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


Tuesday's news includes a full round up of the headlines from over the Christmas break.


defra announcements and consultations plus reactions

Plastic carrier bags: Gove sets out new measures to extend charge - defra

Government launches consultation to extend the 5p plastic bag charge to all retailers and increase the charge to 10p

The 5p plastic bag charge will be extended to all retailers and increased to 10p to cut their use further, under plans put forward in a consultation launched by the Environment Secretary.

Plastic bags have a significant impact on the environment. Government scientists believe plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decade unless marine litter is curbed - with one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals dying every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

Currently, the 5p charge applies only to big businesses, but it is estimated over 3.6 billion single-use plastic bags are supplied annually by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Trade bodies representing around 40,000 small retailers have already launched a voluntarily approach to a 5p charge, but this accounts for less than one-fifth of England’s estimated 253,000 SMEs.

The consultation launched today will also explore the possibility of increasing the 5p minimum charge to encourage further behaviour change, potentially doubling it to 10p.

Take part in the consultation 

Consultation on the proposal to extend the Single-use Plastic bag charge to all retailers and to increase the minimum charge to 10p 

Overview: The purpose of this consultation is to find out what you think about our plans to extend the Single-use Carrier Bag Charge to all retailers. We also want to know what you think about increasing the minimum charge to 10p.

These changes will build on the success of the existing Single Use Carrier Bags charge in reducing the effect of plastic bags in the environment.  

Closes 22 Feb 2019


Response: CPRE praises bag charge increase

CPRE welcomes the Government consultation, launched today (‪27 December), that sets out plans to increase the carrier bag charge ‪from 5p to 10p, and for it to be extended to all retailers. This will build on the already successful waste reduction policy, which CPRE played a key role in campaigning for, alongside its Break the Bag Habit partners.

Currently, the 5p charge applies only to big businesses, but it is estimated that more than 3.6 billion single-use plastic bags are supplied annually by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). CPRE states that extending it to these smaller business, along with increasing the charge, will drive the 86% drop in plastic bag usage already seen even higher.

In addition to this extension, the countryside charity also welcomes the Government’s commitment to keep the momentum going and introduce a deposit return system for cans and bottles, putting an end to recycling confusion and boosting stagnant recycling rates.

Samantha Harding, Litter Programme Director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘Following such a resounding success, it is great to see the Government using its initiative to take the bag charge one step further. The 15 billion plastic bags saved, since the 5p charge came in, proves the huge impact a small financial incentive can have on encouraging people to do the right thing. Their absence has made a real difference to the health of our countryside and environment. As the government prepares to apply the “polluter pays” principle to other forms of packaging, including by introducing a deposit system for bottles and cans of all sizes and materials, it has a golden opportunity to boost recycling rates to over 90% and deliver vital economic benefits, such as new jobs within the recycling sector. When economic measures are applied to manufacturers and the producers of packaging, they make better choices in terms of product design, they cut down on the amount of hard-to-recycle materials used, and start to invest in proper collection systems to make sure more of these valuable materials are available for re-use or recycling.’


Communities to have greater say in protecting local trees - defra

Michael Gove launches consultation on plans to create greater protections for trees in urban areas.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove today announced plans to create greater protections for trees in urban areas.

The proposals would ensure councils can’t cut down street trees without first consulting communities.

The measures reflect the important role trees in towns and cities play in improving our health and wellbeing, as well as providing crucial environmental benefits.

Row of parkland trees (image: defra)Row of parkland trees (image: defra)

Launching a consultation on a raft of new forestry measures, the Secretary of State unveiled proposals designed to ensure local people have a bigger say over what happens to the trees in their communities.

The proposals include:

  • making sure communities have their say on whether street trees should be felled with requirements for councils to consult local residents
  • responsibilities on councils to report on tree felling and replanting to make sure we can safeguard our environment for future generations
  • giving the Forestry Commission more powers to tackle illegal tree felling and strengthen protection of wooded landscapes

Take part in the consultation - Consultation on Protecting and Enhancing England’s Trees and Woodlands

Overview: This consultation seeks views on the UK government’s proposals to introduce four new measures designed to increase transparency and accountability in the process of felling street trees and to strengthen the Forestry Commission’s power to tackle illegal tree felling. 

Two of the measures introduce new duties on local authorities: a duty to consult on the felling of street trees; a duty to report on tree felling and replanting; while the third suggests the production of best practice guidance to support local authorities in drawing up, consulting on and publishing a Tree and Woodland Strategy.

Closes 28 Feb 2019


Fly-tipping: New financial penalties in government fight against waste crime - defra

New penalties come into force to crack down on fly-tipping.

New financial penalties have come into force to crack down on fly-tipping. The majority of householders already dispose of their waste responsibly, however from today (7 January) any householder who fails to pass their waste to a licensed carrier, and whose waste is found fly-tipped, could face penalties of up to £400.

The government has also issued guidance to ensure councils use these new powers proportionately, which makes clear penalties should not be used as a means of raising money and should not be issued for minor breaches.

