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


Gove launches review into strongest protections for English seas - defra

Review into new type of protection for sea life and marine habitats in England launched on World Oceans Day.

Today, 8 June, the Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced the government’s next steps in protecting England’s precious marine environment with a new review to examine whether and how the strongest protections for areas of sea, known as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), could be introduced.

This announcement follows the government’s manifesto commitment to create a Blue Belt of marine protection for Britain’s overseas territories and its own coast, and builds on the ambition of the 25 Year Environment Plan.

As the strongest form of marine protection, new Highly Protected Marine Areas could help protect England’s precious coastline by closing off specific areas to any human activity with the potential to cause harm.

Targeted Highly Protected Marine Areas would complement the existing network of Marine Conservation Zones, which just last week expanded by a further 41 areas, and allow vulnerable marine wildlife to fully recover, free from all damaging human activities, with the aim of restoring areas to a pristine state. Together this would mark the most significant expansion of England’s ‘Blue Belt’ of protected areas to date, as well supporting the government’s international efforts in calling for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030.

The review, led by Richard Benyon MP, will be asked to establish an evidence-based process and criteria for selecting Highly Protected Marine Areas, and if supported by the evidence, recommend potential locations for pilot sites.


Seas set for strongest form of marine protection yet? -  Marine Conservation Society response

MCS says it welcomes the Environment Secretary’s decision to launch an independent review to examine how Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), which ban any human activity with the potential to cause harm in vulnerable areas of the sea, could be implemented in English and Northern Irish waters.

MCS has long called for HPMAs to be designated to offer additional protections for the marine environment.

Dr Peter Richardson, Head of Ocean Recovery for MCS said: “We welcome this announcement from the Secretary of State, and this level of commitment is long overdue. There have been other reviews of the potential for HPMAs so this one must result in action. Highly protected sites are known to be the most effective tool for marine wildlife recovery, and new sites in our waters would provide significant benefits for our threatened marine species and habitats.”

MCS says it welcomes the opportunity to input into the review, which is being led by Richard Benyon MP who’s been a champion for marine protection, including HPMAs in our Overseas Territories. Mr Benyon said: “While many areas have strong protections in place, there is a need to consider whether and where we can go further to safeguard marine life, balancing the needs of fishing, conservation and local communities.”


Hard work pays off - extra funding for Dartmoor ensures conservation and access projects are delivered - Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor National Park Authority staff have successfully generated extra income for delivery of a number of environmental and cultural projects. In 2018/19 their efforts paid off to the tune of more than  £300,000, allowing projects to proceed that otherwise would not have taken place. Initiatives which were funded from the additional money included peatland restoration, archeological investigations, repairs to historic buildings, improved access and interpretation, heritage skills training and apprenticeships.

The Dartmoor Hill Farm Project, which aims to give upland agriculture a sustainable future, has benefited, as has the Junior and Youth Ranger programme to help young people explore, enjoy and look after Dartmoor.

Dartmoor National Park Youth Rangers installing a granite marker on the Two Moors Way (image: Dartmoor NPA)Dartmoor National Park Youth Rangers installing a granite marker on the Two Moors Way (image: Dartmoor NPA)

The Government’s austerity measures have brought about a 40 per cent cut in DNPA grants during the last decade and a 25 per cent reduction in staff numbers.

To mitigate the losses officers, often working in partnership, have sought funding from other sources including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Prince’s Countryside Fund, additional Government grants and the Donate for Dartmoor scheme.

The success has been welcomed by DNPA Chief Executive Kevin Bishop who said: ‘External income from grants and voluntary donations is essential to the work we do helping to look after the National Park, support local communities and enable people to enjoy Dartmoor’s special qualities. The money has been used to support a spectrum of projects from our new Junior and Youth Ranger programmes for young people, to business advice for farmers through the Dartmoor Hill Farm Project; as well as work to enhance biodiversity and archaeology.


