CJS News, Headlines from week beginning 27 June 2022

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

New grants scheme launched to break barriers to accessing nature - Natural Resources Wales

Adults and children walking on a path through woodland with sun shining on ferns
(Natural Resources Wales)

A £2million funding pot designed to bolster community resilience by harnessing the power of nature is set to be launched by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) this summer.

The launch of the Resilient Communities Grant Programme stems from calls for a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic – a recovery which places a stronger focus on action for nature and a recovery that spreads to every part of society.

The Welsh Government’s declaration of a Climate and Nature Emergency has also galvanised communities, businesses and public bodies in Wales to work together to mitigate against and adapt to the impacts of climate change, now and in the future.

The Resilient Communities Grant will provide communities with the opportunities to restore and enhance nature in their local areas, particularly in Wales’ most disadvantaged communities, and those with little access to nature. Supporting the provision of more green space will also support the changes needed to make to society to respond to the challenges of the climate emergency and reverse the decline in biodiversity.

Conservation Charities & Agencies combine forces to tackle the impact of climate change on the UK’s heritage - National Trust

Seven UK organisations have announced a new partnership to help tackle the impact of climate change on historical sites and our cultural heritage, and to share expertise.

The new UK Heritage Adaptation Partnership will see stewards of historic sites across the country – Cadw, Department for Communities, English Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, Historic England, National Trust and National Trust for Scotland – pool research and expertise.

Working together, heritage organisations from across the four nations will explore critical issues in how our historic sites and collections can adapt to the increasing frequency and intensity of climate hazards such as extreme flooding and heat, building the resilience of our historic environment.

Dr Ingrid Samuel, Heritage & Placemaking Director at the National Trust said; “Until now heritage organisations have used different methods to address similar questions about understanding the risk presented by our changing climate. By working together we can look at putting in place a more consistent approach so that we make relevant comparisons and then adapt our approach as needed.”

Over the next two years, the group aims to:

  • Develop a consistent baseline of climate hazard metrics for the heritage sector
  • Create a shared understanding of site ‘vulnerability’
  • Develop an approach for assessing climate risk on heritage assets
  • Create a shared understanding of different adaptation options and pathways
  • Identify and invest in areas of research to develop understanding around the impacts of certain climate hazards on heritage assets
  • Communicate research and resources to the wider heritage sector and other relevant communities of interest

Significant drop in Atlantic salmon returning to English river confirms 2021 as a poor year for this iconic species – long-term monitoring project’s report shows - Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

The number of wild adult Atlantic salmon returning to the River Frome in southern England in 2021 was down almost 20% on its 10-year average. This drop echoes reports from Scotland and Norway where the 2021 annual salmon catches were the lowest on record - a clear message that 2021 was a very poor year for returning Atlantic salmon. The widespread reporting of declining adult salmon returns further highlights the growing need for targeted action to protect this iconic species.

Juvenile Atlantic salmon smolts migrating to sea from the River Frome in 2021 were also 30% below the 10-average, so expectations for adult returns from this smolt cohort, as grilse in 2022 and multi-sea-winter salmon in 2023, are low.

This week the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) published its 2021 Fisheries Research Review. Based at the Salmon & Trout Research Centre at East Stoke on the River Frome in Dorset, the GWCT Fisheries Team is responsible for one of the longest running salmon monitoring projects in the UK. The River Frome is a salmon index river and provides data on marine survival rates for Atlantic salmon to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). ICES uses River Frome data, along with other salmon data from the North Atlantic, to provide scientific advice on high seas exploitation.

Scarce orchid found in Highlands after 250 years - National Trust for Scotland

Coralroot Orchid focused in the foreground of green foliage
Coralroot Orchid, National Trust for Scotland Balmacara Estate, Wester Ross (National Trust for Scotland)

The coral root orchid has been rediscovered in Wester Ross after a gap of 250 years.

This scarce and enigmatic plant was rediscovered at Balmacara Estate in the North West Highlands earlier this month. The find took place during a visit from a small party of conservation land managers from the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest. The group were there to discuss the management of Scotland’s rare, biodiverse and threatened rainforest habitat and chanced upon the diminutive, but beautiful, orchid in an area of wet woodland on the Coille Mhòr Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Gus Routledge, a young expert ecologist representing Reforesting Scotland and Scotland: The Big Picture, made the exciting discovery.

The orchid was last recorded in the area by John Lightfoot and Thomas Pennant in 1772 and was the first ever record of coral root orchid from the British Isles. The record was published in the first botanical book on Scottish plants, Flora Scotica, which recounts some of the earliest recorded botanical expeditions to Scotland. It described the location as ‘in a moist, hanging wood called Cabal, on the south side, near the head of Little Loch Broom’. The exact location of this record, given the place name is now obscure, is not known other than it was in Wester Ross. The 2022 site is being kept secret in order to protect the species from being trampled by mistake, as it can be difficult to spot.