Potential fly-tipping by rogue operators, and the risk of a penalty, can be simply avoided by using certified waste carriers. Householders can search for registered waste carriers quickly and easily on the Environment Agency’s website.

Latest figures show the government’s crackdown on fly-tippers is delivering results, with no increase in the number of incidents for the first time in five years for the 2017/18 year.


Land and Countryside Management, including marine

St Kilda's sea caves in good condition - Scottish Natural Heritage

St Kilda’s special reefs and sea caves are in good condition, a new report concludes.

The findings of a wide-reaching survey carried out in 2015 by a team of divers have now been published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

From one of the surveys (photo: SNH)Almost 90 years after St Kilda’s last 36 residents were evacuated to the mainland, the islands remain vitally important for the wildlife they support.  

From one of the surveys (photo: SNH)

The World Heritage Site hosts huge seabird populations, including the world’s second largest colony of North Atlantic gannets, and the waters around St Kilda are part of Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) network, designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for their reefs and sea caves, which attract a wealth of spectacular sea life.

Crucial to the management of the MPA network, as with protected areas on land, is monitoring.

The purpose of the St Kilda survey was to judge the current condition of the site and to establish a baseline against which future assessments of its special features could be made.

The full report on the survey, which found that the cave and reef features were in good condition, can be read here: https://bit.ly/2V8SuEK 


Call for speed limits on common land - Open Spaces Society

We have called for enforced speed-limits on unfenced roads across common land in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

We made this plea in our evidence to the government’s review of England’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs), led by Julian Glover.

Warning notice made by local resident near Crapstone in the Dartmoor National Park after eight sheep and three ponies were killed in 10 days on the road here. Photo: Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society via OSSWarning notice made by local resident near Crapstone in the Dartmoor National Park after eight sheep and three ponies were killed in 10 days on the road here. Photo: Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society via OSS

The society emphasises the need to slow traffic across commons so that they can be grazed by stock, in the interests of the public who have a right to enjoy these attractive areas on foot and often on horseback, and the farmers for whom livestock grazing is fundamental to their livelihoods.

The society explains that common land is of immense importance to the national parks and AONBs, because of its significant public benefit, for its natural history and wildlife habitats, landscape beauty, cultural, archaeological and historic heritage, and public access by right.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘The vegetation of common land needs to be managed to ensure that the land can be enjoyed by walkers and riders, and historic features are visible.  An important means of doing this is by grazing livestock.  However, where commons are crossed by roads with speeding traffic commoners are naturally unwilling to risk their animals, for fear of injury to stock or human. We oppose the fencing of roads across commons because this restricts public access and is a blot on the landscape.  We consider it is much better to slow the traffic.  This would also encourage motorists to appreciate that national parks and AONB are special places which are not to be rushed through.  But such speed limits must be enforced or they will be ignored.


Scottish Environmental NGOs call for more ambitious climate targets as report highlights increasing climate change pressures on Scottish biodiversity - Scottish Environment LINK

Machair, Atlantic salmon, white beaked dolphin, capercaillie and golden plover among unique Scottish habitats and species at risk.

Scotland’s nature, from our seas to the highest mountains, is coming under increasing pressure from climate change, a new report published today [Thurs 3rd Jan] finds.

Scotland’s Nature on Red Alert: Climate change impacts on Scottish biodiversity, a joint report by Scottish Environment LINK and WWF Scotland, focuses on the impact our changing climate is having on species in five specific habitats across the country.

The report highlights species and habitats at risk including:

  • Machair: Rising sea levels threaten this fertile, grassy habitat found nowhere on the planet except northern Scotland and north-west Ireland.
  • Atlantic salmon: Rising water temperatures and increased flooding is affecting the Atlantic Salmon and the species they feed on.
  • Snow bunting: A bird already listed in the UK’s ‘birds of conservation concern’, and found on the high tops of Scotland’s mountains, the Snow Bunting is under threat as rising temperatures lead to less snow, leaving it with nowhere to go
  • White beaked dolphin: Found in the sub-polar waters of the north Atlantic Ocean, rising sea water temperatures are reducing the dolphins’ range, pushing them further North.
  • Moorlands: Long term studies indicate that species diversity and vegetation of moorlands is changing. There is a visible drop of specialist species like dwarf willow and in addition to multiple threats, there is risk from climate change.

Craig Macadam, Scottish Environment LINK Vice-Chair said: “From peatlands to pearl mussels, Scotland is home to many globally significant species and habitats. With these wildlife treasures comes an international responsibility to protect them for future generations. We need to give our species and habitats a fighting chance to adapt to climate change. It is important that we restore the health of our nature and improve its resilience to climate change impacts. We therefore need to set ambitious targets within the Climate Change Bill, ensuring that Scotland ends its contribution to climate change, and backs these up with action to secure the future of Scotland’s wildlife.”

Read the report in full here: Scotland’s Nature on Red Alert.


Wildlife and animal news

No fish farms in salmon migration routes, says SGA fishing group - Scottish Gamekeepers Association

River workers have urged Scottish Government to protect iconic wild salmon by refusing permission for new Scottish fish farms in known wild salmon migration routes.

