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


First of its kind zoos and aquariums pact calls for an end to illegal wildlife trade - BIAZA

  • Environmental Crime is the world’s fifth largest organised crime worth up to £17billion a year
  • British and Irish zoos and aquariums issue collective call for an end to the crisis
  • Backed by British government and wildlife crime agencies, the BIAZA-led multi-zoos and aquariums pact is the first of its kind in the UK
  • Conservationists helping to lead the campaign at Chester Zoo have created online resources for the public to understand and report illegal trade sightings

British and Irish zoos, aquariums, wildlife crime agencies and the UK Government have joined forces in a major new collaboration to stop the illegal wildlife trade.
Environmental Crime, which includes the illegal wildlife trade and illegal logging, is the fifth most lucrative serious organised crime and is estimated to be worth up to £17billion a year.
Now, the first of its kind multi-zoos and aquariums pact, designed to help bring a stop to the illegal wildlife trade, has been announced by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and is backed by the UK Government and wildlife crime agencies.

Dr Mark Pilgrim, Chief Executive Officer at Chester Zoo, a member of BIAZA, said: “The illegal wildlife trade is one of the greatest threats to the future of wildlife today but together we can make great strides towards wiping it out. We believe it's really important that people understand the issues around illegal wildlife trade so they can help take important actions to help prevent it."

The BIAZA zoos and aquariums pact is being launched ahead of the forthcoming Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, being hosted by the UK Government in London on 11 – 12 October 2018.
Experts believe the illegal trade crisis can be reduced with widespread public support. Zoos and authorities across the UK and Ireland have joined forces to tackle the problem as part of a campaign to arm the public with the information and resources needed to report instances of the illegal wildlife trade.  Conservationists leading the campaign at Chester Zoo have created an online reporting form allowing members of the public to report instances of the illegal wildlife trade directly to the UK Wildlife Crime Unit and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
Public reports are helping wildlife crime authorities to prioritise response action, improve their understanding of illegal trade and highlight the areas in need of increased enforcement resources.


Why we use chemicals to protect young trees. - Forestry Commission Scotland

There’s been some media interest in the use of chemicals in forestry and in particular on the National Forest Estate.

We spoke to Jo Ellis, Forest Enterprise Scotland’s Acting Head of Land Management to find out a bit more about why, how and when chemicals are used to protect our young trees.

Why do you need to use chemicals for tree planting?

pine weeveil (image: FCS)“It’s important that everyone understands that our default position on chemicals is very clear. We only use them when it is necessary.  We use the chemicals to control a pine weevil called Hylobius abietis which is the most serious threat to newly planted or naturally regenerating trees; if left untreated, the weevils will destroy on average around 50 per cent of them. Each year, the UK forestry industry loses around £5 million worth of trees to this weevil so it is a real problem.”

pine weeveil (image: Forestry Commission Scotland)

Is there an alternative to using chemicals?               

“We already use a good number of other treatment options but sometimes the use of acetamiprid is necessary. There has been some good news very recently though with Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing announcing £500,000 funding to explore other ways to tackle weevil damage – this could ultimately reduce the amount of chemicals used if we find other alternative treatments."

How do you use the chemical to protect young trees?

“We don’t blanket spray – when we use chemicals we use them in a very targeted way. Where pesticide use is necessary, our young trees are pre-treated in an off-site tree nursery or building, and this may be combined with later post planting treatment via a hand sprayer to individual trees. All these targeted treatments are carried out in a way that minimises any environmental impact.”


Half of England’s most important wildlife sites left unprotected - Greenpeace

The government is failing to monitor almost half of England’s protected biodiversity sites, reports Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative unit.

Of the 4,126 sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) currently in existence, 47% have not been monitored in the last six years, as is required by national monitoring guidelines.

The data emerged in response to a parliamentary question by the co-leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas.

Eight months ago Theresa May launched the government’s 25-year environment plan, which promised to “not only conserve but enhance” protected areas.

Natural England, the government agency responsible for monitoring these areas, has seen its budget almost halved from what it was a decade ago.

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said: “The government must end this shameful neglect of England’s most important nature sites. Funding cuts must be reversed and a new environmental watchdog with proper enforcement and investigation powers established, to avoid systematic failures like this after Brexit.”

SSSIs afford legal protection to the UK’s most significant areas for wildlife, plants, geological and physical features, including many areas within national parks and nature reserves.

Unearthed found that many parts of the Pennines, Exmoor and some of the best-loved parts of the Lake District have not been monitored in eight to ten years, despite some being reported as being in unfavourable conditions at the time. This includes England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, which was last assessed in 2010.

Read the Unearthed report.


Two ospreys satellite tagged at Rutland Water Nature Reserve - Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

Two male ospreys from Rutland Water have been fitted with satellite transmitters so bird experts can track their amazing global journeys.  

