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


Public supports Michael Gove’s call for deposits on drinks cans and bottles – CPRE

Survey results show 72% of people support the introduction of a UK-wide deposit return system

Almost three-quarters (72%) of people would support a deposit return system for plastic and glass drinks bottles and aluminium cans being rolled out across the whole of the UK, according to a new survey published today (27 July) by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

The survey results, demonstrating high levels of public support, have been published following an announcement made last week by the former Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, in which he gave his backing to an ‘all-in’ deposit return system that includes all drinks containers of all materials and sizes. In his speech, Mr Gove said that he believed ‘an “all-in” model will give consumers the greatest possible incentive to recycle’.

CPRE welcomed the announcement made by Mr Gove and states that these survey results are a clear indication that the public will support the scheme, once introduced.

The countryside charity is eager to see the new Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers, build on the work of her predecessor and turn these warm words into a formal commitment from the government to introduce a deposit return system that would put a stop to the environmental damage caused by drinks containers.

Maddy Haughton-Boakes, Litter Campaigner at CPRE, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic that so many people have shown such high levels of support for the scheme before it’s even been introduced. A deposit return system will transform the way we deal with waste, boost recycling and, as a result, finally put a stop to the harm that drinks containers are causing our countryside, environment and wildlife. With Michael Gove having thrown his weight behind a truly “all-in” deposit return system, and with the Scottish government’s decision to introduce one earlier this year, this latest wave of public support is surely all the evidence needed for the government to get this over the line.”


Sea change in Scottish beach surveillance – SRUC

Ellie MacLennan from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme tries out the new Beach Track app at Nairn. Picture: John PaulMembers of the public can now play a vital role in helping marine scientists gather data on animal strandings and the condition of Scotland’s beaches.

Ellie MacLennan from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme tries out the new Beach Track app at Nairn. Picture: John Paul

Officially launched today (Saturday 27 July) to coincide with the beginning of National Marine Week, the free Beach Track app allows those taking a stroll on the sands to submit information on beach cleanliness – including levels of litter, plastic waste and pollution – and on any stranded animals, such as dolphins or whales.

The information will help to build up a ‘health map’ of Scotland's coastline, potentially targeting beach cleans to areas which need it most.

The app has been developed by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), with additional funding from Scottish Natural Heritage.

Working as a ‘digital assistant’, the app uses a mobile phone’s GPS to record location, while the camera allows users to log anything found on their survey. It will then ask questions about the type of beach and for users to assess how much marine litter was seen.

Ellie MacLennan from Inverness-based SMASS – part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) – said: “Including the islands, Scotland has more than 10,000 miles of coastline so, the more eyes we have on the ground, the more data we can gather to help improve our understanding of health of our waters and the threats facing marine animals. This, in turn, will help all of us to better protect our seas.”


Record roadkill to help mammal conservation – PTES

Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is calling on volunteers across Britain to record sightings of mammals, dead or alive, as part in its annual Mammals on Roads survey.

A wild rabbit. Credit Paul BunyardA wild rabbit. Credit Paul Bunyard

PTES is asking families going on summer holidays or day trips, car-sharing commuters and anyone else using Britain’s roads, to record sightings of mammals and submit the records via the free Mammals on Roads app – available on both Apple and Android smartphones via Google Play and the App Store. The data collected helps conservationists to see changing population trends and most importantly, identify where conservation action is needed most and for which species.

David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Coordinator, explains: “Mammals on Roads began over 18 years ago, and though no-one likes seeing roadkill, recording such sightings every year tells us how wild mammals are faring in the surrounding landscape. For example, thanks to the many volunteers who’ve submitted records over the last two decades we found out that hedgehog numbers are plummeting. Now, we’re doing everything we can to help this species, but we wouldn’t have known they were in trouble without volunteers helping us.”

With clear audio descriptions of each mammal, colourful illustrations and easy-to-use navigation, the Mammals on Roads app couldn’t be simpler to use. Set it running at the start of a journey and each sighting can be recorded with a few clicks. The survey should of course only be done by passengers.

