Help the hedgehog, sparrow and trout — and save British wildlife

THE TIMES reports the best way to protect Britain’s wildlife would be to focus on safeguarding the hedgehog, house sparrow and brown trout, according to a radical plan.

After a scientific report last year found that 41% of UK species studied had declined over the past 50 years, the think tank ResPublica says wildlife protection needs a new approach. It is proposing the creation of a wildlife regulator with legal powers to help just three “bellwether” species — one each from the land, the air and the rivers. 

£2.5m project to help Solent wildlife will also tackle climate change

Portsmouth News reports the stretch of water between the Isle of Wight and the mainland has been identified as one of five spots in the UK to benefit from a £2.5m project funded by Natural England and the EU. Seahorses, native oysters, stalked jellyfish and seagrass are among the wildlife that will be protected by the new Recreation Remedies scheme.

Tim Ferrero from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust welcomed the news. He said: ‘Seagrass beds are an immensely important type of habitat for both people and wildlife. 

Urgent new ‘roadmap to recovery’ could reverse insect apocalypse

THE GUARDIAN reports the world must eradicate pesticide use, prioritise nature-based farming methods and urgently reduce water, light and noise pollution to save plummeting insect populations, according to a new “roadmap to insect recovery” compiled by experts.

The call to action by more than 70 scientists from across the planet advocates immediate action on human stress factors to insects which include habitat loss and fragmentation, the climate crisis, pollution, over-harvesting and invasive species. 

The wildlife visitors warning of climate disaster

The GUARDIAN reports …. a warm welcome? Britain’s milder weather is attracting exotic guests. While we may celebrate their arrival now it should also alert us to what’s ahead. Mediterranean egrets balancing on the backs of cows, multicoloured moths the size of a human hand, and impossibly exotic bee-eaters hawking for insects under English skies. All are here as a direct consequence of the climate crisis, which has allowed continental European species to extend their ranges northwards, and then make the leap across the Channel to gain a foothold in southern Britain. 

Stop throwing apple cores out of car windows to protect wild trees, say experts

THE TELEGRAPH reports tossing apple cores out of the car window could be destroying Britain’s last wild apple trees, experts have warned. Researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh said they had discovered trees which have sprouted from supermarket varieties growing along the verges of motorways.

And genetic studies of crab apple trees – Britain’s last wild variety – show that in some areas more than half are now hybrids, after cross-pollinating with domesticated varieties. 

Convert half of UK farmland to nature, urges top scientist

THE GUARDIAN reports half of the nation’s farmland needs to be transformed into woodlands and natural habitat to fight the climate crisis and restore wildlife, according to a former chief scientific adviser to the UK government.

Prof Sir Ian Boyd said such a change could mean the amount of cattle and sheep would fall by 90%, with farmers instead being paid for storing carbon dioxide, helping prevent floods and providing beautiful landscapes where people could boost their health and wellbeing. Boyd said the public were subsidising the livestock industry to produce huge environmental damage. 

Commuting seal and dolphins swimming farther south than ever, wildlife experts say

The INDEPENDENT reports more jet-skiers, kayakers, boat-trippers and drones are alarming dolphins and seals. Wildlife experts have celebrated “extraordinary” sightings of Scottish bottlenose dolphins off the Yorkshire coast – thought to be the farthest south that they have ever been spotted on the UK’s east coast. They have also discovered a seal “commuting” between the Isle of Man and Cornwall to have pups and search for food. But the discoveries – among the success stories for UK marine life in 2019 – were marred by finding that a greater number of jet skiers, kayakers and boat-trippers, as well as drones, were causing the marine mammals to panic. 

Red squirrel numbers are rebounding in UK forests as pine martens eat grey squirrel

inews reports the pine martens live in forests or pockets of forestland, meaning the improvement is only being felt in these areas. Red squirrel numbers have rebounded significantly in parts of the UK in the past decade after years of decline, a new study finds.

The increase in red squirrel numbers has occurred in forested areas, hand in hand with growing pine marten populations, researchers say. That’s because the pine martens are eating the grey squirrels that have largely driven away the red squirrels over the years. 

Harvest mice surprise researchers with unexpected resurgence after reintroduction 15 years ago

The Independent reports harvest mice were once common across Europe, but populations have fallen due to modern agricultural techniques. Harvest mice were once common across Europe, but populations have fallen due to modern agricultural techniques.

The UK’s smallest rodent – the harvest mouse – is making an unexpected resurgence in Northumberland 15 years after a reintroduction of the species was believed to have failed. A 2009 survey of the site at the Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s East Chevington reserve turned up nothing, and researchers concluded the 204 harvest mice released in 2004 had not successfully colonised the area. 

‘Forgotten’ elm tree set to make a comeback

Elm tree by Spacing Magazine under creative commons

BBC NEWS reports the elm tree can return to the British countryside, given a helping hand, according to a new report. More than 20 million trees died during the 1960s and 1970s from Dutch elm disease. In the aftermath, the elm was largely forgotten, except among a handful of enthusiasts who have been breeding elite elms that can withstand attack. The research is showing promise and there is reason to be hopeful, said the Future Trees Trust charity.

Report author, Karen Russell, said mature specimens have been identified that are hundreds of years old, and have mysteriously escaped the epidemic. And a new generation of elm seedlings are being bred, which appear to be resistant to the disease.