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


Conservationists delight as endangered butterfly makes early appearance - National Trust

The UK’s most endangered butterfly is making a bumper early appearance at a remote British habitat – confounding recent grim figures about its population.

The High Brown Fritillary has been recorded as being ‘out’ slightly earlier than usual and early counts reveal excellent numbers of butterflies present, due to good weather conditions.

Matthew Oates one the UK’s leading butterfly experts, and National Trust volunteer, has been in the Heddon Valley in North Devon taking part in an annual count of this rare butterfly along with the help of other volunteers.  He said: “The butterfly seems to be having a very good year with over 200 seen during the count.  I’m confident the good numbers are a result of excellent habitat management and the introduction of the broad swathes, created by using the roboflail (A remote-controlled machine used for digging out channels in green spaces). Ideal weather conditions; a cold and harsh winter which has helped knock back the bracken and then a warm and sunny May and June have been ideal for caterpillar development. As we are having some fairly dry weather, it’s now the perfect time for seeing this large and powerful butterfly”

The Trust is embarking on ambitious plans to develop 60 hectares of lowland heath and wood pasture – the butterfly’s principle habitat – to give it a fighting chance for the future. The project has been made possible thanks to a generous award of £100k made to the National Trust by Postcode Earth Trust, raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. This is part of an award of £750,000 this year towards several conservation projects and Heritage Open Days.

Over the last 50 years, the UK population of High Brown Fritillaries has declined rapidly, due to changes in woodland management and, more recently, the abandonment of marginal hill land. Butterflies, including the High Brown Fritillary, need large areas of the countryside to survive in good numbers, and their populations have struggled where these habitats have been overwhelmed by pressures from agriculture and development.


More than 10 million special moments with nature during 30 Days Wild - Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust

Photos by E Wilson, Anne-Marie Randall and Matthew RobertsThis year’s 30 Days Wild is a record breaker. The challenge, which ends today, saw more participants than ever before. New analysis by The Wildlife Trusts show a 40 per cent increase on last year. The Wildlife Trusts estimate that over 350,000 people took part in this month’s national nature challenge, pledging to explore nature on their doorstep every day during June.

Photos by E Wilson, Anne-Marie Randall and Matthew Roberts

Lucy McRobert who leads 30 Days Wild for The Wildlife Trusts said: “We are thrilled that so many people are making time for nature, enjoying daily contact with wildlife and taking action to help it. We estimate that if every person who signed up through their home, family, school or business carried out 30 Random Acts of Wildness, that would be over 10 million special moments with nature. We know that joining in with 30 Days Wild makes people feel happier and healthier and we have also discovered that it’s helping people see beauty in nature.”

The challenge inspired all ages to create their own special times with nature – known as Random Acts of Wildness. From pond dipping and bug hunting to wild swims and sleeping under the stars; some people grew bee cafes or made homemade wildflower seedballs to help pollinators, others created new wildlife ponds - homes for frogs and newts.

Beach cleans gathered polluting plastic waste and staff and residents at a care home grew plants and enjoyed a new butterfly garden.

Teachers used 30 Days Wild school packs to take lessons outdoors. The first series of BBC Springwatch Wild Academy, a new programme for schools and young people, featured activities based on The Wildlife Trusts’ Random Acts of Wildness.

30 Days Wild will be back in 2019 with new challenges helping everyone ‘go wild’!


Government launches new plans to stamp out the illegal wildlife trade ahead of landmark UK conference - Defra

Anti-wildlife trafficking projects around the world given £44.5 million boost.

With this week marking 100 days to go until the 2018 London Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, the Government has today (Monday 2 July) announced ambitious new plans and funding for tackling the illegal wildlife trade across the world. The Secretaries of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Defra, and DFID announced a £44.5 million boost for anti-wildlife trafficking projects around the world.

The Foreign Secretary set out the Government’s ambition to reduce the illegal killing of African elephants for ivory by at least one third by 2020, and to further halve this rate by 2024. Achieving this will be another significant step to safeguard endangered species from extinction, in a decade of action since the 2014 London Declaration committed to fight the illegal wildlife trade.

