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

   

CJS in DepthIt's Love Parks Week this week and this year the theme is getting the whole community involved.

Helping communities claim their local greenspaces and parks.

Giving communities the tools to create better places, written by Groundwork.

  • Funding for parks is being cut we need to find creative ways of preserving treasured spaces.
  • The Community Project Toolkit is a one-stop shop for communities who want to look after their greenspace.
  • By providing know-how & inspiration the toolkit can make a difference.

 Groundwork has worked with local communities for 35 years to make where they live greener and better places to be. In our experience, we know that one of the most successful, sustainable ways of doing this is to empower people to be the part of the change they want to see where they live. 

There’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that we’re at risk of finding ourselves back in the ‘bad old days’ where our parks and open spaces become unattractive, uninviting and, in extremis, unsafe places to be.  Read on...

Get your community involved in helping care for your Park this Love Parks Week by setting up a 'Friends of' group, find out how 

This year's Love Parks Week - July 14-23 – is an opportunity to demonstrate just how much our country loves parks. So let’s get the whole community telling us why, to help us protect them for future generations. More on Love Parks Week here.

You think your site would benefit from a “Friends of” group but don’t know where to start? 

What is a Friends of group?

Usually a group of people who voluntarily work to maintain, improve and (often) promote a green space.

With thanks to Leeds City Council who helped us with the article.

 

 

Poll reveals the call of wild places to visitors – John Muir Trust

Quinag courtesy of Kevin LellandKeep it Wild campaign highlights potential tourism risk from industrial development of Scotland’s scenic areas

As tourists flock to Scotland’s scenic outdoors for the summer holidays, a clear majority would be put off visits by industrial development

New research released by the Trust has highlighted the potential benefits for Scotland’s tourism industry of protecting the country’s unique Wild Land Areas from industrial-scale development.

Quinag courtesy of Kevin Lelland

A survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Trust reveals that the majority of Scottish adults – 55 per cent – are “less likely” to visit scenic areas in Scotland if they contain large scale infrastructure, like commercial wind farms, electricity transmission and super-quarries.

Just three per cent said they were “more likely” to visit such areas, while 26 per cent said that the existence of large scale developments would make “no difference” to their decision to still go to scenic areas anyway. Of the remainder, 10 per cent were undecided, while six per cent expressed no interest in visiting scenic areas at all.

 

New opportunities for young Londoners to work with wildlife - London Wildlife Trust

A new partnership to help young people get involved with nature conservation

People from backgrounds under-represented in the conservation sector will be given special opportunities to get involved in wildlife projects thanks to a team of organisations led by the London Wildlife Trust.

Keeping it wild Credit: Abigail MarchDelivered by a new exciting partnership comprising London Wildlife Trust, John Muir Trust, Headliners UK, London Youth and V•Inspired, the ‘Keeping It Wild’ programme aims to enthuse and involve young Londoners from diverse backgrounds - not currently engaged with nature - in protecting and promoting the wildlife in their own local neighbourhoods.

Keeping it wild Credit: Abigail March

A series of action days will introduce young people aged 11-25 years to their local wild species and habitats and give them a taste of urban conservation. Participants will work towards a John Muir Award, under the guidance of the John Muir Trust, while youth engagement charity Headliners will work with young people to produce films about wildlife and nature.

Britain's leading youth volunteering and social action charity, V•Inspired, will recruit young people for the Keeping It Wild programme, with help from youth club charity London Youth, which represents 300 youth organisations across the capital. The two organisations will help participants develop their own social action projects in their local green spaces.

 

Threatened native species finds safety in Lincolnshire – Environment Agency

Refuges have been set up in the county for the country's only native species of crayfish

On the move: Environment Agency monitoring officer Emma Holden helps transfer native crayfish to a protected Ark Site in Lincolnshire, safe from the threat of invasive Signals (Environment Agency)On the move: Environment Agency monitoring officer Emma Holden helps transfer native crayfish to a protected Ark Site in Lincolnshire, safe from the threat of invasive Signals (Environment Agency)

Efforts to protect the UK’s only native species of crayfish have seen almost 600 specimens moved to protected new homes in Lincolnshire.

The endangered white-clawed crayfish have been transferred to two secluded locations, chosen for their potential as safe havens.

Known as ‘Ark Sites’, the carefully selected refuges have all the characteristics needed for the crayfish to establish a thriving colony, including good-quality water, suitable habitat, and an isolated location.

Most importantly, they will be safe from the threat of their non-native counterparts, the North American Signal crayfish. This invasive species out-competes our own for food and habitat, and carries a fungal disease that devastates native populations.

Dr Chris Extence, Environment Agency team leader for Analysis and Reporting, said:

Bringing our native crayfish into the safety of an Ark Site is vital to protecting them from these threats, safeguarding their long-term survival and stability.

 

Conservation work is helping to protect our precious moorland – University of Manchester

Work to protect the iconic moorland of the Peak District and South Pennines is having a positive and statistically significant effect on the Monitoring (University of Manchester)environment, research recently launched by The University of Manchester and the Moors for the Future Partnership has confirmed.

