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


2018 Park Protector shortlist announced! - Campaign for National Parks

Campaign for National Parks has unveiled the shortlist for the 2018 Park Protector Award. Five projects ranging from teaching angling skills to young people in the North York Moors to restoring woodland in the New Forest represent the top nominees as selected by the judging panel.

The shortlisted projects are as follows:

  • Helping hands – Snowdonia National Park
  • Pondhead trust - New Forest National
  • Discovering the Esk - North York Moors National Park
  • Opening up Emsworthy Mire – Dartmoor National Park
  • White Peak woodlands - Peak District National Park

Andrew Hall of Campaign for National Parks said: “This tremendous shortlist reflects the incredible quality of applicants and the dedication of people across from across England and Wales to their National Parks. The Parks face many challenges, but each year the Park Protector Award reminds me of the depth of feeling out there for England and Wales’ best landscapes.” 


Cumbria habitats surveyed for first time - Yorkshire Dales National Park

Ecologists are for the first time assessing the condition of ‘priority habitats’ in the parts of Cumbria and Lancashire that became part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 2016.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has commissioned Otley-based ecologists, Haycock & Jay Associates, to survey up to four thousand hectares of vitally important habitats such as upland hay meadow, native woodland and blanket bog.

The firm began work in May, and by the end of next month will have surveyed priority habitats in an area including the parishes of Tebay, Firbank, Killington, Middleton, Barbon, Mansergh, Kirkby Lonsdale, Casterton, Leck, Barrow-with-Burrow and Ireby where landowner permission has been granted.

To see how the ecologists carry out the work, read our latest blog, which illustrates how an ancient semi-natural woodland near Sedbergh was surveyed earlier this summer.

YDNPA Senior Wildlife Conservation Officer, Tony Serjeant, who is responsible for the survey, said:  “It is exciting that for the first time we are taking a close look at the state of the most important habitats in the newest parts of the National Park.  These areas have not been surveyed in this way before, so we are breaking new ground."


Newly sequenced golden eagle genome will help its conservation - Wellcome Sanger Institute

The golden eagle is the first of 25 UK species to be completed as part of the 25 Genomes Project

Golden Eagle - the first UK species to have its DNA read by the Sanger Institute as part of its 25 genomes for 25 years project. Image credit: Martin Mecnarowski, Wikimedia Commons. Golden Eagle - the first UK species to have its DNA read by the Sanger Institute as part of its 25 genomes for 25 years project. Image credit: Martin Mecnarowski, Wikimedia Commons (via WSI).

Conservation and monitoring efforts for the golden eagle will benefit from the newly-completed golden eagle genome sequence – the first of 25 species’ genomes sequenced by the Wellcome Sanger Institute, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh.

The golden eagle genome, released today (31 August), will help scientists and conservationists understand the diversity and viability of the species worldwide. It will ultimately aid the monitoring of existing, reinforced and reintroduced populations of golden eagles, such as those in the South of Scotland Golden Eagle translocation project, which aims to bolster the protected species’ population.

The genome will enable additional studies of golden eagles and will help in the conservation and monitoring of the species. The genetic information will aid in identifying populations or individuals that might be best involved in any reintroduction or other conservation projects.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies sent golden eagle samples** to the Sanger Institute near Cambridge. The sequencing teams extracted DNA from the samples and used PacBio SMRT Sequencing technology to generate the first, high-quality golden eagle reference genome.

Dr Rob Ogden, Head of Conservation Genetics at the University of Edinburgh and a scientific adviser to the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project: “With the golden eagle genome sequence, we will be able to compare the eagles being relocated to southern Scotland to those already in the area to ensure we are creating a genetically diverse population. We will also be able to start investigating the biological effects of any genetic differences that we detect, not only within the Scottish population, but worldwide.”


Asian hornet identified in Cornwall - Defra

An Asian hornet has been found in Cornwall and surveillance activity is underway.

Asian hornet (Defra)The National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of the Asian hornet in the Fowey area of south Cornwall.

Asian hornet (Defra)

This Asian hornet is smaller than our native hornet and poses no greater risk to human health than a bee. However, they do pose a risk to honey bees and work is already underway to identify any nests, which includes deploying bee inspectors to visit local beekeepers and setting up monitoring traps.

Previous outbreaks of the Asian hornet have been successfully contained by APHA bee inspectors who promptly tracked down and destroyed the nests. The intention is to do the same in this instance.

