical health.


Climate change to overtake land use as major threat to global biodiversity - University College London

Gecko (credit: torstensimon, source: Pixabay)Climate change will have a rapidly increasing effect on the structure of global ecological communities over the next few decades, with amphibians and reptiles being significantly more affected than birds and mammals, a new report by UCL finds.

Gecko (credit: torstensimon, source: Pixabay)

The pace of change is set to outstrip loss to vertebrate communities caused by land use for agriculture and settlements, which is estimated to have already caused losses of over ten per cent.

Previous studies have suggested that ecosystem function is substantially impaired where more than 20 per cent of a species is lost; this is estimated to have occurred across over a quarter of the world’s surface, rising to nearly two thirds when roads are taken into account.

The new study, published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that the effects of climate change on ecological communities are predicted to match or exceed land use in its effects on vertebrate community diversity by 2070, and surpass the effects of historical land use.

The findings suggest that efforts to minimise human impact on global biodiversity should now take both land use and climate change into account instead of just focusing on one over the other, as the combined effects are expected to have significant negative effects on the global ecosystem.

Access the paper: Tim Newbold Future effects of climate and land-use change on terrestrial vertebrate community diversity under different scenarios Proc. R. Soc. B 2018 285 20180792; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0792. 


Latest trends in butterfly indicators revealed - Butterfly Conservation

The UK and England butterfly indicators are Official Statistics published by Defra today (21st June 2018). 

Adonis Blue butterfly (image: Butterfly Conservation)They form part of a suite of Governmental biodiversity indicators and describe grouped measures for habitat specialist and wider countryside butterflies species across the UK from 1976-2017 and wider countryside species in woodland and farmland habitats in England from 1990-2017.

Adonis Blue butterfly (image: Butterfly Conservation)

Though better than the previous year, 2017 was a relatively poor year for butterflies; attributable to periods of poor weather during the spring and summer and preceding winter months.  In the UK, since 1976, the habitat specialists butterflies index has fallen by 77%, whilst wider countryside abundance is down by 46%.

Species had contrasting fortunes within the overall trend.  Habitat specialists showing the greatest decline since 1976 include: Heath Fritillary, Wood White, Lulworth Skipper and Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Silver-spotted Skipper, Dark Green Fritillary, Large Heath, Adonis Blue and Silver-washed Fritillary show significant increases over the long term.  Wider countryside showing the greatest declines since 1976 include: White-letter Hairstreak, Wall, and Small Tortoiseshell. Comma, Marbled White, Speckled Wood and Ringlet show increases over the long term.  

Read the report: Butterflies in the wider countryside: England, 1990 to 2017


Garden survey reveals sightings of frog and toad are drying up - RSPB

  • Survey results released today of more than 10,300 Scottish gardens reveal that sightings of frogs and toads have declined.
  • Disappearance of garden ponds and pools has long been a factor in the declining numbers of the amphibians.
  • RSPB Scotland is challenging families to take part in the Wild Challenge by getting outside and creating a simple pond or DIY pool in their outdoor space. 

Survey results released today reveal that sightings of our amphibious garden wildlife such as frogs and toads are drying up, with RSPB Scotland calling on people to help them by getting outside this summer to create more ponds and pools in their outdoor space.  Results from the RSPB’s wildlife survey, which is part of the conservation organisation’s Big Garden Birdwatch, show that frogs had been seen in more than 60 per cent of gardens across Scotland. They were seen at least monthly in over a quarter of gardens. However, these regular sightings have fallen by five percent since the last time they were surveyed in 2014.


Manx shearwaters surveyed for first time in 20 years - National Trust

A British seabird known for its daredevil flying stunts is being monitored for the first time in 20 years on a remote Welsh island.

Manx shearwaters, who fly so low that their wingtips almost touch the water, have been counted on Middleholm Island off the Pembrokeshire coast in South Wales by National Trust rangers and volunteer researchers from the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW).
The monitoring team employed an unusual method to count Manx shearwaters, playing audio recordings of their call into their burrows and then listening out for a response.  Together with neighbouring Skomer and Skokholm, Pembrokeshire’s islands are home to the world’s largest breeding colonies of the Manx shearwater, with approximately 50 per cent of the global population living there.  Monitoring the Manx shearwater colony is essential for assessing population health and measuring the effects of external factors on population numbers such as climate change.