Monitoring (University of Manchester)
The study brought together 12 years’ worth of data, to evaluate how well efforts to improve the environmental health of the moors are working. The aim of the work is to return the moors to an active, healthy state by re-introducing native plants.
It is thought that this work will increase the number of different plant species living there, raise the water table (make the ground surface wetter) and keep water on the hills for longer.
A wider range of plant species improves the health of the moor, and makes it better able to support animal life including rare moorland birds. Raising the water table makes peaty soil less vulnerable to devastating wildfire, and improved vegetation cover helps slow the flow of water off the hills, especially in high rainfall events.

 

Greener Greenways project recognised as best practice case study - Sustrans

Our UK-wide Greener Greenways project has been identified as one of five best practice European case studies that highlight planning and The Greener Greenways project surveys, protects and enhances biodiversity along some of the traffic-free sections of the National Cycle Network. (Sustrans)delivery of green and active travel infrastructure.

The Greener Greenways project surveys, protects and enhances biodiversity along some of the traffic-free sections of the National Cycle Network. (Sustrans)

The 'Green Active Travel Routes' case studies were identified by not-for-profit design and landscape architecture practice Here and Now, on behalf of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust (CSGNT).

The Central Scotland Green Network Trust are currently promoting and publicising the case studies to communicate the value and benefits of combining green infrastructure with active travel routes.

Green active travel routes combine natural planting or water systems with paths for people on foot or by bike, creating attractive places and journeys for both people and environment. 

According to the Central Scotland Green Network Trust: "Green Active Travel Routes deliver a range of benefits. From environmental improvements including increased habitat, biodiversity and climate change resilience, to improved health and well-being for people. They can be retrofitted or newly planned, integrating green infrastructure and provision for active travel from the start."

 

Quantifying the environmental cost of fishing on the seabed – Bangor University

Trawling contributes 20% of the global landings of fish caught at sea, hence it is an essential means of providing food for millions of people.

Bottom trawling is used to catch fish and shellfish that live in or near the seabed. Despite its importance, bottom trawling causes variable amounts of physical and biological change to seabed habitats, and can induce structural and functional changes in seabed communities. Understanding the ecosystem consequences of trawling is important so that we can reduce negative impacts on the seabed through appropriate management measures.

An international collaboration of scientists conducted a global meta-analysis of 70 comparative and experimental studies on the effects of bottom trawling, to estimate the rates of depletion and recovery of seabed biota following bottom trawling. The researchers were able to quantify the relationship between the reduction of seabed animals and penetration of the fishing equipment into the seabed.

Lead author Professor Jan Hiddink from Bangor University (UK) said: “We found that otter trawls penetrated the seabed 2.4 cm on average and caused the least amount of depletion of marine organisms, removing 6% of biota per trawl pass on the seabed. In contrast, we found that hydraulic dredges penetrated the seabed 16.1 cm on average and caused the greatest depletion, removing 41% of the biota per fishing pass.”

 

Killer congestion blighting air quality in regional cities, study warns – IPPR

The UK's regional cities are in breach of the legal limits on air quality by up to 150%, threatening the lives of children and adults, report warns.

Government, councils and transport bodies must back radical action to improve air quality, ahead of the publication of DEFRA’s Clean Air Strategy later this month.

Focus should be on incentives for drivers to upgrade to electric cars and roll-out of hydrogen powered trains in the North as part of a Northern energy revolution, study concludes.

The government must do much more to address the crisis of toxic fumes killing thousands in the UK’s regional cities, including phasing out diesel vehicles and introducing incentives for purchasing electric cars, according to a new study.

The warning comes in the latest report from leading think-tank IPPR North, which explores the North of England’s future transport energy needs.

Current trends estimate that congestion in the North will increase by 3 per cent annually, 'Gearing up for the transition: The role of transport in a Northern energy strategy' notes — but cautions that even by 2030, on current projections, only 5 per cent of UK cars will be powered by electricity rather than petrol or diesel, threatening the government’s aspiration for the UK to be the world-leader in clean air cars.

 

Moray ospreys translocated to Basque Country – Forestry Commission Scotland

Forest Enterprise Scotland's Aberdeenshire team has been involved in a five year project to help restore breeding Ospreys to the Basque image: Forestry Commission ScotlandCountry of Spain.

The FES team has been working with renowned conservationist Roy Dennis, of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, who has been collecting chicks under a SNH licence to translocate to Spain’s Basque Country, where no Ospreys have bred for a century or more.

The release site, the Urdaibai Estuary near Bilbao, is used by Ospreys during their passage to and from Scotland so was considered a suitable site for a re-introduction by the Basque osprey group.

Image: Forestry Commission Scotland

As well as providing a gene pool for re-introductions to other countries, this partnership has also protected existing nests and so helped Ospreys consolidate their numbers and spread in Scotland.

Alan Campbell, Environment Ranger with FES team, said: “This has been a great project to be involved in. It feels really good to know that we have helped reintroduce these magnificent birds to another part of the world where they have been struggling to hold on. Roy has been weighing, measuring and ringing osprey chicks on the national forest estate for many years, but over the past five years, when there has been more than one chick in a nest, the larger chick has been selected for translocation.”