Nicola Spence, Defra Deputy Director for Plant and Bee Health, said: "While the Asian Hornet poses no greater risk to human health than a bee, we recognise the damage they can cause to honey bee colonies. That’s why we are taking swift and robust action to locate and investigate any nests in the south Cornwall areas following this confirmed sighting. Following the successful containment of the Asian hornet incursion in North Devon last year and Tetbury previously, we have a well-established protocol in place to eradicate them and control any potential spread."


Hey, it's lots of little CJs! 10,000 snails - BIAZA

250 years after Captain James Cook's expedition sailed to the ‘South Seas’ and collected the first Partula snail, the 10,000th snail has made the trip back.

(Image: Sian Addison)In a collaborative effort BIAZA zoos including ZSL London Zoo, Bristol Zoo, Chester Zoo, Marwell Wildlife and RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, and other collections from around the world, have bred more than 10,000 Polynesian tree snails for one of the world’s largest reintroduction initiatives.

(Image: Sian Addison)

Jo Elliott, Animal Collection Manager at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said: “We are proud to breed Partulasnails and help restore them back into their native habitat.  This is a wonderful conservation success story and really helps to highlight the important role that zoos play in protecting species against extinction. The results we are seeing are made possible through the efforts of committed zoos working together as part of an international breeding programme, which bodes well for both Polynesian tree snails and wildlife conservation in general”.

After nearly being wiped out in the 1980s by the introduced predatory rosy wolf snail (Euglandina rosea) these fingernail-sized snails are now on their way back from the brink of extinction thanks to the global breeding programme coordinated by ZSL (Zoological Society of London). With reintroductions taking place on the islands of Moorea and Tahiti in the Society Islands, this year’s export, for the first time ever, will also include a species that is currently Extinct in the Wild.

ZSL’s Curator of Invertebrates, Paul Pearce-Kelly said: “This year we’ll be sending out a species of Partula, the Navenave snail (Partula mirabilis) that’s new to the reintroduction initiative and for which we have strong hopes for. I believe through the collaborative efforts of the international zoo community and French Polynesian Government environmental agencies; this major conservation initiative has an excellent chance of saving these fascinating species”.

CJ the Snail was the first charity endeavour supported by CJS and you, our readers - find out more about this little snail and how we helped him on his first conservation journey.


Burly bird gets the worm - University of Exeter

The pecking order of garden birds is determined by their size and weight, new research shows.

In a study at bird feeders, researchers from the University of Exeter and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) found larger species like house sparrows and greenfinches monopolised the best food and spent longer feeding than smaller birds.

Meanwhile, smaller birds such as blue tits and coal tits had to feed quickly and were left with lower-quality food.  The researchers say the findings have “important implications” for using bird feeders as a conservation method.

“Bird feeding has become increasingly popular in the UK and throughout much of the world in recent decades,” said senior author Professor Jon Blount, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall. “However, its impacts are still poorly understood. Bird feeders create a concentrated food source which can result in more quarrels between individuals of different species, which we predicted would lead to the formation of a dominance hierarchy. Our findings show that larger, heavier species get better access to food – so if the aim of bird feeders is to benefit all species, we need to investigate ways to achieve this, such as different mixes of foods and feeder designs.”

Larger species like greenfinches spent longer feeding than smaller birds such as blue tits (image: Univeristy of Exeter)Larger species like greenfinches spent longer feeding than smaller birds such as blue tits (image: University of Exeter)

The researchers watched birds at feeders placed at woodland edges and hedgerows on the Penryn Campus. They found heavier bird species monopolised access to sunflower hearts – a food that had a “relatively short handling time”. Lighter species were left with sunflower seeds with the hull intact – a food that takes longer to open and eat. Heavier birds also pecked at a lower rate – while small ones pecked quickly to make the most of their limited time at the feeder.

Read the paper: “Effects of supplementary feeding on interspecific dominance hierarchies in garden birds


New research throws light on factors associated with the decline of Britain’s hedgehogs - People's Trust for Endangered Species

Results from the first systematic survey of rural hedgehog populations in England and Wales using footprint tracking tunnels has been published in Scientific Reports.

