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


Most detailed picture yet of changing climate launched – Environment Agency

New data gives the most detailed picture yet of temperature, rainfall and sea level rise over next century

The UK’s most comprehensive picture yet of how the climate could change over the next century has been launched today by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Using the latest science from the Met Office and around the world, the UK Climate Projections 2018 illustrate a range of future climate scenarios until 2100 – showing increasing summer temperatures, more extreme weather and rising sea levels are all on the horizon and urgent international action is needed.

To help homes and businesses plan for the future, the results set out a range of possible outcomes over the next century based on different rates of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The high emission scenario shows:

  • Summer temperatures could be up to 5.4C hotter by 2070, while winters could be up to 4.2C warmer
  • The chance of a summer as hot as 2018 is around 50% by 2050
  • Sea levels in London could rise by up to 1.15 metres by 2100
  • Average summer rainfall could decrease by up to 47 per cent by 2070, while there could be up to 35 per cent more precipitation in winter.

Sea levels are projected to rise over the 21st century and beyond under all emission scenarios – meaning we can expect to see an increase in both the frequency and magnitude of extreme water levels around the UK coastline.

The UK already leads the world in tackling climate change – with emissions reduced by more than 40 per cent since 1990. However these projections show a future we could face without further action.

UKCP18 can now be used as a tool to guide decision-making and boost resilience – whether that’s through increasing flood defences, designing new infrastructure or adjusting ways of farming for drier summers.


The role of trees in climate change adaptation and mitigation – The Woodland Trust

In response to today's speech by Environment Secretary Michael Gove on UK climate change projections, director of conservation and external affairs Abi Bunker said: “Native trees and woodland need to play a key role in the urgent and important task of both adapting to inevitable climate change and of upping our game in mitigating further effects. The Secretary of State rightly flags the vital role of protecting our ancient woodlands, restoring and managing them well, and in creating much-needed new native woodlands. Their benefits are multi-faceted and need to be harnessed. They do so much more than lock up carbon. They provide life support to humans and wildlife.”


Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning - Wildlife Assessment Check Bat Conservation Trust

image: Bat Conservation TrustLocal planning authorities, across the UK have a statutory duty to protect and promote biodiversity. However, some authorities are struggling to find the resources to conduct the necessary checks to see if wildlife may be impacted by a proposed development. Without the right data about the biodiversity impacts, an authority can’t make an informed decision on planning applications – this means that authorities may be granting planning permission to developments that will have negative impacts to wildlife.

Image: Bat Conservation Trust

In London, there were over 90,000 planning applications in 2016 but less than one percent (0.86%) of these applications consulted existing biodiversity data records to assess the potential impact of the applications (GIGL, 2017). This is despite the GLA estimating that around a fifth of planning applications (18%) are likely to require background biodiversity checks. In Hampshire, of 10,400 applications in 2017, only 4% (368) were checked by the local environmental records centre. Similar to London, the record centres had flagged a fifth of the applications (2,325) as of potential ecological concern.

Restricted local authority budgets and lack of in-house ecological expertise may be further exacerbating this issue, meaning that biodiversity is given insufficient attention during the planning process. The Association of Local Government Ecologists estimates that two-thirds of local authorities do not have an in-house ecologist or ecology team.


Record 80,000 trees to be planted in London during National Tree Week – Mayor of London

  • Mayor has funded thousands of trees for ‘National Park City’ in London’s biggest ever mass planting weekend
  • 75,000 trees have already been given to public and community groups 
  • 5,000 extra free trees available for Londoners this weekend 
  • Mayor launches new map revealing most detailed look at London’s tree canopy cover

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “My Greener City Fund is investing £12m in trees and green spaces to help London reach the goal of being confirmed as the world’s first National Park City next summer and expanding the capital’s impressive ‘urban forest’ of eight million trees. This initiative is really capturing the imagination and it is fantastic to know that there will be so many Londoners out in force this week planting trees across the city.”  

