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


Nature short film competition winners revealed – Scottish Natural Heritage

Pictured left to right at the Royal Highland Show are SNH Chief Executive Francesca Osowska, SNH Chair Mike Cantlay, Overall competition winner Gregory Vaux and SLE Chairman David Johnstone © Scottish Natural HeritagePictured left to right at the Royal Highland Show are SNH Chief Executive Francesca Osowska, SNH Chair Mike Cantlay, Overall competition winner Gregory Vaux and SLE Chairman David Johnstone © Scottish Natural Heritage

A film highlighting the crucial role nature plays in farming has been revealed as the winner of a competition for young creatives.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital (SFNC) launched the Why invest in nature? competition earlier this year, seeking entries that would encourage businesses to see the benefits of the natural world.

Scotland’s natural capital is estimated to be £273 billion, according to the Scottish Government natural capital accounts published earlier this year.

The winners were unveiled by Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon at a special ceremony at the Royal Highland Show.

Ms Gougeon said: “It’s great to be here to celebrate the creative talent of our young people. Each of the filmmakers has done a fantastic job of capturing why investing in our natural world is so important and I hope that their work will encourage more businesses to think sustainably, both for their own future and Scotland’s nature.”

Overall winner Gregory Vaux, 26, from Dunblane, impressed the judging panel with his short film The Nature of Farming, which looked at the importance of nature to the sector through the eyes of two farmers.

Mr Vaux, a freelance filmmaker, said: “I'm delighted to have won as I hope it gives farmers a voice in shaping their future with nature. I loved making the film as it gave me a real insight into the farming industry and the people involved in fighting for a better future. I was really inspired by their passion to make the film as good as I could to get across the message of how nature can act in harmony with the farms and improve them.”


Saving the environment is more important to farmers than subsidising food productivity – Wildlife & Countryside Link

A major survey of English farmers shows that farmers recognise the need for the environment and animal welfare to be prioritised in future Government policy, and acknowledge the key link between a thriving natural world and successful farming.

A major survey of farmers’ attitudes to changes in the Government’s agricultural policy, shows that English farmers recognise the need for the environment and animal welfare to be prioritised in future Government policy, and acknowledge the key link between a thriving natural world and successful farming. The in-depth research showed 80% of farmers believe the health of the natural environment is important or very important for their farm business.

Pollution prevention is rated by most farmers as deserving Government funding in future farming policy, with more than half of farmers (56.2%) believing that activities which prevent pollution should be supported. Animal welfare (50.4%), habitat restoration (41%) and biodiversity conservation (38.2%) all ranked more highly than food productivity and competitiveness, which 38% said should be prioritised. Soil conservation and protection of crop, tree, plant and bee health were ranked closely behind at 37.2% and 35.0% respectively.

Further key findings from the independent research with 500 farmers, carried out on behalf of environment and animal welfare charities, reveal that:

  • Two thirds of farmers say regulation is important or very important to protect standards in the farming industry. This is particularly significant considering over 90% of respondents class themselves as ‘conventional’ or ‘high-input’ farmers
  • Half (50%) of farmers agree with the principle of ‘public money for public goods’ (one third are neutral, and one in five disagree with the principle). Younger farmers are the most supportive with 56% in favour and only 15% against public money for public goods.
  • Increased weather volatility, e.g. flood and drought caused by climate change, is the second most commonly reported problem facing farmers (affecting 40%), second only to increased costs and reduced profit margins (affecting 51%). Weather volatility is hitting horticulture (75% affected) and arable farmers (51%) the hardest.
  • A third of farmers are currently taking no environmental action to deal with problems on their farms, 44% are undertaking one or two environmental activities, one in five are undertaking three or more.
  • Farmers cite lack of access to capital and uncertainty caused by Brexit as by far the biggest barriers to making environmental and other improvements to their farm business (41% of farmers experienced lack of funds access and 41% are struggling to make changes due to Brexit)

Please see our research report and dataset for more detail and further findings.


District Level Licensing in Kent supports sustainable development – Natural England

Kent's first District Level Licensing scheme to help protected Great Crested Newts during development.

Chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper, today (25 June) visited Kent’s District Level Licensing scheme which brings together wildlife conservation with crucial development.

District Level Licensing is an innovative new approach to the conservation of newts developed by Natural England. Barratt Homes’ Chilmington Green Development is the very first development in Kent to join the scheme – an exciting milestone for the project.

Once complete, Chilmington Green will include over 5,500 new homes, four primary schools, land for community and leisure use, open green space, local recycling facilities, and associated utilities and infrastructure. Natural England has worked closely with developer Barratt Homes and ecological consultant Bakerwell to bring part of this development into the District Level Licensing scheme. Payment into the scheme by Barratt Homes has funded six new ponds which have been strategically placed to join up and expand existing newt habitats and help make the species population more resilient and healthy.

