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


Climate change has a dangerous twin that is killing the UK’s countryside even more quickly – Chris Packham’s UK Bioblitz

We know that climate change is exacting a catastrophic impact across the planet and upon the UK’s wildlife, but running in a clear parallel is another system in chaos – the earth’s nitrogen cycle. As we and our politicians grapple to understand the huge upset in the carbon cycle, exacerbated by our excessive consumption, little attention is focused on this equally dangerous phenomenon. And its being fuelled in the fields of our countryside.

Chris says ‘This is simply not on people’s radar, even most environmentalists are not aware of the enormous danger this imbalance represents, and yet its effects are plain to see. I’m certain that over the next ten days we will find that the excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizers is having a disastrous impact on the UK’s wildlife.’  He adds ‘Human production of fixed nitrogen is now five times higher than it was just 60 years ago, and the planet has never had this much fixed nitrogen ever in its history. The potential consequences are every bit as terrifying as climate change.’

Chris Packham’s Bioblitz started on Saturday 14th July. For 10 days, he and a team of experts will be visiting 50 wildlife sites in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales to highlight the extent to which the nation’s wildlife is under threat.

One of the threats facing our wildlife is the addition of chemicals to our countryside, including nitrogen.


Cranes here to stay, new model predicts - WWT

The UK’s tallest bird – the common crane – is here to stay and we could have as many as 275 breeding pairs within 50 years, according to Crane with chick at WWT Slimbridge © Mark Hughesthe latest population model from scientists at the University of Exeter, WWT and RSPB published in Animal Conservation.

Crane with chick at WWT Slimbridge © Mark Hughes

Cranes recolonised the East of England in 1979 after being extinct in the UK for 400 years. Since then conservationists have done what they can to support the small population. However, cranes breed slowly and for the next two decades their numbers remained low, leaving them at continued risk of a second extinction.

According to the new population model, an important part of the growth was due to new arrivals from continental Europe until 2010, when conservationists started to import eggs and release fledgling cranes in the West of England as part of the Great Crane Project.

By 2014 the Great Crane Project had reinforced the UK crane population with 90 new birds. According to the model, the result is likely to be an increase of 50% in the number of breeding cranes we can expect in the UK in 50 years’ time.

Dr Andrea Soriano-Redondo led the research as part of her PhD. She said: “Any small and newly established group is particularly vulnerable to random events such as an outbreak of disease. Knowing how many there are isn’t enough to predict whether they’re safe. Understanding the interplay between new arrivals, births and deaths enables us to judge the risks they face and predict their future with far more certainty.”

Cranes start to breed when they’re around four years old. They can live for 30 years or more, but even in a successful breeding season they only rear one or two chicks.


New project seeks Welsh volunteers to help save one of the world’s rarest sharks – ZSL

In an exciting collaboration between fishers and conservationists, a new project focused on demystifying the threats and history of the A juvenile Angelshark (Squatina squatina) © Michael SealeyCritically Endangered Angelshark (Squatina squatina) off the coast of Wales, launches today, 17 July 2018.

A juvenile Angelshark (Squatina squatina) © Michael Sealey

Fishers, divers, school children and those over the age of 60 - and everyone in between - are being asked to get involved in this pioneering new project that aims to safeguard this unique species, once abundant in Welsh waters.

‘The Angel Shark Project: Wales’ led by international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) will be run alongside twelve other partner organisations. The project aims to shine a spotlight on one of the world’s rarest sharks by working with five coastal communities across Wales. Data gathered from community memories, historical research, fisher knowledge and citizen science surveys, will help build a better understanding and conservation plan for the species.

Joanna Barker, Marine and Freshwater Project Manager at ZSL said: “We have an exciting opportunity to understand and improve the status of Angelsharks in Wales, which is potentially one of the last strongholds for this amazing shark. Our approach of combining conservation and social science is a method that we hope will provide benefits to both the population of Angelsharks, but also to local communities we’re working with that rely on the ocean for their livelihood”.


Multi-million pound project to reopen UK's longest river to protected fish species – Canal & River Trust

Work begins this week on a major UK wildlife project on the River Severn thanks largely to £10.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) – Diglis Weir (Canal River Trust)using National Lottery players’ money - and £6m from the European Union LIFE programme.

