CJS Logo & link to homepage

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


WWF and Sky launch Wasteshark – WWF

Today (Monday 4 March) we are launching the UK’s first WasteShark, in collaboration with our partner Sky Ocean Rescue. WasteShark is a marine robot, designed to help clean up our seas!

Image: WWFImage: WWF

WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue have launched an autonomous marine robot in north Devon to help clear Ilfracombe harbour of waste. The WasteShark® will be roaming through distances of up to 5km of water, capturing plastics, microplastics, oils and other pollutants. If used five days a week the WasteShark can collect in excess of 15 tonnes of waste a year, with the plastic recycled to make products.

This is the first time that a WasteShark has been used in the UK, following successful launches in five countries. The WasteShark, which is created by RanMarine Technology, is the world’s first marine robot designed specifically to eat waste and collect data. It is designed to be harmonious with the environment. As it navigates the water the WasteShark emits no carbon, produces no noise or light pollution, and poses no threat to wildlife.


National Park’s Young Naturalists Graduate – Northumberland National Park Authority

A group of environmentally-minded teenagers from Hexham and Morpeth are celebrating after completing a special outdoor education scheme led by Northumberland National Park Authority and receiving the prestigious John Muir Explorer Award.

Image: Northumberland National Park AuthorityImage: Northumberland National Park Authority

The group of eight students, seven from King Edward VI High School in Morpeth and one from Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham, are aged between 13 and 15 years old.

They have each achieved the nationally acclaimed John Muir Explorer Award after completing Northumberland National Park’s Ranger-led New Naturalist Education Programme.

The programme is designed to give youngsters with a passion for nature and the environment an opportunity to learn new skills and gain a valuable insight into pursuing a career in the environmental or countryside sectors.

Using different sites throughout the National Park, the group attended 10 sessions over a six month period involving different aspects of natural history from mammals, invertebrates and wildflowers to ancient trees, fungi and river life.

Describing her time on the programme, Georgia Gorbould, a year 11 student at King Edward VI High School in Morpeth, said: “I have always had an interest in wildlife, both close and far from home. I decided to sign up after seeing it advertised. It was one of the best experiences of my life. From plants, to birds, to lichens and wax caps, to moths and spiders, I enjoyed every last minute."


‘A gift from the city to itself’ – study creates a blueprint for city marine parks – University of Plymouth

Experts in maritime law, marine ecology, marine policy, social science and ecological economics led new research

Coastal cities are among the fastest growing population centres on the planet and half of the global population now lives within 100km of the coast.
But as these often fast growing urban communities expand, their reliance on the seas – and the potential damage caused to them – is increasing.

One potential solution is to create a city marine park, connecting urban areas on the coast and their people with the reciprocal benefits the marine environment can offer.

Plymouth is currently going through this process with city officials having committed to designating the seas around Plymouth as the UK’s first National Marine Park.

Now researchers from the University of Plymouth, writing in Marine Policy, have detailed how other cities – in both developed and developing countries across the world – can follow in its footsteps.

The study has been led by experts in maritime law, marine ecology, marine policy, social science and ecological economics from the University’s Marine and Coastal Policy Research Unit.

It proposes a collaborative approach that would see communities taking the lead in creating initiatives that help people harness and promote the benefits of their unique marine environment.

The full study – Pittman et al: Marine Parks for Coastal Cities: A concept for enhanced community well-being, prosperity and sustainable city living – is published in Marine Policy, doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2019.02.012.


Marine heatwaves threaten global biodiversity – Marine Biological Association

Extreme weather events occur in the oceans as well as the atmosphere. Marine heatwaves – periods of anomalously high temperatures – are increasing in frequency, with 54% more heatwave days per year from 1987–2016, than from 1925–1954, yet their impacts on species and ecosystems are poorly known.

A paper published online this week in Nature Climate Change is the first to quantify and contrast the magnitude and impacts of several prominent marine heatwaves using the same methods and metrics. In doing so, the researchers show that marine heatwaves have negative effects on a broad range of marine organisms, with major socioeconomic and political ramifications.

The study, led by Dr Dan Smale of the Marine Biological Association (UK) and involving scientists from 7 different countries representing 19 different institutes, found that marine heatwaves vary in their physical manifestations, yet all affect key species and alter ecosystem structure and functioning.

The research team used the existing MHW framework to quantify trends and attributes of MHWs across all ocean basins, and examined their biological impacts from species to ecosystems. They found that multiple regions within the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans are particularly vulnerable to MHW intensification, due to the co-existence of high levels of biodiversity, a prevalence of species found at their thermal limit, or concurrent non-climate human impacts. Although the MHWs varied considerably, all were harmful across a range of biological processes and organisms, including critical species like corals, seagrasses and kelps

Read the paper: Smale, D. A. et al. Marine heatwaves threaten global biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. Nature Climate Change (2019)


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.

