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


logo; CJS in-depthEnglish Tourism Week

This week is English Tourism Week and we will be highlighting some of our in-depth features which touch on tourism, visitor management and accessibility.

The Week is "an annual celebration of English tourism. A series of events showcasing visitor experiences in England. English Tourism Week highlights the value of tourism."  Find out more about this week here. https://www.visitbritain.org/english-tourism-week

We're starting today with a look at interpreting our outdoor heritage, the lead article by The Association for Heritage Interpretation in CJS Focus on Visitor Management and Engagement written by Dr Bill Bevan.

Visit almost any countryside property or heritage site and you will have come across some way of telling that place’s story to visitors and local communities. Interpretation panels, welcome leaflets and self-guided trails are now common in today’s British countryside.

Heritage interpretation is the way property managers explain the nature, origin and use of their natural, cultural or historical sites and objects. Interpretation goes beyond the dry communication of information, using creative techniques borrowed from journalism and communications theory to engage people about the place they are visiting or the object they are looking at.


Bee Creative in the Garden! – The Wildlife Trusts

The Royal Horticultural Society and The Wildlife Trusts launch gardening campaign to help wild bees

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts have joined forces to urge gardeners to do more to help protect bumblebees and solitary bees, heroes of the pollinator world.

The Bee Creative in the Garden! call comes as bees are under increasing pressure largely due to loss of habitat. In the countryside, 97% of lowland meadow has already been lost and the dramatic decrease in suitable habitats isn’t just confined to rural areas.

Buff-tailed bumblebee (c) Jon Hawkins, Surrey Hills PhotographyBuff-tailed bumblebee (c) Jon Hawkins, Surrey Hills Photography

The network of 15 million gardens that once formed ‘green corridors’ for wildlife are disappearing at an alarming rate. In London alone, vegetated garden land the size of 2.5 Hyde Parks is lost each year*. The number of front gardens that have been paved over has tripled in a decade and over five million have no plants growing at all.

The charities will be arming gardeners with the advice, insights and inspiration they need to create habitats that support wild bees as they emerge from their nests in early spring to forage for food.

Gardeners will be able to download a wild bee-friendly gardening guide. Wildlife events and a ‘Bee Creative’ photo competition will also be taking place from 1 April to 1 November 2017 as bees buzz during the gardener’s growing season and then look for nesting sites in autumn.

Bee Creative in the Garden! is this year’s Wild About Gardens campaign – a joint initiative to encourage gardeners to create wildlife havens for the many, once-common, native species.


Tell local Beekeepers if you find an Asian Hornet - British Beekeepers Association

A new smartphone app has been launched today to help beekeepers and the public make a quicker report if they find a suspected Asian Hornet.

Image: British Beekeepers AssociationImage: British Beekeepers Association

Asian Hornet Watch is designed to give you high quality reference pictures and use the GPS on your phone to record exactly where your photo was taken. It will be sent straight to the team that is working to identify the hornets as quickly as possible. It is available as a free download from today for both android and IOS phones.

The BBKA will be encouraging all beekeepers to use the app but to also tell their local groups if they find something.

When the two Asian hornets were confirmed in the Gloucestershire and Somerset areas last summer there was very little information given to beekeepers. Even those within a few miles were alerted but not given the precise location. Given the fact that Asian hornets target honeybees and can quickly devastate a colony of honeybees, we need information in order to take defensive actions.


Seabed conditions key to survival of juvenile cod, haddock and whiting – University of Glasgow

Links between seabed type and quality are closely related to the abundance and size of young commercially fished species such as cod, haddock and whiting.

A new study, led by the University of Glasgow and published today in Marine Ecology Progress Series, examines the abundance and size of Image: University of Glasgowthese three types of commercial fish over the course of two years in the South Arran Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area in the Firth of Clyde.

Image: University of Glasgow

The Firth of Clyde was once an important area for a variety of fish such as haddock and cod and whiting. However, the populations of these fish have changed to the extent that they no longer support the fisheries they once did.

Previous studies have shown that there is a now a lower diversity of species, and the current fish population in the Clyde (while remaining high in biomass) is dominated by small whiting below the minimum landing size.

In this study researchers analysed factors which could be affecting the species from recovering. They found that the biodiversity of the seabed affects the abundance and growth of juvenile demersal fish.