Members of the SGA Fishing Group are deeply concerned at the impacts sea lice outbreaks from open net farms can have on wild salmon.  Now they want government to act with urgency on two recommendations from the Rural Economy Committee’s inquiry into Scottish Aquaculture.

Cross-party MSPs recommended a ‘precautionary approach’ be taken to new fish farm applications, recognising potential impacts aquaculture operations can have on wild salmon.  As part of a package of 65 recommendations they also advocated relocating existing sites which have been proven to present problems to the marine environment and productivity.

The SGA Fishing Group eventually wants to see fish farming operations moved to closed containment facilities onshore but feels better siting now would be a start.  “The SGA Fishing Group is not opposed to sustainable fish farming. It is a considerable employer in the highlands and we value lifeline jobs in remote areas.

“There is an opportunity, though, to take steps to address some of the issues between wild fish and farmed,” said SGA Fishing group member, Iain Semple. “Careful siting of new farms and re-siting the problem ones quickly will not cure everything but these moves would be a step in the right direction. Wild fish and the fisheries that depend on them in the west have suffered and we need to tackle the issues if progress is to be made. Scottish Government have heard evidence, in reports from the ECCLR and REC Committees. They can steer the process for the benefit of everyone.”


History made as world’s rarest bird released into the wild - Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

A duck thought to be extinct for 15 years has been brought back from the brink and given a new home on a remote lake in Madagascar.

Magasacan pochard release (image: WWT)Madagascan pochard release (image: WWT)

Some 21 Madagascar pochards spent a week in the safety of the world’s first floating aviaries on Lake Sofia in the north of the country. This pioneering approach is to allow the birds to become accustomed to their new surroundings, increasing the chances they will remain at the site after release – the state of wetlands in Madagascar is so poor that they will likely not survive if they leave the lake. The ducks were released from the aviaries in December and very quickly adapted to the lake, diving and flying, associating with other wild ducks, and returning to the safety of the floating aviaries to feed and roost. 

WWT’s Head of Conservation Breeding, Nigel Jarrett, said: “It takes a village to raise a child, so the old African proverb goes, but in this case it has taken a village to raise a duck. We have been preparing for this moment for over a decade. The logistics of working in a remote part of Madagascar – where access to the lakes by vehicle is only possible for three months a year – have been an enormous challenge, requiring us to come up with novel approaches. Working with local communities to solve the issues which were driving this bird to extinction has been essential to giving the pochard a chance of survival. If we can make this work, it will provide a powerful example not just for of how save the planet’s most threatened species, but how communities can manage an ecosystem to benefit people and wildlife, especially in areas of significant poverty.”

Conservationists have been meticulously planning their release since the surprise discovery of a small group of pochards in 2006.


Turning the tide for Scotland’s sea trout - Scottish Wildlife trust blog post

The drastic decline of Scotland’s sea trout makes them one of the Trust’s Priority Species. Alan Kettle-White from Argyll Fisheries Trust outlines the complex life-cycle of these fish, which face threats in Scotland seas and river, and explores what can be done to help them recover. 


Environmental Education and Recreation 

Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) Children’s Report 2017-2018 - Natural England

Results for the eighth and ninth year of the MENE survey which provides data on how people use the natural environment in England.  

The Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey is funded by Natural England, with support from Defra.

The survey relates to engagement with the natural environment. By natural environment we mean all green, blue and open spaces in and around towns and cities as well as the wider countryside and coastline.

The main focus of the survey is people’s experiences of nature, including time spent on visits to the outdoors in the natural environment, away from home. By visits we mean discretionary time, ranging from a few minutes out of the home to an all day trip. Visits may include time spent close to home or further afield, potentially while on holiday in England. Routine shopping trips or time spent in a person’s own garden are not included in the definition of a visit in MENE.

The data collected also includes other ways people engage with the natural environment. This includes activities such as time spent in private and communal gardens, watching nature programmes on television and undertaking pro-environmental activities such as recycling.

Access the report and data.


FSC BioLinks and AFON Launch Competition - Field Studies Council

On New Year’s Day the FSC BioLinks project launched the ‘Tomorrow’s Invertebrate Recorders’ competition. The prizes are 14 spaces on a bespoke residential course, focusing on biological recording and invertebrate identification. The competition is run in partnership with A Focus On Nature (a group for young naturalists) and will hopefully help raise the profile of the project and FSC to young naturalists.

More information and how to enter


Happy trails – half a million visits to Peak District routes - Peak District National Park

Trails providing a range of opportunities in the Peak District National Park are playing host to more than half a million visits each year from walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Data revealed by the National Park Authority recorded 519,000 visits across key routes including the Monsal Trail, Tissington, Manifold and High Peak trails.

Our trails are accessible and can be enjoyed by everyone (image: Peak District National Park)Our trails are accessible and can be enjoyed by everyone (image: Peak District National Park)

A number of the popular ‘multi-user’ routes managed by the Peak District National Park Authority follow former railway lines, which were closed during the 1950s and 1960s. These routes were opened for visitors from the 1980s onwards, although safety challenges meant that key tunnels on sections of the Monsal Trail, were only made accessible from 2011. Often with relatively modest inclines due to their railway heritage, these trails have proved increasingly popular with families and those with limited mobility, with cycle hire facilities at Parsley Hay and Ashbourne now offering a wide range of mobility equipment for visitors to hire. 

