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


People’s Postcode Lottery players help corn buntings – RSPB

New community project celebrates conservation success story

RSPB Scotland has launched a new project as part of their long-term work to help corn buntings.

Thanks to players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, the Postcode Local Trust has awarded funding for a ‘Corn Buntings in the Community’ project which aims to celebrate the corn bunting’s return from the brink of local extinction and will create food, farming and wildlife trails which RSPB Scotland believes might be the first of their kind in Scotland.

The wildlife conservation charity has been working with landowners and farmers in Fife for several years to prevent the corn bunting from disappearing in the region. Work has been focussed in the East Neuk area as it is one of the remaining strongholds for the species in Scotland. The others are Angus, NE Scotland and the Western Isles.

The commitment of landowners and farmers to help corn buntings has paid dividends as numbers of corn buntings have increased by 60% over the past four years in Fife with birds recolonising areas where they have not been recorded for decades.

This increase is down to a collective effort from all partners managing their land to support the species by ensuring the corn bunting population has access to the Big Three: safe nesting sites late into the season, availability of insects to feed their chicks and provision of seed food especially during the winter months.


Scientists team up to study the spread and impacts of invasive pink salmon – Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

AS it is anticipated that pink salmon will appear in UK rivers in large numbers this year, ecologists across the UK are teaming up to explore the presence of invasive pink salmon and their potential impacts.

This year-long preliminary study will use environmental DNA techniques to detect and plot the distribution of this non-native species and environmental tracers to explore their impact on our riverine ecosystems.

It comes after unprecedented numbers of pink salmon (also known as humpback salmon) were encountered in UK rivers in 2017.

Typically, pink salmon, which are native to the Pacific Ocean, have a two-year life cycle. This means they are likely to re-appear in our rivers in numbers this year.

Some fish have already been caught in Ireland, Scotland and northeast England, with more expected to arrive over the next two months.

There are concerns that this invasive species could become established in UK rivers.

Anglers have been asked to report sightings of pink salmon, including their spawning activity. The invading pink salmon spawn in August or September, earlier in the year than Atlantic salmon.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and other project partners, Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), Marine Scotland Science, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Environment Agency, ask anglers to report any sightings of pink salmon.

“For future management of this invasive species, it is important to understand its distribution and the potential impact of pink salmon in UK river ecosystems”, said Dr Rasmus Lauridsen, head of GWCT fisheries research, and his partners Prof. Gordon Copp at Cefas and Dr Iwan Jones at QMUL.


Most of the UK public are not getting their recommended daily ‘dose’ of time in green space – Keep Britain Tidy
New research published on Green Flag Award launch

New research by Keep Britain Tidy has found only 32% of the population are getting their ‘20-minutes-a-day’ to give them the two-hour-a-week minimum ‘dose’ of time, recently recommended by researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School as the crucial amount of time to spend in nature to help improve mental wellbeing.

The extensive study of 2,000 adults found that 85% of people experience a positive effect on their mental state after spending time outside in a green space.

Despite this, 8% of us have not visited a green space in the past month and a further 7% can’t remember the last time they did, even though more than half (53%) of us live within a mile of our local park. 

This news comes as a record number of parks and green spaces - 1,970 in total - are awarded a Green Flag, the international quality mark for parks and green spaces. The Green Flag Award is a sign of a well-managed, clean and safe park, as the same research reveals that parks being clean and well managed is one of the most important qualities people look for – as well as it being nearby to where they live. 

More than three quarters (77%) of people say they would actively avoid a park if it was poorly maintained or felt unsafe, showing the importance of schemes such as the Green Flag Award to set the quality standard.

However, in Keep Britain Tidy’s annual Love Parks Week celebration, (12- 21 July 2019) it is encouraging to see that the park came out at number two (13%) when those taking part in the study were asked about where they spend the most time outside, beaten to the top spot by shopping (15%). Hopefully not for single use plastic packaged items. 


The secretive smooth snake gets National Lottery lifeline – Amphibian & Reptile Conservation (ARC)

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded £412,000 to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) to help save the UK’s rarest reptile.

The smooth snake is having a rough time. Its habitats are under threat and its secretive behaviour means not enough is known to help the species effectively.

Using National Lottery funding, ARC and its partners will work with hundreds of volunteers and citizen scientists to conserve habitats, build a vital record of populations and find out what needs to be done to secure the future of the species.

