CJS Professional

blue sky and clouds (image: Engin Akyurt / pixabay)
logo: SCRA logo: CMA

Countryside Jobs Service Professional - The leading monthly for countryside staff across the UK

Published on the second Thursday every month

CJS is endorsed by the Scottish Countryside Rangers Association and the Countryside Management Association

Featured Charity: Campaign for National Parks

Find out more about our featured charity here.

Including how to join and donate.

Please remember: If you are interested in a particular advert or item please contact the advertiser, not CJS, and remember to tell them you saw their advert in CJS Professional.

CJS Professional: 8 April 2021

Contents: Click the headers to browse each section, or click on each item (or the [more] button)


Featured Job: Senior Ecologist (level 2 bat-licensed) for CGO Ecology Ltd. Starting asap on a Permanent, full-time or part-time basis.
Advertised until filled (CJS advert delete date 3 May)


26 adverts included in this edition  


Freelance, Self-employed and Contracts Out to Tender

Bat Survey Assistants (Casual), Angela Graham Bat Consultancy Service Ltd


Trainees and Apprenticeships

Trainee Projects Officer Land Management, Hertfordshire County Council


The Mammal Society want volunteers for the first on-the-ground national survey to shed light on distribution and numbers of Scottish mountain hares. 
The survey is calling on hillwalkers, naturalists and other outdoor enthusiasts to record sightings of the charismatic animals as they are out and about. No previous experience of wildlife surveys is necessary to take part. [more]

PTES are looking for people to particpate in the National Water Vole Monitoring Programme. [more]

CJS Updates and other useful information

Spread the word, share CJS Professional with your friends colleagues and anyone interested in the countryside sector and ivite them to sign up to the mailing list. [more]

CJS sponsors...
In 2020 we ran our short readership survey and every completed survey went towards sponsoring plants with former featured charity Plantlife or birds with the Wildlife Trusts, offering you the choice as to which you'd pick. We've been sharing details of the resulting adoptions / sponsorships across our social media since January, here are details of what we've sponsored and some of the reasons why. [more]

Features and In Depth Articles

Another article from our 2021 featured charity Campaign for Parks: National Parks - 70 years on: 'if you make it about the people, you protect the place'

Logo: Campaign for National Parks

This year’s National Park Week (17-25 April) coincides with another special date - the 70th anniversary since the first National Park, Peak District National Park, was created in the UK on 17 April 1951. It paved the way for the creation of the 15 National Parks here today. The launch of Peak District National Park was closely followed in 1951 by Lake District National Park (9 May), Snowdonia National Park (18 October) and Dartmoor National Park (30 October). [more]


The importance of protecting Wales’ Celtic Rainforests by Jane Cook of Woodland Trust.
Temperate rainforest, also known as Atlantic or Celtic rainforest, is an incredibly rare habitat, and even thought to be more threatened than tropical rainforest. Temperate rainforest is also one of the most biodiverse habitats found in the UK. The high humidity and low temperature range create the perfect conditions for moisture-loving lichens and bryophytes (mosses and liverworts); a good example of this kind of habitat could contain over 200 different species of bryophytes, and 100-200 species of lichen. [more]


Helping young people keep it wild in 2021
Action for Conservation (AFC) is a UK charity working to empower the next generation of environmental leaders. AFC’s newest Programme Coordinators, Charlotte Nwanodi, Omar Abu-Seer and Sophie Jones, share why it’s important for young people to remain engaged in environmental action as we emerge from the lockdown and how programmes like WildED arehelping young people drive a fairer, greener future.  [more]  


Survey water voles on your land by Henrietta Pringle, Key Species Data & Monitoring Officer at PTES
Britain’s water voles are in trouble. The arrival of non-native American mink and loss of suitable habitat have led to them becoming one of our fastest declining mammals. The main aim of PTES’ National Water Vole Monitoring Programme (NWVMP) is to revisit sites that were originally surveyed in the 1990s. [more]


Time to put an end to Voluntary Traineeships? An opinion piece
Spring is the season of change, growth and opportunity as the hedgerows explode into life and the skylarks start displaying. This is also the time of year when career seekers will be scouring CJS in search of a seasonal foot-in-the-door. Increasingly, however, that includes not just traditional seasonal contracts and project funded posts, but also “voluntary traineeships”.It’s not a new phenomenon, but it is a growing one and has never been more relevant. When many hours of unpaid work are an essential prerequisite to even applying for a job, we end up choosing our workforce on the basis of means rather than talent or potential, and have to question how “voluntary” these roles really are. [more] (opportunity to have your say on our Facebook page here)
Want to express your own opinion on a subject that's close to your heart or gets you hot under the collar?
Find out how here.


The power of community gardens – growing people and places by Stacey Aplin, PR and Communications Coordinator, Groundwork
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s fair to say eyes have been opened to the importance of access to well-maintained, supported and funded outdoor spaces -and the benefits this can offer. Community gardens play a big role in this. When done right, these spaces provide local people and places with so much more than aesthetics. They ensure that local communities have access to a space that is tailored towards the needs of the area through employment and training opportunities and physical and mental health provision. [more]


Stress Awareness Month: the outdoors as a means of reducing stress
Now that we are in April – officially ‘Stress Awareness Month’ – Tracey Evans CEO of the Outdoor Partnership looks at how being in the outdoors benefits mental as well as physical health. [more]

CJS Focus

Most recent edition is in association with the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces (NFPGS) with Parks Community UK and was CJS Focus on Volunteering, published on 22 February - read it in full here.

The next edition will be CJS Focus on Careers in Ecology in association with CIEEM, it is due for publication on 20 September.



A good mix of news across all areas this month including good news for many bird species and butterflies too. Several stories featuring visitor management as well as the launch of the updated Countryside Code - say hello!  - a little on green recovery and several pieces mentioning the  global impact of Covid-19, announcements from a range of organisations about aims to become net zero and generally more sustainable in response to the climate crisis.
And finally: the winners of our featured charity Campaign for Parks Park Protector Awards.


Training and Events

Calendar of events and short courses occurring in  June plus additions made over the past month.


Two adverts this month: Kate Shipley offering Forest School Training and WildMinds running environmental education activities in South Derbyshire

Advertise in CJS, information here. Rates here. Information for CJS Weekly and CJS Professional.

CJS Newsletters and updates:

CJS Weekly: subscription only weekly newsletter. Receive details of all vacancies and information advertised with CJS. Find out more here. Instant access here.

Daily email with details of latest vacancies, news and general information. Sign up free here.

Jobs: view all online jobs here

Featured Job: 

Freelance, Self-employed and Contracts Out to Tender.

Apprenticeships, Interns and paid trainee roles.



logo: The Mammal Scoiety

Volunteers wanted for new Scottish mountain hare survey

Volunteers are wanted for the first on-the-ground national survey to shed light on distribution and numbers of Scottish mountain hares.

moutian hare in grey winter pelt sitting upright face onto the camera surrounded by dark heather
Mountain hare (photo: Shane Stanbridge)

The survey is calling on hillwalkers, naturalists and other outdoor enthusiasts to record sightings of the charismatic animals as they are out and about. No previous experience of wildlife surveys is necessary to take part.

Mountain hares are Scotland’s only native hare and an important species in the Scottish hills, and gathering more accurate information about them will help inform conservation efforts.

There is concern about the state of the mountain hare population and the possible effects of control measures. The available sources of information present a mixed picture of their conservation status, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions on population size and trends.

To participate, volunteers will need a smartphone with the free Mammal Mapper app. This can be used to record mammals during walks anywhere in Scotland. It contains an in-built ID guide to help participants identify mammals that they see, plus a section on upland birds which can now be recorded too. Volunteers are asked to take part as and when regional Covid travel restrictions allow.

For more information, and to find out how you can take part, visit


Volunteers: see all listings online at:

Advertise your voluntary roles with CJS - it's free!
Click here.

CJS announcements, information and other articles of interest.

Spread the word, share CJS Professional with your friends colleagues and anyone interested in the countryside sector.

I hope you're finding CJS professional useful, stuffed with all the usual things: wonderful features, amazing jobs, news keeping you up to date and the training calendar to help you find your next CPD course. In last month's edition you might have noticed the piece, What you think CJS does: advertise jobs for rangers. What CJS actually does…..
Promotes countryside projects, publishes adverts for volunteers, collates a daily news roundup, works with many different organisations to highlight issues and introduce new initiatives, runs a large directory of sector wide training courses and professional events, hosts a wide range of advice and information covering all parts of the conservation sector, produces three newsletters as well as managing a large website and yes, advertises jobs for rangers, amongst lots of others! [more]

Well as CJS is not just for rangers we'd like to invite as many people, organisations and offices across the whole countryside, conservation ecology and wildlife sectors to read CJS Professional. as you know, it's sent free of charge on the second Thursday of each month. We're asking for your help with this. We're opening the mailing list to anyone interested in receiving the regular email, not just offices - let's be honest when was the last time you saw your office? To do this we're asking you to share CJS Professional with as many people as you think would like to receive this incredible packet of information every month. As ever with CJS it's free, no catch and you can unsubscribe at any time. You can find a web version of this month's email here:

Your colleagues can join the regular mailing list by filling in the online form here or by emailing us direct: with their name, organisation and of course the best email address to use - it doesn't have to be a work one.

On behalf of the whole CJS Team thank you for helping to make CJS the most widely used countryside information website.

composite image of the various sponsorship certificates

In 2020 we ran our short readership survey and every completed survey went towards sponsoring plants with former featured charity Plantlife or birds with the Wildlife Trusts, offering you the choice as to which you'd pick. The results were evenly split: 50.7% for birds with the Wildlife Trusts and 49.2% for plants with Plantlife. We've been sharing details of the resulting adoptions / sponsorships across our social media since January, here are details of what we've sponsored and some of the reasons why.

There are five sponsorship with Plantlife

Harebell: We selected the harebell as it 'sometimes' pops up on the commons around Goathland, glorious sight.

Mistletoe: We chose mistletoe because we were making the selections at Christmas and seemed very fitting.

Juniper: One for the gin lovers in the office!

Meadow Clary: Such a beautiful eye-catching plant and the folklore of its use in potions appealed to the herbalist in me so this one was added to our collection.

Venus's Looking-Glass: When selecting this one I managed to get an office dog connection in here! Since Juno (my Queen of the Heavens) all my labs have had classical names so we couldn't resist a Venus now could we?

Plantlife: Wild flowers, plants and fungi are the life support for all our wildlife and their colour and character light up our landscapes. But without our help, this priceless natural heritage is in danger of being lost. As a small charity, each and every one of our members makes a big difference. If you are not already a Plantlife member, please consider joining us today - we'd love to have you on board. Adopt your own plant or fungi with Plantlife here.

There are four bird sponsorships with the Wildlife Trusts

A swift box with North Wales Wildlife Trust

We chose the swift because there's nothing so evocative of summer as the sound of swifts screaming and whilst we're fortunate enough to have a healthy population not everyone gets to experience the joy of the avian Red Arrows. You can sponsor your own swift box (or other species) with the North Wales Wildlife Trust here.

A song thrush with Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

We're lucky enough to have lots of thrushes making their presence known with the lovely liquid song and small heaps of smashed snail shells in the garden, we thought we'd pick it to throw a spotlight on this often overlooked bird. In fact one of resident birds returned just this week and has been busy stripping the very last of the yew berries from the tree right outside my office window. You can sponsor your own thrush (or other species) with the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust here.

We've adopted the fastest bird in the air - a peregrine falcon with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

CJS Ed Kerryn says: This is a personal one for me, we occasionally have a peregrine or two winging their way across the fields but they will forever be associated with my first job at the North York Moors National Park, sitting on the edge of a very deep gorge and watching the falcons swooping and 'playing' with the pigeons below my feet as I munched my lunchtime sandwiches. An incredible memory and an opportunity I'd like to help preserve for others to be able to enjoy as well. You can sponsor your own peregrine (or other species) with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust here.

CJS sponsors a little brother in the north with Scottish Wildlife Trust

Puffins - how can you not love them with their comical clown faces? Instantly recognisable and much loved but one of the species most affected by climate change and need all the help we can give them. Why little brother? It’s all in the Latin: Fratercula arctica which literally translates as arctic little brother, supposedly named because the black and white plumage looks a like a monk's habit (if you squint) - quite appropriate for our Easter week adoption. You can sponsor your own puffin (or other species) with Scottish Wildlife Trust here.

There are lots of different bird sponsorships available with the county Wildlife Trusts details here.

Details of all our sponsorships are here:


CJS Focus.

logo: CJS Focus

Most recent edition is in association with the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces (NFPGS) with Parks Community UK and was CJS Focus on Volunteering, published on 22 February - read it in full here.

The enxt edition will be CJS Focus on Careeers in Ecology in association with CIEEM, it is due for publication on 20 September. Please contact Amy, Fcous Co-ordinator, with suggestions for articles or subjects that you'd like to see covered or if you'd like to write a feature.

Features and In Depth Articles.

The third article from our 2021 featured charity: Campaign for Parks, this time highlighting parks week and the recent Park Protector Awards

Want to express your own opinion on a subject that's close to your heart or gets you hot under the collar? Find out how here.



We collate together news from across the internet; sent out in real time via twitter and each day we pick a handful of stories of interest which are included on the Headlines page, the daily email update and here grouped according to subject.

Click on the headline to read more.

Wildlife and Animal News

Friends and enemies 'make sense' for long-lived animals - University of Exeter

Hyenas are slow-lived and have complex social structures (credit Dave Hudson)
Hyenas are slow-lived and have complex social structures (credit Dave Hudson)

It makes evolutionary sense for long-lived animals to have complex social relationships – such as friends and enemies – researchers say.

Some species and individuals focus their energy on reproduction (live fast, die young), while "slow-living" animals prioritise survival and tend to live longer lives.

In the new paper, University of Exeter scientists argue that natural selection favours complex social structures among slow-living animals – meaning that knowing their friends and enemies is easier for animals with longer lifespans, and helps them live even longer.

Meanwhile, fast-lived species should only bother with such social relationships if it increases their chances of reproduction.

"Slow-living species can afford to invest in social relationships, as they live long enough to enjoy the pay-offs," said Professor Dave Hodgson, Director of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall. "There is strong evidence that strong social bonds are beneficial for survival in slow-living species, including humans. We suggest there is a 'positive feedback' – certain social behaviours lead to a longer life, and longer lifespan promotes the development of social bonds."

Professor Hodgson said there is "growing evidence" that differentiated social relationships have a bigger positive effect on survival than on reproduction.

As a result, fast-lived species do not gain the same evolutionary advantages from social relationships as slow-lived species.

Read the paper here


Joint fisheries conservation NGO position statement on Eurasian beaver re-introduction into England and Wales - Joint press release issued by Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

Fighting to protect our iconic and threatened migratory fish

Freshwater migratory fish are among the most threatened animals on the planet. Globally they have declined by 76% between 1970 and 2016 a higher rate of decline than marine or terrestrial migratory species. Our salmon and sea trout are no different, with populations on most rivers in England and Wales classified as at risk by the UK governments. The pressures on the populations include barriers to migration, poor water quality, rising temperatures, habitat degradation and loss, over-abstraction and pressures at sea.

Beavers build dams using riparian trees and branches, and the dams can be multiple along lengths of rivers and in some cases over six feet high. These threaten to restrict the vital movement of adult salmon, sea trout and brown trout to and from their spawning grounds in small streams and tributaries, and their juveniles as they migrate downstream to sea.

Without a funded science-based management strategy, with a clear focus on mitigating impacts for salmon and trout, there is a real risk that beaver dams will cause harm to these vulnerable protected populations. Research on the licensed released beaver population in the River Otter, which is being used to inform the management strategy being developed by Defra, has focused on demonstrating the benefits of beavers. However, it did little to address the obvious threat of beaver dams to important migratory fish.

Therefore, fisheries conservations organisations – Atlantic Salmon Trust, Salmon & Trout Conservation, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, River Otter Fisheries Association, South West Rivers Association and the Angling Trust – have raised concerns to the UK and Welsh governments.

Read the full report (PDF)

First wildcats arrive at Highlands breeding for release centre - Saving Wildcats

A person releasing a wildcat in to an enclosure (Saving Wildcats)
Wildcat enclosure release (Saving Wildcats)

Efforts to save the Scottish wildcat from extinction have taken a major step forwards after the first cat was introduced to the Saving Wildcats conservation breeding for release centre at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) Highland Wildlife Park.

Nell, a young female, arrived from Alladale Wilderness Reserve earlier this month and has settled well into the off-show centre, which provides breeding space, veterinary care, remote monitoring and training to prepare cats for life in the wild.

It is hoped that any kittens Nell rears will be among the first cats released into the Scottish Highlands next year as part of the Saving Wildcats project to restore the critically endangered species in Scotland. The project is led by RZSS in collaboration with NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Norden’s Ark and Junta de Andalucía.

David Barclay, Saving Wildcats ex-situ conservation manager, said, “Saving Wildcats is an incredibly exciting partnership bringing together the necessary resources and expertise to save Scotland’s iconic wildcat. Nell is the first cat to be introduced into our breeding for release centre at Highland Wildlife Park and she has settled well into her new surroundings.”

Government’s plan to phase out badger cull must mean end to cull licences now - The Wildlife Trusts

Public urged to respond to badger cull consultation

The Wildlife Trusts have shared their response to the Government’s consultation on the badger cull and are calling upon the Government to stop issuing badger cull licences with immediate effect.

Based on their analysis of the consultation, The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to:

  • Stop issuing badger cull licences immediately. This will bring an end to the badger cull sooner than proposed, saving tens of thousands of badgers.
  • Implement a cattle vaccine. Cattle vaccination offers the best long-term way to reduce bovine TB in the cattle population.
  • Review how cattle are transported around the country and ensure measures are in place to prevent infection spread from cattle to cattle.
  • Fast track the transition from culling to badger vaccination.​

Recent Government proposals suggested an end to granting cull licences in 2022, but this could still result in another 130,000 badgers being killed over the next four years.

