CJS News, Headlines from week beginning 4 March 2024

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

Oyster restoration project set to enrich the haven waterway - Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority

2 people looking in to two white boxes with oysters in the bottom
Scattered populations of native oysters in the Milford Haven Waterway will receive a much-needed boost from the restoration project (Pembrokeshire Coast NPA)

An exciting new project is underway to restore the once-abundant population of native oysters within the Milford Haven Waterway and, in doing so, improve the condition of the Pembrokeshire Marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

This work is being carried out in partnership with Bangor University, the Pembrokeshire Marine SAC Officer and Tethys Oysters in Angle Bay, and forms part of the Blue Carbon Strand of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Wild Coast! Sustainable Landscapes, Sustainable Places Programme, funded by the Welsh Government and co-ordinated by Tirweddau Cymru Landscapes Wales.

Director of Nature and Tourism at the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, James Parkin, said: “Designated landscapes, such as the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, account for 25% of the Welsh landscape, which means they have a vital role in helping nature to recover. The Sustainable Landscapes, Sustainable Places Landscapes Fund is having a significant impact on our ability to create a sustainable and resilient environment for future generations.”

Since the project commenced in November 2023, Ostrea edulis broodstock have been collected from Angle Bay and Burton Ferry and transported to Bangor University, with the aim of rearing them and returning them to the Milford Haven Waterway to boost existing populations.

It is expected that up to 200,000 native oyster spat may be produced, but numbers could be significantly more.

National Park Authority Biodiversity Officer, Sarah Mellor, explained: “Native British oyster populations have declined dramatically over the decades, as a result of habitat loss, pollution, over-harvesting and disease. This has significant implications for the health of our marine environment. As well as being filter feeders that actively purify the surrounding water, oysters also store carbon, and their reefs also play an important role in fostering biodiversity by providing food, shelter, and protection for a wide variety of marine life.”

Currently, there are very few nursery facilities that can provide native oysters for restoration. To date, native oysters introduced to the Waterway have been reared in Morecambe Bay. The status of the Milford Haven Waterway as a Bonamia (parasitic disease) area also places additional restrictions on the movement of oysters.

A great way to decompress

Counting butterflies reduces anxiety, study shows - University of Derby

a close up of a green winged butterfly resting on a purple flower spike
Brimstone butterfly. Photo: Matt Berry, Greenwings, Butterfly Conservation

New research published by leading wildlife charity, Butterfly Conservation, in collaboration with the University of Derby, reveals that counting butterflies reduces anxiety by almost 10%.

The pioneering study involved surveying people taking part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count in 2022. The results demonstrate that briefly tuning into nature to count butterflies reduces anxiety by 9% on average, while also enhancing mental wellbeing.

Researchers also found that spending just 15 minutes observing and counting butterflies boosted participants' feeling of connectedness with nature. Noticing butterflies more often was sustained over 6-7 weeks after taking part.

How connected people feel to nature, known as nature connectedness, is directly correlated to how motivated they are to protect it. The findings of this new study show that citizen science projects could play a vital role in nature’s recovery.

Dr Carly Butler, a Researcher in Nature Connectedness at the University of Derby and lead researcher on the study, said: "Our study showed that even small periods of time spent watching and counting butterflies are beneficial, with the benefits of reduced anxiety and stronger nature connectedness being the same whether people carried out just one 15-minute count or took part multiple times. This is key in proving that simple, small pockets of time connecting with wildlife and nature have a profound and beneficial effect on how we feel.”

Dr Richard Fox, Head of Science at Butterfly Conservation, said: “While we have long known that there is a link between nature and human wellbeing, this study is the first to prove that the simple act of looking for and counting butterflies leads to a measurable decrease in anxiety. The results suggest that citizen science projects such as the Big Butterfly Count can play a part in improving people’s mental health, as well as gathering important data on how butterflies are faring to inform our conservation work.”

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