The smooth snake is one of only three native snake species, the others being the better-known adder and the grass snake. The RSPB’s 2016 State of Nature report warned that half of our native species have declined, and some experts believe as many as 60% of the world’s reptile species are threatened.

The smooth snake was first identified in the UK in 1852 at Parley Common  in Dorset, a site now managed by ARC, but we still know so little about the smooth snake that there are no records of their numbers. 

There is no doubt that they are at risk however. Smooth snakes live in southern England’s lowland heaths, predominately in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey with isolated populations in West Sussex and Devon. Since 1800, 85% of lowland heath habitats have disappeared and today remain at risk from development pressures, scrub encroachment, accidental and deliberate fires and erosion.

ARC has launched its Snakes in the Heather project with support from a number of other organisations including the RSPB, National Trust, Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife and the Forestry Commission.  All have agreed to give access to their land for monitoring and surveys.

Dr Tony Gent, ARC’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to National Lottery players for helping us to launch this exciting project.  It is especially appropriate that we are able to announce the project today on World Snake Day.”


Our Future In The Land – RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

The actions we take in the next ten years, to stop ecosystems collapse, to recover and regenerate nature and to restore people’s health and wellbeing are now critical. In this final report, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission sets out radical and practical ways for policymakers, business and communities to respond to the challenges.

The report makes fifteen recommendations in three areas:

Healthy food is every body’s business

  • Levelling the playing field for a fair food system – good food must become good business
  • Committing to grow the UK supply of fruit, vegetables, nuts and pulses, and products from UK sustainable agriculture, and to using them more in everyday foods
  • Implementing world-leading public procurement, using this powerful tool to transform the market
  • Establishing collaborative community food plans to help inform and implement national food strategies and meet the different needs of communities around the UK
  • Reconnecting people and nature to boost health and wellbeing

Farming is a force for change, unleashing a fourth agricultural revolution driven by public values

  • Designing a ten-year transition plan for sustainable, agroecological farming by 2030
  • Backing innovation by farmers to unleash a fourth agricultural revolution
  • Making sure every farmer can get trusted, independent advice by training a cadre of peer mentors and farmer support networks
  • Boosting cooperation and collaboration by extending support for Producer Organisations to all sectors
  • Establishing a National Agroecology Development Bank to accelerate a fair and sustainable transition

A countryside that works for all, and rural communities are a powerhouse for a fair and green economy

  • Establishing a national land use framework in England inspires cooperation based on the public value of land, mediating and encouraging multipurpose uses
  • Investing in the skills and rural infrastructure to underpin the rural economy
  • Creating more good work in the regenerative economy
  • Developing sustainable solutions to meet rural housing need
  • Establishing a National Nature Service that employs the energy of young people to kickstart the regenerative economy

Download our future in the land report (pdf, 6.3mb)


Peatlands of Dartmoor could be crucial in fight against climate change - University of Plymouth

University researchers showed that areas with peat forming vegetation are increasing in depth by up to 10mm each year

The peatlands of Dartmoor could be an underestimated resource in the fight against climate change as their ability to store carbon has not diminished in almost 150 years, research shows.

Scientists from the University of Plymouth investigated whether there has been a reduction in the strength of carbon sinks in the moor’s valley mires and blanket bogs.

By taking a series of core samples they were able to analyse peat age, bulk density and carbon content and calculate past rates of carbon accumulation.

The results show that both past and contemporary rates of CO2 sequestration were found to be at the maximum of those reported for temperate peatlands.

That, researchers say, suggests recent changes in climate appear to have had minimal impact on the strength of peatland carbon sinks in South West England.

It suggests that recent bioclimatic envelope models may be underestimating the potential future contribution that UK peatlands can make to carbon sequestration under observed climatic trends.

Read the full study: P.H. Lunt, R.M. Fyfe and A.D. Tappin, Role of recent climate change on carbon sequestration in peatland systems, is published in Science of the Total Environment, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.02.239. 


Avian malaria behind drastic decline of London’s iconic sparrow? – ZSL

Study finds that 74% of London’s house sparrows carry avian malaria – more than any other bird population in Northern Europe – and links the intensity of individuals’ infections to sparrow decline.

London’s house sparrows (Passer domesticus) have plummeted by 71% since 1995, with new research suggesting avian malaria could be to blame. 