Emma Stone, head of visitor experience development at the Peak District National Park said: “These latest figures show just how important the National Park’s multi-user trails are to our millions of visitors. For many, a day’s bike ride with the family or exploring the wildlife and heritage alongside the trails is their first taste of the Peak District, and the accessibility of many of these routes makes them even more valuable for those who live within our neighbouring towns and cities. We are continuing to invest in facilities – such as the current renovations at Millers Dale station – and also looking at how we manage the trails with their ‘environmental footprint’ in mind, such as using sustainable and recycled surfacing materials. For the last five years, we’ve also been undertaking special mowing and grazing regimes which keep the route safe and practical to use, whilst ensuring that wildflowers and native grasses can also flourish to support wildlife.”


70th Anniversary National Parks Photo Competition Launch - UK National Parks

Treasure your special moments in photo competition to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of National Parks

The UK National Parks and Campaign for National Parks have today launched a new photography competition to celebrate the 70th anniversary of National Parks in the UK.

Around the theme of a ‘Moment in time’, this competition comes 70 years since the 1949 Act of Parliament that began the family of National Parks in the UK, that today includes beloved landscapes such as the Peak District, Brecon Beacons and Cairngorms.

Pictures could explore the incredible history of world famous heritage sites, the people, wildlife and landscapes of the UK’s 15 National Parks.

John Packman CEO of Broads National Park, speaking on behalf of the UK National Parks said: “We welcome everyone to share their National Park moments in time with us this January. Whether it’s a spectacular dark sky or a selfie on a walk, there’s no better way of kicking those January blues than with a celebration of the UK’s beautiful National Parks.”

The competition deadline is 7th February 2019.

Terms and conditions and further details here.


New funding awarded

New Year joy as wildlife charity awarded National Lottery grant for major reserve development in East of England - Hawk and Owl Trust

Norfolk-based UK charity, the Hawk and Owl Trust, has just heard that it has been successful in securing a National Lottery grant of £821,700. This is a truly significant moment, meaning the vision of a major nature reserve and community project can become a reality.

The National Lottery funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is part of an overall £1.7million project, with £850,000 of this to be raised by a public appeal which launched in May 2017 and finishes in May 2019. Part of the appeal is to raise the money required to purchase two large parcels of land surrounding its existing reserve at Sculthorpe Moor, one mile outside of Fakenham.

Sculthorpe Moor (image: Andy Thompson, Hawk and Owl Trust)Sculthorpe Moor (image: Andy Thompson, Hawk and Owl Trust)

The purchase of the land, however, is just one piece of the overall project. Developing the land into a rich wildlife habitat, managing it for wildlife and creating the infrastructure needed to allow interpretation and access to all to the land are integral elements. 

The National Lottery funding is an essential part of bringing this vision to reality, and we are immensely heartened by their support for the Sculthorpe Fen project and we look forward to now being able to go ahead and developing the project with HLF alongside us. 

Nigel Middleton, Sculthorpe Moor Reserve Manager, said “The extension and development of the reserve has been a long time coming, but desperately hoped for. Sculthorpe is an oasis in the midst of intensive agriculture and the huge and diverse wildlife to be found here bears testament to how important for wildlife it is – and what effect the larger area will have on the biodiversity in this part of Norfolk. I was shaking when I heard that we had been awarded the money – what a rosy future the reserve now has!”


Westmorland Dales win Lottery support - Yorkshire Dales National Park

The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership scheme has been awarded a National Lottery grant of £2.27 million, it was announced today. A total of 21 projects will be delivered by a partnership of organisations over a four year period. These will aim to reveal, conserve and celebrate the rich geology, wildlife, cultural heritage and spectacular limestone landscapes of the Westmorland Dales. The area lies to the north of the Howgill Fells in Cumbria, extending over 200 sq km from Maulds Meaburn in the north to Tebay in the south-west and Ravenstonedale in the south-east.

This remote and beautiful pastoral landscape - which became part of an extended Yorkshire Dales National Park in 2016 - has a unique mix of habitats and remarkably intact pattern of historical settlements and features. It has 79 Scheduled Monuments, 19 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and two National Nature Reserves. However, it has been largely ’hidden’ for the last 70 years, tucked away between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chairman Carl Lis  said:  “Following the recent designation of the Westmorland Dales as part of the National Park, this wonderful news gives us the opportunity to create a strong foundation for its future.  The injection of resources will help us reveal and conserve the area’s rich natural and cultural heritage; and promote the understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities, its tranquil and unspoilt character, and its unique heritage. At the heart of our efforts will be a focus on what is distinctive about the Westmorland Dales, using this to bring benefits that will help sustain the local economy in the coming years.”


Climate change, sustainability and pollution

Greenhouse gases from Scottish industry at a 10 year low - SEPA

Greenhouse gases emitted by Scottish industry continue to fall, according to the latest annual mass pollutant releases published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

The figures, published online in the 2017 Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI), show how the pollutants emitted by Scottish regulated businesses are changing as the country continues to move to a more sustainable, resource efficient Scotland.

