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Study to expand knowledge of ectomycorrhizal fungi in Scotland – The James Hutton Institute

Researchers at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Aberdeen are exploring the relationship between ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi and native tree species in Scotland. The study will also determine which climatic and environmental factors influence their distribution.

ECM fungi form beneficial associations with the roots of many plant species, in particular trees: the fungi take up nutrients from the soil and pass on some of these to the host plants in return for sugars. The fungi are therefore essential components of many terrestrial ecosystems.

The data recorded from the study will contribute to the limited information currently available on the subject in Scotland. Existing records show that there are approximately 900 ECM species recorded in Scotland. This is only about one-half of the species recorded in Scandinavia.

A combination of traditional morphological approaches as well as modern molecular analyses will be used to identify the fungi. The project will provide valuable information for forest management and woodland expansion policies.


Project celebrates churring storm petrels on the Shiants – RSPB

Calling storm petrels have been recorded for the very first time on the Shiants this summer, an important milestone for the Shiant Isles Recovery Project, which is working to attract these small seabirds to nest on the islands. The characteristic “churring” call of storm petrels was heard from burrows, their breeding habitat, an encouraging sign that the project’s conservation work is paying off.

The EU LIFE+ funded partnership project between RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, and the Nicolson family, the custodians of the islands, began in 2014 to provide safe breeding grounds for Scotland’s globally threatened seabirds on this cluster of islands in the Minch, five miles off the coast of Harris. A population of invasive non-native black rats on the islands were thought to be limiting the breeding success of the colonies of puffins, razorbills and guillemots, whilst storm petrels and Manx shearwaters were not found there at all.

Following a rat eradication programme in the winter of 2015/16 the project has been focused on monitoring how the wildlife has responded, ensuring the biosecurity of the islands, and attempting to attract storm petrels and Manx shearwaters to breed, as there is ideal nesting habitat for them. It will be March 2018 before the islands can be officially declared free of rats, provided none are found between then and now.  


Squirrel Nutkin thrives again: Conservation project revives squirrel population from 99% grey to 100% red – National Trust

Threatened red squirrel numbers are thriving against the odds on one of Britain’s largest estates after painstaking work by a National Trust ranger.

image: National Trust

image: National Trust

The population of reds at Wallington, Northumberland, almost disappeared entirely in 2011 after grey squirrels moved into the area, bringing with them the deadly squirrel pox virus.

However, the estate is now home to over 170 red squirrels and is one of the most popular places to visit by tourists eager to spot the animal made famous by Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.

Across Britain, the plight of red squirrels is rife and, with only 15, 000 left in the England, conservation projects are the only way to safeguard their future.

Threatened by disease and a loss of habitat, red squirrel numbers have fallen in the UK from approximately 3.5 million and those that remain are constantly under threat from non-native greys. 23rd September marks the beginning of Red Squirrel Awareness Week, designed to highlight the decline.

The National Trust’s largest agricultural estate was overrun by grey squirrels until a conservation initiative transformed it to contain only reds. Wallington Hall is one of the last remaining strongholds for red squirrels in England.

In Glen Graham, the Trust recruited its first red squirrel ranger to head a new conservation project to revive the native reds. Former neighbourhood investigation officer Glen began monitoring the numbers of both species and co-ordinated grey squirrel control. The work had dramatic effects, the red squirrel population gradually began to resurface, and greys were eventually eradicated entirely.


Plenty to be chirpy about, Slimbridge survey reveals – WWT

Small birds have had a fantastic year, according to our latest year’s ringing at our Constant Effort Site (CES) in the decoy at Slimbridge.

WWT volunteers and staff catch and ring passerines (perching birds) throughout spring and summer as part of a national scheme organised by the British Trust for Ornithology which contributes to the overall monitoring of populations and breeding success.

The latest results have put huge smiles on the faces of our conservationists.

WWT long-term volunteer Maurice Durham has organised the Slimbridge effort since the early 1990s. He said: “Slimbridge is famous for its geese and swans, but it’s also home to a wealth of other wildlife as these results show. We are very pleased to have recorded one of our best years since the study started in 1990. It is important that we record bird populations so that we can ensure our conservation work is well targeted.”

The key factors logged are the number of juvenile birds, the number of adult birds and year to year survivals. These figures are then used to calculate the changes which are happening and to look for the stage of life cycles most affected by environmental change.

Our experts handled a record number of ‘new for year’ birds, ringing 556 birds – 208 adults and 348 juveniles – and beating our previous best of 529 birds in 1992. This was closely followed by 525 in 2004.

The standout species was the chiffchaff. 90 juvenile chiffchaffs were caught, exceeding the previous best of 76 (in 1990 and 2011) by some margin.


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