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


UK government supports global action to fight illegal wildlife trade - defra

There has been progress in key areas in the six months since the UK government staged the largest-ever Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in October 2018 including the launch of education packs.

Schemes to combat poaching and protect species like marine turtles and grey parrots from being illegally traded, are among fourteen new projects set to benefit from a UK government fund to combat wildlife criminals around the globe.

Ministers have today marked Earth Day (22 April) by announcing that the schemes will each receive a share in £4.6 million from the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.

The projects set to benefit include:

  • Fauna & Flora International’s project for reducing demand for marine turtle products in Nicaragua
  • ZSL’s work to disrupt the illegal wildlife trade in grey parrots in Cameroon
  • Cracking wildlife smuggling in Madagascar, a project run by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • Strengthening anti-poaching techniques and countering wildlife trafficking in Uganda, a project run by WCS

Sea turtle swimming (image: Randall Ruiz on Unsplash)New education resources for school children around the globe will also be launched on Earth Day. The online packs aim to teach the next generation about the dangers of fuelling the illegal wildlife trade. The UK government has provided £40,000 to create these packs for children in multiple languages.

Sea turtle swimming (image: Randall Ruiz on Unsplash) 

With support from the Department for International Development (DFID), Defra has invested a total of £23 million in the IWT Challenge Fund.  DFID pledged an extra £6 million of UK aid for the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund before the start of the IWT conference in 2018 and further rounds for funding applications will be opened shortly for projects to bid.

Education packs: WWF-UK has produced two packs aimed at primary (KS2) and secondary (KS3) school students. These will be available from today for schools to register to access from the WWF-UK website. Download the pack here.


Major study reveals 46% decline in moth abundance - Scottish Natural Heritage

Moth numbers have declined over the last 25 years while their distribution has increased, new research shows.

Kentish Glory © Tom PrescottKentish Glory © Tom Prescott

A report by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and partners finds that moth abundance has fallen by almost 50% over the period, with more species classed as ‘significantly decreasing’ than ‘increasing’.

Eight of the 20 species in most rapid decline are associated with moorland, indicating that the insects may be disproportionately struggling in this habitat.  Of the top 20 most rapidly increasing species, 16 are associated with woodland habitats, suggesting that common woodland moths may be doing well in Scotland.  The research shows that over the same time period, moth occupancy – or the distribution of the insects across Scotland – has increased by about 16%. Climate change is likely to be an important factor behind the trends, driving the range of some species northward with corresponding increases in occupancy.  At the same time warmer, wetter winters driven by climate change have been shown to negatively impact some moths while other species are suffering population declines as a result of detrimental land management and habitat changes.

SNH is working with Butterfly Conservation Scotland, landowners and volunteers on conservation programmes for 21 priority species, with some encouraging signs.

The full report can be read here (PDF).


CPRE joins celebrities and charities to call for action to double the number of school children visiting National Parks

Over 60,000 school children visit the National Parks each year and the government has long promised to increase increase to this number. Celebrities, led by a coalition of five charities, have now demanded urgent action to more than double the number of school children who get to visit the National Parks each year.

In an open letter released this week, sixteen celebrities including TV legends Carol Vorderman and Caroline Quentin, TV naturalists Liz Bonin and Lizzie Daly, the former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion, author Bill Bryson, potter and CPRE president Emma Bridgewater and writer Richard Mabey call for the government to take action.

(Image: Jenn Evelyn-Ann/Unsplash)(Image: Jenn Evelyn-Ann/Unsplash)

Actor and president of Campaign for National Parks, Caroline Quentin said: 'In this letter we’ve said very clearly that now is the time to take real action to get more children into the beautiful National Parks. I want school children to be inspired to love nature, adventure and the beauty of the countryside. As anyone who has visited the wilds of Exmoor or the Lake District knows, the National Parks are well placed to do this.'