© Adrian WallsOnce ubiquitous across the capital city, the sudden, and unexplained decline of the iconic birds led a team from ZSL, the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the University of Liverpool to investigate if parasite infections were involved.

© Adrian Walls

Researchers collected data between November 2006 and September 2009 at 11 sites across London. Each site was centred around a single breeding colony and spaced at least four kilometres apart to ensure that birds from different groups didn’t mix. The team estimated changes in bird numbers by counting the mature males and took tiny blood and faecal samples from sparrows, carefully caught and soon released, to monitor infection rates and severity.  

Of the 11 colonies studied, seven were declining. On average 74% of sparrows carried avian malaria – a strain that only affects birds - but this differed between groups with some as high as 100%. However, it was infection intensity (i.e. the number of parasites per bird) that varied significantly and was higher on average in the declining colonies. 

Former ZSL Institute of Zoology researcher and lead author Dr Daria Dadam, now of the BTO, said: “Parasite infections are known to cause wildlife declines elsewhere and our study indicates that this may be happening with the house sparrow in London. We tested for a number of parasites, but only Plasmodium relictum, the parasite that causes avian malaria, was associated with reducing bird numbers.”


The Emperor Returns - Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Once extinct butterfly confirmed in Norfolk wood
Experts confirm the purple emperor butterfly has returned to Norfolk’s largest ancient woodland, once its stronghold in the county, nearly 50 years after it was declared extinct in Norfolk.

This is the first sighting in Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Foxley Wood since the 1970s, following a handful of sightings over the last few years in Sheringham Park.
An expanding population can re-colonise new sites, but only if the perfect habitat is available. This confirmed sighting by Butterfly Conservation in Foxley Wood not only heralds a successful restoration, but it adds weight to the belief the butterfly is potentially breeding again in Norfolk.

Foxley Wood was the breeding stronghold for purple emperors, before large parts of the wood was converted to a conifer plantation in the 1960s. The felling of large oaks triggered the decline and disappearance of the butterfly.
The wood’s fortunes changed for the better when it was acquired by Norfolk Wildlife Trust in 1988 and the ancient woodland habitat restored. The varied habitats and rich biodiversity mean once again Foxley Wood is a haven for butterflies. 


SNH launch General Licence consultation - Scottish Natural Heritage

Scottish Natural Heritage has announced it will launch a 12-week consultation about wild birds today.

The consultation covers circumstances when wild birds can be controlled under General Licence. All wild birds are protected by law. But in some circumstances, SNH allows wild birds to be controlled – for example, to prevent serious damage to crops, protect public health, and ensure air safety when flocks of birds are liable to get in flight paths. 

Robbie Kernahan, SNH’s Head of Wildlife Management, said: “Our role is to help wild birds thrive, but we must balance this with making sure the public is safe from health and safety risks, as well as ensuring that farmers can protect their crops. We have brought forward our planned consultation in light of the ongoing legal challenges in England. We want to ensure that our licences take into account the implications of those challenges and remain clear, proportionate and fit-for-purpose. The consultation, along with our ongoing work, will provide us with valuable feedback - this will allow us to consider if we need to make changes to the current set of licenses for 2020.”

General Licences cover relatively common situations – such as preventing agricultural damage and protecting public health and safety – when there’s unlikely to be any conservation impact on a species. They avoid the need for people to apply for individual licences for these specific situations. General Licences must strike the appropriate balance between species conservation and a range of other legitimate interests.


Species on the move - ZSL

Social media posts help researchers to discover climate change is to blame for displacement of 55 species in UK.

A total of 55 animal species in the UK have been displaced from their natural ranges or enabled to arrive for the first time on UK shores because of climate change over the last 10 years (2008-2018) – as revealed in a new study published today (18 July 2019) by ZSL scientists.

Making use of a previously overlooked source of data, the team turned to social media to search for rare species sightings. The researchers conducted searches both on Twitter and Google, attributing 10 out the 55 species identified to people posting images online of the animals in unusual places.

The study led by Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, explains that, due to regular sightings from environmentalists, UK wildlife is one of the most intensively monitored in the world, but there is very little centralised tracking of species arriving for the first time in the country or moving to places outside of their known UK range, due to climate change.

