CJS News, Headlines from week beginning 17 January 2022

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

Green charities deliver verdict on stalled “super year” for marine protection - Wildlife & Countryside Link

The Government declared 2021 would be a Marine Super Year, highlighting ‘unprecedented alignment of international and domestic marine agendas’ at the Coastal Futures Conference 2021.
One year on, ahead of the 2022 major annual conference on marine conservation, UK charities including the Marine Conservation Society, RSPB, and The Wildlife Trusts, have issued a new scorecard report which shows the Government has made no demonstrable progress in 11 out of 17 important steps for action on ocean recovery.
This follows huge criticism in 2020 when the Government missed its goal (set under EU law) of achieving Good Environmental Status for the UK’s seas. The Government failed to meet 11 out of 15 targets for healthy seas, which the charities say is a mark of a deep ecological crisis at sea. For example, the target for Good Status for waterbirds was missed, with sharp declines for some marine bird species like the Kittiwake in both the Celtic Seas and the Greater North Sea. There has also been public outcry over the impacts of sewage discharges into the sea, with sewage spilling into coastal bathing waters 5,517 times in the last year.
Sean Clement of WWF-UK, Chair of the Wildlife and Countryside Link Marine Group, which coordinated the report, said: “While there have been highlights in 2021 such as the commitment to tackle bottom trawling and deliver new Highly Protected Marine Areas, overall we’re disappointed in this stalled super year. The urgency of the climate and nature emergencies means policies to protect and restore our amazing marine life cannot be kicked into the long seagrass, 2022 must be the moment that words turn into action”.
The report ‘2021: The Marine Super Year? An assessment of Government progress on ocean protection’, analysed progress for five key areas for action. The five key areas include setting ocean recovery targets; policy to protect and enhance marine wildlife; offshore planning for renewables and nature; reducing bycatch of marine wildlife by fishing boats; and locking away “blue carbon” to reduce climate change. It found that in every area Government action had been insufficient to help halt the decline of nature.

Posted on: 17 January 2022

Ambitious proposals to strengthen our protected landscapes announced - Defra, Natural England

Nature, climate, people and places prioritised in the Government’s response to Julian Glover’s Landscapes Review

Plans to boost nature recovery and safeguard England’s iconic national parks for future generations have been set out today (15 January) by Environment Secretary George Eustice.

The proposals, which will be subject to consultation, are set out in the Government’s response to Julian Glover’s independent Landscapes Review which looked at whether the protections for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are still fit for purpose. The Government’s response sets out ambitious changes to increase access to nature and ensure protected landscapes can deliver more for climate, nature, people and places for the next 70 years and beyond, as we build back greener from the pandemic and level up all parts of the country.

A new national landscapes partnership will bring together those responsible for managing England’s National Parks and AONBs to collaborate, share knowledge and tackle common objectives such as nature recovery and improved public access.

By harnessing their collective strengths whilst preserving their independence, the partnership will support local leadership to work together nationally, including by carrying out campaigns, organising events and offering volunteering opportunities that bring people closer to nature.

The 12-week consultation will also ask for views on proposals to drive nature recovery within our landscapes and support for the communities that live and work within them, such as the design and delivery of new agri-environment schemes and an ambitious management plan for each area.

This announcement forms part of the Government’s wider action to recover and restore nature, delivering on the pledge within the 25 Year Environment Plan to protect 30% of the UK’s land by 2030 and commitments to achieve net zero by 2050.

Posted on: 17 January 2022

The below responses have been released following the announcement of the Government response

Campaign for National Parks calls for new Landscapes Bill as Government responds to Glover Review - Campaign for National Parks

Peak District National Park by Simon Walkden
Peak District National Park by Simon Walkden

The Government has today (15 January) released its full response to the Landscapes Review that was published in 2019, following repeated calls from Campaign for National Parks and others to do so.

Dr Rose O’Neill, Chief Executive of Campaign for National Parks, said: “We are so pleased to finally see the Government’s response to the Landscapes Review – in particular, we welcome proposals for new legal protections that place greater emphasis on nature recovery and will require greater action by all public bodies to enhance our National Parks and AONBs."