Liverpool tree scheme is child’s play – Liverpool City Council

Green fingered children in Liverpool have launched a city-wide tree planting programme today (Friday, 24 March).

Liverpool City Council is piloting the project at seven primary schools with the aim of enabling every 10 year old child in the city to plant a tree within the next three years.

One Tree per Child launch (Liverpool City Council)The council has teamed up The Mersey Forest and the One Tree Per Child scheme to plant 5,000 new trees by 2019.

Image: Liverpool City Council

One Tree Per Child is the international tree planting initiative that was founded by film-star Olivia Newton-John and environmentalist Jon Dee to connect young people with the natural environment.

To support the pilot, the council is also awarding Tree Champion status to four other primary schools to act as mentors and has identified four city parks for the planting to take place: Newsham, Walton Hall, Otterspool and Alt Meadows.

The scheme will be the first key recommendation to be implemented from the the recently published Green Spaces Review, which called for children to have greater engagement with the city’s parks.


‘Fingerprint’ technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution – Lancaster University

Researchers at Lancaster University have found a way to detect subtle early warning signs that reveal a frog population is at risk from pollution.

Worldwide, amphibian populations are declining due to habitat loss, disease and pollution which is cited as a major threat to their survival.

Scientists publishing in Scientific Report, have found evidence of stress in tadpoles taken from ponds most impacted by pollution caused by nutrients and pesticides. They say the technique they used to spot these changes could offer an early warning system for populations at risk.

Working over a three-year period they looked at common frog populations in urban and rural ponds subject to varying degrees of pollution. Using a special kind of biochemical ‘fingerprinting’ detected via infrared spectroscopy, the team looked at tissues taken from tadpoles as well as frogspawn to examine their biochemical makeup – searching for markers such as glycogen which can vary as the organism responds to stress. The team found strong evidence of higher levels of stress in tadpoles living in those ponds most impacted by pollution, more so than frogspawn embryos, which are protected to some degree by their jelly coat.

Read the paper here: Strong, R., Martin, F. L., Jones, K. C., Shore, R. F. & Halsall, C. J. (2017) Subtle effects of environmental stress observed in the early life stages of the Common frog, Rana temporaria. Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 44438 (2017) doi:10.1038/srep44438


Ballast convention reduces mitten crab threat, but it’s not the end of the story – WWT

The risk to UK wildlife from invasive Chinese mitten crabs will be significantly reduced once the Government follows through on its commitment to treat ballast water from ships coming into UK waters. However, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) has joined other Image: Chinese Mittern Crab (c) FERAenvironmental organisations in highlighting that invasive non-native wildlife can still enter the environment through other routes.

Ballast water is used to stabilise ships and in doing so it transports marine plants and animals around the world. Discharged ballast water is implicated in introducing many aquatic invasive species into the UK, including the Chinese mitten crab, which have the potential to wipe out native species.

Image: WWT

The Chinese mitten crab population has increased rapidly in recent years. Significant populations now exist in the Thames and other rivers throughout England and Wales. As well as affecting native crayfish, they damage riverbeds and banks causing problems for freshwater fisheries.

Environmental organisations welcomed the news this week that the UK Government has committed to complying with The Ballast Water Management convention, which will require all ships involved in international trade to manage their ballast water to specified standards from September 2017.


Breakthrough in 'amphibian plague': deadly fungus genes identified – Imperial College London

Scientists have identified the genes of a deadly fungus that is decimating salamander and newt populations in Northern Europe.

Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), dubbed the 'amphibian plague’, is a highly infectious chytrid fungus that affects many species of A fire salamander infected with the Bsal fungus. It died the day after this photo was taken. Credit: Ghent Universitysalamanders and newts, literally digesting their skin, which quickly leads to death. Since its discovery in 2013, very little has been found about how the fungus causes disease.

A fire salamander infected with the Bsal fungus. It died the day after this photo was taken. Credit: Ghent University

Now, researchers from Imperial College London, Ghent University, and the Broad Institute, have sequenced and identified the genes responsible for Bsal from an infected salamander. The authors say the findings, published last week in the journal Nature Communications, could ultimately help conservation efforts and provide drug targets in the future to help curb the disease.