All the information about getting involved with the weekend is at: www.london.gov.uk/trees, including how to plant a tree, where you can plant it and how to care for it.

London’s trees provide at least £133m of benefits every year in terms of removing pollution and carbon dioxide from the air and reducing the amount of water going into drains. They help improve air quality by removing 2,241 tonnes of pollution every year, including the equivalent of 13 per cent of PM10 particulates and 14 percent of NO2 emitted by road transport, as well as storing carbon and creating A habitat for wildlife.


Rewilding conference told of need to stop decline in biodiversity – Royal Agricultural University

The UK ‘is going backwards in biodiversity’ and rewilding significant parts of our environment is ultimately needed, a conference heard.

Prof Alastair Driver, of Rewilding Britain, told the event organised by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and Cirencester College: “The simple fact is that we are going backwards in biodiversity. We need something significantly different in addition to traditional nature reserve conservation. That is the underpinning case for rewilding.”

Prof Driver was among a number of nationally renowned experts in the field speaking at the Rewilding: Perspectives and Applications​ conference, held at the RAU’s Boutflour Hall.

He added: “But we have a very long journey to take – we are rewild-ing for the time being, and it will be a very long time before we Charlie Burrell holding a butterfly (Royal Agricultural University)have rewilded. In England and Wales, we cannot jump to purist rewilding where immediately we are truly hands-off across large areas and not intervening at all. It is not practical and not likely in such a crowded country.”

Charlie Burrell holding a butterfly (Royal Agricultural University)

Christopher Price, Director of Policy and Advice at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) suggested landowners considering rewilding could go some way along that journey without compromising their tax status.

 He added that many farmers were already delivering strong levels of environmental diversity using other methods than rewilding: "Landowners won't want to divest themselves of management altogether. Many are achieving high standards of environment through methods that are the antithesis of rewilding."

Other speakers included Sir Charles ‘Charlie’ Burrell, whose Knepp Castle Estate, in Horsham has become a flagship experiment for farmland restoration. He explained: “We decided to come out of arable farming over a six year period. The break-up of any constant look or feel was good for nature. Life has poured back in.”

That strategic decision has meant a resurgence in birds - Blackcap and Whitethroat – as well as the Purple Emperor butterfly and the Violet Dor Beetle, added Dr Tony Whitbread of the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Dr David Hetherington, discussed the challenges and opportunities of a potential re-introduction of lynx to the UK. Dr Hetherington, of the Cairngorms National Park Authority and author of ‘The lynx and us’ said that a “respectful dialogue” between farmers and those supporting the lynx, pointed the way forward. Scotland was the most likely area to re-establish the creatures, he felt.


Outdoors visits at record high - Scottish Natural Heritage

Visits to the outdoors have hit record levels in Scotland, a new survey suggests.

Research from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) reveals that an estimated 547 million outdoors visits were made in 2017/18.

The figure is up from 396 million in 2013/14 and is the highest ever recorded.

Scotland’s People and Nature Survey shows that people are also getting out and about more regularly and enjoying nature closer to home.

More than half (57%) said they ventured out weekly, up from 50% in 2013/14 when the survey was last carried out.

Meanwhile the proportion of visits taken in urban areas increased by 6 percentage points to 40%.

Local parks were the most popular destination, while walking remains the most frequently used mode of transport.

Exercising a dog was the most frequently cited reason for visiting the outdoors (42% of visits) followed by health and exercise (37%) and to relax and unwind (29%).

The majority of those who visited the outdoors (67%) strongly agreed it had helped them de-stress, 64% said it had improved their physical health and 52% said they felt closer to nature.

However, the survey of around 12,000 adults in Scotland shows there is still more to do to help under-represented groups access and enjoy nature.


Organic dairy farmers spring into action for bumblebees - Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Welsh dairy farmers and bumblebees don’t normally crop up in the same context but a group of organic dairy farmers, who market products under the Calon Wen brand, are hoping to change things.