S1 shortly after he was fitted with his satellite transmitter (image: Lloyd Park/LRWT)S1 shortly after he was fitted with his satellite transmitter (image: Lloyd Park/LRWT)

You too can follow the osprey’s migration via the Rutland Osprey Project website www.ospreys.org.uktracking page and map.

The two high flyers were fitted with mini GPS trackers to help the Rutland Osprey Project track their movements. The units weigh only 30g; they work on solar power and allow location, altitude and speed to be recorded. The units are fitted to the birds like a small rucksack, allowing them to continue their normal activities.

The data is providing valuable information on their movements locally too. Reserve Officer at the Trust’s Rutland Water Nature Reserve, Lloyd Park said, “The transmitters provide highly accurate data that allows us to plot the birds’ exact movements both day and night. This is giving us an incredible insight into a range of different behaviours, including where and when they are fishing.” 


Countryside Alliance launches Rural Oscars 2019

Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes: "One of the projects we are proudest of at the Alliance are the Countryside Alliance Awards. The awards ceremony, held in June in the House of Lords, is always an extraordinary gathering of wonderful, committed rural people and one of the highlights of our year. It has been 14 years since the Countryside Alliance started the ‘Rural Oscars’, our annual celebration of British food and farming, enterprise and heritage by recognising our small hard-working businesses. Since then it has grown to be the gold standard of rural business awards, honouring thousands of rural businesses from post offices and butchers to pubs and farm shops. Importantly the Awards also deliver a huge amount of publicity to the finalists and winners delivering a real boost to their businesses. The ‘Rural Oscars’ are set apart from other award schemes because we want to hear direct from customers who value and love their butcher, baker or bee brick maker. People tell us about the businesses they nominate “This business will not just go the extra mile. They will pick you up and carry you the extra mile.” And businesses who have won say “This is not just a win for us, but our whole community.”

The feelgood factor of these Awards cannot be underestimated. Last year we received over 11,000 nominations which were whittled down to the individual winners celebrated in Westminster.

Nominations are now open here for all categories and will close on 9 December 2018 with regional champions announced in May 2019.


People are spending more time outside in the natural environment than ever before - Natural England

An increasing number of people are spending time outdoors enjoying the natural environment

New national statistics published today by Natural England show that more people than ever before are visiting and spending time in the natural environment.

The proportion of adults visiting nature at least once a week has increased from 54 per cent in 2010 to 62 per cent in 2018.

Natural England’s Monitoring of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) report also found that this trend could be seen across population groups, including groups where levels of participation have historically been lower.

This year’s report further found the proportion of people living in England’s most deprived areas visiting the natural environment at least once a week has increased by 13 per cent from 38 per cent in 2009/10 to 51 per cent in 2017/18.

This year’s report also found:

  • In 2017/18 health and exercise was the main motivation for spending time in the natural environment (reported for over half of all visits).
  • In 2017/18, 86% people were concerned about damage to the natural environment. Choosing to walk instead of taking the car is on the up (reported by 48 per cent of people in 2017/18 compared with 40% in 2009/10) but other pro-environmental behaviours remain predominantly static (such as volunteering for environment or conservation causes which has remained at 5 per cent over the last nine years).
  • Despite high levels of concern, only a third of people think they are likely to make future lifestyle changes to protect the environment.

Access the reports and stats: Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment: Headline reports and technical reports 2016-2017 to 2017-2018

Results for the eighth and ninth year of the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment survey, which provides data on how people use the natural environment in England.


Research on the role of the environment on mental health - NERC

The role the natural environment could play in mental health will be explored as part of an ambitious research investment led by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI).

A walk by a canal. (image: © Joseph Logan via NERC)A walk by a canal. (image: © Joseph Logan via NERC)

Eight new Mental Health Networks have been announced by UKRI to bring researchers, charities and other organisations together to address important mental health research questions. The new networks bring together researchers from disciplines, including health, medicine, biology, social sciences, humanities and environmental sciences. Many of the networks will also include insight from charity workers, health practitioners and people with lived experience of mental health issues.

The networks, which are supported with £8 million of funding and will be funded for four years (one for three), will progress mental health research into themes such as the profound health inequalities for people with severe mental ill health, social isolation, youth and student mental health, domestic and sexual violence, and the value of community assets.

Two of the eight networks include research into how access to the natural environment can impact mental health. Dr Daisy Fancourt of University College London will spearhead research investigating the role of social, cultural and community assets, such as parks and allotments, in mental health, through a network called MARCH. Professor Simon Gilbody of the University of York will lead a team working to understand and reduce health inequalities by looking at the potential of factors such as access to the benefits of the natural environment for people with mental health problems.

Click through for Summaries of the new Mental Health Networks


Asian hornet: Fowey nest destroyed as two new sightings confirmed in Liskeard and Hull - defra

Two more sightings of Asian hornets have been confirmed and surveillance activity is underway.