We place pressures on the Scottish environment in our daily lives, from dealing with our sewage and waste to the demand for goods like petrol, plastics, food and drink. Scottish industry also puts pressures on the environment through emissions to the air and water environment and through waste management activities.

GHG levels have reduced 57% since 2007 when 26 Megatonnes (Mt) of pollutants were released. The 2017 total was 11 Mt. The largest drop came in 2016, as Longannet power station was only operational for the first few months of the year. There was a further reduction of 6% (just under 1 Mt) in 2017 as the first full year with no emissions from the plant. 

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of SEPA, said: “The most successful countries in the 21st century will function within our planet’s means to support us. Through our regulatory strategy, One Plant Prosperity, SEPA is helping business grow sustainably while reducing their environmental burden. Whilst it’s encouraging to see greenhouse gases from Scottish industry at a ten year low, we recognise further progress needs to be made.  The data that SPRI holds is vital to helping us understand how these changes are impacting on our environment both directly and indirectly, ensuring Scotland can identify priority areas to reduce releases and track progress.”  

The SPRI data can be accessed on Scotland’s Environment web here. 


Thames Water fined £2m for “foreseeable and avoidable” pollution - Environment Agency 

Oxfordshire water contamination "reckless failure" - judge

Thames Water has been fined £2million after raw sewage polluted two Oxfordshire streams, killing almost 150 fish. The sewage also flooded a nearby garden. Judge Peter Ross, at Oxford Crown Court on 21 December, ruled the incident in 2015 as a high-end, category three harm offence.

2015 pollution killed dozens of fish including these bullhead (photo: Environment Agency)2015 pollution killed dozens of fish including these bullhead (photo: Environment Agency)

Numerous failures in the management of a sewage pumping station operated by the company led to sewage created by two villages emptying into two brooks leading to the River Evenlode, a tributary of the River Thames, for up to 24 hours.  Judge Ross found Thames Water were “reckless” in polluting Idbury and Littlestock brooks at Milton-under-Wychwood, near Chipping Norton, on 8 and 9 August 2015.

Environment Agency officers were quickly on site, discovering the entire local population of almost 150 bullhead fish had been killed by the toxic waste along a 50-metre stretch of water.

A member of the public reported dead fish in Idbury brook to the Environment Agency. A backlog of raw sewage was forced into the water from a sewer pipe that couldn’t hold it. Sewage also escaped from a manhole and onto a residential front garden.

The court heard Thames Water disregarded more than 800 high-priority alarms needing attention within four hours in the six weeks before the incident. Another 300 alarms were not properly investigated, all of which would have pointed out failures with the pumping station. One alarm was deliberately deactivated during a night shift.

Investigations by the Environment Agency revealed Thames Water was aware the pumping station failed several times in the 12 months up to and including the incident in August 2015.


Scientific Research and results 

Plant hedges to combat near-road pollution exposure - University of Surrey

Urban planners should plant hedges, or a combination of trees with hedges – rather than just relying on roadside trees – if they are to most effectively reduce pollution exposure from cars in near-road environments, finds a new study from the University of Surrey.

In a paper published in Atmospheric Environment, researchers from the Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) looked at how three types of road-side green infrastructure – trees, hedges, and a combination of trees with hedges and shrubs – affected the concentration levels of air pollution. The study used six roadside locations in Guildford, UK, as test sites where the green infrastructure was between one to two metres away from the road.

The researchers found that roadsides that only had hedges were the most effective at reducing pollution exposure, cutting black carbon by up to 63 percent. Ultrafine and sub-micron particles followed this reduction trend, with fine particles (less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter) showing the least reduction among all the measured pollutants. The maximum reduction in concentrations was observed when the winds were parallel to the road due to a sweeping effect, followed by winds across the road. The elemental composition of particles indicated an appreciable reduction in harmful heavy metals originating from traffic behind the vegetation.

The hedges only - and a combination of hedges and trees - emerged as the most effective green infrastructure in improving air quality behind them under different wind directions.

Roadsides with only trees showed no positive influence on pollution reduction at breathing height (usually between 1.5 and 1.7m), as the tree canopy was too high to provide a barrier/filtering effect for road-level tailpipe emissions.

Access the paper: K.V. Abhijith, Prashant Kumar, Field investigations for evaluating green infrastructure effects on air quality in open-road conditions, Atmospheric Environment, 2019, ISSN 1352-2310, doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2018.12.036.


Scientific publications

Watson, K. , Galford, G. , Sonter, L. , Koh, I. and Ricketts, T. H. (2019), Effects of human demand on conservation planning for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.13276


Moser, B. W. and Garton, E. O. (2019), Northern goshawk space use and resource selection. Jour. Wild. Mgmt.. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21624


Mark A. Hall, Dale G. Nimmo, Saul A. Cunningham, Kenneth Walker, Andrew F. Bennett, The response of wild bees to tree cover and rural land use is mediated by species' traits, Biological Conservation, Volume 231, 2019, Pages 1-12, ISSN 0006-3207, doi: /10.1016/j.biocon.2018.12.032.


