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


Eggs rescued from RAF airbases as ‘pilot project’ to save endangered curlew takes flight – WWT

Under normal circumstances, the eggs from nests near military runways have to be destroyed under an individual licence to protect flight safety.

Instead, these eggs were transported to WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire to be hand-reared and released into the Severn Vale. It’s hoped the new curlews will help to recover the fragile population in the area.

Curlew numbers in the UK have declined by 60% over the past 30 years. While numbers are slightly healthier in the uplands of northern England and Scotland, in southern England, Wales and Ireland, only hundreds of pairs remain.

Nigel Jarrett, Head of Conservation Breeding at WWT, says: “It’s an exciting opportunity for everyone involved. On one hand, curlews at East Anglian air bases pose a potential risk to aviation but on the other hand they have the potential to help their struggling cousins in the South West. Unfortunately time is not on our side but by babysitting these chicks until they can fly, we can help encourage a new generation of British curlews in the lowlands.”

If a success, the new curlew trial could provide a major boost to the conservation of curlews in southern England and East Anglia while still minimising the risks of serious air safety incidents.


New research shows how habitat loss can destabilise ecosystems – Swansea University

An international study has revealed new evidence to help understand the consequences of habitat loss on natural communities.

The research, co-authored by Swansea University’s Dr Miguel Lurgi, shows the specific ways in which human activities destroy habitat is a key factor to understanding the effects of such destruction on the stability and functioning of biological communities. 

The paper, published in scientific journal Nature Communications, asks whether putting the focus solely on species diversity may overlook other facets of the way biological communities respond to habitat destruction. 

Daniel Montoya, researcher at the Theoretical and Experimental Ecology Station in Moulis, France, also a co-author, said: “Ecologists and practitioners tend to assess the impact of human activities on biodiversity by measuring the extinction rates of species. However, biodiversity comprises elements other than single species, such as the interactions between species and their stability over time and space. These additional, and sometimes overlooked, properties are key to the functioning of ecosystems. They are the missed component of biodiversity loss that accompanies or precede species extinctions.” 

This study found that the specific ways in which habitat is lost is important to the response of biodiversity. 

Dr Montoya added: “Natural habitats can be destroyed randomly or in a clustered way – for example, by the construction of a road or the creation of new urban areas, respectively. The spatial configuration of this loss differentially constrains the mobility of individual animals, which further impacts biodiversity and the stability of populations in the remaining fragments of intact habitat.” 

The researchers say a logical question now emerges - how is habitat destroyed in real landscapes around the world? 


Not all weeds are equal – Rothamsted Research

New research shows wildlife refuges on farms need careful placement if they aren't to be overrun with the wrong type of weeds

Wildlife friendly refuges around the edges of farmers’ crops have been credited with slowing biodiversity declines, however, new research shows their success ultimately depends on what’s growing next to the field.

Recent reported increases in some crop pollinating insects suggested the upturn was due to more UK farms creating these pesticide-free areas.

However, this new study by Rothamsted shows conservation areas sited directly adjacent to areas of grassland, or even other conservation measures such as grass margins, end up with a predominance of the wrong type of weeds that, rather than enhance biodiversity, could smother beneficial arable plants.

The authors say their results show that such conservation measures need very careful placement if they are to be successful and not over-run by less beneficial plants, such as grasses.

Dr Helen Metcalfe, who led this new study, said: “The location of these wildlife refuges is key in determining how successful they are in supporting important plant species, which provide food for farmland birds and habitats for pest-eating insects. By creating unsprayed strips of land away from sources of problematic weeds, we not only provide a refuge for the beneficial plants we want to protect, but we also reduce the risk of the wrong type of weeds invading the field and becoming a problem for crop production.”


Fear of ‘killer shrimps’ could pose major threat to European rivers – Plymouth University

The voracious predator has been linked to ecosystem changes and even local extinctions

Dikerogammarus villosus (Credit Michal Grabowski, University of Lodz)Dikerogammarus villosus (Credit Michal Grabowski, University of Lodz)

The fear of invasive ‘killer shrimps’ can intimidate native organisms to such a degree that they are incapable of performing their vital role in river systems, a new study suggests.

Writing in the journal Acta Oecologica, scientists focus on the invasive Dikerogammarus villosus which has been steadily replacing resident Gammarus species in rivers across Europe over the past three decades.

This is having major localised effects since the voracious predator consumes a vast range of species, with its behaviour subsequently being linked to ecosystem changes and even local extinctions.