To help make this ambition a reality, the Government will launch the Ivory Alliance 2024, bringing together a network of global leaders, conservationists and experts to engage with countries where ivory demand and trafficking is high. It will work with partners globally to increase the number of countries committed to domestic ivory bans to more than 30 by 2020 and for tougher enforcement against those caught breaking the law. The UK has already set itself as a global leader on this issue, with a domestic ivory ban announced in April 2018.


Welcome return of the skydancer to the High Peak – National Trust

One of Britain’s most threatened birds, the hen harrier, has bred on the National Trust’s High Peak Moors in the Peak District National Park, for the first time in four years.

Hen Harrier chicks in a nest (National Trust / Steve Davies / Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group)Hen Harrier chicks in a nest (National Trust / Steve Davies / Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group)

The four chicks are said to be in a ‘healthy condition’ after hatching just a few days ago on land managed by the conservation charity.  
The hen harrier is one of the most special birds of the British uplands and is famed for the adult’s mesmerising and dramatic ‘sky dance’, which the male performs as it seeks to attract a female.

“We’re delighted to learn of this nest” said Jon Stewart, the National Trust’s General Manager for the Peak District. “The hen harrier has been one of the most illegally persecuted birds of prey in Britain for many years and we have set out on a mission to work with others to create the conditions for the harrier and other birds of prey to thrive once again in the uplands. We hope this will be a positive model for improving the fate of our birds of prey and providing the healthy natural environment that so many people care about and want to see”.
In 2013 the Trust published its High Peak Moors Vision, which put at its heart restoring wildlife, including birds of prey, and involving people in the care of the moors.

The conservation charity leases much of its High Peak moorland for grouse shooting and all shooting tenants have signed up to actively supporting the Vision.  As well as the hen harrier, initial signs are promising this year for other species such as the peregrine falcon, merlin and short eared owl.  


European waters getting cleaner, but big challenges remain - European Environment Agency

Despite progress in improving the quality of Europe’s lakes, rivers, coastal waters and groundwater sources, pollution, structures like dams, and over-abstraction remain top threats to their long-term health. A vast majority of Europe’s water bodies still fail to meet the European Union’s minimum target for ‘good status’, according to a European Environment Agency ‘state of water’ report published today.

EU Member States have made marked efforts to improve water quality, by improving wastewater treatment and lowering the runoff of pollutants from farmland, according to the EEA report ‘European waters — assessment of status and pressures 2018’. Measures have also been taken to make barriers passable to migrating fish and restore degraded aquatic ecosystems.

While Europe’s ground water bodies, like aquifers, are in good health in most cases, only 40% of monitored lakes, rivers, estuaries and coastal waters achieved the  the EU Water Framework Directive’s minimum ‘good’ or ‘high’ ecological status during the 2010-2015 monitoring period, according to the report. The last EEA assessment in 2012 found a similar level of water bodies meeting ‘good’ or ‘high’ ecological status. The EEA assessment also looked at the quantitative state and over-abstraction of Europe’s groundwater and the overall chemical status of water bodies.


Government publishes plan for an independent fisheries policy - Defra

‘Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations’ sets out blueprint for sustainable and profitable industry.

(image: Defra)A blueprint for a sustainable and profitable fishing industry that will regenerate coastal communities and support future generations of fishermen has been set out today.

(image: Defra)

Outside the EU, the UK will be an independent coastal state and will regain control of our waters and natural resources, as well as the flexibility to negotiate with other countries and ensure stocks are fished sustainably.

The Fisheries White Paper - ‘Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations’ – charts our course for managing fisheries after Brexit. It outlines how powers to be proposed in the Fisheries Bill, which will be introduced in this session of Parliament, will give the UK full control of its waters and the ability to set fishing opportunities such as quota.

In particular the paper sets out how, as an independent coastal state, the UK will have the opportunity to move towards a fairer share of fishing opportunities - overhauling the current system where UK fishermen have received a poor deal that is based on fishing patterns from the 1970s. EU Member States currently land around eight times as much fish in UK waters than the UK does in EU Member States’ waters.

