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


Volunteers plant 3,500 trees in six week as National Park celebrates Year of Green Action - North York Moors National Park

Volunteer groups in the North York Moors are planting more than 3,500 trees in six weeks, as the National Park marks the start of the government’s ‘Year of Green Action’.

Staff and volunteers plant trees near Danby (image: NYMNPA)Before the end of March, volunteer groups made up of members of the public, youth groups, corporate teams and National Park staff will be creating a new native woodland near Danby, Whitby, by planting a mixture of oak, silver birch, hazel, rowan, crab apple, wild cherry, hawthorn and blackthorn.

The mammoth task comes at the start of the government’s ‘Year of Green Action’, which calls for people across the country to join together to improve the natural world.

Staff and volunteers plant trees near Danby (image: NYMNPA)

Alasdair Fagan, Woodland Creation Officer at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “As well as helping to combat climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere, mixed deciduous woodland provides a rich habitat for so many of our native species. It will be decades before these trees reach full maturity, but through careful consideration of the site and of the types of trees we plant, we can do our utmost to maximise  the chances of these trees living for 100 years plus.”


 New hedgerows boost Montgomery Canal wildlife - Canal and River Trust

Dormice, squirrels, birds and other wildlife along the Montgomery Canal are being given a major habitat boost thanks to our hedgerow-laying project.

Hedge-laying training group (image: CRT)In an initiative funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Trust staff, volunteers and a volunteer group from Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust spent a weekend on the Guilsfield Arm of the canal, near Arddleen in Powys, learning the ancient art of hedge-laying. 

Hedge-laying training group (image: CRT)

This training will now equip them with the knowledge and skills to re-invigorate hundreds of yards of overgrown vegetation boundaries between canal towpaths and farmers’ fields which are in need of some TLC.

The Guilsfield Arm of the canal has not been used for boating for many decades and is now designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) due to the number of rare species of flora and fauna which have colonised it. protecting wildlife is a key priority for the Trust.

Trust ecologist Stuart Moodie explained: “The Montgomery Canal is one of Britain’s most important canals for wildlife. The creation of verdant, healthy hedges is vital for protecting wildlife habitats as well as providing an effective stock-proof barrier between agricultural land and the canal towpath.


Magic million – and over 61,000 in Wales! - Woodland Trust

Woodland Trust hits free tree milestone, and 61,755 of these trees will be planted by 356 organisations throughout Wales this planting season.

The Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw) will give away one million trees to schools and communities for the first time in a single season, with the millionth tree hitting the ground in the first two weeks of March.

The Trust says it highlights a growing desire amongst the public to plant trees and to care for the environment. 

Contents of the tree packs (Photo: WTML)Contents of the tree packs (Photo: WTML)

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of the Woodland Trust said: “We’ve been close to hitting one million free trees for schools and community groups for several years, but this is the first time we’ve ever sent out that magic number in a single season. It’s a real milestone for the Trust and we’re proud to have achieved such a momentous task. Sending out one million trees has been a huge task but it’s one that our team and the tree nursery fully embraced and were delighted to achieve. Our network of woodland creation champion volunteers play a vital role in the delivery of projects such as this; extending our reach by engaging with communities, inspiring and educating them on how to plant and tend to trees to ensure they survive. We’re ready to take on the challenge of sending out even more free trees next season, helping even more people make a change for the better where they live.”

If you would like to apply for free trees in the coming season get your application in soon, as the scheme is once again proving to be extremely popular. Tree packs are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. You can apply for between 15-420 trees depending on the space you have available and your requirements. Packs are: hedge, copse, wild harvest, year round colour, working wood, wildwood, wildlife, and urban.

Apply for your trees at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/freetrees


Tree killer hiding: Novel insect vectors and host trees harbor the Dutch elm disease - Natural Resources Institute Finland

Researchers from the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and the University of Krakow have revealed novel and unexpected insect vectors and host trees for the Dutch elm disease, a deadly and devastating fungal disease of elm trees. Global trade and climate change enhance the risk of new exotic insect and fungi introductions.