Photo credit: Cotswold Seeds LtdConcerned by the plight of the humble bumble Calon Wen farmers have sprung into action.

Six Calon Wen farmers from across Wales are leading a research project “Pasture for Pollinators”, looking at how they can stop, and even reverse the decline of bumblebee populations by managing their pastures a little differently.

Photo credit: Cotswold Seeds Ltd

The Project, which is funded through the European Innovation Partnership programme managed by Menter a Busnes, started at the beginning of 2018.

The farmers are using special seed mixes in their pastures, supplied by Cotswold Seeds, which include a high proportion of pollinator friendly plants. When they cut the field for silage they leave a four metre margin at the edge of the field, which they leave to flower, providing a feast for pollinators. They are also looking at how they can manage other habitats on the farm, such as hedgerows and unimproved pasture.

“Seeing wildlife on my farm makes my job much more enjoyable, and learning about bumblebees has been fascinating” said David Edge, one of the Calon Wen farmers involved in setting up the Project.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is providing the technical expertise for the Project, and are monitoring pollinator populations across all farms. “I am really pleased with how the Project is going so far” said Sinead Lynch, Senior Conservation Officer at the Trust. “We are currently still in our initial trial period and we are already observing some very interesting results. We have visited all of the farms, completed surveys and seen that the farmers are incredibly engaged and on board with this Project which is great.”


New report shows nature-friendly farmers boost recovery – The Wildlife Trusts

Local farm wildlife plans help cereal growers devote 30% of land to nature

A group of over 40 cereal farmers are proving that it is possible to help nature recover and make a profit. A new report from The Wildlife Trusts shows how locally tailor-made farm wildlife plans devised by Wildlife Trust advisors with each farmer, are helping wildlife recover

In 2018, Jordans oat growers farmed over 15,500 hectares, providing almost 4,600 hectares for wildlife. Birds such as linnets, butterflies like the silver-washed fritillary, and brown hares are returning to farms in the Jordans Farm Partnership; nature is thriving in their hedgerows, field margins and ponds, creating vital corridors to enable wild animals to spread out and move through the landscape.  

Stephanie Hilborne, CEO, The Wildlife Trusts says: “We are hugely impressed with the commitment of these cereal farmers to support wildlife and the environment, which will benefit generations to come. They are playing an important role in nature’s recovery. We hope other farmers will take inspiration from them and follow their lead; it shows that farming that works with nature makes sense. The Jordans Farm Partnership demonstrates we don’t have to choose between wildlife and profitable food production.”


Scotland's woodland and farmland birds thrive but upland birds struggle - Scottish Natural Heritage

Woodland and farmland birds are thriving in Scotland but upland birds continue to struggle, according to the latest figures.

Official statistics published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) track the abundance of Scotland’s terrestrial breeding birds using results from the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey.

The report shows woodland birds increasing by 69% between 1994 and 2017 and farmland birds up by 14%. In contrast, upland birds have decreased by 17%.

Among the woodland birds the biggest long-term rises were for chiffchaff, great spotted woodpecker and blackcap.

Blackcaps - a familiar sight for many in gardens during the winter - have benefited from milder conditions with climate change enabling them to extend their range further north.

Birds including tree pipits, willow warblers and song thrush recorded increases of more than 10% between 2016 and 2017.

The full statistical publication can be accessed here 


Great British Beach Clean 2018 results - Marine Conservation Society

Thanks to you, the Great British Beach Clean has doubled in size!

Between the 14th and 17th of September 2018, thousands and thousands of people headed to hundreds of UK beaches with one thing in mind – to make a dent in the amount of litter covering our coastline.

(image: Marine Conservation Society)(image: Marine Conservation Society)

Just short of 15,000 volunteers - double the number in 2017 – cleaned up and surveyed 494 beaches around the UK coast (155 more than in 2017), making the 2018 Great British Beach Clean the biggest ever. Finally, beach cleaning is cool and mainstream - and we’re delighted - we’ve waited 25 years for this moment!