Jo Smith, Chief Executive at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said: “There is much confusion in the public domain about the Government proposals to end the badger cull. Recent media headlines stated that the cull would end in 2022 but the reality is that badger culling will continue until 2026. This is because the majority of cull licences last four years.”

The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the public to respond to the consultation which ends on 24th March – and help end the cull. This is the latest step in the fight by The Wildlife Trusts to end the killing of badgers, a protected species.

Deer Working Group recommendations: Scottish Government response - Scottish Government

Scottish Government Response to the Report from the independent Deer Working Group on ‘The management of wild deer in Scotland’

Deer Working Group recommendations: Scottish Government response

The Deer Working Group was established by the Scottish Government in 2017, following reports by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) (now known as NatureScot) in 2016 and the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee in 2017.

The Group was appointed as an independent working group to review the existing statutory and non-statutory arrangements for the management of wild deer in Scotland, taking account of the position with each of the four species of wild deer and the varying circumstances across Scotland.

The Group's report, published on 29 January 2020 made ninety-nine recommendations relating to the current system of deer management. We considered each of those recommendations alongside the available evidence before forming our response.

Read the report here

RSPB Scotland welcomes Scottish Government response to Independent Deer working group - RSPB

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management for RSPB Scotland responds to Scottish Government response to Independent Deer working group. “We welcome the Scottish Government acceptance of all of the key recommendations of the independent Deer Working Group Report for reform of deer management in Scotland. Deer are an important part of our natural heritage, however in the absence of natural predators they need to be managed by humans, and we agree that this needs to be done to a high welfare standard. We are pleased that transformational change in deer management to address both the climate and nature emergencies is at the heart of this statement, and that a modern and more flexible Deer Act will be brought forward in the next Scottish Parliament to replace the current outdated deer management legislation. The Scottish deer population is now estimated to be 1 million animals, and it is still increasing, impacting the delivery of public priorities including woodland expansion and regeneration, as well as peatland restoration. Serious human impacts are also arising including road traffic accidents and Lyme disease. The explicit recognition that deer populations and density monitoring have a vital role alongside assessing damage levels to document future progress is a major step forward. Finally, we consider that this announcement also gives considerable scope for delivering new rural employment as part of a Green Recovery”

National Trust re-introduces beavers to South East England site after Somerset success - National Trust

South Downs beaver release ©National Trust Images Nick Upton
South Downs beaver release ©National Trust Images Nick Upton

The National Trust has just released two beavers on the edge of the South Downs into a 15 hectare fenced area making it the second licensed release of this fascinating mammal by the conservation charity in the last 15 months.

A male and female have been re-introduced, in the hope they will become a breeding pair.

Having once been an important part of the ecosystem, beavers became extinct in Britain in the 16th century because of hunting for their fur, meat and scent glands.

This is the first release by the Trust in south east England, following the successful pilot at Holnicote on Exmoor early last year where the beavers have thrived.

The release is part of the charity’s ambitions to create priority habitats for nature and to increase the diversity of species and wildlife on the land in its care.

David Elliott, National Trust Lead Ranger for the South Downs West, said: “Today we are reintroducing a species which has been absent from this landscape for the last 400 years. Beavers are nature’s water engineers, they can help bring back the natural processes that have been missing from our environment. By creating their dams, the beavers will create new and wildlife-rich wetlands; ponds, rivulets and boggy areas that will, over the next few years, benefit a range of wildlife including amphibians such as frogs and toads, many dragonflies and damselflies and wildflowers such as Devil’s-bit scabious that love damp meadows. They’ll help us create a pyramid of life based on wetlands – including bird and bat species as their prey increases in abundance.”

Ocean's mammals at crucial crossroads - University of Exeter

The ocean’s mammals are at a crucial crossroads – with some at risk of extinction and others showing signs of recovery, researchers say.

In a detailed review of the status of the world's 126 marine mammal species – which include whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, manatees, dugongs, sea otters and polar bears – scientists found that accidental capture by fisheries (bycatch), climate change and pollution are among the key drivers of decline.

Crab eater seal lying on its back on the ice with mouth open showing teeth
Crab eater seal. (Credit Rob Harcourt)

A quarter of these species are now classified as being at risk of extinction (vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List), with the near-extinct vaquita porpoise and the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale among those in greatest danger.

Conservation efforts have enabled recoveries among other species, including the northern elephant seal, humpback whale and Guadalupe fur seal.

The international research team – led by the University of Exeter and including scientists from more than 30 institutions in 13 countries – highlight conservation measures and research techniques that could protect marine mammals into the future.

"We have reached a critical point in terms of marine mammal conservation," said lead author Dr Sarah Nelms, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall. Very few marine mammal species have been driven to extinction in modern times, but human activities are putting many of them under increasing pressure. Our paper examines a range of conservation measures – including Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), bycatch reduction methods and community engagement – as well as highlighting some of the species that are in urgent need of focus."

The researchers say 21% of marine mammal species are listed as "data deficient" in the IUCN Red List – meaning not enough is known to assess their conservation status.

This lack of knowledge makes it difficult to identify which species are in need of protection and what actions should be taken to save them.

Read the paper: Nelms SE, Alfaro-Shigueto J, Arnould JPY, Avila IC and others (2021) Marine mammal conservation: over the horizon. Endang Species Res 44:291-325. (open access)

A bit of light relief

Take the Hedgehog Garden Challenge! - Hedgehog Street with PTES

For our 10th birthday celebrations this year, can you do 10 things to help hedgehogs? From hedgehog highways to spreading the word, there’s plenty we can all do to help our struggling hedgehogs this year.

Hedgehog Street 10 year anniversary celebration infographic

You can also take the Hedgehog Garden Challenge to see if your garden is a hedgehog haven. We’ll provide a few tips for how to make it even better.


Encouraging year for peregrines in Peak District uplands - Peak District National Park Authority

The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative has published its 2020 final report, showing encouraging breeding successes for several bird of prey species in moorland areas of the Peak District, thanks to collaboration between landowners, gamekeepers and raptor workers during COVID-19.

The report brings together data on key birds of prey nesting within the Dark Peak and South West Peak - the moorland regions of the Peak District National Park.

Peregrine falcons had their best year in a decade, with all six known nesting attempts being successful, resulting in a record 14 fledged young. This was the first year, since the Initiative was launched in 2011, when all known nesting attempts have successfully fledged young, and is double the previous maximum of 3 successful nests.

Goshawks, which breed in woodlands on the moorland edge, also had a successful season, with 7 of the 9 known nests successfully fledging a total of 16-17 young, surpassing last year's 12 young from 8 nests. The last two years have seen a welcome increase in the number of goshawks successfully breeding in the Dark Peak.

Numbers of both species peaked in the area in the 1990s, and the Initiative has set a goal of restoring populations to those former levels.

Other species continue to give cause for concern. Merlin, a small falcon which is near the southern edge of its range on the Peak District moors, declined from a peak of 37 pairs in the 1990s to a stable population of 18-24 pairs throughout the 2010s. During 2019 there was a further drop to a low of 14 pairs, so a slight recovery to 16 pairs in 2020 was welcome. Those merlin that do breed are remarkably successful, with over 50 young fledged in 2020 suggesting that, for unknown reasons, young birds are failing to return to their Peak District breeding grounds.

Migration routes of one of Britain’s largest ducks revealed for the first time, but much still remains a mystery - BTO

New research, just published in the journal Ringing & Migration, has used state of the art tracking technology to investigate how one of Britain's largest ducks, the Shelduck, interacts with offshore wind turbines during their migration across the North Sea. Their findings reveal - for the first time - the length, speed and flight heights of this journey.
Offshore wind farms are a key part of many governments’ strategies to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change impacts. However, it is important to understand how they might affect wildlife. The risk of colliding with wind turbines, is a particular concern to migratory species travelling across the sea, and there is also a potential increased energetic cost if wind farms act as a barrier that migrating birds must fly around. The majority of British and Irish Shelduck undergo a 'moult migration' to the Wadden Sea, which runs along the coasts of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. They make this journey every year in late summer, after they have finished breeding. Once there, they replace their old and worn out feathers and become flightless in the relative safety that the Wadden Sea offers, before returning to Britain when their moult is complete. However, in journeying to and from the Wadden Sea, Shelduck must cross the North Sea and navigate its growing number of wind farms en route.
Scientists from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) used state of the art tags to track four Shelduck from the Alde-Ore Estuary Special Protection Area on the Suffolk coast to the Wadden Sea. Each bird took a separate route across the North Sea, and used previously unreported stopover sites in the Dutch Wadden Sea, before continuing on to moult sites in the Helgoland Bight off the coast of Germany. Intriguingly, one bird travelled back and forth between the Dutch and German Wadden Seas four times, adding an extra 1,000 km to its migratory journey. The reasons why remain a mystery.
Ros Green, Research Ecologist at BTO and lead author on the paper, said, “Having a working knowledge of species’ migratory movements is an essential first step in understanding the risks that offshore wind farms may pose to populations of Shelduck and other species. Further, our tags provided data on Shelduck flight speeds and height, giving additional vital information on the magnitude of the risks posed by developments.”

Northern Ireland’s seabirds get an annual health check - British Trust for Ornithology

2020 produced a mixed bag for Northern Ireland’s seabirds but confirmed the importance of the country’s coastline for its 20 breeding seabird species.

group of black and white guillemots standing on a rock with the sea behind
Guillemot (photo by Mike Toms)

Volunteer-led monitoring of seabirds was severely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, but surveys carried out by the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds revealed that tern colonies around Northern Ireland had a catastrophic year, with Sandwich and Common Terns experiencing some of their lowest numbers since records began.
However, despite declines in terns, many seabirds had a good breeding season. 2020 was a record year for Guillemots on Muck Island, with Ulster Wildlife recording 3,107 individuals present at the colony last summer, the highest number counted since the first record in 1987.
Despite Black-legged Kittiwake populations experiencing a long-term decline in the UK as a whole, in Northern Ireland the decline is at a much slower rate, with some colonies actually showing an increase. In particular, Kittiwakes are going from strength to strength in south Co. Down, with the colony there increasing in each year since 2015 (from 483 pairs to 717 pairs). Also in Co. Down, lucky volunteers were able to follow the breeding success of a colony of 22 pairs of Black Guillemots as they raised 11 young birds opposite their house during the lockdown. These good news stories for Northern Irish seabirds are only possible to report due to the dedicated efforts of our Seabird Network volunteers year after year.The Northern Ireland Seabird Report 2020 carries the latest updates for all of the 20 seabirds that breed in Northern Ireland. To read the full report

Sandcastle homes unveiled for sand martins - Surrey Wildlife Trust

Sand martin nest bank © Surrey Wildlife Trust
Sand martin nest bank © Surrey Wildlife Trust

Surrey Wildlife Trust has unveiled a giant 20-metre wide sandcastle for sand martins, tiny 12 centimetre brown and white birds, to welcome them back from Africa to nest at a Surrey nature reserve.

The huge 400 tonne sand installation will provide hundreds of new sand martin homes at the reserve for the first time in 25 years.

As one of the first spring migrants, sand martins, the smallest of Britain's swallow and martin family, visit the reserve annually on their return flight from sub saharan Africa. The nesting bank, in essence, one enormous sandcastle, has been specially designed with a 20-metre curved vertical face so sand martins can peep out of nest holes to find mates.

Sand martins begin to arrive at Spynes Mere, near Merstham, mid-March and feed there until September. The nest bank is a home for sand martins to rear their next brood of chicks. With their tiny clawed feet, the sand martins dig 50-90 centimetre long burrows into the vertical face and make a small chamber at the end, where between four and eight eggs are laid on collected vegetation and feathers.

James Herd, project manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: ‘Sand martin numbers have plummeted twice in the last fifty years as a result of droughts in their wintering grounds in Africa. In the UK, the natural nesting inland habitat along river banks has decreased as rivers pass through more urbanised areas and under roads, and quarrying has ceased.’

2020 - A huge success for seabirds on England’s south coast - RSPB

2020 saw a huge number of threatened seabirds successfully breed along England’s south coast.

The success of these breeding birds is a result of the hard work of RSPB staff and volunteers to provide and protect suitable habitats, despite challenges from Covid-19 restrictions.

  • A record 164 sandwich tern chicks fledged from RSPB Pagham Harbour last year.
  • Over 30 little terns, one of the UK’s rarest breeding seabirds, fledged at Chesil beach and a further 15 at RSPB Pagham Harbour.
  • At RSPB Langstone Harbour, in Hampshire, an amazing 1579 pairs of Mediterranean gulls nested last year, the 2nd highest total ever recorded.
  • Last year saw a huge number of threatened seabirds successfully breed along England’s south coast.

RSPB Pagham Harbour, in west Sussex, saw a record 164 sandwich tern

chicks last year. Sandwich terns breed around the UK coast in summer,

but they nest directly on the ground which puts them at a higher risk of

predation, human disturbance and flooding. Because of this they rely

almost entirely on nature reserves. In 2012 the RSPB took on the

management of West Sussex County Council’s Pagham Harbour nature reserve

and have been carrying out work to protect these birds ever since.

Creation of shingle habitat and protective fencing on ‘tern island’,

made for the ideal nesting sites for these seabirds and led to a boom in

their numbers.

One of UK’s rarest breeding seabirds, the little tern, also had remarkable breeding success in the south last year. Little terns also nest on beaches and are recognised by their small size and distinctive black beak with a yellow tip. As last year saw some of the highest tides recorded, and with a spike in visitors after the easing of lockdown, the terns faced a series of challenges. A team of staff and volunteers installed fencing and signage, and patrolled the nesting sites, to make sure parents and chicks had the space they needed to thrive. Thanks to their efforts 15 little tern chicks arrived - the best result in over four years. This success continued along the coast at Chesil beach, in Dorset, where similar work (funded by Portland Court Leet, the Environment Agency and Dorset Council) led to the largest number of breeding pairs since work began in 2009, and resulted in the arrival of over 30 little tern chicks.


UK Extinct Species rediscovered in the Outer Hebrides - Buglife

Buglife is delighted by the recent rediscovery of a species of caddisfly previously believed to be extinct across the UK. Once found in the fens of East Anglia, Limnephilus pati was presumed extinct in the UK in 2016 with no British records for over 100 years. Elsewhere, there are only 16 historical sites scattered across Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Poland.

In July last year, against all odds, a male was attracted to a light-trap being run by Robin Sutton on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Photos of the specimen were sent for identification and the exciting result was the rediscovery of Limnephilus pati.

South Uist is rich in habitats for caddisflies, with numerous small lochans, clear, low nutrient streams, and extensive machair habitats. Over the years Robin has attracted 23 species of caddisfly to his light trap but by far the most exciting find is Limnephilus pati.

Aid Requested for Bugs Battling Covid - Buglife

Horseshoe Crab (image: Buglife)
Horseshoe Crab (image: Buglife)

Invertebrate animals are in the frontline of our battle against Covid-19. Two insects and a living fossil are proving crucial to the production of effective vaccines, while medicines developed from leech saliva are saving thousands of lives. This underscores our dependence on biodiversity and conservationists are calling for increased resourcing for the protection and restoration of invertebrate populations so that, as we emerge from the pandemic, we start to halt the worldwide declines in insects and other biodiversity.

People are familiar with plants being a rich source of medicines, but scientists are increasingly turning to small animals to discover chemicals and processes that help prevent suffering and death in humans.

The USA developed Novavax vaccine consists of proteins created in cultures of Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) cells. The cells are infected with an engineered virus that causes them to start producing the protein spikes that coat SARS-CoV-2. When injected in humans the proteins produce an antibody response. The vaccine is achieving high success rates against all main variants of the virus and is entering authorisation processes around the world.

In Japan, Silkworms (Bombyx mori), another moth, have been turned into factories producing the protein spikes. The process takes around four days to make sufficient quantities and the caterpillars are then harvested. The spikes are being used in a home test-kit for antibodies that reveals Covid-19 resistance.

The blue blood of the horseshoe crab has almost miraculous qualities. Chemicals in the crab’s blood react to harmful bacteria that might contaminate the vaccine. The test makes sure that that vaccines are in good condition. A synthetic version of one of the proteins has recently been authorised for use in Europe, China and Japan and is used by the Pfizer vaccine, but most of the world still only uses this marine arthropod’s blood.

2021 is the year for everyone across the UK to Bee the Change! - Bumblebee Conversation Trust

The Bumblebee Conversation Trust is on a mission to help everyone Bee the Change in their local area. We’re asking people across the UK to take simple, quick micro-actions to make their postcode more bumblebee-friendly.

Garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) © Pieter Haringsma
Garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) © Pieter Haringsma

Bumblebees are familiar and much-loved insects that pollinate our crops and wildflowers. But bumblebees are in trouble and need our help. Over the past century our landscape has lost millions of the flowers they rely on to survive.

Through the campaign, people will pledge to Bee the Change and carry out quick and simple micro-actions like spotting nearby bumblebees, growing bee-friendly plants, creating wild bumblebee havens, and spreading the #BeeTheChange message with their friends, families and local communities.

Visit our Bee the Change pages now to make your pledge.

Throughout 2021, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust will supply downloadable free resources and how-to guides helping everyone to Bee the Change wherever they live. Anyone can take part, whether they live in the city or the countryside, and whether they have a garden, a flowerpot or no outdoor space at all.

Chloe Headdon, Bee the Change Project Officer at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “By taking simple actions for bumblebees, together we can get these pollinating superheroes buzzing again and make a big combined change for nature. Everyone can help these amazing insects by pledging to Bee the Change.”

The campaign has been inspired by recent research we carried out which showed that six in 10 UK adults think ‘bees dying off’ is a very serious issue – a similar number of people to those with concerns about climate change and deforestation.

New plan for UK-wide insect superhighways launched - Buglife

B-Lines report from Buglife
Image: Buglife

Today (Tuesday 23 March) Steve Backshall has helped Buglife to launch a new plan to help the UK’s pollinators at the virtual conference ‘B-Lines: insect superhighways’.

