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CJS News, Headlines from week beginning 2 August 2021

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

Researchers launch annual survey to monitor the health of Sussex seabed following trawler ban - University of Sussex

An undulate ray glides towards the BRUV (University of Sussex)
An undulate ray glides towards the BRUV (University of Sussex)

University staff and students have begun an in-depth study of underwater habitats off the Sussex coast as part of a Sir David Attenborough-backed project to restore some of the most biodiverse habitat in the world, and recover a vital carbon sink.

Led by Dr Mika Peck and Dr Valentina Scarponi, the team have begun conducting the first baseline survey of Sussex coastline, to explore the recovery of kelp forests following the recently implemented trawling ban.

They’ll be gathering data at 34 sites between Shoreham and Selsey using a number of different techniques including:

  • eDNA which use a water sample to determine the species that are present,
  • baited underwater videos (BRUVs) dropped to the bottom of the sea to capture an hour of continuous footage,
  • and bioacoustics using sound recordings to establish species activity and overall ecosystem health.

A Sussex team effort, the BRUV frames were built by Tim Cane, a Lecturer in Physical Geography at Sussex.

The underwater cameras have already captured footage of butterfish, small spotted catsharks, conger eels, undulate rays and a shoal of Atlantic Mackerel on camera, but the team say activity is far less than it should be.

Dr Mika Peck, Senior Lecturer in Biology, said: “The Sussex coast has an opportunity here to recover from years of damage, and welcome back high levels of biodiversity. Some of our monitoring sites are inside the byelaw area that are previously known to have dense presence of kelp beds. This is a unique opportunity to understand how marine systems might recover following removal of trawling pressure. We are hoping to find that, over time, kelp will recover and we’ll begin to welcome back healthy populations of priority threatened UK species such as herring, mackerel, and common sole.”

The survey will be conducted annually for five years, as part of the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project, to provide scientific evidence on the impacts and benefits of the Nearshore Trawling Byelaw which was approved and came into effect in March 2021. Each year, a Sussex team will compare data from inside the trawling byelaw zone with that collected from within the marine conservation zones Kingmere and Selsey Bill and Hounds, as well as other control locations along the coast.

Kelp forests provide habitats for many marine species, and have the potential to lock up carbon, improve water quality and reduce coastal erosion by absorbing the power of waves. They once stretched 40 kilometres along the Sussex coast but, since the great storm of 1987, over 96% has been lost with trawling suspected of playing a key role in inhibiting local recovery.

The Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (Sussex IFCA) proposed a byelaw prohibiting trawling of over 300 square kilometres along the coast, aiming to recover the lost kelp forest and protect fish habitats and populations. Following campaigning from the Blue Marine Foundation, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Marine Conservation Society and Big Wave Media through the Help our Kelp partnership, supported by Sir David Attenborough, the byelaw was approved earlier this year.

The surveys, supported by the Blue Marine Foundation, are the next step within the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project, using research to monitor the impacts and benefits of the temporary byelaw.

Satellites track "bog breathing" to help monitor peatlands - NatureScot

Using satellite technology to look at how bogs “breath” could help build a better picture of peatland condition and restoration progress in Scotland.

New research, published on International Bog Day (July 25th), demonstrates the potential for measuring “bog breathing” - or peatland surface motion – to monitor restoration sites in future.

A collaboration between NatureScot, University of the Highlands and Islands, University of Nottingham, and Forestry and Land Scotland, the research uses Satellite Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), which can map the movement of the ground’s surface – a technique developed with University of Nottingham spinout company Terra Motion Ltd.

The way that bogs move, or breathe, can be influenced by many factors, including precipitation, water level, vegetation composition, micro-topography and land management.

By measuring the motion over time, the technique is able to assess the condition of the peatland and the effectiveness of different restoration techniques on a large-scale.

If developed on a national-scale, the method could provide a better estimate of the amount, distribution, condition and associated carbon inventories of peatlands in Scotland, and a means of assessing the impact of investment in peatland restoration.

It could also help to identify areas at high-risk of peat instability, fire and erosion, and highlight where urgent restoration action might be needed.