Read the paper: Abhijith, K.V., Kumar, P., 2019. Field investigations for evaluating green infrastructure effects on air quality in open-road conditions. Atmospheric Environment DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2018.12.036


Local greenspaces important for children of all ages and backgrounds – Natural England

New data from Natural England shows how children are engaging with nature

New data published today by Natural England shows the majority of children and young people are regularly spending time outdoors.

Natural England’s Monitoring of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) report found that 70% of all children in England under the age of 16, and 64% of young people aged 16-24 are said to be spending time outside at least once a week. However, there are still clear inequalities with children living in lower income areas being less likely to visit the natural environment compared with those living in areas of higher income.

The findings highlight the importance of local greenspaces, including urban parks, recreation grounds and playgrounds for children’s play and experience of the natural world. Across all age groups and backgrounds, local greenspaces provide an important opportunity for children to experience the natural environment on a regular basis, with these spaces becoming even more vital for children who are least likely to visit the natural environment frequently.

This is one of the reasons why Natural England is leading a new cross-government project to review and update standards for green infrastructure, in addition to working with the Parks Action Group, to overcome barriers to access, and to ensure England’s public parks and green spaces meet the needs of communities now and in the future.

Read the report here


Adders are facing near extinction in Britain according to study of national adder population trends – University of Reading

The adder could all but disappear from the UK countryside by 2032, according to new research conducted with the help of citizen scientists. 

The findings, published in The Herpetological Journal, are the culmination of 11 years of nationwide monitoring and showed that 90% of adder populations surveyed were declining. Experts warn that, if these trends continue, within just 10-20 years adders could be restricted to just a handful of sites in the UK. 

Image: University of ReadingImage: University of Reading

The adder is a conservation priority species in the UK. Although concern has been growing among reptile experts for decades that our native adder populations are in decline, this study is the first time that national adder population trends have been measured, and the data confirm that our adders are in serious trouble. 

The data were collected by Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (ARG UK) through the ‘Make the Adder Count’ project, a citizen science survey to monitor adder populations across the UK, which was set up in 2005. Each spring, volunteer surveyors visit their local adder sites to count the numbers of animals, in order to assess whether populations are changing. Dr Emma Gardner, a researcher from the University of Reading, has analysed the first 11 years of monitoring data. “Our analysis shows that 90% of the sites surveyed have small populations and on average these small populations are declining.” said Dr Gardner. “When surveyors visit these sites, they typically record less than 10 adders. Only 10% of sites have large populations, which seem to be doing ok. If these trends continue, within 10-20 years, adders will be restricted to just a few sites in the UK, significantly increasing the extinction risk for this priority species in Britain.”


East West Rail tries to silence the Woodland Trust – Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust has refused to be gagged by the company behind a proposed new railway over outrageous efforts to keep key route information out of the public domain.

The charity has repeatedly asked East West Rail (EWR) for detailed maps of five proposed options for the central section of the railway linking Oxford to Cambridge as they threaten precious ancient woodland.

But EWR has chosen to withhold them unless the Trust signs a non-disclosure agreement promising not to share the details with its legion of supporters.

Director of conservation and external affairs Abi Bunker said: “Actively withholding information from a public consultation that they know may sway opinion is flawed and inappropriate. We have never been gagged when it comes to standing up for ancient woodland and we are not about to start now. “EWR’s decision makes a mockery of the planning process. People cannot understand the impacts and make an informed decision if they do not have all the facts. “With centuries-old woods and trees potentially in serious danger, it is simply unacceptable to hold back important information from a public consultation.” 

The current consultation, which closes on Monday 11 March, concerns five route options for the central section of the project, which stretches between Bedford and Cambridge. The project falls under the wider umbrella of the Oxford to Cambridge growth arc.

12 areas of ancient woodland, at least six ancient and veteran trees and five Woodland Trust sites are under threat from the central section of the project.


Monster Mower - brand new wetland harvester machine arrives in mid Wales – Natural Resources Wales

A project to restore some of Wales’ most important wildlife habitats has received a boost as conservationists at Natural Resources Wales (NRW) take delivery of a machine to help restore sites across Wales.

Raised bogs are home to rare plants and animals, but have deteriorated as invasive plants moved in.

Now, as part of the EU-funded LIFE project, NRW has taken delivery of a purpose-built machine to cut back the invasive grasses which choke native plants in these areas.