The Landscapes Review, led by Julian Glover and also known as the Glover Review, looked at whether protections for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England were fit for purpose and explored what might be done better. It outlined a series of recommendations for the Government, many of which followed on from suggestions and evidence put forward by Campaign for National Parks, as outlined in its response to Glover’s call for evidence.

Rose continued: "We urgently need these to be taken forward with a new Landscapes Bill, included in the next Queen’s Speech. We must not let momentum slide, we need more action, sooner, to halt biodiversity loss, stop destructive developments and to ensure accessible National Parks for all. Today’s announcement is a good first step, but it needs rapid implementation.”

Posted on: 17 January 2022

UK government’s response to Glover Review - Rewilding Britain

The UK Government has today published its long-awaited formal response to the Glover Review, an independent review into whether the protections for national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) are still fit for purpose.

Completed in 2019, the review recommended that national landscapes have a new mission to boost nature and tackle climate breakdown – including by creating wilder areas – alongside improving access to protected landscapes.

With the UK ranked as one of the world’s most nature-depleted nations – and with over half of our species declining and one in seven tumbling towards extinction – the review’s findings offered the Government an opportunity to think big, bold and wild.

In response to the Government’s announcement, Rebecca Wrigley, Chief Executive of Rewilding Britain, said: ​“The Government needs to wake up to the fact that time is running out to tackle the nature and climate emergencies. Having taken over two years to respond to the Glover Review, ministers are now going to consult for another three months, with any legislation taking even longer. These proposals scream a poverty of ambition, and the Government’s failure so far to adopt the Glover Review’s recommendations for wilder areas in national parks is a massive missed opportunity for nature, climate and people. Now is the time to be stepping up our ambition by modernising legislation to empower national parks to upscale their efforts for nature’s recovery.”

Posted on: 17 January 2022

Major new study shows role beavers could play in restoring Scotland's rivers - University of Aberdeen

Beavers could make an important contribution to improving the condition of Scotland's rivers, including helping to improve water quality and limiting the effects of drought.

The positive role they can play in water resource management, as well as in creating habitat, carbon sequestration and river restoration, is highlighted in a report produced by scientists at the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute. They have collated evidence from 120 studies of beaver populations worldwide, as part of a large-scale review of their effects on streams and rivers.

In Scotland, beavers have already taken up residence in a few areas, including Tayside and Knapdale. While sometimes their presence has been welcomed, in other situations there has been conflict, for example where their activity affected intensively managed landscapes.

Until now, evidence of the role of beavers in helping to manage river ecosystems in Scotland has been minimal. But by identifying trends associated with the effects of beaver dam building on water quantity and quality – while factoring in the characteristics of Scottish rivers – the scientists who produced the report have provided detailed evidence to help policymakers consider the benefits and limitations of beaver expansion in Scotland, including where trade-offs are required.

Posted on: 17 January 2022

Some excellent news for people and nature

Nature prescriptions helping hundreds of patients in Edinburgh - RSPB

The results of a trial where healthcare professionals at five GP practices in Edinburgh prescribed nature reveal that 87% of patients will continue to use nature to help their health and wellbeing and 91% of prescribers will prescribe it

A new report, launched today (Monday 17 January), details the findings of the Nature Prescriptions Edinburgh trial. It reveals that nearly 350 patients were prescribed nature as part of treatment for 32 different health conditions and demonstrates why nature should be part of every healthcare professional’s toolkit in the future. RSPB Scotland is now looking to find funding and further partners to support extending the delivery of this promising initiative across Scotland.

The trial was part of a collaboration between RSPB Scotland, Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation (the official charity of NHS Lothian) and local GPs. It aimed to investigate whether Nature Prescriptions, an idea created in Shetland in 2017 and well received there, could work in an urban environment, and to explore the potential for extending it throughout Scotland.

During the pilot, 50 healthcare professionals across the five practices prescribed nature to their patients as part of their treatment. Nature was prescribed for 32 different health conditions across all age groups. Most of the 335 recorded prescriptions (69%) were given to support mental health conditions, with anxiety and depression the two most cited reasons, 17% were for physical health (mostly obesity and diabetes) and 10% for both.