 

Theft of the food plant and caterpillars of the rare swallowtail butterfly from internationally important nature reserve – Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Swallowtail caterpillars on milk parsley by Elizabeth DackNorfolk Wildlife Trust has reported the uprooting and theft of five milk parsley plants from its nature reserve at Hickling Broad. Most if not all of the milk parsley plants had rare swallowtail butterfly caterpillars feeding on them and the plants were deliberately removed from the site to acquire the caterpillars. Milk parsley (Peucedanum palustre) is a scarce, vulnerable and declining, internationally-protected plant found mainly in East Anglian marshland.  It is also the only plant (a relative of roadside cow parsley) that the green and black striped caterpillars of Britain’s largest butterfly, the swallowtail will feed upon.  The swallowtail butterfly is extremely rare and also only found in the wild in the fens of the Norfolk Broads.  

Swallowtail caterpillars on milk parsley by Elizabeth Dack

Chief Executive, Brendan Joyce said, “This is an appalling wildlife crime to dig up these rare plants from an internationally important nature reserve and deliberately take rare swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Britain’s vulnerable wildlife faces enough challenges without people callously exploiting precious plants and animals for commercial or personal gain.  It is very unlikely that the plants or the caterpillars will survive for any significant amount of time away from the reserve.  The police are currently investigating the incident and we would urge the public to contact the police if they see swallowtail butterflies in an unusual or previously unknown location or if they are approached to purchase any butterflies or plants.”

 

Following the news this week that The Lynx UK Trust has submitted an application to Natural England to bring six of the wild cats from Sweden to Kielder Forest.

NSA rejects procedures behind Lynx UK Trust release licence application – National Sheep Association

With Lynx UK Trust having submitted a formal application to Natural England for a release licence for lynx into Kielder Forest, Northumberland, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is continuing to raise serious concerns around processes and proposals adopted by the body.

Responding to the announcement, NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “NSA has been strongly opposed to what Lynx UK Trust is calling a pilot release since its inception, with serious concerns around the way the organisation conducted its consultation process to questions around whether current law would even allow such a release to take place.”

 

TCV in partnership with Dementia Adventure – TCV

TCV is proud to work in partnership with Dementia Adventure to expand outdoor activity for people with dementia.

Award-winning charity Dementia Adventure has received nearly half a million pounds from the Big Lottery Fund to help people living with Image: TCVdementia get outdoors and retain a sense of adventure in their lives. We are delighted that TCV will be one of the organisations working in partnership with them to help deliver a range of specially developed outdoor activities.

Image: TCV

Dementia Adventure delivers short breaks and holidays, training, support and research to improve the lives of people living with dementia and their carers. This new grant will be used to grow the scale of their work, encouraging other organisations across the UK to adopt this in their communities.

"We know that people living with dementia can benefit emotionally, socially and physically from activity outdoors. Engaging with nature can improve quality of life, build confidence and help lessen the impact of the dementia." Neil Mapes, Chief Executive Officer at Dementia Adventure

Each group will be equipped with practical skills and confidence to deliver enjoyable outdoor activities for more people with dementia including animal assisted therapy, gardening and nature and park walks. Research has shown this to be beneficial in reducing feelings of isolation and an unnecessary decline in well-being.

 

Farming Minister George Eustice MP visits Hampshire farm to see how wildlife can thrive on a farm growing oats for our breakfast cereals - Wildlife Trusts

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, George Eustice MP, visited Hampshire on 7 July and met farmer, Nick Rowsell, who grows oats under the Jordans Farm Partnership with The Wildlife Trusts and LEAF.

This tranquil landscape of rolling chalk downland is vital for nature’s recovery and the farm lies within the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Faccombe Woodland to Kingsclere Downs Living Landscape. Semi-natural lowland grasslands like chalk downland is one of the most threatened habitats in the UK. So much had been ploughed up but this part at least is being returned to its former glory.

Nick produces oats for Jordans on rolling downs and hills alongside providing great food, shelter and breeding sites for rare birds like stone curlew and woodlark. Pollinators also thrive thanks to the seed mixes being used. The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has advised Nick how best to manage land for these species and willow tit, Duke of Burgundy butterfly and rare arable flowers so creating bigger, better and more joined-up habitats for wildlife.

The Jordans Farm Partnership is a great example of how wildlife and farming can work together, but to thrive on future will require continuation of government schemes like Countryside Stewardship. The Minister was urged to provide certainty for farmers by opening application windows for Countryside Stewardship before we leave the EU and to retain such schemes post-Brexit.

 

Best summer ever for Hummingbird Hawk-moths? - British Trust for Ornithology 

We’re on track for a record summer for Hummingbird Hawk-moth sightings in Britain, with more recorded in gardens this June than in previous years, as found by British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Garden BirdWatch survey. 

Hummingbird Hawk-moth by Jill Pakenham via BTOHummingbird Hawk-moth by Jill Pakenham via BTO

Reports of Hummingbird Hawk-moths in gardens are at a record high for this stage in the season (seen in 2.3% gardens in June compared to an average of 0.5%) according to the thousands of citizen scientists that take part in the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch survey. The moths have been seen across the UK, but there are particularly high reporting rates in the south and the east of England.
These distinctive day-flying moths migrate to the UK from southern Europe and North Africa. They push northward during the summer and are mainly recorded in gardens between June and September, where they are seen hovering like a small hummingbird over flowering plants such as Red Valerian, Buddleia, and Viper’s-bugloss to feed on nectar.
Why are we seeing so many this year? The numbers of Hummingbird Hawk-moths that make it to the UK can vary considerably from year to year, influenced by over-wintering success and population size, as well as temperature and wind direction. It has been particularly warm this June in eastern parts of the country – more than 2.5°C above average according to the Met Office – and warm air drawn up from the south in mid-June may have helped to carry them to our shores.