The researchers conducted the most comprehensive survey thus far on the fungal associates of hardwood-infesting beetles in Central Europe, and found Dutch elm disease pathogen (Ophiostoma novo-ulmi) from the elm-infecting beetles as well as from beetles on European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and oak (Quercus robur). The result was unexpected, because until now only Scolytus bark beetle species attacking elm trees have been considered the main vectors of the disease.

“This study shows that the Dutch elm disease pathogen is hiding in a plain view, in association with such vector insects and host trees that have been neglected in previous studies. Our results suggest that the pathogen host and vector range in forest ecosystems in Europe is much broader than previously thought. It is clear that this finding complicates the Dutch elm disease eradication and control attempts even further,” highlights Dr. Riikka Linnakoski from Luke.

Access the paper: Robert Jankowiak, Beata Strzałka, Piotr Bilański, Magdalena Kacprzyk, Piotr Wieczorek, Riikka Linnakoski, Ophiostomatoid fungi associated with hardwood-infesting bark and ambrosia beetles in Poland: Taxonomic diversity and vector specificity, Fungal Ecology, Volume 39, 2019, Pages 152-167, ISSN 1754-5048,  doi:10.1016/j.funeco.2019.02.001


Microplastics found in reef-dwellers off Scotland’s west coast - Marine Conservation Society

Scientists have discovered tiny plastic fibres inside starfish and sea worms at the remote Mingulay Reef Complex off the west coast of Scotland.

The find was made in the East Mingulay Marine Protected Area, which was designated in 2012. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, who looked at preserved specimens from the last 16 years, says it highlights how widespread ocean littering has become.

Calum Duncan, MCS Head of Conservation Scotland, said: “These latest shocking results highlight the scale of the challenge of preventing plastic getting into the ocean, and of trying to eventually remove all the plastic already there”.

Laura La Beur, a research student based at the University of Edinburgh’s, School of GeoSciences, said: “It’s really surprising to see the amount and range of microplastics in these deep reefs. We don’t yet know what impact small microfibres will have on the deep oceans, but caution is needed to prevent putting the seas under more stress.”


Public Health England publishes air pollution evidence review

The review aims to create a ‘clean air generation’ of children, and make sure new developments are clean by design.

Public Health England (PHE) has today, Monday 11 March 2019, published a review of evidence on how to improve air quality in the United Kingdom.

The review informs local and national government on actions to improve outdoor air quality and health.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK, with between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year attributed to long-term exposure. There is strong evidence that air pollution causes the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and lung cancer, and exacerbates asthma.

Professor Paul Cosford, Director of Health Protection and Medical Director at PHE, said: “Now is our opportunity to create a clean air generation of children, by implementing interventions in a coordinated way. By making new developments clean by design we can create a better environment for everyone, especially our children.”


Public Health England’s air quality review a significant step forward – Sustrans response

Today Public Health England has published air quality interventions evidence review, which outlines a set of recommendations on how the Image: Sustransgovernment can improve air quality, including banning cars outside schools, investing more in clean public transport and foot and cycle paths as well as introducing road pricing.

Image: Sustrans

Dr Andy Cope, Director of Insight, Research & Monitoring at Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, who has contributed to the Review said: “This review is a significant step forward in providing clear guidance to tackle all forms of air pollution, including road transport emissions. We need radical changes in the way we travel. There is a growing body of evidence that shows investing in and encouraging walking and cycling can make a major contribution to reducing roadside air pollution. The challenge now is to connect the evidence to legislative changes, and to practical measures.”


Farmer Confidence Drops as Agri-Environment Schemes Fail to Deliver - Tenant Farmers Association

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has expressed its deep concern that confidence in agri-environment schemes amongst tenant farmers in England is waning due to poor administration by Natural England and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn said, “There have been many different types of agri-environment scheme since they were first launched in England just over 30 years ago.  They have always been well supported by the farming community, which has welcomed working in partnership with the Government to deliver outcomes for landscape and biodiversity.  However, that partnership is now been placed under tremendous strain due to the shambolic way that Natural England and the RPA are administering schemes currently”.