The National Bee Unit has called for the public to report any suspected Asian hornets after two further confirmed sightings in Liskeard, Cornwall and Hull, east Yorkshire. At this stage, there is no evidence to suggest the Cornwall and Hull sightings are linked.

The hornets in Fowey were first discovered earlier in September and the National Bee Unit moved swiftly to find the nest and remove it. During September the number of hornets in a nest can reach a peak and this will increase the chances of seeing an insect.

Nicola Spence, Defra Deputy Director for Plant and Bee Health, said: "These sightings in Liskeard and Hull underline the need to remain vigilant. I want to encourage people to look out for any Asian hornet nests and if you think you’ve spotted one, please report your sighting through the Asian hornet app or online. 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. I am therefore pleased our well-established protocol to contain them has worked so effectively in Fowey."

If you suspect you have seen an Asian hornet you can report this using the iPhone and Android app ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ or by emailing alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk. Identification guides and more information are available. 

Native bee species could be 'wiped out' as Asian hornets spread across UK, conservationists warn - The Independent

Experts sound alarm over increased frequency of sightings from Yorkshire to Cornwall 


Wetlands are key for accurate greenhouse gas measurements in the Arctic - University of Eastern Finland

The Arctic is rapidly warming, with stronger effects than observed elsewhere in the world. The Arctic regions are particularly important with respect to climate change, as permafrost soils store huge amounts of the Earth’s soil carbon (C). Warming of Arctic soils and thawing of permafrost can have substantial consequences for the global climate, as the large C stored in soils could be released to the atmosphere as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). The release of these heat-trapping gases, in turn, has the potential to further enhance climate warming.

Western Russian tundra is a mosaic of dry and wet ecosystem types, functioning very differently with respect to carbon exchange. (Photographer: Maija Marushchak)Western Russian tundra is a mosaic of dry and wet ecosystem types, functioning very differently with respect to carbon exchange. (Photographer: Maija Marushchak)

Determining whether the Arctic is continuing to take up carbon from the atmosphere or instead releasing it to the atmosphere is an urgent research priority, particularly as the climate warms. A new study by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland now provides the first estimate of regional carbon budget for tundra in Western Russia for the 10-year period from 2006 to 2015. The researchers found that over the past decade, the region has likely remained a net carbon sink, sequestering atmospheric CO2 through plant uptake and growth. This signal varied little between all the years and was particularly strong in wetlands, which were “hotspots” for carbon uptake. Wetlands are also “hotspots” of methane emissions in the region, making the identification of wetlands essential for determining the regional carbon budget. However, it remains challenging to determine the area of tundra wetlands at broader scales because they can be difficult to identify from satellite images, requiring many measurements on the ground to verify their locations.

Due to harsh winter conditions, making measurements throughout the year in tundra sites is exceptionally difficult. Few measurements have been made, making the assessment of the Arctic carbon balance challenging.

Read the paper (open access): Treat, Claire C., et al (2018). Tundra landscape heterogeneity, not inter-annual variability, controls the decadal regional carbon balance in the Western Russian Arctic, Global Change Biology, doi: 10.1111/gcb.14421


Peatlands will store more carbon as planet warms - University of Exeter

Global warming will cause peatlands to absorb more carbon – but the effect will weaken as warming increases, new research suggests.

This effect – a so-called “negative feedback” where climate change causes effects which slow further climate change – will increase over the coming decades but will decline after 2100 if warming continues, according to an international team of 70 scientists, led by the University of Exeter. 

Peatlands are a vital “carbon sink.” Image courtesy of Alex Whittle. Peatlands are a vital “carbon sink.” Image courtesy of Alex Whittle. 

Peatlands are a vital “carbon sink”, currently storing more carbon than all the world’s vegetation, and the research showed they will store even more carbon in the future than was previously believed.

In environments such as forests, carbon from dead plants decomposes and is released back into the atmosphere. But in peatlands, water slows this process and locks in carbon. Most peatlands are in cold climates in places such as Siberia and Canada, and here warmer temperatures will lengthen the growing season for plants – meaning more plant matter falling into peat bogs.

But this initial increase in carbon storage – estimated to be about 5% – will be offset by reduced storage in tropical peatlands in places like Borneo and the Amazon region.

“Plants living in cold-climate peatlands have it tough for most of the year, but rising global temperatures will give them a longer growing season,” said lead author Dr Angela Gallego-Sala, of the University of Exeter. “Decomposition in peatlands will speed up as the climate warms – meaning more carbon and methane released – but the overall effect in these high-latitude regions will be increased storage of carbon. However, as warming continues, tropical peatlands will store less carbon because decomposition will speed up but higher temperatures in these already warm regions will not boost plant growth.” 

Read the paper: Angela V. Gallego-Sala, et al Latitudinal limits to the predicted increase of the peatland carbon sink with warming. Nature Climate Change (2018) doi: 10.1038/s41558-018-0271-1


Water voles make welcome return to their former Exmoor home - National Trust

Endangered water voles are returning to a stretch of river where they have been extinct for more than 30 years - thanks to a National Trust river and waterways project.