B-Lines is a ground-breaking, landscape-scale solution to reverse the decline in bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. The B-Lines network is designed to reconnect our landscapes, enabling pollinators and other wildlife to move freely, and supporting nature’s recovery.

Our pollinating insects are in trouble. In recent years it has become apparent that pollinator populations are fragile, and if not cared for they can become damaged, depleted and cease to function effectively.

Recent insect declines are part of a long-term loss of diversity and abundance caused by habitat loss and fragmentation. Many of the best wildlife sites are now isolated, and a lack of connected habitat across landscapes means that species are marooned on islands of suitable habitat, unable to move in response to environmental pressures such as climate change, and vulnerable to local extinction. Habitats must be made bigger, better and, crucially, more joined up. Restoring networks for insects and other wildlife is now an urgent priority.

B-Lines is a network of insect pathways connecting the best remaining wildflower-rich habitats across the country. This network will support the recovery of threatened species and restore abundant populations of insects that are essential for pollinating our crops and wildflowers. B-Lines are designed to help pollinators, they will help a huge range of other wildlife too.

Native oysters restored to UK waters - Zoological Society of London

Restoration efforts begin by placing ‘ocean superheroes’ under marina pontoons across the UK

The Team adding oysters into the nursery
The Team adding oysters into the nursery

4,000 native oysters are being returned to UK waters as part of an ambitious restoration project, which for the first time is spanning coastal regions across England, Scotland and Wales. The Wild Oysters Project, a partnership between ZSL (Zoological Society of London), Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) and British Marine aims to help restore healthy, resilient coastal waters around the UK by bringing back these ‘ocean superheroes’ from the brink of extinction.

Earning themselves the title ‘ocean superheroes’, native oysters (Ostrea edulis) provide huge benefits to our coastal waters by helping to clean our seas and acting as an important habitat for marine wildlife. Declining by 95% due to human activities, native oyster populations have continued to decrease since the 1800s, meaning their benefits to the ocean have been lost.
The first mature native oysters have now been housed in nurseries, a micro habitat acting as a maternity ward to the next generation of oysters, suspended underneath marina pontoons in the North East of England. These oysters will begin reproducing over the next few months, releasing millions of baby oysters, known as larvae, into the ocean. This is the first step in the project’s aim to restore native oysters, increasing wild populations around the British coast and see the return of healthy coastal waters.
“These oysters will produce the next generation of the oyster population, by releasing larvae which will settle onto the seabed,” explained Celine Gamble, Wild Oysters Project Manager, ZSL. “Despite their small size oysters are capable of filtering 200 litres of water a day, the oysters will almost immediately begin their important work helping to create cleaner water and increase marine biodiversity in the UK.”

Gardeners urged to help beetles - The Wildlife Trusts

Beetles are the unsung heroes of the garden and need our support urge the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts, as they launch 2021’s Wild About Gardens campaign.

The two charities are calling on gardeners to create habitats for these important but often overlooked insects which are a vital part of every healthy garden.

Providing a patch for beetles, including ladybirds, ground beetles and rose chafers, is a great way to encourage balance in the garden and boost biodiversity, with many species under threat from habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change.

The UK has more than 4,000 beetle species and, although a handful may eat plants, many are predators, pollinators and decomposers, feeding both the soil and larger garden visitors such as birds and hedgehogs.

Ladybirds help gardeners by eating aphids while some ground beetles feed on vine weevil grubs and water beetles keep mosquito larvae under control in ponds. Even the much-maligned lily beetle provides food for three parasitoid wasps.

A new campaign guide published today, ‘Bring back our beetles’, includes ideas for making your garden more beetle-friendly this year:

  • Build a beetle bank – Adding a mound of soil, particularly in flat gardens, adds both shady and sunny habitat and provides shelter for lots of invertebrates
  • Make a dead hedge - Structured piles of branches and twigs can be used to divide up an area of the garden and provide a residence for beetles as they rot away
  • Create a beetle bucket – perfect for small gardens, filling a bucket with rotting wood and leaves makes a home for all sorts of beetles and other insects

2020 hailed as a 'good' year for butterflies - Butterfly Conservation

2020 hailed as a ‘good’ year for butterflies - but conservation scientists warn that our view of what is ‘good’ might be shifting

While last year may have been a particularly tough one for humans, 2020 was officially a ‘good’ year for butterflies according to the latest results from the annual UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) led by Butterfly Conservation, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). However, as butterfly declines continue, conservation scientists are considering how the view of what makes a good year has changed.

Butterfly Conservation’s Associate Director of Recording and Monitoring, Dr Richard Fox, explains: “Perhaps because of the warm sunny spring weather last year and the fact that more people were enjoying nature as part of their day-to-day activities than ever before, butterflies seemed more numerous. But in fact, our baseline experience of the nature around us has changed over time.

“The meticulously gathered UKBMS data show that it was the third good year in a row for the UK’s butterflies, ranking 10th best (averaged across all species) since the scheme began in 1976. Nevertheless, almost half of our butterfly species (27 of 58 species) were recorded in below average numbers last year.

“It is worrying that, even after three good years, population levels of so many butterfly species continue to be down compared to 40 years ago, with just under a third (31%) of butterfly species assessed in the UK showing long-term declines.

“We need to be wary of shifting baseline syndrome, whereby we forget (or never experienced) the greater biodiversity that occurred in the UK in former decades and therefore lower our expectations and aspirations for conservation. Here the UKBMS has a vital role to play in showing how insect populations have declined over time.”

Herpetofauna and fish

Flapper skate protection - NatureScot

A juvenile skate ©Karen Boswarva
A juvenile skate ©Karen Boswarva

NatureScot has today welcomed the announcement by Scottish Ministers that an urgent Marine Protected Area has been designated for the flapper skate egg-laying habitat in the Inner Sound.

Eileen Stuart, NatureScot’s Deputy Director for Nature and Climate Change, said: “This is great news for flapper skate, an amazing species that is listed as critically endangered, making the population we have on the west coast of Scotland particularly important for their conservation. NatureScot is involved in a range of projects helping to improve understanding of flapper skate in Scotland, and in early 2020 we organised and funded work to investigate reports from divers of skate eggs in the Inner Sound. This is another great example of the contribution that citizen scientists make to conservation by providing records of important species and habitats. Our view is that the egg-laying habitat discovered is of national importance for the species and we support working towards a Marine Protected Area (MPA) to provide permanent protection.

This interim measure will provide an additional safeguard while the necessary survey work and assessment is carried out.”

Cranfield soil data helps save great crested newts - Cranfield University

Experts from Cranfield University are helping to protect one of the UK’s rarest species of wildlife, by providing data that allows environmentalists to identify habitats in which it can thrive.

Due to a rapid decline in numbers during the last century, great crested newts are protected in law, meaning that developers wanting to build on land where they have made a home must wait until they have been relocated before beginning work. Previously, the relocation process was ad-hoc, and subject to seasonal restrictions, delays and uncertainty. But data from Cranfield’s Land Information System (LandIS) is feeding into a new model that promises to result in better outcomes for the species, as well as make developers’ lives easier.

Under Natural England’s district level licensing (DLL), developers make a conservation payment based on the predicted impact of their development. The money is used to fund the strategic creation or restoration of ponds in areas which are known to represent the best places for newts to thrive. The new habitats created will then be maintained and monitored for 25 years, all funded by the initial payment.

Dr Jacqueline Hannam, Senior Research Fellow in Pedology within Cranfield’s Centre for Environmental and Agricultural Informatics, said: “District level licensing promises to result in fewer delays and uncertainties within the planning process but – more importantly – it focuses conservation effort where it will be of maximum benefit to the great crested newt species. LandIS data on the soil properties of different areas will feed into a wider geospatial analysis and be combined with ecological knowledge gathered from observational surveys, enabling Natural England to create a map of Strategic Opportunity Areas that will guide wildlife trusts regarding placing or restoring compensation ponds.”

Dr Ben Payne, Senior Adviser in Natural England's Modelling and Analysis Team, said: “Understanding the soil properties, using Cranfield soils (drainage) data for example, as well as terrestrial habitat and pondscape characteristics, all contribute to improving the performance of the models and their ability to predict suitable habitat for great crested newts.”

Dogs get sniffin’ for newts in Hitchin ahead of vital track improvements - Network Rail

Network Rail teams in Hitchin are using innovative methods - and two new recruits - to detect and protect great crested newts.

two photos of spaniels standing on railway lines
Rocky and Arnie searching for newts in Hitchin (image: Network Rail)

Rocky and Arnie are the world’s first scientifically proven great crested newt detection dogs. They’ve been out on site before essential work to maintain the track takes place next month to bring smoother, more reliable journeys for passengers.

Great crested newts are usually found in ponds, woodland or on grassland, but the amphibians, which are a protected species, sometimes make it onto worksites. If present, they must be trapped and safely moved to a suitable habitat away from where the work is taking place which takes time and can delay projects.

That’s where the detective duo step in. As well as saving time and money, Rocky and Arnie can cover large areas much faster than workers on site and accurately detect any newts.

The dogs were trained for their careers following research and trials with Atkins, Wagtail UK and Natural England.

After a good sniff on the railway and around the worksite, neither Rocky nor Arnie found any evidence of great crested newts, meaning the work can be carried out as planned.

Find out more about conservation detection dogs in this article A bat's best friend by Rachael Flavell from Paws for Conservation

Scientific Research

UK's longest running bird survey hit by Covid-19 - BTO

Breeding numbers of Grey Herons have been continuously monitored by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) since 1928, making this the longest data set of any British bird. Covid-19 restrictions imposed during spring 2020 meant that many surveyors were unable to visit occupied heronries across the UK, causing a break in this long-term study.

The year 2020 will be remembered for the impact of Covid-19 on all aspects of our lives and sadly for the much more personal impact the virus has had on many families. The BTO's Heronries Census did not escape the effects of Covid-19, even though the first lockdown in late March 2020 came into effect at a time when some Heronries Census volunteers had already completed one or more visits to the breeding colonies. The first lockdown meant visits could not be carried out in 2020 during the key survey period in April.

Information was received from 485 sites, the lowest number visited since 2001, when survey coverage was disrupted by the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak. A total of 3,224 apparently occupied nests were counted in 2020, around half the number recorded in 2019. The historical Census results show that severe weather can impact on heron numbers so it will be interesting to see how the cold snap in February 2021 affected them.

Although the 2021 Heronries Census is going ahead (as things stand), survey coverage is again likely to be reduced due to Covid-19 and the ongoing lockdown rules across the UK. We may therefore have to wait until the early spring of 2022, when our Grey Herons will again be back at their heronries, before we can get a full picture covering the majority of UK heronries.

€4million project uses cutting edge technology to enhance the habitats of key fish species - University of Plymouth

Releasing tagged bass into water near Salcombe as part of the iBass project (Credit Matt Doggett)
Releasing tagged bass into water near Salcombe as part of the iBass project (Credit Matt Doggett)

Led by the University, FISH INTEL will aim to establish a comprehensive picture of fish movements and the habitats individual species prefer

A cross-Channel partnership will use innovative underwater acoustic tracking technology to identify the environmental conditions a range of important marine species need in order to thrive.

The €4million FISH INTEL project, supported by €2.8million from the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg France (Channel) England programme, will focus on a series of sites along the coastlines of southern England, northern France and Belgium.

Through a combination of fish tracking and underwater video surveys, the project will establish a comprehensive picture of fish movements and the habitats individual species prefer.

It will also contribute to a growing amount of data assessing the impact of fishing, climate change and other human activities – such as the development of offshore renewable energy sites and offshore mariculture – on the Channel/Manche region.


Scientific Publications

The 2020 BirdTrends report from BTO gives the first glimpse of proposed conservation listing, with amongst others, the upgrading of birds such as House Martin and Willow Warbler from amber to red listing and the downgrading of birds such as Song Thrush and Grey Wagtail from red to amber.

It also for the first time carries information for all species on conservation actions needed, if any, and conservation actions that have been used or are currently being taken.

Jobs and Employment

Rewilding boosts jobs and volunteering opportunities, study shows - Rewilding Britain

Jobs up by 47% as new “myth-busting” evidence emerges from Rewilding Britain

Rewilding marginal land can significantly boost job numbers and volunteering opportunities while increasing action to restore nature and tackle climate breakdown, new research by Rewilding Britain shows.

An analysis of over 20 sites across England covering over 75,000 rewilding acres between them has revealed a 47% increase in full-time equivalent jobs and a nine-fold increase in volunteering opportunities.

The data also shows that food production can continue on marginal land that is rewilding, with all of the sites continuing to generate income from food production, livestock and other enterprises – puncturing myths by demonstrating that rewilding in Britain is not about land abandonment or ceasing food production.

Swindale Meadows and Beck 2017 (Haweswater) © David Morris
Swindale Meadows and Beck 2017 (Haweswater) © David Morris

Rewilding Britain has analysed data from the 23 sites as part of its role catalysing practical rewilding through support to landowners. Many are part of the charity’s new Rewilding Network, which is bringing together landowners, farmers, land managers, community groups and local authorities from across Britain.

“Our findings on green jobs should be music to the Government’s ears. They spotlight rewilding’s potential for creating economic and other opportunities for people – while restoring nature and tackling climate breakdown,” said Rewilding Britain’s Director, Professor Alastair Driver, who carried out the data-gathering and analysis. “Many of us knew that real-world rewilding projects produce food and create new job and volunteering opportunities alongside offering major biodiversity, flood risk, water quality, health and carbon sequestration benefits – but even we under-estimated the extent to which they do so.”

Jobs data was available for 22 of the 23 sites. Across these areas combined, full-time equivalent jobs increased by 47% – from 151 before rewilding began to 222 afterwards, over an average of 10 years. The variety of jobs involved also increased significantly, with many of the new jobs focused on nature-based tourism, monitoring, restoration activities, informal recreation, livestock management and education.

There was a remarkable nine-fold increase in volunteering opportunities, with associated benefits for people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. On the 19 sites for which pre-rewilding data is available, the combined number of volunteers has soared from 50 to 428.

“These are really positive findings. This volunteer engagement boom brings with it physical health benefits from being in a nature-rich environment, the mental wellbeing and feel-good factor from being involved in such exciting and worthwhile projects, and opportunities to learn new skills,” said Alastair Driver.

Bat Conservation Trust joins the Diverse Sustainability Initiative - Bat Conservation Trust

Did you know only 3% of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people work in the environment profession? We believe this needs to change. Today (19 March), the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) are launching a key collaboration with organisations in the environmental and sustainability profession and NGOs, to support and mentor those diverse people working in the environment. IEMA are calling for recognition, mentoring and support for specialists who are underrepresented in the industry.

IEMA are launching the ‘Diverse Sustainability Initiative’(DSI) website alongside their goal to build a profession and sector that over time, is reflective of modern Britain. The purpose of the DSI is to improve diversity through education, connection and transparency to support current professionals and increase appeal and access for future and potential professionals. With collaboration from partners ranging from the Environment Agency to Bat Conservation Trust and the RSPB, we are pledging to educate, reform and encourage the next generation of diverse professionals to join the environment profession.

By signing up with the DSI, Bat Conservation Trust is making a public commitment to improve diversity by making a positive difference to bring about change. Although this is a long-term goal, the purpose is to improve diversity through education, connection and transparency to support current professionals and increase appeal and access for future and potential specialists.

Kit Stoner, CEO, BCT: “Our sector is not representative of the society we live in and we need to proactively address this. It’s not just the right thing to do, it is essential that we do this. We need diverse voices to stand up for our natural world.”


Grants and Funding

£40m second round of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund opens for applications - Defra

Environmental charities and partners across England to benefit from fund which will create and retain jobs while restoring nature and tackling climate change.

Grants of up to £2 million each are now available to help the nation build back greener from the coronavirus pandemic, the government announced today [Tuesday 9 March].

The second round of the Green Recovery Challenge fund will award up to £40 million in grants to environmental charities and their partners across England to create and retain jobs while restoring nature and tackling climate change.

All projects must contribute to at least one of the following themes of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund:

  • nature conservation and restoration;
  • nature-based solutions, particularly focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation; and,
  • connecting people with nature.

Almost £40 million was awarded in November in the first round to 68 projects that will help to restore damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests – which will see over 800,000 trees planted. The projects will also support conservation work and help to improve education about the environment.

For grants of over £250,000, applicants must submit an expression of interest by 22 March and if successful will be invited to submit a full application. The deadline for applications under £250,000 is 14 April.

New tree fund for local communities announced - defra / Forestry Commission

£2.7 million available for local authorities to increase tree planting and natural regeneration in locations outside woodlands.

A brand-new funding initiative to increase tree planting and natural regeneration in local communities has been announced by the government today (Friday 12 March), with £2.7 million available this year, building the pipeline of projects for community planting in future years.

The Local Authority Treescapes fund is aimed at establishing more trees in riverbanks, hedgerows, parklands, urban areas, beside roads and footpaths, in copses and shelterbelts, including neglected, disused and vacant community spaces. Trees in these settings are particularly valuable as they can provide the greatest levels of benefit to ecosystems and society, such as carbon absorption, flood protection and support for biodiversity, as well as connecting fragmented habitats.

The fund will help the nation build back greener from the pandemic and will target landscapes that have been neglected in the past, ecologically damaged or affected by tree diseases like ash dieback - with ash being the most common species of tree found in non-woodland locations. Grants are available for local authorities, working together with community groups, volunteers, NGOs. Successful applicants will be informed by the end of July.

Forestry loan to help small scale woodland projects - Scottish Forestry

A new loan scheme aimed at supporting small scale woodland creation projects has been launched today by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing.

Under the Small Woodlands Loan Scheme, half of the upfront costs associated with planting a new woodland, including buying trees, ground preparation or fencing, can now be paid in advance by Scottish Forestry.

The aim is to remove any cash flow barriers that crofters, farmers, or any other small woodland owner might have when considering tree planting.

The new loan works alongside the existing main Forestry Grant Scheme and is aimed at woodland creation projects up to 20 hectares in size.