Diglis Weir (Canal River Trust)

The £19.7m project is one of the largest of its kind ever attempted in Europe, and also one of the biggest natural environment schemes ever supported by HLF. 'Unlocking the Severn for People and Wildlife' is being run by the Trust, Severn Rivers Trust, Environment Agency and Natural England.

The project will reopen 158 miles of the River Severn to fish, by creating routes around physical barriers that currently prevent migration to critical spawning grounds. This will help to secure the long-term future of many of the UK’s declining and protected fish species, particularly the now threatened twaite and allis shad which hundreds of years ago were a staple food in the court of Henry III.

State of the art fish passes

Many of these two shad species and possibly sea and river lamprey that we unable to migrate beyond Diglis became extinct in the upper reaches of the river following the installation of locks and weirs needed to allow navigation that powered the industrial revolution in the 1700s. State of the art fish passes will now be installed on four navigation weirs on the River Severn and fish passage improvements made at two sites on the River Teme.

Sir Peter Luff, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "The National Lottery is one of the biggest funders of the UK’s natural heritage, so it’s entirely fitting it is supporting 'Unlocking the Severn for People and Wildlife'. The shad may be almost unknown now, but it was the fish of kings and queens, from Henry III to Elizabeth I and Charles II.”


Commonwealth countries unite to tackle ocean plastic pollution - Defra

Countries across the Commonwealth meet to discuss next steps in tackling plastic entering the marine environment.

Four more countries have signed up to UK and Vanuatu-led efforts to tackle ocean plastic, announced Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey today as she hosted the first meeting of the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA).

The Alliance, which was announced by the Prime Minister during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London (16-18 April), aims to unite countries around the Commonwealth so they can work together to turn the tide on plastic entering the marine environment. It sees each country pledging to take action – be this by a ban on microbeads, a commitment to cutting down on single use plastic bags, or other steps to eliminate avoidable plastic waste. Three months on, Australia, Fiji, Kenya and St Lucia have now formally joined the Alliance and will sit alongside New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ghana to create a nine-strong coalition in the fight against plastic pollution.

High Commissioners from over 30 Commonwealth countries, including Tanzania and Nigeria who have not formally signed up to the Alliance, met in London today to share the ambitions and expertise they have and reiterate their commitment to healthy oceans.


Perthshire ospreys take maiden flights - Scottish Wildlife Trust

Both osprey chicks at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre and Wildlife Reserve near Dunkeld have now taken their maiden flights.

(image: Scottish Wildlife Trust)The youngest bird, LN1, took off from the nest on the afternoon of Tuesday 17 July. His older sibling, PT0 first left the nest early on Saturday morning. Since that time he has spent a significant amount away from the nest, flying around the loch and perching in nearby trees.

(image: Scottish Wildlife Trust)

Both chicks have spent the last few weeks stretching their wing muscles and briefly hovering on the nest.

Reserve Manager Rab Potter said: “Now that both chicks are in the air it is a great time to visit Loch of the Lowes to catch a glimpse of these birds as they get to grips with flying ahead of their long migration south for winter. It is truly satisfying to see them take to the air after thousands of long hours spent by our staff and volunteers protecting the nest from disturbance.”

The chicks were both ringed by a licensed bird ringer on Monday 2 July. They were given the ring numbers PT0 and LN1 and both birds are believed to be male.

Parent birds LM12 and LF15 have been breeding together at Loch of the Lowes since 2015. They have successfully raised 10 chicks in that time.


Milestone for managing seas in South of England reached - Marine Management Organisation

The Government has now adopted England’s South Marine Plan, which brings a new approach to managing the seas between Kent and Devon.

The new marine plan provides a policy framework which will be used to help inform decision-making on what activities take place in the marine environment and where how the marine environment is developed, protected and improved in the next 20 years. It will inform and guide decisions by regulators managing the development of industry in marine and coastal areas, while conserving and enhancing the environment and recognising leisure uses. The marine plan, produced by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is the culmination of around 5 years of engagement with business, charities, representative organisations and individuals.