Nearly three-quarters of patients who provided feedback said they had benefited from their Nature Prescription, with most continuing to connect with nature each week, and 87% of them said it was likely or very likely that they would continue using it. The main reasons for liking the formal prescription were that it gave patients the permission and motivation to engage with nature, it was a drug-free safe alternative and they thought it was working.

Spending time in natural environments and exercising outdoors can, in itself, be beneficial for wellbeing, but Nature Prescriptions involves more than simply being outdoors. It’s about connecting with nature in ways that are personal, emotional and meaningful. For example, some of the activities suggested in the Edinburgh Calendar included: tuning in to the changing seasons, listening to nearby birdsong, getting to know a neighbourhood tree and helping local wildlife thrive.

It was this deeper emotional connection and the sensory elements that most patients said they had most enjoyed and most benefited from during the pilot. Nearly 60% felt their awareness of nature had increased and 55% were more connected with nature than before.

Before the pilot, fewer than 40% of the GPs at the five practices involved were talking to their patients about the benefits of nature and then mostly in the form of outdoor exercise. After the pilot, 87% were prescribing nature with more saying they would start to in future; everyone who had prescribed nature said they would continue.

You read the full report here

Posted on: 17 January 2022

Plastic pollution’s deadly ticking clock – a dire emergency for people and the planet - Environmental Investigation Agency

report front cover (Environmental Investigation Agency)
(Environmental Investigation Agency)

The predicted rise in plastic pollution spilling into the environment constitutes a planetary emergency, our latest report warns.

“There is a deadly ticking clock counting swiftly down,” said EIA Ocean Campaigner Tom Gammage.

“Plastic emissions into the oceans alone are due to triple by 2040, in line with growing plastics production, and if this tidal wave of pollution continues unchecked, the anticipated 646 million tonnes of plastics in the seas by that date could exceed the collective weight of all fish in the ocean.”

Humankind’s addiction to plastic and failure to prevent it contaminating the food web directly undermines human health, drives biodiversity loss, exacerbates climate change and risks generating large-scale harmful environmental changes.

The new report Connecting the Dots: Plastic pollution and the planetary emergency pulls together recent scientific data on the broad impact of plastics on climate, biodiversity, human health and the environment – and it warns that only a robust global treaty for plastics can address the problem.

The United Nations recently identified three existential environmental threats – climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution – and concluded that they must be addressed together.

But although dedicated multilateral agreements to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change have been in place for nearly 30 years, no such tool currently exists to tackle plastic pollution, despite it being one of the most prevalent and destructive pollutants in existence.

Launching the report, Gammage said: “The visible nature of plastic pollution has generated huge public concern but the vast majority of plastic pollution impacts are invisible. The damage done by rampant overproduction of virgin plastics and their lifecycle is irreversible – this is a threat to human civilisation and the planet’s basic ability to maintain a habitable environment.”

Posted on: 18 January 2022

Air pollution significantly reduces pollination by confusing butterflies and bees - University of Reading

Common air pollutants from both urban and rural environments may be reducing the pollinating abilities of insects by preventing them from sniffing out the crops and wildflowers that depend on them, new research has shown.

Scientists from the University of Reading, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and the University of Birmingham found that there were up to 70% fewer pollinators, up to 90% fewer flower visits and an overall pollination reduction of up to 31% in test plants when common ground-level air pollutants, including diesel exhaust pollutants and ozone, were present.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, is the first to observe a negative impact of common air pollutants on pollination in the natural environment. The theory is that the pollutants react with and change the scents of flowers, making them harder to find.

Dr Robbie Girling, Associate Professor in Agroecology at the University of Reading, who led the project, said: “We knew from our previous lab studies that diesel exhaust can have negative effects on insect pollinators, but the impacts we found in the field were much more dramatic than we had expected.”

Dr James Ryalls, a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow at the University of Reading, who conducted the study, said: “The findings are worrying because these pollutants are commonly found in the air many of us breathe every day. We know that these pollutants are bad for our health, and the significant reductions we saw in pollinator numbers and activity shows that there are also clear implications for the natural ecosystems we depend on.”