Monterroso, P. , Godinho, R. , Oliveira, T. , Ferreras, P. , Kelly, M. J., Morin, D. J., Waits, L. P., Alves, P. C. and Mills, L. S. (2018), Feeding ecological knowledge: the underutilised power of faecal DNA approaches for carnivore diet analysis. Mam Rev. doi:10.1111/mam.12144 (open access)


Gager, Y. (2018), Information transfer about food as a reason for sociality in bats. Mam Rev. doi:10.1111/mam.12146 (open access)


Shafagh Rahnema, Shahram Sedaghathoor, Mohammad Sadegh Allahyari, Christos A. Damalas, Hamid El Bilali,  Preferences and emotion perceptions of ornamental plant species for green space designing among urban park users in Iran, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 2019, ISSN 1618-8667, doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2018.12.007.


Barrientos, R., Ascensão, F., Beja, P. et al. Railway ecology vs. road ecology: similarities and differences Eur J Wildl Res (2019) 65: 12. doi: 10.1007/s10344-018-1248-0


Gamborg, C., Lund, J.F. & Jensen, F.S. Landowners’ wildlife value orientations, attitudes and behaviour in relation to game management practices Eur J Wildl Res (2019) 65: 9. doi: 10.1007/s10344-018-1245-3


Santos, R.A.L. & Ascensão, F. Assessing the effects of road type and position on the road on small mammal carcass persistence time Eur J Wildl Res (2019) 65: 8. doi: 10.1007/s10344-018-1246-2


Yarnell, R.W., Surgey, J., Grogan, A. et al. Should rehabilitated hedgehogs be released in winter? A comparison of survival, nest use and weight change in wild and rescued animals Eur J Wildl Res (2019) 65: 6. doi: 10.1007/s10344-018-1244-4 (open access)


Fabrizio, M., Di Febbraro, M., D’Amico, M. et al. Habitat suitability vs landscape connectivity determining roadkill risk at a regional scale: a case study on European badger (Meles meles) Eur J Wildl Res (2019) 65: 7. doi: 10.1007/s10344-018-1241-7


Yen-Cheng Chiang, Dongying Li, Metric or topological proximity? The associations among proximity to parks, the frequency of residents’ visits to parks, and perceived stress, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, Volume 38, 2019, Pages 205-214, ISSN 1618-8667, doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2018.12.011. (open access)


Boothby, C. , Redfern, C. and Schroeder, J. (2018), An evaluation of canes as management technique to reduce predation by gulls on ground nesting seabirds. Ibis. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/ibi.12702


Kolenda, K., Kaczmarski, M., Najbar, A. et al. Road-killed toads as a non-invasive source to study age structure of spring migrating population Eur J Wildl Res (2019) 65: 5. doi: 10.1007/s10344-018-1240-8 (open access)


Sterrett, S. C., Katz, R. A., Fields, W. R. and Grant, E. H. (2018), The contribution of road‐based citizen science to the conservation of pond‐breeding amphibians. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.13330


Bernard Verdier, M. and Hulme, P. E. (2018), Alien plants can be associated with a decrease in local and regional native richness even when at low abundance. J Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.13124


Now on with the rest of the week!

Record-breaking year for RSPCA Stapeley Grange - RSPCA

An RSPCA wildlife centre in Cheshire admitted a record number of animals in 2018.

collage of animals rescued(image: RSPCA) 

Throughout the year, 6,658 animals came through the doors of Stapeley Grange – up from 6,545 in 2017.

It is the most animals admitted to the centre in one year since it opened in 1994.

“Obviously we don’t want there to be more injured animals – we would rather there were no injured animals at all – but I think what this shows is that people are becoming more aware of injured wildlife and what they should do if they see wild animals, including when to leave them alone too,” said Lee Stewart, manager of the centre which is based in London Road, Nantwich.  “It’s always lovely to have happy endings, when we can release animals back to the wild, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case and we have had some really upsetting cases over 2018. Sadly, human-wildlife conflict cases are fairly regular, whether it be those that have been shot or those that have become entangled in fishing litter – so many of these cases are avoidable."


Releasing a Barn Owl – a great way to start the year! - The Barn Owl Trust 

On 22nd November 2018 wildlife artist John Walters found a ringed Barn Owl whilst out for a walk on Chudleigh Knighton Heath in south Devon. The bird was alive but too weak to fly. After taking a quick photo (below), John picked her up and brought her to the Barn Owl Trust. She weighed just 204 grams, two-thirds of the weight she should have been. At this weight most starving Barn Owls are already dead. After 48hrs of re-hydration and hand feeding she starting eating voluntarily. On day 9 she was moved into a large Release Aviary and by day 11 her weight was back up to 322g although her flight was a little lop-sided suggesting a minor wing injury.

Barn Owl – GV72137 (Photo: John Walters) Barn Owl – GV72137 (Photo: John Walters)

Meanwhile, her ring number revealed that she had been ringed by Craig Bell as a nesting near Bury, Greater Manchester and had dispersed about 400km. Although this is by no means close to the species UK long-distance record of 624km it is nonetheless very unusual.