The wild mammals you’re more likely to spot from your vehicle include hedgehogs, badgers, rabbits, foxes and deer, but there are dozens of other mammals in Britain, so keep your eyes peeled for some of our lesser seen wild neighbours too, such as stoats and otters.  


Ambitions Launched to Doubling Nature Across Peterborough and Cambridgeshire – Natural Cambridgeshire

Natural Cambridgeshire, the local nature partnership, has today (Monday 29 July) announced ambitious plans to doubling Nature with the area of rich wildlife habitats and natural green space across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough with the aim of creating a world-class environment where nature and people thrive, and businesses prosper.

The ambition has been drawn up by the partnership, including local authorities, statutory agencies, conservation charities, housing developers and community groups. It was launched today by Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England and James Palmer, Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, at separate events at Waterbeach Barracks and O&H Hampton, both outstanding examples of how high-quality housing development can deliver new areas of nature rich landscape.

The Future of Doubling Nature within Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire currently has one of the smallest areas of any county in the country, relative to size, of land managed for nature. Natural Cambridgeshire wants to double that figure, from around 8% to 16% (which is the national average) through a combination of: The delivery of existing habitat restoration schemes; The opportunities provided by the Combined Authority’s economic growth agenda; The planned re-focusing of agricultural subsidies on the delivery of public services; Making our current greenspaces better for nature; Creating new sources of investment in our natural capital.


Back on the move – threatened sand dunes set for a dynamic future with National Lottery funding – The Wildlife Trusts

A radical new approach to managing sand dunes that aims to reverse over 100 years of decline has been given £4m funding from the National Lottery.

  • Sand dune habitats have declined by a third since 1900, putting endangered species at risk
  • £4m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for a pioneering project led by Natural England in partnership with the National Trust, Plantlife, The Wildlife Trusts and Natural Resources Wales
  • Citizen scientists and communities will make the difference to help England and Wales’ most important dunescapes get moving and thriving again

David Tipling/2020VISIONA radical new approach to managing sand dunes that aims to reverse over 100 years of decline has been given £4m funding from the National Lottery. 

David Tipling/2020VISION

Sand dunes - the backdrop of many summer holidays - are being smothered by invasive plants, destroying the habitats of some of our most endangered species.

Now, a pioneering partnership - Dynamic Dunescapes - backed by £4m from the National Lottery is stepping in to save them by working with people to bring life back to the dunes and get them thriving again – reversing a decades old approach to dune management.

Sand dunes are listed as the habitat most at risk in Europe. Since 1900, the UK’s sand dunes have declined by a third, climbing to nearly two-thirds in Wales. They provide sanctuary for endangered plants and animals with seventy priority species largely restricted to dune habitats including the natterjack toad, dune gentian and sand lizard.

Dunes are naturally mobile and need to be dynamic to be effective ecosystems. However, previous management measures restricted public access, and invasive species have prevented dunes from moving, causing many to become static, sterile grassy hillocks.

Thanks to National Lottery players, Natural England has teamed up with the National Trust, Plantlife, The Wildlife Trusts and Natural Resources Wales to combine their expertise and achieve a sustainable future for sand dune landscapes working closely with landowners and communities.


Major campaign launched to encourage the nation to ‘Love Water’ - Environment Agency

The British public are being asked to help the country protect water resources for future generations.

(image: Environment Agency)(image: Environment Agency)

The British public are being asked to help the country protect water resources for future generations as part of a major campaign launched today by more than 40 environmental groups, charities, water companies and regulators.

Clean, healthy and readily available water is essential for health and wellbeing, as well as economic growth, but as the climate emergency and population growth put increasing pressure on the water environment, the UK is facing hotter and drier summers and an increased risk of water shortages.

The UK already has less available water than most other European countries and the average person uses a staggering 150 litres per day. Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, gave a stark warning earlier this year that the country is approaching the ‘jaws of death’ as parts of England are at risk of running out of water within 25 years.

The ‘Love Water’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of water and the role everyone plays in protecting it. It is the first time such a large group of partners have joined together to work with businesses and consumers to tackle issues such as pollution and wastage.


Sponge survey to understand health of marine habitat - Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has conducted an in-depth survey to learn more about the health of one of Wales’ most unique wildlife habitats.