With some 14,000 historic Environmental Stewardship payments remaining outstanding and around 8000 Countryside Stewardship payments for 2018 awaiting processing, many farmers are losing patience.

“People are trying to run businesses and are working to tight budgets and cash flows.  It is particularly galling when DEFRA talks about the need for farmers to enhance their productivity when its own agencies are unable to fulfil contractual requirements for payments.  It is especially important for tenant farmers to be paid on time given the absolute requirement upon them to make regular rent payments to their landlords,” said Mr Dunn.


UK wild newt species free from flesh-eating fungus for now… - Zoological Society of London

Private amphibian traders urged to prevent Bsal fungus from infecting wild populations.

T. helveticus © ZSL - Ben Tapley T. helveticus © ZSL - Ben Tapley

The UK’s wild newt populations seem to be free from a flesh-eating lethal fungus known to be prevalent in privately-owned amphibians across Western Europe, a nationwide investigation has found.

Scientists from ZSL and our research partners, are now urging private amphibian owners to enforce strict biosecurity measures to protect the UK’s wild newt population from the catastrophic devastation that Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (or Bsal) could cause.

The research, conducted by ZSL, The University of Exeter and the Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK, published in Scientific Reports today combined data gathered from skin swabbing more than 2,400 wild newts in ponds across the UK, along with data from newt deaths reported to ZSL’s Garden Wildlife Health project. The results of the investigations revealed Bsal was not present in the samples collected.

In 2010, the deadly fungus was responsible for a 99% decline in a monitored population of fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) in the Netherlands, with population declines expanding into Belgium and Germany, and led to the extinction of local populations within months of being introduced.


England's National Parks receive ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award – National Parks UK

Broads by Kayak (c) Daniel Wildey Broads by Kayak (c) Daniel Wildey

England's National Parks have received the ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award by VisitEngland.

A tourism programme aimed at telling the stories of England’s National Parks to new international audiences has received one of the country’s top tourism accolades.

The English National Park Experience Collection – a collaboration between National Parks, experience and accommodation providers to offer a taste of life across the very best of the English countryside – received the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Tourism’ award, given by VisitEngland’s Advisory Board in the award’s 30th anniversary year.

Previous winners include BBC Countryfile, Sir Paul McCartney and Her Majesty the Queen.

The programme, supported through VisitEngland’s Discover England Fund, has seen National Parks across the country come together to offer immerse experiences as diverse as living like a roman, gin making, kayaking and treading in the footsteps of National Park Rangers as they look after some of England’s most treasured landscapes.


Responses to the Spring Statement 2019 announced today (Wednesday 13 March):

Plastics and housing in today's spring statement – The Wildlife Trusts

The government’s spring statement announced today addresses two subjects that have a big impact on our natural environment – plastics and housing:

Dr Lissa Batey, Senior Living Seas Officer of The Wildlife Trusts said: "We welcome the Government’s commitment to do more to tackle plastic waste. We would encourage people to respond to the government’s consultation on how to use the tax system to encourage responsible use. Following the success of the plastic bag tax, we feel that a tax on single use plastics could make a real difference. Every year millions of tonnes of plastic enters the natural environment and is doing terrible damage to our rivers, seas and the wildlife that depends on these habitats.”

Dr Sue Young, Head of Land Use Planning and Ecological Networks said: “If housing development is planned and built in the right way and in the right place, it can be good for nature: this is good for the health, wellbeing and economic success of society. It is essential that the Government’s investment programme in housing protects our remaining precious wildlife havens, supports the recovery of nature and seeks to provide people with homes that have access to nature on their doorstep.”

Spring statement - action or inaction on single-use plastics? - Marine Conservation Society

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a call for evidence around a tax on single-use plastic in the first ever spring statement. He said it was part of the Government’s drive to leave the natural environment “in a better state than we found it.”

Mr Hammond said the call for evidence would deliver on the Government’s promise to tackle the complex issue of plastic littering and threat to our oceans.

He said the call for evidence would cover the whole of the single-use plastic supply chain from alternative material to re-usable options and recyclable opportunities.