May Shirkhorshidi, NatureScot’s Peatland ACTION report manager, said: “Peatland restoration is a crucial nature-based solution to the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, a key priority as we look towards the COP26 in Glasgow later this year. While in the early stages of development, we are excited about the long-term potential of this research, which could help Peatland ACTION to target priority areas for restoration and offer a scientifically-proven way of monitoring changes in peatland condition following restoration. This is a really interesting development for all the Peatland ACTION partners as it could help us evaluate the success of different restoration techniques - putting us in a better position to share this knowledge with others. Crucially it could allow us to do this more quickly and on a far larger scale across Scotland. We look forward to working with partners over the coming years to develop the concept further."

Investing in a sustainable future for our coastal economies - UK Research & Innovation

Six new research projects that aim to build a sustainable future for the marine environment, and those whose livelihoods depend on it, were announced today.

Researchers have received a share of £9.2 million from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to investigate how to safeguard the future of the marine and coastal economy, while protecting sea ecosystems.

Coastal communities are facing increased pressures from:

  • climate change
  • threats to marine wildlife
  • flooding.

With the marine economy worth £48 billion, the research will help policy makers sustainably manage the marine environment and economy.

Challenges facing wildlife and communities

One team of multi-disciplinary researchers will investigate how and where meadows of seagrass can be restored in UK coastal waters. Seagrass is important in supporting marine wildlife, capturing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and improving the productivity of fisheries.

However, many seagrass meadows have been destroyed in recent years, caused by:

  • disease
  • disturbance
  • pollution.

Another project will investigate how the UK can better protect coastal communities from flooding and coastal erosion. Researchers will assess how ‘green sea defences,’ that work with nature, can provide more sustainable protection than the UK’s current method of flood and erosion prevention, using traditional hard defences such as sea walls.

Supporting marine economies

The five-year research programme, called the Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources, is supported by the Strategic Priorities Fund which aims to increase high-quality multi and inter-disciplinary research and innovation.

In partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Marine Scotland, funding for the projects has been delivered by two UKRI research councils:

  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, said: “Coastal communities, marine habitats and wildlife across the UK are all facing increased pressure from the impacts of climate change. Whether looking at the role of seagrasses to capture carbon or identifying behaviour changes to create a sustainable future, this latest investment from UKRI will further develop our understanding of the role nature can play in tackling the biggest challenge of our generation.”

Staycationers urged to become #WaterWarriors this summer - Environment Agency

Make the right choices when visiting beaches, rivers and lakes this summer.

  • Record numbers expected to holiday at home this summer
  • Visitors urged to ‘know before you go’ to blue spaces
  • Check water quality before taking the plunge
Sampling officer with water sample taken from Lepe beach in Hampshire (Environment Agency)
Sampling officer with water sample taken from Lepe beach in Hampshire (Environment Agency)

Staycationers are being urged to become #WaterWarriors and make the right choices when visiting beaches, rivers and lakes this summer in a new Environment Agency campaign launched today (Tuesday 27 July).

Record numbers are expected to holiday at home due to ongoing coronavirus uncertainties, with an estimated 30 million people expected to visit our beaches (source: RNLI), and still more visiting rivers and lakes across the country.

Many will flock to popular English beaches and lakes designated as bathing waters to swim and enjoy the country’s blue spaces.

Visitors are being encouraged to ‘know before you go’ by checking the Environment Agency’s Swimfo website, which provides instant, easy access to information on over 400 bathing waters in England, including the latest water quality classification – and, for some bathing waters, when warnings are issued due to the temporary effects on water quality after a rainy day or high tides. Having this information at the fingertips ensures people have the most up-to-date information before they take the plunge.

Joint advice with Public Health England is also available on open water swimming – that’s swimming anywhere that isn’t a public pool - at Swim healthy.

Staycationers are also being encouraged to consider how their actions, whether at home or on holiday, can affect water quality and to remember a few simple actions they can take to protect blue spaces for everyone:

  • only flush the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper
  • never pour fats and oils down the sink 
  • never flush wet wipes and sanitary products down the loo 
  • always take your rubbish away from the beach 
  • always bag and bin your dog’s poo 
  • never pour waste liquids or throw litter down surface water drains 

Eurasian Curlews released on the Sandringham Estate - Natural England

Photo credit: Martin Hayward Smith
Photo credit: Martin Hayward Smith

HRH The Prince of Wales and NE Chair, Tony Juniper, attend the release of Eurasian curlews at Sandringham Estate.

