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Bovine TB strategy review - Animal Plant and Health Agency

The government has announced a review of its 25 year Bovine TB strategy.

The government has announced a review of its 25 year Bovine TB strategy to be chaired by Sir Charles Godfray, a population biologist and Fellow of the Royal Society.

Four years after the 25 year strategy was first published, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said he believes now is a good time to review progress and consider what additional actions might be necessary now to ensure other tools and interventions are ready to be deployed in later phases of the strategy. The government has said it also envisages future reviews at five yearly intervals.

The 25 year strategy outlined a very broad range of interventions to fight the disease including tighter cattle movement controls and removal of infected cattle from herds, improved diagnostic tests, enhanced biosecurity measures, the culling of badgers in areas where disease is rife, vaccination of badgers and work to develop a viable vaccine for use in cattle.

So far, the principal elements deployed in the first phase of the strategy have been cattle movement controls, the removal of infected cattle from herds and the badger cull which covered more than 20 different areas in 2017. Michael Gove and Farming Minister George Eustice have said they want to ensure other elements of the strategy, such as cattle vaccination or developing genetic resistance, are ready to be deployed in the next phase of the strategy in order to ensure the government maintains progress towards its target of becoming officially TB free by 2038.


Severn Waste Services help wildlife - Worcestershire Wildlife Trust

Boynes Coppice (c) Wendy CarterEvesham-based firm Severn Waste Services have awarded £30,000 via the Landfill Communities Fund to help wildlife in south Worcestershire.

Boynes Coppice (c) Wendy Carter

The money has been awarded to Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, the county’s largest conservation organisation, to help with essential maintenance on three of their nature reserves – Boynes Coppice and Meadow and Nash’s Meadows near Upton-upon-Severn and Tiddesley Wood on the edge of Pershore.

David Molloy, the Trust’s Conservation Officer responsible for the three reserves, explained “We’re delighted that Severn Waste Services has chosen to fund this really important work on three of our nature reserves.

“Some of the work that it’s funding may sound mundane but it’s absolutely crucial if we are to manage these beautiful sites in the best way for wildlife.

“Fencing at both Boynes and Nash’s, for example, will allow us to graze the meadows with cattle and sheep. The animals eat the coarser and quicker growing plants, which allows the more delicate wildflowers to thrive; come late spring the fields are awash with colour and alive with bees and butterflies.”


Signs of spring sweep across the nation - RSPB

Acrobatic ravens, the dawn chorus and carpets of bluebells are among the beacons of spring that have started to pop up on RSPB reserves across England and Wales as nature starts to stir from its winter slumber.

Despite the current chilly conditions, temperatures in January were above average with parts of southern England reaching 15°C, enough to trigger a reaction from some early-nesting birds looking to gain a competitive advantage on rivals ahead of the breeding season.

The dawn chorus – nature’s soundtrack – is one of the most well known and loved signs that spring is well on its way. Starting with the sweet, simple melody of the blackbird, shortly followed by the robin, wren and many others, the dawn chorus builds fast during February with more places coming alive with the sound of bird song as the month goes on. 

But it isn’t just our garden birds that have been exercising their vocal chords. The booming call of Britain’s loudest bird, the bittern, was heard as early as mid-January at RSPB Ham Wall in Somerset. While the gruff, far-carrying call of early-nesting ravens have been heard on a number of reserves as they take to the skies to perform their acrobatic, tumbling displays usually only seen at this time of the year. 

Debra Depledge, RSPB Wildlife Advisor, said: “As we emerge out of winter and into spring RSPB reserves will become a hive of activity as birds furiously prepare for the start of the breeding season. The warm January conditions will have stirred many birds out of their winter slumber earlier than usual allowing some pioneering individuals to gain competitive edge on potential rivals by making a start on gathering nest materials, securing a patch and finding a mate.”

The warm January weather also acted as a catalyst for other wildlife. Throughout southern England, there have been a number of reports of frogs starting to spawn and newts heading towards the nearest pond as they emerge from their winter hibernation.

The sight and smell of early-flowing woodland plants such as bluebells, primrose and daffodils have also started to greet people in their gardens or while enjoying a woodland trail. These plants have evolved over many years to flower before the woodland canopy closes overhead plunging them into darkness.


Wildfowl recovery plan at Wyver Lane - Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Lapwing at Wyver Lane, Paul ShawDerbyshire Wildlife Trust is celebrating a grant of £3726.22 awarded by the Co-op Local Communities Fund as well as an additional £2,550 from Hamamelis Trust to restore the wetland habitat and renew signage and hide information at Wyver Lane Nature Reserve.