Summary of findings:

  • This was the first systematic survey of rural hedgehog populations in England and Wales using footprint tracking tunnels to measure the presence / absence of hedgehogs
  • Hedgehogs were present at only 21% of all the sites surveyed
  • Hedgehog presence was negatively affected by badger sett density. However, both badger setts and hedgehogs were absent from 27% of all sites, suggesting that there is a wider landscape issue affecting both species
  • Hedgehog presence was positively affected by the amount of built land (i.e. housing); areas of human habitation may, therefore, be acting as a “refuge” habitat from the problems associated with rural landscapes

Land Management and predation: The research, titled ‘Reduced occupancy of hedgehogs in rural England and Wales: the influence of habitat and an asymmetric intra-guild predator’, investigates the effects of the availability of key habitat types and badger (Meles meles) sett density on native hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). The results show that while badger sett density is negatively correlated with hedgehog presence, there was evidence of both species co-existing and hedgehogs being positively associated with built habitat (e.g. houses). More worryingly, both hedgehogs and badger setts were not recorded at many of the sites surveyed, suggesting there is a much wider land management issue in our countryside affecting both species.

Read the paper (open access): Ben M. Williams, Philip J. Baker, Emily Thomas, Gavin Wilson, Johanna Judge & Richard W. Yarnell.  Reduced occupancy of hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in rural England and Wales: The influence of habitat and an asymmetric intra-guild predator  Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 12156 (2018)


CPRE’s ‘Green Clean’ gives litter pickers cash for trash - CPRE

The reverse vending machine in Brigg, Lincolnshire (image: CPRE)With a deposit return system on the way, come and help the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) clean up the countryside and get money for any bottles and cans you find.

The reverse vending machine in Brigg, Lincolnshire (image: CPRE)

Throughout September, CPRE is organising a series of nationwide litter picks to clean up the countryside ahead of the introduction of a deposit return system – which will help prevent our countryside, towns and cities from being littered with bottles and cans.

CPRE will be taking its mobile reverse vending machine – which collects drinks containers of all materials and sizes – to various ‘Green Clean’ litter picks being held across the country. Participating volunteers will be able to dispose of, and receive 10p for, each of the drinks containers collected, helping people become accustomed to the way that a deposit system works, ahead of the introduction of such a scheme in England. In many countries, reverse vending machines are already used by consumers to recycle used drinks containers and reclaim deposits, boosting recycling rates in those countries to as high as 97%.


New LIFE for Welsh raised bogs - Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is embarking on a major project to conserve a rare habitat.

The four-million-pound New LIFE for Welsh Raised Bogs project will restore over 900 hectares, or about 3.5 square miles, of raised bog - some of Wales’ rarest and most important habitats.

NRW staff, partner organisations, local landowners and others met at Cors Fochno in Ceredigion on Wednesday 5 September 2018, to discuss the conservation work due to start later this year. The project will improve the condition of seven of the most important raised bogs in Wales, including Cors Fochno and Cors Caron in Ceredigion. Restoration work will also take place at sites near Trawsfynydd, Fishguard, Crosshands, Crickhowell and Builth Wells.

The drive to repair them involve rewetting them, cutting invasive species, removing scrub and introducing light grazing – all in partnership with local communities, landowners and contractors.

Carol Fielding, NRW Project Manager said: “To some, a bog may appear rather dull and unimportant. But the complete opposite is true. A healthy bog brings great benefits to wildlife and people. They are home to rare plants and animals, including the large-heath butterfly and the iconic bog rosemary. Restoration will help fight climate change by storing vast amounts of carbon and improving water quality in local rivers. And they’re great places to visit to enjoy nature and the benefits of being active outdoors.”

A video about the project has been published on NRW’s YouTube channel:  https://youtu.be/JvoRMGrtnrs


UKRI contributes to new Google search tool - UKRI & NERC

Experts from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have contributed to a new Google search tool to help scientists, policy makers and other user groups easily find the data required for their work and their stories, or simply to satisfy their intellectual curiosity.

There are many thousands of data repositories on the web, providing access to millions of datasets; and local and national governments around the world publish their data as well. As part of the UKRI commitment to easy access to data, its experts worked with Google to help develop the Dataset Search, launched on 6 September.

Similar to how Google Scholar works, Dataset Search lets users find datasets wherever they’re hosted, whether it’s a publisher's site, a digital library, or an author's personal web page.


‘Lucky escape’ for cygnet who swallowed 7cm-long hook - RSPCA

The bird was rescued from a lake in Rotherham, on Wednesday last week (29 August), with a 7cm-long fishing hook in his throat and fishing line wrapped around his esophagus.

He was taken to a local vet but was transferred to the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange wildlife centre in Nantwich, Cheshire, as his injuries needed more specialist care.