The analysis also considered UK Government environment reports as well as 111 scientific papers, leading to a total of 55 species (out of 39,029 species in the UK) being identified. The research focused solely on species which have established sustainable populations through natural, rather than human-assisted movement.

Access the paper: N. Pettorelli, J. Smith, G. Peel, J. K. Hill, K. Norris Anticipating arrival: tacking the national challenges associated with the redistribution of biodiversity driven by climate change. J Appl Ecol. doi/10.1111/1365-2664.13465


Rare plant blooms on Cornish Urban Buzz site - Buglife

Catchfly (c) Laura LarkinNature conservationists are surprised and excited by the unexpected appearance of a rare plant in parks in Falmouth and St Austell.  The Small-flowered catchfly is an endangered plant in the UK, and to find it in a park is very unusual.

Catchfly (c) Laura Larkin

Last year, Buglife’s Urban Buzz project, funded by Biffa Award and the Eden Project, worked with local councils and communities to create new wildflower-rich habitats for pollinating insects across Falmouth, Truro, Wadebridge and St Austell.

As part of Urban Buzz, several new wildflower meadows were created in each town, and they are just starting to flower for the first time. Upon surveying the Falmouth meadows, Buglife volunteer Charlotte Rankin and Kevin Thomas from Falmouth Nature discovered the rare and endangered plant, Small-flowered Catchfly.

Charlotte said “Discovering Small-flowered Catchfly at two Urban Buzz sites in Falmouth was greatly exciting! This arable plant is a rare sight to see both in Cornwall and nationally, so I certainly wasn’t expecting to see it in an urban setting on my doorstep. As its name suggests, it is a really small plant and easily overlooked, so it was only when I knelt down to photograph a visiting pollinator that I discovered it amongst the meadow’s annuals. When visiting the other Urban Buzz meadows in Falmouth, I kept my eyes peeled and to my delight, another was found! It’s amazing what species can be discovered when they are given a chance". 


Unsustainable fishing and hunting for bushmeat driving iconic species to extinction – IUCN Red List 

Overfishing has pushed two families of rays to the brink of extinction, while hunting for bushmeat and habitat loss have led to the decline of seven primate species, according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  

The update also reveals further evidence of the perilous state of freshwater fishes globally. This is shown by high numbers of species threatened by the loss of free flowing rivers, habitat degradation, pollution and invasive species in Japan and Mexico.

The IUCN Red List has broken through the 100,000 species barrier; it now includes assessments for 105,732 species, of which 28,338 species are threatened with extinction.

“With more than 100,000 species now assessed for the IUCN Red List, this update clearly shows how much humans around the world are overexploiting wildlife,” said IUCN Acting Director General, Dr Grethel Aguilar. “We must wake up to the fact that conserving nature’s diversity is in our interest, and is absolutely fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. States, businesses and civil society must urgently act to halt the overexploitation of nature, and must respect and support local communities and Indigenous Peoples in strengthening sustainable livelihoods.”

“This Red List update confirms the findings of the recent IPBES Global Biodiversity Assessment: nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history,” said Jane Smart, Global Director of the IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group. “Both national and international trade are driving the decline of species in the oceans, in freshwater and on land. Decisive action is needed at scale to halt this decline; the timing of this assessment is critical as governments are starting to negotiate a new global biodiversity framework for such action.”


Invasive alien species: management measures for widely spread species in England and Wales - Defra Open consultation  

Seeking views on proposed management measures for invasive alien species (also known as invasive non-native species) which are widely spread in England and Wales.
This consultation closes on 12 September 2019

Consultation description: We want to know what you think about our plans for managing invasive alien species (IAS) which are widely spread in England and Wales. These plans set out how we will effectively manage these species as required in The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019.

There are 14 species identified as being widely spread in England and Wales and requiring management.

Take part in the consultation here. 


Spot a once in a decade butterfly phenomenon - Butterfly Conservation

Chris Packham is urging wildlife lovers to take part in the world’s largest insect citizen science survey to help reveal if the UK is experiencing a once in a decade butterfly phenomenon. Unusually high numbers of Painted Lady butterflies have been reported across Europe over the spring and early summer with large numbers now spotted crossing over into the UK.

The butterfly is a common immigrant that migrates in varying numbers from the Continent to the UK each summer, where its caterpillars feed on thistles. But around once every 10 years the UK experiences a Painted Lady ‘summer’ when millions of the butterflies arrive en masse.