Mr Hammond said it will look at how a tax system on single-use plastics can drive technological progress and behaviour change “not as a way of raising revenue but as a way of changing behaviour and encouraging innovation.”

He said there will be investment to develop new greener products and processes funded from revenues raised.

He also said the Government would award 20 million pounds to businesses and universities to stimulate new thinking and rapid solutions in this area during the call for evidence.

Emma Crane is the MCS Public Affairs Manager: “Whilst we welcome today’s announcement and the Government’s focus on this issue, plastic litter is causing damage to our oceans and marine wildlife today and we would have liked to see the Government go further by announcing a full consultation on the issue or even better announcing the introduction of a deposit return scheme or a latte levy. Charging for plastic bags worked to change behaviour and we need to do the same with single use plastic. It’s also vital that producers take an active role in the design and recyclability of packaging. It’s time to act now and #STOPtheplastictide.”

Spring Statement: Chancellor fiddles while planet burns - Friends of the Earth

Climate change should be at heart of economic policy, not consigned to the margins

Reacting to measures outlined in today’s Spring Statement to help combat climate change, Friends of the Earth’s head of political affairs, Dave Timms said: “Instead of putting climate change at the heart of economic policy-making, the Chancellor is merely fiddling in the margins while the planet burns. The nation's children are calling out for tough action to cut emissions, Mr Hammond must listen harder to the lesson they’re teaching him. “With the government enthusiastically backing more runways, more roads and fracking, it’s little wonder the UK is likely to miss future climate targets. The Chancellor should have announced a massive programme of investment in home insulation and public transport, instead of pushing the false solution of carbon off-setting for aviation.”


UK takes step forward in global marine protection - Defra

UK Government backs plans by Ascension Island to designate over 150,000 square miles of its waters as a fully protected no-take Marine Protected Area.

More than half of the UK’s global waters are set to be within Marine Protected Areas, putting the UK at the forefront of calls to protect 30 per cent of the world’s ocean by 2030.

The UK Government has backed plans by Ascension Island to designate over 150,000 square miles of its waters as a fully protected ‘no-take’ Marine Protected Area (MPA) – closing the off-shore area to any fishing activity and safeguarding important marine habitats for future generations.

When protected, the new no-take zone around Ascension Island would bring the total percentage of MPAs in the UK’s territorial waters, Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to over 50%. This comes as Environment Secretary Michael Gove has reiterated his call for 30% of the world’s ocean to be protected by 2030 and called on other nations to follow the UK’s lead.


Woodcock making a comeback - Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

(image: GWCT)NUMBERS of woodcock were higher than expected across most of Britain this winter, with parts of southern England recording numbers well above average.

(image: GWCT)

This comes as a surprise as there were fears of a poor breeding season after the dry summer of 2018.

It is possible that conditions in spring on the main breeding grounds in Russia and Scandinavia may have resulted in better chick survival immediately after hatching, when the young are vulnerable to cold, wet weather, and that this could have compensated for higher mortality during the dry weather later in the summer.

Summer conditions were also variable across Europe, with central Russia not experiencing the high temperatures recorded in Scandinavia, resulting in regional differences in woodcock breeding success.

The woodcock influx this year coincided with sudden, widespread snowfall in Russia during the third week of November, coupled with easterly winds from central Europe.

Dr Andrew Hoodless, a woodcock expert from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), said: “It appears that most areas of southern Britain experienced good numbers of woodcock. It may have been a slightly different situation in the north – with reports from Scotland being more mixed. The contrast between north and south may reflect different winter weather conditions, but it seems likely that it also reflects the fates of different breeding populations: with Scotland’s wintering population consisting of a higher proportion of woodcock from Scandinavia rather than Russia. It was good to see woodcock numbers bounce back quickly after the relatively poor season of 2017/18 and many shoots waiting until at least December to assess numbers before deciding on whether to have a day at woodcock.”


Keep Scotland Beautiful endorses global commitment to end plastic pollution - Keep Scotland Beautiful

We are calling time on plastic waste and pollution by endorsing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.