Watervole (image: National Trust Images / Steve Haywood)Watervole (image: National Trust Images / Steve Haywood)

Once regularly spotted on Britain’s riverbanks, they are now the nation’s fastest declining land mammal, disappearing from 94 per cent of their former sites, largely due to increased urbanisation, predators and a decline in natural habitat. 

But over the next few days, 150 will be released at six carefully chosen locations on the charity’s Holnicote Estate on Exmoor, Somerset – where they were last seen in the 1980s.  

The National Trust’s £10million Riverlands project – an ambitious waterways restoration scheme – means these much-loved creatures will be provided with a healthy environment where they can breed and flourish.  This is the Trust’s first reintroduction of water voles in the South West and the second by the conservation charity in England in the past two years.  

Water voles are an important and integral part of the ecology of Holnicote, contributing to the health and richness of wildlife.

It is hoped their reintroduction will provide future generations the chance to get to know the mammal – immortalised by Ratty in Kenneth Graham’s classic Wind in the Willows. 

The precious new arrivals will be closely monitored to see how they are settling in. Rangers, special ‘vole-unteers’, students and the public are joining forces to monitor their numbers.


Rare butterfly thrives due to the long hot summer - Essex Wildlife Trust

The long hot summer has allowed the Heath Fritillary, one of Britain's rarest butterflies, to have a second brood emerge in Belfairs Woods.

The Heath Fritillary is one of Britain’s rarest butterflies and was considered to be on the brink of extinction in the late 1970s. A re-introduction into Essex and continued habitat management has allowed the butterfly’s numbers to gradually grow, and now, the long hot summer has seen a second brood flying for the first time in the Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Belfairs Woods.

Heath Fritillary at Belfairs Wood (photo: Essex Wildlife Trust)Heath Fritillary at Belfairs Wood (photo: Essex Wildlife Trust)

The delicate orange and brown chequered butterfly can be seen flying close to the ground in a distinctive flutter and glide pattern. Their colonies in Essex are restricted to where the food plant for its larvae, Common Cow-wheat grows, which requires accurate and continuous habitat management.

Essex Wildlife Trust staff and a group of dedicated volunteers have been managing parts of the woodland for the butterfly and its food plant for a number of years and their numbers have been slowly growing. Generally the butterfly emerges from May through to July, however the climatic conditions this year have meant the larvae were able to grow quickly enough to see a new brood emerge.

Click through for video footage of the butterflies at Belfairs Wood.


Green urban space may be good for children’s brains - University College London

Children living in greener urban neighbourhoods may have better spatial working memory, according to new research by UCL Institute of Education (IOE).

Spatial working memory is a measure of how effective people are at orientation and recording information about their environment. It enables us to navigate through a city or remember the position of objects and is strongly inter-related with attentional control.

The research, published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, found that lower quantity of neighborhood greenspace was related to poorer spatial working memory, and this relationship was the case in both deprived and non-deprived neighbourhoods.

Conducted by Professor Eirini Flouri, Dr Efstathios Papachristou and Dr Emily Midouhas (UCL Institute of Education), the study looked at 4,758 11-year-olds living in urban areas in England, drawn from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies’ Millennium Cohort Study.

The team measured spatial working memory through visual and spatial memory tests conducted on computers.  When factoring in controls relating to family poverty, parental education, sports participation and neighbourhood deprivation, the findings suggest that exposure to greenspace may have specific cognitive benefits for children.

“Our findings suggest a positive role of greenspace in cognitive functioning. Spatial working memory is an important cognitive ability that is strongly related with academic achievement in children, particularly mathematics performance,” said Professor Eirini Flouri. “If the association we established between neighborhood greenspace and children’s spatial working memory is causal, then our findings can be used to inform decisions about both education and urban planning.”

Read the report (open access): Flouri, E. , Papachristou, E. and Midouhas, E. (2018), The role of neighbourhood greenspace in children's spatial working memory. Br J Educ Psychol. . doi:10.1111/bjep.12243


Kew releases State of the World’s Fungi report - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has released the first ever State of the World’s Fungi report.

State of the World's Fungi (image: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)State of the World's Fungi (image: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

In the first of its kind, the report outlines the state of the world’s fungi and highlights just how important fungi are to all life on Earth. It explores the current knowledge on the diversity, distribution and evolutionary relationships of the world’s fungi, examines positive interactions and insights incorporating the key uses of fungi in everyday life, and looks at the global challenges associated with fungi, including climate change and plant diseases.

Over 100 scientists from 18 countries contributed to the report which is the latest in Kew’s State of the World’s series.

Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science, RBG Kew says, “It has been a real eye-opener drilling into the data on the fungal kingdom. As the foundation of the world’s ecosystems, fungi potentially hold the answers for everything from food security and biofuels to desertification and medicinal advances. In compiling this report, it has become clear that fungi should be viewed on par with the plant and animal kingdoms, and that we have only just started to uncover the secrets of this incredible and diverse group of organisms.”

Find out more: Download the report from the State of the World’s Fungi website


New Agriculture Bill vital to recover nature - The Wildlife Trusts

Stirley Farm May Meadow Yorkshire Wildlife Trust  (c) Kim WarrenGovernment proposals must trigger change on 70% of land

Stirley Farm May Meadow Yorkshire Wildlife Trust  (c) Kim Warren

Today the Government publishes the Agriculture Bill. The recovery of wildlife in the UK – one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world – depends on an Agriculture Bill which enables farmers to create and restore natural habitats. The Wildlife Trusts believe that now is the time for agricultural policy to lead nature’s recovery. As the Bill progresses through Parliament, The Wildlife Trusts will be highlighting:

  • The recovery of wildlife in the UK depends on an Agriculture Bill which enables farmers to create and restore natural habitats, because 70% of our land is farmed.
  • Farmers should receive public money for producing benefits to society, such as creating habitats for wildlife, conserving soils for future generations and protecting communities against flooding.
  • Successful farms need thriving wildlife because crops depend on pollination, natural pest control and healthy soils.

Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager of The Wildlife Trusts, says: “We support the Agriculture Bill’s intention to change how taxpayers’ money will be spent towards environmental ‘public goods’. Spending on these is vital if we are to restore uplands to hold water and prevent flooding in towns, create new wildflower meadows for pollinators and improve the fortunes of farmland wildlife like barn owls and brown hares. However, we need an ambitious Bill to arrest decades of wildlife decline and allow natural ecosystems to recover.”

Read the Agriculture Bill here


New reports will enable UK to make the most of its natural assets - Centre for Ecology & Hydrology 

Four new reports on Natural Capital published today will enable governments and businesses to take an evidence-based approach to valuing the UK’s natural assets. 

Natural Capital refers to the assets within our natural environment that provide benefits for humans. Plants, animals, freshwater, soil, minerals, air and oceans all contribute to Natural Capital. The concept lies at the heart of the UK Government’s recently published 25 Year Environment Plan and is set to play an increasingly influential role in public policy and business decision-making.

The new reports, published by the Valuing Nature Programme, which is co-ordinated by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), summarise the science available to inform a Natural Capital approach in four key areas:

  • The Natural Capital valuation of floodplains in relation to preventing floods, storing carbon, and supporting biodiversity.
  • The Natural Capital valuation of soil in relation to producing food, storing carbon and regulating water supply.
  • Natural Capital trade-offs from the afforestation of peatlands in relation to the effect on storing carbon, controlling water supply, supporting biodiversity, providing recreational spaces and preserving a record of the past.
  • How businesses are using Natural Capital assessments in practice.

A fifth report, on the Natural Capital of temporary rivers, has already been published, highlighting their varied benefits including supporting biodiversity plus drought and flood control.

The reports, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), also identify evidence gaps and make recommendations for further collaborative action by government, business and academia. For example, the authors recommend further research into the effect of changes in land use and climate on soil, and identify the need for better datasets to enable monetary assessments of Natural Capital.


Three rare hen harriers go missing - RSPB

Three young hen harriers have disappeared in suspicious circumstances in the past month. All of the birds had been fitted with satellite tags as part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project and their movements were being tracked by the nature conservation charity. 

Young female harrier Hilma was tagged in June 2018 at a nest on Forestry Commission Scotland-owned land in the Scottish Borders. Her tag was transmitting regularly when it suddenly and inexplicably stopped. Her last known fix on 8 August showed she was near Wooler, Northumberland over land managed for driven grouse shooting. 

A few weeks later another female bird, Octavia, vanished without trace. She hatched from a nest on National Trust’s High Peak Moors in the Peak District National Park in June. This was the first time the species had bred in this area for four years. Octavia stayed faithfully close to her nest, until the 22 August when she moved onto privately-owned driven grouse moors near Sheffield. Her tag was transmitting regularly when it suddenly and inexplicably stopped. Her last known fix on 26 August showed she was over an area of land managed for driven grouse shooting at Broomhead.  

Satellite tagging technology is commonly used to follow the movements of birds and tags continue to transmit regularly, even when the bird dies, and until the tag reaches the end of its lifespan. The tags were all providing regular updates on the birds’ locations, so the sudden and unexpected ending of transmissions is suspicious and could suggest criminal interference. Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest birds of prey with only nine successful nests recorded in England in 2018 despite sufficient habitat for over 300 pairs.


Global Coastal Wetlands Need to Move Inland in Fight Against Climate Change - Global Climate Forum

Up to 30 per cent of coastal wetlands could be lost globally by the year 2100 with a dramatic effect on global warming and coastal flooding, if action is not taken to protect them, new research warns.