Previous laboratory studies by members of the Reading team have shown that diesel fumes can alter floral odours. This work suggested that pollution could contribute to the ongoing declines in pollinating insects, by making it harder for them to locate their food – pollen and nectar.

The impact this phenomenon has in nature, where insects provide pollination of important food crops and native wildflowers is less well understood, so this new study aimed to gather evidence to investigate how air pollution affects different pollinating insect species, some of which rely on scent more than others.

The study, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, used a purpose-built fumigation facility to regulate levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) – present in diesel exhaust fumes – and ozone in an open field environment. They then observed the effects these pollutants had on the pollination of black mustard plants by free-flying, locally-occurring pollinating insects over the course of two summer field seasons.

Posted on: 19 January 2022

Four in five britons support rewilding, poll finds - Rewilding Britain

Four in five adults in Britain support rewilding, according to new research.

An opinion poll commissioned by the charity Rewilding Britain shows that 81% of Britons support rewilding, with 40% strongly supportive and just 5% of people opposed.

A community buyout has created Tarras Valley Nature Reserve on Langholm Moor in Dumfries and Galloway copyright Tom Hutton
A community buyout has created Tarras Valley Nature Reserve on Langholm Moor in Dumfries and Galloway copyright Tom Hutton

Rewilding Britain defines rewilding as the large-scale restoration of nature to the point it can take care of itself – restoring habitats and natural processes, and where appropriate reintroducing missing species.

Leading pollsters YouGov asked 1,674 Britons: ​‘To what extent do you support or oppose rewilding in Britain?’.

The poll, conducted last October, also found that 83% of the public support Britain’s national parks being made wilder, with areas set aside for rewilding. This huge level of support is significant as the UK Government has just announced a 12-week public consultation on how to ensure these national landscapes can do more for nature, climate and people.

Three-quarters (75%) of people back the idea of increasing the area of Britain that is rewilding to at least 5%, from less than 1% currently.

And 75% want politicians to do more to reverse the decline of nature. Britain has been ranked by the authoritative State of Nature report as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with over half of its species declining and many threatened with extinction.

Rebecca Wrigley, Chief Executive of Rewilding Britain, said: ​“This polling confirms rewilding is overwhelmingly popular with the British public – and that people want politicians to do much more to reverse the catastrophic decline of nature in our country. Rewilding offers a major solution to the nature and climate emergencies while benefitting people, including through new jobs and opportunities for rural and coastal communities, and healthier towns and cities. Rewilding is attracting astonishing levels of support because it’s about hope.”

Rewilding Britain is calling for major nature recovery across at least 30% of Britain’s land and sea by 2030, with 5% of this – some one million hectares – being core rewilding areas of native forest, peatland, grasslands, wetlands, rivers and coastal areas, and no loss of productive farmland.

Posted on: 19 January 2022

Millennial generation leaders need urgent help to prepare for climate crisis ‘crunch point’, says report - IPPR

Emerging leaders now in their thirties will face potentially overwhelming task of steering societies through increasing effects of climate and nature crises

They need support to develop skills, understanding and resilience to tackle multiple crises in a more unstable world

Today’s governments must take faster action on emissions to reduce the burden for those who follow them, IPPR urges

Future leaders in the UK and abroad need help to prepare for the unprecedented "crunch point” they are likely to face because of worsening climate change and the consequences of biodiversity loss, a new IPPR report has warned.

Members of the millennial generation - the cohort likely to reach positions of political power in the 2040s and 2050s - will face a growing challenge from more frequent and severe natural crises and their knock-on consequences. These are likely to include extreme storms, dangerously high temperatures, famine and conflict, the report says.

Even if the world succeeds in limiting global temperature increases to 1.5C - still the official target of international climate efforts – climate change and biodiversity loss will have increasingly severe impacts on people and societies everywhere.

But if current governments fail to deliver the changes needed to hit that target, as seems increasingly likely, the challenge for those in power after 2040 will be even more daunting, the report says. Larger and ever more frequent emergencies caused by climate change will become steadily more costly and may distract future leaders from task of tackling the underlying problem.

The result may be a dangerous “crunch point” of “cascading consequences” in which governments are overwhelmed and societies everywhere are destabilised, the report warns. The global destabilisation brought by the Covid-19 pandemic provides a warning of what could be in store.

