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


Microplastics, microbeads and single-use plastics poisoning sea life and affecting humans - United Nations 

Each year, an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean – equivalent to a full garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute - the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Monday 4 November.

Between 60 to 90 per cent of the litter that accumulates on shorelines, the surface and the sea floor is made up of plastic.   The most common items are cigarette butts, bags, and food and beverage containers. Consequently, marine litter harms over 800 marine species, 15 of which are endangered. And plastic consumed by marine species enters the human food chain through fish consumption.   Alarmingly, in the last 20 years, the proliferation of microplastics, microbeads and single-use plastics have made this problem even more pronounced.  Most people associate marine plastic pollution with what they can see along coastlines or floating on sea surfaces. But microplastics and microbeads pose a hidden challenge as they are out of sight and, therefore, out of mind. 

Trash at a beach in Bali where the UN Environment Programme  launched the Clean Seas Campaign.(image: UNEP/Shawn Heinrichs)Trash at a beach in Bali where the UN Environment Programme  launched the Clean Seas Campaign.(image: UNEP/Shawn Heinrichs) 

Clean Seas Campaign

“What’s in Your Bathroom?”, UNEP asked on Monday, as part of a campaign to raise awareness on the harm caused by plastics in personal care products and shifts that can be made to reduce plastic footprints.

UNEP launched the Clean Seas Campaign in 2017 to galvanize a global movement that tackles single-use plastics and microbeads.   Now in its second phase, it is shining a light on specific aspects of marine litter, such as plastic pollution generated by the cosmetic industry. 

Microbeads have been banned in England and Scotland since June 2018

World leading microbeads ban comes into force - defra

Ban on the sale of products containing microbeads comes into effect. 


Cross-party MP report hails health & wellbeing benefits of London’s Green Belt - CPRE

A new report by a cross-party Parliamentary group shows that London’s Metropolitan Green Belt not only protects against urban sprawl but also provides vital countryside on our doorstep for health and well-being benefits, including:

  • 26, 267 hectares of Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • 5,400 hectares of local nature reserves; 
  • 44% of London’s Wildlife Trust sites; 
  • 10,000km of public rights of way for use by walkers, cyclists and horse riders; and 
  • An area of which one quarter (24%) is designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty;

A new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London’s Green Belt shows that the London Metropolitan Green Belt (LMGB) not only protects against urban sprawl, it’s also the ‘countryside on our doorstep’, containing much of the capital’s natural reserves and wildlife, which is vital for Londoners to spend time in for their health and well-being.

Findings highlight the value of ‘green-prescribing’ and the positive impact of the Green Belt on people’s mental health, physical well-being, local food production, and the capital’s ability to address the climate emergency, such as supporting the target’s set out in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

However, despite these benefits, research also shows that the purpose of London’s Green Belt is under threat from new housing development

Access the report from here.


Government launches new scheme to boost tree-planting - defra & Forestry Commission

£50 million Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme will encourage farmers and landowners to plant more trees and help to tackle climate change  The government today (Monday 4 November) launched a £50 million scheme to help boost tree-planting rates.

The new Woodland Carbon Guarantee will encourage farmers and landowners to plant more trees and create new woodland in return for payments as those trees grow.  It gives land managers in England the long-term financial income they need to invest in carbon sequestration - the process by which trees lock up and store carbon from the atmosphere.  Successful participants will be offered the option to sell Woodland Carbon Units to the government over 35 years at a guaranteed price set by auction, providing new income for land managers who help businesses compensate for their carbon emissions.

Trees are a precious natural asset and, as a natural carbon sink, are a vital part of the fight against climate change. Woodlands and forests will play an important role in the UK’s efforts to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which is why the government is committed to planting 11 million trees by 2022. Funding for this scheme was announced by HM Treasury in the 2018 Autumn Budget.  By planting more trees and creating new woodland, land managers also provide a range of other ecosystem benefits such as preventing flood risk, soil conservation and boosting biodiversity.