Almost 600 plants have already gone extinct - Why should we care? – Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

New study from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Stockholm University looks at the plants that have been wiped from the planet in the last 250 years

Study found that 571 plants have completely disappeared from the wild, more than twice the number of birds, mammals and amphibians combined (Figures in Table 1 of Pimm & al. (2014, Science))

Experts found that plant extinction is occurring much faster (up to 500 times) than ‘natural’ rates of extinction

Scientists argue that understanding plant extinction is crucial – all life on earth depends on plants, so effective conservation measures must be put in place to avoid destroying other organisms and ecosystems on which we humans rely

Authors of the study hope these data will be used to focus conservation efforts in areas such as Africa and South America, where less is known about plant extinction

For the first time ever, scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Stockholm University, have compiled a global analysis of all plant extinction records documented from across the world. This unique dataset published today (10 May) in leading journal Nature, Ecology & Evolution, brings together data from fieldwork, literature and herbarium specimens, to show how many plant species have gone extinct in the last 250 years, what they are, where they have disappeared from, and what lessons we can learn to stop future extinction.
The study found that 571 plant species have disappeared in the last two and a half centuries. This figure was calculated after one of the authors of the study, Kew scientist Rafaël Govaerts, reviewed all publications on plant extinctions over more than three decades and found the number to be four times more than the current listing of extinct plants. This new number is also more than twice the number of birds, mammals and amphibians recorded as extinct (a combined total of 217 species).
Read the paper: Humphreys, A. M., Govaerts, R., Ficinski, S. Z., Lughadha, E. N. & Vorontsova, M. S. Global dataset shows geography and life form predict modern plant extinction and rediscovery. Nature, Ecology & Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0906-2


Operation Owl goes national – North Yorkshire Police

An initiative implemented by North Yorkshire Police to reduce the number of illegal attacks on birds of prey has been rolled out across the country.

Launched in February 2018, Operation Owl is a joint initiative by North Yorkshire Police, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), together with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

The initiative set out to raise awareness of raptor persecution, encouraging the public to be vigilant for signs of this criminal activity, whilst increasing police surveillance checks on known hot-spots in order to disrupt offender activity. North Yorkshire is home to a diverse population of birds of prey (also known as raptors) and sadly suffers the highest levels of raptor persecution in the country – something which Operation Owl sets out to tackle.

Operation Owl has now launched as a nationwide initiative led by Superintendent Nick Lyall, Head of Operations at Bedfordshire Police and National Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group in partnership with the North Yorkshire Police Rural Taskforce. A new website will provide access to detailed information and resources to support the public in being vigilant for signs of raptor persecution and reporting anything incidents of concern.

Inspector Kevin Kelly, North Yorkshire Police’s operational lead for wildlife crime, said: “Today is a proud milestone for North Yorkshire Police as Operation Owl goes national. I’m amazed by the commitment and enthusiasm of our staff really driving what’s important to our public and making a measurable difference."


An unprecedented effort to protect orcas with citizen science: the 2019 Orca Watch event results are out! – Seawatch Foundation

Orca watchers at Duncansby Head. Photo credit: Peter G.H. Evans / Sea Watch FoundationFor ten days in late May, tourists, wildlife enthusiasts and local businesses around Caithness, Orkney and Shetland support Orca Watch, a citizen science project organized by the Sea Watch Foundation now in its 8th year, hoping to catch a glimpse of killer whales otherwise known as orcas, and any other species of cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) visiting the  waters of the Pentland Firth.

Orca watchers at Duncansby Head. Photo credit: Peter G.H. Evans / Sea Watch Foundation

“Without knowing how orcas or other cetaceans use the Pentland Firth, or which role they play in the ecosystem in the area, it is impossible for scientists and conservationists to know how to develop plans to protect them” says Dr Chiara Giulia Bertulli, Sightings Officer and lead organizer of this year’s Orca Watch event.

The Sea Watch Foundation in collaboration with eight other organizations (Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Scottish Natural Heritage, John O’Groats Ferries, Pulteneytown People’s Project, RSPB Orkney, Sanday Development Trust, High Life Highland Countryside Rangers, and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust) aims to change that with a research project that enlists the help of citizen scientists from all around Scotland and its offshore Isles.

