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

 

Plantlife logoOur Featured Charity Plantlife launches a new report: Road Verges: last refuge for some of our rarest wild plants

An astonishing number of wild plants grow on our road verges, some of which are threatened or near threatened. Proper management of verges is critical if these species are to avoid extinction. Includes a list of known plants found on the UK's road verges.

Download the report   

Road verges are a refuge for some of our rarest plants writes Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife 

The richness of our roadside flora is astonishing. Our new road verges report brings this flora together for the first time – a national catalogue of all those species known to grow on verges and roadsides somewhere in the UK.

We’ve found that over 720 species grow on our road verges. This is an astonishing total. If we add in hedgerows and ditches, the total rises to over 800 species, representing nearly half our total flora. As well as highlighting the sheer diversity of our verges and roadsides, it really drives home their value for wildlife.

But unfortunately, the story of loss and destruction of road verge plants is a long one. In 1641 a road in Kent was widened, destroying the first colony of lizard orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum) ever recorded in Great Britain.

Today, nearly 100 ‘threatened’ or ‘near threatened’ species are found on our verges. Many of these were once more abundant in meadows, pastures and woodlands. But today, with these habitats gone or in poor condition, we’ve found that road verges now represent their last refuge. 

Proper management of our roadside verges is critical if these species are to avoid extinction. Please support our call for councils to manage their verges better for all our wildflowers and wildlife.

Add your name to Plantlife's road verge petition

  

Team to assess impact on wildlife following fire - Clinton Devon Estates 

Clinton Devon Estates would like to thank the Devon and Somerset Fire Service, the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Wardens and the RSPB who worked closely together to tackle the 50-hectare fire on Colaton Raleigh Common at the weekend. The fire impacted on 5% of the total area of the heaths.

 Dr Sam Bridgewater, Head of Wildlife and Conservation for Clinton Devon Estates, will now lead a team to assess the impact on wildlife of the fire, the biggest on the Pebblebed Heaths since 2010.

He said: “We have recently recorded around 3000 different species of wildlife on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, including animals, insects, reptiles, birds and plants. We expect that most of the birds will have survived the fire simply by the fact they can fly away. At this time of year ground nesting birds such as Nightjars, and Dartford Warblers which breed in gorse, will be building their nests, so it’s a particularly bad time of year for the fire to happen.  However, there is still chance in the season for them to breed elsewhere.  Animals that are less mobile or slower such as reptiles, including adders, will have been more adversely impacted, with many individuals killed.

“It has taken nearly seven years for the landscape and habitats from the last big fire in 2010 covering nearly 100 hectares to recover. This site is only now becoming suitable for supporting populations of birds that were there prior to the fire.  Although we wouldn’t have wished for this recent fire to occur, nature is resilient, and heathland is adapted to coping with fire. We expect the current burn site to make a full recovery, but it will take decades. Later this year we will see grass shoots emerge, with gorse and heather sprouting in future years.  The landscape will look quite different for a while though.

More information about the fire including video footage from DevonLive: Fire crews fight Woodbury Common fire through the night 

 

85 years on from the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass rangers battle to restore the rare Peak District bog - National Trust 

A Peak District hillside that became a battleground ramblers’ right to roam is now at the centre of a new fight – as rangers battle to save one of the world’s rarest nature habitats.

This weekend walkers, campaigners and rangers celebrated the 85th anniversary of the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout.

On 24 April, 1932, hundreds of walkers descended on the Peak District moor to draw attention to their inability to roam in the countryside. They were met by gamekeepers determined to stop them.

The trespass saw six ramblers arrested – but sparked a campaign that would eventually see law passed to allow people to walk freely over land in places like national parks.

One of the gritstone boulders standing amongst smaller stones on the heath, part of the Kinder Scout Rock formation in the Peak District, Derbyshire. (Image: Joe Cornish/National Trust Images)One of the gritstone boulders standing amongst smaller stones on the heath, part of the Kinder Scout Rock formation in the Peak District, Derbyshire. (Image: Joe Cornish/National Trust Images)

 When walkers retrace their steps today, they will trudge across a landscape that is changing rapidly.

The National Trust acquired Kinder Scout 35 years ago. Pollution and certain land management had seen the Scout become one of the fastest eroding peat bogs in the country – with a patch bare black peat equivalent to the size of over 80 football pitches.