Launching the new funding support at a meeting with the Scottish Crofting Federation, Mr Ewing said:

“There is significant interest in tree planting from smaller woodland owners, crofters and farmers. At the moment almost 200 of the 320 woodland creation schemes that are being funded by Scottish Forestry are for smaller projects. I have listened carefully to feedback which has suggested that many smaller scale land managers are worried about the upfront costs in getting trees in the ground. The new Small Woodlands Loan Scheme aims to help remedy this and give a helping hand to assist with the costs of starting a woodland project. We are on track to meet our tree planting targets this year. This new funding arrangement should give further confidence to the smaller businesses who want to get trees in the ground and help us deliver future planting targets.”

“This is a very practical measure,” said Donald MacKinnon, chair of the Scottish Crofting Federation.

“We have been asking for a loan element to crofting grant schemes to ease cash-flow, as this is always a problem for crofters, especially young folk. A grant is very generous but can be impossible to utilise without up-front funding. It is gratifying to see this element included in the woodland scheme, which crofters are keen to use. Crofters want to plant trees and contribute to the national targets that will help alleviate climate change. This will go a long way to helping that happen.”

Funding for community marine surveys - NatureScot

A rocky reef habitat, Outer Hebrides ©George Stoyle/NatureScot
A rocky reef habitat, Outer Hebrides ©George Stoyle/NatureScot

A new fund has been launched to help communities and local groups get involved in monitoring Scotland’s seabed and coastlines.

The Community Marine Monitoring Equipment Fund is offering support to up to ten groups to buy equipment to record and monitor their local marine life.

The aim of the project is to enable communities and local groups to gain the skills, experience and knowledge to participate in biodiversity surveys in Scotland, helping to improve our knowledge of marine species and habitats.

Individual grants of up to £1,500 will be offered for entry level equipment such as ID guides, quadrats and GoPros. Larger grants up to £3,000 are available for joint applications between two or more groups.

Applications should have an emphasis on enabling community and/or youth engagement in marine monitoring.

The fund supports the publication last year of the Community-led Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Handbook – Scotland’s first “how to” guide including comprehensive information and resources for planning and carrying out marine surveys and monitoring.

NatureScot project officer Madlaina Michelotti said: “Communities around our coasts tell us they want to get more involved with their local shores and waters, but we know that access to the right equipment and resources can sometimes be a barrier. This new fund, launching in Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, is an exciting opportunity for communities and local groups to survey their local marine and coastal habitats in a fun and collaborative way. With spring underway and an easing of coronavirus restrictions on the horizon, we hope that, together with the handbook and online training, the fund can support more people to get out and about monitoring our seas and shorelines as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The project is a partnership between NatureScot, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), communities, local groups and individuals, with funding support from the William Grant Foundation.

Fauna & Flora International’s Marine Project Officer Rebecca Plant said: “Coastal communities across Scotland are well-placed to harness solutions to ensure healthy, well-managed seas, and many communities are looking to play a greater role in decisions around local and national marine management. The collection of marine data through surveying and monitoring is a key process underpinning decision-making, however there are barriers to community involvement. We hope that the collaborative Community Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Project will build participation in community-led marine data collection via the Equipment Fund and the Monitoring Handbook, empowering communities to play their part in the management of their local waters.”


Environmental Education, Recreation, Volunteering and Health

Lockdowns and restrictions reduced time spent in green space - University of Glasgow

Almost two thirds of people, 63%, reported a decrease in time spent visiting green spaces following movement restrictions in the original lockdown period, which began on 23rd March 2020.

Inequalities in green space use were also sustained, and may even have been exacerbated, as a result of lockdowns and restrictions of movement in the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New research, led by the University of Glasgow MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, and published today in BMJ Open, finds that those from a more socially disadvantaged background were a third less likely to visit green spaces before, and more than two thirds less likely to visit them after restrictions were enforced. Adults over 65 years-old also reported visiting green spaces less often after restrictions were in place than their middle aged counterparts.

Overall, 93% of all respondents had visited green space in the year before movement restrictions were enforced. However, in contrast, only 53% reported visiting green space following pandemic restrictions being put in place.

The research highlighted that spending time in green space benefited mental health. Two thirds of respondents reported that green spaces benefited their mental health more following restrictions on movement compared to before. Female respondents were most likely to agree that visiting green space benefitted their mental health following the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions.

Better outside - using our spaces more - Greenspace Scotland

Our parks and greenspaces have been a lifeline for many during lockdown. New resources published today [Tuesday 16 March] by greenspace scotland will help communities, schools, health centres and other groups to use our parks and greenspaces more.

As restrictions start to cautiously ease and we continue to adapt to living with Covid-19, Better outside – using our spaces more provides examples, ideas, inspiration and resources for taking indoor activities outside.

The Better Outside toolkit features projects and inspiring ideas, together with downloadable resources which provide more information about making it happen, things to consider, who can help and real-life examples. There are also Technical Resources and a colourful Ideas Source Book which provides ideas and examples of seats, shelters, storage, lights and WiFi from low cost interventions for as little as £5 per person to more ambitious projects that would require professional support and planning.

Julie Procter, Chief Executive of greenspace scotland said: “At greenspace scotland we’ve always talked about parks and greenspace as our natural health service, our children’s outdoor classrooms, our community and leisure centres without a roof. Now we need them more than ever. The ‘Better outside – using our spaces more’ resources are packed with ideas and examples to help groups take indoor activities outside. As we look ahead to restrictions cautiously easing, now is the time to start thinking and planning for free-range community centres, youth work al fresco, outdoor play and learning, and taking cinema and music outside.”

Volunteers wanted for innovative Scottish mountain hare survey! - Mammal Society

Joint news release issued by NatureScot, BTO, the Mammal Society, GWCT and the James Hutton Institute

Volunteers are wanted for the first on-the-ground national survey to shed light on distribution and numbers of Scottish mountain hares.

The survey, which is launched today and will carry on throughout 2021, is calling on hillwalkers, naturalists and other outdoor enthusiasts to record sightings of the charismatic animals as they are out and about. No previous experience of wildlife surveys is necessary to take part.

Mountain hares are Scotland’s only native hare and an important species in the Scottish hills, and gathering more accurate information about them will help inform conservation efforts.

There is concern about the state of the mountain hare population and the possible effects of control measures. The available sources of information present a mixed picture of their conservation status, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions on population size and trends. The picture is further complicated by their naturally cycling populations, which can fluctuate by ten-fold or more over periods of about nine to ten years.

This project is a partnership of NatureScot, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Mammal Society, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and the James Hutton Institute. It builds on previous work to develop suitable counting methods and seeks to complement these other counts to allow improved monitoring of mountain hares across their range in Scotland.

Pioneering ‘Nature Friendly Schools’ to boost children’s learning and well-being at a critical time - The Wildlife Trusts

pupil looking at a fallen tree through a magnifying glass at Nature Friendly Schools (Adrian Clarke)
Nature Friendly Schools (Adrian Clarke)

Almost 30,000 school children from disadvantaged areas are set to enjoy classes in nature this spring in a ground-breaking outdoor learning project spearheaded by The Wildlife Trusts.

Nature Friendly Schools gives children from some of the poorest communities in the country opportunities to learn outside the classroom, while supporting their well-being, mental health, and engagement with school.

Imagine maths next to a wildlife pond in the inner city, English under the shade of an ancient oak, or science classes through real life experiences in the natural world...

The project enters a new phase at a critical time, after a year when children have been isolated from the natural world, learnt behind screens, and suffered a substantial rise in mental health issues. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are known to have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, especially in terms of access to green space.

Nature Friendly Schools gives those pupils a lifeline to spend some of their day learning outdoors, encouraging motivation, confidence, and creativity.

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, says: “Learning in nature boosts children’s well-being, confidence, and behaviour, and should be a fundamental part of a child’s experience in education. We’re delighted at the success of the project so far. We know that children in deprived areas are much less likely to have contact with nature while the pandemic also increased screen-based learning. The new phase of Nature Friendly Schools is more important than ever for them. In spite of its proven success, the Nature Friendly Schools initiative is not guaranteed to see out its final year. We believe the need for this project has never been greater and it is vital it continues so we can give more children opportunities to learn, play and get creative in wild, green spaces.”

Britons report ‘massive boost’ in nature connection since pandemic started, as #BlossomWatch gets underway - National Trust

Cherry blossom at Grey's Court in Oxfordshire. Credit Hugh Mothersole
Cherry blossom at Grey's Court in Oxfordshire. Credit Hugh Mothersole

With this spring likely to be the most anticipated in living memory, the National Trust is inviting people wherever they live to emulate Japan’s Hanami – the ancient tradition of viewing and celebrating blossom - with its #BlossomWatch campaign.

The conservation charity piloted #BlossomWatch last year when the country had just entered lockdown. And, with thousands capturing and sharing images of trees in bloom across social media platforms, and four million views in the first two weeks, the Trust is now making it an annual tradition, asking people to share the joy and hope that the sight of blush-tinted blooms will bring to help lift spirits and enable everyone to celebrate nature together.

A growing body of evidence suggests that moments each day noticing nature are vital for wellbeing and building a closer connection with nature, and further evidence also suggests that people derive many of the benefits from online engagement. Therefore, the Trust is asking people to celebrate blossom, to ‘turn social media pink, white and green’ over the coming weeks, to mark one of ‘nature’s greatest spectacles’.

Findings in a recent YouGov poll, commissioned by the National Trust, revealed that over a third (36 per cent) of adults said that compared to the first lockdown, that they were more aware of the changing seasons. And, nearly half (49 per cent) of adults said they have found this lockdown harder than the first, giving a heightened sense of anticipation for this coming spring.

Nature and time outdoors has continued to be the salvation for many during the recent lockdown, despite it being winter. Over two thirds (67 per cent) of all adults either agreed or strongly agreed that spending time noticing nature around them has made them feel happier in this current lockdown – with 72 per cent of females and 62 per cent of males finding this to be the case, with the younger adult age groups finding the most benefit (72 per cent and 71 per cent of 18-24 and 25-34 year olds, respectively).


Visitor Management

New Countryside Code launched to help people enjoy the outdoors - Natural England

The new Code allows people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits that nature offers, while giving it the respect it deserves.

A new, refreshed Countryside Code has been launched today by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the creation of the founding booklet.

With more people enjoying the outdoors than ever before, the code has been revised to help people enjoy countryside in a safe and respectful way.

The first Countryside Code booklet was published in 1951. This update - the first in over a decade - has been shaped by nearly 4,000 stakeholder responses to an online survey, which sought views on best practices for visiting the countryside and protecting the natural environment and saw a huge response.

Changes include advice on creating a welcoming environment, for example by saying hello to fellow visitors; clearer rules to underline the importance of clearing away dog poo; staying on footpaths; and not feeding livestock. It also provides advice on how to seek permissions for activities such as wild swimming.

Key changes to the Countryside Code include:

  • New advice for people to ‘be nice, say hello, share the space’ as well as ‘enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory’.
  • A reminder not to feed livestock, horses or wild animals.
  • To stay on marked footpaths, even if they are muddy, to protect crops and wildlife.
  • Information on permissions to do certain outdoor activities, such as wild swimming.
  • Clearer rules for dog walkers to take home dog poo and use their own bin if a there are no public waste bins.
  • A refreshed tone of voice, creating a guide for the public rather than a list of rules – recognising the significant health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature.
  • New wording to make clear that the code applies to all our natural places, including parks and waterways, coast and countryside.

Action plan put in place to encourage care for the New Forest - New Forest National Park Authority

poster laying out the New Forest visitor code, photo courtesy of Forestry England
photo courtesy of Forestry England

Joint press release from New Forest National Park Authority, Forestry England, New Forest District Council and Go New Forest

New Forest organisations are calling on people to ‘care for the Forest, care for each other’ in a joint action plan to manage the increasing visitor numbers expected this year. The group aims to ensure the New Forest can play a positive and active role in helping people recover from lockdown in the great outdoors while also caring for this special place.

The plan has been developed jointly by Forestry England, the New Forest National Park Authority, New Forest District Council, and tourism body Go New Forest with support from The Verderers, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, and Hampshire Constabulary.

Last year was exceptional in many ways and saw greater numbers of people spending time in the countryside. Unfortunately, some did not respect these landscapes, and the New Forest, like many other places around the country, experienced anti-social behaviour.

Forest organisations, emergency services and communities worked to address these issues.

Teams were pooled to increase the impact of patrols, over 50 local retailers agreed to ban disposable BBQs, and over 400 New Forest Ambassadors were recruited with parish councils to help support the Forest. Joint patrols and putting hundreds of warning stickers on vehicles were used to discourage verge parking and gateway blocking, and joint communications about caring for the Forest reached over six million people.

With large numbers of people expected again this year as lockdown measures are gradually eased, the plan focuses on sharing resources in a concerted effort to support visitors to the area and encourage care for the Forest amongst all those spending time here.

Responsible tourism campaign launched - Keep Scotland Beautiful

We are delighted to support the new responsible tourism campaign launched by VisitScotland today, 22 March 2021.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of exploring the outdoors responsibly with the focus on asking people to leave no trace of their visit and protect Scotland’s beautiful countryside.

Following issues experienced at some of our iconic beauty spots and parks last year, the campaign aims to engage with a new, home grown audience of visitors discovering and enjoying Scotland’s countryside and asks people to respect, protect and enjoy Scotland.

The activity, which supports the visitor management strategy announced by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing on Friday, urges visitors to protect our countryside, respect the local communities, wildlife and landscapes but still enjoy the beautiful natural resources we have across the country.

Vicki Miller, Director of Marketing & Digital at VisitScotland said: "This campaign is hugely important particularly at this time, as we are all enjoying outdoors more due to restrictions to other sections of the tourism industry. It is imperative that we realise the impact of our visits on these areas and our individual and collective responsibility to care for Scotland. We want to protect the stunning landscapes and wildlife that Scotland is famous for and the local communities that are such an important part of our culture. We are asking everyone to help keep Scotland special by ensuring we protect our natural resources by being responsible and respectful when out and about. We have a unique opportunity to positively engage audiences to enjoy the outdoors responsibly and come together to develop a Scotland-wide strategic and coordinated approach to help protect what’s there for future visitors and aid the recovery of our rural economy.”


Green Recovery

Government falls short of delivering promised ‘green Brexit' - The Wildlife Trusts

Leading green groups issue final Brexit report card that finds static or weaker protections for the environment, urging government to strengthen plans

A coalition of the country’s leading green groups has today concluded that environmental protections in areas such as nature restoration and air quality are either no stronger or weaker than they were pre-Brexit.

Since 2017 Greener UK has tracked the strength of environmental standards as the UK takes back control of rules and regulations. In its eleventh and final report card, the coalition finds that the government’s landmark promise to ‘maintain and enhance’ protections has not been met. Protections for climate, farming, fisheries and water quality are judged similar to 2016; for chemicals, nature, air quality and waste, they are weaker now than they were before.

The coalition, which includes The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and ClientEarth, cites two general reasons for the findings. Firstly, there are concerns over institutions and regulations: new bodies to enforce air pollution limits and water quality, including the Office for Environmental Protection, are set to be less independent and weaker than those they are replacing; crucial environmental principles, which underpin strong environmental law, are also being watered down.

Secondly, the UK government’s desire to retain the option to diverge from EU rules has left holes in existing standards and compromised cooperation on important issues. This can be seen by a lack of coordination with the EU on mutually beneficial issues, from carbon pricing to wildlife protection, and the decision to leave the EU’s gold standard chemical regulation system, EU REACH. In creating its own domestic version with fewer staff, less funding and restricted access to existing data, public health and the environment is being put at risk.

Green recovery projects receive funding boost - Natural Resources Wales

Woman in forest in sunlight (Natural Resources Wales)
Image: Natural Resources Wales

Projects aimed at kick-starting environmental renewal and championed by a task and finish group led by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Chairman, Sir David Henshaw have been given financial support from the Welsh Government.

NRW, Welsh Government and other funding bodies have been working hard to support environmental and voluntary organisations throughout the coronavirus pandemic. And as the UK marks the one-year anniversary of the first national lockdown, further funding to the tune of £5.4million has been brought forward for local authorities and national parks to enable work to start on projects designed to restore and renew as part of Wales’ green recovery from Covid-19.

The Green Recovery Task and Finish group was established at the request of the Minster for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, in July 2020. The group quickly sounded a call to action for big ideas from across Wales that supported the nation’s ambitions for a circular economy and that sought to tackle the climate and nature emergencies.

Proposals were received from a cross-section of society including community groups, social enterprises, charities, public bodies, private companies and environmental groups across Wales.


Ecology and Biodiversity

Economic benefits of protecting nature now outweigh those of exploiting it, study shows - University of Southampton

The economic benefits of conserving or restoring natural sites outweigh the profit potential of converting them for intensive human use, according to the largest-ever study comparing the value of protecting nature at particular locations with that of exploiting it.

A research team led by the University of Cambridge and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and including Dr Kelvin Peh from the University of Southampton, analysed dozens of sites across six continents.

In this study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, scientists calculated the monetary worth of each site’s “ecosystem services”, such as carbon storage and flood protection, as well as likely dividends from converting it for production of goods such as crops and timber.

The team initially concentrated on 24 sites and compared their “nature-focused” and “alternative” states by working out the annual net value of a range of goods and services for each site under each state, then projected the data over the next 50 years.

They also divided goods and services into those that are a common resource and the “private and toll” goods of benefit to only a few people. The value of common goods was greater for natural habitats in 92% of the 24 sites.

Habitats even provided greater economic benefits in terms of some private goods – e.g. harvested wild plants – in 42% of the main sites. “People mainly exploit nature to derive financial benefits. Yet in almost half of the cases we studied, human-induced exploitation subtracted rather than increased economic value,” said study co-author Dr Kelvin Peh of the University of Southampton's School of Biological Sciences.

