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


New maps show more than a third of people can’t easily enjoy England’s most beautiful countryside - CPRE 

Countryside charity CPRE calls for better access to our celebrated landscapes

England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are revered for their spectacular landscapes and contain the country’s most iconic countryside, which can boost our physical health and mental wellbeing. But today, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) launches detailed maps that show 36% of England’s population live too far from the current network of 10 National Parks and 34 AONBs for these areas to be classified as easily accessible.

The maps show that the majority of people in many major towns and cities, including Liverpool, Chester, Leicester, Cambridge, Northampton and Peterborough, live outside of the accessible catchment area to these beauty spots, and are more likely to miss out on benefits that easy and regular access to these landscapes can bring.

The maps also highlight a strong correlation between levels of social deprivation and a lack of access to National Parks and AONBs, with almost half of the most socially deprived areas of the country falling outside of the accessible range. CPRE fears that the frequent lack of affordable and sustainable transport options means that many people are not able to access these places to enjoy the huge benefits they provide.

Access the maps


Scotland to increase carrier bag levy and place charge on disposable drinks cups - Marine Conservation Society

Scotland has taken the lead amongst the home nations to increase the current 5p single-use carrier bag charge and put a levy on disposable take-away drinks cups.

Scottish National Party secured the support of the Greens to pass its government’s budget last Thursday and among the environmental measures announced by the Scottish finance secretary, Derek Mackay, was the promise to increase the current single-use carrier bag charge to a minimum of 10p ‘at the earliest opportunity’. There was also an agreement to place a charge on disposable drinks cups from cafes and restaurants – although no suggestion of the likely amount.

Calum Duncan, MCS Head of Conservation Scotland, says the commitments are pleasing: “The Scottish Government’s budget deal, including a commitment to increase Scotland’s carrier bag charge to 10p, will, we hope, encourage even more shoppers to bring their own reusable bags to the shops. It is also encouraging that there is a commitment in principle to introduce a charge on disposable drinks cups. Combined with the Scottish Government’s UK-leading commitment to a deposit return system, that we hope will be designed to include plastic, glass and cans, these are welcome steps to help stop the plastic tide lapping our shores.”

The announcement puts Scotland ahead of the other home nations when it comes to increased single-use charges.


Broads Authority takes steps to secure the future of rare bat species - The Broads Authority

The Broads Authority has invested in 30 Schwegler bat boxes which will provide roosting places for the uncommon bat species, Nathusius’ pipistrelle. 

Nathusius' pipistrelle © Bat Conservation Trust/Daniel HargreavesNathusius' pipistrelle © Bat Conservation Trust/Daniel Hargreaves

The Nathusius’ pipistrelle has a strong hold in the Broads National Park, with Whitlingham Country Park in Trowse being a hotspot for this species. The bat boxes are woodpecker-proof and weather and rot-resistant and have been erected in woodland around Whitlingham Broad where it is hoped that they will be found by the bats and used for roosting. The boxes will be inspected to search for individuals who have been caught and ringed in the Country Park. Any recaptures will further knowledge of the behaviour of the bat and help to continue conservation efforts to secure its future.

The numbers of this rare bat discovered in the Broads, and particularly at Whitlingham, supports the staggering statistic that although the Broads National Park only covers 0.1% of the country, it is home to over a quarter of the UK’s rarest wildlife.

Senior Ecologist for the Broads Authority, Andrea Kelly, said of the project,

“We’ve been so encouraged by the enthusiasm and community spirit that these amazing bats have engendered. There has been a lot of collaborative work between volunteers, landowners and charities to monitor these bats and provide the correct habitat for them to thrive. The Schwegler bat boxes will increase the chances of recapturing ringed bats without the use of specialist equipment and will enable volunteers to reveal more information about Nathusius’ pipistrelles in the Broads National Park.” 


Butterflies thrive in grasslands surrounded by forest - Linköping University 

For pollinating butterflies, it is more important to be close to forests than to agricultural fields, according to a study by researchers at LiU and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala. The results provide important knowledge about how to plan and manage the landscape to ensure the survival of butterflies.

Semi-natural grasslands are one of Sweden’s most species-rich habitats, with a multitude of plants and butterflies. However, the amount of such areas has been reduced by 90% in the past 100 years. Semi-natural grasslands are often preserved as just small fragments in the landscape. Their loss has led to many species of butterfly being decimated, and in some cases eliminated from parts of Sweden. The researchers who carried out the new study, published in the scientific journal Landscape Ecology, have investigated how the landscape around these fragments influences different species of butterfly in southern Sweden. A total of 32,000 butterflies from 77 species were found.