The plan will help business realise the economic benefits available from the Marine Plan area whilst ensuring the marine environment remains protected. Covering an area of approximately 1,700 kilometres of coastline and over 21,000 square kilometres of sea, the plan stretches from Folkestone in Kent to the River Dart in Devon. This is a very dynamic marine area incorporating 9 world heritage sites and some of the busiest shipping channels in Europe.


Record numbers of dormice - Hunthouse Wood - Worcestershire Wildlife Trust

Dormouse at Hunthouse Wood (c) Dom CraggRecord numbers of dormice are being found in surveys of a Wyre Forest woodland.

Dormouse at Hunthouse Wood (c) Dom Cragg

Volunteer surveyors, monitoring populations of the rare mammal on behalf of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, discovered 17 dormice including adults and young in 2017. The team have already found six dormice in surveys in May and June of this year; September and October are usually the months when most dormice are found as they are moving around then to try and find enough food before winter hibernation.

Monitoring of dormice in the Trust’s Hunthouse Wood near Clows Top has been taking place for more than eight years.

Dom Cragg, the Trust’s conservation officer responsible for the wood, explained “We’re delighted by the results of this latest survey. Dormice are one of our most elusive species of wildlife and it can be very hard to know precisely just how many individuals there are on a site.

“It’s unusual to find so many early in the surveying year. It indicates that they’re doing well so we’re looking forward to finding them in good numbers later in the year. Hunthouse Wood is very difficult to access and is almost impenetrable in parts so we undertake very little management there. Almost 20 years ago we purchased a land around the edges of the wood to buffer it from adjacent farmland so it looks like this is all paying off and helping the dormice.”


New hope for red squirrels - Natural Resources Wales

Work to boost red squirrel populations in North Wales is proving successful as Natural Resources Wales (NRW) captures footage of a young squirrel.

(image: Natural Resources Wales)(image: Natural Resources Wales)

Earlier this year, NRW released seven red squirrels in Clocaenog Forest as part of a project to secure their future.

And now, wildlife cameras have provided the first evidence of breeding, capturing videos of a young squirrel exploring outside.

Rhys Jenkins, Conservation and Heritage Manager, Natural Resources Wales, said: “Red squirrels are such an important part of our environment, our heritage and our culture in Wales and we have a duty to protect them for future generations. We believe two of the females we released have had young and the video shows one of the baby squirrels - it is a bit shaky on its feet but great to see. But what’s really interesting is that it has a pale tip on its tail which is characteristic of Welsh genetics. This has lead us to think that one of the females we released bred with a wild Clocaenog male which is really exciting – and shows how well they are settling in.”

They are being monitored closely by NRW and local volunteers from Red Squirrels Trust Wales who regularly check cameras in the forest to see where the squirrels are going and how they are doing. Some of the squirrels have also been fitted with radio collars so the volunteers can track their movements.

This contributes to a UK-wide collaboration called Red Squirrels United (RSU).


Councils urged to adopt bee-friendly grass-cutting and introduce pollinator action plans - Buglife

  • Cutting parks less helps flowers and helps pollinators © S BurgessReduced grass-cutting can save councils thousands of pounds
  • Only two English county councils have comprehensive bee action plans in place

Councils are being urged by Friends of the Earth and Buglife to do more to help Britain’s bees after a survey found that only two English county councils have comprehensive pollinator action plans in place.

Cutting parks less helps flowers and helps pollinators © S Burgess

Policies such as cutting areas of grass less frequently in parks and roadside verges to allow wild flowers to grow aren’t just good for bees - they can save councils thousands of pounds too.

Dorset County Council saves around £93,000 a year by only cutting rural road verges when needed, Burnley Borough Council estimates that it saves around £60,000 per annum from cutting back on grass-cutting to help pollinators, and Monmouthshire County Council estimates that the saving made from a reduction in highway verge mowing is approximately £35,000 each year.

Buglife and Friends of the Earth have produced a comprehensive guide for councils setting out policies that would help pollinators in their area. Habitat loss is a major contributor towards pollinator decline, and the guide includes easy, cost-effective measures to protect and restore pollinator-friendly habitats in their local areas.


First ever habitat connectivity report using species data shows positive impact of policies on butterflies - University of Reading

Butterflies are benefitting from environmental action to increase their habitats, scientists have argued following a pioneering government report.