The orchid is classed as nationally scarce, meaning it has only ever been found in less than 100 locations in the UK. It is typically found in wet, swampy woodland in the more continental north-eastern areas of the UK. There are very few records from the western side of Scotland. According to the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland’s database, it has been seen in only 25 sites (10km squares) in Scotland since 2020 and only 3 elsewhere in the UK in this time, all in northern England.

Great to hear that wildlife rescues have a happy ending

Lost loggerhead – UPDATE! - British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR)

Loggerhead turtle on a table with one person holding it and one person with a clipboard and pen
Photo credit: Sealife Scarborough

This tropical loggerhead turtle washed up on the shores of the Isle of Iona at the end of January earlier this year, and we’ve just received an update on how she’s doing from our friends at Sealife Scarborough where she is currently rehabilitating (after being transferred from Sealife Loch Lomond a few weeks back).

Now aptly named ‘Iona’, this little lady is doing very well. She has incredibly doubled in weight since arriving at the centre and is well on the road to recovery! Fabulous news!

It’s not yet clear when she’ll be released to the wild, as there is a lot involved in finding a suitable release location, but we are hoping she’ll make her way back to the tropics soon.

Tropical turtles usually wash up in the UK most years and are usually smaller, weaker animals that have possibly been pushed off course into the Gulf Stream and end up out of their normal habitat. As turtles are cold-blooded, they get severely hypothermic, malnourished and dehydrated as their body shuts down due to the cold water. Many wash up dead, but the ones found alive and reported to us go for rehab in aquaria that are familiar with their care. If they survive (that’s a big ‘if’, as often they are already too far gone) then they are returned to the wild in places such as the Canary Islands.

It’s looking like Iona will be one of the lucky ones… keep those flippers crossed for her!

30x30 and Nature Networks Projects Launch - NatureScot

First steps of vital nature project features Minister for Biodiversity and other leading voices.

NatureScot will this week host the first event in a year-long collaborative project, looking at new ways to restore and connect Scotland’s ecosystems.

Today (Tuesday 28 June) will see the important first steps of the 30x30 and Nature Networks Projects. These will bring together all interested parties to explore collaboratively designed solutions to the targets set out by the Scottish Government to protect at least 30% of Scotland’s land for nature by 2030 (30x30) and connecting Scotland’s nature-rich areas through Nature Networks.

The 30x30 and Nature Networks Projects opening webinar is part of a year-long calendar of events, which will inform the delivery of the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Strategy. The event will feature the Minister for Biodiversity, Lorna Slater MSP, as well as speakers from Scottish Environment LINK; Scottish Land & Estates; Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests, and Nature Friendly Farming Network.

Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said: “The Scottish Government is committed to tackling the twin crises of climate change and nature loss. Already over 17% of Scotland is protected specifically for nature - but we know we can and must do more to prevent the continuing decline in biodiversity. To do this effectively will require a co-ordinated effort across private, voluntary and public sectors, delivered through our ambitious new biodiversity strategy - which aims to halt the loss of nature by 2030, and reverse it by 2045. There is no doubt that nature networks and areas protected and managed for nature will play a key part in delivering these ambitions. Today marks an important step in our working together to achieve this vision.”

Critically endangered black-tailed godwits thrown lifeline in the Fens - Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

black tailed godwit chick with a label on the leg on a blue surface
Black Tailed Godwit chick (WWT)

Today (28 June) sees the final release of hand-raised black-tailed godwits as part of an emergency intervention which has thrown the critically endangered wetland bird a lifeline and helped increase its chances of survival.

Data collected by a five year partnership between the RSPB and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) called Project Godwit, shows the number of new birds added to the population is around five times higher than it would have been without these urgent measures.

The great news is that many of the birds released in previous years have successfully migrated to southern Europe and Africa and then returned to the Fens to breed. Evidence gathered by Project Godwit has shown that over 40% of all breeding pairs now include one or two headstarted birds, and the UK population is 40% larger than it would have been without this vital work.

But conservation experts are warning that all the good work could still be undone leaving a bleak future for the waders unless more of the vital healthy wetland habitat the birds need to survive is created.

Love a happy ending

Group of badgers rescued from 16ft deep sewage tank - Scottish SPCA

a staff member from ScottishSPCA standing in front of a van with 3 members of the fire brigade in uniform

A group of badgers were successfully rescued and released back into the wild after they fell 16ft into an empty sewage tank.

Animal rescue officers were alerted to the badgers when the staff at Scottish Water sewage works in Lanark called for assistance.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service were called to assist with the rescue as the tank could not be safely accessed without their help.

Animal rescue officer, Dawn-Vale Juma, said, “We received a call from the team at Scottish Water who had spotted three badgers curled up at the bottom of an empty 16ft deep sewage tank. The tank was inaccessible so we called the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for assistance. Thankfully, the crew from Lanark fire station arrived quickly and were happy to help.”

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Station Commander Philip McDonald said: “As a humanitarian organisation, we will always assist the Scottish SPCA when required to help an animal in distress. Our response can prevent members of the public putting themselves in danger by attempting to do their own rescue. Firefighters are trained for these types of incidents and we are pleased that we were able to help out in this instance."

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