Northern brown argus in Swedish landscape. (image: Karl-Olof Bergman)Northern brown argus in Swedish landscape. (image: Karl-Olof Bergman)

The species richness of butterflies was in general greater in locations where large areas of semi-natural grasslands lay within 10-20 kilometres around the studied semi-natural grassland. Another important landscape feature linked to a larger number of butterfly species was if the grasslands were surrounded by forest.

“Forests have habitats that butterfly can use, such as forest edges, power lines, forestry tracks, glades and cleared areas. Together with semi-natural grasslands, forests can be used to create landscapes that butterflies thrive in. Agricultural fields, in contrast, seem to have few resources that the butterflies can use, and the resources that are available benefit only a few species”, says Karl-Olof Bergman, senior lecturer in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, IFM. 

Read the paper (open access): Bergman, KO., Dániel-Ferreira, J.,Milberg, P. et al. Butterflies in Swedish grasslands benefit from forest and respond to landscape composition at different spatial scales Landscape Ecol (2018) 33: 2189. doi:10.1007/s10980-018-0732-y


Report heralds major changes to NRW timber ops - Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is making major changes to its commercial timber operations after publication of an independent report.

NRW called in experts, Grant Thornton, to review its processes and procedures after its accounts were “qualified” for three years running by the Wales Audit Office.  Grant Thornton’s report, published today (Monday 4 February) comes after a wide-ranging analysis of NRW’s commercial timber operations.  The report is available online and senior NRW executives will discuss the report at The National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee on Monday 11 February. 

NRW says that it is already making improvements such as a reorganisation at senior level and establishing new standards for timber sales and training staff to achieve them.  Its project to make improvements is being steered at the highest level by NRW’s Chair, aided by three Board members. It also wants to improve its relationship with the timber industry. 

Access the: Governance of timber sales - The Grant Thornton Report


New Forestry Strategy sets out long term vision - Forestry Commission Scotland

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, today launched a new Strategy that will help to secure the long-term success and sustainability of Scotland’s forestry sector.

Scotland’s Forestry Strategy sets out the government’s approach over the next 10 years to expand, protect and enhance Scotland’s forests and woodlands.

The strategy seeks to deliver greater economic, social and environmental benefits for current and future generations.

Developed in full consultation with a broad range of organisations, it has three 10-year objectives for Scotland’s forests and woodlands:

  • to increase their contribution of forests and woodlands to Scotland’s sustainable and inclusive economic growth;
  • to improve their resilience and contribution to a healthy and high quality environment; and
  • to increase their use to enable more people to improve their health, well-being and life chances. An implementation, monitoring and reporting Framework will be developed to co-ordinate delivery and measure progress in implementing the new Strategy. A national stakeholder group will also be established to advise on and support the delivery of the Strategy.

The Strategy is a key element of the new, fully devolved arrangements for forestry in Scotland underpinned by the 2018 Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act, the first forestry Act passed by the Scottish Parliament.

Read the Scotland’s Forestry Strategy here


New research reveals the power of Blue Planet II - Keep Britain Tidy

Environment wins as public back litter-picking

More than 70% of people now view tackling litter as more important than they used to and nearly three quarters (75%) feel more appreciative of people who pick up litter according to a new survey carried for Keep Britain Tidy by Ipsos MORI.

The findings will be discussed at today’s Keep Britain Tidy Network Conference, in Manchester, which aims to be the country’s first Tidy City by 2020.

In the survey, commissioned by the charity ahead of this year’s Great British Spring Clean, the country’s biggest-ever mass-action environmental campaign which aims to get half a million people out litter-picking between March 22nd and April 23rd, 42% also said they were more likely to pick up litter now, rather than walk past it.

More than two-thirds (67%) also said they tried to purchase less single-use plastic than they used to, and eight out of ten people said they thought people who litter-pick are vital to protecting the environment.


‘Eavesdropping’ technology used to protect one of New Zealand’s rarest birds – ZSL

ZSL scientists pioneer new method of monitoring hihi reintroductions by listening in on bird ‘conversations’

A hihi or stichbird (Notiomystis cincta) © ZSLA hihi or stichbird (Notiomystis cincta) © ZSL

Remote recording devices used to ‘eavesdrop’ on a reintroduced population of one of New Zealand’s rarest birds have been heralded as a breakthrough for conservation.

Scientists from ZSL, Imperial College London and conservationists from the Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust used acoustic monitoring devices to listen in on the ‘conversations’ of New Zealand’s endemic hihi bird, allowing them to assess the success of the reintroduction without impacting the group.

For the first time ZSL scientists were able to use the calls of a species as a proxy for their movement. A happy hihi call sounds like two marbles clanging together in what is known as the ‘stitch’ call. Scientists saw the calls change from an initial random distribution to a more settled home range – marking the hihi reintroduction and the new method a success.