The charities behind the letter are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Act of Parliament that created National Parks, as some of the original organisations that came together to found them. 70 years on from the legislation, Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Open Spaces Society, Ramblers and the YHA are calling for government action to safeguard their future.

Read the letter here.


General licences for bird control: major changes to licensing requirements - Natural England

Jackdaw (image: Thomas B/pixabay)Natural England is revoking three general licences for controlling certain wild birds as of Thursday 25 April 2019.

These licences (GL 04/05/06) cover 16 species of birds including several members of the crow family, Canada goose, some gulls and pigeons.

The change follows a legal challenge to the way the licences have been issued, which could mean users who rely on them are not acting lawfully.

Jackdaw (image: Thomas B/pixabay)

Natural England is working at pace to put in place over the next few weeks alternative measures to allow lawful control of these bird species to continue where necessary. In the meantime, once the licences have been revoked and until new licences are issued, anyone needing to control one of these 16 bird species where there is no reasonable non-lethal alternative will need to apply for an individual licence.

The action is the first stage of a planned review of general and class licences, which will be completed this year.

If you are unsure what you should do on your land, visit the Natural England licensing webpage for more information and advice


Volunteer efforts yield new insights into Britain and Ireland's birds – British Trust for Ornithology

The efforts of 60,000 volunteers, mapping the distribution of breeding and wintering birds, have opened up valuable knowledge to researchers and members of the public through new open access resources.

Periodic surveys, mapping the distribution of birds every 20 years, have been a feature of the bird watching landscape since the late 1960s. These periodic national studies, covering both Britain and Ireland and coordinated by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), have yielded information crucial for conservation and been well used by researchers.
The first breeding atlas – the first national bird atlas anywhere in the world – conducted during 1968–72, was described at the time as “the biggest co-operative effort ever undertaken by field ornithologists in these islands, indeed probably anywhere in the world, which will stand for many years as a tribute to the enthusiasm and industry of a large number of people”. Subsequent atlases have continued that theme and, collectively, the series of breeding and wintering atlases from 1968–72 to 2007–11 contains 1.4 million distribution records of 458 species.


Our butterflies and moths are facing triple whammy and need a Scottish Environment Act – Butterfly Conservation

We are very used to hearing about the two key culprits responsible for the decline of butterflies and moths in our countryside - habitat loss and climate change, but a third ‘driver’ increasingly being identified as guilty is nitrogen, the two main sources being vehicles and farming.

Back in the 1990s, Bobbink was finding high levels of nitrogen in Dutch chalk grasslands, leading to their invasion by coarse grasses. Since then much research has been carried out on the impact on the nitrogen deposition on a range of plant communities, and Plantlife has produced a report “We need to talk about nitrogen”.   

While Butterfly Conservation and others can try and manage key habitats as beneficially as possible, there is little we can do about air pollution - except by demanding policies and laws that aim to reduce it, which is one reason why we need an Environment Act for Scotland. Such an Act could embed in Scots law the four key principles that guide EU policy-making on the environment:

  • The precautionary principle: operates where there are reasonable grounds for concern that an activity could cause harm, despite there being some uncertainty.
  • Polluter pays: those who produce pollution should bear the costs of cleaning it up.
  • The rectification at source principle: policies should tackle the root of the problem rather than just tackling its consequences.

Preventive action: this is the need to address problems today rather than leave them for future generations to solve.

35 environmental charities from across Scotland, including Butterfly Conservation, have come together to ‘Fight for Scotland’s Nature’ and foster support for a Scottish Environment Act. 


Three harbour porpoises killed every day in the UK - WWF

A study carried out by WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue found that on average, over one thousand harbour porpoises are needlessly dying in UK waters each year.

There are around 177,000 harbour porpoises in UK seas, but many of us aren’t familiar with them, as they are shy and elusive, unlike other cetaceans such as dolphins. Porpoises share their habitat, which is vital for feeding and breeding, with the fishing industry, who are also drawn to areas with rich marine life.