This species does not normally over-winter here, and the population is replenished each year by new migrants. However, if winters become milder in future, we may see them over-wintering more frequently. Garden BirdWatch allows us to gather information that will help us to monitor the long-term changes in the wildlife using our gardens.

 

Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership launched - John Muir Trust

Public, private, community and NGO landowners join forces to restore Highland Perthshire natural woodland.  The Trust and four neighbouring landowners and a woodland charity have launched a new project to create a vibrant, native woodland landscape spread across 50 square kilometres in the area between Loch Rannoch, Loch Tummel and Loch Tay.

Representatives from Forest Enterprise, Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust (Dun Coillich), Dalchosnie & Kynachan Estate and the Scottish Wildlife Trust were joined by Woodland Trust Scotland and the John Muir Trust at the foot of Schiehallion on Tuesday 18 July to celebrate the birth of the initiative.  

Dr Liz Auty, the John Muir Trust’s property manager at East Schiehallion, and a key player in the formation of the partnership, said: “We have a long term vision to turn this vast upland area into a living breathing landscape of native trees, woodland corridors, flourishing wildlife and picturesque footpaths. This project, we believe, can start to turn this landscape into a marvellous asset for the local community and a precious legacy for our children and grandchildren.”

Each partner will take forward different elements of the project. The John Muir Trust is spearheading the replacement of non-native conifers with broadleaf woodland and Scots pine. Seedling regeneration will be supported by sensitively sited fencing, allowing aspen, birch and rowan and willow – currently held in check by browsing –  to reach their potential. The Trust also plans to improve habitats for black grouse, willow warblers, wrens, whinchats and other species.

 

Beavers’ unique ability to restore landscapes revealed - University of Stirling 

Beavers’ exceptional ability to re-create diverse wetland landscapes that are home to a wide variety of species, has been revealed by researchers at the University of Stirling.

A new study, partly-funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and published in the international journal Science of the Total Environment, is the first to fully measure these environmental benefits over time. 

Image shows the site transformation one year after beavers were introduced (a), and then 11 years later (b) (University of Stirling)Image shows the site transformation one year after beavers were introduced (a), and then 11 years later (b) (University of Stirling)

Scientists looked at the effects a small group of beavers had on a wetland in Tayside originally drained for farming.  Over a period of 12 years, local plant richness rose by 46% and the total number of different plants recorded more than doubled. Species which normally grow in areas with high nitrogen levels decreased, indicating a return to more natural soil conditions.

Stirling’s Professor Nigel Willby, said: “Wetlands are tremendously important environments for biodiversity. They also serve to store water and improve its quality – they are the ‘kidneys of the landscape’. However, the world’s wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate – the latest estimates suggest that almost two thirds have been lost since 1900.  Beavers are renowned for their engineering skills, like dam building, and are now being considered as tools for restoring wetlands. They have been reintroduced widely, including in Scotland, partly for this purpose and our findings demonstrate the surprisingly large benefits they can bring to biodiversity.”

Between 2003 and 2015, the beavers constructed 195 metres of dams, 500 metres of canals and an acre of ponds, surrounded by a mosaic of vegetation which increased in complexity by 71%.

400 years after being hunted to extinction in the UK, beavers were re-admitted to Scotland last year, based on experience from trial reintroductions. SNH will use the findings of this study to inform discussions about how the animal can be integrated within the Scottish countryside.

Access the paper: Alan Law, Martin J. Gaywood, Kevin C. Jones, Paul Ramsay, Nigel J. Willby, Using ecosystem engineers as tools in habitat restoration and rewilding: beaver and wetlands, Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 605–606, 15 December 2017, Pages 1021-1030, ISSN 0048-9697, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.06.173.

 

New light on the secret life of badgers - University of Oxford, WildCRU

Badgers are more sociable than often thought, with implications for how they transmit disease according to Oxford University researchers.

Using security tracking technology more commonly used to protect museum artwork, the new research has revealed fresh insights into the animals’ social behaviour.

Previous studies have fuelled the assumption that badgers are a territorial and anti-social species, living in exclusive, tight-knit family groups, known as ‘setts’. This picture of the mammal’s social system led to the belief that they actively defend territorial borders and consequently rarely travel beyond their social-group boundaries. Some culling and vaccination programmes now rely on this perception, considering badger society as being divided up into discrete, impenetrable units.

The findings, published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, reveal that badgers travel more frequently beyond these notional boundaries than first thought, and appear to at least tolerate their neighbours.

Understanding day-to-day wildlife behaviour is critical to solving problems related to conservation and disease management. These issues are particularly relevant to badgers, because of their controversial role in the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) to cattle in the UK and Ireland.

An interdisciplinary team of Zoology and Computer Science Researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, used active Radio Frequency Identification Technology (aRFID) to ‘tag’ and monitor the movements of badgers in Wytham, Oxfordshire. The team discovered that the level of connectivity among badgers from different social-groups, was not as expected.