The Skomer marine conservation zone (MCZ) off the coast of Pembrokeshire, is home to a wealth of marine wildlife and is an area where NRW carries out large scale research and monitoring programmes.

These aim to increase our knowledge and understanding of the marine species and habitats found there. 

Many are conducted each year and involve taking photographs of the same areas or individual animals so that changes can be identified.

However, this year’s is an in-depth survey that requires staff to take samples of sponges to be identified and catalogued.

This kind of survey happens only once every four years and the health and diversity of the sponges can help build a picture of how well the whole habitat is doing.

There are over 130 different types of sea sponge at the Skomer MCZ and often new species are discovered during surveys just like this. At least twelve previously undescribed species have been found there since 2003.


Plastic bag sales down 90% since introduction of 5p charge - Defra

New figures show sales of single-use bags by England's seven biggest retailers continued to fall in 2018/19.

(image: Defra)Sales of plastic bags by the seven biggest retailers in England have fallen by 90% since the 5p charge was introduced in 2015, new figures out today [31 July] have shown.

(image: Defra)

Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose sold 490 million fewer single-use plastic bags in 2018/19 (549 million) – a drop of almost half on the previous year.

The average person in England now buys just 10 bags a year from the main supermarket retailers, compared with 140 bags in 2014 before the charge was introduced.

Welcoming today’s figures, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “Our comprehensive action to slash plastic waste and leave our environment in a better state continues to deliver results, with our 5p charge reducing plastic bag sales by 90% in the big supermarkets.  No one wants to see the devastating impact plastic waste is having on our precious wildlife. Today’s figures are a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society.”

The total single-use carrier bag sales reported by all large retailers in 2018/2019 fell 37% to 1.11 billion compared with the previous year.


Twenty-two hen harrier chicks fledged in Bowland – RSPB

The RSPB is delighted to announce that 22 hen harrier chicks have fledged from five nests on the United Utilities Estate in Bowland.

This is the second year in a row that hen harriers have nested successfully at the East Lancashire site, after 13 chicks fledged from three nests in 2018.

Following six years of little or no consistent breeding success in the Forest of Bowland, conservationists are now hopeful that this could mark the start of the return of these rare and beautiful birds of prey to an area once considered a stronghold for them in England.

Hen harriers breed on hills and moors, and are best-known for the male’s breath-taking courtship display known as skydancing. However, they are on the verge of disappearing as a breeding bird in England owing to ongoing illegal persecution associated with driven grouse shooting. Scientific research published in March this year, based on data from Natural England, showed that 72% of satellite-tagged hen harriers were considered or confirmed to have been illegally killed, and were 10 times more likely to die or disappear over grouse moor than any other type of land use.


Call for support for world’s first basking shark marine protected area - Scottish Wildlife Trust

Basking shark © Alexander Mustard, 2020VISIONThe Scottish Wildlife Trust and Marine Conservation Society are asking people to show their support for basking sharks by responding to a Scottish Government consultation.

Basking shark © Alexander Mustard, 2020VISION

The Sea of the Hebrides Marine Protected Area (MPA) is one of four MPAs that were proposed by the Scottish Government in June. Spanning an area between the east coast of the Western Isles and the west coasts of Skye, Mull and the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, it would be the world’s first protected area for basking sharks.

Large groups of basking sharks gather in the Hebrides from May to October to feed on the plentiful plankton supported by the mixing of nutrient-rich cold waters with warmer surface waters.

Dr Sam Collin, Marine Planning Manager, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Basking sharks are only in Scottish seas for around six months of the year but it is vital that we do all we can to protect them from harm. The proposed MPA is a welcome step forward for the conservation of this threatened species, and adds to a growing network of protected areas around Scotland.”


New studies will help drive protections for beetles - Natural England

Two new studies into groups of British beetles have been published by Natural England to provide a better picture of the conservation status of these insects.

Black-striped longhorn beetle (Stenurella melanura)Black-striped longhorn beetle (Stenurella melanura)

Natural England has today (1 August) published the first comprehensive reviews for two groups of beetles in Great Britain for over two decades, offering a vital insight into what needs to be done to protect dozens of species.