But fishing is proving deadly for harbour porpoises. When trapped in gillnets – a type of net that catches fish by trapping them through their gills – the porpoises suffocate and die. Bycatch (wildlife that is accidentally captured in nets) is the number one threat to harbour porpoises, leading to an average of three being killed each day in the UK. Nearly 20 per cent of those found washed up on beaches have been killed as a result of accidental capture in fishing gear.

About the study

The research into harbour porpoise deaths was carried out by WWF and our partner Sky Ocean Rescue. We’re working together to improve the health of the seas and allow marine environments to recover from damage and thrive again, including putting in place stronger protection for over 400,000 km² of oceans.

Our new report throws a spotlight on the true extent of the problem of porpoise bycatch, revealing that that over 1000 individuals are estimated to be killed each year.

Read the full report here


MPs call for urgent action to plug gaps in environmental protection - Environmental Audit Committee, UK Parliament

The Environmental Audit Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Environment (Governance and Principles) Bill identifies serious concerns with proposed legislation to protect the environment if the UK leaves the European Union. The Report describes the bill as lacking coherence, with many Government Departments exempted from their environmental responsibilities.

Areas where MPs consider the Bill to be deficient:

  • Environmental principles which guide European Union legislation and policy have been “severely downgraded”.
  • There is no Government agency with responsibility to enforce climate change mitigation measures. MPs believe enforcement of climate change mitigation has been “purposefully excluded” from the scope of the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP).
  • Lack of environmental accountability for action by Government Departments.

MPs were concerned they had only seen sections on principles and governance and were unable to assess the full implications of the Bill for the environment.

Read the report conclusions and recommendations

Read the report summary

Read the full report 


UK must plant new woodland twice the area of Sheffield each year to reduce climate impact of land use - Green Alliance 

woodland (image: Karen Arnold/Pixabay)More ambitious action, including planting 70,000 hectares of new woodland per year and banning peatland burning, needs to start now to halt the climate impact of farming and land use, according to new analysis. 
New research today from the think tank Green Alliance finds that major changes are needed now to meet the NFU’s target of net zero carbon emissions from land use by 2040. 

woodland (image: Karen Arnold/Pixabay)

UK greenhouse gas emissions from farming and other rural land uses were over four times those from UK industrial processes in 2016.  It is predicted that, without concerted action, the sector could be one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the UK by 2050.  Although other sectors, like industry and power, have been targeted by government climate change policies, decarbonising land use has not been a clear objective of EU or UK agricultural policy.   Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have not fallen since 2008.
A new strategic approach would not only cut emissions, but significantly improve the ability of natural systems to store carbon.

The changes needed include:

  • Planting the equivalent of twice the area of Sheffield in trees each year across the UK.
  • A programme of extensive peatland restoration and ending damaging practices, including extraction for horticulture and peatland burning. 
  • New support for lower carbon farming methods, backed up by changes to consumer and business demand and trade deals which specify high environmental standards.

These changes could cut nearly 60 per cent of the emissions from land use over the next decade.

Download the Green Alliance, Cutting the climate impact of land use, report (PDF)


Bill introduced to allow Kew to bloom for new generations - defra

The Kew Gardens (Leases) No. 3 Bill will allow Kew Botanic Gardens to prosper for centuries to come.

A new Bill which will allow Kew Botanic Gardens to prosper for centuries to come and generate up to £40million in new income has been introduced in Parliament today.

A picture of a greenhouse at Kew Botanic Gardens surrounded by manicured hedges and flowerpots. (unsplash via defra)The Kew Gardens (Leases) No. 3 Bill extends the maximum allowable lease on Kew Gardens’ land from the current 31 years to 150 years.

A picture of a greenhouse at Kew Botanic Gardens surrounded by manicured hedges and flowerpots. (image: unsplash via defra)

The historical legislation restricts the length of leases on Kew’s estate – making it difficult for the Gardens to generate commercial interest and investment in the culturally important 18th century buildings that face Kew Green.