During the 2019 Orca Watch, hundreds of volunteer observers spent almost 200 hours (100 more than in 2018) collecting 122 sightings of seven different cetacean species, stationed at 30 land watch sites (main site at Duncansby Head, Caithness) and aboard one vessel (operated by the John O’Groats Ferries) around Caithness, Orkney, and Shetland. Orca sightings were also sent in from the west coast of Scotland and the Hebrides.


PM Theresa May: we will end UK contribution to climate change by 2050 - Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street

Legislation laid today puts the UK on the path to become the first major economy to set net zero emissions target in law.

The Prime Minister has today announced that the UK will eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050.

The statutory instrument to implement this will be laid in Parliament today, Wednesday 12 June. This will amend the Climate Change Act 2008.

Theresa May will also meet young science and engineering students today to discuss the ambitious new target, which is based on advice from independent experts: the Committee on Climate Change.

The UK already leads the world in tackling climate change, and Government commissioned this advice in October having recognised the need to go even further to limit its effects.

In its report, the Committee on Climate Change forecast significant benefits to public health and savings to the NHS from better air quality and less noise pollution, as well as improved biodiversity.

This legislation will mean that the UK is on track to become the first G7 country to legislate for net zero emissions, with other major economies expected to follow suit. But it is imperative that other major economies follow suit. For that reason, the UK will conduct a further assessment within 5 years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, multiplying the effect of the UK’s lead and ensuring that our industries do not face unfair competition.

(image: CPRE)Reaction: UK Government commits to net zero by 2050 - CPRE

(image: CPRE)

Responding to Theresa May’s announcement that the UK will set a target for net zero carbon emission by 2050, ending the UK's contribution to climate change, Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: ‘The government’s commitment to net zero is a bold and necessary step forward in tackling the climate emergency. The longer we leave it to take action on climate breakdown, the more difficult and expensive that task will then become. We therefore urge the government to be even more ambitious with its target, aiming for net-zero by 2045. Now that this target has been set, the government must back it up by introducing policies that ensure that it delivers on its commitments. We need to see policies and funding that guarantees better land use, increases tree and hedgerow planting and reverses the degradation of our soils so that we can drive carbon back into the ground. ‘Many solutions to this crisis lie in restoring our natural world. While the countryside may be on the front line against climate change, it can also provide the solutions that we so desperately need.’

Response: Tree cover target is achievable says Woodland Trust - Woodland Trust

Responding to today’s announcement by the Government to commit to Net Zero emissions by 2050, Woodland Trust Chief Executive Beccy Speight said:

“The Woodland Trust welcomes the adoption by Government of the Committee on Climate Change’s advice to commit to net zero GHG emissions by 2050. This sets us on a challenging but necessarily achievable pathway that will require all sectors of business and society to decarbonise. The expansion of the UK’s tree canopy cover and restoration of its globally significant peatlands are an essential part of the solution. There is a unique opportunity to link the response to the climate crisis to the equally vital response to the biodiversity crisis. In creating new, native, broadleaved woodlands and planting more trees into the landscape, existing woodland and other semi-natural habitats can be extended, restored and linked to enable wildlife to respond to climate change over the coming decades. If the framework is in place, meeting the ambition of 17% tree cover is achievable.  We stand ready to work with Government to develop innovative approaches to delivery as the launch of the Northern Forest Innovation Fund this week demonstrates.”


Four hen harrier nests in Bowland – RSPB

Rare hen harrier chicks have hatched in four nests for the second year running in Bowland.

RSPB staff and volunteers discovered the nests on the United Utilities Bowland Estate in early spring and have been monitoring them closely ever since. Recently, they observed a change in behaviour with the female birds bringing food taken from the males, directly into their nests, indicating the presence of chicks. 

Hen harriers are birds of prey that nest on hills and moors and are renowned for the male’s thrilling aerial courtship display known as skydancing.