The reviews paint a picture for 143 species of rove beetles and longhorn beetle across England, Scotland and Wales, to help inform the conservation needs of these species.

The findings will help ecologists to protect beetles, which are an important food source for many animals and also play a crucial role in the natural world by recycling decaying organic matter.

The reviews are also the first to apply the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List criteria for the assessment of species threat status to these beetle groups, establishing the conservation status of these ecologically important species against international standards.


New campaign asks single-use plastic purchasers to ‘Donate Your Guilt’ - Marine Conservation Society

MCS has today launched an impactful new campaign inviting people to ‘Donate Your Guilt’ when they slip up and buy single-use plastic items.

(image: Marine Conservation Society)Dreamt up by creative agency BBH on a pro-bono basis and made possible by Ocean Outdoor, the campaign will be visible in cities across the UK, with billboards at Westfield London, Bullring Birmingham, as well as in Manchester and Edinburgh and on social media. The striking imagery asks passers-by if they’ve forgotten their reusable items and features single-use plastic coffee cups and water bottles floating in water.

(image: Marine Conservation Society)

The ads urge people to “Donate your Guilt” with a £3 text donation which will be used to support MCS’s work in protecting our seas and oceans and running the annual citizen science survey, the Great British Beach Clean.

The campaign isn’t designed to let people off the hook when they forget their re-usable items, but to encourage a behavioural change. Acting as a ‘swear box for the oceans’, MCS hopes that by making us think through our purses and wallets that the campaign will be a reminder not to buy single-use plastic every day if they can avoid it.


Study suggests economic growth benefits wildlife but growing human populations do not - Zoological Society of London and University College London 

Do the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals promote or limit conservation?

Analysis shows that while national-level economic growth and social development - including more women in government - are associated with more abundant wildlife, growing human populations are linked to wildlife decline. 

In a world first, researchers at ZSL and UCL compared changes in bird and mammal populations with socio-economic trends in low- and lower-middle income countries over the past 20 years. Their results suggest that national-level economic growth and more gender-balanced governments enhance wildlife populations and provide support for linking the UN’s human development and conservation targets. 

Researchers cross-referenced data from the Living Planet Index on 298 bird and mammal populations – recorded outside protected reserves - with indicators of social, economic and political progress towards the SDGs in 33 low- and lower-middle income countries obtained from the World Bank. Their analysis, published today in the journal People and Nature, found consistently positive relationships between economic growth and wildlife abundance - so the richer the people, the safer the biodiversity. Similar relationships were found for more gender-equal societies, lower levels of government corruption and longer human lifespans too. 

Lead author Judith Ament, PhD researcher at ZSL and UCL, said: “Our study suggests that at a national level, it is possible to work towards conservation and economic development at the same time and underlines the need for further integration of sustainable development strategies. We think this might be because as standards of living rise, people become less dependent on local natural resources for income and food, and environmental regulation becomes tighter. We are concerned that this could lead to more importing however, the impact of which would fall on wildlife elsewhere. This certainly merits further research.” 

Researchers also found that denser and faster-growing human populations reduced wildlife numbers and that there is evidence for national-level environmental benefits of urbanisation.

Read full study (free to read for a limited time):
Ament JMA, Collen B, Carbone C, Mace GMM, Freeman R. Compatibility between agendas for improving human development and wildlife conservation outside protected areas: Insights from 20 years of data. People Nat. 2019;00:1–12. doi: 10.1002/pan3.10041


High numbers of whales and dolphins have been seen in Britain this week as the 2019 National Whale and Dolphin Watch reaches its climax this weekend! - Sea Watch Foundation 

For over forty years, Sea Watch Foundation scientists as well as volunteer observers all around the coast of the British Isles from Shetland to the Isles of Scilly have been reporting sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) to inform Sea Watch’s huge database of records. The scheme is one of the oldest and longest running citizen science projects in the world. Anyone can take part in this flagship summer event, the ‘National Whale and Dolphin Watch’, now in its 18th year.

Cetaceans can be found all around the coast of the UK and, already, there have been a record number of species spotted. At the time of writing, more than six hundred sightings of cetaceans (400 more than last year at this time) totalling 3,758 individual animals have been reported from Shetland down to South Devon and from the west coast of Wales to the Outer Hebrides.