By New Years Day she was ready for release. The aviary top was opened up but she didn’t fly out!

Click through to see the video of her flying out-eventually.


Giant Singers From Neighboring Oceans Share Song Parts Over Time - Wildlife Conservation Society

New study finds shared songs between humpback whale populations in the southern Atlantic and Indian Ocean basins 

Research illuminates process of how whale culture changes over time

Singing humpback whales from different ocean basins seem to be picking up musical ideas from afar, and incorporating these new phrases and themes into the latest song, according to a newly published study in Royal Society Open Science that’s helping scientists better understand how whales learn and change their musical compositions.

The new research shows that two humpback whale populations in different ocean basins (the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans) in the Southern Hemisphere sing similar song types, but the amount of similarity differs across years. This suggests that males from these two populations come into contact at some point in the year to hear and learn songs from each other.

A breaching humpback whale in the waters off Gabon in Western Equatorial Africa.  (image:  ©Tim Collins/Wildlife Conservation Society)A breaching humpback whale in the waters off Gabon in Western Equatorial Africa.  (image:  ©Tim Collins/Wildlife Conservation Society)

“Song sharing between populations tends to happen more in the Northern Hemisphere where there are fewer physical barriers to movement of individuals between populations on the breeding grounds, where they do the majority of their singing. In some populations in the Southern Hemisphere song sharing appears to be more complex, with little song similarity within years but entire songs can spread to neighboring populations leading to song similarity across years,” said Dr. Melinda Rekdahl, marine conservation scientist for WCS’s Ocean Giants Program and lead author of the study. “Our study shows that this is not always the case in Southern Hemisphere populations, with similarities between both ocean basin songs occurring within years to different degrees over a 5-year period.” 

Compare samples of the whale song: Click here to hear: Song type recorded in Gabon in 2005. And here for Song type recorded in Madagascar in 2005.  Both: Courtesy of WCS Ocean Giants Program. 

Access the publication: Melinda L. Rekdahl, Ellen C. Garland, Gabriella A. Carvajal, Carissa D. King, Tim Collins, Yvette Razafindrakoto and Howard Rosenbaum.  Culturally transmitted song exchange between humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the southeast Atlantic and southwest Indian Ocean basins.  Royal Society Open ScienceVolume 5, Issue 11  Published:28 November 2018 doi:10.1098/rsos.172305 


New legislation on fox hunting - Scottish Government 

Limitations on dog numbers to be introduced.

Legislation will be introduced in this Parliament to close potential loopholes in the law protecting foxes and other wild mammals.  

Delivering a statement to Parliament on improving animal welfare, Minister for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon announced her intention to bring forward a bill that will implement changes proposed by the Right Honourable Lord Bonomy’s review on the subject.  These changes will limit to two the number of dogs that can be used to flush or find a fox.

The Minister also announced an intention to explore the option of a licensing scheme to permit the use of more than two dogs, if it were deemed necessary for pest control.

Additionally, the bill will include pre-emptive measures to address the likelihood of ‘trail-hunting’ becoming established in Scotland.  

Fox hunting is currently covered by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002



SGA will challenge fox hunting proposals - Scottish Gamekeepers Association

Earlier today (9th Jan) Scottish Government announced proposals to alter fox hunting legislation in Scotland.
The SGA is to seek discussions with other countryside groups who require packs of trained dogs for legitimate fox control in order to ensure a robust challenge to any proposals which might limit the ability for foot packs to operate effectively in Scotland, something which will have serious consequences for threatened wildlife and valuable farm stock.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: "We will be seeking talks with farmers tomorrow. If any proposed licensing system makes it onerous for fox control with pack operations in dense woodland, vital foot packs for legitimate pest control will just give up. 

Scottish Government ignores evidence and science with new fox hunting legislation - Countryside Alliance

Countryside Alliance Director for Scotland, Jamie Stewart, said: “It is utterly ridiculous that the Scottish Government has chosen to pursue a course that is in direct contradiction to its own independent review, peer-reviewed science and all the available evidence. This will put the Government completely at odds with rural Scotland not just because it would remove an effective method of pest control, but also because by ignoring science and promoting prejudice it sets an appalling precedent for so many other issues. We will seek to meet the minister and her team as soon as possible to determine the measures set out for the continued use of dogs within legitimate pest control”.


New report highlights huge step change needed in SuDS delivery - The Landscape Institute

A new report shows that the delivery of sustainable drainage in England is currently a long way behind the ambition 

Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) are an important way of managing surface water runoff in built developments.

Partly or wholly natural in design, SuDS were first introduced to the English planning system in 2010. National planning policy encourages SuDS in all major developments ‘unless there is clear evidence that this would be inappropriate’, while as of January 2019, SuDS are mandatory in Wales for all new developments over 100m2.

But a new report by the Landscape Institute and Construction Industry Council highlights the huge step change still needed in this area.