Professor David Macdonald, Director of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), said: ‘The private lives of badgers turn out to be almost as hard to understand as those of people – but after 25 years of trying, supported by extraordinary technologies, we’re nudging closer to an understanding that is not only intriguing but also, for example in the context of bTB, useful.’ 

Read the paper (open access): Ellwood SA, Newman C, Montgomery RA, et al. An active-radio-frequency-identification system capable of identifying co-locations and social-structure: Validation with a wild free-ranging animal. Methods Ecol Evol. 2017;00:1–10. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12839

 

Buried alive: Aquatic plants survive in ‘ghost ponds’ under agricultural fields - University College London

Aquatic plants in ‘ghost ponds’ are able to survive more than 100 years buried beneath cropped agricultural fields, according to new UCL research.

Ghost ponds are abundant across many agricultural regions, often visible as damp depressions, areas of poor crop cover, or changes in soil colour. Many UK ponds were filled-in during agricultural land intensification that took place after the 1950s.

Ghost ponds (Image courtesy of Emily Alderton, via UCL)Ghost ponds (Image courtesy of Emily Alderton, via UCL)

At the start of 20th century, there were an estimated 800,000 ponds in England and Wales, but it is thought that less than a quarter of these now remain. However, the UCL study, published in Biological Conservation, highlights that it is possible to ‘resurrect’ these buried habitats from the seeds and eggs stored within their historic sediments.

“We have shown that Ghost ponds can be resurrected and remarkably wetland plants lost for centuries can be brought back to life from preserved seeds” said lead author Emily Alderton (UCL Geography). 

“Ghost ponds often make poor agricultural land as it is very difficult to completely drain a pond and stop it collecting water. Re-digging these sites is a brilliant away of returning vibrant pond habitats to the landscape without any loss of productive land” added Emily. 

Read the paper (open access): Emily Alderton, Carl Derek Sayer, Rachael Davies, Stephen John Lambert, Jan Christoph Axmacher, Buried alive: Aquatic plants survive in ‘ghost ponds’ under agricultural fields, Biological Conservation, Volume 212, 2017, Pages 105-110, ISSN 0006-3207, doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.06.004.

 

HS2 latest - 94 ancient woods face damage - Woodland Trust

The Environmental Statement for HS2's Phase 2a (from West Midlands to Crewe) has now been published, and the the loss to ancient woodland is far worse than we anticipated.

We are horrified to learn that:

  • There will be direct loss to 10 ancient, irreplaceable woods, totalling at least 10.5 hectares.
  • There will be damage (due to noise, dust, lighting etc.) to a further 4 ancient woods.
  • 27 ancient or veteran trees will also be lost.

This is a huge increase, as previous route announcements suggested 2 ancient woods were to be lost (6.5 hectares).  

This is on top of the 63 woodlands that will be impacted by Phase 1, and at least another 17 woods along the proposed Phase 2b (East and West) routes.

This now brings the potential total of woods suffering direct loss or some damage to 94.* The current figure may still rise further as the ancient woodland inventory is updated and more route details are confirmed.

 

Growing better trees faster - University of Oxford

A new research collaboration could significantly increase the quality and economic productivity of one of the UK’s largest crop outputs, Sitka spruce conifer trees.

Using a breeding technique called ‘genomic selection’, researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh and from Forest Research, an agency of the Forestry Commission, hope to accurately identify, at a very early age, fast growing trees with superior timber quality. In doing so, the ‘Sitka Spruced’ research initiative could improve the economic value of future spruce plantations in the UK.  In addition, by enhancing the quality of the wood, harvests are more likely to meet the changing construction specifications required to build our houses.

The Sitka spruce is the UK’s primary timber species, with over 35 million Sitka trees planted in the UK each year. It is the third largest crop by area of cultivation in the UK, after wheat and barley, and accounts for around £1bn of the industry’s £2bn annual revenue. Fast growing and suited to the moist climate of western and northern Britain, the species produces a versatile white wood, with uses from paper making, to building construction.  It takes around 40 years from planting before most Sitka spruce trees are harvested, and only a proportion of those trees meet the stronger, higher value construction grades.

The project will scan hundreds of trees for variations in their DNA and then match those variations with fast-growing trees that produce superior timber. This will enable scientists to screen the DNA of the trees, to identify the fastest growing, with the best quality timber.

Genomics is not GM, Genetic Modification, but instead exploits the huge variation that occurs naturally within a species. If successful, the same technology could potentially be used to screen trees for other properties, such as how they cope with challenging environments, for example, how they adapt to dry or nutrient-poor sites, and for resistance to insects and disease.

 

Record year for rare black-winged stilts - RSPB

  • An unprecedented 13 black-winged stilt chicks fledge in the UK across sites in Kent, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, including nine on two RSPB reserves.
  • Extremely rare in the UK, more stilts fledged this year than the total between 1983 and 2016.
  • In part due to climate change, stilts are touching down in the UK in search of marshy conditions to raise their chicks.
  • The birds have benefitted from work on RSPB reserves to create the perfect habitat for them. 

Mud flats at low tide (image: Gordon Langsbury)Usually found in Southern Europe, a record 13 black-winged stilts have fledged in the UK from nests across Kent, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, including nine on two RSPB reserves after years of conservation work to create the ideal marshy habitat for them. 