Puffins making poor diet choices when the chips are down - University of Southampton

A new study has shown that Britain’s puffins may struggle to adapt to changes in their North Sea feeding grounds and researchers are calling for better use of marine protection areas (MPAs) to help protect the country’s best known seabirds. Britain’s coasts support globally important populations of many species of seabird, but they face many challenges as their established habitats change.

puffin with fish (James Glen / Pixabay)puffin with fish (James Glen / Pixabay)

Scientists at the University of Southampton and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology studied the diet and distribution of Atlantic puffins and razorbills on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve, off the coast of southeast Scotland.

They studied the seabirds’ over-winter feeding habits and found that during the 2014 to 2015 winter, when conditions were good, both species foraged close to their breeding colony eating a diet consisting mostly of lipid-rich fish such as sandeels. However in the 2007 to 2008 winter, conditions were not as good and the small fish populations were mainly concentrated further out in the southern North Sea. Whilst the razorbills flew further away from the breeding colony in order to maintain their healthy diet, the puffins stayed closer in, eating a poorer quality diet of crustacea, polychaete worms and snake pipefish. The researchers found that fewer birds survived to return to the colony in the spring of 2008 compared to 2015, with puffins being more severely affected than razorbills.

Read the paper: St. John Glew, K., Wanless, S., Harris, M.P. et al. Sympatric Atlantic puffins and razorbills show contrasting responses to adverse marine conditions during winter foraging within the North Sea. Mov Ecol 7, 33 (2019) doi:10.1186/s40462-019-0174-4 (open access)


And finally there's £100,000 on offer for three charities, all they need is your vote:

Vote now to help us receive £100k say - Bat Conservation Trust

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Animal Friends Pet Insurance, last year they donated a massive £100,000 to the charity StreetVets.

In December 2018, the public voted for StreetVets, who deliver free veterinary care to the homeless and their dogs from a short list of three animal charities. The award-winning practice currently provides assistance in 15 areas of the UK.

This year we are excited that we are through to the public round of voting in the Animal Friends £100K giveaway. We are up against Whale and Dolphin Conservation and Four Paws – both worthy charities but we love BATS! Thank you to everyone who helped to get us selected as one of the three finalists who could potentially win a £100K donation from Animal Friends Pet Insurance.

 Also through to the final three are Whale and Dolphin Conservation: We’re through to the final for the ‘100k Giveaway’ 

Because of our incredible supporters, we’ve made it through to the grand final of the Animal Friends Pet Insurance ‘£100k giveaway’. We’re in with a real chance of securing a game-changing donation that could genuinely make all the difference in our fight to end captivity.

To vote for any of the three chosen charities click here.

Voting closes on 24 November.


New research competition challenges 11-19 year olds to help save the UK’s bumblebees – Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Volunteers gather vital data about bumblebees on a BeeWalk survey (Bumblebee Conservation Trust)School and college students across the UK are being challenged to generate new scientific discoveries that could be used to help protect the country’s struggling bumblebees, though a competition being run by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Volunteers gather vital data about bumblebees on a BeeWalk survey (Bumblebee Conservation Trust)

As part of the conservation charity’s Big BeeWalk Data Research Competition – which runs from 5 November 2019 to 7 February 2020 – hundreds of thousands of bumblebee records gathered over the past decade are being made available to students for the first time.

Those taking part will have access to the records of almost 400,000 bumblebees, gathered since 2010 through the Trust’s BeeWalk national recording scheme. This citizen science survey – in which volunteers identify and count bumblebees they see while walking the same route monthly from March to October – builds a national picture of bumblebee health, and provides early warning of declines.

The vast set of BeeWalk data includes information on different bumblebee species and factors such as the weather, location, habitat type, and time of day of sightings – allowing a huge range of new and different research questions to be analysed, from how temperature affects bumblebee behaviour to how availability of specific plants can increase bumblebee numbers.