Many likely leaders of the UK and the world are now in their early thirties – around half the average age of those who currently lead us. The IPPR report warns that, even on the most optimistic scenario, future leaders will inherit increasingly severe versions of the problems that current governments already face, including challenges to food security and economic stability, and growing risk of poverty and conflict.

Access the report here

Posted on: 19 January 2022

English Channel stops new rockpool species reaching UK - University of Exeter

St Piran's hermit crab. Credit Christophe Patterson.
St Piran's hermit crab. Credit Christophe Patterson.

The English Channel prevents many rockpool species "making the jump" from Europe to the UK, new research shows.

With sea temperatures expected to rise due to climate change, many rockpool species in south-west England are threatened.

Creatures from warmer waters to the south could replace them – but the study, by the University of Exeter, suggests Channel currents mean many animals and plants cannot survive the crossing.

The study focussed on the St Piran's hermit crab, which appeared in Cornwall in 2016 and was named by viewers of BBC Springwatch.

"The crab larvae almost certainly came from Brittany in northern France," said Christophe Patterson, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall. "We modelled how ocean currents could carry larvae from Brittany to the south-west UK, and we found very few opportunities for this to happen. Only once in every ten years would the currents be suitable for the tiny St Piran's crab larvae to cross the Channel. Even on these currents, the time it takes for larvae to be carried to the UK is much longer than most other species' larvae can survive. So, even with rare ocean currents capable of carrying larvae to the UK, many species will never make that journey. Crabs and other crustaceans have the best chance, as many have larvae that could survive the crossing, but other groups like sea snails, sponges and seaweed just don't live for long enough in open water to get here."

Over the last 60 years, the sea temperature of the south-west UK has fluctuated. Despite a slight decline in recent years, average temperatures are expected to increase.

When the temperature rises, species that normally live in colder water begin to disappear, but when the temperature falls, they can come back.

"Our research suggests that, as species die out, they will not be replaced by warmer-water species moving northwards, and the richness of intertidal wildlife in the UK will decrease," said Dr Regan Early, also from the University of Exeter. "Rockpool animals are not alone in this quest. As the world warms, many species will find themselves living in environments that are too hot for them to survive. To avoid extinction, species must move to new areas, keeping them within their preferred climate. However, physical barriers like the English Channel may prevent species from doing this."

Read the research here

Posted on: 20 January 2022

Tree planting at Beinn Eighe increases woodland by 41% - NatureScot

Long-term tree planting at Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve (NNR) has increased woodland by 41%, helping combat climate change and increasing the biodiversity of the area hugely.

Comparing old and new aerial images, NatureScot staff calculated an increase of woodland cover from 158ha to 223ha since Beinn Eighe was designated as the UK’s first NNR in 1951. This expanded woodland has created ‘corridors’ connecting the ancient fragments of woodland, allowing animals to move more freely and expand the range of rare woodland plants.

Most of this expansion is due to tree planting, with trees planted almost every year since 1951 and recently over 20,000 planted a year. Since the NNR’s establishment, about 800,000 trees have been planted. Most have been Scots pine as well as broadleaf species such as birch, aspen, holly, rowan and oak. To retain the local provenance and genetic interest of the trees, all the seed is collected on the nature reserve and grown in an onsite tree nursery.

This year, the main planting phase will end with the last 20,000 trees planted. In future years, natural regeneration will help expand the woodland further, and NatureScot will only use targeted planting for under-represented species in areas where there is no seed source.

Woodland expansion is part of the solution to the climate emergency, helping to increase biodiversity, conserve Scottish species and help our society and economy adapt to climate change, for example by reducing potential for flooding and reducing the effects of heatwaves.

Doug Bartholomew, Beinn Eighe’s NNR manager, said: “The planted woodlands now link together all the fragments of ancient woodland on the nature reserve, creating a much more resilient environment for wildlife and to help combat climate change. For the next 70 years, our vision is to see the wood expand even more through natural processes, with a flourishing western pinewood supporting a range of healthy habitats and a rich variety of species.”