HRH The Prince of Wales was joined by Natural England’s Chair, Tony Juniper, on the Sandringham Estate today (Tuesday 27 July) to release of one of the country’s most iconic threatened species – the Eurasian curlew – following an innovative Natural England-led partnership project to boost populations in the East of England.

The curlew is Europe’s largest wading bird and is now red-listed, meaning it is of the highest conservation priority, needing urgent action. The UK is home to roughly a quarter of the global breeding population of curlew – some 58,500 pairs – but the species has suffered very significant declines since the 1970s due to loss of habitat and predation, with lowland England experiencing some of the most severe declines.

The project collected 147 eggs from airfields, where nesting curlew presented a serious risk to air safety. 106 were transported to a new purpose built rearing facility at Pensthorpe Conservation Trust (PCT) in Norfolk, with 41 taken by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) for a project in Dartmoor. The experts at PCT and WWT used their skills to ensure as many as the eggs as possible hatched into chicks, and were reared to fledging age to be released.

The partnership project with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the Royal Air Force collected eggs at a total of eight military and civilian airfields across England, rearing the birds so they are ready for release into the right habitats for them to thrive. Over 80 chicks are now available for release at the two Norfolk release sites; Sandringham Estate and Wild Ken Hill.

The releases aim to expand an existing breeding population of curlew in Breckland, creating a new curlew nature recovery network. Some of the birds have been fitted with GPS or radio tags by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), so we can continue to monitor their progress after they are released, gathering information on their dispersal, habitat use and survival.

Natural England Chair, Tony Juniper said: “Curlews have suffered significant declines over the past 40 years and their plight now presents one of England’s most pressing conservation challenges. A range of actions will be needed to restore these wonderful birds and we hope that the translocation of curlews at this large scale, a method that has never been tried before, will make a real difference to the population in the east of England. Today’s release on the Sandringham Estate marks a significant milestone for the recovery of this iconic bird. We’re proud to be leading such an innovative project, which will not only improve the prospects of curlew in Norfolk, but will help inform action to recover curlew across England. It is a fine example of the kinds of partnerships that will be needed to achieve nature recovery more widely and as such we hope will be an inspiration for much more of the same.”

Airfields provide the kind of open grassland habitat preferred by ground-nesting curlew, but due to the dangers to air safety posed by curlew nests close to runways, eggs were - until Natural England’s project began - destroyed to prevent the, potentially catastrophic, risk of collision between birds and aircraft.

This new project, funded by Defra and Natural England, builds on a local and national partnership already in place between Natural England, Defra, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, British Trust for Ornithology, the Sandringham Estate, the Ken Hill Estate, Defence Infrastructure Organisation, the RAF, Army Flying Service and USAF, bird control contractors such as NBC Environment and the Zoological Society of London.

Forestry action to protect peatlands - Scottish Forestry

Continuous mounding (Scottish Forestry)
Continuous mounding (Scottish Forestry)

New guidance issued by Scottish Forestry will require the use of less disruptive techniques when preparing the ground for woodland creation.

A key measure to be introduced this October will reduce ploughing on peaty soils, helping to protect these important carbon sinks which are also vital for biodiversity.

These measures mean that after 1st October, Scottish Forestry will not accept any Forestry Grant Scheme applications which include ploughing on soils where peat depth exceeds 10 cm.

The move follows scientific analysis of soils carried out by the Forest Research agency. It found that ploughing on soils with an organic layer greater than 10cm represented a significant risk of soil carbon emissions and may mean the soil does not begin to sequester carbon for another 20 years or more.

Given the importance of woodland creation in achieving Net-Zero by 2045, the action is being taken to prevent unnecessary emissions.