Experts estimate there is enough habitat in Northern England for at least 300 pairs but last year there were only nine successful nests in the whole country, a third of which were on the Bowland Estate where land is managed under low intensity farming and shooting models.

The Forest of Bowland used to be known as England’s last remaining stronghold for breeding hen harriers. But last year was the first time they had nested since 2015.  

Nature conservationists are now hoping that this positive step towards a second successful breeding season on the Bowland Estate indicates its re-establishment as a hen harrier stronghold.

The RSPB is working in close partnership with United Utilities, its tenants and the Forest of Bowland AONB to give the hen harriers the best chance to breed successfully and raise their chicks.


Tree planting targets “smashed” says Ewing - Scottish Forestry

New figures published today reveal that Scotland’s national tree planting targets have been surpassed, making a critical contribution to the global climate emergency.

11,200 hectares of new planting has been undertaken in Scotland last year, comfortably beating the current 10,000 ha annual target. Last year, 7,100 ha of new trees were planted.

The Scottish forest industry is also outstripping the rest of the UK as 84% of all new planting took place in Scotland.

The new woodland figures also confirm that the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Route Map commitments for new native woodland creation are being met, with the establishment of around 3,900 ha of new broadleaves, around 40 per cent of all new planting in Scotland.

The future for tree planting is also looking very positive with strong demand for applications already in for the following year. The increase in planting will help fight climate change as the trees absorb substantial amounts of carbon.


UK supermarkets sign government pledge to help halve food waste - Defra

Leading firms and organisations back game-changing action following landmark symposium.

More than 100 of the biggest players in food, including all of the UK’s major supermarkets, have signed a pledge to take ground-breaking action to drive down food waste following a call to action from the government.

Big-hitters from the world of food and sustainability including Aldi, Asda, Caffé Nero, Co-op, Costa, FDF, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Starbucks, Tesco, M&S, Morrisons, Nestlé, Ocado, UKHospitality, Unilever, World Wildlife Fund for Nature and Waitrose have signed a pledge committing to help halve food waste by 2030 and raise public awareness of the issue through a week of action.

Currently in the UK an estimated 10.2 million tonnes of food and drink are wasted annually after leaving the farm gate, worth around £20 billion. It is estimated that UK householders spend £15 billion every year on food that could have been eaten but ends up being thrown away, equating to £500 a year for the average household.

Today’s announcement comes after the government’s Food Surplus and Waste Champion Ben Elliot urged organisations to ‘Step up to the Plate’ at a landmark symposium last month. The event brought together around 300 key players from various parts of the food industry for a day of targeted discussion and action.


Migratory hoverflies ‘key’ as many insects decline - University of Exeter

Migratory hoverflies are “key” to pollination and controlling crop pests amid the decline of many other insect species, new research shows.

University of Exeter scientists studied the movements of migratory hoverflies and were surprised to find up to four billion migrate to and from Britain each year.

The study shows these numbers have been relatively stable over the last decade, and such abundance means migratory hoverflies pollinate many billions of flowers and produce larvae that eat up to ten trillion aphids.

“The number of migrating hoverflies coming and going over Britain was much higher than we had expected,” said Dr Karl Wotton, Royal Society research fellow at the University of Exeter.

“They are widely considered to be the second most important pollinators, after bees.

Migrating hoverflies arrive in Britain in spring and, with a month-long life cycle, those that leave are descendants of the spring arrivals.

“We are net exporters of hoverflies,” said Dr Jason Chapman, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall. "Each female can lay up to 400 eggs and, though many die as eggs or larvae, the departing population in autumn is larger than that arriving in spring. As well as their vital pollinating and aphid-eating roles, migrating hoverflies provide food for a range of predators including birds. Migrating insects are generally bucking the trend of decline that we’re seeing with many other insects." 

The paper, published in the journal Current Biology, is entitled: “Mass seasonal migrations of hoverflies provide extensive pollination and crop protection services.” 