COVID-19 fallout undermining nature conservation efforts - IUCN publication - IUCN

The pandemic has significantly impacted nature conservation around the globe, including job losses among protected area rangers, reduced anti-poaching patrols and environmental protection rollbacks, according to a collection of new research papers published today by IUCN in a special issue of PARKS, the journal of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

While the global health crisis remains priority, this new research reveals just how severe a toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on conservation efforts and on communities dedicated to protecting nature. Let us not forget that only by investing in healthy nature can we provide a solid basis for our recovery from the pandemic, and avoid future public health crises," said IUCN Director General Dr Bruno Oberle.

Conservation efforts in Africa and Asia were most severely affected, according to a synthesis of surveys on the impacts of the pandemic on protected area operations included in the collection. More than half of protected areas in Africa reported that they were forced to halt or reduce field patrols and anti-poaching operations as well as conservation education and outreach. A quarter of protected areas in Asia also reported that conservation activities had been reduced. In Latin and North America, Europe and Oceania most protected areas were able to maintain core operations despite closures and losses of tourism revenue.

The pandemic also affected the livelihoods of protected area rangers and their communities. A survey of rangers in more than 60 countries found that more than one in four rangers had seen their salary reduced or delayed, while 20% reported that they had lost their jobs due to COVID-19-related budget cuts. Rangers from Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Africa and Asia were more strongly affected than their peers in Europe, North America and Oceania.

New report shows conservation work will boost rare protected species across Wales - Natural Resources Wales

Great Crested Newt (Mike Hammett)
Great Crested Newt (Mike Hammett)

A newly released report has shown that an important conservation project’s work to revitalise sand dunes across Wales will also improve the breeding habitat for the European protected species, the great crested newt.

A series of surveys was run as part of Natural Resources Wales’s Sands of LIFE project at Tywyn Aberffraw, Newborough Warren, Morfa Harlech and Kenfig, which are all Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) with historic records and known populations of great crested newt.

Part of the Sands of LIFE project’s work is to re-profile and scrape areas of the dunes at the four sites. The report found that this work should create springtime open water habitat in the slacks that could be used by great crested newt for breeding.

Being a European protected species, population assessments of great crested newts across the proposed intervention areas were required to determine if adverse effects or harm is likely to be caused to the species as a result of the project’s work. Where likely effects were identified, avoidance and mitigation measures are being arranged.

Kathryn Hewitt, Sands of LIFE Project Manager, said: “We are glad to be able to share the Sands of LIFE great crested newt report findings. As a European protected species, our project is doing everything possible to ensure that the current populations found across our work areas are not only safe but are also provided with the best possible conditions to thrive in the future. We are also happy that the increased possibility of open water habitat within the dune slacks as a result of our work may boost the species in the future. This is evidence to support our aim to revitalise habitats which are home to some of our rarest wildlife.”

Study in Nature: Protecting the Ocean Delivers a Comprehensive Solution for Climate, Fishing and Biodiversity - National Geographic Society

A ground-breaking scientific study from 26 international experts offering the most comprehensive assessment to date of where to ramp up strict ocean protection to increase seafood security, curb biodiversity loss, and provide a cost effective solution to climate change, as well as economic benefits.

Groundbreaking global study is the first to map ocean areas that, if strongly protected, would help solve climate, food and biodiversity crises

London, UK (17 March 2021) - A new study published in the prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature today offers a combined solution to several of humanity’s most pressing challenges. It is the most comprehensive assessment to date of where strict ocean protection can contribute to a more abundant supply of healthy seafood and provide a cheap, natural solution to address climate change - in addition to protecting embattled species and habitats.

An international team of 26 authors identified specific areas that, if protected, would safeguard over 80% of the habitats for endangered marine species, and increase fishing catches by more than eight million metric tons. The study is also the first to quantify the potential release of carbon dioxide into the ocean from trawling, a widespread fishing practice - and finds that trawling is pumping hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the ocean every year, a volume of emissions similar to those of aviation.

“Ocean life has been declining worldwide because of overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change. Yet only 7% of the ocean is currently under some kind of protection,” said Dr. Enric Sala, explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society and lead author of the study, Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate. In this study, we’ve pioneered a new way to identify the places that - if strongly protected - will boost food production and safeguard marine life, all while reducing carbon emissions,” Dr. Sala said. “It’s clear that humanity and the economy will benefit from a healthier ocean. And we can realize those benefits quickly if countries work together to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.”

Read the study: Sala, E., Mayorga, J., Bradley, D. et al. Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate. Nature (2021).

New homes for people and wildlife across the North East - Natural England

Greener building and conserving wildlife goes hand in hand in the North East as a new approach to sustainable development is launched.

Natural England’s district level licensing (DLL) initiative, which better protects great crested newts, while also delivering the Government’s ambitions to build back greener, has been launched in Northumberland, Durham, Tyne & Wear and Tees Valley.

Great crested newts are protected under UK and EU law. It is an offence to disturb the species so developers must apply for a licence before undertaking any building work on or around the places that they live, trapping and relocating the species before starting work.

Seasonal restrictions can lead to delays and create uncertainty over the costs and scheduling of planned development, holding up house building.

District level licensing offers another way. Developers make a conservation payment to join their local DLL scheme, with the sum based on the predicted impact of their development.

The payment covers the creation or restoration of ponds in areas which are known to represent the best places for newts to thrive.

It means a faster and simpler system for developers, and benefits local people and authorities by avoiding costly delays and licensing uncertainty, helping to ensure homes are built and local authorities can deliver on their plans.

Most importantly, the scheme will support better conservation outcomes for our largest species of newt, at a landscape scale, helping local populations to expand and link up across the north east. This new habitat will be monitored and looked after by our local, expert partners for 25 years – all funded by the initial payment.

Uunlocking’ the full biodiversity value of the nation’s canal towpaths - Canal and River Trust

grassy towpath with wildflowers and a brightly colour barge on the canal
Image: Canal and River Trust

New ways of mowing to benefit birds, bees, and waterways wildlife

The Canal & River Trust, the waterways and wellbeing charity which looks after 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales, is beginning a six-month trial looking at the benefits of changing the mowing regime along its towpaths.

The trial, which starts in April, seeks to balance the needs of boaters, anglers and others accessing the water, with the benefits to wildlife and biodiversity that a change in mowing frequency will bring. A different mowing regime could save the Trust money which it can use elsewhere on important maintenance to look after the nation’s 200-year-old network of former industrial waterways.

A legacy from the Industrial Revolution, canals are unique ecological corridors that offer tremendous benefits to the nation’s flora and fauna by providing sanctuary to many much-loved and endangered species. Due, in part, to changes in farming practises and urban sprawl, the canal network, with its linear hedgerows and verges, provides vital connecting routes between increasingly fragmented woodlands and other important wildlife habitat.

The Trust currently spends over £2 million a year mowing over 2,000 miles of towpath every four to six weeks between April and October, leaving nearly 50 percent uncut at the water’s edge or back of the path. There is one ‘hedge to water’s edge’ cut in the winter to remove encroaching bushes and woody vegetation.

The trial will see the mowing regime altered across 375 miles of towpaths (almost a fifth of the Trust’s network), with expected improvements to wildlife habitats, alongside cost savings for the charity. Waterbirds nesting in reedbeds will be left undisturbed and it will create habitats for water voles, one of the UK’s most endangered mammals. Leaving verges to grow will encourage a greater diversity of plants and better cover and foraging opportunities for insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles. There may be an improvement in wildflowers, vital for pollinators such as bees.

Turning the tide - Sussex Wildlife Trust

Kelp Forest © Andy Jackson
Kelp Forest © Andy Jackson

Today (Monday 22 March) the new Nearshore Trawling Byelaw has been announced. This is a major milestone for Sussex and we are thrilled. As a result of this byelaw, trawling will be excluded from the West Sussex Nearshore waters out to 4km. Our local and national decision makers have made real space for nature.

We know that kelp is just hanging on in small patches in this area where it was abundant in only recent memory, the declines taking place since the late 1980s. We are determined to enable the kelp forest to restore and recover across this huge area of of Sussex coast.

How did we get here?

The byelaw was signed off locally by the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) board exactly 15 months ago, and since then, alongside Brexit and a Pandemic it has been with our national bodies - The Marine Management Organisation and Defra - and finally with the Secretary of State to sign off.

From the original Sussex consultation in 2019, momentum was unprecedented. Conservationists and others have been passionate about supporting the Sussex IFCA byelaw process. Starting with the inspirational Big Wave Productions producing a beautiful film explaining the Byelaw which Sir David Attenborough narrated. This resulted in an unprecedented 2,500 people showing their support for the byelaw - the local fishery statutory process. The Help Our Kelp Partnership formed, with Sussex Wildlife Trust working alongside the Blue Marine Foundation, the Marine Conservation Society, Big Wave Productions and Dr Ian Hendy from the University of Portsmouth. This has demonstrated to us yet again, how powerful it is to bring together the expertise of different organisations. Together we have gained the backing of our Sussex MPs, Ministers and Senior Government Advisors, many of whom have approached the Secretary of State directly on our behalf to show their support. Locally and nationally this has been accompanied by many letters encouraging the signing of the byelaw, going straight to the Secretary of State himself. Thank you to all those of you who supported us with this.

Next steps for nature - Nature Scot

A new report sets out Scotland’s performance against international biodiversity targets and the steps needed to continue to improve nature.

NatureScot has published the final report on progress towards the global Aichi targets. The 20 benchmarks were set in 2010 by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, to be met by 2020.

By the end of 2020:ef

  • Scotland met nine of the targets, including on reducing pollution, restoring ecosystems and increasing biodiversity awareness. This compared favourably with the UK as a whole (which met five of the 19 it reported on), and the EU as a whole (which met one of the 17 it reported on). At a global level, none of the targets have been fully met, though six targets have been partially achieved.]
  • Progress was made on the remaining 11 in Scotland, but with more work needed. Areas where further action is required include reversing habitat loss, tackling invasive species, reducing climate change pressures and safeguarding species.

NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said: “This report sets out the good progress that has been made in many areas towards meeting the international targets on biodiversity. However, there is clearly much more to be done as we move beyond Aichi.”

It was the first ever #WorldRewildingDay on 20 March

Bangor research informs international conservation guidelines - Bangor University

Llechwedd Einion waterfall credit Coetir Anian
Llechwedd Einion waterfall credit Coetir Anian

A Bangor University expert, Dr Sophie Wynne-Jones, has contributed her considerable expertise to new international policy guidelines on rewilding.

Rewilding is a nature-led approach to conservation, which involves giving more space to nature, repairing damaged habitats and restoring lost wildlife, whilst minimising human influence to promote natural processes. It is championed as a proactive way to address our global environmental crises, not just protecting existing wildlife but giving nature more freedom and room to flourish – learning from nature rather than trying to micro-manage it.
Whilst rewilding has become increasingly popular, it is still very novel and sometimes contested. A set of guidelines to support governments and conservationists has, therefore, been much called for. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Rewilding Taskforce have been working on this challenge over the last two years undertaking extensive international research and consultation amongst leading rewilding practitioners and experts. The resulting ‘Guiding Principles for Rewilding’ have recently been published in Conservation Biology [17.3.21].

Contributing author, Dr Sophie Wynne Jones’ research considers the social dimensions of rewilding, which are a critical aspect of the guidelines developed. Her research in Wales has been central to the insights she puts forward in the report. She explains: “We are facing major challenges and, globally, need to change our attitudes towards the natural world. In order to do this successfully, we need principles to guide international efforts to restore the world’s ecosystems. Rewilding is an exciting approach, it changes the emphasis of conservation from defending what we have to thinking bigger and being more ambitious. We need to look beyond nature reserves and special sites to create more space for nature and the natural processes which we all need to survive on this planet. But if we are to embrace rewilding, we need to include all those who will be affected by the proposed changes. In my own work in Wales I have explored the concerns of the farming community, including the livelihood and the cultural impacts of rewilding.”

And further rewilding news

MSPs urged to back Rewilding Nation motion - Trees for Life

Capercaillie male displaying, Scotland ©
Capercaillie male displaying, Scotland ©

Momentum grows as first-ever World Rewilding Day held

The Scottish Rewilding Alliance, a coalition of over 20 organisations, is calling on MSPs from all parties to support a parliamentary motion recognising the potential social, economic and environmental benefits of Scotland becoming the world’s first rewilding nation.

The Alliance is highlighting its Rewilding Nation campaign as part of the first-ever World Rewilding Day today (Saturday 20 March) – a global event supported by over 100 organisations worldwide.

The motion in the Scottish Parliament, lodged at Holyrood by SNP MSP Gail Ross, has already been signed by 22 other MSPs – including other SNP MSPs, as well as Labour, the Greens, and Liberal Democrat Members.

“We’re calling on more MSPs to show their support. Members of the public still have time to ask their MSPs to sign this important motion before the 24 March deadline,” said Steve Micklewright, Chief Executive of Trees for Life and the Alliance’s Convenor.

“Less than a month since the campaign’s launch, there’s growing optimism that the next Scottish Government will declare Scotland a rewilding nation ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this year. Such an act of leadership and hope in the face of overlapping nature, climate and health crises would be a world first, unless someone beats us to it.”

The Scottish Rewilding Alliance is calling for rewilding of at least 30% of Scotland’s land and sea by 2030. It says this can be achieved by restoring woodlands, moorlands, peatlands, rivers and marine habitats, and without loss of productive agricultural land.

The Alliance says rewilding Scotland’s towns and cities too would ensure everyone has opportunities to reconnect with nature, bringing significant benefits people for health and wellbeing.


Sustainability and Climate Change

Time for Climate Action in Northern Ireland - Butterfly Conservation

Northern Ireland is a wonderful place, full of beautiful landscapes and special wildlife including 25 species of butterfly and around 1100 species of moth. Sadly, in common with every other part of the planet, our butterflies, moths and other wildlife face the growing threat of climate change.

Holly Blue (female/summer brood) - Iain Leach
Holly Blue (female/summer brood) - Iain Leach

As with any environmental change, there are winners and losers. Research led by the University of York, working with Butterfly Conservation and others, found that species with multiple, rapid breeding cycles and are less fussy about habitat, can do well. They have a chance to build up numbers before winter and then expand their range north. The Holly Blue and Peacock, which have increased in abundance and expanded their ranges, are prime examples of butterflies benefitting from climate change in Northern Ireland.
In contrast, earlier emergences may work against species that are more choosy habitat specialists and only have a single life-cycle in a year. With only one brood, these species do not benefit from the extra time for breeding. Instead, an earlier emergence can put them out of sync with their specific choice of foodplant leading to a reduction in numbers and a shrinking distribution. On top of the pressure of habitat loss, it is no wonder that the single-brooded specialists such as the Marsh Fritillary are struggling.

Later this year is the crucial UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26). Many Governments have already set targets and made important ‘net zero’ commitments. However, there is still a large gulf between the fine words and action! It is now more than ten years since the UK Climate Change Act and there is no doubt that this was a significant step in the right direction. Unfortunately, in the intervening decade, we still have no equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland. This must be addressed as a matter of the utmost urgency or later this year at COP 26 we risk being embarrassed by our political inaction and lack of leadership.

We urgently need our own Northern Ireland Climate Act. Although we are lagging behind, let’s use what we have learned from others to introduce our own ground-breaking legislation.

Once-in-a-century UK wildfire threats could happen most years by end of century - University of Reading

Extremely hot and dry conditions that currently put parts of the UK in the most severe danger of wildfires once a century could happen every other year in a few decades’ time due to climate change, new research has revealed.

A study, led by the University of Reading, predicting how the danger of wildfires will increase in future showed that parts of eastern and southern England may be at the very highest danger level on nearly four days per year on average by 2080 with high emissions, compared to once every 50-100 years currently.

Wildfires need a source of ignition which is difficult to predict, so wildfire risk is typically measured by the likelihood that a fire would develop after a spark of ignition. This fire danger is affected by weather conditions. As temperatures rise and summer rainfall decreases, conditions highly conducive to wildfire could be nearly five times more common in some regions of the UK by the latter part of the century.

In the driest regions, this could put habitats at risk for up to four months per year on average, the scientists found.

Professor Nigel Arnell, a climate scientist at the University of Reading who led the research, said: “Extremely hot and dry conditions that are perfect for large wildfires are currently rare in the UK, but climate change will make them more and more common. In future decades, wildfires could pose as much of a threat to the UK as they currently do in the south of France or parts of Australia. This increased fire danger will threaten wildlife and the environment, as well as lives and property, yet it is currently underestimated as a threat in many parts of the UK. This research highlights the growing importance of taking the threat of wildfires seriously in the UK, as they are likely to be an increasing problem in future.”

'Exceptional Danger'

In the new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, scientists looked at how often different regions of the UK would experience conditions that made it highly likely that any wildfire that occurred would become established. They calculated future fire danger based on the latest UKCP18 climate scenarios with both low and high emissions of greenhouse gases, using a version of the Met Office’s Fire Severity Index which is used to define levels of wildfire danger.

They found the average number of ‘very high’ danger days each year will increase significantly in all parts of the UK by 2080. Excluding London, southern and eastern England were predicted to be worst affected, with the average number of danger days more than quadrupling, up to 111 days in the South East and 121 days in the East of England on average.

Read the paper: Arnell, N., Freeman, A., Gazzard, R. (2021); ‘The effect of climate change on indicators of fire danger in the UK’; Environmental Research Letters;

Record-breaking rain more likely due to climate change - MetOffice

Record-breaking rainfall like that seen on 3 October 2020 could be 10 times more likely by 2100.

map showing rainfall in October 2020
Crown Copyright

A new study by scientists in the Met Office Hadley Centre has found that days with extreme rainfall accumulations will become more frequent through the century. The research used the record rainfall observed on 3 October 2020 as an example and found that while in a natural environment, with no influence from human induced climate change, an event similar or more extreme would be a 1 in 300 year event, it is now a 1 in 100 year event in the current climate. By 2100 under a medium emissions scenario (SSP2 4.5) that level of extreme daily rainfall could be seen every 30 years, making it 10 times more likely than in a natural environment.