Welcoming the move, Màiri McAllan, Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform said: "Our forests and woodlands have a huge part to play in tackling climate change by soaking up millions of tonnes of harmful emissions while supporting the Scottish economy - generating around £1 billion each year and supporting 25,000 jobs. As such, it is important to review and update guidance for the industry. The use of ploughing to prepare ground for planting is declining but we’re determined that we should do everything we can to protect our environment and climate. That’s why these changes mean that approval for new applications will no longer be given on any peat soils over 10cm in depth after 1st October. Only less intensive cultivation techniques will now be approved. I’m pleased that the sector has engaged on this issue and some forestry companies are already finding alternative methods. By following this new guidance we can achieve a better balance between minimising soil disturbance and giving our trees the best chance of reabsorbing released carbon as quickly as possible.”

The new Cultivation for Upland Productive Woodland Creation Sites – an Applicant’s Guide will take effect from 1st October this year, providing forestry companies a few months to change any future ploughing plans. The guidance has been developed after extensive consultation with a wide range of relevant stakeholders over the past two years.

Over the past few years about 5 per cent (circa 600-700ha) of all new woodland creation applications in Scotland proposed ploughing as a method of ground preparation. However, ploughing has often been one of a number of cultivation techniques used on the same location, depending upon soil type and slope.

The new guidance offers technical advice on the options available to protect soils, improve water management, forest stability and maintain the landscape.

Multi-million pound boost for green jobs and nature recovery - Defra

90 projects awarded grants to accelerate action to support 2,500 jobs, plant almost a million trees and boost nature recovery across the country

Action to support 2,500 jobs, plant almost a million trees and boost nature recovery across the country has been stepped up today (Wednesday 28 July) with 90 innovative projects set to receive money through the Government’s £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

The projects, which will receive a share of £40 million, will span over 600 sites from North Northumberland to the tip of Cornwall, and will range from new ‘insect pathways’ in our countryside and towns, to tree planting projects in deprived urban areas – contributing towards the Government’s commitment to treble tree planting rates across England by the end of this Parliament.

The winning projects include:

  • Bringing the Buzz Back to the City – To protect our precious pollinators, Urban Green Newcastle and Northumberland Wildlife Trust are being awarded £697,800 to create a network of 45 nectar-rich public sites, aiming to plant 2,500 trees, 25,000 bulbs and creating 18 hectares of grassland. The work will target young people, with traineeships available including for young offenders, alongside volunteering, and schools work opportunities.
  • Trees for Cities – Bringing nature to communities that need it most, Trees for Cities is being awarded £1,229,600 to increase tree cover in deprived urban areas. 55,000 trees will be planted across 83 coastal locations in 7 coastal towns. The project will also increase skills and training opportunities for young people aged 16-24 years.
  • Avalon Marshes Wetland Wonderland – Somerset Wildlife Trust in partnership with RSPB, is receiving £906,700 to support the ‘Avalon Marshes Wetland Wonderland’ project to improve wetland habitats, water quality and hydrological connectivity on our nature reserves, which will benefit a whole range of wildlife including waders, wildfowl, eels, rare insects alongside wetland specialist plants. The project will also begin to restore a 10.6 acre site previously used for peat extraction. With a new hide, onsite and digital interpretation, trails and citizen science events, the partners will remove barriers and seek to engage a wider, more diverse audience with nature.
  • More from Trees – To boost nature recovery and connect more people to nature in Merseyside and Cheshire, the Mersey Forest, through Community Forest Trust, is receiving £1,326,700 to deliver its Community Forest programme. The programme will improve biodiversity by creating new green corridors in Liverpool city centre, develop a specialist tree nursery for native species, improve habitats for a range of species, and deploy natural flood management in two catchments in Cheshire. The project will also create a new green taskforce of retrained military veterans, and offer a range of nature-based activities to improve the health and well-being of local people.
  • Chester Zoo Nature Recovery Corridor – Chester Zoo is being awarded £990,500 to create a 6.5 mile nature recovery corridor, covering restoration of wetlands, traditional orchards, hedgerows, grasslands and wildflower meadows in local wildlife sites. The project will be delivered to address demographic inequalities in peoples access to nature by targeting 12,000 people from deprived areas, and providing opportunities for youth trainees and community volunteer schemes.