Research published today on the ability of butterflies to move around the countryside shows butterflies, including much-loved species like the Speckled Wood butterfly, have recovered significantly since a worrying decline at the end of the last millennium.

(image: University of Reading)This connectivity data, published for the first time by the University of Reading, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Butterfly Conservation, is important as it could allow conservationists to better manage landscapes for biodiversity, if updated regularly.

(image: University of Reading)

Lisbeth Morrison, biological scientist at the University of Reading, who led the connectivity analysis, said: "Until now, there has been no indicator giving a ‘species-eye view' of habitat connectivity for species in the UK, so this report is a huge step forward in understanding how they are coping with an ever-changing environment. The evidence suggests that policies put in place to protect habitats have been very effective for many butterflies. For example, woodland planting and restoration in the UK drastically increased during the 1980's, reaching peak levels of over 30,000 hectares planted in 1989. This now mature woodland has helped contribute towards increased numbers of butterflies, enabling species to be more connected across the landscape. Relatively simple changes to land management could have massive implications for biodiversity across the countryside and help prevent species that are enjoyed by millions from disappearing completely."

University of Reading scientists analysed 33 butterfly species, using data from a long-term monitoring scheme, the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme between 1980 and 2016, to show the long-term trend in connectivity.


Attenborough: ‘Watching butterflies is good for you!’ - Butterfly Conservation

Sir David Attenborough has spoken of the mental health benefits of watching butterflies as he urged the public to take part in the world’s biggest butterfly survey over the next three weeks.

Sir David Attenborough with identification chart (image: Butterfly Conservation)The UK’s butterflies are basking in the best summer conditions for more than a decade with hot sunny weather enabling widespread species to fly, feed and breed.

Sir David Attenborough with identification chart (image: Butterfly Conservation)

The Big Butterfly Count launches today (20/7/18) and Butterfly Conservation President Sir David said that taking part not only generates important data on butterflies but also provides participants with precious time out from the stresses of life.

Research has indicated that spending time in nature, for example watching wildlife, can have positive benefits for mental health and wellbeing.

Sir David explained: “I have been privileged to have witnessed some truly breath-taking wildlife spectacles in far-flung locations but some of my most memorable experiences have happened when I’ve been simply sitting and watching the wildlife that lives where I do. A few precious moments spent watching a stunning Red Admiral or Peacock butterfly feeding amongst the flowers in my garden never fails to bring me great pleasure. Spending time with nature offers us all precious breathing space away from the stresses and strains of modern life, it enables us to experience joy and wonder, to slow down and to appreciate the wildlife that lives side-by-side with us.”

Butterfly Conservation is being supported by mental health charity Mind to champion the benefits of spending time in nature.  Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, said: “We’re delighted to see that Butterfly Conservation is promoting the mental health benefits of getting outdoors. At Mind, we have found that being in nature can have a powerful, grounding effect, with research indicating that it can help alleviate mental health problems like depression and anxiety."

The Count runs from 20 July to 12 August. Taking part in the Count is easy - find a sunny spot anywhere in the UK and spend 15 minutes counting the butterflies you see and then submit sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.


Ordnance Survey’s 100 biggest parks in Britain - OS

With the summer holidays upon us and a heatwave showing no signs of letting up, Ordnance Survey (OS) has revealed the 100 biggest public parks in Britain.

The list, which covers England, Scotland and Wales, was created after a study of OS Open Greenspace Data. Its publication coincides with Love Parks Week, an annual initiative encouraging people to get outside and enjoy their favourite parks or visit somewhere new.

Added together the size of the top 100 public parks (397.57 km²) creates a green space bigger than the size of the Isle of Wight (370km²).

Windsor Great Park in Berkshire, with its famous Long Walk and deer park, tops the list as Britain’s biggest. It measures 28.53 km² and dwarves the others in size by comparison.

Second biggest is Cannock Chase Country Park in Staffordshire (19.56km²), with Rutland Water coming third (16.95km²)

Greater London has the most parks in the top 100 with six, (6. Richmond, 26. Hainault, 32 Bushy Park, 49. Wimbledon Common, 63. Hampton Court, 77. Belhus Woods) followed by neighbouring Essex with five.

Scotland has 18 parks that make the list, while Wales has six.