“By drawing on our unique BeeWalk data and using fresh thinking to design their own innovative research projects, students will be able to get involved in real-life science and develop skills desirable to universities – while potentially producing findings that could be used to boost practical conservation action to help bumblebees,” said Andy Benson, Education Officer at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.


Over 700,000 free trees for communities – Woodland Trust

Nearly three quarters of a million trees are winging their way across the UK as part of the Woodland Trust’s Big Climate Fightback.

Almost 4,000 schools and community groups will be taking delivery of the free saplings over the next two weeks, and while each group has its own reasons for planting, every tree will count towards the Trust’s campaign to help tackle climate change.

The Big Climate Fightback aims to get more than a million people to pledge to plant a tree on the run up to a mass day of planting across the UK on November 30. Everyone that applied for a tree pack will be added to the list of pledges.

John Tucker, director of woodland outreach at the Woodland Trust said: “Tree planting has never been higher on the social and political agenda. From school children to MPs, people are waking up to the message that trees are a big part of the solution to tackling climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, as well as filtering out other harmful pollutants from the air that we all breathe. Quite simply we need more of them. The government has committed to act on the Committee on Climate Change recommendations and legislate for net zero emissions by 2050. To do this we need to plant 50 million trees each year. The Woodland Trust is pleased to be sending out this huge number of trees to schools and community groups that are eager to get planting and be part of the Big Climate Fightback.”


Evolving deer give birth earlier as climate warms - University of Edinburgh

Red deer on a Scottish island are providing scientists with some of the first evidence that wild animals are evolving to give birth earlier in the year as the climate warms.

Genetic changes to red deer on the Isle of Rum – located off the west coast of Scotland – have played a key role in a rapid shift in birth dates in recent years, new research shows.

image: University of Edinburgh(image: University of Edinburgh)

Previous studies have shown that the deer have been giving birth earlier since the 1980s, at a rate of about three days per decade, partly due to the effects of warmer temperatures on the deer’s behaviour and physiology.

Genetic evolution

Now, a team involving Edinburgh scientists has revealed that genetic changes caused by natural selection – the theory of evolution developed by Charles Darwin – are also involved.

The study provides a rare example of evolution happening quickly enough to be detected over only a few decades.

“This is one of the few cases where we have documented evolution in action, showing that it may help populations adapt to climate warming.” Dr Timothée Bonnet Australian National University

Long-term study

The team made the discovery using field records and genetic data collected on Rum over a 45-year period since 1972.

Female red deer – called hinds – give birth to a single calf each year, and those that reproduce earlier in the year have more offspring over their lifetime, researchers say.

Their findings show that this is partly because of an association between the genes that make hinds give birth earlier and higher overall reproductive success. As a result, genes for breeding earlier have become more common in the Rum deer population over time.

“Long-term studies of individual lifetimes are one of the few ways to understand how populations respond to environmental change and how to manage its effects.” Professor Josephine PembertonSchool of Biological Sciences

Nature reserve

The Isle of Rum National Nature Reserve is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage.


Rare hazel dormice prepare for winter sleep as National Trust asks public to help this endangered species - National Trust

The National Trust is today calling on people to assist struggling dormice in a bid to boost numbers of the endangered species.

While dormice are typically found in rural areas, there are a few simple things people can do to encourage the elusive animals, particularly if they live near a wood.

Allowing bramble to grow, leaving ivy on trees and piling up logs can all help, according to the conservation charity, which is also asking people to report any sightings.

Hazel dormice populations in the UK have fallen by around a third since 2000 and are now extinct in 17 English counties.

Habitat loss is believed to be the main reason for the decline, but increasingly warm winters are also having a negative effect, with dormice awaking from hibernation too early and hazel trees, their main habitat, showing signs of stress.

Rangers on the wooded Cotehele Estate in Cornwall found this sleepy pair during their monthly monitoring check of the local dormouse population, conducted each year from April to October.

