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


Wildlife Trust calls for a wilder future for Hampshire and Isle of Wight - Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife today launches a new campaign to secure a wilder future for our counties

Research has demonstrated that nature plays a vital role in improving physical and mental wellbeing and yet many people are disconnected from their natural surroundings and rarely spend time in nature.   

© Amy Lewis© Amy Lewis

In a speech to members in Winchester this Saturday(27 October), Debbie Tann, Chief Executive, will say: “There’s complacency here when it comes to the state of the natural environment.  Although our county looks green and pleasant, our wildlife is in freefall.  This is important – not just because of the incredible plants and animals that we are losing, but because we all depend on the natural world for our own survival and for the health of our society. We have to act now to tip the balance in favour of nature’s recovery.”

Over the past 50 years, 56% of species have declined across the UK, with 15% now at risk of disappearing altogether. 

In Hampshire there have been dramatic reductions in species such as water voles, nightingales and even common species like the large white butterfly.  This loss is being driven by intensive agriculture, climate change, development, recreation pressure and unsustainable use of natural resources. 


UK bumblebee population trends – even common species in decline – University of Kent

Data collected by Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) volunteers to assess the country’s changing bumblebee populations have been A Common Carder bee, Bombus pascuorum, carding hairs from a dead-nettle (University of Kent)analysed in a new way for the first time at the University – and show mixed results about their decline, with cause for concern for two species.

A Common Carder bee, Bombus pascuorum, carding hairs from a dead-nettle (University of Kent)

Data was analysed for the five commonest species in the BBCT’s BeeWalk dataset. Two of the species (Early Bumblebee Bombus pratorum and Red-tailed Bumblebee B. lapidarius) have declined since 2011 while a further two (Common Carder bumblebee B. pascuorum and Tree Bumblebee B. hypnorum) have increased.  The Tree bumblebee, first found in the UK in 2001, has spread rapidly across the country.

Britain’s 25 bumblebee species are some of the nation’s favourite creatures and are also vital for the pollination of crops, garden plants and wildflowers. However, they have suffered huge declines over the past century: two species went extinct in the past 80 years, and eight species are endangered. These species were known to have declined in distribution over the long term but little was known about how bumblebee populations have changed more recently.

Hundreds of BeeWalk volunteers together walked nearly 5,000 kilometres each year to gather information about the numbers, species and caste (queens, workers or males) of the bumblebees they saw and identified.

Statistician Dr Eleni Matechou, of the Statistical Ecology at Kent (SE@K) group in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science (SMSAS), devised new methodology to analyse the data collected by BeeWalk.  The new statistical methodology uses the UK-wide aggregate data on bumblebee detections and provides important information on each of the bumblebee species, such as the average number of worker and queen bumblebees produced from each nest per year.


Yesterday afternoon (29 October) the Chancellor, Philip Hammond presented his Budget to Parliament

Budget 2018: 24 things you need to know – HM Treasury

The Chancellor has presented his Budget to Parliament – here's a summary of what was announced.

1. Public finances have reached a turning point

Since 2009-2010 the deficit has fallen by four-fifths, from 9.9% to 1.9%. Public debt peaked in 2016-17 and is now falling. On average, spending on public services will grow 1.2% above inflation a year from next year until 2023-24.

17. £30 billion to improve roads

A £28.8 billion National Roads Fund, paid for by road tax, includes £25.3 billion for the Strategic Road Network (motorways, trunk and A roads). The largest ever investment of this kind.

It will also help fund the new network of local roads (known as the Major Road Network), and larger local road projects.

Local authorities will receive £420 million to fix potholes on roads and renew bridges and tunnels, and there will be a £150 million to improve local traffic hotspots such as roundabouts.



UK Budget announcement - our response – Sustrans

In response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget announcement, Steve Brooks, Policy Director at Sustrans, the cycling and walking charity said: “When it comes to spending on transport, prevention is always cheaper than the cure. But sadly this budget continues to lock Britain into a polluted, congested future which in the long-run will cost the country billions. With the Prime Minister’s earlier announcement of a continued freeze in fuel duty, coupled with today’s announcement of over £25bn for the next Road Investment Strategy, this budget will only lead to further congestion, air pollution and poor health. A road building programme to be funded by income from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is particularly alarming at a time when climate experts call for a drastic reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. The Chancellor has missed an opportunity to help towns and cities thrive and relieve some of long-term pressures on the NHS.”