Today’s announcement follows a successful first round of funding where almost £40 million was awarded to 69 projects. This round saw over 800,000 trees planted, alongside wider conservation work and the restoration of protected landscapes and damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests. Combined with the first round, the fund is on track to support over 2,500 jobs.

We've deployed an army of weevils to eat canal menace - Canal and River Trust

An army of 2mm-long weevils has been called-in to prevent the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal from being overcome by a problematic water weed.

This week our ecologists have released 3,000 weevils into the water at locations along the canal, in the hope that they will eat the invading Water Fern (Azolla filiculoides).

Azolla

Azolla is a voracious grower and can multiply rapidly, covering the surface of a waterway with thick mats in a matter of weeks. The thick mats can appear as a solid surface sometimes mistaken by dogs and children to be safe to walk on. The mats also reduce light and oxygen levels in the water, harming fish and other wildlife, as well as affecting how boaters and anglers can use the canal.

Individually the weevils (Stenopelmus rufinasus) consume a relatively small amount of Azolla, however they breed to produce very large populations which, together, will feed extensively, until sections of Azolla start to die and sink to the bottom, where it is further decomposed.

Given time to reproduce and spread throughout a mat of Azolla, the weevil is capable of clearing entire lakes or canals within a matter of weeks.

A serious threat to local water wildlife

Laura Mullholland, Canal & River Trust ecologist, said: “Azolla can be a serious threat to local water wildlife. With the recent very hot weather there’s a danger that it can grow really quickly and completely take over sections of the canal, so we’re getting the weevils in to combat it. The weevils breed really quickly and only eat Azolla. The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal a great place to visit at this time of year, excellent for boaters, walkers, families and people with an interest in wildlife, so I’d encourage you to come and have a look for yourselves.”

New plan to safeguard local wildlife and nature habitats launched in Leicester - Leicester City Council

(image: Leicester City Council)
(image: Leicester City Council)

AN ambitious ten-year plan to protect wildlife, conserve habitats and help ensure nature flourishes in Leicester has been launched by the city council.

The new Leicester Biodiversity Action Plan 2021-31 sets out how the city council and its partners will focus nature conservation work on wildlife habitats and species that are most in need of help to make sure that local biodiversity thrives.

The new plan is guided by four strategic ambitions for the next ten years:

  • To bring at least 30 per cent of the city’s greenspace under council management for the benefit of wildlife
  • To establish a citywide Nature Recovery Network by creating around 25 per cent more green corridors linking parks and other local greenspace
  • Reduce the prevalence and incidence of non-native invasive species while taking action to conserve and protected priority native species to help with their recovery
  • To reduce the use of pesticides on council land by at least half

For the first time, the Leicester Biodiversity Action Plan includes actions to protect specific species including Peregrines, Swifts, Water Vole, Hedgehogs, Black Redstart and Otters.

It will also see more wildflower planting on roadside verges; the restoration and creation of new hedgerows to help create wildlife corridors; more tree planting to increase woodland cover; and a continuation of work to improve the city’s riverside as a great place for wildlife to thrive and for people to visit. There are also plans to create more areas of grassland and wetland, both of which provide rich habitats for a variety of wildlife.

The new plan also sets out the importance of raising local awareness of issues facing wildlife and encouraging more active participation in nature conservation across local communities.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Back in the 1980s, I was proud to be involved in establishing the city’s first ever ecology strategy. A huge amount has been achieved since then – we now have more wetlands, meadows and woodland across the city’s network of nature reserves and parks. Water quality in the river has also improved immensely so we now get Otters and Egrets in the heart of the city. In recent years, we have seen how new investment can revitalise the city’s waterways, with new nature areas like the award-winning Ellis Meadows providing fantastic stop-off points for wildlife and for people. We have a fantastic foundation to build on and that is exactly what the new Leicester Biodiversity Action Plan sets out to do. We want to create a city that remains rich in biodiversity and ensure that people continue to have access to the vast range of nature on our doorsteps, now and for future generations.”

UCN’s New “Green Status of Species” Measures Impact of Conservation Action - IUCN

The first 181 IUCN Green Status of Species preliminary assessments are outlined in a Conservation Biology paper published today. From California condors to East Asian mangroves, the Green Status shows specific conservation metrics for focal species.