George Holmes, Lead Ranger at the National Trust, said: “Finding a snoring dormouse inside a nesting box is an amazing feeling – they’re such gentle and charismatic creatures. Sadly, they’re so rare now that most people will never see one in their lifetime. We’re working hard to improve numbers on the estate. Dormice are a key indicator species of the health of a woodland – so if the dormice are thriving, chances are other wildlife is too. Everyone can do their bit to encourage dormice and other wildlife, whether it’s by letting the ivy grow on a tree in your garden or stacking up a pile of logs as shelter.”


(image: The Wildlife Trust)New report shows how nature nurtures children - The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts call for every child to have a daily one-hour nature boost

The Wildlife Trusts commissioned a study by the Institute of Education at UCL to evaluate the impact that experiencing nature has upon children. The study focused on over 450 primary school children and the effects of Wildlife Trust-led activities on their wellbeing. This is one of the largest studies into the effects of outdoor activities on children’s wellbeing and views about nature.

Overall, the research revealed that children’s wellbeing increased after they had spent time connecting with nature: the children showed an increase in their personal wellbeing and health over time, and they showed an increase in nature connection and demonstrated high levels of enjoyment.

The children also gained educational benefits as well as wider personal and social benefits:

  • 90% of children felt they learned something new about the natural world
  • 79% felt that their experience could help their school work
  • After their activities 84% of children felt that they were capable of doing new things when they tried
  • 79% of children reported feeling more confident in themselves
  • 81% agreed that they had better relationships with their teachers
  • 79% reported better relationships with their class-mates


One of the UK’s largest youth-led environmental programmes is calling young people to take part in Outdoor Classroom Day this Thursday - Our Bright Future

Our Bright Future, a partnership of 31 projects across the UK, is calling young people to spend an hour of their school day outdoors, this Thursday (7 November), in order to improve wellbeing and engage with nature.

  • three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates
  • children from families with lower incomes tend to have fewer opportunities to engage with nature than children from families with a higher income. This makes their need for improved access to nature through the school curriculum significantly greater
  • studies have shown that increasing time spent outdoors reduces children’s infectious diseases (colds, sore throats etc) by 80%
  • youth led environmental programme, Our Bright Future, is calling on young people to take part in Outdoor Classroom Day

Following consultation with 300 young people from across the programme, Our Bright Future found that 11-24 year olds wanted to campaign for more time spent learning in and about nature. To make this a reality the programme is calling on policy makers to produce guidance to schools stating that at least an hour of lesson time per day should be spent outdoors.


LGA – Clearer labelling and higher charges for hard to recycle products needed to help boost recycling rates - Local Government Association

“Councils want to increase recycling rates. Clearer labelling and increased charges for hard to recycle products would help councils, manufacturers and the public be part of a vital recycling revolution."

(image: LGA)Clearer labelling on all products, increased charges for hard to recycle products and measures to force producers to pay the full cost of disposing of their waste are needed to help councils boost recycling rates and tackle a growing environmental crisis, the Local Government Association says today.

(image: LGA)

The LGA said councils have used successful initiatives to try and help increase recycling rates in their local areas, maintaining them at the current national rate of around 45 per cent in recent years, against a target of recycling at least 50 per cent of household waste by 2020.

It says recycling labels on packaging are often unclear and conflicting, resulting in many recyclables ending up in landfill and preventing manufacturers being able to use recyclable materials.

Research by one council alone shows that more than 40 per cent of household rubbish it sends to landfill could be recycled, but there are more than 20 different recycling labels in the UK that can appear on packaging. The LGA says that clearer labelling would make it easier for people to know what can be recycled and increase recycling rates.