Read the paper here: Farrer, R. A. et al (2017) Genomic innovations linked to infection strategies across emerging pathogenic chytrid fungi. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14742


Welsh “Domesday Book” of plants is world first – Natural Resources Wales

Wales has become the first country in the world to have a complete record of its rare flowering plants and ferns.

BSBI meeting (Natural Resources Wales)BSBI meeting (Natural Resources Wales)

The project, which started almost 40 years ago, has painstakingly compiled a county-by-county register of every single rare plant in that country.

No such detailed account of a nation’s flora exists in any other country in the world.

And now this “Domesday Book” of the plant world will be celebrated at an event at Aberystwyth University today (27 March 2017).

The project was started by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) and had been supported by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and its predecessor bodies.

Dr Polly Spencer-Vellacott, BSBI Welsh Officer, said: "Wales came up with the idea of County Rare Plant Registers in Cardiganshire in 1978, and it has now spread to all parts of Britain and Ireland. But this is the first time that any country has achieved this kind of complete coverage and it’s wonderful that volunteers across Wales have done all this work.”

People working in plant conservation can now identify sites for rare plants in all the counties in Wales.


€4m to boost biodiversity on coastal structures in Wales and Ireland – Aberystwyth University

SMS Wales drill coring artificial rock pools at Tywyn (Aberystwyth University)Ecostructure will work with stakeholders and policymakers to develop simple, but innovative ecological interventions for enhancing biodiversity, building on IBERS award winning artificial rock pool enhancements at Tywyn and alternative materials to concrete.

SMS Wales drill coring artificial rock pools at Tywyn (Aberystwyth University)

A new EU-backed initiative to enhance the ecological value of coastal defence and renewable energy structures in Wales and Ireland is being led by Aberystwyth University researchers, in collaboration with University College Dublin, Bangor University, University College Cork and Swansea University.

The €4m Ecostructure project was announced today (Friday 24th March 2017) by the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government Mark Drakeford AM.

Dr Joe Ironside from Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences is leading Ecostructure.

Dr Ironside said: “In Wales and Ireland, we rely upon man-made sea defences to protect many of our most important cities, towns and transport links from floods and storms. These artificial structures tend to provide poor habitats for wildlife, but eco-engineering offers enormous potential to make them greener.”


PotWatch - can you trump Obama? – Buglife

Buglife are launching a new campaign to highlight the role the importation of pot plants plays in establishing invasive species in the UK.  To look into this threat Buglife have launched PotWatch asking the public to record countries of origin of plants purchased at their local garden Flatworm (Buglife)centre. The charity has also prepared a basic guide to flatworms asking the public to keep an eye out for these and send in photos of any found as part of the campaign.

Flatworm (Buglife)

Last November an invasive flatworm from Brazil that is already a threat to agriculture across France, the Obama flatworm (Obama nungara), was found in a pot plant at a garden centre in Oxfordshire. The 4.5 cm worm crawled out of a pot plant, a Heuchera, imported from the Netherlands.

The Obama worm, which grows to 7cm long, is a predator of earthworms and land snails, thereby endangering soil fertility and wildlife.  It was first found in Europe on Guernsey in 2008, but has spread through France and into Spain and has now been discovered at a handful of locations in the UK.


logo; CJS in-depthOur In Depth second feature for English Tourism Week

The Importance of Visitor Research by the Visitor Studies Group, www.visitors.org.uk

For anybody working or managing a visitor attraction or any site or facility that attracts visits from members of the public or organised groups, there are many arguments, from the financial to the ethical, for undertaking good quality audience research.  Including a Case study from The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority

Who comes to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park?  Why do they come?  What do they do when they get here? What do they like?  What really bugs them?  Will they come back again?  And more importantly, who are the ‘non-visitors’, and what can we do to entice them?  To help us go about finding answers to these questions we’ve joined the Visitor Studies Group.


Ten key principles of the Tree Charter published -Sylva Foundation

logo: Charter for trees woods & peopleTen key principles of the Tree Charter have been published today (Monday 27 March), aiming to bring trees and woods to the centre of UK society.