CPRE reaction to the Autumn Budget

CPRE has today expressed disappointment at the Government’s support for large new road-building projects, with billions of pounds of funding allocated for new roads in the Thames Estuary and the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

Image: CPREImage: CPRE

This scale of expenditure stands in stark contrast to the limited investment for environmental improvements announced in the Budget today. The world’s leading climate change experts recently estimated that we only have 12 years to limit the worst effects of climate change, but the Government is continuing to favour grey infrastructure over green investment. 

The prioritisation of investment in road infrastructure over sustainable forms of transport and the wider environment, coupled with the government’s support for fracking, is completely at odds with the urgent need to tackle climate change and safeguard our countryside for the next generation.

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: "The disparity in investment between grey and green infrastructure contradicts the prime minister’s environmental ambitions, and the urgent need to tackle climate change. The latest IPCC report says we have just 12 years left to limit warming to 1.5ºC – but by continuing to accelerate road-building, the Government is acting as if we have 120.”


‘Gold standard’ environment pledge tarnished by lack of environmental Budget measures – Wildlife & Countryside Link

Responding to the Budget, 18 environmental groups are highlighting their disappointment with the limited new initiatives and lack of funding for nature announced today.

Responding to the Budget, 18 environmental groups are highlighting their disappointment with the limited new initiatives and lack of funding for nature announced today. This absence is at odds with the urgent need to tackle issues such as climate change, plastic pollution, soil erosion, flooding, spiralling wildlife declines and to create a nature-friendly farming future.

Rapid, dramatic, and fully-funded environmental commitments are needed, with only a decade to stop the massive problems of plastic pollution and climate change hitting an irreversible tipping point, and only 30 years of fertile soils left. 

Dr Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘The Prime Minister and Secretary of State say they want to set a global gold standard for the environment. Yet that promise has been tarnished by the limited environmental measures announced by the Chancellor in today’s Budget. With only a decade to turn the tide on plastic pollution and limit the catastrophic impacts of climate change, and little longer to save our soils, the environment must be a top Government priority if our children, our wildlife and our planet are not to pay a terrible price.’


The other big story today (30 October):

Wildlife declines show nature needs life support, WWF warns

Conservation organisation calls for new global deal for nature and people to halt wildlife decline and tackle deforestation, climate change and plastic pollution

European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in forest in spring in snowdrop anemone, France (© naturepl.com / Klein & Hubert / WWF)European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in forest in spring in snowdrop anemone, France (© naturepl.com / Klein & Hubert / WWF)

Plummeting numbers of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish around the world are an urgent sign that nature needs life support, WWF warned today as the conservation organisation’s flagship Living Planet Report 2018 shows population sizes of wildlife fell an average of 60 percent globally since 1970.

Current efforts to protect nature are failing, WWF warns, because they are not ambitious enough to match the scale of the threat the planet is facing. The organisation is calling for a new global deal for nature and people, backed by concrete commitments from countries and businesses to tackle wildlife loss, climate change and development in an integrated way.

The Living Planet Report 2018, involving over 50 experts, paints a dire picture of the state of our planet and clearly illustrates that humans are living beyond the planet’s means and wiping out life on earth in the process.

It highlights how overuse of natural resources on land and in the oceans, and agricultural activity, driven by human consumption, are the dominant cause of current wildlife declines and the destruction of forests, oceans and landscapes. It also identifies climate change and pollution, including plastic, as significant and growing threats. It reveals:

  • Only a quarter of the planet’s land is free from human impact. By 2050, this is projected to fall to just a tenth;
  • The percentage of the world’s seabirds estimated to have plastic in their stomach has increased from 5 percent in 1960 to 90 percent today;
  • Tropical areas have seen the steepest declines, with an 89 percent fall in monitored populations of Latin America and Caribbean- home to species such as the jaguar and giant anteater - since 1970;
  • Globally, freshwater species populations, such as amphibians, have declined 83 percent on average over the same period;
  • The world has already lost about half of its shallow water corals in just 30 years;
  • In April 2018, levels of climate warming carbon dioxide reached the highest level in at least 800,000 years.

Full and summary versions of the report are available here


Clock change increases deer risk on roads - Scottish Natural Heritage

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is warning motorists to be aware of the increased potential for collisions between deer and vehicles due to the shorter periods of daylight.

With night falling earlier, deer are more likely to venture on to the grass verges near roadsides during peak commuting times as they browse and feed.