Planting figures in England decline and woefully short of target - Woodland Trust

Tree planting statistics released today show the scale of the challenge in meeting the net zero emissions target Government has committed to, say the Woodland Trust. It will require a three-fold increase in current woodland creation levels.

Figures however are up overall across the UK, mainly because of large increases in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but figures for England are down. The Woodland Trust was responsible for planting 50% of the whole broadleaf woodland figure reported for England.

The UK needs renewed ambition when it comes to tree planting and woodland expansion (Photo: Jill Jennings/WTML)The UK needs renewed ambition when it comes to tree planting and woodland expansion (Photo: Jill Jennings/WTML)

Provisional figures released by the Forestry Commission* show that although the amount of new woodland created rose to 13,000 hectares from 9,000 the previous year across the UK, targets have been missed. In England just 1,420 hectares of woodland was created against the Government aspirational target of 5,000 per year.

Woodland Trust director of conservation and external affairs Abi Bunker said: “The UK needs renewed ambition when it comes to tree planting and woodland expansion. The scale of what needs to be achieved to reach net zero targets is obvious; it will necessitate a three-fold increase on current levels. Let’s not shy away from the truth. It will be a challenge, it will cost money, it will mean tough choices, but the human race is at a crossroads for our environmental future. To avoid climate breakdown we have to act, that’s the reality we live in, tough choices, big challenge, but we can all rise to meet it head on.”


And finally some wonderful news from our Featured Charity Canal and River Trust: The Trust receives millions from People's Postcode Lottery

We are delighted to announce funding of nearly £3 million thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The funding, which starts in June and runs for one year, will help fund important canal repairs, as well as work in communities up and down the network to bring the benefits of being beside water to local people.

The Trust has been supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery since the charity was formed in 2012 and, thanks to this fantastic help, projects such as working alongside former military servicemen on canal heritage projects and work to improve the network’s important wildlife-rich hedgerows have received funding totalling £6.3m.

In 2017 the Trust was invited to become a promoting society, and this new partnership arrangement has generated significant, legally unrestricted, funding for the Trust. During 2017 and 2018, the draws generated £4.5m for the Trust and supported priority projects such as works at the Grade 1 Listed Marple Aqueduct, Montgomery Canal restoration, bridge repairs in Birmingham, habitat protection at Sites of Special Scientific Interest, along with emergency repairs to the breach on the Shropshire Union Canal at Middlewich. 

Rachel Morton,  senior corporate partnerships manager at Canal & River Trust, said: “We’re delighted that People’s Postcode Lottery recognises the value of the waterways to the mental and physical health of the nation. The funding we’ve received thanks to players has made a massive difference and we’re delighted that nearly £3 million this year will provide wellbeing for the benefit of all. Thank you to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery and their fantastic ongoing support.”



Scientific Publication

Meghann Mears, Paul Brindley, Anna Jorgensen, Ebru Ersoy, Ravi Maheswaran, Greenspace spatial characteristics and human health in an urban environment: An epidemiological study using landscape metrics in Sheffield, UK, Ecological Indicators, Volume 106, 2019, 105464, ISSN 1470-160X, doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.105464.


L. Hannan, D.S. Le Roux, R.N.C. Milner, P. Gibbons, Erecting dead trees and utility poles to offset the loss of mature trees, Biological Conservation, Volume 236, 2019, Pages 340-346, ISSN 0006-3207, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2019.06.001.


Gianuca, D, Votier, SC, Pardo, D, et al. Sex-specific effects of fisheries and climate on the demography of sexually dimorphic seabirds (free access) J Anim Ecol. 2019; 00: 1– 13. doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13009


Bizzozzero M. R., Allen S. J., Gerber L., Wild S., King S. L., Connor R. C., Friedman W. R., Wittwer S. and Krützen M. Tool use and social homophily among male bottlenose dolphins Proc. R. Soc. B doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.0898


Ian M. Hough, Philip H. Warren, James D. Shucksmith Designing an environmental flow framework for impounded river systems through modelling of invertebrate habitat quality (open access) Ecological Indicators doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.105445


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