Mud flats at low tide (image: Gordon Langsbury)

An elegant, black and white wader bird with long, bubble-gum pink legs, black-winged stilts have become a more common sight in recent years as they move from their traditional nesting grounds in southern Europe in search of wetland habitat to raise their young. However, fledglings are still extremely rare in the UK with only a handful of successes in the past decade. 

RSPB Cliffe Pools in north Kent proved to be the most productive site for black-winged stilts this summer as two pairs fledged an impressive seven chicks. A further two young fledged from RSPB Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire, with a final four coming from a nest in Norfolk making it the most successful breeding season for stilts in the UK. 

 

Managing change is the name of the game for nature conservation under a warmer climate - British Trust for Ornithology

New research suggests the populations and distributions of ¾ of 3,000 plant and animal species in England are likely to be significantly affected by climate change by the end of the century.

Dotterel by Peter M WilsonA newly published paper in the journal Biological Conservation assesses the impact of climate change on the distribution of over 3,000 British plants and animals across 17 taxonomic groups. Given a 2°C increase in average global temperature by the 2080s, over a quarter (27%) of species were judged to be at high to medium risk of losing a substantial proportion of their currently suitable ranges, whilst just over half (54%) could significantly expand their ranges. The most vulnerable species were northern and upland species, including birds like the Dotterel and Red Grouse, flowering plants such as crowberry, and damp loving mosses and liverworts.

Dotterel by Peter M Wilson

Conversely, wasps, bees, ants and many southerly distributed species such as Dartford Warbler and emperor dragonfly were thought likely to thrive in response to warmer temperatures and would be able to colonise new areas assuming suitable habitats are available. A more detailed study of 400 species included information on population trends, and took into account other factors known to make species more vulnerable to climate change, such as restriction to small, localised populations. This more comprehensive assessment found that taking into account these other factors slightly increased the proportion of wildlife at risk from climate change (35%), with 42% likely to have opportunities to expand.  

The report emphasises the need for conservation action to increase our wildlife’s ability to survive climate change.  Potential beneficiaries of climate change will not be able to expand their range if they lack areas of suitable habitats to move into. Action is therefore needed to protect and enhance networks of semi-natural habitats for species to colonise. Direct management may help otherwise threatened species to adapt to a warmer climate.

Read the paper: James W. Pearce-Higgins,Colin M. Beale,Tom H. Oliver,Tom A. August,Matthew Carroll,Dario Massimino,Nancy Ockendon,Joanne Savage,Christopher J. Wheatley et al A national-scale assessment of climate change impacts on species: Assessing the balance of risks and opportunities for multiple taxa. Biological Conservation https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.06.035 

 

CJS in Depthlogo: PlantlifeHelp our featured charity Plantlife hunt for flowers…

Join the Great British Wildflower Hunt!  

Wild TeaselDo you love wild flowers? Would you like to know more about them? And help save them for the future? Then check out the Great British Wildflower Hunt, says Plantlife’s Jane Gazzard 

People have less contact with wild flowers than previous generations. There are fewer flowers around us and we seem to have less time to enjoy them. But taking part in the Great British Wildflower Hunt could change all that. It’s a great way to enjoy flowers, whether you’re familiar with them or not. And by letting Plantlife know what you’ve found, you’ll help our work.

Wild teasel  (Dipsacus fullonum)

The mauve flowers appear in a band that gradually 'moves' up the flowerhead as new blooms open and old ones close. You can collect the flowerheads and dry them.

Read the article in full and find out more about the Wildflower Hunt including how to take part.

 

On with today's news and defra have been busy. 

The Unfrozen Moment - Delivering A Green Brexit - defra

Secretary of State Michael Gove sets out his vision on the future of our natural environment in a speech at WWF's Living Planet Centre

Click through the read the speech in full.

  

Response: Creating a new gold standard for the environment – the Secretary of State’s keynote speech today - The Wildlife Trusts

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, promised to deliver a “green Brexit” in a keynote speech today and said that leaving the European Union provides a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to reform farming, fisheries and land management.

The Wildlife Trusts welcome the passion and commitment in Mr Gove’s speech – it’s extremely heartening to hear a Secretary of State say that he cares about the environment and wants to make commitments to enhancing it using “gold standard” policies. Particularly welcome are promises to tie future farm support to environmental improvements. 

Over the last 40 years, a staggering 56% of species across the UK have declined. Fifteen percent of species are in danger of disappearing altogether. The need for change is pressing.

Joan Edwards, Director, Public Affairs, The Wildlife Trusts, “It’s encouraging to hear a Secretary of State speaking so positively about improving the environment. This ambition comes at the right time - our country’s wildlife has never been in so much trouble, but there are huge opportunities ahead to improve how we look after our environment. We’re very much look forward to working with Mr Gove and Defra to help strengthen protection and enable recovery for our wildlife, seas and countryside”. 