In addition to increased frequency of these extreme events, the research found that 3 October 2020 was provisionally the UK’s wettest day in a daily series stretching back to 1891. The rainfall was very widespread resulting in provisional average rainfall across the entire UK of 31.7mm, or to put it another way, if expressed as the volume of rain that is more than the capacity of Loch Ness – the largest lake in the UK by volume at 7.4 cubic kilometres of water.

The analysis from the study adds to the existing evidence of human influence leading to more extreme rainfall in the UK and that in recent decades an increase in the frequency of extreme rainfall events in the UK has become more prominent. Furthermore, this is the first event attribution study to examine changes in the wettest day of the year and establish that despite the large variability, a signal of more frequent extremes has emerged and will continue to intensify in coming decades.

Previously any signal of human-induced climate change impacting rainfall has typically been hard to detect due to its significant variability, especially compared to temperature. A Met Office paper in 2018 suggested any signal would first be seen in rainfall extremes.

The paper has been published in Atmospheric Science Letters.

Park Authority commits to being ‘Net Zero’ within 4 years - Cairngorms National Park Authority

overview of River Dee with riparian growth (credit James Shooter/
River Dee with riparian growth (credit James Shooter/

Scotland has the most ambitious climate legislation in the world and today (Friday 12 March) the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) board made a bold commitment that the Park Authority will achieve Net Zero emissions by 2025 at the latest.

Meeting virtually the CNPA board laid out a timescale for achieving net zero emissions across the Cairngorms National Park and proposed to lead the way in tackling the climate emergency with three clear commitments:

  • The Park Authority will achieve net zero emissions by 2025
  • The Park Authority aims to achieve zero direct emissions by 2030
  • The Cairngorms National Park aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2045

These targets are in line with the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, which laid out a commitment for Scotland to have net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. Achieving these goals for the Cairngorms National Park as a whole will require close collaboration with a range of stakeholders, from local residents to businesses, land managers and third-sector organisations, alongside the development of a range of affordable green transport, infrastructure and power solutions.

Xander McDade, Convener of the CNPA, explains: “This year the world will be looking to Scotland as Glasgow hosts the United Nations COP26 climate summit in November. The Cairngorms National Park has a key role to play in the fight to tackle climate change in Scotland through pioneering nature-based solutions, but we are only part of the answer. We will all need to come together to make changes to the way we live, work and enjoy nature. Today’s commitment from the Park Authority is a good start, and we are keen to lead by example to help achieve net zero emissions in the National Park by 2045 at the latest, but to be successful we will have to work in partnership with our communities, businesses and land owners to achieve this.”

Read the PR in full here.

Moors hit targets for carbon capture - Moorland Association

The equivalent of more than 33,000 cars’ worth of carbon emissions is being removed from the atmosphere each year due to the pioneering environmental work of grouse moor estates in the north of England, a new survey has revealed.

A survey of Moorland Association members has revealed the extent of conservation work undertaken in the last ten years and the contribution to carbon capture:

  • 3,157 hectares of bare peat restored – equivalent to 5,207 football pitches
  • 2,945 kilometres of old agricultural drains (grips) blocked, to re-wet the peat, equivalent to a further 6,008 hectares of peatland restored
  • 1,275 hectares of trees planted – equivalent to 2,100 football pitches
  • 60 per cent of peatland restoration target now achieved
  • In total this means 61,126 tonnes of CO2 emissions are being saved per year – equivalent to taking 33,492 cars off the road every year

Peatland restoration and tree planting are key parts of the government’s commitment to tackling climate change, with ambitious England-wide targets of 35,000 hectares of peatland to be restored and about 10,000 hectares of trees per year planted by 2025.

Moorland Association members report they have already achieved 60 per cent of the peatland restoration work required on their land, with this latest work making a valuable (26%) contribution towards the UK government’s target for 2025.

Previous decades of work undertaken on Moorland Association members’ land restored at least 24,000 hectares of peatland and saw 4,000 km (2,485 miles) of drains blocked, all making a significant contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions to date.

The Moorland Association works closely with the North Pennines AONB Partnership, Yorkshire Peat Partnership, Forest of Bowland AONB and the Moors for the Future Partnership, working together to contribute to the UK’s carbon sequestration targets as part of the Great North Bog initiative.

Dr Tim Thom, Peatland Programme Manager at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said “It’s great to see moor owners rising to the challenge of climate change. Since 2009, we’ve worked with Moorland Association members and other landowners to bring over 31,000 hectares of Yorkshire’s peatlands into restoration management. We looking forward to getting to work with them on the remaining moors in the years to come.”

Researchers design new citizen science project to study the impact of air quality on honey bees - Coventry University

A pilot study by Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), supported by the British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA), will work with beekeepers across the Midlands to explore the possible impacts of air pollution on honey bee health.

With almost a quarter of a million hives in the UK, honey bees deliver more than a third of the pollination demands for our crops whilst simultaneously supplying the ever-growing honey market.

Honey bees face many environmental threats to their health and numbers; including habitat loss, alien species invasions e.g. varroa mites, disease, pesticides, and climate change pressures - all of which could ultimately impact our food chain.

Of these issues, the least understood is air pollution. Whilst air pollution effects on human health are well documented, research around how many hives and bees are exposed to, or affected by, the threat is not.

Through the new ‘Thriving Hive’ Hub, CAWR will map air particulate levels across the Midlands. Working closely with beekeepers, researchers will then test whether the particulates can be detected in bee bodies and hive products. This information will then be correlated with disease, parasite loads and productivity.

“The little research that has been done suggests that particulates in air pollution could impact bee immune and circulatory systems but not much is known about the physiological effects. In our first project, we will determine the scale of the potential problem. We will then move on to look at the health outcomes for bees. Key to this project is working in partnership with beekeepers, who know their bees better than anyone else.” Dr Barbara Smith, Associate Professor at CAWR

RHS to be peat-free by 2025 as it experiments with farmed sphagnum moss - Royal Horticultural Society

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has committed to being 100% peat-free by 2025 as it trials alternative responsibly sourced growing media.

Peatlands, from which peat is harvested, are the world’s largest carbon store and provide valuable ecosystems for wildlife. As such, the charity has long championed the use of peat-free growing media among its members and over the next few years will be trialling sphagnum moss from sphagnum farming, anaerobic digestate, forest co-products, and waste materials to achieve peat-free status.

RHS gardens are currently 98% peat-free with the exception of some rare and exotic plants. The RHS also stopped selling peat-based bagged compost in 2019, and from 2025 plants sold in its retail outlets and on display at its shows will be peat-free.

The commercial horticulture industry is required to be peat-free by 2030 but, with an estimated two million cubic metres of peat to be replaced, the RHS is calling for greater government support in helping industry make the transition to responsibly sourced alternatives. This includes:

  • Providing capital investment, infrastructure allowances and fiscal incentives to help growing media manufacturers and growers update their equipment, facilities, and processes and increase their production and use of peat alternatives.
  • Continued support for the Responsible Sourcing Growing Media Scheme.
  • Removing red tape attached to waste products that could be developed by growing media manufacturers as peat alternatives.
  • Investing in research and development into the production of alternatives to overcome specialist plant and plug plant production and to address supply chain issues.
  • Linking the Tree Strategy to the new Peat Strategy to increase the volume of wood products available as a raw material and peat replacement.

Alistair Griffiths, Director of Science and Collections at the RHS, said: “Our work reveals that the UK’s 30 million gardeners are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their gardens and as part of that are seeking out sustainable alternatives including peat-free products. However, the challenge for industry in finding a replacement for the two million cubic metres of peat used should not be underestimated and is why government support will be crucial in helping to protect this precious resource and ensure our plots are truly green.

Peatland restoration fund tackles global climate crisis - Scottish Government

Single year and multi-year projects now eligible to apply to a £22 million peatland restoration programme.

Farmers, landowners and land managers across Scotland can now access a £22 million fund to undertake peatland restoration projects.

This is the next stage of the ten year, £250 million package announced by the Scottish Government in February 2020, and underlines the essential contribution that restoring degraded peatland makes to addressing the twin crises of the global climate emergency and biodiversity loss.

Peatland restoration is a key part of the Scottish Government’s goal of achieving a net-zero Scotland by 2045 at the latest.

As well as smaller projects, the 2021 funding round has been expanded also to welcome large-scale schemes over multiple years, enabling more flexible planning of projects and providing longer-term confidence to those looking to invest in people and machinery to undertake works on the ground.

Environment and Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Restoration of degraded peatland is a vital nature based solution to protecting Scotland’s biodiversity and ensuring we end our contribution to climate change, as well as supporting skilled land-based jobs in rural communities across Scotland.”

Six years later and the DRS recycling scheme is delayed… again - CPRE

Government sources have said that the long-awaited deposit return scheme (DRS) announced by ministers in 2017 has once again been pushed back, in a move we call ‘shirking their responsibility.’

A DRS of the sort already in use and seeing huge recycling rates in other countries should have formed a key cornerstone of a green recovery following the pandemic, creating jobs and helping out struggling local councils.

Instead, we’ve heard that the government plans to delay the scheme until 2024 – pushing the responsibility onto a new government.

The introduction of a DRS and the reduction of litter are issues that we’ve campaigned about for many years, and we’ve seen these delaying tactics before.

But this devastating new hold-up suggests that ministers are choosing to listen more to industry lobbyists than to calls to protect the environment, create green jobs after the coronavirus pandemic and limit climate change.

People and planet are calling for a DRS

CPRE has been asking for the introduction of an all-in DRS (one that accepts containers of all types and sizes) for years – but it’s not just us making this demand.

Our surveys have shown that people across England are keen to see much more being done to tackle waste. Over three-quarters of the English public (78%) agreed that the government should be taking more action on litter.

And a comprehensive DRS would represent just such action. We know that a DRS can increase recycling rates of plastic, glass and metal drinks containers to more than 90%. Now was the time to kick into gear with this next step, with lockdown reminding us of the perils of our throwaway culture and England’s broken waste and litter systems.

Poots considers money-back scheme on drinks bottles to tackle litter - DAERA

A money-back scheme on drinks bottles to help increase recycling is being considered by Environment Minister Edwin Poots.

And in a move to boost the reuse of packaging material, he is also looking at a fee-based scheme to encourage producers to design and use packaging that is easier to re-use and/or recycle.

“With a shocking 1.3 million items of litter on our streets at any one time almost half of that littered packaging including drink cans, plastic bottles, confectionery and crisp wrappers we need to move now to tackle this problem," Minister Poots said. “So today, alongside England and Wales, I am launching a consultation on options for a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers including glass bottles, aluminium and steel cans and PET plastic bottles. In this type of scheme the public will be able to recoup a deposit for return of drinks containers through reverse vending machines or directly through retailers. We know from a previous consultation there is overwhelming public support for the deposit return scheme, which should make it easy for consumers to return drinks containers for recycling and also reduce littering. In countries with existing schemes the return rates can be 85-98% for collection and recycling of plastic drinks containers. The scheme can create high-value, uncontaminated recycling streams which should advantage UK producers and incentivise investment in the sector.”

Measures to reduce harm from storm overflows to be made law - Environment Agency

New legal duties on water companies and government will reduce sewage discharged into waterways.

Measures to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows will be put into law, the government confirmed today (Monday 29 March), as part of an ambitious agenda to build back greener from the pandemic.

During wet weather, storm overflows act to prevent sewers becoming overloaded with a combination of sewage and rain and release diluted wastewater into rivers. However, their use has increased in recent years as climate change has led to greater rainfall and water infrastructure has not kept pace with population growth.

Reducing the reliance of water companies on storm overflows is important to help cut pollution in waterways, and earlier this year the Government announced it was working with Philip Dunne MP on shared ambitions to tackle high levels of sewage in our rivers, following the introduction of his Private Member’s Bill in 2020.

This ambition has now been turned into action, with the government confirming that a number of key policies will be made law. This will create three key duties to oversee some of the changes needed to improve our water environment:

  • a duty on government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows;
  • a duty on government to report to Parliament on progress on implementing the plan; and
  • a duty on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis.

This builds on the work already underway by the Storm Overflows Taskforce, set up in September 2020 to bring together government, the water industry, regulators and environmental NGOs to accelerate progress in this area.

New map casts light on Wales’ dark skies - Natural Resources Wales

Wales dark skies
Wales dark skies

A new dark skies map has shown that Wales is doing well in tackling light pollution.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) commissioned Land Use Consultants to create the web-based map Dark Skies and Light Pollution in Wales using satellite imagery of Wales taken at 1:30am.

It revealed more than 68 per cent of the country and 95 per cent of our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty fall within the two darkest night sky categories. There are also indications that the amount of light emitted in cities appear to be decreasing too.

The dark sky and light pollution map can be used to highlight dark skies as an important resource and as an evidence base for potential new dark sky reserves in Wales.

It can also be used to promote the benefits of dark sky friendly lighting and positively encourage the consideration of light pollution in planning applications and the design of post Covid 19 green recovery developments.

The map also provides evidence for management plans, green infrastructure assessments and well-being assessments which can help identify where reducing night light pollution could be particularly beneficial to wildlife and nature networks.

Jill Bullen, Landscapes Lead Specialist Advisor for NRW, said: “Dark skies can affect our experience of nature, landscapes and green spaces and can benefit our health and well-being and local wildlife. Although dark skies are most often experienced in remote and rural landscapes, our experience of the night sky can be enhanced in towns and settlements by reducing light pollution and using dark sky friendly lighting. Lighting kept on for longer than it is needed or units that spill light upwards, rather than to where it is most needed, contribute to sky glow, light intrusion and add to light pollution. Many local authorities now have energy saving policies in place that affect lighting and contribute to a lower carbon future. Some lights are being dimmed, part night lit or switched off through the night where it is possible and safe to do so, upgrades that include shielding to point light downwards can help to maintain dark skies in Wales."

The web-based map of Dark Skies and Light Pollution in Wales enables anyone to have a look at levels of light radiance in their area of interest.

Thursday 19 March was Global Recycling Day #GlobalRecyclingDay

Government unveils plans for wide-ranging Waste Prevention Programme - Defra

Proposals to support sustainable fashion unveiled on Global Recycling Day.

Plans to reduce waste have been unveiled on Global Recycling Day (Thursday 18 March) - including proposals for new measures that will ramp up action on fast fashion and hold manufacturers accountable for textile waste.

These plans form part of a new wide-ranging Waste Prevention Programme for England which sets out how the Government and industry can take action across seven key sectors – construction; textiles; furniture; electrical and electronics products; road vehicles; packaging, plastics and single-use items; and food - to minimise waste and work towards a more resource efficient economy. This includes steps to use resources more efficiently, design and manufacture products for optimum life and repair and reuse more items.

Building on the landmark Resources & Waste Strategy, the Government will consult stakeholders by the end of 2022 on options for textiles, such as an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme which would ensure the industry contributes to the costs of recycling, supported by measures to encourage better design and labelling. This will help to boost the reuse and recycling of textiles and reduce the environmental footprint of the sector.

The fashion industry is estimated to account for 4% of annual global carbon emissions, while textiles production leads to greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the emissions of France, Germany and the UK. We buy and throw away increasing amounts of fabrics, with the purchase of clothing rising by almost 20% between 2012 and 2016, and around 921,000 tonnes of used textiles disposed of in household waste each year.

A producer responsibility scheme for the textiles industry could boost reuse, better collections and recycling, drive the use of sustainable fibres, and support sustainable businesses models such as rental schemes.


Government Announcements and Policy

Consultation launched on environmental principles - Defra

Five legally binding principles will guide future policymaking to protect the environment.

Ministers will put protecting the environment at the heart of future policy, under new plans set out today (Wednesday 10 March).

The landmark Environment Bill will create a duty on ministers across Whitehall to be guided by five internationally recognised environmental principles when making policy – protecting the environment for the next generation and demonstrating to the world that the environment is at the front and centre of the Government’s work, ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We want to embed the environment in the design, development and delivery of the Government’s work. Our environmental principles are essential, and will ensure that ministers across Whitehall are guided to not just protect the environment, but tackle problems at their origin.

This will deliver our pledge to leave the environment in a better state for future generations”.

This legally binding statement will introduce five environmental principles, committing the government to building back greener. These principles are:

  • The integration principle is the principle which states that policy-makers should look for opportunities to embed environmental protection in other fields of policy that have impacts on the environment.
  • The prevention principle means that government policy should aim to prevent, reduce or mitigate harm.
  • The rectification at source principle means that if damage to the environment cannot be prevented it should be tackled at its origin.
  • The polluter pays principle is the principle that those who cause pollution or damage to the environment should be responsible for mitigation or compensation.
  • The precautionary principle states that where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Government on course to weaken post-Brexit environmental principles - The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts call for rigorously enforced protections for nature and climate in law

The Wildlife Trusts welcome the launch of the consultation on the Draft Policy Statement on Environmental Principles. Almost three months after the end of the transition period and after waiting over three years for clarity on how our environmental principles will be applied outside the EU, it is a relief to finally have a consultation on how they will be replaced in UK law.

Unfortunately, the draft policy statement indicates that these principles will be applied more weakly than the EU. The Government’s flagship Environment Bill provides no legal duty to apply the principles – instead, Ministers must have "due regard" to a policy that can be changed by government whenever it likes. The climate and nature emergency demands more than a ‘noted’ marked down in the minutes of civil service meetings. The environment can no longer be an afterthought in decision making; it must be front and centre.

There are also legal exemptions for complying with the principles when it comes to matters of national security, defence and almost anything to do with the Treasury – including taxation and spending decisions. Unless these get-out clauses are removed, it will be difficult to prove the UK is maintaining environmental standards, let alone enhancing them.

On top of this, we are also worried that the new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will lack the power to enforce the environmental principles effectively. The OEP will be much smaller than the EU institutions it replaces, so it is critical that it has the resources and independence it needs to do its job. Regrettably this isn’t the case. The Environment Bill currently requires the OEP to follow “guidance” from the Secretary of State. This means the Government can influence its decision making, including in cases where the Government itself may be at fault.