Our volunteers picked up 8,550 kgs of litter across the whole of the UK – that’s about three times as heavy as the tongue of a blue whale – the largest animal ever known to have lived on earth!

There were, on average, a staggering 600 items of litter on every 100 metres of beach that were cleaned and surveyed.
So what’s next? The public know how important pollution-free beaches and seas are, now we must ride on this momentum and ensure governments make the right decisions when it comes to stemming the single-use plastic tide.

Download the full Great British Beach Clean 2018 Report here and see what you can do to keep up the pressure so finding ‘nothing’ on our beaches becomes a reality.


What seabirds can tell us about the tide - European Geosciences Union

When the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) set out to tag razorbills, their aim was to track their behaviour and movements along the coast of North Wales. The tag data revealed that, at night, these seabirds spent a lot of their time idle on the sea surface. “We saw this as an opportunity to re-use the data and test if the birds might be drifting with the tidal current,” says Matt Cooper, a Master of Oceanography graduate from Bangor University in Wales. It turns out they were, according to a new study led by Cooper that shows the potential of using seabirds to measure ocean currents. The results are published today in the European Geosciences Union journal Ocean Science.

Using seabirds to tell us about the tide could be especially useful for the marine renewable energy industry. Generating tidal energy requires detailed knowledge of current speeds. Scientists and engineers traditionally measure tides by using radar or deploying anchors and buoys with scientific instruments. However, these scouting methods are challenging and expensive. If tagged seabirds could provide tidal data over a large area, they could help identify sites that would be good sources of tidal energy.


Devastating impact on nature highlighted in new campaign to fight litter - Defra in partnership with Keep Britain Tidy

Defra joins forces with Keep Britain Tidy to launch the ‘Keep it, Bin it’ campaign  

Poster image of otter with litter (defra)Poster image of otter with litter (defra)

Shocking images are at the centre of a new campaign unveiled today (30 November) to crack down on littering in England.

Launched by Environment Secretary Michael Gove in partnership with environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, and supported by some of the biggest names in retail, travel and entertainment, the campaign features poignant images of wildlife eating and getting tangled in litter, contrasted against typical excuses for people give for dropping litter. The emotive imagery demonstrates the impact that littering can have on the environment, with the RSPCA responding to 1,500 calls about litter-related incidents affecting animals every year.

This bold approach from Defra and anti-litter charity Keep Britain Tidy has already earned the backing of some of our biggest businesses with Mars Wrigley Confectionery, Greggs, McDonald’s, PepsiCo UK and Network Rail confirmed as the first tranche of campaign partners.

Today the campaign will be on display in train stations nationwide, including commuter hubs such as London Euston, Manchester Piccadilly and Birmingham New Street, as well as across partners’ social media channels and on Clear Channel’s Socialite screens. After launch, the campaign will feature at till-points in Gregg’s stores and at Cineworld cinemas through the partnership with PepsiCo UK.

As well as the environmental cost, littering also brings with it a huge financial cost. Keeping the country’s streets clean cost local government almost £700 million last year in England, much of this spent cleaning up avoidable litter. Millions of pieces of litter are dropped every day in England.

The new campaign is urging people to put their litter in a bin, or keep hold of it and put it in a bin when they see one. Empty packets and other litter should always be recycled wherever possible. 

Campaign details here.


Achieving EU's key 2020 environmental objectives slipping away - European Environment Agency

According to the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) updated environmental indicator report published today, the European Union continues to fall short of achieving a number of environmental objectives by 2020, especially in areas aimed at protecting biodiversity and natural capital. When it comes to 'boosting sustainable, resource-efficient, low-carbon economy', trends and outlooks cause more concern compared to the assessment from last year, while progress in addressing environment-related threats to health remains rather mixed. 