Mother and calf pair of short-beaked common dolphins photographed off Falmouth, Cornwall,  on July 28th. (Photo credit: Billy Heaney / AK Wildlife Cruises)Mother and calf pair of short-beaked common dolphins photographed off Falmouth, Cornwall,  on July 28th. (Photo credit: Billy Heaney / AK Wildlife Cruises)

Scotland has recorded the highest number of sightings, closely followed by England then Wales. Around the Channel Islands, observers reported 3 sightings, and there were also three reports from around the Isle of Man. Four sightings were also recorded in Northern Ireland.  

Eight different species of cetacean (harbour porpoise, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, white-beaked dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, orca and minke whale) have been recorded from 108 land locations and by 23 recommended boat operators until now and with four more days still to go this number will certainly increase!

Bottlenose dolphins are presently being sighted daily in New Quay along the west coast of Wales, and off Chanonry Point in the Moray Firth, but they have also been sighted off Littlehampton in Sussex, on the coast of Durham and Northumberland, and in the Channel Islands to name just a few other places.  

It is expected that the number of records will rise as people find time to enter their sightings and after they finish their watches which have been organized in many different locations.  

All the verified sightings so far can be viewed on line where they are updated as more reports come in.

Read more about Sea Watch and the National Whale and Dolphin Watch in this CJS In Depth feature here. 


Dumfries & Galloway biodiversity projects share £189k Nature fund cash - Scottish Natural Heritage 

Two nature projects will share £189,000 to help save one of Scotland’s most endangered animals and restore an almost vanished habitat at sites in Dumfries & Galloway. The projects are among the recipients of Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH’s) Biodiversity Challenge Fund.

Freshwater pearl mussel populations in the River Bladnoch Special Area of Conservation (SAC) will benefit from more than £35 of £120k awarded to a partnership of Fisheries Trusts: and the Borders Forest Trust has been given almost £70k to restore a vanishing habitat to the wild heart of southern Scotland.

Freshwater pearl mussels - Credit Sue Scott-SNHFreshwater pearl mussels - Credit Sue Scott-SNH

The River Bladnoch catchment in Dumfries & Galloway supports our most southerly reproducing population of this critically endangered species – but it is small and very fragile. The Galloway Fisheries Trust will carry out work to improve conditions for the mussels in its tributaries, one of three sites covered by the project; the other two are in the Highlands. Work will include planting more than 1700 native trees along a 9km stretch of bank; 1.4km of fencing will be installed to exclude grazing livestock; and boulders added to improve flow conditions and instream habitat.

Montane scrub is a rare habitat found just above the treeline on hills, supporting a range of unusual plants and invertebrates and providing important feeding areas for birds and mammals. In Scotland the habitat has been severely impacted by grazing deer and sheep.

The Borders Forest Trust will restore 50 hectares of montane scrub across three sites in the Moffat Hills SAC, straddling Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders. With help from a small army of volunteers, 20,000 trees and shrubs will be planted and protected, with an additional 200 bearberry plants helping to restore upland heath habitat at Carrifran Wildwood.


Scientific Publications

Johnson, A. E., Sillett, T. S., Luther, D. , Herrmann, V. , Akre, T. A. and McShea, W. J. (2019), Effects of grassland management on overwintering bird communities. Jour. Wild. Mgmt.. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21730 (open access)


Shen, X. , Li, S. , McShea, W. J., Wang, D. , Yu, J. , Shi, X. , Dong, W. , Mi, X. and Ma, K. (2019), Effectiveness of management zoning designed for flagship species in protecting sympatric species. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.13345


Verena Rösch, Malte Hoffmann, Ulrich Diehl, Martin H. Entling, The value of newly created wood pastures for bird and grasshopper conservation, Biological Conservation, Volume 237, 2019, Pages 493-503, ISSN 0006-3207, doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.07.036.


He, Y., Parrish, J. K., Rowe, S. & Jones, T. Evolving interest and sense of self in an environmental citizen science program. (open access) Ecology and Society DOI: 10.5751/ES-10956-240233


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