Land and Countryside Management

Wildlife haven protected as theme park threat looms - Kent Wildlife Trust

Natural England has recognised the outstanding wildlife value of the Swanscombe Peninsula and declared that it should be a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Kent Wildlife Trust, Buglife and the RSPB welcome the news that the Government’s environmental advisor Natural England has recognised the outstanding wildlife value of the Swanscombe Peninsula and declared that it should be a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The recommendation follows the three organisations uniting in calling on Natural England to help protect the site from the imminent threat of the London Resort Theme Park by designating the site. In February ‘A Rationale for the SSSI designation of the Swanscombe Peninsula’ was delivered to Natural England, alongside a letter signed by 77 current and former senior staff from nature organisations and public bodies.

Recognising the national importance of the site is a significant landmark and is a key step in the ongoing battle to protect the Swanscombe Peninsula and its unique wildlife from destruction. The Peninsula supports a nationally important population of invertebrates, with over 250 species of conservation concern, an outstanding population of breeding birds and a suite of nationally scarce flowering plants. SSSIs represent the best places for wildlife across the UK and various laws protect them from development or other damage – to safeguard them for future generations.

In normal circumstances, designating a site as a protected SSSI would be enough to prevent its destruction. However, the Swanscombe Peninsula remains under threat. This is because the London Resort development has bizarrely been deemed a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), a process normally reserved for major roads, airports or power plants, and as a result the application can bypass normal planning process. This means that any environmental impacts can be deemed acceptable in the name of economic development – including the loss of some of our best national wildlife sites.

Farmers invited to take part in first step towards a greener future - Confor

Confor welcomes the first phase of the pilot of the Sustainable Farming Incentive. Confor has worked tirelessly to ensure that woodland is included in the new Environmental Land Management Scheme. We are delighted with the outcome that on-farm woodland will form one of the “standards” for participation in this first component pilot.

Details of the new scheme have been published today and expressions of interest for the pilot will open from Monday 15 March.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the first of three schemes to be piloted and co-designed under the Environmental Land Management Scheme. Further information on the other two schemes, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery, will be shared later this year.

The three schemes will reward land managers for producing public goods like biodiversity, cleaner water, cleaner air, improving soil, and carbon reduction on their land. They will help land managers play a crucial role in the national effort to tackle climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive will support approaches to farming that deliver for the environment, such as actions to improve soil health, on farm woodland, hedgerows and integrated pest management.

The pilot will build on the great success of the ongoing programme of tests and trials, which already involve over 3000 farmers and other land managers. Tests and trials focus on trying out individual parts of the future scheme, like land management plans or different payment methods – whereas the pilot will test a working version of the scheme from start to finish. 

Successful candidates will then be invited to complete their application and, if eligible, they will enter into a pilot agreement starting from October 2021. This initial stage will be open to several hundred farmers, reflecting England’s distribution of farm types and locations.

Pilot participants will be asked to take part in a range of co-design activities, providing rapid feedback on their experience of all aspects of the process - from pre-application to implementing their agreements. This will ensure the scheme is fully workable and user-friendly once fully rolled out from 2024. 

Plans announced to phase out lead ammunition in bid to protect wildlife - Defra

The Government is considering a ban of lead ammunition to protect wildlife and nature as part of new plans under UK REACH

  • Government sets out the restriction work to be carried out in the first year of UK REACH, the UK’s new chemical regime
  • Evidence shows lead ammunition harms the environment, wildlife and people
  • Consultation will seek public’s views on restriction proposals

Lead ammunition could be phased out under government plans to help protect wildlife and nature, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow announced today [23 March].

A large volume of lead ammunition is discharged every year over the countryside, causing harm to the environment, wildlife and people. The government is now considering a ban under the UK’s new chemical regulation system – UK REACH – and has requested an official review of the evidence to begin today with a public consultation in due course.

Research by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust shows that between 50,000 to 100,000 wildfowl die in the UK each year due ingesting lead from used pellets. Despite being highly toxic, wildfowl often mistake the pellets for food. A further 200,000 to 400,000 birds suffer welfare or health impacts, and animals that predate on wildfowl can also suffer.

Lead ammunition can also find its way into the wider environment and the food chain, posing a risk to people if they eat contaminated game birds. Studies have also found that lead poisoning caused lowered immune systems in wild birds, potentially aiding the spread of diseases such as avian influenza (bird flu).

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Addressing the impacts of lead ammunition will mark a significant step forward in helping to protect wildlife, people, and the environment. This is a welcome development for our new chemicals framework, and will help ensure a sustainable relationship between shooting and conservation.”

South of Scotland’s biggest community buyout completes - The Langholm Initiative

view over Langholm Moor to distant hills.
Langholm Moor (copyright David Lintern, John Muir Trust)

The South of Scotland’s largest community buyout has been legally completed following one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen and paving the way for the creation of a vast new nature reserve in Dumfries and Galloway.

The landmark agreement of £3.8 million for 5,200 acres of land and six residential properties was reached between The Langholm Initiative charity and Buccleuch last October, after the community of Langholm’s six-month fundraising drive reached its target in the final two days.

With the transfer of ownership finalised, the community now owns the land for the first time in its history. Work is to begin immediately on creating the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve to help tackle climate breakdown, restore nature, and support community regeneration.

Margaret Pool, Chair of The Langholm Initiative, said: “Together we’ve achieved something which once seemed impossible, and today we can celebrate as a new era begins for this special land with which our community has such a deep and long-standing connection. Our sincere, heartfelt thanks go to so many people for making this historic moment for Langholm happen – including the generous donors and tireless volunteers, and to Buccleuch for being so supportive and positive in their approach.”

The Langholm Initiative has set up Tarras Valley Nature Reserve for the day-to-day running of the ambitious new venture, and is currently recruiting two new members of staff who will oversee the landscape-scale nature-restoration project.

Globally important peatlands and ancient woods will be restored, native woodlands established, and a haven ensured for wildlife including rare hen harriers, the UK’s most persecuted bird of prey. Plans for community regeneration include new nature-based tourism opportunities.

The Langholm Initiative now aims to show how community ownership can be a catalyst for regeneration with the environment at its heart, and hopes its success will inspire other communities in Scotland and across the UK. The Langholm Initiative, formed in 1994 as one of south Scotland's first development trusts, facilitates projects making a lasting difference to the local area and people.

Arboriculture, Forestry and Woodland

Woodland Trust £2.9 million to fund trees and green spaces for local communities - Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust has delivered a major green boost for communities across the UK by providing much needed funding for cash strapped local authorities to plant trees and create green spaces.

The money is being delivered from the charity's new Emergency Tree Fund which aims to make up for a current lack of investment to help local authorities break through barriers to get more trees and woods in the ground. It will give more local communities the green spaces on their doorsteps that are desperately needed, and which have shown to be so important for people during the current pandemic.

The Trust is working with 11 authorities across the UK in the first phase of the project and aims to expand the scheme further in 2022.

It is a key part of the charity’s recently announced ambitious aim to establish 50 million more trees by 2025 to help tackle both the nature and climate crises.

In June 2019 the UK Parliament made a commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Many local authorities across the UK have also declared climate and nature emergencies and set out ambitious tree planting targets. Unfortunately, as with so many areas of life, finances are tight and due to Covid 19, progress has been significantly impacted.

Pioneering project to safeguard our iconic oaks launched - Sylva Foundation


The FUTURE OAK project, comprising scientists at Bangor University, Aberystwyth University, Forest Research and Sylva Foundation, will study how oak microbiomes are affected by environmental change and disease.

The UK is home to around 170 million oak trees, and more ancient oak trees than the rest of Europe combined. Native oak support over 2000 species of insects, birds, mammals, and fungi, but climate change, human activity, and outbreaks of tree disease are affecting the health of our forests. Acute Oak Decline (or AOD) poses a significant threat to our native oak trees. Trees with AOD are weakened by environmental stresses, like drought, and several different bacteria cause the inner bark tissue to rot. Bark-boring beetles also feed on the inner bark of weakened trees, further increasing bacterial activity. Eventually, the outer bark cracks, releasing fluid from the rotting inner tissue and causing the distinctive stem ‘bleeds’ that are observed on trees affected by AOD.

Prof. James McDonald, the project leader explained: “The FUTURE OAK project will analyse hundreds of native oaks across Britain to understand which microbes promote health and fight diseases. We’ll then test the ability of these microbes to suppress bacteria which cause disease. This will help us to develop biocontrol treatments for the oak microbiome, to promote healthier trees and suppress the symptoms of AOD. Working with forest managers, we’ll seek to understand how microbiomes fit with established understandings of tree health, and how our research can help.”

Visit the Future Oak website to find out more

National Trust’s plans for 20 million ‘right trees in right places’ take root - National Trust

The view of Hafod Garegog National Nature Reserve from the planting site. Credit Paul Harris & NT Images
The view of Hafod Garegog National Nature Reserve from the planting site. Credit Paul Harris & NT Images

The National Trust has planted thousands of young saplings in areas across the UK as part of its ambitions to attract more wildlife, create new homes for nature, protect landscapes prone to flooding and to help in the fight against climate change.

The conservation charity has planted 60,000 trees over recent months, despite the coronavirus pandemic, kickstarting plans to plant and establish 20 million trees across England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2030.

Other areas will be set aside for natural regeneration with fenced areas to limit grazing by livestock.

With a focus on planting the right trees in the right places and minimising any release of carbon through soil disturbance, several projects are underway in Wales, the south west, south east, north of England and Northern Ireland.

The rate of planting will also now be able to accelerate after an initial planning phase thanks to nearly £500,000 in public donations with the charity’s ‘Plant a Tree’ campaign, and the conservation charity has identified sites for a further 1.5 million trees to be planted over the next couple of years.

John Deakin, head of woodland and trees at the National Trust said: “The first two years of our 10 year plan was always going to be about doing the research and scoping out the right places to plant and establish trees – to try to ensure we maximise in balance the benefit to nature, regenerate landscapes or creating new woodlands near urban areas. Taking this time to plan means ensuring we avoid areas where trees might damage important existing habitat, or actually release carbon from certain soil types, like peat.”

Royal Horticultural Society calls on public to help map sweet chestnut trees - Royal Horticultural Society

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and Coventry University are calling on the public to spot sweet chestnuts on their daily stroll as they launch a new citizen science project to help protect the at-risk tree for the future.

Found in woods and parks throughout the UK, the iconic sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) with its attractive, deeply-grooved bark, distinctively jagged-edged leaves and clusters of edible nuts is an important source of food for wildlife – including bees, pollinators and squirrels - and can live for up to 700 years when healthy. Thought to have been introduced by the Romans, the trees are now under threat from newly arrived oriental chestnut gall wasp (Dryocosmus kuriphilus) which disfigure and weaken the tree, with the RHS Science team eager to map the non-native insect and trees in varying states of health.
Most sweet chestnut trees can be found in the south of England, particularly in Kent and Surrey, but have been found to reach farther north than the Cairngorms. Beyond this very little is known about their distribution in the UK, making it difficult to fully understand the threat to UK gardens and green spaces and provide effective protection.
First discovered in the UK in 2015, the oriental chestnut gall wasp spreads through flight and likely entered the UK through plant imports. The wasp larvae cause abnormal growths, known as galls, on the buds and leaves of the sweet chestnut tree. In high numbers these galls can weaken the host tree, making it more vulnerable to other pests and diseases, particularly sweet chestnut blight.


And finally some winners

Our featured charity: Campaign for National Parks announce the winners!

Park Protector Awards 2021 - winners revealed! - Campaign for National Parks

  • Lake District National Park’s ‘Safer Lakes’ response to the challenges of the global pandemic has seen it win Campaign for National Parks’ top Park Protector Award 2021.
  • Volunteer woodland warden Rod Gentry won the People’s Choice Volunteer of the Year vote for his work in South Downs National Park.
  • Runners-up prizes were awarded to Moors for the Future Partnership in Peak District National Park and Be Wild Buckfastleigh in Dartmoor National Park.

This year’s awards attracted nominations from 12 out of 13 National Parks in England and Wales with a range of work represented – from ensuring local people had access to food and medicine, to health and wellbeing initiatives, nature conservation and visitor engagement, much of which moved online.

National Parks in England and Wales saw huge increases in visitors in between lockdowns last year (2020) which brought many challenges but also opportunities – which Lake District National Park Authority, volunteer teams such as Rod’s and many others seized to not only care for the parks, but transform their approach to caring for the landscape and engaging with residents and visitors.

Anita Konradta, Campaign for National Parks Chief Executive, said: “We were absolutely blown away by the quality of nominations this year. We knew when we launched the awards last month (Feb 2021) that staff and volunteers in our National Parks had gone above and beyond this past year not only to protect, but to share our National Parks with everyone at their time of need. Reading through the applications, it really hit home just how amazing – and successful – these efforts have been, and in many cases continue to be.”

Congratulations to all the winners - and watch out for some more about this in a forthcoming piece from CNP, our featured charity this year.


Training Directory.

Browse the Training Directory online here for short courses (up to 10 days long), or here for longer courses, distance learning and centres and providers

The Directory includes a wide range of courses providing certification in practical skills such as chainsaw use, need to learn how to identify dragonflies, or want to find out the best way to get the community involved in your project then this is the section to read. We include details of many professional courses in the online short courses pages. There are also sections for longer courses, training centres and other events (eg conferences).

Search for your next CPD course here.

Recently added online events and learning including calendar of short courses happening in June 2021

Online Events

16/04/2021 Mammal Society Virtual Spring Conference 2021 at Online 2 Days

Mammal Society Contact:

The Mammal Society’s 66th Spring Conference is an opportunity for mammal experts and enthusiasts to meet in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, discover results from new research, explore gaps for future research and discuss ongoing issues in conservation.

17/04/2021 South West of England Bat Conference - Online at Online - Zoom 1 Day

Bat Conservation Trust Contact: 020 7820 7169

One day event for bat workers and bat enthusiasts to come together to discuss research, share best practice and develop their skills and knowledge. Programme includes a variety of speakers and workshops held online this year.

25/05/2021 9th European Pond Conservation Network (EPCN) Conference at Online 2 Days

Freshwater Habitats Trust Contact:

Responding to the considerable need to conserve European ponds, the conference will combine pond biology, hydrology, function and landscape ecology with pond conservation practice and welcomes both scientists and conservation practitioners to the meeting.


Online Learning - Short Courses

14/04/2021 Online Spring Forgaging 1 Day

Online, TCV Scotland

An online session to highlight spring foraging tips, advice and a Q&A

19/04/2021 Online Endangered Species Recovery Course 5 Days

Online, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

A unique, specially designed course, delivered by world-renowned experts and scientists in the field of Endangered Species Recovery (ESR). This five-day, online interactive learning experience introduces the issues and practical skills involved in saving threatened species from extinction. You will develop a critical understanding of biodiversity conservation, the issues it raises and how they may be addressed, as well as practical research skills to inform conservation action. The course is suitable for students and graduates, early career individuals or those considering a career change.
20/04/2021 Thermal Imaging for Wildlife Applications - Advanced 12 Days

Online - Zoom, Bat Conservation Trust 020 7820 7169

This 12 month online training programme is designed for consultant ecologists and wildlife professionals who would like to improve their wildlife detection or survey accuracy. We will work with you to help you complete your Training Checklist from the Thermal Imaging Bat Survey Guidelines during this course.

Cost £1500

21/04/2021 Hedgehog Ecology, Care and Volunteering 1 Day

Online, TCV Scotland

This online session covers the main threats of this declining species, ways to help and how to volunteer with the HogWatch Scotland conservation project.

26/04/2021 Gardening with Nature Talk

Online, Sorbus Learning

An online presentation in partnership with Dorking Minds about the benefits of gardening with nature for wildlife and people with a focus on mental well-being. [Book with Dorking Minds]

27/04/2021 Transforming Environmental Data in R 2 Days

Online, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Lancaster University 01491 69 2225

The 2-day interactive online course will help you understand the benefits of data transformation tools. You will learn about auditable workflows, repeatability, time-saving, improving efficiency & reduced risk of dataloss. You will participate in practical data transformation exercises using real environmental datasets to combine & manipulate datasets for analysis-ready data.

04/05/2021 Phase 1 Habitat Survey 5 hours Days

Online, TCV Scotland 01786 476170

This online course is aimed at beginners and will provide attendees with a basic knowledge of how to carry out a Phase 1 habitat survey and how to use the handbook to classify different habitats. Book online here:

Cost £25

17/05/2021 Rights of Way Law and Practice 6 half days Days

Virtual, IPROW 07396 548331

Learning outcome: awareness of law and practice essential to ensuring good practice and avoiding costly errors.

Cost £630 Members, £739 Non-members

01/07/2021 Wildlifetek Summer School: Online Wildlife Technology Certification Course 6 weeks (42 days) Days

Online, Wildlifetek

In this 6-week online course you'll learn how you can use technology to help better understand & conserve wildlife. This course has been designed to help you gain the technical knowledge & skills you need for your wildlife career.

Cost £197


Online Learning - Longer Courses

Botanical Identification & using Keys

A flexible online course with mentor support in plant identification and using botanical keys. The course covers identification of plant components such as reproductive organs, stem, leaf, hairs, flowers, seeds, sepals and bracts and also includes identification of trees and ferns. The course also covers using botanical keys.

Botany and its Role in the Ecosystem

A modular course in plant science, ecology and botanical identification designed for anyone who is keen to learn how to use plant features for accurate identification. The course helps provide a well rounded view of plant science and symbiosis, botanical identification, naming structures and hierarchies (taxonomy), habitats and habitat indicators

Above two courses with Qualiteach Education and Ecology Training 07743712020

Ecological monitoring: How to design a successful scheme at Ptyxis Ecology

Starts October 2021: You choose your own site to use as a case study and the course takes you through designing a monitoring scheme, step by step using five key principles. No prior knowledge of scientific monitoring or statistics is needed and the course does not cover how to statistically analyse monitoring data. 01435 321199

Ecology 1 at Aberystwyth University

Ever wondered why some plants won't grow in your garden and why the 'weeds' (and slugs) thrive? Ecology explains the patterns we see in the natural world and the ways in which people have changed them. This is an essential core topic for any field or conservation ecologist.