Cygnet in recovery (image: RSPCA)Vets at the centre put a camera down the cygnet’s throat and managed to untangle the 7cm hook and 15cm-long line which had left deep and infected wounds in the bird’s throat.

Fortunately he is now recovering in the centre’s isolation unit and it is hoped he will be released back into the wild soon.

Cygnet in recovery (image: RSPCA)

The cygnet isn’t the only bird to be at Stapeley Grange because of fishing litter injuries – there are currently four other birds in isolation who are also being treated there after getting tangled in fishing line or swallowing hooks. The centre also has a number of birds in its outdoor enclosures that are also recovering from fishing litter injuries.

Last year, the RSPCA rescued 678 animals from fishing litter, of which 463 were wild birds.


WDC joins new project helping to prevent whale and dolphin entanglement in fishing gear - Whale and Dolphin Conservation

WDC has joined up with other organisations to help with a new research project looking into the problem of marine mammal entanglement in fishing gear in Scottish waters, which has just been launched.

The first of its kind in Europe, the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA) brings together fishing industry representatives, researchers and conservation and welfare charities to assess the scale and impact of the issue.

By engaging directly with the fishing industry, SEA partners hope to raise awareness of entanglements among fishermen and other marine users, to better understand the extent of entanglements and to encourage better reporting of these incidents.

Porpoise protection from bycatch is inadequate (image: © Nick Davison via WDC)Porpoise protection from bycatch is inadequate (image: © Nick Davison via WDC)

Over the next 12 months, SEA project co-ordinator Ellie MacLennan, will be visiting piers and harbours around the coast looking for as much input from the fishing community as possible, with creel fishers being asked to participate in short, informal and anonymous interviews.  Ellie said: “Marine animal entanglement in all types of fishing gear is a global problem that poses a threat to marine life and fishers wherever the two overlap. Here in Scotland, our inshore waters not only provide world-class fishing grounds for creel and trawl fishers, but also habitat for a diverse array of large marine animals including whales, basking sharks and turtles.”

Sarah Dolman from WDC said; “We are pleased to be a member of the Scottish Entanglement Alliance and would encourage all fishermen to report entanglement cases, historic and current, to British Divers Marine Life Rescue or to Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme. We want to work together to learn from and prevent entanglements from happening.“


Study reveals impact of habitat fragmentation on migrant birds - University of Stirling

Experts at the University of Stirling have shed new light on the impact of habitat fragmentation on migrant birds.

Scientists used audio technology to analyse the behaviour of willow warblers, after spring migration, in 23 woodland patches across Scotland and England. While the patches were of a similar size, the landscapes in which they were located had differing amounts of available habitat.

Significantly, the study found that migrant male willow warblers arrived earlier in woodland patches when there was less habitat in the surrounding landscape, within a 2km radius.

The team also found that an individual’s decision to remain in a patch after initial colonisation depended on patch quality, as measured by vegetation characteristics. In particular, birds preferred to stay in woodlands with a relatively open understorey, also known as undergrowth

The new study looked at the impact of habitat fragmentation on willow warblers. (image: University of Stirling)The new study looked at the impact of habitat fragmentation on willow warblers. (image: University of Stirling)

“Habitat fragmentation and loss has changed how animals move through landscapes and use the remaining habitat,” said lead researcher Dr Robin Whytock. “Whether an animal colonises a fragmented habitat patch – for example, a small woodland – depends on a variety of factors, including the content of the surrounding landscape and the quality of the patch itself. This study gives a valuable insight into how habitat fragmentation affects the behaviour of even very mobile species, such as migrant birds. Our results support prior research in aquatic study systems that have looked at colonisation of artificial reefs and ponds – and, as far as we know, this is the first time that the patterns observed in our study have been observed over such large spatial scales and with such a highly mobile species.”

Forest Research and Natural England collaborated with Stirling on the research, Context-dependent colonisation of terrestrial habitat ‘islands’ by a long-distance migrant bird, which is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.


Peatland work kick-starts multi-million pound project - Environment Agency

A programme of peatland restoration has kick-started a £2.1million natural flood management (NFM) project in the North East.

Weardale residents are reaping the benefits of a project which has kick-started a £2.1million natural flood management (NFM) project.