Covering a huge 48sq km, Beinn Eighe was the first national nature reserve declared in the UK. It was initially protected for its ancient pinewood – the largest fragment of ancient pinewood in north west Scotland. Due to the local oceanic climate, the woodlands at Beinn Eighe are classed as temperate rainforest, which is a very rare habitat globally. The high rainfall (about 2000mm annually), high humidity, relatively mild winters and cool summers create conditions ideal for many globally important mosses and liverworts, as well as a spectacular array of lichens, fungi and ferns.

Posted on: 20 January 2022

Today is Penguin Awareness Day

Penguin facts - 9 fascinating things you might not know - Greenpeace UK

Penguins porpoising in the Antarctic Ocean. Although they’re hilariously clumsy on land, penguins are amazing swimmers. In the water, Chinstrap penguins can reach speeds of 20mph – four times faster than the best human athletes. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace
Penguins porpoising in the Antarctic Ocean. Although they’re hilariously clumsy on land, penguins are amazing swimmers. In the water, Chinstrap penguins can reach speeds of 20mph – four times faster than the best human athletes. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

Improve your knowledge about our loveable flippered friends with these fascinating facts about penguins

It’s always a good time to celebrate the majesty and silliness of penguins. Here’s a rundown of the most fascinating, funny or important penguin facts we could find.

1. Giant penguins once roamed the planet

The first bird actually called a penguin was the now-extinct Great Auk found in the North Atlantic. Tragically, early explorers and their contemporaries found Great Auks a little too tasty, and the birds were all killed off.

Fossil evidence shows that penguins evolved before the dinosaurs died out, and there are remains of giant, people-sized, prehistoric penguins.

2. The world’s smallest penguin stands just over 30cm high

In comparison, the worlds smallest penguins are the Little Blue penguins. They are just over 30cm high on their flippers. (Yes, you’re thinking you could fit one in your bag, and keep it in your bath, arent you…?).

3. You’ll only find wild penguins in the Southern Hemisphere

All wild penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere, and although they are synonymous with the ice, only two species live on the continent of Antarctica. The Galapagos penguin is the only penguin that ever naturally ventures into the Northern Hemisphere on especially long feeding trips

4. Penguins’ black and white ‘tuxedo’ helps them avoid predators

Most penguins have black backs and a white belly. This makes them harder to see from above because they blend in with the dark ocean beneath them. And looking from below, their white underside matches the bright sky overhead.

5. Penguins use some clever tricks to help them move faster

To move fast through the water, penguins use a technique called porpoising. To move quickly over the ice, they switch to tobogganning. Curiously, porpoises neither use toboggans nor do they use the word penguin as a verb.

Scientists have discovered that emperor penguins, the largest species, use a special bubble-power go-faster technology to increase their speed under water.

Posted on: 20 January 2022

Another rural regeneration (or lack of) story:

DCMS over-reliance on commercial providers for national broadband perpetuating UK’s “great digital divide” - UK Parliament, Public Accounts Committee

The Public Accounts Committee today reports it is not convinced the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will meet even its downgraded targets for the increasingly critical rollout of super-fast, “gigabit” broadband, and is relying too heavily on commercial contractors for the progress that has been made.

Driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, good internet connectivity is now crucial to more than economic growth and the UK’s position in the global marketplace: it is essential to almost every aspect of everyday life, from work and education to accessing public services and benefits and personal lives and family connections. This makes the rapid roll out of Project Gigabit more vital than ever.

In 2020, DCMS accepted that its original plan for delivering nationwide gigabit broadband across the country by 2025 was unachievable and revised that target down to 85% coverage by 2025.

DCMS reports that the proportion of premises in the United Kingdom with access to gigabit broadband leapt from 40% to 57% between May and October 2021 but this is largely due to Virgin Media O2 upgrading its cable network and the Committee says DCMS “has made little tangible progress in delivering internet connectivity beyond that achieved by the private sector”.

DCMS’ goal of full coverage by 2030 “does not cover the very hardest to reach areas, which include around 134,000 premises” and it has no detailed plan in place for reaching communities where it is not commercially viable to do so.