 

Resonse: Woodland Trust response as Michael Gove talks about a 'Green Brexit'

Responding to today's speech on the future of the environment by the Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove, in which he stated the importance of woodland creation and need for policies and incentives to stimulate it, Woodland Trust chief executive Beccy Speight, said: “Only a month ago we were calling for fresh thinking to arrest the 12,000 hectare shortfall in woodland creation and today’s announcement could herald the change needed. Farm payments which reward environmental protection and enhancement can only nurture more integrated land management, in which trees play a crucial role.  Whether for flood alleviation, improving soil quality or enhancing animal welfare an increase in trees planted, in the right way, can support measures which benefit the public, farming and the economy.  Alongside yesterday’s Defra confirmation of £13m in grants being available this autumn and today’s land management vision presented by the CLA there seems to at last be an appetite to revolutionise our outdated approach to the countryside.”

 

Response: National Trust response to Michael Gove’s first major speech as Environment Secretary

 

Response:  The future of the countryside is green - Countryside Alliance

In his speech Mr Gove outlined his vision for the countryside and future ongoing support for farming. He recognised that “seventy per cent of our land is farmed” and our “beautiful landscape has not happened by accident” but is the result of active management. Mr Gove made clear farmers will only get payments for environmental goods and enhancing rural life.

The Countryside Alliance was particularly pleased that Mr Gove recognised the role farmers and land managers play in managing the countryside and the specific need to support upland farmers by protecting the “human ecology”. Upland farming is impossible without subsidy and it provides public benefits which could never be met by the market. This is something we have long been concerned about and recognising the role upland farmers play in managing and maintaining some of our most iconic rural landscapes is vital.

 

Environment Secretary pledges action on ocean plastics - defra

The Environment Secretary has set out how the government is protecting our oceans.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove pledged action to reduce plastic waste choking our oceans as he set out his ambition for the UK to lead the world in environmental protection.

Around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans each year, posing a serious threat to our natural and marine environment – experts estimate plastic is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds.

As new figures published today (21/7/17) revealed more than nine billion fewer plastic bags were used since the government introduced a 5p charge, an 83 per cent reduction, the Environment Secretary set out further plans to prevent other sources of plastic finding their way into our oceans and seas during a speech entitled ‘Delivering a Green Brexit’ today.

Mr Gove confirmed legislation will be introduced this year to ban the sale and manufacture of microbeads – tiny pieces of plastic that are easily swallowed by marine life – in cosmetics and personal care products such as toothpastes and shower gels.

Speaking at WWF UK on Friday morning, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: " Eight million tonnes of plastic are discarded into the world’s oceans each year, putting marine wildlife under serious threat. In October 2015, the government introduced the 5p carrier bag charge. Figures released today show that policy’s enormous success – nine billion fewer carrier bags distributed since the charge was introduced, a fall of 83 per cent. More than £95million raised from the charge has been donated to environmental, educational and other good causes. Last year the government launched a consultation on banning microbeads in personal care products, which have such a devastating effect on marine life. We are responding to that consultation today and we will introduce legislation to implement that ban later this year. But there is more we can do to protect our oceans, so we will explore new methods of reducing the amount of plastic - in particular plastic bottles - entering our seas, improve incentives for reducing waste and litter, and review the penalties available to deal with polluters - all part of a renewed strategy on waste and resources that looks ahead to opportunities outside the EU."

 

Banning the use of microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products - defra Consultation outcome

We want to know what you think about our plans to ban the manufacture and sale of cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads.

We are also looking for evidence of the effect of other sources of microplastics on the marine environment. This will inform future UK actions to protect the marine environment.

Download the summary of responses document (pdf)  

 

Response: Microbeads ban is great news, but plastics problem is still enormous - Greenpeace

Commenting on the government proposal published today to ban microbeads from personal care and cosmetic products, Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner Louisa Casson said: “The UK government has just proposed the strongest ban on microbeads in the world to date. This is great news for our environment and a positive sign of Britain’s global leadership on ocean plastics. It’s crucial that ministers have left the door open to broadening the ban in future"

 

£13 million fund to increase England's woodland - defra

The next round of the Woodland Creation grant has been confirmed.

A £13 million fund to help landowners plant more trees to protect wildlife, boost the timber sector and reduce flood risk will soon open for applications, Forestry Minister Thérèse Coffey confirmed today (20/7/17).

Farmers, foresters and land managers across the UK will be able to apply for up to £6,800 per hectare to plant, weed and protect more trees when application forms for the next round of the government’s Woodland Creation grant are made available in September.

The fund – part of the Countryside Stewardship scheme – will help plant more than 3 million trees, creating 1,900 hectares of new woodland and contributing to the government’s ambition to plant 11 million trees, with a further one million in towns and cities.

Guidance and application forms will be available in September, with the application window opening in January 2018.

A range of grants are available to support the creation of new woodland and sustainable woodland management, with Forestry Commission online advice available on the application process.

 

A £10m fund to restore peatland opens for applications - defra

Applications are being welcomed to fund peatland restoration across England

£10 million grant scheme to restore England’s iconic peatlands has officially opened for bids, Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey announced today (21/7/17).

In England, peatlands cover 11 per cent of the country and provide a key habitat for birds such as the merlin, dunlin and golden plover. They provide 70 per cent of the country’s drinking water and store more than 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. But it is estimated as much as four fifths of our peatland is in need of restoration.

Funding will be made available for schemes that restore upland and lowland peatlands, create habitats for vulnerable wildlife, reduce flood risk by slowing rain water flow and increase carbon capture.