The new study shows for the first time that the mere presence of the predator – a so-called non-consumptive effect (NCE) – can reduce the normal effectiveness of its prey.

It leads to them expending more energy in simply avoiding the predator in a bid for self-preservation, rather than focussing on core ecosystem tasks such as shredding fallen leaf litter into smaller particles to be consumed by other species.

Dr MacNeil, who has spent more than 20 years studying the species in this study, said: “This study demonstrates an unappreciated and indirect impact of a biological invasion by a voracious predator. It shows that the mere presence of an invader can influence resident prey behaviour, in this case the feeding efficiency of naïve residents. The Gammarus in our experiment had no prior exposure to its predatory rival, and would not have known to respond to specific alarm cues. However, none of our samples showed any evidence of habituation during the course of the experiment – in fact quite the opposite.”

The full study – MacNeil and Briffa: Fear alone reduces energy processing by resident ‘keystone’ prey threatened by an invader; a non-consumptive effect of ‘killer shrimp’ invasion of freshwater ecosystems is revealed – is published in Acta Oecologica, doi: 10.1016/j.actao.2019.05.001.


Rare bird breeding first at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands – RSPB

Following recent excitement over the arrival of rare herons to the site*, RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands is now celebrating further, with confirmed breeding of rare bearded tits for the first time ever at the nature reserve near Neston.

Male Bearded Tit at Burton Mere Wetlands (Credit Carole Killikelly) Male Bearded Tit at Burton Mere Wetlands (Credit Carole Killikelly)

Bearded tits are strikingly beautiful and rather comically named birds that rely on reedbeds to make their home. Once much more common throughout the UK, reedbeds are sadly now one of country’s rarest habitats as many have been drained for development or agriculture. In the North West, the only place where they have traditionally bred is at the RSPB’s Leighton Moss reserve in North Lancashire, but following the arrival of six birds to Burton Mere Wetlands last autumn, at least two pairs are now known to have bred for the first time on the Dee Estuary.

Graham Jones, Site Manager at Burton Mere Wetlands said: ‘In 2007 we were able to purchase land adjacent to our reserve from the Welsh Assembly. A three-year work programme began almost immediately to create a reedbed, into which volunteers’ hand-planted over 10,000 reed seedlings.  To have bearded tits now breeding in the very same reedbed this summer has been a wonderfully fitting culmination of all that hard work, and a fantastic way celebrate our 40th anniversary”


Pollution control of rivers can reduce impact of climate warming – Cardiff University

Improvements in water quality could reduce the ecological impact of climate change on rivers, finds a new study by Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute and the University of Vermont.
Warm water can affect freshwater organisms in similar ways to many pollutants: both reduce the availability of oxygen in the water. As oxygen levels decline, sensitive species may disappear, including invertebrates such as mayflies, and fish such as salmon and trout. On a more positive note, efforts to improve water quality, such as improved wastewater treatment and tighter regulation,   could potentially counteract some of the effects of climate warming.
The team looked at how invertebrate communities had changed at >3000 locations across England and Wales, over a 20 year span starting in 1991. During this period, average water temperatures increased by 0.6°C, but the biological effects of warming appear to have been offset by simultaneous improvements in water quality that were equivalent to more than 0.8°C of cooling.
Lead author, Dr Ian Vaughan from Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute, commented: “Globally, freshwaters are amongst our most threatened habitats, showing some of the largest species declines and fastest rates of extinction. Many freshwater species are very sensitive to temperature, with as little as a 0.5°C increase having large effects. Despite rising temperatures, many rivers in England and Wales have continued to recover from historical pollution problems over recent decades, suggesting that ongoing water quality improvements offset temperature rises.”


Protecting the best places for nature will fight the climate crisis – RSPB

  • New maps reveal that the best places for nature also hold over two-gigatons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of all of the greenhouse gases the UK generates in four years
  • The Governments of the UK must take urgent action to protect and restore these sites as many are in poor condition, unprotected, and haemorrhaging carbon
  • By mapping and putting much needed legal protections in place for all carbon and nature rich areas the Governments of the UK would benefit from a natural climate solution, that will help us to save nature and tackle the climate crisis

For the first time everyone can see the best places for nature are also the best places to tackle climate change in the UK.

Marking World Environment Day the RSPB has released a new set of maps that reveal there is are gigatons of carbon stored in the most important places for our plants and animals.

These nature rich landscapes play a vital role in supporting the UK’s plants and animals and storing carbon. However, scientists at the country’s largest conservation charity are concerned that two thirds of this carbon is in locations that are unprotected.