It also proposes a suite of measures to improve the sustainability of the fishing industry, supporting the next generation of fishermen while protecting our precious marine environment.


Noise pollution chronically stresses whales and dolphins - WDC

Whales and dolphins depend on sound to stay together in their family groups and whales used to be able to go on large hunting expedition to find their food, calling each other when they found it.

However, according to a new study underwater noise pollution means they can only hear each other for around 10 miles.

UK marine biologist Dr. Steve Simpson says that shipping noise causes stress in whales and, by looking at the hormones of the whales we can see that they are chronically stressed by noise. When they encounter very loud noises it can even cause damage in their ears and lungs.

He is now working with shipping companies to design boat engines that make less noise. However, noise pollution is just one among many threats for whales and dolphins. Oil and chemical spills, plastic pollution and rising sea temperatures are also big concerns.

There is still a lot of work to be done such as creating quiet sanctuaries around whale migration routes and the places they like to feed or reproduce.


Three new species of moth discovered at Haig - The Land Trust

(image: Tony Cutter)A recent study into the diversity of moth species at a former mining site in Haig, Whitehaven, has shown an impressive 99 species inhabiting the area.

(image: Tony Cutter)

What was once an undersea mine workings site is now a thriving habitat for a diverse range of insects, as well as being an ideal destination for a scenic coastal walk.

Three new species of moth were discovered to have made a home on this part of the colourful coast when Chris Gomersall, the park’s ranger, conducted the study.

This included the identification of common day flying moths and trickier micro moths.

The site is run by the Land Trust in partnership with the National Trust and with the help of the ranger, has improved biodiversity tremendously   over the past few years.

Sarah Palgrave-Neath, Estates Manager of North West sites for the Land Trust, said: “Chris has worked extremely hard to improve not just the biodiversity, but also the quality of the green space for visitors, which includes well maintained walking routes and the planting of wildflower meadows across the area. It’s fantastic to know that we are discovering new species and that Haig is a thriving habitat for such a diverse range of creatures.”


BASC backs calls to ban sky lantern festival - BASC

BASC is supporting calls to cancel a sky lantern festival in the wake of the wildfires burning in England.

Calls have been made by rural groups to cancel Lights Fest, due to be held close to the moors in Derbyshire, following the major fires.

BASC Central director Lewis Thornley said it was important to negate any risk of further moorland fires.

He said: “While firefighters, the Army, gamekeepers and other volunteers continue to battle the fires that rage on moorland in England, everything that can be done to reduce the risk of any further fires must be done. Given the ongoing fights against these fires, now is simply not the time to hold such a festival.”


Slight increase in breeding seabird numbers in Scotland after decades-long decline - Scottish Natural Heritage

After declines since the 1980s, the number of Scotland’s breeding seabirds appears to have increased slightly, according to new statistics published today by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Simon Foster, SNH’s Trends & Indicator Analyst, said, “We’re still a long way from reaching the high numbers of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s possible we may never see the same level as in the past, but it’s promising to see small increases instead of decreases over the last few years.  

“The number of chicks produced was higher than the average over the past three decades. As seabirds are long-lived and don’t start breeding until they’re three or four years old, it’s still too early to say if these birds will return to bolster colonies. It’s also too early to say what effect the ‘Beast from the East’ will have for Scotland’s seabirds, though we do know that some of our breeding seabirds will have died in the storm.”

Breeding success increased for Arctic terns, black-legged kittiwakes, common terns, little terns, northern gannets and sandwich terns. The overall, long-term picture for seabirds is one of decline. The report assessed 12 types of breeding seabirds, which were found to have declined by an average of 62% from the 1986 level.

The decline in seabird numbers is linked to factors such as lower numbers of sandeels (a common food source for seabirds), as well as non-native predators such as brown rats and American mink. SNH is working on several projects to help combat some of these pressures. These include identifying Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to protect important foraging and breeding sites for birds and the control of predators.


Scottish Government urged to review Coul Links golf course plan - Ramblers

(Picture: Andrew Weston)Sadly, Highland councillors voted in June 2018 to grant planning permission for a controversial new golf course at Coul Links near Embo in Sutherland.