In response to the potential risk, SNH – in conjunction with Transport Scotland and Traffic Scotland – are placing warning messages on electronic variable messaging signs (VMS). From this week until Monday 19 November, the signs will warn motorists at key locations on the main trunk roads. These messages will be on signs on the A9, A87, A82, A85 and the A835.

It's estimated that collisions between deer and vehicles could be as high as 9,000 per year in Scotland, resulting in 50 to 100 human injuries. The majority of collisions take place in early evening through to midnight, with another peak occurring from 6am to 9am.

Over the past 50 years, the number of wild deer in Scotland has increased as has their range. In the same period, the volume of road traffic has almost doubled. This combination has led to increased deer-vehicle collision rates across the country, with the greatest jump occurring in Aberdeenshire, Fife and the Central Belt. This corresponds with the rise in the populations of roe deer, which adapt well to lowland habitats.


Watching whales from space - British Antarctic Survey

Scientists have used detailed high-resolution satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies’ DigitalGlobe, to detect, count and describe four different species of whales. Reported this week in the journal Marine Mammal Science, this study is a big step towards developing a cost-effective method to study whales in remote and inaccessible places, that will help scientists to monitor population changes and understand their behaviour.

Each species was observed in one of their known aggregation areas, where individuals come together to congregate: southern right whales off Argentina, humpback whales off Hawaii, fin whales in the Pelagos Sanctuary in the Mediterranean and grey whales off the coast of Mexico.  Already it has helped whale conservation bodies to identify 10 key inaccessible whale populations that would benefit most from the application of satellite imagery in studies.

Lead author Hannah Cubaynes, a whale ecologist at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and University of Cambridge explains:  “This is the most detailed imagery of whales captured by satellites to date. It’s exciting that the improved resolution (now at 30 cm) reveals characteristic features, such as flippers and flukes, which can be seen in the images for the first time. Whales live in all oceans. Many areas are difficult to access by boats or planes, the traditional means of monitoring whales. The ability to track whales without travelling to these remote and inaccessible areas, in a cost-effective way, will be of great benefit to conservation efforts for whales.”


Launch of global effort to read genetic code of all complex life on earth - The Wellcome Sanger Institute

The project aims to create a new foundation for biology to drive solutions for preserving biodiversity and sustaining human societies

The Earth BioGenome Project (EBP), a global effort to sequence the genetic code, or genomes, of all 1.5 million known animal, plant, protozoan and fungal species on Earth, officially launches today (1 November) as key scientific partners and funders from around the globe gather in London, UK to discuss progress in organising and funding the project.

The EBP will ultimately create a new foundation for biology to drive solutions for preserving biodiversity and sustaining human societies. The EBP aims to sequence, catalogue and categorise the genomes of all of Earth’s eukaryotic* biodiversity over a period of ten years. The estimated cost of the EBP is $4.7 billion. Accounting for inflation, the Human Genome Project today would cost $5 billion.

The EBP is made possible by recent and future advances in sequencing and information technology that will enable the reading and interpretation of tens of thousands of species’ genomes each year by partner institutions across the globe.

A greater understanding of Earth’s biodiversity and the responsible stewarding of its resources are among the most crucial scientific and social challenges of the new millennium. The overcoming of these challenges requires new scientific knowledge of evolution and interactions among millions of the planet’s organisms.


Trees for Life’s red squirrel project wins global conservation competition - Trees for Life

Image: © Peter CairnsScotland’s only entry in the Forests category of a leading global conservation competition has won funding of more than £25,000 to help ensure the long-term survival of Scotland’s red squirrels.

Image: © Peter Cairns

Trees for Life’s Reds Return initiative secured almost 7,400 votes and widespread social media support – including from television presenter Chris Packham – in the 2018 European Outdoor Conservation Association vote held between 8-22 October. The success will allow the volunteering conservation charity to step up its pioneering red squirrel reintroduction project. Reds from thriving populations in Inverness-shire and Moray will be reintroduced to four northwest Highland woodlands where they can spread, safe from threats from grey squirrels. This will also help natural expansion of native woodlands, because red squirrels plant new trees by forgetting where they have buried their winter stores of nuts and seeds.


Conversations are a walk in the park; communication is better outdoors, research finds - University of Manchester

New research has found that conversations are better in natural environments such as parks and gardens than indoors.
Researchers from The University of Manchester and Cardiff University recorded conversations between children and their parents while they explored a city park and an indoor education centre, and found that the conversations in the park were more responsive and connected compared to those recorded indoors. 