The LGA is also calling for the next government to commit to measures to charge manufacturers more to cover the end of life costs to councils of packaging that is more difficult to recycle, which would encourage manufacturers to switch to recyclable alternatives


The Countryside Alliance responds to the latest Government statistics on fly-tipping - Countryside Alliance

Today's statistics by the government, which were collated by the Environment Agency, reveal that fly-tipping has increased by 8% in England. This amounts, overall, to over 1 million instances in 2018/19.

The Countryside Alliance has longed campaigned on the blight that is fly-tipping and lobbied for these figures to be released annually. 

Responding to the new figures, Sarah Lee, Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance said: "Fly-tipping has been a serious issue in the countryside, and there is no quick fix but it is an issue many people feel strongly about and they want to see stronger enforcement action taken by the police and local authorities. The UK has a fly-tipping and litter problem and in 2018-2019 there were 1,072,000 incidents of fly-tipping in England, the equivalent of nearly 122 incidents every hour, and at a cost to local authorities of £12.9 million."

The Countryside Alliance calls for:

Improved access to Civic Amenity sites: extension of opening hours; locations; and overhaul and standardisation of admission policies, to encourage lawful disposal of waste.

  • Greater support for landowners: anti-fly-tipping measures; utilisation of comprehension orders; and closer working relationships with local authorities in recognition to particular problems caused by waste fly-tipped on private land. 
  • Increased investment in education: raise awareness of responsibility amongst individuals and businesses. 
  • Tougher penalties on perpetrators: imposing and enforcing penalties which better reflect the seriousness of the crime, such as seizing vehicles used to fly-tip, is vital.

You can see the full statistics here


Glimmers of hope for UK's wild birds - BTO

Published today, the Wild Bird Populations in the UK, 1970-2018 report shows that after years of decline, and despite a poor 2018 breeding season, there are the signs of recovery for at least some of our wild birds.

Song Thrush by Edmund Fellowes/BTOThe Wild Bird Populations in the UK 1970-2018 report is an annual stocktake of a suite of species groups, termed 'indicators', of which farmland, woodland, breeding wetland, wintering wetland and seabirds are included.

Song Thrush by Edmund Fellowes/BTO

The indicators are intended to broadly reflect the environmental condition of different landscapes and these are presented alongside an 'all species indicator', which is made up of trends for 130 different widespread bird species. The 'all species' indicator shows that over the long-term (1970-2018), positives and negatives are balanced - with 29% of species on the up and 28% experiencing decline. The short-term trend, 2012-2017 delivers a similar story, with 35% of those species increasing and 33% decreasing.
It will come as no surprise that our farmland birds are not doing very well at all but there are signs of recovery here too. The long-term picture is still pretty grim, with 62% of the species monitored, 19 in all, showing a decline. However, the short-term picture is more positive with 32% of farmland bird species showing an increase in their populations, 42% stable and 26% falling between 2012 and 2018.

Within the farmland group, Skylark, Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting and Linnet populations have all shown short-term increases and Tree Sparrow, Starling, Lapwing and Kestrel have all remained stable over the five-year period. Grey Partridge populations are still in decline and showing no sign of recovery.


NFU backs new national waste crime unit - NFU

The NFU has welcomed Environment Agency plans to launch a Joint Unit on Waste Crime in December.

The latest fly-tipping statistics for the year 2018/19 show that local authorities in England dealt with just over one million incidents, an increase of 8% from the 998,000 incidents reported in 2017/18. 

NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said: “These new figures highlight a situation that continues to spiral out of control - now affecting two thirds of all farmers with potentially a large number of unrecorded incidents taking place on private land. We need tougher penalties for those who carry out this crime. It’s not widely known that 95% of fines for fly-tipping are lower than the cost of hiring a skip. What we need are punitive, exemplary fines to ensure the people who are fly-tipping don’t see fines as an irrelevance. We are pleased that the Environment Agency will set up the Joint Unit on Waste Crime next month, involving police and HMRC. But it’s imperative that farmers and landowners are involved at every stage as they are the ones at the sharp end.  By working together, we can tackle this continual blight on our countryside and allow farmers to concentrate on what they do best, producing safe, traceable and affordable food for us to enjoy.”