OS Managing Director for Leisure, Nick Giles, said: “We are fortunate to live in a country characterised by huge public parks and green spaces to get outside in and enjoy. There is so much on our own doorstep available to us, and a day out at the park is a fantastic British tradition to experience, particularly with the spell of hot weather we are experiencing. So with the summer holidays now here, why not get outside and make the most of the country’s public parks?”

Click through to see the 100 Biggest Parks in Britain list in full.


Woodlands Awards 2018 by woodlands.co.uk

The Woodlands Awards are now in their second year, after the successful launch in 2017.

We have made a few changes, but the intention remains the same: to celebrate – and give due recognition to – all the wonderful and innovative things that are taking place in the woodlands sector year on year.

And this year we have two new categories to consider: Best Woodland Sculpture, and – just for fun – Best Woodland Hair (or/and Beard).

There are fourteen awards altogether, divided into two groups: awards for individuals (woodland owners and users) and awards for enterprises (woodland organisations, businesses, educational programmes and so on).

Deadline for all submissions: 31 July 2018.


Critically endangered fen orchid flowers for first time in 40 years - Plantlife

Beautiful fenland species returns from localised extinction following pioneering work by Plantlife and Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

The critically endangered fen orchid has flowered for the first time in Suffolk since 1975.

Fen orchid (image: Plantlife)The return of the rare orchid, which was locally extinct and whose location cannot be disclosed for security reasons, is the result of a partnership between Suffolk Wildlife Trust and British conservation charity Plantlife.

Fen orchid (image: Plantlife)

The species, which is notable for its pale, yellow blooms and is dependent on the unique, open conditions of fenland, disappeared from the county due to habitat loss – a result of wetland being reclaimed for agricultural use or fens being allowed to “scrub over” and slowly revert to woodland.

For the past 30 years Suffolk Wildlife Trust has been working to restore a number of fenland sites by improving the amount of water, removing encroaching scrub and re-instating traditional mowing techniques.

While birds, dragonflies, damselflies and other mobile species have returned to the fens, the unique plant communities have needed more direct action.

In 2017, with habitat again suitable for the fen orchid, Plantlife began a programme of translocations to sites in the valley fens, the culmination of a ten year conservation strategy funded by Natural England. The fact they are now flowering for the first time in over 40 years is hugely significant and is the result of painstaking work between Plantlife, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and other members of the partnership (RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation and the Broads Authority) to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.


Swaledale survey highlights need for ecological network investment - Yorkshire Dales National Park

Special Scientific Interest has found that only 60% of them are, by area, in good condition.

The survey – which was carried out between May and September last year – and was the first of its type for Swaledale – confirms that significant investment is needed to create a resilient habitat network.

A summary of the survey results has been published today (20/7).  It shows that less than 10% of native semi-natural woodland, rock outcrops and upland flushes, and only 23% upland hay meadow, was in good condition.  More encouragingly, 80% of blanket bog, by far the largest priority habitat surveyed, was in good condition.

Swaledale, by Stephen Garnett YDNPA.Swaledale, by Stephen Garnett YDNPA.

The Swaledale survey was part of a ten-year programme of surveys funded by the National Park Authority.  When completed in 2020, they will give a much better picture of the condition of priority habitats right across the National Park.

YDNPA Member Champion for Natural Environment, Ian McPherson, said:  “There are pockets of astonishing beauty and diversity in Swaledale but, as in other parts of the National Park, too many of our nationally-important habitats are in a poor to middling condition. Much of the data confirms what we already suspected from previous surveys of habitats inside Sites of Special Scientific Interest"

Read the report (PDF)

The latest review of the overall trends and status of priority habitats and species in the Yorkshire Dales National Park can be found here.


Scientific Publications


Schmaljohann, H. , Müller, F. , Klinner, T. and Eikenaar, C. Potential age differences in the migratory behaviour of a nocturnal songbird migrant during autumn and spring J Avian Biol 49: e01815. doi:10.1111/jav.01815


Sophie A. Comer-Warner, Paul Romeijn, Daren C. Gooddy, Sami Ullah, Nicholas Kettridge, Benjamin Marchant, David M. Hannah & Stefan Krause Thermal sensitivity of CO2 and CH4 emissions varies with streambed sediment properties Nature Communications volume 9, Article number: 2803 (2018)


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