And we should all be concerned that the poor condition of many of these places - even in protected areas – means that they are haemorrhaging carbon into the atmosphere, instead of storing it safely in the ground. In England alone, it’s estimated that damaged upland peatlands release the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as 140,000 cars annually, instead of continuing to gradually increase their stores of carbon.

The RSPB is urging for the protection and restoration of all these areas, to make an important step forward to address the current crises for both nature and climate. The charity is calling on Governments of the UK to put in place the protections needed to ensure these important spaces are not abused, exploited or damaged, but rather protected, nurtured and restored.


Take action and join our Plastic Challenge - Canal & River Trust

Help us tackle plastic in our canals and rivers and stop it from travelling into in the world’s oceans.

Moorhen nesting in plastic litter, credit Mark C BakerMoorhen nesting in plastic litter, credit Mark C Baker

  • New research states that more than half a million items of plastic reach the oceans from our canals and rivers every year 
  • If every visitor picked up and recycled just one piece of plastic each time they visit, the canals and rivers could be plastic free in a year
  • We spend over £1 million a year to help keep our waterways free of plastics and other discarded waste

We're urging communities to take action on their doorstep to make their local neighbourhood beautiful and help tackle the global plastics crisis – don’t drop it, pick it up and recycle it to help make the nation’s canals and rivers plastics free.

Working with Coventry University, we've published a detailed analysis of the plastics and other litter found in our waterways. The research, which reviewed data from 25 locations, found that plastics now account for 59%of waste found along our canals. We estimate that 570,000 items of plastic reach the world’s oceans each year via our waterways. With the help of local communities this figure could be drastically cut.

Peter Birch, national environmental policy advisor at Canal & River Trust, says: “We are on a mission to eradicate plastics from our vast network of canals and rivers – helping us all to live in better, more beautiful neighbourhoods, whilst tackling a global issue, and making life better by water.”


100 miles of new paths celebrated across Scotland - Scottish Natural Heritage

New path funded by Improving Public Access Scheme. Francesca Osowska SNH Chief Exec, Cab Sec, Dave Alston dogwalker and Robin Niven Landowner. ©SNHMore than 100 miles of new and improved paths will be created across Scotland as part of a scheme to boost outdoor access.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is celebrating the construction of hundreds of routes through Improving Public Access (IPA), part of the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme. 

By the end of this year, an equivalent distance to the whole of the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Fort William will have been funded by the scheme.

New path funded by Improving Public Access Scheme. Francesca Osowska SNH Chief Exec, Cab Sec,

Dave Alston dogwalker and Robin Niven Landowner. ©SNH

The paths will make it easier for people to enjoy our fantastic countryside with opportunities for all including walkers, wheelchair users, cyclists, horse riders and buggy users.

The new and improved paths will connect towns and villages and provide a great variety of ways to explore the outdoors in coastal areas, along riverbanks, to viewpoints and around farmland.

Some of the paths will also form part of longer distance routes such as the John Muir Way.

SNH has been working with the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID) to deliver the scheme, with a total of £8.5 million committed. 

Since opening in 2015 to farmers, local authorities, charities and community groups a wide range of projects have benefitted with funding to improve existing paths or create new ones. 


Are we driving hedgehogs to extinction? – The Mammal Society

Photo by Zoe ShreeveA squashed hedgehog on the side of the road used to be such a common sight that a road safety campaign was launched on the back of it. Who over the age of about thirty doesn’t remember 1997’s King of the Road hedgehogs? Twenty years later it is rare to see a dead hedgehog, let alone a live one.

Photo by Zoe Shreeve

The Mammal Society estimated last year that Britain’s hedgehog population may have decreased by as much as 73% in the last twenty years. This means that any hedgehog sighting, whether the mammal is alive or dead, takes on a sobering significance.

Together with People’s Trust for Endangered Species and British Hedgehog Preservation Society the Mammal Society is looking at how we might reduce the number of deaths on roads for this already very vulnerable species.

Professor Fiona Mathews, the Mammal Society Chair, explains “We know that vehicles are still one of the main threats to hedgehog conservation. The most recent estimate of hedgehog road casualties, published in our journal Mammal Communications, is that between 167,000 and 335,000 hedgehogs are killed annually. So, we are trying to work out where and when casualties occur, in order that we can then take steps to prevent them.  For example, we want to assess whether casualties are more common at the edges of towns and cities, or where there are features like walls or hedgerows leading up to roads that might encourage animals to try to cross.”