The 10 guiding principles for the future of trees, woods and people, have been drawn from more than 50,000 stories submitted by members of the public, including woodland owners via a survey Sylva Foundation ran in 2016. The principles reveal the role of trees in our lives, and are agreed by a coalition of more than 70 cross-sector UK organisations, including Sylva Foundation. These organisations are now united in calling for people across the UK to stand up for trees by signing the Tree Charter and helping to shape history.

The principles will form the bedrock of the new ‘Charter for Trees, Woods and People’ to be launched in November 2017, which aims to secure a brighter future for the nation’s woods and trees, and to protect the rights of all people in the UK to access the many benefits they offer.


Article 50 triggered: the challenges ahead for science and the environment – British Ecological Society

Today (Wednesday 29 March), the Prime Minister has written to the European Council to formally declare the UK’s intention to leave the European Union, triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The letter has set the clock ticking on a two year period of negotiation as the UK and the EU thrash out the terms of our departure. While this window can be extended by unanimous approval, if negotiations remain on track, by the end of March 2019, the UK will no longer be a member of the EU.

In the words of Brexit Secretary David Davis, the UK is “on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country in a generation”. The withdrawal negotiations will cover a huge amount of ground, from the cost of the “divorce bill” to the terms of any new trade deal, and the extent of our future access to EU programmes. So what happens now? How will it affect science and the environment? And how will we be engaging with this process?


Asian hornet monitoring takes flight with new app developed by CEH scientists – Centre for Ecology & Image: Centre for Ecology & HydrologyHydrology

Non-native species and mobile applications experts at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) have collaborated with the UK government to develop a new app to record and monitor sightings of the Asian hornet.

Image: Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

The team at CEH, which includes ecologist Professor Helen Roy and mobile applications developer Karolis Kazlauskis, developed the Asian Hornet Watch app as part of a GB Non-native Species Alert System to help protect biodiversity.

The app – launched by Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity Lord Gardiner during Invasive Species Week – includes information on the ecology of the Asian hornet as well as details of species that are commonly confused with it.


Seasonal warming leads to smaller animal body sizes – Queen Mary University of London

Changes in the body size of animals measured under controlled laboratory conditions have been shown to closely match changes in body Curtis Horne and colleagues investigate the effects of seasonal warming on body size in insects and crustaceans (Queen Mary University of London)size with seasonal warming in nature, according to research from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Cold-blooded species rely on the temperature of their external environment to dictate their internal body temperature. When these species are reared in warmer conditions in the laboratory they usually develop faster, maturing at a smaller adult size. This biological phenomenon occurs in over 83 per cent of cold-blooded species.

Curtis Horne and colleagues investigate the effects of seasonal warming on body size in insects and crustaceans (Queen Mary University of London)

Despite the huge number of environmental factors than can vary seasonally, and the potential limitations of the study, the researchers found a statistically significant match between body size responses to temperature measured in the laboratory and in nature, which suggests that they share common drivers.


Forests fight global warming in ways more important than previously understood – Ohio State University

Trees’ role extends beyond carbon consumption, study finds

Forests play a complex role in keeping the planet cool, one that goes far beyond the absorption of carbon dioxide, new research has found.

Trees also impact climate by regulating the exchange of water and energy between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere, an important influence that should be considered as policymakers contemplate efforts to conserve forested land, said the authors of an international study that appears in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Forests play a more important role in cooling the surface in almost all regions of the Earth than was previously thought,” said study co-author Kaiguang Zhao, assistant professor of environment modeling and spatial analysis at The Ohio State University.

Read the paper: Bright, R. M. et al (2017) Local temperature response to land cover and  management change driven by non-radiative processes. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE3250


Scientific publications

Møller, A. P. & Erritzøe, J. (2017) Brain size in birds is related to traffic accidents. Royal Society Open Science. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.161040


Sullivan, A. J. P., Pearce-Higgins, J. W., Newson, S. E., Scholefield, P., Brereton, T. & Oliver, T. H. (2017) A national-scale model of linear features improves predictions of farmland biodiversity. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12912


Kovács-Hostyánszki, A. et al (2017) Ecological intensification to mitigate impacts of conventional intensive land use on pollinators and pollination. Ecology Letters. DOI: 10.1111/ele.12762


Boukili, V.K. S. et al (2017) Assessing the performance of urban forest carbon sequestration models using direct measurements of tree growth. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2017.03.015


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