The study, published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, was carried out in the Rotokare Scenic Reserve in the Taranaki region of North Island, where 40 juvenile birds were released in April 2017. The first time hihi have been seen in the region since their regional extinction over 130 years ago. 


New fund to increase walking, cycling and sustainable travel awards £1million worth of grants – Paths for All

A new fund to increase walking, cycling and sustainable travel across Scotland has awarded over £1million of grants.

Forty-five projects have received grants of between £5,000 and £50,000 from the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Open Fund since June last year, all with the aim of changing people’s everyday travel behaviour.
Awards have been made to public, community and third sector organisations who have come up with new ideas to encourage people to walk or cycle for everyday journeys or use public transport for longer trips.
The aim is to cut Scotland's carbon emissions, improve air quality, reverse the trend towards sedentary lifestyles and tackle health inequalities.
And the Open Fund, which is managed by Scotland’s walking charity Paths for All and supported by Transport Scotland, still has £1million available to get similar projects off the ground.


Rare dragonflies discovered at WWT reserve in Somerset - Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

WWT Steart is home to rare species of dragonflies, a study has found.

Among the species identified is the Red Listed scarce chaser and emerald, red-eyed, small red-eyed damselflies, brown hawker, scarce chaser and ruddy darter, which have never been recorded onsite before.

To date, a total of 19 species have been recorded at the marshes, meriting the reserve with recognition as a Priority Site of Local Importance.

Site Manager Alys Laver said: "One of the reasons we created Steart was to form new habitats that could sustain wetland wildlife. So to hear that some of the rarest UK species of dragonfly have been discovered at our freshwater pools is fantastic news. We hope that ongoing studies at our reserve will reveal more about these striking creatures and how we can help them thrive."

The British Dragonfly Society survey was carried out to assess the presence and activity of the colourful four-winged insects following Steart’s transformation from low-lying fields into wetlands by WWT in 2014.

The presence of the endangered scarce chaser has excited conservationists hoping to find evidence that they are breeding on this site this year allowing the area to be upgraded to Priority Site of National Importance.


Who eats whom? DNA tech­niques un­cover the secrets of food webs - University of Helsinki

Novel DNA-based techniques provide entirely new information on bats, pollinators, fungi and other species that have been difficult to observe previously. This is revolutionising our understanding of the world, as most of the species on this planet are small and difficult to identify, with previously unknown roles in the ecosystem.

In recent years, research focused on interaction between species and on entire biological communities has increasingly come to rely on techniques based on DNA. Indeed, the advances in DNA techniques and the details they reveal about biological communities are the focus of the recently published special issue of the scientific journal Molecular Ecology, including a significant contribution by Finnish researchers.

New DNA techniques help determine the formation of complex food webs through interaction between individual species: who eats whom, which species decompose edible mushrooms and which pollinators visit what plants. Many such interactions were undetectable using older techniques.

Bats are a prime example of secretive species that are difficult to study. For a long time, the diet of these nocturnal insectivores has been guesswork. Now, prey species can be identified by investigating bat faeces found in their daytime hideouts using DNA methods.

Access all the articles. Molecular Biology Volume 28, Issue 2.  Special Issue: Species Interactions, Ecological Networks And Community Dynamics 


Drones in Protected Areas: how can they help? - Europarc

Drones are taking the world by storm. Although at first, it might seem like they are made solely for entertainment purposes, these unmanned aerial vehicles are proving to be much more. Besides providing astonishing images of your Park, they can be used to help technicians in their daily work in monitoring protected areas. 

Many protected areas authorities are currently experiencing economic difficulties which hamper the good undertaking of the many tasks they have in order to ensure good management of the protected area. Drones can therefore not only be of help, but also reduce costs and improve effectiveness.

This new technology has integrated the modern park management and is used for multiple purposes (monitoring, mapping, remote sensing, photography, technical interventions in inaccessible areas…), offering numerous interesting possibilities.

They allow scientists to reach places that were previously off limits as they were either too remote, too dangerous or too time consuming to explore. They can cover large areas of ground in great detail from a completely different perspective – and as fast as ever.

The list of the ways they can be used is really long – they are getting very precise and lately, they have even been used to plant trees!

Furhter information and reading: If you would like to get more information and tips on drone use visit Alparc page with conference presentations on  Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) in protected areas.

Check also our article about the different uses of drones for nature conservation.


Could theatre be a way forward in communicating conservation messages? - University of York

Theatre performances in zoos can be effective in increasing knowledge of important conservation messages, a study at the University of York has revealed.

The study of puppet theatre performances watched by more than 14,000 children and 16,000 adults at Yorkshire’s Flamingo Land, showed a 22 per cent increase in the accuracy of knowledge relating to animals and their conservation in children and an 18 per cent increase in adults.