 Honey bee colonies down by 16% - University of Strathclyde

The number of honey bee colonies fell by 16% in the winter of 2017-18, according to an international study led by the University of Strathclyde.

The survey of 25,363 beekeepers in 36 countries found that, out of 544,879 colonies being managed at the start of winter, 89124 were lost, through a combination of circumstances including various effects of weather conditions, unsolvable problems with a colony’s queen, and natural disaster.

Portugal, Northern Ireland, Italy and England experienced losses above 25%, while Belarus, Israel and Serbia were among those with loss rates below 10%. There were also significant regional variations within some countries, including Germany, Sweden and Greece.

The total loss rate was down from 20.9% in 2016-17 but was still higher than the 2015-16 figure of 12.0%. The total loss rate for Scotland increased over these three years, from 18.0% to 20.4% to 23.7%.  


Future looks rosy for rare moth in mid Wales - Natural Resources Wales

One of the UK’s rarest moths once thought to be extinct appears to be making a remarkable recovery at a mid-Wales nature reserve.

(image: Natural Resources Wales)This year’s annual caterpillar survey by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) recorded the second highest count of the rosy marsh moth caterpillar since monitoring began in 1988.

(image: Natural Resources Wales)

The count at Cors Fochno near Aberystwyth recorded 123 caterpillars, the record was 155 in 2009.

But the annual survey only covers a very small part of the site which means there is potential for more to be found.

The survey takes place at night as the caterpillars are nocturnal and spend the day underground.

Once it’s dark they climb the stem of their foodplant and come out to feed. They do this at night when there is less risk that birds will eat them.

After last being seen in Cambridgeshire in the 1850s the species was not seen until a single moth was spotted in Penrhyndeudraeth in 1965. Two years later a colony was found at Cors Fochno.

Work undertaken by the New LIFE for Welsh Raised Bogs project will help make Cors Fochno a better habitat for the moth.


National Trust awarded Independent Research Organisation status enabling it to explore new conservation techniques and enrich visitor experiences - National Trust

The National Trust has been awarded Independent Research Organisation (IRO) status enabling it to collaborate further with researchers across culture, history and the natural environment.

The conservation charity has a long tradition of supporting and engaging with researchers. Recent projects range from protecting the wildlife in our lakes to the history of sleep in Tudor England.

This new IRO status, awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) on behalf of UK Research and Innovation, is a step towards the Trust’s ambition to embed research excellence at the heart of all its activities. 

The Trust can now apply directly to the UK Research Councils for funding enabling it to increase its research capability. It joins other research-led organisations with IRO status including the V & A, Historic England and the RSPB.


Hunt launched across northwest Scotland to help save one of UK’s rarest bumblebees - Bumblebee Conservation Trust

©Izzy-BuntingPeople taking their holidays in northwest Scotland this summer are being asked to help identify some of the last locations of one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees, in a new bid by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to pull the insect back from the brink of extinction.


The conservation charity wants people to hunt for the rare Great Yellow bumblebee in 28 specific grid references – each measuring 10×10 km – between June and September, at sites ranging from Tiree, the Uists, Harris and Lewis, across Sutherland and Caithness on the mainland, to Orkney and Shetland.

The Great Yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) was found across the UK until the 1960s, but after suffering a massive decline is now only found in a few places in Scotland’s remote northwest, in machair grasslands and other flower-rich areas on the north coast and some of the islands.


Trial to help hen harriers gets ready for action - Natural England

Latest step by Natural England to support rare and endangered bird species

Natural England has today (Thursday, 6 June) confirmed that stringent conditions attached to the licence permitting a trial of brood management for hen harriers have been met.

The licence permits the removal of hen harrier eggs and/or chicks to a dedicated hatching and rearing facility, where they will be hand-reared in captivity, before being transferred to specially-constructed pens in hen harrier breeding habitat, from which they are then re-introduced into the wild in the uplands of northern England.

There are active hen harrier nests this year that meet the intervention density for trial brood management and willing landowners who want to be part of the trial. The licensee is working on the final information and consents required before action may be taken in 2019.

This is the latest in a series of steps taken by Natural England to support rare and endangered bird species in the UK, which includes licensing the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles and issuing a licence for the collection of curlew eggs from RAF airbases.


Disease-tolerant trees to be planted in UK’s 'ash tree archive' - Defra

Biosecurity Minister launches Government's new Ash Research Strategy

Credit: Future Trees TrustAsh trees demonstrating tolerance to the highly destructive tree disease ash dieback will be planted in the UK’s first ‘ash tree archive’.