But in the last seven years rangers from the conservation charity have worked with the Moors for the Future Partnership, Natural England and water company United Utilities to restore the blanket bog – a habitat rarer than the rainforest.

Rangers have re-seeded 80 hectares of bare peat, planted half a million bog cotton plants on the heather moorland and placed 20,000 trees in the deep valleys that surround the Kinder plateau.

 

First cycling for all festival – Lake District National Park Authority

A gathering geared to bring cycling to everyone beckons in the heart of the Lakes with Image: Lake District National Park Authorityspecially adapted wheels for riders with disabilities.

Showcasing the benefits of being mobile in the great outdoors, the Inclusive Cycling Festival is being staged at Brockhole, the Lake District Visitor Centre on the shores of Windermere, on Friday 12 May.

Image: Lake District National Park Authority

Specially adapted cycles will cater for a wide range of abilities and people are being invited to roll up and have a go, while enjoying sensational scenery and beautiful grounds. The event is led by Cycling Projects, the charity behind nationally recognised programme, Wheels for All. By using specially adapted cycles, it provides quality, fun activities that are both physically and mentally stimulating for adults and children with disabilities and differing needs.

In the Focus on Overcoming Barriers we had an article from Pony AxeS, detailing a horse drawn transport system. Read the article here 

 

The first permanent Hedgehog Street inspired garden is launched at RHS Harlow Carr, Yorkshire – PTES

A Hedgehog Street inspired garden at RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate, North Yorkshire will be unveiled for the first time today [Tuesday 25 April Hedgehog by Ali Taylor2017], by wildlife charities People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), who have successfully coordinated the Hedgehog Street campaign since 2011, and work tirelessly to conserve the UK’s native hedgehogs.

Hedgehog by Ali Taylor

Created by award-winning garden designer Tracy Foster, this new, permanent Hedgehog Street garden showcases a smorgasbord of hedgehog-friendly features designed to encourage visitors to RHS Harlow Carr to make the green spaces on their doorsteps a haven for these prickly creatures. The garden is made up of a series of individually themed gardens; one contemporary; one rustic; and one Mediterranean. The garden’s hedgehog-friendly aspects include nesting sites and Hedgehog Highways, providing access to neighbouring gardens, safe water features, planting and vegetation, to not only encourage hedgehogs, but also other wildlife and prey.

 

Caterpillar found to eat shopping bags, suggesting biodegradable solution to plastic pollution – University of Cambridge

A common insect larva that eats beeswax has been found to break down chemical bonds in the plastic used for packaging and shopping bags at uniquely high speeds. Scientists say the discovery could lead to a biotechnological approach to the polyethylene waste that chokes oceans and landfills.

Scientists have found that a caterpillar commercially bred for fishing bait has the ability to biodegrade polyethylene: one of the toughest and most used plastics, frequently found clogging up landfill sites in the form of plastic shopping bags.

Close-up of wax worm next to biodegraded holes in a polyethylene plastic shopping bag from a UK supermarket as used in the experiment. Credit: The research team.Close-up of wax worm next to biodegraded holes in a polyethylene plastic shopping bag from a UK supermarket as used in the experiment. Credit: The research team.

The wax worm, the larvae of the common insect Galleria mellonella, or greater wax moth, is a scourge of beehives across Europe. In the wild, the worms live as parasites in bee colonies. Wax moths lay their eggs inside hives where the worms hatch and grow on beeswax – hence the name.

A chance discovery occurred when one of the scientific team, Federica Bertocchini, an amateur beekeeper, was removing the parasitic pests from the honeycombs in her hives. The worms were temporarily kept in a typical plastic shopping bag that became riddled with holes.

Bertocchini, from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), collaborated with colleagues Paolo Bombelli and Christopher Howe at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry to conduct a timed experiment.

Around a hundred wax worms were exposed to a plastic bag from a UK supermarket. Holes started to appear after just 40 minutes, and after 12 hours there was a reduction in plastic mass of 92mg from the bag.

 

Scientific Publications 

Munsch, S. H., Cordell, J. R. and Toft, J. D. (2017), Effects of shoreline armouring and overwater structures on coastal and estuarine fish: opportunities for habitat improvement. J Appl Ecol.DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12906

 

Kärvemo, S., Björkman, C., Johansson, T., Weslien, J. and Hjältén, J. (2017), Forest restoration as a double-edged sword: the conflict between biodiversity conservation and pest control. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12905

 

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