LONDON, UK – A paper published today in the journal Conservation Biology for the first time applies the IUCN Green Status of Species, a new Global Standard to measure how close a species is to being fully ecologically functional across its range, and how much it has recovered thanks to conservation action. In the paper, preliminary IUCN Green Status assessments for 181 species are presented. They range from the pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri), which was saved from extinction by conservation measures, to the grey wolf (Canis lupus), a species on a promising path to recovery of ecological functionality across vast areas of its past distribution – though it is currently far from its historical baseline. More than 200 authors representing 171 institutions contributed to the paper.

“Preventing the extinction of species is the ultimate goal that conservationists have traditionally pursued. But we have come to understand that true success would be to revert the decline to the point where animals, fungi and plants fulfil their ecological functions throughout their range – resulting in species that are not just surviving, but thriving,” said Dr Jon Paul Rodríguez, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “As the world’s first standardized method for assessing species’ potential for and progress toward such a recovery, the IUCN Green Status will help inform conservation plans and steer action to meet national and international goals for 2030 and beyond. It also provides a metric for quantifying and celebrating conservation success.”

The IUCN Green Status of Species will be integrated into the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, which will then provide a fuller picture of species’ conservation status including both their extinction risk and recovery progress.

The IUCN Green Status classifies species into nine Species Recovery Categories, indicating the extent to which species are depleted or recovered compared to their historical population levels. Each Green Status assessment measures the impact of past conservation on a species, a species’ dependence on continuing support, how much a species stands to gain from conservation action within the next ten years, and the potential for it to recover over the next century.

Access the paper: Molly K. Grace, H. Resit A kçakaya, Joseph W. Bull, Christina Carrero, Katharine Davies, Simon Hedges, Michael Hoffmann, Barney Long, Eimear M. Nic Lughadha, Gabriel M. Martin, Fred Pilkington, Malin C. Rivers, Richard P. Young, E.J. Milner-Gulland, Building robust, practicable counterfactuals and scenarios to evaluate the impact of species conservation interventions using inferential approaches, Biological Conservation, 10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109259, 261

Climate change continues to be evident across UK - Met Office

The UK’s climate has continued to warm, with 2020 the first year to have temperature, rain and sunshine rankings all in the top 10.

(image: Met Office)
(image: Met Office)

The latest analysis of the UK climate, State of the UK Climate 2020 published in The Royal Meteorological Society’s ‘International Journal of Climatology’, has shown that climate change is already being felt across the UK. All of the top-ten warmest years for the UK in records back to 1884 have occurred since 2002, and, for central England, the 21st century so far has been warmer than the previous three centuries.

The last 30-year period (1991-2020) has been 0.9°C warmer than the preceding 30 years (1961-1990). The warming trend is evident across all months and all countries in the UK.

The greatest warming compared to 1961-1990 has been across the east Midlands and East Anglia where average annual temperatures have increased by more than 1°C, with the least warming around western coastal fringes and parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland.

As well as increased temperatures, the UK has been on average 6% wetter over the last 30 years (1991-2020) than the preceding 30 years (1961-1990). Six of the ten wettest years for the UK in a series from 1862 have occurred since 1998.

2020 was the first year that the annual values for rainfall, temperature and sunshine were all in the top ten in the same year. 2020 was third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest on record for the UK.

Lead author and Senior Climate Scientist at the Met Office, Mike Kendon, said: “2020 was another notable year for the UK climate, with records broken for daily rainfall and monthly sunshine hours. Average temperatures for the UK continue to climb, with nearly a degree of warming when comparing the most recent 30 years with the preceding 30-year period. Last year saw some significant weather extremes including severe flooding from heavy rainfall in February and a major heatwave in early August.”

Read the paper: Kendon, M., McCarthy, M., Jevrejeva, S., Matthews, A., Sparks, T., & Garforth, J. (2021). State of the UK Climate 2020. International Journal of Climatology, 41 ( Suppl. 2), 1– 76. doi.org/10.1002/joc.7285

Earth Overshoot Day marks the launch of 100 Days of Possibility leading to COP26 - Scottish EPA

Launched by Global Footprint Network, the Scottish EPA, and Schneider Electric, 100 Days of Possibility highlights actionable ways for each country, city, or business to ready themselves for the consequences of overshoot. These responses also #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day.