Credit: Future Trees Trust

This was announced by Biosecurity Minister Lord Gardiner at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank today (Thursday 6 June) as he launched the Government’s new Ash Research Strategy.

This strategy consolidates all the evidence on ash trees and their threats to identify future research needs to protect the species and restore it to our landscape. These threats include the tree disease ash dieback, which has the potential to cause significant damage to the UK’s ash trees population, and the pest emerald ash borer.

Defra has jointly funded a number of successful research projects that have identified trees which appear to be showing signs of tolerance to ash dieback. These trees are the next important step in developing a future breeding programme of disease-resistant ash trees.


Commercial fishers are acutely aware of the potential for marine litter to cause lasting damage to their catches and the wider industry, a new study suggests. - University of Plymouth

They also appreciate they can be part of the solution, but believe others – including the shipping and offshore industries – could be doing more to support their efforts to prevent items of marine litter ending up in our oceans.

The research, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin and funded by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, assessed fishers’ perceptions of Fishing for Litter (FFL) – an initiative that has been operating around the British coastline since 2005.

Amity skipper Jimmy Buchan with some of the litter caught by his vessel (image: University of Plymouth)Amity skipper Jimmy Buchan with some of the litter caught by his vessel (image: University of Plymouth)

With hubs in Scotland and the South West of England, its aim is to reduce the amount of marine litter in our seas by physically removing it, while also highlighting the importance of good waste management among the fleet.

Researchers at the University of Plymouth and the University of Surrey spoke to around 120 fishers and other stakeholders, including boat owners and crew both signed up and not registered with the FFL initiative.

Overall, fishers said they often found marine litter in their hauls, adding it was extremely important to manage waste responsibly at sea and on the coast, and that keeping the sea and coasts clean was important to them.

They also believed similar attitudes were held throughout the fishing industry, adding that most fishers assumed responsibility for their own waste and for disposing of it in a responsible manner.

Those surveyed were also broadly supportive of the FFL programme, with scheme members reporting less environmentally harmful waste management behaviours at sea and in other contexts than their non-FFL counterparts.

The full study – Wyles et al: An evaluation of the Fishing For Litter (FFL) scheme in the UK in terms of attitudes, behavior, barriers and opportunities – is published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2019.04.035.


Unique online tool launched to help save bumblebees and other pollinating insects - Bumblebee Conservation Trust 

With global crashes in insect numbers causing alarm, a unique free online gardening resource to get people growing more flowers for bumblebees and other pollinating insects has been launched at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show in the Peak District this week by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

The conservation charity’s upgraded, interactive ‘Bee kind’ web tool helps people across the UK choose the best plants for pollinators in their gardens, window boxes or community spaces – including native ‘bee super plants’ such as apple trees, bugle, foxglove, lavender, and red clover. 

Users can find out and score how bee-friendly their patch already is, and how to improve it for pollinators, with advice based on conditions in their own gardens. They can also discover how to ensure bumblebees have a lifeline of food even in months when nectar-rich plants are in short supply. 

Bee kind tool with ‘bee superplant’ common marigold (image: BBCT)Bee kind tool with ‘bee superplant’ common marigold (image: BBCT)

Gill Perkins, Bumblebee Conservation Trust CEO, said: “Bee kind provides people with vital information to make bee-friendly choices in their gardens and green spaces. With so much worry about insect declines, it’s useful to know there are simple, positive actions we can all take. If everyone planted just one bee-friendly plant we could make a huge difference to bumblebees and other insect pollinators.” 

Bee kind is available at beekind.bumblebeeconservation.org and can be used by schools, businesses, councils and the public. It can also help local authorities deliver national and local pollinator strategies.


Fifth release of water voles a great success - Northumberland Wildlife Trust

This week, a further 240 water voles have been released into streams flowing into the east end of Kielder Reservoir (to link with water voles released last year), by the ‘Restoring Ratty’ water vole reintroduction project.  This release takes the total number released to 1205 since June 2017.

The released voles have been bred in captivity from individuals captured in the Pennines and North Yorkshire and over the border in Scotland. 

Water vole release (image: Joel Ireland)Now in its fourth year, ‘Restoring Ratty’ is a five-year partnership project between Kielder Water & Forest Park, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Forestry England and Tyne Rivers Trust.   