By extending the lease, Kew Gardens can open up new streams of revenue – estimated to be up to £40 million in the first 10 years – and allow the public to enjoy all elements of the history and beauty of this 132-hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Richard Deverell, Director Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew said: "The passing of this new Bill offers Kew an excellent opportunity to attract private investment that will help ensure that we have an estate that supports the needs of the botanic gardens, the scientific team and our visitors for many years to come."


Over 40 million birds have vanished from UK skies in just 50 years, it is time to Let Nature Sing - RSPB

  • The RSPB is releasing a track of pure bird song to raise awareness of the shocking loss of over 40 million birds from the UK in just 50 years.
  • ‘Let Nature Sing’ features the song of many threatened and endangered birds to get more people talking about the beautiful sounds the we could lose.
  • New research reveals 82% of people say bird song makes them feel positive, and more than half (54%) would choose it as the #1 sound to wake up to.
  • However, only 15% of people realise nature is in crisis, highlighting the UK is in danger of sleepwalking into a natural tragedy.

Over 40 million birds have vanished from UK skies in just 50 years, 56% of species in the UK are in decline, and one in ten of our wildlife are critically endangered. Nature is in crisis, and new research from the RSPB has demonstrated that the UK is dangerously unaware of the impending danger.

Only 15% of the UK realise nature is in crisis, and worryingly over a quarter (27%) believe nature is in fact doing well. The UK is in immediate danger of sleepwalking into a disaster, as our natural world and wildlife face a mounting and immediate crisis.

Let Nature Sing (RSPB)To wake up the nation to this threat, the RSPB is today releasing a track of pure bird song into the charts for the first time in UK music history.  ‘Let Nature Sing’ is an arrangement of some of the UK’s most loved and most threatened bird songs.

The RSPB’s research illustrates how devastating this loss would be to the people of the UK. When presented with the shocking facts about the decline of wild birds’, half (49%) of UK adults said they were upset by this, and a third (31%) went further to say they were angry. The majority put pressure on political powers for change, with more than eight in ten (84%) feeling the governments of the UK should be doing more to save nature.  Young people are also shockingly unaware of the crisis facing nature. One in three (33%) said that had no idea that the UK had lost over 40 million birds in the last 50 years, but upon hearing this, over a third (40%) said they want to do something to save nature, showing hope for the future.

A music video to accompany the single has also been created view it here.


General licences: next steps to apply online - Natural England

Natural England has today published a simple online application system for individual wild bird control licences.

Natural England has been working urgently to identify alternative solutions for all those affected by the decision on Tuesday (23 April) to revoke three general licences for controlling certain wild birds.

woodpigeon (pixabay)The decision to revoke these licences was not taken lightly. Natural England explored all other options available, but was left with no choice but to revoke the licences in order to comply with the law.

woodpigeon (Pixabay)

General licences will be restored as quickly as possible, starting with those species that are most likely to require urgent control. This will mean landowners can continue to take necessary action as they do now, whilst also taking into account the needs of wildlife. Natural England is working closely with farmers, pest controllers, gamekeepers and other professionals working in the countryside to ensure everyone who needs to control pests can.

In the interim, before these general licences are available, where there is no reasonable non-lethal alternative, there is a simple and quick online application system to obtain individual licences to control wild birds. These are accessible now. Natural England recognises that there may be instances of genuine emergency where immediate action may be required.

Natural England is working at pace to get the new licensing regime up and running, so users can be sure that they are acting within the law. They will consult with stakeholders in advance of the wider review of general licensing that will take place later this year. 


Wild birds: licence to control certain species

You must apply for a licence to control certain wild bird species to protect public health and safety, or flora and fauna, or to prevent damage or spread of disease.