Defining and delivering resilient ecological networks in England - British Ecological Society

(image: Barbara Smith, Coventry University)The UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (henceforth 25YEP) for England is an exciting opportunity to reframe the direction of nature conservation in Britain. It sets the goal of creating a nature recovery network to protect and restore wildlife.

(image: Barbara Smith, Coventry University)

The idea of a Nature Recovery Network draws strongly on the vision and principles of Sir John Lawton’s ‘Making Space for Nature’ report, and the widely accepted mantra that wildlife sites should be ‘better, bigger, more and joined’ for ecological networks to be resilient in the face of continuing environmental change and human pressures, and capable of sustaining wildlife populations into the future.  Specific commitments of the 25YEP include the creation of 500,000 hectares of new wildlife habitat and putting 75% of existing protected sites into ‘favourable condition’. These are laudable targets, and achieving them would certainly benefit wildlife. However, there’s no connection between the targets and the overarching goal of resilient ecological networks. In other words, we don’t know how much habitat creation would be enough.

Read the paper:  Isaac NJ, Brotherton PN, Bullock JM, et al (2018). Defining and delivering resilient ecological networks: nature conservation in England. J Appl Ecol. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13196


Don’t let the sun set on our parks - National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces

Coalition of national organisations call on political leaders to save UK parks

On the first day of summer, the UK’s political leaders are being asked to champion parks and local public green spaces across the UK to halt and reverse their decline.  The Charter for Parks, launched today (21/6/18) by a coalition of national organisations, calls on Prime Minister Theresa May and First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon, Carwyn Jones and Arlene Foster, to celebrate these spaces so vital for all communities and take action to safeguard them.

The Charter calls on the UK’s four political leaders to:

  • Endorse a legal duty for all public green space to be managed to a good standard.
  • Ensure adequate long-term resources for maintenance, management and improvements.
  • Recognise the right of every citizen to have access within walking distance to a good-quality public green space.
  • Celebrate the central role well-run parks play in our neighbourhoods for all sections of our communities.
  • Embed effective protection from inappropriate development or use, or loss of any part of our parks.
  • Encourage and enable community involvement and empowerment of local people and park users.

Groups and organisations throughout the UK are being urged to sign up to the new Charter from today and throughout the summer.


Young people ‘bringing nature to Scotland’s cities’ - Scottish Natural Heritage and YoungScot

Scotland’s young people are set to take a new role in making space for nature in our cities, helping to develop urban nature parks, and developing their own nature projects through a new £100,000 Scottish Natural Heritage fund.

The announcement is SNH’s response to young people urging for better ways to connect with nature, particularly in Scotland’s cities; and improved access to jobs in nature, as laid out in a new report by Scotland’s national youth biodiversity group, ReRoute.

ReRoute, which was formed in 2015 through a partnership between Young Scot and Scottish Natural Heritage previously carried out a study which found that half of young people in Scotland want to take action to help protect the environment, and three quarters (76%) of young Scots aged 11-25 consider nature to be important to them.  Based on their research the group produced the ReRoute report. As well as responding with commitments, SNH will use the report’s findings to directly support Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy and Route Map to 2020.

Louise Macdonald, Chief Executive of Young Scot, said “The ReRoute panel has provided powerful insight into how young people should be supported to get more directly involved in the environment and nature. It’s fantastic to see young Scots having their expertise, ideas and opinions sought. And it’s brilliant to such a positive response to their recommendations from Scottish Natural Heritage and the report already making an impact. I have no doubt that ReRoute’s report will have an impact on policymaking for Scottish Natural Heritage and Scotland’s environmental sector for years to come. This report is just the beginning.”

Access the full report here ReRoute Recommendations (PDF)


Mark of Zorro: new pest coming soon to woodland near you? - Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The distinctive “signature” of the zigzag elm sawfly (Aproceros leucopoda) might conjure images of the 1940’s movie Mark of Zorro. But, it heralds the arrival of a new pest in the British countryside. Recently discovered examples of leaf damage indicate the insect has arrived in the UK and could threaten elm-dependent insects around the country.