The team focused on families with three- and four-year-olds, because at these ages most children have a lot to say, but coordinating with a conversational partner is sometimes challenging.
Dr Thea Cameron-Faulkner, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at The University of Manchester, and one of the study authors, said: “Our research demonstrates that natural environments can significantly enhance social interactions, in this case improving the quality of parent-child conversations.”
Professor Merideth Gattis, from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, one of the study authors, added: “One of the most challenging aspects of conversations is listening and responding to what other people say. The results of our study suggest that one simple way for people to improve this process is to spend time outdoors in natural environments.
The findings are an important first step toward building a better understanding of how natural environments can influence communication and could be used to inform and improve a number of services including education, child welfare and urban design. 

The study ‘Responding to nature: Natural environments improve parent-child communication’ is published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. 


Southern North Sea review of consents: draft Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) - Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy  

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy  is seeking views on a draft Habitats Regulations Assessment for a review of consented wind farms in the Southern North Sea cSAC/SCI.

In January 2017 the Southern North Sea candidate Special Area of Conservation / Site of Community Importance (cSAC/SCI) was designated for the protection of harbour porpoise.

When a new SAC is designated there is a statutory requirement for a review to be undertaken of certain projects. As part of the review, the competent authorities (in this case BEIS and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO)) are required to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).

The purpose of this consultation is to seek the views of all interested parties on the draft HRA. 

This consultation closes at: 5pm on 13 December 2018  

Click through to view the documents and take part in the consultation.


Proposals unveiled to cut red tape for divers retrieving marine litter - defra

A consultation to review and streamline the marine licensing system.

As part of the government’s ongoing drive to clean up our seas, new proposals launched today (2 November 2018) will cut red tape and make it easier for divers to remove litter from the seabed.

Until now, a marine licence may be required for divers who retrieve litter or abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear – known as ‘ghost gear’ – during the course of a dive.

Now, in a consultation launched today by Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey, divers will be exempt from the current requirement to have a marine licence – streamlining the existing regime and helping to tackle the 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear lost in our oceans each year.

The consultation also brings clarity to boat users who do not require a licence to collect litter or ghost gear from the ocean’s surface. 

Chair of the British Sub-Aqua Club Alex Warzynski said: "As divers we see first-hand the damage to the marine environment done by abandoned and lost fishing gear along with other marine litter, and anything that Defra can do to make it easy for divers to clean up without fear of doing the wrong thing will help. The new proposals will also allow harbour authorities to remove all marine litter as previously they have only been able to remove objects that present an immediate risk of obstruction or danger to navigation."

The consultation opens today (2 November) and runs for 6 weeks.


Defra group's strategy: creating a great place for living - defra

A strategy for the whole of Defra that sets out a shared vision, set of strategic objectives and goals.

This strategy document sets out a shared vision, objectives and goals for the whole of the Defra group.

It is intended to provide staff across the whole group of Defra organisations (including non-ministerial departments, executive agencies, non-departmental and other public bodies) with a clear understanding of how the Defra group is creating a great place for living.

Our vision

The Defra group is here to make our air purer, our water cleaner, our land greener and our food more sustainable.

Our mission is to restore and enhance the environment for the next generation, and to leave the environment in a better state.

This matters because enhancing nature and green spaces enhances lives. Our wellbeing, our physical and mental health, our love of place and landscape, and our intrinsic need for beauty, awe and wonder, are all intimately bound up with a thriving natural environment.

A healthy and resilient natural world underpins economic prosperity. Investing in species and habitats is an investment in a sustainable economy. Environmental services and technologies drive economic growth and are part of a modern economy.

We know better than ever before that economic growth should not come at the cost of environmental degradation. We have a responsibility to tackle, rather than tolerate, challenges like climate change, poor air quality and our reliance on plastics.

Read the report in full or download the PDF print version.


Scientific publications

Morelly, F., Mikula, P., Benedetti, Y., Bussière, R. & Tryjanowski, P. (2018) Cemeteries support avian diversity likewise urban parks in European cities: Assessing taxonomic, evolutionary and functional diversity. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. DOI: 10.1016/j.ufug.2018.10.011


Ben Parslew, Girupakaran Sivalingam, William Crowther A dynamics and stability framework for avian jumping take-off R. Soc. open sci. 2018 5 181544; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.181544.


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