A programme of peatland restoration over last winter on a Weardale hillside will help reduce flooding further down the dale, as well as encouraging carbon capture and improving the land for nature.  The North Pennines AONB Partnership worked with East Allenheads Estate to restore extensive areas of bare peat on Wolfcleugh Common, above Rookhope.  It’s the first step for the Weardale Natural Flood Management pilot project which will see the Environment Agency and its partners investigate the potential for a much bigger initiative.  The ambition is to deliver natural features across 100km2 area to reduce the risk of flooding to 141 properties and create a haven for wildlife to thrive.

Alistair Lockett, Field Officer at the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: "We have been working with Natural England and East Allenheads Estate for the past three years and it is fantastic to see the work completed. It will make a big difference to the valley, by improving carbon storage and mitigating flooding downstream. We’re also pleased that we have been able to support local contractors within the North Pennines."

The peatland restoration work at Rookhope includes installing coir rolls and stone dams to slow down the flow of surface water over bare peat. Steep sided erosion gullies have been reshaped to encourage revegetation, and heather and mosses have been harvested and spread over the bare peat. This helps protect it from further damage from wind, rain, frost and ice and also creates an ideal environment for seeds to germinate.

There are a couple of videos as well, a film of the work capture the pioneering Weardale project throughout and there is also an introductory video about the whole project and what it aims to achieve.  With more video updates to follow.


National Trust responds to record visitor numbers with ambitious plans to improve visitor experience - National Trust

The National Trust today (Fri 7/9) announced plans for an ambitious programme of improvements to facilities such as car parks, cafes and shops at sites – in response to record breaking visitor numbers.

Visitors at Dyrham Park (image: John Millar / National Trust)Visitors at Dyrham Park (image: John Millar / National Trust)

Around £20m will be spent on average each year, over the next five years, on expanding, improving and upgrading facilities as well as tackling a backlog of repairs to farm buildings, homes and modernising holiday cottages. 
The conservation charity said the work would be funded via a low cost loan, which will allow it to continue to prioritise spending on looking after the houses, gardens, countryside and coastlines in its care.  No income from memberships or donations will be diverted from conservation purposes to pay for the improvements.   Last year, the Trust spent £138m on conservation, including a record £100m on its historic houses and gardens. However, investment in improving facilities has not kept pace with the booming popularity of the Trust’s locations.  
Visitor numbers have grown from just 270,000 in the 1970s to an historic high of 26.6m last year. And the number of members joining the Trust has rocketed by over one million in just five years, to hit a record 5.2m, according to the charity’s annual report which was published today.   However, the rapid growth has led to challenges for the charity. Small cafes, car parks and shops – often built decades ago - have struggled to accommodate surging visitor numbers, leading to queues and frustration at peak times. Many locations still have only basic facilities and other outdoor sites have no catering on offer at all. The number of visitors rating the service they received at Trust properties as ‘excellent’ was 7% lower than expectations in 2017/18, and despite consistently good scores they have been in decline over the last four years.  That’s why the Trust has decided to act and respond to visitor demands for an upgrade, funded by a low interest, unsecured loan.


Scientific Publications

Schrieber, K. , Schweiger, R. , Kröner, L. and Müller, C. (2018), Inbreeding diminishes herbivore-induced metabolic responses in native and invasive plant populations. J Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. . doi:10.1111/1365-2745.13068


Lucie M. Bland, Kate E. Watermeyer, David A. Keith, Emily Nicholson, Tracey J. Regan, Lynne J. Shannon, Assessing risks to marine ecosystems with indicators, ecosystem models and experts, Biological Conservation, Volume 227,2018, Pages 19-28, ISSN 0006-3207, DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.08.019. 


Willoughby, J. R. and Christie, M. R. (2018), Long-term demographic and genetic effects of releasing captive‐born individuals into the wild. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. . doi:10.1111/cobi.13217


Piotr Sikorski, Marzena Wińska-Krysiak, Jarosław Chormański, Kinga Krauze, Katarzyna Kubacka, Daria Sikorska, Low-maintenance green tram tracks as a socially acceptable solution to greening a city, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, ISSN 1618-8667, DOI: 10.1016/j.ufug.2018.08.017.


Hart A G, Carpenter W S, Hlustik-Smith E, Reed M, Goodenough A E. Testing the potential of Twitter mining methods for data acquisition: Evaluating novel opportunities for ecological research in multiple taxa. Methods Ecol Evol. 2018;00:1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.13063  


Hill L, Hemery G, Hector A, Brown N. Maintaining ecosystem properties after loss of ash in Great Britain. J Appl Ecol. 2018;00:1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13255


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