Weighing 4.5 tonnes and reaching more than 3 metres tall, the machine will be a prominent part of these sites for the next four years of the project.

But despite its size and weight, the machine can float on the raised bogs because it has low ground pressure due to the extra wide tracks. It also carries a range of tools for cutting and harvesting wetland vegetation, chipping timber and applying herbicide.

It will reduce the dominance of purple moor-grass and other invasive plants and scrub on seven raised bog sites in Wales, including Cors Caron and Cors Fochno in Ceredigion, and will help to restore the bogs to favourable condition.


Offshore wind energy revolution to provide a third of all UK electricity by 2030 - Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry announced today the launch of the new joint government-industry Offshore Wind Sector Deal.

  • Industry to invest £250 million including new Offshore Wind Growth Partnership to develop the UK supply chain as global exports are set to increase fivefold to £2.6 billion by 2030
  • a third of British electricity set to be produced by offshore wind power by 2030
  • part of the government’s ambition to make the UK a global leader in renewables with more investment potential than any other country in the world as part of the modern Industrial Strategy

Clean, green offshore wind is set to power more than 30% of British electricity by 2030, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry announced today (7 March 2018) with the launch of the new joint government-industry Offshore Wind Sector Deal.

This deal will mean for the first time in UK history there will be more electricity from renewables than fossil fuels, with 70% of British electricity predicted to be from low carbon sources by 2030 and over £40 billion of infrastructure investment in the UK.

Reaction: Conservation organisations call for action to reduce offshore wind impacts on wildlife - RSPB

RSPB & The Wildlife Trusts Joint Statement

The RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts have welcomed the “Sector Deal” partnership announced today between the UK Government and the offshore wind sector.  However, they called for more action to reduce impacts of offshore wind on wildlife. 

The UK’s offshore wind sector has already achieved astonishing growth, generating huge quantities of renewable energy. Today’s sector deal shows no let-up in ambitions, with the sector set to triple in size by 2030. However, with this unprecedented growth could come unprecedented risks to marine wildlife. For instance, offshore wind farms can harm seabirds and marine mammals by displacing animals and birds from feeding areas or through collisions with turbines. These new pressures are additional to the widespread and, in some cases, long-term impacts of human activities in the marine environment. Balancing the ambitions of the offshore wind sector with the needs of marine wildlife will be essential if the sector is to be truly successful as a green industry.

The RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts have therefore welcomed the UK Government and the sector‘s acknowledgement of these issues within the Deal and the clear commitments to take action to address and overcome the challenges, particularly the cumulative environmental impacts. We look forward to a constructive discussion with Government and developers to deliver positive outcomes for offshore wind and the marine environment.


Microplastic pollution widespread in British lakes and rivers - new study - Bangor University

Dr Christian Dunn collecting samples in Ullswater. image: Carlotta Dunn New research by Bangor University and Friends of the Earth has found microplastic pollution in some of Britain’s most iconic and remote rivers and lakes.

Dr Christian Dunn collecting samples in Ullswater. image: Carlotta Dunn

The study, believed to be the first of its kind, looked at ten sites - including lakes in the Lake District, waterways in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, a wetland and Welsh reservoir - and found microplastics in all of them.

Friends of the Earth and Dr Christian Dunn, of Bangor University (who led the research) say the findings suggest that microplastics should now be considered as an emergent contaminant - and that routine monitoring of all UK waters must now take place.

Friends of the Earth is also urging MPs to support new legislation, currently before Parliament, to phase out plastic pollution within 25 years – including an end to non-essential single-use plastic by 2025.

Using a fluorescence lighting system, researchers were able to identify and count microplastic pollutants (less than 5 mm in size) per litre of water, such as plastic fragments, fibres and film.

The preliminary findings revealed microplastic pollution levels ranging from over a 1,000 pieces of plastic per litre in the river Tame in Greater Manchester, to 2.4 pieces per litre in Loch Lomond.


Improved regulation needed as pesticides found to affect genes in bees - Queen Mary University of London

Bumblebee colony. Credit: TJ Colgan Scientists are urging for improved regulation on pesticides after finding that they affect genes in bumblebees, according to research led by Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with Imperial College London.

Bumblebee colony. Credit: TJ Colgan

For the first time, researchers applied a biomedically inspired approach to examine potential changes in the 12,000 genes that make up bumblebee workers and queens after pesticide exposure.

The study, published in Molecular Ecology, shows that genes which may be involved in a broad range of biological processes are affected.

They also found that queens and workers respond differently to pesticide exposure and that one pesticide they tested had much stronger effects than the other did.