The Committee had already warned earlier this year that “failures with the rollout of superfast broadband across the UK risked exacerbating digital and economic inequality” and while “commercial investment plans by existing and new providers are welcome, reducing the potential need for taxpayer funded rollout”, the Committee remains concerned that DCMS’ focus on “accelerating coverage through rollout by commercial operators rather than by prioritising those areas it knows are hardest to reach risks some of the areas that need improved connectivity most being once again left behind”.

Read the full report (PDF)

Read the report summary

Posted on: 21 January 2022

One for the bright sparks:

Geovation launches environmental challenge to tackle coastal pollution - Ordnance Survey

Geovation, Ordnance Survey’s open innovation network hub, has launched a challenge with the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) to find a sustainable solution to tackle diffuse coastal pollution, with a prize of up to £5,000 for the winners.

Diffuse coastal pollution causes significant damage to the coastal environment and as an island nation, with a coastline of almost 20,000 miles (including the islands), it is a serious issue for Great Britain. Furthermore, with a negative impact on human health and the food chain, the consequences of diffuse coastal pollution are felt beyond the coastline.

Our coastlines are not just at risk from extreme storms, coastal erosion and sea level rise caused by climate change, but from a multitude of diffuse pollution sources that can affect the water quality and pollute our coastal areas with a negative impact on the surrounding ecosystem.

Sources of diffuse pollution are often minor in isolation, but collectively can be very damaging to the environment due to the release of potential pollutants. Often driven by rainfall and how we manage land, diffuse coastal pollution can occur as a direct result of agricultural, urban and marine pollution sources.

Diffuse coastal pollution can be caused by agricultural run-off when pesticides and chemicals are lost from farming land into rivers, streams and ponds, as with urban areas due to poorly plumbed drainage systems, untreated wastewater, septic tanks, and flooding from sewers. All of which can accumulate on the coastline and in estuaries that affect the wildlife and local residents in those areas.

The challenge will aim to address the important issue of diffuse coastal pollution on our coastlines and look at sustainable solutions of how we can improve water quality, but also improve efficiencies, profitability and sustainability from agriculture to the water and sewage infrastructure, as well as improving beach cleanliness and wildlife conservation as a direct result of pollution from humans and animals.

Visit the Diffuse Coastal Pollution Challenge at to find out more information.

Posted on: 21 January 2022

We're ending the week with some good news.

Extinct Chernobyl eagle back from the dead - British Trust for Ornithology

Large brown eagle, photographed from above, sitting on a nest in the fork of a tree
Greater Spotted Eagle at the nest by Valery Dombrovski

Rare Greater Spotted Eagles have returned to the Chernobyl area after going extinct before the accident.

Scientists from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have been working with scientists in Belarus to help assess how wildlife is doing in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), and it seems that some species are doing very well.

Before the accident, Greater Spotted Eagles were locally extinct but with the absence of human interference and the natural rewetting of a large proportion of the CEZ, the eagle is thriving. Endangered in Europe, Greater Spotted Eagles are an indicator of wetland habitat quality and at the last count, up to thirteen pairs were breeding in the CEZ.

The Greater Spotted Eagle isn’t alone: White-tailed Eagles, also locally extinct before the accident, have also returned and are once again breeding in the area. Unlike Greater Spotted Eagles, which migrate south during winter, White-tailed Eagles are resident, and their survival during winter in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is likely helped by the carrion that wolves supply. As hunting is illegal in the “zone”, wolves, and other large-mammals have rebounded to abundant levels. These complex interactions between species signify the ecological recovery that is happening there without human pressures.

Dr Adham Ashton-Butt, lead BTO scientist on the project, said, “Our work shows that rewilding could be a valuable method to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystems.” He added, “Rewilding, or restoration with reduced management, is becoming an increasingly employed method to deal with the global biodiversity and climate change crisis. However, long-term data on the impact of rewilding on wildlife communities are scarce or non-existent. Our dataset offers a rare exception, allowing us to show the effects on birds of prey of over thirty years of land-abandonment of previously intensively farmed area.”

More information here and the paper - Long-term Effects of Rewilding on Species Composition: 22-years of Raptor Monitoring in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has just been published in the journal Restoration Ecology.

Posted on: 21 January 2022

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