The project is aimed at the reintroduction of water voles to the Kielder Water and Forest Park area of Northumberland and has all been made possible by National Lottery players through a grant of £421,000 from The National Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). 

Water vole release (image: Joel Ireland)

This release, the fifth since the project started, included the release of the 1000th water vole and by the end of the year, approximately 1400 water voles will have been released.


‘Jam and eggs’ lure rare pine marten to National Trust woodland - National Trust

New trials to encourage pine marten to National Trust woodlands in Wales have been successful, thanks to a unique diet of jam and eggs.

Despite being carnivores, the sweet and savoury combination was discovered as a temptation by staff from Vincent Wildlife Trust’s Pine Marten Recovery Project (PRMP), which carried out the first translocation from Scotland to Wales in 2015.  PRMP have since been assisting rangers in Ceredigion and Snowdonia with their attempts to woo the pine marten onto Trust land.  

Pine Marten reaching up to a jiggler in Scottish Highlands (Image credit: Vincent Wildlife Trust)Pine Marten reaching up to a jiggler in Scottish Highlands (Image credit: Vincent Wildlife Trust)

Pine martens are the rarest carnivores in Wales and have been on the brink of extinction in England and Wales for many years.  

The sightings are the first-ever recorded in woodland near Bryn Bras in Ceredigion and the first for over a century in the Celtic rainforests of Dolmelynllyn in Snowdonia, which are cared for by the conservation charity.

Corrinne Benbow, Ecologist for the National Trust said: “We carefully chose the woodlands because they sit on the fringe of current pine marten territory. We encouraged the pine martens to explore the new locations by smearing strawberry jam and raw chicken eggs, two of their favourite delicacies onto trees and researchers often also use ‘jigglers’ suspended from a tree.  This was the first time we’ve ever tried this ‘jam and eggs’ technique so we were thrilled to spot a pine marten tucking in!” 

The successful sightings are a credit to the woodland management and improvement work of National Trust rangers and the ongoing Pine Marten Recovery Project.  

Following the success of confirmed sightings in both of these woodlands, another pilot has recently been established in Carmarthenshire.

For more information please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nature or www.pine-marten-recovery-project.org.uk


Hope for whales, dolphins and basking sharks in Scottish seas - Scottish Environment LINK

Conservation group Scottish Environment LINK  has welcomed the launch of a public consultation detailing proposals to designate more marine protected areas (MPAs) in Scottish seas.  

Four new MPAs, one of which spans the Sea of the Hebrides, will add to a developing network of protected areas across Scotland’s seas. Once in place, with appropriate management of marine activities, these new MPAs would safeguard some of Scotland’s most iconic species, including the basking shark, the world’s second largest fish, minke whales and the little-known Risso’s dolphin.  

Risso's dolphin (© Nicola Hodgins)Risso's dolphin (© Nicola Hodgins)

Basking sharks migrate to Scottish seas through the summer to feed and breed, but their numbers have declined historically due to commercial hunting. These species make popular viewing for Scotland’s growing wildlife-watching industry, in which whale-watching on the west coast alone is worth over £2 million. The proposed MPA for the Sea of the Hebrides would be among the first protected areas for basking sharks in the world. 

The proposed MPAs would also protect important seabed habitats, such as sea-fan and sponge communities and burrowed mud, which provide a home to many other marine species, and sandeels which are vital in the marine food web. However, these proposals would protect the sites in name only; a further process will be required to implement management measures to reduce the impact of human activities on the protected species and habitats. 

Responding to the launch of the consultation, Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland for Marine Conservation Society and Convenor of Scottish Environment LINK’s Marine Group said: “Scotland's seas are globally important for a range of species and habitats, including the mighty basking shark, but they face increasing pressure from climate change and human activity. We know that Scotland's wildlife and environmental quality are of immense value, both intrinsically and to our global reputation, and so are pleased these new sites are being proposed. It is vital such special places are properly protected from damaging activities to support wider marine ecosystem health and ensure Scotland is a beacon of ocean recovery worldwide.”

Read the full press release here (pdf) 

The consultation can be found here.


Scientific Publication

Sasha J. Tetzlaff, Jinelle H. Sperry, Brett A. DeGregorio, Effects of antipredator training, environmental enrichment, and soft release on wildlife translocations: A review and meta-analysis, Biological Conservation, Volume 236, 2019, Pages 324-331, ISSN 0006-3207, doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.05.054.


Luis Mata et al, Punching above their weight: the ecological and social benefits of pop-up parks, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (2019). DOI: 10.1002/fee.2060


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