The global study, led by researchers at the University of Lincoln, UK, suggests that the future of global coastal wetlands, including tidal marshes and mangroves, could be secured if they were able to migrate further inland.

Geographers examined localised data from around the globe on coastal elevation, tides, sediment availability, coastal population and estimates of sea level rise to assess whether coastal wetlands are likely to have enough sediment to increase their elevation at the rate sea levels will rise, or whether there is enough space to establish themselves further inland.

The results show there could be global coastal wetland gains of up to 60 per cent if more than a third of the areas had space to move inland. The use of more localised data provides more accurate global results than previous estimates which warned of catastrophic losses of up to 90 per cent – but scientists say action must be taken now to save coastal wetlands from ever increasing sea levels.

The findings of the study have important implications for the future development of public policies, with the authors calling for an upscale in current efforts for coastal wetland restoration.

The full paper: Future responses of global coastal wetlands to sea level rise, has been published in the scientific journal Nature and is available to read online.


Does seedling defence vary over large geographical scales? - University of Plymouth

Do the defence mechanisms employed by seedlings to avoid being eaten by herbivores vary according to their location?

That is the question being asked by scientists at the University of Plymouth as part of a new three-year project funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Previous studies have demonstrated that seedlings use a variety of means, including odours – or volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) – to ward off potential predators. However, researchers from the University’s School of Biological and Marine Sciences and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in Leipzig, want to focus on whether these various chemical defences vary between populations and geographical regions. Specifically, they will assess whether latitude and altitude make any difference to the plants’ resistance, with research being planned in areas across north and western Europe.


Rare beetle found on Talich Wildlife Reserve - Scottish Wildlife Trust

Curculio betulae weevil found at Talich Wildlife Reserve © Nigel RichardsA rare species of beetle has been found at Talich Wildlife Reserve near Tain, marking the first time it has been recorded in the Highlands.

Curculio betulae weevil found at Talich Wildlife Reserve © Nigel Richards

The Curculio betulae weevil was spotted on an alder tree on the reserve by local moth recorder and naturalist Nigel Richards. He said: “I visit the reserve quite regularly and as soon as I saw the weevil I recognised it was something different to the ones I’m used to seeing. I collected it for closer examination and identification, plus a few photographs, before releasing it back into the wild. Curculio betulae has only been recorded in central Scotland a handful of times and this is certainly the mostly northerly record to date by a long way.”

Curculio betulae is a 4 mm long weevil found on birch and alder trees. It is characterised by a slender and evenly curved rostrum (or snout), which is as long as its body. According to Duff’s Beetles of Britain and Ireland (2016) the weevil’s national status is rare, sometimes frequent.


New data shows drop in bovine TB as further measures to fight disease unveiled - Defra

(image: Defra)Reductions in new outbreaks of bovine TB have been recorded in Gloucestershire and Somerset following the completion of their licensed four-year badger culls, Farming Minister George Eustice has announced.

(image: Defra)

The data published today shows there has been a decline in TB incidence in the first two cull areas with the rate of new confirmed breakdowns now at about half the level they were before culling began. In the Gloucestershire cull area, TB incidence has fallen from 10.4% before culling started to 5.6% in year four of the cull, while in Somerset it has reduced from 24% to 12%. The findings are in line with expectation based on the scientific evidence from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial which underpins the approach to tackling bovine TB – and demonstrate progress is being made in delivering the 25-year TB eradication strategy in England to rid our farmers of the impacts of this terrible disease.

In a further move to strengthen the government’s 25-year bTB eradication strategy, the Minister of State has also announced the opening of a new round of applications for Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme grants.

Response: Michael Gove approves the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory - Badger Trust

The Badger Trust has condemned the decision by the Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove to approve 11 new badger cull licences in England in 2018, bringing the total in operation to 31.

As a result of this major expansion of badger cull, 40,892 badgers could be killed by the end of 2018, more than during the last 5 years of the badger cull combined. 

Despite a huge increase in the number of badgers to be killed, the Government has yet to provide any reliable evidence that badger culling is having any significant impact on lowering bovine TB in cattle in or around the cull zones. 

With no effective independent monitoring of cull contractors, the Badger Trust is also increasingly concerned that badgers will die long painful deaths due to the continued use of controlled shooting, a culling method which is condemned as inhumane by the British Veterinary Association.

The Badger Trust has already raised serious animal welfare concerns with Natural England over the trapping of badgers for up to 12 hours in cages in the heat wave in Gloucestershire and Somerset, under existing supplementary cull licences which have been operation since June.


Flawed badger cull expands across England, The Wildlife Trusts call on government: invest in medicine not marksmen - The Wildlife Trusts 

The government has given permission for badger culls to go ahead in England for another year. This year, badgers are now at risk in Staffordshire and Cumbria, in addition to the existing areas of Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, Herefordshire, Cheshire and Wiltshire.  