New general licences will go live on GOV.UK from next week commencing 29 April. These will:

cover the majority of circumstances previously covered by the revoked general licences, GL04, GL05 and GL06

ensure landowners can continue to take necessary action, whilst also taking into account the needs of wildlife

If you need to act within the law before these are ready, use the relevant application form on this page to apply for a licence to control certain wild bird species.

You must apply for a licence if you need to control certain wild bird species.

You can only apply for a licence if you need to control the birds to:

  • preserve public health and safety
  • conserve flora and fauna
  • prevent serious damage
  • prevent the spread of disease

Some of these reasons for controlling wild birds don’t apply to all species.


Natural landscapes? Scientists call for a paradigm shift in restoration projects in "Science" - Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg 

Regardless of whether we are dealing with a floodplain landscape or an entire national park, the success of a restoration project depends on more than just the reintroduction of individual plant or animal species into an area. An international team of researchers led by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig reveals it is more a matter of helping the damaged ecosystem to regenerate and sustain itself. In the current issue of the journal Science the researchers describe how rewilding measures can be better planned and implemented - and the benefits this can have on humans.

Peene river and flooded lands near Anklamer Stadtbruch, Germany. (image: Solvin Zankl/Rewilding Europe)Peene river and flooded lands near Anklamer Stadtbruch, Germany. (image: Solvin Zankl/Rewilding Europe)

Nature has been severely affected around the world by the construction of cities, roads and factories as well as intensive farming practices. Entire ecosystems have been destroyed, resulting in a continuous decline in biodiversity. "As a result, many ecosystems are no longer able to perform important tasks such as flood regulation," says Professor Henrique Pereira of MLU and iDiv. For several decades projects have been conducted around the world that aim to recreate regions that are as near to nature as possible. A well-known approach is so-called rewilding. "Rewilding focuses on the ecosystem as a whole and attempts to restore its functionality through targeted measures, allowing the ecosystem to sustain itself with little or no human management," explains lead author Andrea Perino, who is working on her doctorate in Pereira's research group. At the same time, rewilding also serves to make the aesthetic and intangible value of nature accessible to people.

In their article in Science, the researchers present a type of blueprint on how to plan and carry out rewilding projects. Above all, they call for a shift in perspective: there is no one ideal ecosystem that can be created through specific measures. Instead, it is much more important to examine the functions of the respective ecosystem, analyse the disturbances in this system and derive a range of measures to restore the processes that have been disrupted, while at the same time minimizing human intervention. In a floodplain landscape, for example, this could be achieved by removing dams that are no longer needed, thereby submerging at least part of the landscape. This could create a habitat for animals and plants that were previously displaced by humans.  

Read the paper: Perino A. et al. Rewilding complex ecosystems. Science (2019). doi: 10.1126/science.aav5570 (open access) 


Scientific Publications

Timberlake, T. , Vaughan, I. P. and Memmott, J. (2019), Phenology of farmland floral resources reveals seasonal gaps in nectar availability for bumblebees. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.13403


Resch, M. C., Schütz, M. , Graf, U. , Wagenaar, R. , van der Putten, W. H. and Risch, A. C. (2019), Does topsoil removal in grassland restoration benefit both soil nematode and plant communities?. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.13400


 Madin Elizabeth M. P., Harborne Alastair R., Harmer Aaron M. T., Luiz Osmar J., Atwood Trisha B., Sullivan Brian J. ,and Madin Joshua S.  Marine reserves shape seascapes on scales visible from space  Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences  doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.0053 (open access)


Nájera, F., Sánchez-Cuerda, S., López, G. et al. Lynx eats cat: disease risk assessment during an Iberian lynx intraguild predation  Eur J Wildl Res (2019) 65: 39. doi: 10.1007/s10344-019-1275-5 


Victor Cazalis, Anne-Caroline Prévot,  Are protected areas effective in conserving human connection with nature and enhancing pro-environmental behaviours?, Biological Conservation, 2019, ISSN 0006-3207, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2019.03.012.


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