EEA Environmental Indicator report cover (EEA)The annual EEA Environmental Indicator Report 2018 provides an updated scoreboard that monitors progress in 29 selected environmental objectives that are relevant to achieving the three key priority objectives under the 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) that address: natural capital (including biodiversity); sustainable, resource efficient, low-carbon economy; and people’s health and well-being. The scoreboard paints a bleak picture for progress in improving the EU’s natural capital. The overall progress is mixed for the other two priority objectives.

Compared to last year’s, this year’s scoreboard revised downwards the prospects of meeting three more objectives, important to the achievement of the 7th EAP priority objective that addresses sustainable, resource efficient low carbon growth. The outlooks for meeting the EU’s 2020 energy efficiency target and reducing the overall environmental impact of the housing sector by 2020 were revised from ‘likely’ to ‘uncertain'. Increases in the overall energy consumption and in the household sector were the main cause. The outlook for reducing the environmental impact of the mobility sector was also revised to ‘unlikely’ as greenhouse gas emissions from transport increased.

The report notes that for a number of indicators across the three 7th priority objectives the positive past trends seen in the scoreboard were mainly because of the low economic activity right after the 2008 financial crisis and that in several cases progress has slowed in recent years due to increased economic growth.

Access the report.


Reform essential to tackle rising wildlife crime and ‘appallingly low’ number of convictions - Wildlife and Countryside Link

The second Annual Wildlife Crime Report, produced by members of the Wildlife and Countryside Link and Wales Environment Link coalitions, reveals that reported terrestrial wildlife crime incidents against bats, badgers and birds of prey rose by an average of 24% last year, with the number of wildlife crime incidents reported rising by 9% overall.

There were a total of 1,283 wildlife crime incidents recorded by these NGOs in 2017, compared to 1179 in 2016. Despite increases in reported wildlife crimes shockingly only 9 individuals and businesses were convicted last year for wildlife crimes the coalition collect data on. This is down two-thirds on the 22 people convicted in 2016. This highlights there are ongoing high levels of wildlife crime which criminals are simply getting away with. National Wildlife Crime Unit and Ministry of Justice data also show falls in the number of convictions for wildlife crime.

Wildlife Crime report cover (WCL)Wildlife experts are warning that the trend of worryingly low convictions for wildlife crimes is likely to continue unless key problems are tackled. These issues include: the lack of a police recording system for wildlife crime and increased pressure on police resources; the exclusion of some types of evidence, such as covert surveillance, often being excluded from trials; the increasing use of the internet to facilitate wildlife crime; and inadequate penalties for those convicted. 

To ensure that wildlife crime is transparently assessed, priorities and resources are targeted most effectively, more wildlife criminals are successfully prosecuted, and sentences really do fit the crimes and act as a real deterrent, the NGOs are calling for:

  • the Home Office to make all wildlife crimes in England and Wales recordable with specific police crime codes, and to produce an annual report analysing wildlife crime trends and helping direct funding and resources accordingly
  • Defra to ensure adequate long-term funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit and other key enforcement agencies, to effectively tackle wildlife crime and develop additional resources to respond to the growing threat of wildlife crime facilitated online
  • Police forces to appoint wildlife crime champions and ensure sufficient training for staff who may deal with wildlife crime
  • the Crown Prosecution Service and Sentencing Council to maintain specialist wildlife crime prosecutors, remedy issues with the admissibility of wildlife crime evidence such as surveillance footage, and develop comprehensive and stringent wildlife crime sentencing guidelines 

Download the report (pdf)


Announced on the same day: 

Double blow as two more rare birds found shot in North Yorkshire - North Yorkshire Police

Wildlife crime officers are appealing for information about two more rare birds of prey, which have been found shot in North Yorkshire.

The first bird, a large adult red kite, was found dead by a member of the public on the Thursday 25 October 2018 near to Wath in Harrogate. The bird was recovered and taken to a specialist vet to be x-rayed to determine the cause of its death. The x-ray uncovered two pieces of shot, which were lodged within the bird.