96% of local authorities report that the quality of planning submissions for SuDS are either ‘inadequate’ or ‘mixed’. And as of 2017, 25% of local authorities had no formal SuDS policies in place, nor any immediate plans to implement any. This is putting communities under threat of surface water flooding as climate change continues to put pressure on our landscapes.

‘The problems for LLFAs in delivering good quality SuDS are clear,’ said Sue Illman, CIC Champion for Flood Mitigation and Resilience, past President of the Landscape Institute and co-author of the report. ‘At a time when climate change and sustainability are such prevalent issues, the shortcomings and inconsistencies highlighted in this report are of real concern. But the review also shows how relatively small changes in government guidance could provide better outcomes for communities and the environment.’ 

Read the report here. (PDF)


LOtC Quality Badge for RFS Teaching Trees - Royal Forestry Society

The Royal Forestry Society’s Teaching Trees programme, which brings primary schools together with local woods and woodland owners has received the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom’s LOtC Quality Badge mark. 

Teaching Trees Co-ordinator Becky Wilkinson says: “ The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom is the national voice for learning outside the classroom and we are delighted they have recognised both the quality of the learning and the safety of the courses we provide.” 

Teaching trees session (image: RFS)In 2018, RFS Teaching Trees hosted 256 curriculum-linked sessions in woodlands across England and Wales giving more than 5,000 children the opportunity to learn about trees, wildlife and forestry in a fun and hands-on way and an appreciation of woodlands' value for the environment, timber production and enjoyment. More than 2000 of those children enjoyed more than one session.

Teaching trees session (image: RFS)

Becky adds: “Teachers tell us that these visits have inspired further exploration of issues connected with trees and woodlands and that they continue to use the resources. Feedback from the children is overwhelmingly positive. One teacher, reported. ‘They thoroughly enjoying being outside, one pupil said they would get their parents to take them to the woods, another would like to start collecting acorns. Others are asking to do more Andy Goldsworthy patterns.’”


‘Fine to Flush’ logo launched to fight fatbergs - Marine Conservation Society 

Fine to Flush logo (WaterUK)The fight against fatbergs in UK sewers has received a major boost today (11/1) with the publication of a new official standard identifying which wet wipes can be flushed down toilets safely.

Fine to Flush logo (WaterUK)

In 2018, during the MCS annual Great British Beach Clean and survey, volunteers found on average 12 wet wipes per 100m of beach cleaned and surveyed - an increase of more than 300% over the last decade.

Dr. Laura Foster, MCS Head of Clean Seas, said: “Some products on the market labelled as flushable have been known to contain plastic fibres adding to plastic pollution in our oceans. In addition, they’re not designed for realistic conditions found in UK sewers, may not break down fast enough and therefore potentially contribute to blockages.”

Manufacturers of wipes will be able to feature the official water industry ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol on their packaging if they pass strict scientific tests. This symbol will let consumers know that the products don’t contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of clogging up sewers and contributing to fatbergs which cause blockages and sewage overflows.


Partnership launched to support innovative solutions to ocean plastics crisis - UKRI

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Sky have teamed up to support UK businesses to develop innovative methods of tackling the global ocean plastics crisis.

With the United Nations reporting that eight million tonnes of plastic enters global waters each year, a figure that is set to triple by 2025 unless significant action is taken, companies are being encouraged to come forward with proposals to reduce plastic waste and pollution and promote a circular economy.

Now Innovate UK and Sky Ocean Ventures have launched a £6 million competition to support UK businesses to tackle the scourge of waste plastic.

Innovate UK is providing up to £3 million through the UKRI Plastics Research and Innovation Fund, a £20 million programme engaging researchers and industry to tackle waste and pollution and develop sustainable approaches to plastic. Sky Ocean Ventures, established by Sky to support young companies and create meaningful change by highlighting environmental disaster caused by plastic pollution in the oceans, is providing the same amount.

Ian Campbell, Executive Chair of Innovate UK, said: “Plastic waste has created a crisis that needs a global resolution.  We need businesses, investors, government and researchers pulling in the same direction, creating workable solutions that people will be able to see on the shelves before it’s too late.  That’s what this tie-up between Innovate UK and Sky Ocean Ventures will achieve, while also helping innovative UK companies become global successes.”


Scientific Publications

Luke Scheberl, Bryant C. Scharenbroch, Les P. Werner, Jacob R. Prater, Kelby L. Fite, Evaluation of soil pH and soil moisture with different field sensors: case study urban soil, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 2019, ISSN 1618-8667, doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2019.01.001. 


Julia C. Assis, Henrique C. Giacomini, Milton Cezar Ribeiro, Road Permeability Index: Evaluating the heterogeneous permeability of roads for wildlife crossing, Ecological Indicators, Volume 99, 2019,

Pages 365-374, ISSN 1470-160X, doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.12.012.


Shutler, D. (2019), Some important overlooked aspects of odors in avian nesting ecology. J Avian Biol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/jav.02003


Lucy A. Capstick, Rufus B. Sage, Andrew Hoodless, Ground flora recovery in disused pheasant pens is limited and affected by pheasant release density, Biological Conservation, 2019, ISSN 0006-3207, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2018.12.020. 


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