The Wildlife Trusts believe that the government’s strategy is flawed because bTB is primarily a cattle problem, not a wildlife one and makes no sense at a time when a review of the government strategy which drives the culls – the bovine TB eradication strategy – is still underway. Only 1 in 20 cases of bTB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers , thus, culling badgers is not the answer and it is also counterproductive. Culling disrupts badgers’ social structure, causing them to move around more frequently and over longer distances – which can result in increased bTB transmission.

The Wildlife Trusts have opposed badger culling for well over a decade and most recently have written to Secretary of State, Michael Gove, to highlight the flaws of the badger cull and request that the cull be ended in favour of strategic and widespread badger vaccination schemes, and to invest in developing a cattle vaccine. Yet again, this has not happened.

The costs of killing badgers are much higher than vaccinating them.

Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager, The Wildlife Trusts says: “It is unacceptable that the government has not waited for the results of their own review – which we understand is to be published imminently – before forging ahead with another year of ineffective and expensive badger culling. We’re calling on the government to invest in medicine, not marksmen. The costs of killing badgers are much higher than vaccinating them – it costs £496.51 to kill a badger compared with £82 to vaccinate a badger” .


Defra have updated several policy papers, reports and statistics (including their cost benefit analysis) relating to bTB and control measures access them all here.


Conservation project records new hen harrier behaviour - Scottish Natural Heritage

A Scottish conservation project has recorded activity never seen before in a rare bird of prey, the hen harrier. Using nest cameras, the project has filmed two rarely recorded activities: male hen harriers standing guard over nests, and a hen harrier brood being hunted by two species of owl.

Male harrier guarding nest (image: Heads Up for Harriers project)The discoveries were made as part of Heads Up for Harriers, a Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW) Scotland project, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Figures released today also show 30 young birds have successfully fledged on participating estates.

Male harrier guarding nest (image: Heads Up for Harriers project)

On two occasions, a male harrier was recorded spending up to 35 minutes standing over or beside a nest, guarding the chicks when the female harrier was away from the nest. This is believed to be highly unusual harrier behaviour: usually, the only time a mother leaves a nest for the first six weeks is to briefly catch a food drop from the father. The male calls the female off the nest and drops food, which the female then catches to feed their chicks.

As well, after a hectic night of activity involving a fox and a short-eared owl, five chicks were eventually killed by a long-eared owl. The attack happened early in the morning this spring in the Langholm area of South Scotland.

Short-eared owl at nest with chicks (image: Heads Up for Harriers project)Short-eared owl at nest with chicks (image: Heads Up for Harriers project)

Professor Des Thompson, Chair of the PAW Scotland Heads up for Harriers group and SNH’s Principal Scientific Adviser, said, “This is exceptional. It’s the first time we’ve observed such behavior by a male hen harrier, and the first time we’ve seen a hen harrier nest under attack by two other raptors, one after the other.” 

The Heads Up for Harriers project aims to help conserve hen harriers with nest cameras by monitoring nesting hen harriers and helping determine reasons that affect chick survival.

New figures for this year show a total of 27 Scottish upland estates took part in 2018, with 17 nests monitored. This year, 30 young birds successfully fledged from eight successful nests. Four nests failed at egg stage and another five nests failed with chicks. The primary reason for failure (at chick stage) was fox predation, accounting for the death of six chicks; however, owl predation and starvation due to adult birds not being able to provide enough food also played a part.


Opening access to the countryside - Natural England

The country’s first ever specialist centre in Oxfordshire will improve countryside access for wheelchair users, those with mobility needs, horse riders, cyclists and walkers.

The country’s first ever specialist centre to open up access to the countryside for wheelchair users and those with mobility needs as well as disabled and able-bodied horse riders, cyclists and walkers was launched today at Oxfordshire’s Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve.  The new National Land Access Centre, located in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has been designed to demonstrate the use, maintenance and installation of gaps, gates and stiles meeting the new British Standard for improved countryside access.  The centre has been developed by Natural England, in partnership with The British Horse Society, Centrewire and the Pittecroft Trust, to ensure those who usually struggle with access to the countryside can access the natural environment and enjoy England’s beautiful countryside.

John Cuthbertson, Chairman for the Disabled Ramblers, said: "I’m over the moon at the spirit of co-ordination and co-operation which has led to the development of the new National Land Access Centre. Open access has got the ability to transform lives. We look forward to using the centre to test the new structures, helping to shape the future of access to the countryside." 


ParkPower is Rethinking Parks project - greenspace scotland

Nesta have announced today [14 September 2018] that greenspace scotland’s ParkPower project will be one of five UK Rethinking Parks Prototyping projects.

ParkPower is an innovative project to develop a digital platform to identify the most economically viable energy generation schemes in order to raise extra income to help resource park and greenspace management.