100 Days of Possibility is unveiled today, Earth Overshoot Day, by sustainability leaders Global Footprint Network and the Scottish EPA. The initiative features proven and scalable solutions that contribute to bringing humanity’s Ecological Footprint in balance with the biological resources that the planet’s natural ecosystems can sustainably regenerate.

With a world still largely unprepared, and growing concerns about recent extreme weather events, representatives of national governments will gather 100 days from now at what has been deemed the last-chance summit for global climate action – the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

“There is no benefit in waiting to take action, regardless of what transpires at the COP,” Global Footprint Network CEO Laurel Hanscom said. “The pandemic has demonstrated that societies can shift rapidly in the face of disaster. But being caught unprepared brought great economic and human cost. When it comes to our predictable future of climate change and resource constraints, individuals, institutions and governments who prepare themselves will fare better. Global consensus is not a prerequisite to recognizing one’s own risk exposure, so let’s take decisive action now, wherever we are,” she added.

Although heralded by many, the green recovery is slow in coming and business-as-usual still prevails, fueled by short-term political and financial goals. This trajectory invariably leads to unmanageable economic risk, stranding all assets that are incompatible with climate change and increased resource constraints. Sustained prosperity and wellbeing, however, requires ingenuity to address humanity’s most pressing problem: ecological overshoot.

Invasive species cost UK economy over £5 billion over past 40-50 years - Queen’s University Belfast

Research led by Queen’s University Belfast has shown that invasive species, such as the grey squirrel, European rabbit and Japanese knotweed, have cost the UK economy over £5 billion over the past 40-50 years.

This is one of the highest totals in Europe.

Invasive species, those introduced and spreading outside of their native range as a result of human activities, are a growing threat to environments worldwide.

Environmental impacts of invasive species, one of the main causes of biodiversity loss, are well-studied. However, few studies have summarised their economic impacts.

This study is the largest and most up-to-date combination of economic costs of biological invasions in the UK. The results have been published today (Thursday 29 July) in the journal NeoBiota.

First authored by Dr Ross Cuthbert said: “We have found the majority of costs were caused by direct damages, such as reductions in agricultural productivity and infrastructure repair costs, whereas very little was spent on the actual management of invasive species, and especially prevention of future invasions. Worryingly, we also found that invasion costs are increasing rapidly over time and are likely to continue rising in future as more invasive species arrive in the UK. These costs are also severely underestimated, as very few of the known invasive species in the UK have reported economic costs (< 10%), indicating a lack of research effort and reporting of their detrimental impacts.”

three rabbits sitting on parched grass looking to the left out of shot.
Rabbits (photo: Holger Langmaier, pixabay)

To conduct their study, the researchers examined how costs in the UK were distributed across different invasive species, environments and cost types, and how they have changed through time.

They found that in the last 40-50 years, invasive species have cost the UK economy over £5 billion, with most of the cost due to invasive animals and plants, such as the European rabbit, Japanese knotweed and waterweeds, and predominantly through agricultural or property impacts.

For example, invasive rabbits cause severe damage to agricultural areas by overgrazing, which affects both the growth and yield of key crops, especially considering grasslands and cereals. Their burrowing can also impact the quality of pastures.

Japanese knotweed causes structural damage to property that is expensive to remediate and reduces house values substantially.

Invasive waterweeds can clog waterways, blocking access by watercraft, worsening flood risk and impeding recreational activities such as angling.

Access the paper:  Cuthbert RN, Bartlett AC, Turbelin AJ, Haubrock PJ, Diagne C, Pattison Z, Courchamp F, Catford JA (2021) Economic costs of biological invasions in the United Kingdom. NeoBiota 67: 299-328 DOI: 10.3897/neobiota.67.59743

Sharing knowledge: Ten case studies on building resilience into our woodlands - Royal Forestry Society

Ten case studies feature in a new report to share the experiences of woodlands facing up to the challenges of climate change.

looking up towards blue sky through dieback on mature ash trees
Ash dieback one driver for change in our woodland. (image via RFS)

The case studies in Managing for Resilience by the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) in partnership with the Forestry Commission represent a wide range of site types and locations.