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England said: “I’m delighted to see district level licensing happening on the ground, at a landscape scale. This exemplifies how we want to work in the future. Here in Kent we are working with businesses such as Barratt Homes to use licensing in a positive way that helps the environment. It’s great to see them responding so quickly and enthusiastically to our innovative new scheme.”

Over the last 60 years the population of Great Crested Newts (GCN) in the UK has declined dramatically which is why the species is protected under UK and EU law and it is an offence to disturb the species or pond habitat without a licence.


Scientists follow amazing Cuckoos on their journey to Africa - BTO

Valentine the Cuckoo, by Lee Barber/BTOAs part of a project to discover what might be driving the decline in UK Cuckoo numbers, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has fitted four of these iconic birds with satellite tags. These tags will enable BTO researchers to follow the Cuckoos as they make their way to the Congo rainforest, where they winter, and back again next spring.

Valentine the Cuckoo, by Lee Barber/BTO

Three of these newly-tagged birds are already on the way, crossing the Channel and moving into France within the last few days.Thanks to the continuing miniaturisation of tracking devices, these four Cuckoos are carrying an amazing backpack that will monitor their every move, feeding back information to scientists at BTO headquarters in Thetford, Norfolk.
These Cuckoos have been tagged and named thanks to the generosity of four incredible bird lovers, enabling anyone to follow Senan, Valentine, Tennyson and Nussey via the BTO website as their 5,000 mile journeys unfold over the next few weeks. This journey is full of hazards and will include a crossing of the Mediterranean and a long and arduous flight over the Sahara Desert, before a more leisurely cruise south into the Congo Basin.
By following these four Cuckoos, and another eight birds that are already part of the project, scientists at the BTO hope to get a fuller picture of the pressures these birds face whilst outside of the UK. Each year our migrating Cuckoos face different conditions along the route. The project has been running for eight years – this is the ninth successive deployment – and so far the tagged migrating Cuckoos have faced severe summer droughts in Spain and Italy, unseasonal hailstorms in spring in Spain, sandstorms in the desert and energy sapping headwinds. 


Essex estuary to be sanctuary for ‘mother oysters- Essex Wildlife Trust

Conservation coalition begins restoration of UK’s largest protected area for native oysters

Vital work to save an Essex icon begins this month - as the ZSL-chaired Essex Native Oyster Restoration Initiative (ENORI) begins its 2019 conservation activities in the Thames estuary – creating the region’s first Mother Oyster Sanctuary.

Suffering a 95% decline in population in the last 200 years due to historic overfishing, the oysters’ recovery has been hindered by habitat loss, pollution and the introduction of diseases. Natural replenishment of their native grounds is so limited that human intervention is their only hope. 

Working in the only Marine Conservation Zone (UK marine protected area) in England for native oysters, the ENORI– a coalition of oystermen, local communities, NGOs, universities and UK Government – will begin by creating the habitat required for the Mother Oyster Sanctuary, replenishing the estuary’s lost oysters.


Wildflower meadows at solar farms offer a boost to British wildlife (image: University of York)Solar farms can provide haven for British wildlife – University of York

A new report suggests that in addition to producing clean energy, solar farms could offer a vital boost to Britain’s rare species.

Wildflower meadows at solar farms offer a boost to British wildlife (image: University of York)

The report, from Solar Trade Association, underpinned by research from the Universities of York and Lancaster, sets out a growing body of evidence that well-designed and managed solar farms could provide a haven for British wildlife, including declining species such as foraging bats, yellowhammers and grey-legged partridges.

Funded by the Natural Environment Council, researchers from the Universities of York and Lancaster have created a new tool - The Solar Park Impacts on Ecosystem Services (SPIES) tool - to help create and manage solar farms that maximise benefits to nature.

Because solar farms can be in place for 30-40 years and require minimal human disturbance to maintain, there is potential for a range of conservation initiatives to be implemented.

Schemes such as planting hedgerows and creating wildflower meadows, as well as wetland development, have far-reaching benefits including biodiversity and habitat provision, flood mitigation, carbon storage, soil erosion mitigation and pollination for food provision.

Professor Piran White, from the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York, said: "In the light of ongoing declines of bees, butterflies and farmland birds across the UK, it is vital that we take every opportunity to encourage more environmentally-sensitive land management. By demonstrating how solar parks can be managed to enhance natural capital and ecosystem services, the SPIES tool shows that producing clean energy from solar parks can also deliver important co-benefits for nature conservation".