Lapwing at Wyver Lane, Paul Shaw

The reserve is situated in the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Belper and runs along the bank of the River Derwent. It is one of the Trust’s most important wetland sites and is home to many species of bird from waders such as curlew and common sandpiper passing through in spring, to birds which breed here such as lapwing. Large numbers of gulls visit the reserve during winter - they are mainly black headed gulls, but you may also see common, herring, lesser and greater black backed gulls. They are joined by wildfowl escaping the icy north. In really cold conditions, numbers of duck species such as wigeon and teal visit - they both have characteristics whistles, not quacks, best heard at sun rise and sun set, and easily heard from the track running parallel to the reserve (Wyver Lane).

Some of the habitats at the reserve now need a bit of a helping hand in order to be ideal for lapwing and wigeon, two nationally declining species on the UK BAP Amber list. Some of the grant will be used for this important improvement work as well as the help of local volunteers. A barn owl box will also be installed at the reserve as well as a bird seed store.

In addition to the reserve work, the grant will enable the Trust to commission a new orientation panel and several new species information panels signposting the way for visitors and giving them a flavour of the beautiful wildlife and special habitats they will see.


Laser technology reveals the weight of some of UK’s and world’s biggest trees - University College London

New laser scanning technology is being used by UCL scientists to provide fresh and unprecedented insights into the structure and mass of trees, a development that will help plot how much carbon they absorb and how they might respond to climate change.

Two studies, published today (Friday) by the Royal Society, by researchers at UCL and the universities of Oxford, Sonoma State, Ghent and Wageningen, reveal the technology has captured the 3D structure of individual trees in ways they have never been seen before.

The new approach pioneered by Dr Mat Disney, Reader in Remote Sensing in UCL’s Department of Geography, and colleagues has enabled trees to be “weighed” very accurately by estimating their volume from the precise 3D data.

A seemingly ordinary Sycamore tree in Wytham Woods near Oxford, for example, has been found to have nearly 11km of branches, double that of the much larger tropical trees measured by the team led by Dr Disney.

Dr Disney’s team, in collaboration with Yadvinder Malhi, a professor of ecosystem science at Oxford University, and the Gabonese National Parks Agency, used the technology to measure a 45m tall Moabi tree in Gabon with its 60m crown. They estimated its weight at about 100 tons, making it the largest tree ever measured like this in the tropics.

Previously, trees could only be weighed by cutting them down or by using other indirect methods such as remote sensing or scaling up from manual measurements of trunk diameter, both of which have potentially large errors. The new technology provides an important advance in measuring mass which is vital to revealing how much carbon trees absorb during their lifetimes and how they may respond to climate change, according to the papers published in the Royal Society Interface Focus journal.

Access the paper: M. I. Disney, M. Boni Vicari, A. Burt, K. Calders, S. L. Lewis, P. Raumonen, P. Wilkes Weighing trees with lasers: advances, challenges and opportunities Interface Focus 2018 8 20170048


Climate change means more frequent flooding, warns Environment Agency - Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has warned people to be prepared for flooding as it launches its Flood Action Campaign

Intense bouts of flooding are set to become more frequent, the Environment Agency has warned today (Friday 16 February).

The warning follows a pattern of severe flooding over the past 10 years linked to an increase in extreme weather events as the country’s climate changes. Met Office records show that since 1910 there have been 17 record breaking rainfall months or seasons – with 9 of them since 2000. As intense storms are becoming more frequent, sea levels are also rising because of climate change.

The Environment Agency has today launched its Flood Action Campaign, targeting younger people through social media and online advertising to encourage them to check their flood risk at GOV.UK, sign up for free warnings and be prepared to take action when flooding hits. Research shows that 18 to 34 year olds are least likely to perceive flood risk to their area, know how to protect their homes or where to go for information. They are also at highest risk of fatality as they are less likely to perceive their personal risk.

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said: "Climate change is likely to mean more frequent and intense flooding. Floods destroy – lives, livelihoods, and property. Our flood defences reduce the risk of flooding, and our flood warnings help keep communities safe when it threatens. But we can never entirely eliminate the risk of flooding. Checking your flood risk is the first step to protecting yourself, your loved ones and your home. In summer 2012, the lengthy period of drought the country had experienced came to an abrupt end when prolonged and intense rainfall increased the risk of flooding from rivers and surface water for long periods. Almost 8,000 homes and businesses were flooded across the country, particularly in the south west. The winter of 2013 to 2014 started with a coastal surge and record sea levels on the north and east coasts. This was followed by 12 storms in succession and became the wettest winter for 250 years – 11,000 homes were flooded."

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