Sites vary from the heavily gleyed soils of Northumberland, through the sandy soils of north Nottinghamshire, to the chalk of the South Downs. All are planning and planting to increase forestry resilience in the face of climate change and increased risks of pests and diseases.

RFS Chief Executive Christopher Williams says: “One of the greatest challenges for our foresters, woodland owners and managers is the task of making sure our woodlands are resilient to the uncertainties that climate change will bring.

“There is no one answer but what all these case studies have in common is a willingness to act now, to consider the advice that is available and to look at diverse species to spread the risks. The case studies cover a wide range of woodland management objectives and all are willing to share their experiences further. It is a must read for all who are looking to develop their woodland.”

A short companion report Resources for Managing Woodland for Resilience contains free and easily accessible resources on the aspects of forest management linked to resilience, from climate change impacts and adaptation to surveying and maintenance of the soil resource.

A nature success story - Natural Resources Wales

An endangered insect is flourishing in a quiet corner of Anglesey.

blue damselfly sitting in grass
Southern damselfly (image: NRW)

This summer, more than 130 male southern damselflies have been counted on a Site of Special Scientific Interest at Cors Erddreiniog, which is managed in cooperation with the local landowner.

Here, at their most northern location in the UK, these delicate insects thrive in open runnels within the fen habitat. The males are easily recognised with their distinctive blue and black markings, whilst females are mostly black.

The reserve also boasts another rarity - one of the largest UK populations of the Clubbed General, a large and attractive soldierfly.

Cors Erddreiniog National Nature Reserve Manager Emyr Humphreys says: “We hear so often about the Nature Emergency and the loss of biodiversity, which is deeply worrying. But our work at Cors Erddreiniog shows that if the conditions are right, wildlife will return.”

The secret to success has been simple….

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, grazing maintained the open, short vegetation conditions needed by these rare insects. Later, when grazing was reduced – and then abandoned – the invertebrates suffered.

Through cooperation with the landowner, grazing has been restored since 2017.

Rare bird discovery highlights need for collaboration - Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

The discovery of a locally rare bird, a stone curlew, earlier this summer during an ecological survey at a farm near Wellow and the flurry of interest it generated amongst bird watchers highlights the value of farmland for wildlife and the need for conservationists and farmers to work more closely than ever according to Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

The bird was discovered by ecologist Greg Gilmore whilst undertaking a survey on land managed by farmer Tom Channing. The survey was commissioned after Tom applied to take part in the Trust’s Nature Recovery Network in Farmed Landscapes project, funded by Severn Trent Water. Tom was keen to create a new feeding scrape for wading birds and the survey was carried out to assess the value of the site for birds.

The discovery of the stone-curlew was quite a surprise to Greg, the species is generally a rare summer visitor to southern England and East Anglia making it a very unusual find in Nottinghamshire.

Stone-curlew used to breed in Nottinghamshire with the last reported breeding recorded near Rainworth in 1891 (sterland 1869; whitaker 1907). The species has been subject to an overall contraction of range, although a recovery programme has been largely successful, boosting numbers of stone-curlew in its remained breeding sites in the south and east of the country.

The bird’s presence near Wellow, soon sparked significant interest in the birdwatching community and the farmer and landowners were initially wary at the prospect of being inundated with visitors and the possibility of damage due to trespass. There were also concerns about visitor safety due the best vantage point being on a sharp bend in the road. However, the farmer recognised that due to the bird’s rarity many people would wish to see it and for some it could a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the species on their local patch. The farmer worked with the ecologists and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust team to put out advice as to how people could sensitively and safely view the bird - giving local wildlife enthusiasts a chance to appreciate it before it departed – most likely back to Norfolk.



Scientific Publications

Public Opinion of Forestry in the UK - Forest Research

This release presents results from the latest survey of public attitudes to forestry and forestry-related issues. Topics covered include benefits and disadvantages of woodlands and of street trees, urban woodlands, visits to woodland, community engagement, awareness of logos, tree health, wood as a fuel and accessibility.

Download the reports: UK and England, Scotland and Wales. all PDF



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