The government fund is in addition to the £4 million Defra has already allocated to existing Natural England peatland restoration schemes across the country, from Cumbria to Cornwall, which have raised water levels for mosses to thrive and seen rare species replanted.

Bids with the greatest potential for greenhouse gas mitigation and projects that deliver better value for money and maximise environmental benefits will be favoured. The scheme is for capital works and is open to everyone outside central government and their agencies.

Funding will be available for three years from April 2018 as part of Defra’s £100 million of capital funding for direct investment in projects that support the natural environment.

The closing date for applications will be 20 November 2017 and applications will be made via Defra’s e-tendering platform

 

And also for Scotland: Funding available now to restore Scotland’s peatlands - Scottish Natural Heritage

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) today urged land owners, managers, farmers, crofters and estates to apply for funding to help protect precious peatlands.

the Flow Country (image: SNH)The Flow Country (image: SNH)

From Shetland to the Solway more than 20% of Scotland is covered by peat – an area almost the same size as Wales. Peatlands provide multiple benefits when healthy.

Restoring these magnificent peatlands has been made possible thanks to additional Scottish Government funding of £8million which will see another 8000 hectares of damaged peatlands start their road to recovery this year.

The Peatland Action Fund, run by SNH and launched in April, has already had more than £4million of applications but wants further applications before the closing date at the end of October.

Restoration techniques start with ‘rewetting’ of peatland, mostly through ditch blocking. This reconnects peatlands with water catchments, helping to slow river flows and, in some cases, ease downstream flooding. Other restoration techniques being trialled include peat hag re-profiling, re-vegetating bare peat and forest to pre-existing bog recovery.

 

News from organisations other than defra (it's been another busy day!) 

£1.23 million National Lottery award to support biodiversity training - Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council, FSC, are delighted to have been awarded a National Lottery grant of £1.23 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for their exciting new BioLinks project.

biolinks (image: FSC)Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, BioLinks will support, signpost and mentor existing and new natural historians who volunteer their time. This will help them to help them to become more proficient biological recorders. It will provide more taxonomic training for underrepresented species, especially those that are difficult to identify. Species focused on will include beetles, snails, true flies, ants and wasps.

(Image: FSC)

FSC aims to involve existing and new biological recorders in the project, hoping to extend not only the number of active natural history observers but also increase their age range and diversity. Over the five year project BioLinks will work across the West Midlands region and London and South East to engage with 2,500 volunteers, delivering 480 training courses and 33 events.

 

West Pennine Moors becomes largest protected wildlife site in a decade - Lancashire Wildlife Trust

West Pennine Moors (image: Alan Wright, via Lancashire Wildlife Trust)The West Pennine Moors is the largest new site of special scientific interest (SSSI) notified by Natural England since 2004, covering a total of 76 square kilometres between Chorley, Blackburn, Bolton and Haslingden in Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

West Pennine Moors (image: Alan Wright, via Lancashire Wildlife Trust)

The West Pennine Moors is a fabulous place for all of us. It is about 100 square miles of moorland north of Oldham, Rochdale, Bury and Bolton, and it is surrounded by millions of people.
The moorland and its surrounding woodland is home to a variety of wildlife, including a range of breeding birds and large colonies of black headed gull. The Lancashire Wildlife Trust has been amongst those at the forefront of the campaign to create a SSSI.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trusts Head of Conservation, Tim Mitcham said “We are thrilled by this news. The West Pennine Moors are an incredibly important area for nature conservation and to have this level of protection designated is a significant step forward”
Natural England’s Chief Executive, James Cross, said: “This is a significant moment for the protection of wildlife across a wild and beautiful expanse of north-west England. Our upland landscapes provide vital wildlife habitats and clean water, reduce flood risk and bring enjoyment and a sense of well-being to millions of people."

 

Scientific Publications 

Dayer, A. A., Lutter, S. H., Sesser, K. A., Hickey, C. M. & Gardali, T. (2017) Private Landowner Conservation Behavior Following Participation in Voluntary Incentive Programs: Recommendations to Facilitate Behavioral Persistence. Conservation Letters. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12394

 

Chadd, R. P. et al (2017) An index to track the ecological effects of drought development and recovery on riverine invertebrate communities. Ecological Indicators. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.06.058

 

Nathan Brown, Frank van den Bosch, Stephen Parnell, Sandra Denman Integrating regulatory surveys and citizen science to map outbreaks of forest diseases: acute oak decline in England and Wales. Proc. R. Soc. B 2017 284 20170547; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0547.  

 

Chanuki Illushka Seresinhe, Tobias Preis, Helen Susannah Moat Using deep learning to quantify the beauty of outdoor places. R. Soc. open sci. 2017 4 170170; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170170.

 

Lonnie Mikkelsen, Line Hermannsen, Kristian Beedholm, Peter Teglberg Madsen, Jakob Tougaard Simulated seal scarer sounds scare porpoises, but not seals: species-specific responses to 12 kHz deterrence sounds. R. Soc. open sci. 2017 4 170286; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170286

 

Sutter, L., Albrecht, M. and Jeanneret, P. (), Landscape greening and local creation of wildflower strips and hedgerows promote multiple ecosystem services J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12977

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