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Ambitious project launches to halt alien invasion – Scottish Natural Heritage

The £3.34 million Scottish Invasive Species Initiative is officially launched today (Tuesday 19 June) by Scottish Natural Heritage with the help Image: Scottish Natural Heritageof pupils from Ben Wyvis primary school.

Image: Scottish Natural Heritage

The initiative, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and funded by The National Lottery, was set up to tackle one of the countryside’s biggest problems – invasive non-native (alien) species.

On the River Conon, it was a case of many hands make light work, as the P6 class from Ben Wyvis Primary School (Conon Bridge) gamely rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in to helping pull out the invasive Himalayan balsam plant.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Scotland’s habitats and wildlife are internationally important, but they are being threatened in some places by an invasion of non-native species. The Scottish Government has been working hard to tackle this problem for many years so I am very happy to support the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative, through Scottish Natural Heritage funding. The initiative will rely on one of our greatest resources – volunteers – in order to put long-term solutions in place. I would like to thank the volunteers who work so hard on a wide range of environmental projects right across Scotland – they have my respect and admiration.”


Sister species of birds reveal clues to how biodiversity evolves – Imperial College London

Extensive new datasets about the world’s birds are helping to solve the riddle of how life on Earth diversified.New insights into ecology and evolution are coming from global datasets focused on avian ‘sister species’, including the familiar blue tit Parus [Cyanistes] caeruleus and its closest living relative the azure tit Parus [Cyanistes] cyanus. Photos: gardenbird.co.uk and Krzysztof Blachowiak (Internet Bird Collection).

New insights into ecology and evolution are coming from global datasets focused on avian ‘sister species’, including the familiar blue tit Parus [Cyanistes] caeruleus and its closest living relative the azure tit Parus [Cyanistes] cyanus. Photos: gardenbird.co.uk and Krzysztof Blachowiak (Internet Bird Collection).

By combining global datasets on bird characteristics, citizen-science species sightings and genetics, researchers have begun to answer some key questions in biodiversity. The results are published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution, in two parallel studies that include Imperial College London researchers.

“Understanding the factors controlling patterns of geographic overlap between species takes us one step closer to understanding how complex ecosystems are formed and predicting what they may look like in the future as a result of changing climates and land uses.” Dr Joseph Tobias

The first paper compiles body measurements and estimates of evolutionary history for hundreds of closely related bird species (called ‘sister species’) to study how new species evolve.

In most cases, new bird species begin to emerge when one population is isolated geographically from others, such as by a mountain range. Later, the diverging species may extend their geographical ranges, bringing them back into contact.

These encounters can play out in one of three ways: the species can interbreed and form a single species again; they can stay separated but with hard borders between their two ranges; or they can continue to expand their ranges until they coexist over a wide area.


Beavers breeding in Cornwall! – Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Cornwall Beaver Project announced some fantastic news last week with the arrival of at least two kits (juvenile beavers) at the 5 acre fenced site at Woodland Valley Farm in Ladock near Truro. These are the first beavers to be born in Cornwall for over 400 years!

Beaver kit by Nina ConstableBeaver kit by Nina Constable

Farmer Chris Jones alerted project partner Cornwall Wildlife Trust after his first view of one of the kits at the beginning of the week. The Cornwall Beaver Project team were all hoping for some good views during their regular Wednesday night beaver walk and invited filmmaker Nina Constable in the hope of getting some footage for BBC Springwatch. The kits did indeed come out and were enjoyed by thousands nationwide on the last episode of Springwatch 2018.

The Cornish beaver pair have been busy since their release last summer making themselves at home in their 5-acre enclosure on the farm. The Cornwall Beaver Project has witnessed the first beaver lodge being built in Cornwall for hundreds of years. As well as this, a smaller lodge appeared on site earlier in the year which initially caused confusion. However, it was soon realised this was the male beaver building a temporary bachelor pad, as he had likely been asked to leave the lodge while the female was nursing. All the signs were there and the team have sat poised for the last month waiting in anticipation for the first glimpse of a beaver kit.


NRW to invest £2.6 million in innovative projects to improve the environment – Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is set to invest £2.6 million in projects to improve the environment across Wales.

The successful projects will help some of our most threatened wildlife, improve habitats plus increase access to some of Wales’ most spectacular landscapes and will deliver real improvements for the Welsh environment, people and economy over the next two years.

The projects selected will help meet the challenges identified under the four themes of reducing the risk from environmental hazards such as flooding and pollution; improving habitat management, biodiversity and connectivity; improving access to the outdoors and using the natural environment to support the economy and develop skills. 

Rhian Jardine, NRW’s Chair of Strategic Funding Board said: “Improving the natural environment, and the wildlife that lives there is incredibly important for us and for Wales, its wildlife and people’s quality of life. We have been delighted at the quality and innovation of applications in response to this funding opportunity that will help us to achieve that. Our commissioning approach, where we set out the challenges for specific areas of Wales generated interest across all sectors and we have several partners who receive funding for the first time including the National Farmers Union and Denbighshire Housing Department.”

Discussions between NRW and the successful bidders over the next few weeks will refine this year’s projects before contracts are signed over the summer.


Scientific papers

Plomion, C. et al (2018) Oak genome reveals facets of long lifespan. Nature Plants 


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