Originally recorded in Japan, the aptly named zigzag elm sawfly only feeds on elm leaves and has been progressing steadily through Europe. Now scientists at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), one of a UK-wide network of environment-related organisations who work in partnerships to tackle issues of plant health, has confirmed the tell-tale zigzag feeding trail left behind by sawfly larvae on leaves collected in Surrey during autumn 2017.

Zigzag elm sawfly leaf damage (image: RGBE)Zigzag elm sawfly leaf damage (image: RGBE)

RBGE mycologist Dr Katherine Hayden explained: “This was one of those chance discoveries that highlight the important collaboration between members of the public and centres of expertise like botanic gardens. Plant samples arrived here to be identified as part of local plant recording activity carried out by experienced amateurs in Surrey. Examination by our elm specialist revealed the curious zigzag feeding damage as the first evidence of the pest in Britain.”

While zigzag elm sawfly rarely kills trees, large populations can completely defoliate elms. This can be disastrous for elm leaf feeding insects such as the rare white-letter hairstreak butterfly (Satyrium w-album), which suffered in the 1970s through the loss of trees to Dutch elm disease. The caterpillar of this species can only feed on elm leaves and populations are sometimes restricted to single trees.

Anyone wishing to report sightings of zigzag elm sawfly should use TreeAlert, the online reporting tool developed by the Forestry Commission to track tree health problems available at: www.forestry.gov.uk/treealert


Be proud to be part of #GenerationWildcat - we're their last chance - Scottish Wildcat Action

#GenerationWildcat artwork (Scottish Wildcat Action)Scottish Wildcat Action is today (22 June 2018) launching a new campaign to encourage people to help save the UK’s most endangered carnivore.

#GenerationWildcat calls on the public, including outdoor enthusiasts, farmers and gamekeepers, to join the fight to bring the ‘Highland Tiger’ back from the edge of extinction.

#GenerationWildcat artwork (Scottish Wildcat Action)

Dr Roo Campbell, SWA Project Manager, said: "The time to save the Scottish wildcat is now. We are almost certainly the last generation who has a realistic chance of saving this iconic species from extinction in Scotland. Wildcats here face three key threats: hybridisation with feral domestic cats, disease and accidental killing. Through our #GenerationWildcat campaign we want to reach out to the people who can help tackle these threats by taking action, including reporting sightings of wildcats and un-neutered feral cats. We will only regret tomorrow what we don’t do today, so I would encourage as many people as possible to join in this campaign. It is vital that we all work together and become part of the fight to save our Highland Tiger." He added: "We are already working closely with schools in our priority areas because they are key players in #GenerationWildcat. They represent the group who can carry our work forward into the future, educate the next generation and maintain an environment in which wildcats can continue to thrive."

Click through to find out ways in which you can help.


Infection mechanisms of ash dieback unravelled - BBSCR / NIAB

UK scientists are a step closer to understanding the mechanisms of natural fungal infections that cause the ash dieback disease affecting European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) trees across the UK and continental Europe.

The research, funded by BBSRC, has shed light on the fungal infection process, by which the fungal pathogen first infects the host via ascospores, the sexual reproduction spores of the pathogen. The work, carried out at the horticultural research organisation NIAB EMR, in Kent, and Imperial College London, enables scientists to mimic the natural infection pathway of the fungus. The next step is to develop rapid screening methods to identify ash trees, with resistance to the pathogen, which could be used to repopulate lost woodland.

“We now have a far greater understanding of the interactions between the fungus and the host tree during the infection phase,” commented Dr Robert Saville, plant pathologist at NIAB EMR.

Access the research paper: Mansfield, J. W., Galambos, N. and Saville, R. (2018), The use of ascospores of the dieback fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus for infection assays reveals a significant period of biotrophic interaction in penetrated ash cells. Plant Pathol. . doi:10.1111/ppa.12844


Garden Seed Influences Young Turtle Doves’ Survival Chances - University of Lincoln

Young turtle doves raised on a diet of seeds from non-cultivated arable plants are more likely to survive after fledging than those relying on food provided in people’s gardens, new research into Britain’s fastest declining bird species has shown.
Ecologists at the University of Lincoln, UK, investigated the dietary habits of adult and nestling European turtle doves – an IUCN Red List Threatened Species – breeding in the UK, using DNA analysis of faecal samples. They found significant associations between the body condition and the diet of the bird.