Effective Bird Identification (Distance Learning Course)

Course starts: 26/04/2021 for 8 weeks. Starting from your current understanding of birds, this course will enable you to become more effective with your bird I.D., increasing your field and note taking skills and therefore enhancing your employability/CPD. You’ll be given access to a online learning environment with live online workshops and additional learning materials.

Effective Camera Trapping (Distance Learning Course)

Course starts: 26/04/21 for 6 weeks (part-time). This course will enable you to increase your field skills, become confident using camera trapping technology, produce photos fit for purpose and enhance your employability/continuing professional development. Unique to this course is the fact that we lend you the camera trap equipment! £345 + £100 returnable camera trap deposit

Above two courses with Ambios 01803 732747

General plant ID support

Starts May 2021: This is a general ID support package, rather than a formal course. Suitable for early-career ecologists who could do with ongoing support with their plant ID, or more experienced ecologists who want to develop their ID skills further with more difficult plant groups such as grasses, sedges, ferns or bryophytes

Grass identification & ecology

Starts May 2021: This course will enable you to identify grasses in flower and vegetatively by focusing on the key ‘must know’ species for professional ecologists. The course is in 5 units (about 3-4 hours study per unit). Suitable for building experience after an initial face-to-face course, or for complete beginners.

Identifying bryophytes in the field

Starts October 2021: This course works best as a follow-on to an introductory bryophyte course and assumes that you have had some practice with observing features of bryophytes using a hand lens. The course concentrates on the 'top 100' common indicator species for BAP priority habitats and NVC communities.

Above courses with Ptyxis Ecology 01435 321199

Habitats and Habitat Indicators at Qualiteach Education and Ecology Training

This short online course covers habitat types in the UK, soil types and indicator plants, as well as exploring effects of pollution on freshwater habitats (eutrophication). The course looks at environmental conditions for growth, habitat types (freshwater, coastal, mountainous, bog, fen, woodland), habitat Indicators and plants for phytoremediation. 07743712020

Introduction to Permaculture at Aberystwyth University

This course is a wide-ranging introduction to permaculture as an approach to designing sustainable ways of living and working. It will give a grounding in the core elements of a permaculture design approach including the ethical framework that underpins it and the principles from nature that it draws on.

Plant Science: biology, physiology and symbiosis at Qualiteach Education and Ecology Training

This short online course covers the importance of botany, including plant structure, biology and physiology, growth and reproduction and its role within an ecosystem, exploring symbiosis between plants and fungi, bacteria and insects. The course also covers the food web and plant transport systems (xylem, phloem, transpiration and photosynthesis). 07743712020

Project Management for Wildlife Conservation at WildTeam

About WildTeam UK: WildTeam UK is a not-for-profit charity that designs and delivers training in key skills that help conservationists to increase their impact. To date we have trained over 1000 conservationists from 73 countries.
What is this workshop?: An online training workshop, run over 6 weeks, with weekly live teaching sessions and pre-recorded training videos to work from in your own time. Using modern video communications software, we do everything we can to recreate the best of the interactive classroom environment, while offering you the flexibility to learn when and where you want.
What will you learn?: Working with our highly qualified and experienced team, you will learn how to manage conservation projects of any type or size, by: Applying a set of practical and ethical principles to guide your project; Assigning roles to clarify team structure and decision-making, and improve internal communication and coordination; Splitting projects into clear phases, to manage a project from start to finish; Using control processes to monitor the progress of your work and adapt to new information and changing conditions; Establishing administrative processes to help conduct effective internal meetings and develop high-quality project documents; Standardising reporting to record, evaluate and share the impact of your work, both internally and externally.
Why do this workshop?: Increase the efficiency and impact of any conservation project; Acquire a qualification and certificate in conservation project management; Get expert training and support from our team via email, Zoom and WildHub; Have the flexibility to learn when and where you want.
The detail: Where: Anywhere (online). When: 5th May to 9th June 2021 (3 hours learning each week). 2 live sessions available each week, to fit with your schedule: 10am or 6pm [BST]
How much: £180 (standard rate: bursaries available). See the online training page of our website for more details.

RHS Master of Horticulture at Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)

The RHS Master of Horticulture (MHort) is a degree-level award designed for those who wish to grow their career in a flexible way. Studied over three years, it provides an affordable and high-quality study experience, linking candidates to a range of professional networks and provides improved business and managerial skills.

Sedge identification & ecology

Starts May 2021: This course is largely based around a new, user-friendly key to the 56 most common species from the sedge family in Britain. The course has five units with structured field assignments encouraging you to seek out and identify a wide range of common sedge species.

Sphagnum identification & ecology: Field & microscopic identification

Starts October 2021: This course works best as a follow-on from an introductory Sphagnum course and assumes that you have practiced observing Sphagnum stem leaves in the field, using a hand lens. This version of the course includes two field-based units, plus two microscope units

Sphagnum identification & ecology: Field identification only

Starts October 2021: This course also works best as a follow-on from an introductory Sphagnum course. This version of the course is for those who do not have access to microscopes and only includes the two field-based units from the longer course

Above courses with Ptyxis Ecology 01435 321199

Strategy Development for Wildlife Conservation at WildTeam

This is an online training workshop, run over 7 weeks (3 hours/week), with weekly live teaching sessions and pre-recorded training videos to work through in your own time. Working with our experienced team you will learn the skills to design conservation strategies that have more impact. Details as follows: 10th May- 21st June 2021 (3 hours learning each week) 2 live sessions available each week: 10am or 6pm [BST] £180 full price - bursaries available.

Taxonomy: Plant Naming Rules and Structure at Qualiteach Education and Ecology Training

A short online course in plant naming rules (taxonomy) and hierarchical structure (family, genus and species) covering binomials, subspecies and hybrids and the meaning behind scientific names. 07743712020

Understanding & using the NVC at Ptyxis Ecology

Starts May 2021: This course is designed to follow-on from an introductory NVC course to support you with using the NVC system. We concentrate on how to analyse quadrat data and work with floristic tables to work out what NVC types you have, rather than on how to do a field survey. 01435 321199


Administrative and Office Skills

08/06/2021 QGIS: Introductory (Online) 5 Days


22/06/2021 QGIS: Advanced (Online) 12 hours Days
This course is intended for those who have either completed our Introduction to QGIS course or have equivalent knowledge and experience. Delegates are introduced to advanced analysis techniques using both raster and vector data. The course is run via a series of zoom video calls.

Above two courses with GeoData, University of Southampton. Contact: +44 (0)23 8059 2719

Community Engagement and Environmental Education

22/06/2021 L3 Forest School Leadership 8 Days at Bromham, BedfordThis course is for those who wish to lead Forest School programmes. This course is assessed through portfolio, practical skill assessment days, work-based assessments and peer assessment. This course normally takes 9 - 12 months to complete. Supports you to set up and deliver a Forest School programme.

22/06/2021 L2 Assist at Forest School 5 Days at Bromham, Bedford
This course is designed for those who are assisting a Forest School Leader at Forest School. You will be required to assist in the delivery of Forest School sessions to achieve your qualification so you will need to have identified a Forest School Leader who you can work with.

Above two courses with Muddy Feet. Contact: 07432611008

28/06/2021 Learning Beyond the Classroom Level 3 1 Day
Park Farm, LE67 6PD, Park Farm Training Centre. Contact: 0777585722
A 1 day accredited course, developed with input from the IOL and CLOtC, for those wishing to support learning beyond the constraints of a classroom- suitable for teachers, scout/guide leaders, plus those working in conservation education, field studies, NGOs. It aims to break down barriers and empower educators.

Countryside Management Techniques

06/06/2021 Reedbeds and Waste Water Management 1 Day

Machynlleth, Wales, Centre for Alternative Technology. Contact: 01654 704966
If you?re living or working in a remote location and need low impact, eco-friendly options for waste water management, CAT is the place to come for inspiration and advice. This course explores the technicalities, design and implementation of reedbeds and alternative waste water treatment systems at a domestic level.

12/06/2021 Introduction to Woodland Ecology 1 Day
Voltaire's Wood, Nailsworth, nr Stroud, Gloucestershire, Cotswolds National Landscape Rural Skills. Contact: 01451 862000
A fantastic one day course focusing on the rich and diverse ecology of our broadleaf woodlands, from birds and mammals (we include camera trapping techniques and footage) to woodland plants, trees and much, much more! You will encounter a range of wildlife species on repeated short walks throughout the day.

First Aid, Risk Assessment and other Health & Safety Related Courses

03/06/2021 ITC Outdoor First Aid Course 2 Days
Our 16-hour outdoor first aid course is perfect for outdoor leaders, teachers and youth workers. A wide range of National Governing Body Awards recognises our outdoor first aid course. Including Mountain Training UK, British Canoe Union, British Cycling, Scottish Rafting Association and Sports Leaders UK.

05/06/2021 ITC Outdoor First Aid Course 2 Days
Our 16-hour outdoor first aid course is perfect for outdoor leaders, teachers and youth workers. A wide range of National Governing Body Awards recognises our outdoor first aid course. Including Mountain Training UK, British Canoe Union, British Cycling, Scottish Rafting Association and Sports Leaders UK.

Above courses with Pinkston Watersports, 75 North Canal Bank Street, Glasgow, G4 9XP, The Adventure Academy CIC. Contact: 0141 628 8521

14/06/2021 First Aid for Forest School Training Course 2 Days at Hampton Vale Primary School, Peterborough

This course will provide you with two qualifications; Level 3 Paediatric First Aid & Level 3 Outdoor First Aid.

17/06/2021 First Aid for Forest School Training Course 2 Days at Baginton Village Hall, Coventry
This course will provide you with two qualifications; Level 3 Paediatric First Aid & Level 3 Outdoor First Aid.

Above twocourses with Forge Learning. Contact:


Identification and Field Survey Skills - Herpetology, Fish and Invertebrates

24/06/2021 Bumblebees - Ecology and Identification 2021 1 Day

Martin Down Nature Reserve, The Species Recovery Trust. Contact: 01722 322539
A 1-day course giving participants an introduction to the recognition, identification and ecology of bumblebees

Identification and Field Survey Skills - Plants and Habitats

05/06/2021 Plant Identification For Phase 1 Habitat Survey 2 Days

Kyo Bogs, Stanley, Verde-ecology Consultancy. Contact: 07875544635
We will visit grasslands and heathland habitats and look for the indicator species used in Phase 1 Habitat Survey and practice how to identify these plant species confidently

05/06/2021 Foraging and Wild Foods 1 Day
Hill Farm Barn, Hartley Lane, Leckhampton Hill, Glos. , Cotswolds National Landscape Rural Skills. Contact: 01451 862000
Discover a range of seasonal wild foods and see what forageable delights await. Key principles of foraging, plus matters of safety, and will also touch on the laws regarding harvesting wild food will be explained. Please do not expect to take a huge amount of items away with you.

05/06/2021 Introduction to Tree Identification 1 Day
Notgrove Estate, Cheltenham, Glos. GL54 3BS, Cotswolds National Landscape Rural Skills. Contact: 01451 862000
Identify native broadleaved trees, using a range of key features linked to the tree's annual growth cycle, including buds, twigs, bark and fruits/seeds. Also outline indicator tree species of ancient woodland habitats. It will interest those undertaking Phase 1 Habitat surveys, as well as an overview of different habitat types.

07/06/2021 Grasses, Sedges and Rushes - 2 day course 2 Days at Old Sarum and The New Forest
Giving participants the skills and confidence to identify a wide range of grasses, sedges and rushes commonly encountered in a range of habitats including lowland meadows, unimproved calcareous grasslands, heathlands, bogs and mires.

07/06/2021 Grasses and Sedges - Grasslands and Meadows 1 Day at Old Sarum, Salisbury,
Giving participants the skills and confidence to identify a wide range of grasses and sedges commonly encountered in a range of habitats including meadows and unimproved grassland.

08/06/2021 Grasses, Sedges and Rushes - Heathland, Acid Grassland and Bogs 1 Day at The New Forest
Giving participants the skills and confidence to identify a wide range of grasses, sedges and rushes commonly encountered in acidic habitats, including acid grassland, dry heath, wet heath and mire communities.

Above three courses with The Species Recovery Trust. Contact: 01722 322539

09/06/2021 Grasslands and Meadow Plant Identification 1 Day
Manor Farm, Sopworth, Wiltshire, Cotswolds National Landscape Rural Skills. Contact: 01451 862000
You will focus on identifying between a range of plant species associated with grassland and meadow habitats, through their appearance and botanical keys. These identification skills will be taught by a combination of field-work and class-room sessions directed at the species encountered on walks, plus information about the species themselves.

14/06/2021 Habitat Indicator Species (Phase 1 and NVC) - Grasslands 1 Day at Old Sarum, Salisbury
A 1-day course giving participants the skills and confidence to assess habitats and identify indicator species, with an overview of key Phase 1 and NVC communities and a chance to see a broad range of lowland grassland habitats.

14/06/2021 Habitat Indicator Species (Phase 1 and NVC) - 2 day course 2 Days at Old Sarum and The New Forest,
A 1-day course giving participants the skills and confidence to assess habitats and identify indicator species, with an overview of key Phase 1 and NVC communities and a chance to see a broad range of lowland habitats.

15/06/2021 Habitat Indicator Species (Phase 1 and NVC) - Heathland, Acid Grassland and Bogs 1 Day at The New Forest
A 1-day course giving participants the skills and confidence to assess habitats and identify indicator species, with an overview of key Phase 1 and NVC communities and a chance to see a broad range of acid grassland, heathland and mire communities.

21/06/2021 Wildflower Identification and Survey - Neutral and Calcareous Grasslands 1 Day at Old Sarum, Salisbury
A 1-day course giving participants the ability to identify wildflowers in semi-improved neutral and calcareous grasslands, using simple features, a good understanding of key indicator species and an introduction to yellow composites.

Above courses with The Species Recovery Trust. Contact: 01722 322539

26/06/2021 Wildflower Meadows Course 1 Day
Petersfield, Hampshire, The Sustainability Centre. Contact: 01730 823166
This wildflower meadow course will equip you with the skills and knowledge to create, restore and enhance meadows, with a particular focus on chalk grassland. Whether you want to establish a mini meadow in your back garden or on a large scale, this course is for you.

30/06/2021 Introduction to Tree Identification 1 Day
Notgrove Estate, Cheltenham, Glos. GL54 3BS, Cotswolds National Landscape Rural Skills. Contact: 01451 862000
Identify native broadleaved trees, using a range of key features linked to the tree's annual growth cycle, including buds, twigs, bark and fruits/seeds. Also outline indicator tree species of ancient woodland habitats. It will interest those undertaking Phase 1 Habitat surveys, as well as an overview of different habitat types.

Practical Countryside Skills

05/06/2021 Dry Stone Walling - Beginners 2 Days at Burford, Oxfordshire
You will be building a wall that will remain part of the Cotswolds landscape for the next 100-200 years! You can expect to learn about: dismantling walls, laying foundations, building up of the wall, adding through stones and copping stones, dressing the stone, the tools and how to use them.

10/06/2021 Dry Stone Walling - Beginners 2 Days at Tetbury, Gloucestershire
You will be building a wall that will remain part of the Cotswolds landscape for the next 100-200 years! You can expect to learn about: dismantling walls, laying foundations, building up of the wall, adding through stones and copping stones, dressing the stone, the tools and how to use them.

10/06/2021 Stone Carving - Beginners 2 Days at Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Road, Stroud, GL6 7QW
The art of stone carving has been around for a long time. On this course you will experience the satisfaction of being creative and engaging in the creative process by interacting with stone. You will learn the basic techniques of stone carving, the tools required and how you use them.

Above courses with Cotswolds National Landscape Rural Skills. Contact: 01451 862000

12/06/2021 Dry Stone Walling 1 Day at Pensychnant North Wales
This course is suitable for beginners and those wanting to improve their skills. Set in the beautiful Pensychnant valley.

12/06/2021 Dry Stone Walling 1 Day at Pensychnant North Wales
This course is suitable for beginners and those wanting to improve their skills. Set in the beautiful Pensychnant valley.

12/06/2021 Dry Stone Walling 1 Day at Pensychnant North Wales
This course is suitable for beginners and those wanting to improve their skills. Set in the beautiful Pensychnant valley.

Above courses with Wales branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association. Contact: 01766 513213

17/06/2021 Dry Stone Walling - Beginners 2 Days
Stanway Stone, Nayles' Barn, Cutsdean, Cheltenham, Glos. GL54 5BU, Cotswolds National Landscape Rural Skills. Contact: 01451 862000
You will be building a wall that will remain part of the Cotswolds landscape for the next 100-200 years! You can expect to learn about: dismantling walls, laying foundations, building up of the wall, adding through stones and copping stones, dressing the stone, the tools and how to use them.

19/06/2021 Dry Stone Walling 1 Day
Rhyd y Creuau near Bettws y Coed, Wales branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association. Contact: 01766513213
This course is suitable for beginners and those wanting to improve their skills.

Advertise your training course and professional events.

Send your training course information today to or submit online here.

If you're running professional courses or events and would like details to be included here and in the online Training Directory click here for more information, email your details to us or for further information please contact the CJS Team. Free advertising available.


Classified advertising.

Katie Shipley

Train to become a OCN accredited Level 3 Forest School Leader.
You will gain the skills, practical knowledge and confidence to deliver Forest Schools in a variety of settings. You will be supported and mentored throughout the training and portfolio.
Find out more here


Wild Minds is based in South Derbyshire. With over 18 years experience delivering environmental education to children and adults including schools, families, community groups, corporate clients and the elderly. Really connecting people with nature.

Activities include:

  • Wild Rambles
  • Meditation & Forest Bathing
  • Kids Clubs
  • Birthday Parties

Find us at

The next edition of CJS Professional will be published on: 13 May

Got something to share or want to advertise? The deadline is: 5pm  Monday 10 May

Contact us by email:

Details believed correct but given without prejudice.

CJS is not responsible for content of external sites.

Would you like to be reminded when the next edition is online?

Find out more about advertising in CJS Professional here.