Other recent studies, including previous work by the authors, have revealed that exposure even to low doses of these neurotoxic pesticides is detrimental to colony function and survival as it impairs bee behaviours including the ability to obtain pollen and nectar from flowers and the ability to locate their nests.


Hopeful signs of limited Rum wildfire damage - Scottish Natural Heritage

A wildfire on the Isle of Rum last April has been assessed as having a low to medium impact, according to a report published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

The fire, which began at about 1pm on 4 April 2018, raised concerns about the impact it would have on the habitat and animals in the area.  A helicopter was deployed which slowed the spread of the fire, with the flames eventually going out during the night as temperatures dropped and some rain fell.

The report found there were mainly low to medium impacts with less than 1% of the 7km2 area suffering any high impacts.  Thirty-five percent of the habitat was judged to have suffered low impact, and 58%, medium impact.

Rum NNR wildfire spread from helicopter ©Lorne Gill/SNHRum NNR wildfire spread from helicopter ©Lorne Gill/SNH

SNH was concerned that potential loss of habitat quality since April could affect ground-nesting birds, reptiles, mammals and insects - but so far, signs are promising.  Sea eagles have continued to nest close the area of the fire, breeding of red-throated divers has been similar to other years, and other birds which are monitored regularly have shown no noticeable changes.  In fact, some birds, such as merlin, had more breeding territories in 2018 than in previous years. 

However, the report also found the habitats will take anywhere from 5 to 20 years to recover.  Although the severity of this fire was low to medium, wildfires like this can still increase the risk of soil erosion, encourage less desirable plant species, dry out naturally wet habitats, and inhibit natural processes such as carbon storage in bogs.

SNH used satellite imagery and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to determine the effect of a fire on habitat for the first time, and hopes to apply the methods that have been developed elsewhere in the future.  While a ground impact assessment was also completed, satellite analysis gave more efficient and complete mapping, showing the areas that need more attention to recover.

Access the report.


Rare Seahorse found in Fal fishery – proof that sustainable oyster fishing has a bright future - Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) found during a survey, by Matt SlaterShort-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) found during a survey, by Matt Slater

Seahorses are extremely rare in Cornish waters, and very rarely recorded. Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Marine Officer, Matt Slater, came face to face with one while helping on a survey of the Fal oyster beds being run by Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA).

The annual oyster survey monitors the catch rates of oysters and other shellfish giving an indication of the health of the estuary. Finding a rare seahorse adds to growing evidence that the Fal estuary, with its well managed sustainable fishery, is still productive and in reasonable health.

Matt Slater says, “I had heard that oyster fishers occasionally see seahorses but didn’t want to even hope that we might see one as the chances are so small. However, just an hour into the survey and Cornwall IFCA’s, Principle Scientific Officer Colin Trundle, yelled out ‘seahorse!’ and sure enough this little beauty had come up in the dredge. We were all amazed!”

The seahorse was identified as a female, short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus). It was photographed and then swiftly returned unharmed to the sea in the same position that it was found.


Waste Dumping Proves Fatal to Deer - British Deer Society

Waste dumping is becoming an increasing problem in our UK countryside. While some people may simply see this as an eyesore, it presents a very real danger to our wildlife.

roe deer skulls tangled in discarded rope (image: Martyn Horbrough / BDS)One of our members Martyn Hobrough was recently out enjoying his local area when he discovered a most distressing scene.  Martyn explains: “There are three roe buck skulls entangled in this pile of discarded rope and the whole “package” is caught in a barbed-wire fence. The remains of the carcasses are scattered around the site... These animals will have died the most slow and horrific death.”  Martyn contacted us to highlight the issue and provide photographs that the BDS could use to raise awareness and assist with both training and education.

roe deer skulls tangled in discarded rope (image: Martyn Horbrough / BDS)

Fencing of all types - string, rope, electric fence tape, and round bale plastic wrapping or tennis court nets can cause enormous damage when wild animals like deer become entangled or enmeshed in them.

Careless disposal of materials can be prevented through more awareness of the impact these have on the environment and greater care in there use and removal. 

Read more about field fencing hazards to deer


Scientific Publications 

Kidd, L. R., Bekessy, S. A. & Garrard, G. E. Neither Hope nor Fear: Empirical Evidence Should Drive Biodiversity Conservation Strategies. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2019.01.018.


Blackburn, T. M., Bellard, C. & Ricciardi, A. Alien versus native species as drivers of recent extinctions. Frontiers in Ecology & The Environment. DOI: 10.1002/fee.2020


CJS is not responsible for content of external sites.  Details believed correct but given without prejudice.

Disclaimer: the views expressed in these news pages do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CJS.