Turtle Dove, (image: Dr Jenny Dunn)Turtle Dove, (image: Dr Jenny Dunn)

Nestling turtle doves still being fed by their parents were found to thrive on seeds foraged from non-cultivated arable plants such as scarlet pimpernel and chickweed, but the birds were in poorer condition when their diet was high in seeds provided by humans in back gardens or public spaces. In contrast, adult body condition was better when more cultivated seeds such as wheat, oil seed rape and barley were present in the diet.
Data collected for the study, which was carried out in collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the University of Sheffield and Cardiff University, was compared with the results of previous studies carried out in the 1960s and 1990s. It revealed a fundamental shift in the diet of turtle doves, showing that the birds are now relying more heavily on food found in gardens, such as sunflower and niger seeds, than they did 50 years ago.
As the UK's fastest declining bird species, the results of the study have important implications for conservation strategies to save the turtle dove. Previous research has shown that nestling birds with better body condition are more likely to survive after fledging and strategies should be developed to provide the correct diet for the bird at each stage of its life.

View the full paper online, 'The decline of the turtle dove: dietary associations with body condition with other columbids analysed using high throughput sequencing' published in the journal Molecular Ecology.


Foreign Secretary announces UK strategy to protect world’s oceans - Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Department for Transport, Department for International Trade, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP

Government will agree a new strategy to support long-term health of the marine environment.

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has today [22 June] unveiled an ambitious plan to bring together all of the Government’s international oceans work under a single strategy for the first time.

The Government will agree and implement a new oceans strategy, under the aegis of the FCO, which will cover work from departments including Defra, BEIS, DfT and DIT. The strategy will be developed over the coming months. Responding to the recommendation from the Government Chief Scientific Adviser to develop a more strategic approach to marine and maritime policy, it will provide a blueprint for international action by HMG towards the oceans that supports the long-term prosperity of the UK and the long-term health of the marine environment.

Speaking on a visit to the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), the Foreign Secretary said: "Britain has a proud and ancient maritime history, but our commitment to the oceans must be enshrined in our future. Today in Southampton I’ve heard from world-leading UK experts on marine protection, and what more the UK can do to help. We need to improve and energise international ocean governance to protect the world’s seas and their ecosystems, to keep our people and goods safe, and to support sustainable economic growth, as well as to deliver our ambitious environmental commitments. Utilising expertise across government, Britain will stay at the leading edge of international marine excellence."


Threatened Nightingale site confirmed as Britain's best in new national survey - BTO

The dramatic decline of UK Nightingale populations – we have lost over 90% of these iconic birds in the last 50 years – has led to the species being placed on the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List. But the number of birds present has, until now, remained unknown, despite this knowledge being essential for assessing the importance of individual sites occupied by the species. 

Nightingale by Edmund Fellowes via BTOThe latest figures from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), just published in a scientific paper using state-of-the art methods for assessing the size of national bird populations, make for interesting reading.

Nightingale by Edmund Fellowes via BTO

A team lead by Dr Chris Hewson at the BTO, and relying on thousands of hours of volunteer surveying, used several analytical methods to create and assess the most robust population estimate possible. Dr Hewson’s population estimate tells us that the number of singing males is between 5,095 – 5,983 individuals, distributed at sites spread across the south and east of England. Moreover, the importance of Lodge Hill in Kent, threatened with development following a series of planning applications, was highlighted.The results presented in the paper confirms that the site holds over 1% of the UK population, making it of national importance. 


Scientific papers

Plomion, C. et al (2018) Oak genome reveals facets of long lifespan. Nature Plants 

Emma Jane Critchleya, W. James Grecianb, Adam Kanea, Mark J. Jessopp, John L. Quinn Marine protected areas show low overlap with projected distributions of seabird populations in Britain and Ireland Biological Conservation doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2018.06.007  


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