12,000 travel to Westminster for historic natural environment and climate lobby with MPs outside Parliament - The Wildlife Trusts

School children, farmers, grandparents and surfers were amongst an estimated 12,000 people who today lobbied their MPs for urgent action on nature declines and climate change.

In the largest-ever environmental lobby of parliament, people from across the UK were represented, with at least 220 MPs coming out to meet with their constituents.

MPs were taken by rickshaw to meet constituents in the area surrounding the Palace of Westminster. At 14:00 lobbyists rang alarms and alarm clocks to symbolise that ‘the time is now to act’. They urged their MPs to pass ambitious new laws that create a healthier environment for people and wildlife, and to support measures that end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2045.

The day also saw leaders from different faith communities, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, gather for a ‘Walk of Witness’ from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall. 

‘The Time is Now’ lobby was organised by The Climate Coalition and Greener UK, two coalitions combining more than 130 organisations and representing over 15 million people – ranging from aid agencies CAFOD, Christian Aid and Islamic Relief to community groups including the Women’s Institute and environmental organisations such as The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB. It follows global environmental protests, and the declaration of a climate and environment emergency by the UK parliament. 


Island restoration could mean a ‘rosy’ future for rare terns - RSPB

EU-funded project restores key site for critically-endangered species and now two roseate tern chicks hatch on Blue Circle Island

Roseate tern chick - credit Monika Wojcieszek/RSPB NIRoseate terns – the rarest breeding seabirds in Europe - could be brought back from the brink in Northern Ireland thanks to a major island restoration project.
The critically endangered species has been in near-terminal decline since the late 1980s.

Roseate tern chick - credit Monika Wojcieszek/RSPB NI
Blue Circle Island, part of the RSPB’s Larne Lough reserve, is one of the most important sites on the island of Ireland for breeding terns. After being flooded and eroded it has now been restored in a £391,000 project, with costs partially covered by the EU-funded Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project and additional match funding from Tarmac and the RSPB.
Sea defences on the island had collapsed and up to a third of it had eroded through flooding. Ahead of the 2019 breeding season, RSPB-led works have shored up the island and extended the nesting area, making it a prime potential site for a roseate tern colony.  While there were between 20 and 35 breeding pairs in Larne Lough between 1985 and 1989, just one pair has been recorded in recent years.
The good news is that two roseate tern chicks have hatched, according to a survey last week by RSPB NI Tern Conservation Officer Monika Wojcieszek.


Heavy rains made for a torrid time for puffins and birds on the Farne Islands - National Trust

Arctic terns, puffins, guillemots and shags all suffered losses due to significant rainfall on the Farne Islands earlier this month.

125mm of rainfall fell in just 24 hours on 13 June 2019, five times the amount that fell in the whole of June the previous year (24.8mm). It couldn’t have come at a worse time as the chicks and pufflings (baby puffins) were at their most vulnerable.  

Gwen Potter, Countryside Manager for the National Trust commented; “The significant rainfall sadly caused many ground-nesting Arctic tern chicks to perish due to exposure to the elements. We don’t know the full impact yet; but estimate that tern numbers are likely to dip by up to 35 per cent this year. We also know that 300 pufflings (baby puffins) perished on one of the islands.  Puffins are ground nesting birds and unfortunately their burrows flooded. We’re continuing to monitor the wildlife on the Islands closely. Our rangers work throughout the year to protect these special seabirds, including providing a 24-hour watch during nesting season.”

It will take time to understand if the rains will have a significant impact on bird numbers in subsequent years. 


UK Government Official Statistics  Public Opinion of Forestry 2019: UK

Results from a public opinion survey of adults across the UK on a range of forestry issues.

This release presents results from the latest survey of public attitudes to forestry and forestry-related issues across the UK. Topics covered include woodland recreation, importance of forestry, engagement with forest issues, climate change, tree health, urban woodlands and accessibility.

Access the Public Opinion of Forestry 2019 reports : UK and England here and Wales here.


Extinct butterfly breeds in English first - Butterfly Conservation

A previously extinct butterfly has bred successfully in an English woodland for the first time in more than 40 years as part of the ambitious conservation project, Back from the Brink.

Freshly emerged Chequered Skippers have been regularly spotted over the last few weeks at a secret location in Rockingham Forest, Northamptonshire, and it is hoped they will become the foundation of a new English population of the butterfly.

The butterflies are the offspring of adults collected in Belgium and released at the Northants site last spring as part of the project by wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation, working in partnership with Forestry England.

In recent weeks, ecologists from Butterfly Conservation have successfully released a further batch of Belgian Chequered Skippers at the Rockingham Forest site.