Previous research has shown that conventional zoo education schemes significantly increase learning in school children.

Many visitors to zoos, particularly those with theme parks, however, are seeking entertainment, rather than to be educated, and therefore it is essential to conduct further study into the education experiences of zoo visitors. 

Children and adults watched the ‘Mia and Mylo' puppet show at Flamingo Land (image: University of York)Children and adults watched the ‘Mia and Mylo' puppet show at Flamingo Land (image: University of York)

Researchers found that both adults and children gave more correct answers to the research questions following the theatre production.

Dr Andrew Marshall, from the University of York’s Department of Environment and Geography, said: "With hundreds of millions of people visiting zoos across the world each year, global conservation organisations emphasise the essential role that zoos play in inspiring next generations of environmentalists.

“Zoos have played a huge role in inspiring children to pursue careers in conservation, including me. However, we all learn in different ways, so if conservation educators use multiple approaches to get their message across, we will all learn a lot more about animals and how to help them survive."

Access the paper: Sarah Louise Spooner, Eric Allen Jensen, Louise Tracey & Andrew Robert Marshall (2019) Evaluating the impacts of theatre-based wildlife and conservation education at the zoo, Environmental Education Research, DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2019.1569201  


Study explores new way to help increase conservation impact - University of Southampton 

A study led by researchers at the University of Southampton reveals huge variations in the similarity and breadth of animal roles in nature across different parts of the world.

The research, in partnership with Memorial University of Newfoundland, goes beyond just counting the types of animals there are and instead accounts for the differences between wildlife and their roles in the environment. 

This information is important to conservation efforts, as it enables the identification of places where there are only a few species performing a role, as opposed to regions where many species carry out similar roles.

The scientists combined multiple databases of information concentrating on six biologically important attributes of the roles animals play (traits). The selected traits included factors such as diet, daily activity and body size for 15,485 bird and mammal species. They were able to build a global picture of traits for different animals – mapping which areas in the world had many overlapping roles and would therefore benefit from habitat conservation, as well as for those which had more unique, vulnerable ones and would benefit from species-focussed conservation.

Lead author Robert Cooke, from the University of Southampton, comments: “This is a new way of looking at how we can maximise effective conservation efforts and we hope that it will provide governments and relevant charities worldwide with the big picture on which areas are most at risk from losing the functionality of birds and mammals in the environment – thus helping them to concentrate their efforts in the most effective directions.”

Read the paper (open access): Cooke RSC, Bates AE, Eigenbrod F. Global trade-offs of functional redundancy and functional dispersion for birds and mammals. Global Ecol Biogeogr. 2019;00:1–12. doi: 10.1111/geb.12869


Scientific Publications 

Vlaschenko, A., Kovalov, V., Hukov, V. et al. An example of ecological traps for bats in the urban environment Eur J Wildl Res (2019) 65: 20. doi: 10.1007/s10344-019-1252-z 


Cardador, L. and Blackburn, T. M. (2019), Human-habitat associations in the native distributions of alien bird species. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.13351


Oscar Blumetto, Andrés Castagna, Gerónimo Cardozo, Felipe García, Guadalupe Tiscornia, Andrea Ruggia, Santiago Scarlato, María Marta Albicette, Verónica Aguerre, Alfredo Albin, Ecosystem Integrity Index, an innovative environmental evaluation tool for agricultural production systems, Ecological Indicators, Volume 101, 2019, Pages 725-733, ISSN 1470-160X, doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.01.077. 


Rita Tóth, István Czeglédi, Bernadett Kern, Tibor Erős, Land use effects in riverscapes: Diversity and environmental drivers of stream fish communities in protected, agricultural and urban  landscapes, Ecological Indicators, Volume 101, 2019, Pages 742-748, ISSN 1470-160X, doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.01.063.


Assandri G, Bogliani G, Pedrini P, Brambilla M. Toward the next Common Agricultural Policy reform: Determinants of avian communities in hay meadows reveal current policy's inadequacy for biodiversity conservation in grassland ecosystems. J Appl Ecol. 2019;00:1–14. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.13332


Zhiguang Qiu,  Melinda A. Coleman,  Euan Provost,  Alexandra H. Campbell,  Brendan P. Kelaher,  Steven J. Dalton,  Torsten Thomas, Peter D. Steinberg and  Ezequiel M. Marzinelli Future climate change is predicted to affect the microbiome and condition of habitat-forming kelp (open access) Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.1887


Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Lindley, P.J., Johnstone, I.G. et al. Site-based adaptation reduces the negative effects of weather upon a southern range margin Welsh black grouse Tetrao tetrix population that is vulnerable to climate change. Climatic Change (2019). doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02372-2


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