The second shooting took place on Thursday 8 November 2018 when an adult buzzard was found by a member of the public, injured but still alive in Riccall near Selby. Despite efforts to save the bird, due to the extensive injuries that had been inflicted upon it, it had to be put to sleep. On examination, the vet believed that the bird had been shot in the days before it was found, due to the level of infection in the wound. Further inspection of the bird found the shot has shattered its collarbone, shoulder and humerus leaving the bird in significant pain, until it was euthanised. 

If you have any information that will assist the investigation, please come forward and contact police via 101 and pass the information to the Force Control Room. Please quote reference 12180210290 for the buzzard investigation and 12180199938 for the red kite investigation.


UN Biodiversity Conference Agrees on a Process Towards a New Deal for Nature and People in 2020 but Ambition is Weak - WWF

The 14th Conference of the Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) ended today with an agreement on the preparatory process for a post-2020 global framework, moving us closer to a transformational New Deal for Nature and People in 2020 - a vital step to ramp up global efforts to halt today’s unprecedented and dangerous biodiversity loss. This sets the stage for governments to show leadership and reinforce their commitment to conserving natural systems that sustain Earth’s vital diversity of life and also provide invaluable goods and services essential for the well-being of people and the planet. The new deal must halt biodiversity loss while being fair and respectful of the rights of all parties, especially developing economies, indigenous peoples and local communities and those defending the web of life on the front line.

WWF was encouraged by countries agreeing to submit new voluntary biodiversity contributions before 2020. It is imperative that these contributions are made early, have strong implementation mechanisms and match the ambition required to reverse nature loss.

However, despite these positive steps forward, political relevance, ambition and current global action are still not strong enough if we are going to make the transformational changes needed to ‘bend the curve’ on biodiversity and nature loss. As nature loss continues unabated, there is still a real lack of action within member countries, as most are now certain to miss their Aichi targets due in 2020.


First government-funded tree of Northern Forest takes root - defra

Forestry Minister David Rutley has planted the first government-funded tree of the Northern Forest.

Forestry Minister David Rutley (centre), government Tree Champion Sir William Worsley and Chair of the Woodland Trust Baroness Barbara Young joined students from St Andrews School Radcliffe to plant the first government-funded tree of the Northern Forest. (image: defra) Forestry Minister David Rutley (centre), government Tree Champion Sir William Worsley and Chair of the Woodland Trust Baroness Barbara Young joined students from St Andrews School Radcliffe to plant the first government-funded tree of the Northern Forest. (image: defra) 

Ambitious plans to create a swathe of forest in the north of England branched out today (30 November 2018) with Forestry Minister David Rutley planting the first government funded tree of the Northern Forest.

Minister Rutley joined the Woodland Trust, Community Forest Trust, government Tree Champion Sir William Worsley and students from St Andrew’s CE Primary School in Radcliffe, where they began the planting of 200 saplings as part of the government’s £5.7 million investment.

Over the next 25 years the Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust are aiming to plant more than 50 million trees from Liverpool to Hull, connecting the five community forests of the north. Government backing for the project was announced by the Prime Minister in January during the launch of the Government’s flagship 25 Year Environment Plan.

Spanning more than 120 miles, the Northern Forest will help boost habitats for woodland birds and bats and protect iconic species such as the red squirrel – alongside providing a tranquil space to be enjoyed by millions of people living in the area


Scientific Publications

Short, C., Clarke, L., Carnelli ,F., Uttley, C. & Smith, B. (2018) Capturing the multiple benefits associated with nature‐based solutions: Lessons from a natural flood management project in the Cotswolds, UK. Land Degradation & Development. DOI: 10.1002/ldr.3205 (open access)


Levy, P. et al (2018) Response of a peat bog vegetation community to long-term experimental addition of nitrogen. Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13107


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