It is hoped that the three-year project will build a large, resilient and sustainable population of Chequered Skipper across the whole landscape.


New Hebridean Whale Trail launches on Scotland's spectacular west coast- Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

30-plus site initiative aims to promote sustainable, low-impact marine wildlife watching from land, and benefit local communities

Hebridean Whale Trail map ©HWDTHebridean Whale Trail map ©HWDT (click through to see full size)

A spectacular new trail – launched today (28 June 2019) by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust – is to showcase Scotland’s west coast as a world-class destination for spotting whales, dolphins and porpoises from land, and champion conservation of the Hebrides’ globally important marine wildlife and environment.

The Hebridean Whale Trail, the first of its kind in the UK, is a unique initiative connecting more than 30 top places offering opportunities for land-based sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises, or showcasing important whale heritage sites that reveal the history of people’s relationships with whales in these communities.

Basking sharks, seals and other wildlife may also be seen from the trail, which features 33 sites across the Hebridean archipelago and along Scotland’s stunning west coast, from the Clyde to Cape Wrath, and as far west as St Kilda.

These include lighthouses at the Butt of Lewis on the Isle of Lewis, Eilean Glas on the Isle of Scalpay, and the UK mainland’s most westerly point at Ardnamurchan Lighthouse.

Beaches include Clachtoll in the Highlands, and Huisinis on the Isle of Harris. Bustling harbours include Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, and Ullapool.

The trail ranges from easily accessible attractions such as the Hebridean Whale Trail Centre in Tobermory, to remote and wild destinations such as the Oa on Islay.


NHS Lothian publishes Green Health Strategy – Greenspace Scotland

“A dose of greenspace could be just what the doctor ordered”

Swinging into action: NHS Lothian publishes its Green Health Strategy with help from Mums Walk Midlothian (NHS Lothian)Swinging into action: NHS Lothian publishes its Green Health Strategy with help from Mums Walk Midlothian (Sandy Young Photography)

NHS Lothian, Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation and greenspace scotland today (Friday 28 June) published Scotland’s first health board-led Green Health Strategy.

Greenspace is often described as ‘our natural health service’, with a growing body of research evidence showing its positive benefits for physical and mental health and wellbeing.

The Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace and Health Strategic Framework was prepared by greenspace scotland, on behalf of NHS Lothian and funded by Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation.

The strategy aims to fully realise the potential of the NHS Outdoor Estate and community greenspaces as a community health asset benefiting patients, visitors, staff and communities. It covers a range of Green Health activities, including community and therapeutic gardening, health walks, green prescriptions, Branching Out and Green Gyms, as well as greening the NHS outdoor estate and encouraging access to greenspace close to where people live.

Brian Houston, Chair of Lothian NHS Board, said: “We are increasingly recognising the role and importance of therapeutic interventions in greenspace on our health and wellbeing. For several years, the Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation has provided grants to support therapeutic gardening and the development of community gardens at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and Midlothian Community Hospital.”


Scientific publications

Eggenberger, H. et al Urban bumblebees are smaller and more phenotypically diverse than their rural counterparts. Journal of Animal Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13051


Girling, S. J., Naylor, A. , Fraser, M. and Campbell-Palmer, R. (2019), Reintroducing beavers Castor fiber to Britain: a disease risk analysis. Mam Rev. doi:10.1111/mam.12163


Isla M. Graham, Nathan D. Merchant, Adrian Farcas, Tim R. Barton, Barbara Cheney, Saliza Bono and Paul M. Thompson Harbour porpoise responses to pile-driving diminish over time (open access) Royal Society Open Science doi.org/10.1098/rsos.190335


Carlson, N. V., Healy, S. D. and Templeton, C. N. (2019), Wild fledgling tits do not mob in response to conspecific or heterospecific mobbing calls. Ibis. doi:10.1111/ibi.12754


Alger SA, Burnham PA, Boncristiani HF, Brody AK (2019) RNA virus spillover from managed honeybees (Apis mellifera) to wild bumblebees (Bombus spp.). (open access). PLOS ONE 14(6): e0217822. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217822


Wintermantel, D, Odoux, J-F, Chadœuf, J, Bretagnolle, V. Organic farming positively affects honeybee colonies in a flower-poor period in agricultural landscapes. (free access). J Appl Ecol. 2019; 00: 1– 12. doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13447


Bailey, LD, Ens, BJ, Both, C, Heg, D, Oosterbeek, K, van de Pol, M. Habitat selection can reduce effects of extreme climatic events in a long-lived shorebird. J Anim Ecol. 2019; 00: 1– 12. doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13041


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