The New Plastics Economy looks for businesses and organisations to endorse the commitment to reduce our single-use plastic use, innovate so all plastics we do need are designed to be safely reused, recycled or composted, and to contribute to a truly circular economy.

Our work at Keep Scotland Beautiful goes a long way to forcing a change in our habits concerning single-use plastic items already, and our ambition for this Global Commitment is that we can encourage organisations across Scotland to join is in ending plastic waste and pollution today.

Through our campaigns such as our Cup Movement, we are encouraging people to not just change their littering behaviour, but encourage them to think of sustainable alternatives to plastic and call on businesses to aid in the recovery and recycling of single-use items.


Appeal to get more people learning in the natural environment - Natural Resources Wales

Family enjoying outdoor education (image: NRW)Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is launching the first ever Wales Outdoor Learning Week with the Wales Council for Outdoor Learning. 

The campaign, which runs from 1 – 7 April, encourages teachers, learning groups and families across Wales to make outdoor learning part of everyday life. 

It aims to celebrate and promote the multiple benefits of a classroom without walls while sharing practical outdoor activities to try at home or at school.

Sue Williams, Senior Education and Skills Advisor for Natural Resources Wales said:  “Evidence shows that learning in the natural environment improves knowledge and understanding, helping us recognise the impact we have on the environment now and in the future.   It can also improve our health and wellbeing by helping to guard against obesity, increase physical activity and reduce the symptoms of stress.  This is why we are asking teachers, parents and learners of all ages to get outside, enjoy and connect with the natural environment." 

Find out more about the Wales Outdoor Learning Week here. 


NE Scotland reaches 1.5 m wildlife records - Scottish Natural Heritage

A speckled wood butterfly has become the 1.5 millionth wildlife record logged in North East Scotland.

Spotted by a local butterfly recorder near Banchory, the speckled wood butterfly has increased by more than 30 percent in its distribution and geographical spread across the UK in the last 40 years, and can now be widely seen across Aberdeenshire. 

Speckled Wood (image: Stuart Graham - W Argyll via SNH)Speckled Wood (image: Stuart Graham - W Argyll via SNH)

Glenn Roberts, North East Scotland Biological Records Centre (NESBReC) Coordinator, said: “This is a phenomenal achievement for our many ‘citizen scientists’ in North East Scotland. We’re so fortunate to have such a wide variety of wildlife in the area, and we’re grateful to everyone who contributed. People are often surprised to hear about the many kinds of animals that can be found in the area, from owls to whales to rare fungi. With spring soon to begin there are invertebrates, such as some butterflies and bumblebees, coming out of hibernation, emerging from dusty sheds, garages and holes in the ground. Hedgehogs will also be coming out of hibernation – look out for them in your gardens, in woodland and on our country roads – even a record of roadkill is useful.”

Denise Reed, Scottish Nature Heritage’s (SNH’s) Tayside & Grampian unit manager, added: “I’d encourage everyone to submit their animal sightings. Every record is important: this information is invaluable to help us learn about and protect animals in the North East.” 


Scientific publications

Smith, K. E., Weis, D., Amini, M., Shiel, A. E., Lai, V. W. M. & Gordon, K. Honey as a biomonitor for a changing world. Nature Sustainability (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0243-0 


Hill, R. et al. Biocultural approaches to pollinator conservation. Nature Sustainability. DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0244-z


Jetz, W. et al. Essential biodiversity variables for mapping and monitoring species populations (open access) Nature Ecology & Evolution (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0826-1  


Gillian Gilbert, Fiona S. MacGillivray, Helen L. Robertson & Nicholas N. Jonsson Adverse effects of routine bovine health treatments containing triclabendazole and synthetic pyrethroids on the abundance of dipteran larvae in bovine faeces. (open access) Scientific Reports 10.1038/s41598-019-40800-6


C.N.Scholten, A.J.Kamphuis, K.J.Vredevoogd, K.G.Lee-Strydhorst, J.L.Atma, C.B.Shea, O.N.Lamberg, D.S.Proppe Real-time thermal imagery from an unmanned aerial vehicle can locate ground nests of a grassland songbird at rates similar to traditional methods. Biological Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.03.001

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