(Picture: Andrew Weston)

This was despite their own planning officials, concerned residents and a range of environmental groups – including Ramblers Scotland – urging them to refuse the application. 

We fear the impact that the 18-hole course will have on informal public access and the special dune environment, which is protected by national and international nature conservation designations. 

We now want the Scottish Government to 'call in' the proposals for further scrutiny. 
A coalition of environmental groups, including Buglife, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, the Marine Conservation Society, the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust – has also called for the Scottish Government to review the proposals. 


Giant step forward for nature recovery at sea - The Wildlife Trusts

Today, the Government launches a key document setting out a vision for the future of UK fisheries, Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations.  This, and the consultation launched alongside it, will inform both the Government’s forthcoming Fisheries Bill and the longer-term development of fisheries management.

Joan Edwards, Director of Living Seas, The Wildlife Trusts says, ‘The Wildlife Trusts are really impressed that the Government is committed to reversing the loss of marine life and where possible to restoring it.  This is a giant step forward for nature recovery at sea.’

The Wildlife Trusts welcomes the Command Paper and its aim of increasing the sustainability of fisheries.  It addresses a wide range of necessary topics including how management will be introduced through new laws, negotiations with other countries over managing shared fish stocks and how we will continue to meet international obligations. It also sets out objectives around increased sustainability including setting and enforcing sustainable fishing limits, preventing discarding of fish, collecting best scientific data and, most important, protecting the marine environment.

Fisheries management has an important part to play in delivering a better future for wildlife.  Fish are part of marine ecosystems and catching fish has wide environmental effects, including the alteration of food webs, damage to seabed habitats and bycatch of whales, seabirds and other non-target species.  This on top of the impact on the populations of fish themselves.


Study finds 29 pesticides in Devon river - University of Exeter

Researchers have found 29 different pesticides in a single river in Devon.

Tests on four rivers in the county revealed 34 pesticides in total, as well as nine antimicrobials and veterinary drugs.

River Culm (Photo credit Dr David Santillo)Scientists said they were surprised and concerned by the results, and warned there would be harmful effects for plants and wildlife.

River Culm (Photo credit Dr David Santillo)

The tests were carried out using a high-quality new technique created by scientists in Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter.

“We were surprised by both the number and concentrations of pesticides we found,” said lead researcher Jorge Casado. “The level of each individual pesticide was below EU legal limits, but those rules don’t take account of mixtures. Little research has been done on the effects of combinations of pesticides. The findings are certainly a concern and, although it’s hard to be sure of the impacts of mixtures of pesticides, there will certainly be effects on wildlife and plants in and around these rivers. Our study demonstrates an environmental problem not just in Devon but in any region affected by commercial agriculture.”

The water samples were taken in rural areas from the rivers Culm, Exe, Otter and Tale. The highest single concentration was of a pesticide called MCPA, recorded at more than 130 nanograms per litre of water. The pesticides included eight that are not approved by the EU – although the researchers say these could have come from residues from historic uses, and some could have been by-products of other pesticides. Five of the pesticides found – atrazine, carbendazim, diuron, griseofulvin and imidacloprid – were present in all the samples taken from the rivers. The new testing method developed by the research team is the most accurate ever created.


Devastation of Meadows Endangers Flower Favourites Like Wild Strawberry, Ragged Robin and Harebell - Plantlife

  • Wildflower meadows on the brink: a staggering 97% have been lost since the 1930s, now less than 1% of UK land cover Wildlife at risk:
  • Nearly 1,400 species of pollinators and other insects rely on meadow plants for their survival
  • Clarion call: Plantlife and Magnificent Meadows partnership publishes Grasslands Action Plan, calls on governments to play their full part in protecting our ancient meadows and commits to play their part in restoring 120,000 more hectares
  • Re-connect with nature: Learn how to scythe like Poldark or spot rare bees on #NationalMeadowsDay (7 July 2018)

Seaton Meadows in Rutland (Plantlife)Seaton Meadows in Rutland (Plantlife)

Some of our best-loved wild flowers including wild strawberry, ragged robin and harebell are declining markedly as a result of the devastation of grasslands including our wildflower meadows - 97% of which have been eradicated since the 1930s, says Plantlife, Europe's largest charity dedicated to wildflowers and other flora.