Forest Holidays and National Parks UK launch #GiveNatureABreak - UK National Parks

Bees, butterflies and red squirrels in the UK’s National Parks are set to benefit from Forest Holidays’ #givenatureabreak campaign that starts on November 8th with a target to raise £50,000.

Forest Holidays and the National Parks have launched the #GiveNatureABreak campaign as a way to support threatened bees, butterflies and red squirrels. From 8th November until December 2nd, £20 from every Forest Holidays booking will support these endangered species in the National Parks. Using the code ‘NATURE’customers will also receive a 20% discount on their booking not just on ‘Black Friday’ but for the whole campaign.

Projects to benefit include ‘SaveReds’ in the Lake District National Park, working to protect endangered red squirrels; the ‘Dartmoor 2020 Butterfly Project’; ‘Beelines’ in the South Downs National Park; ‘Make More Meadows’ in the Pembrokeshire Coast and the North York Moors 'Rare Butterflies Project’.

Forest Holidays already support the UK’s National Parks through ‘National Park Futures’ a project that launched in May 2019 and is connecting 20,000 young people with nature over the next five years.

Find out more about the #GiveNatureABreak offer


Millions of seabirds rely on discarded fish - University of Exeter

Millions of scavenging seabirds survive on fish discarded by North Sea fishing vessels, new research shows.

University of Exeter scientists estimate that 267,000 tonnes of fish was discarded in the North Sea in 2010 – enough to feed 3.45 million birds.

This discard figure is down from almost 510,000 tonnes – enough for an estimated 5.66 million birds – in 1990.

Discarding in the North Sea – one of the places in the world with the highest levels of this – is thought to have peaked around 1990.

The study examined eight species, including northern gannets and herring gulls, and the figures are based on birds that rely to some extent on discarded fish (based on observations of how much discarded fish different bird species eat). 

Image taken by a camera on the back of a northern gannet (image: University of Exeter)Image taken by a camera on the back of a northern gannet (image: University of Exeter)

“Commercial fishing has a variety of effects on marine life, but the impact of discards is one of the least studied and least understood,” said lead author Dr Richard Sherley, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall. “Our study highlights the sheer number of scavenging birds potentially supported by discards and thus the importance of understanding the wider ecological consequences of dumping fisheries waste. With discards declining over the period we studied, the number of birds able to rely on this has also declined.”

The researchers estimate that the largest declines were in northern fulmars (1.4 million), black‐legged kittiwakes (1.3 million) and herring gulls (630,000). These declines also coincide with population declines at some North Sea colonies in each of these species. However, the reasons for these declines are not entirely clear, and may not necessarily be underpinned by changes in discards, though changes in herring gull numbers at some sites have been linked to declining discards. 

The paper, published in the journal Fish and Fisheries, is entitled: “Scavenger communities and fisheries waste: North Sea discards support 3 million seabirds, 2 million fewer than in 1990.”


Scientific Publications

Bennett, E. M., Hauser, C. E. and Moore, J. L. (2019), Evaluating conservation dogs in the search for rare species. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.13431


Ida M. Kragh, Katherine McHugh, Randall S. Wells, Laela S. Sayigh, Vincent M. Janik, Peter L. Tyack, Frants H. Jensen Signal-specific amplitude adjustment to noise in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Journal of Experimental Biology doi: 10.1242/jeb.216606


Philipp H.Boersch-Supan, Amanda E.Trask, Stephen R.Baillie, Robustness of simple avian population trend models for semi-structured citizen science data is species-dependent Biological Conservation doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108286


Gonçalves da Silva, A. , Barendse, W. , Kijas, J. , England, P. R. and Hoelzel, A. R. (2019), Genomic data suggest environmental drivers of fish population structure in the deep sea; a case study for the orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus). J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.13534


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