Julie Procter, Chief Executive of greenspace scotland said: “With parks and greenspace budgets under-pressure, we’ve been working with colleagues in Councils and Friends groups to develop and pioneer new approaches to generate income from and for our parks in ways which do not impact adversely on the public’s use and enjoyment of parks. ParkPower will enable us to take a strategic approach to identify parks with the most potential to generate energy, as well as opportunities to supply energy beyond the park to schools, hospitals, shopping centres and other consumers. We’re delighted to receive support from the Rethinking Parks programme to develop ParkPower.” 

Generating energy from parks provides clean, green local energy; connects consumers with their park (and energy supply); and produces an income stream which can be reinvested in our greenspaces. The ParkPower project supported by Rethinking Parks will develop a strategic GIS based approach to identify and monetise the best energy generation and storage options for parks.  

Further reading: Prototyping projects for parks with Nesta and meet the 5 teams that will be prototyping technology solutions to the challenges facing public parks

The five projects will explore, prototype and test ways to address parks’ challenges. This will include increasing donations to parks, generating income from renewable energy and better managing existing resources through using data to understand how parks are used.


New outreach centre launched to help boost wildlife - Natural England

A landmark new outreach centre has been officially unveiled today (14 September) at Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Yorkshire.

Opened by Natural England and backed by £3 million of government funding, the new outdoor laboratory facility includes an educational centre for visitors, local schools and universities helping to establish the reserve as a focal point for the local community.

Research at the site will help us understand how NNRs influence the environment way beyond their physical boundaries, boosting wildlife and providing wider benefits to society such as carbon storage and support for rural economies.

The opening of the new research centre marks the one year anniversary of the launch of an ambitious National Nature Reserve strategy, which brings together government, wildlife charities, NGOs and private landowners to help stimulate recovery across England’s native wildlife by creating conditions to enable wildlife to ‘brim over’ from nature reserves into the wider landscape.

Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey said: "The transformation of the Humberhead from scarred industrial landscape to Britain’s single largest restored lowland peatland is a fantastic example of how by working together to restore ecological processes we can boost wildlife, improve access to the great outdoors and create new opportunities for the local economy.

Our National Nature Reserves are seen as a role model for conservation around the world and our ambitious strategy will see them flourish, helping us deliver on our ambition to leave the environment in a better state than we found it."

Over the last year the government has invested over £5 million to improve, expand and create NNRs.


Salamander-eating fungus found to be widespread in European private amphibian trade - Zoological Society of London

Scientists warn a second amphibian chytrid panzootic could be on the horizon.

A fungus deadly to salamanders and newts has been found to be widespread in the European private amphibian trade – with the infection being transmitted between several countries and discovered in Spain for the first time.

Published today in Scientific Reports, new research from scientists at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology and Ghent University in Belgium, shows Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans or ‘Bsal’ to be widespread in private amphibian collections in Western Europe. Of the eleven collections tested, seven were found to be positive for Bsal, with high rates of disease and mortality often associated.

Scientists use a swab to check whether this Bosca's newt (Lissotriton boscai) is infected with Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Image: © L. Fitzpatrick-ZSL)Scientists use a swab to check whether this Bosca's newt (Lissotriton boscai) is infected with Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Image: © L. Fitzpatrick-ZSL) 

The private trade of amphibians (i.e. the trading and selling of individuals between collectors at a non-commercial scale) is causing concern for scientists at ZSL as they fear the salamander-eating fungus could soon find its way into wild populations of salamanders and newts in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, with severe consequences for amphibian conservation. 

It has already been responsible for a 99% decline in a monitored population of fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) in the Netherlands, with population declines expanding into Belgium and Germany. 

Lead author Liam Fitzpatrick from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology said: “Once the fungus is in a wild population it is likely to be impossible to stop its spread and the loss of susceptible species. We already know that Bsal can be lethal to a number of European salamander species, so understanding ways in which the fungus could be introduced to new areas is essential in our efforts to conserve wild amphibians.”

Read the paper (open access): L. D. Fitzpatrick, F. Pasmans, A. Martel. A. A. Cunningham, Epidemiological tracing of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans identifies widespread infection. Scientific Reports. DOI: s41598-018-31800-z


Scientific Publications

Romain Carrié, Johan Ekroos, Henrik G. Smith, Organic farming supports spatiotemporal stability in species richness of bumblebees and butterflies, Biological Conservation,Volume 227, 2018, Pages 48-55, ISSN 0006-3207, DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.08.022.


Mark A. Whiteside, Mackenzie M. Bess, Elisa Frasnelli, Christine E. Beardsworth, Ellis J. G. Langley, Jayden O. van Horik & Joah R. Madden Low survival of strongly footed pheasants may explain constraints on lateralization. Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 13791 (2018)


Ellie Nagaishi, Kazuhiro Takemoto Network resilience of mutualistic ecosystems and environmental changes: an empirical study. R. Soc. open sci. 2018 5 180706; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.180706

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