Traditional meadows and other grassland flowers, many of which were once widespread, that are now on the Near Threatened list in England include quaking-grass, harebell, crosswort, wild strawberry, common rockrose, field scabious, hoary plantain, tormentil, ragged robin and devil's bit scabious.

Ahead of National Meadows Day (7 July) Plantlife highlights that the decline of these flowers is having a devastating impact on the wildlife they underpin. The steep and steady decline of wild strawberry, field scabious and devil's-bit scabious is particularly concerning as they are the plant food for 51, 26 and 25 species of invertebrates, respectively. Insects on the list include the rare Cistus forester moth, the small bloody-nosed beetle and marbled white butterfly. Bird’s-foot trefoil, another meadows mainstay experiencing decline, is, alone, a food plant for a staggering 160 species of insects.


New monitoring scheme looks at why UK’s honeypot has shrunk – Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

An innovative monitoring scheme could provide a better understanding of the factors that impact on the size and health of honeybee populations, and on honey yields.

As part of its new National Honey Monitoring Scheme, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is asking amateur and professional Honeybees in a hive ( CEH)beekeepers to send in honey samples on a regular basis for comprehensive analysis using advanced techniques, including DNA barcoding and mass spectrometry.

Honeybees in a hive ( CEH)

Using these techniques, CEH scientists will identify the types of pollen and pesticide residues present in the honey samples, as well as some of the diseases that bees are exposed to.

Beekeepers in the UK have seen several poor seasons in a row for honey production. Weather is a decisive factor in honey production but urban development, agricultural impacts including the widespread loss of wild flowers and pesticide use, plus climate change and an increase in disease are believed to impact negatively on both wild and managed bees and their productivity.

A decline in bee numbers or the health of honeybee colonies could potentially have negative economic and agricultural impacts. Bees play an important role in the UK economy and make a crucial contribution to the agricultural industry by pollinating crops.


Visits to parks on the rise as city dwellers head outdoors – Natural England

Increasing numbers of people living in cities and towns across England are visiting the natural environment.

Visits to city parks and green spaces in England were up by 25 per cent in 2016 as compared to 2010, new research published today (Friday, 6 July) by Natural England has revealed.

Image: Natural EnglandImage: Natural England

Natural England’s Urban Greenspaces report also found that more people are visiting the natural environment within towns and cities across England than ever before with an estimated 879 million visits to parks in towns and cities in 2015/16.

The report brings together findings from Natural England’s annual ‘Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment’ (MENE) public survey and explores how people living in urban areas engage with the natural environment and visit urban greenspaces.

The government’s 25 Year Environment Plan aims to connect more people with the environment by creating more green infrastructure in towns and cities, helping people improve their health and wellbeing by using green spaces and encouraging children to be close to nature, with particular focus on disadvantaged areas.

Data from March 2009 to February 2016 was analysed, and showed:

  • Urban Greenspaces are increasingly utilised with an estimated 1.46 billion visits in 2015/16 compared with 1.16 billion visits in 2009/10
  • 93 per cent of the urban population claimed to have taken visits to the natural environment for recreation in the last 12 months
  • There has been a decrease in the use of cars and vans to reach urban greenspaces between 2010 and 2016 with around seven in ten visits taken on foot in 2015/16
  • Public parks, recreation grounds and other greenspaces were the most common places visited within towns and cities (47 per cent, 9 per cent and 14 per cent of all visits respectively), but people also reported visiting urban woodlands (5 per cent), rivers and canals (7 per cent)
  • For some urban residents visits to the natural environment may be the only opportunity to exercise

Scientific publications

Critchley, E. J., Grecian, W. J., Kane, A., Jessopp, M. J & Quinn, J. L. (2018) Marine protected areas show low overlap with projected distributions of seabird populations in Britain and Ireland. Biological Conservation doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.06.007


F.Burns et al An assessment of the state of nature in the United Kingdom: A review of findings, methods and impact Ecological Indicators https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.06.033


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