Painted Lady (image: Bob Eade, Butterfly Conservation)Painted Lady (image: Bob Eade, Butterfly Conservation)

Butterfly Conservation Vice-president and wildlife broadcaster Chris Packham is calling on nature lovers to take part in the Big Butterfly Count over the next three weeks to help reveal if we are experiencing a Painted Lady year.

The last mass immigration took place in 2009 when around 11 million Painted Ladies descended widely across the UK.

Chris said: “The Painted Lady migration is one of the wonders of the natural world. Travelling up to 1km in the sky and at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour these seemingly fragile creatures migrate hundreds of miles to reach our shores each year.

The Big Butterfly Count, celebrating its 10th birthday this year, is the world’s largest butterfly survey. Participants are encouraged to spot and record 17 species of common butterfly, including the Painted Lady, and two day-flying moths in the UK during three weeks of high summer.

Last year more than 100,000 people counted over one million butterflies in total during the Count. 


Alleged illegal tree felling investigation report: Sheffield’s Streets Ahead programme - Forestry England decision

An investigation report by the Forestry Commission into alleged illegal felling of street trees by Sheffield City Council

Having reviewed the evidence, the Forestry Commission has concluded that, on balance, there is insufficient evidence to say that an offence of felling without a felling licence has been committed by Sheffield City Council (SCC) and its contractor, Amey. However, the Forestry Commission has identified a number of lessons to be learnt regarding the Streets Ahead programme, which it urges SCC and other local authorities to note and reflect in future operations.

The Forestry Commission has also published an operations note on highway tree management to provide an updated good practice guide for highway tree management.

Read the decision notices. 


Countryside access – who is your winner? - Open Country

Yorkshire charity Open Country  is urging people to nominate countryside sites and attractions across the county going the extra mile to improve access for disabled people. 

Open Country’s Good Access Scheme award recognises the best countryside ‘access for all’ projects across Yorkshire. Outdoor sites can be nominated by the disabled people who use them or by the staff or volunteers who manage them. Previous winners have included a number of nature reserves as well as landowners such as Yorkshire Water who are working creatively to unlock the countryside for people of all abilities.  Launched in 2015, the Good Access Scheme awards are judged annually by Open Country’s Advisory Group, made up of disabled members alongside volunteers and Trustees of the charity. 

Chief Officer of Open Country, David Shaftoe, says: “Whether it’s a scheme to improve pathways or innovative projects for people with a sensory impairment, we’d love to hear about countryside sites going the extra mile to welcome disabled people. On your trips into the Yorkshire countryside this year keep in mind our award scheme and if you have an idea for a worthy winner, please do let us know." 

Anyone who would like to make a nomination for this prestigious award should contact Open Country by email at info@opencountry.org.uk by the end of October outlining the ways in which the outdoor site or project has enhanced their disabled access. For more information visit www.opencountry.org.uk or call 01423 507227.


Scientific Publications

Zhao, Q, Arnold, TW, Devries, JH, Howerter, DW, Clark, RG, Weegman, MD. Land-use change increases climatic vulnerability of migratory birds: Insights from integrated population modelling. J Anim Ecol. 2019; 00: 1– 13. doi:.1111/1365-2656.13043  


Balestrieri, A. , Remonti, L. , Saino, N. and Raubenheimer, D. (2019), The ‘omnivorous badger dilemma’: towards an integration of nutrition with the dietary niche in wild mammals. Mam Rev. doi:10.1111/mam.12164


Alaniz, AJ, Perez-Quezada, JF, Galleguillos, M, Vásquez, AE, Keith, DA. Operationalizing the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems in public policy. Conservation Letters. 2019;e12665. doi: 10.1111/conl.12665 Open Access

John Calladine, David Jarrett & Mark Wilson Breeding bird assemblages supported by developing upland shrub woodland are influenced by microclimate and habitat structure, Bird Study, DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2019.1635986


Bartlett, LJ, Rozins, C, Brosi, BJ, et al. Industrial bees: The impact of apicultural intensification on local disease prevalence. J Appl Ecol. 2019; 00: 1– 11. doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13461


John W.Redhead, Marek Nowakowski, Lucy E.Ridding, Markus Wagner, Richard F.Pywell The effectiveness of herbicides for management of tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum s.l.) in calcareous grassland Biological Conservation  doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.07.009



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