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CJS's pick of the countryside and wildlife news, updated weekdays.

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Rare species discovered at ‘lost world’ estate near Loch Ness – Trees for Life

Surveys at Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Conservation Estate near Loch Ness have revealed a range of rare species, including a midge never recorded in the United Kingdom before – underlining the site’s growing reputation as a ‘lost world’ for biodiversity.

The discovery of the non-biting midge (Chironomus vallenduuki) by entomologist Peter Chandler last August brings the total of UK biodiversity firsts found at the estate in Glenmoriston in Inverness-shire to 11.

Peter Chandler sweep-netting for fungus gnats by lone pine (image: Trees for Life)Peter Chandler sweep-netting for fungus gnats by lone pine (image: Trees for Life)

Other key findings during the charity’s 2016 survey season included two rare gnats whose larvae feed on fungi. One of these (Sciophila varia) is only known from four other UK sites. The other (Mycomya nigricornis) is only known in the UK from a handful of Scottish sites and had not been seen since 1990.

The charity also found two parasitic wasps (Homotropus pallipes and Diphyus salicatorius), for which there are very few Scottish records, and – for the first time in Scotland north of the River Tay – a pseudoscorpion called the knotty shining claw (Lamprochernes nodosus).

A micro-moth, the small barred longhorn (Adela croesella) – only documented at three other locations in Scotland, and never before this far north – was found by volunteer Richard Davidson. Richard had been taking part in one of Trees for Life’s popular volunteer Conservation Weeks at Dundreggan when he found the moth.

New species for the UK discovered on the estate in recent years were three sawflies (Nematus pravus, Nematus pseudodispar and Amauronematus tristis), an aphid (Cinara smolandiae), two aphid parasitoids (Ephedrus helleni, Praon cavariellae), three fungus gnats (Brevicornu parafennicum, Mycomya disa, Sceptonia longisetosa), and a mite (Ceratozetella thienemanni).

 

Protection extended for mid Cornwall’s wildlife-rich landscape – Natural England

Rare butterflies and birds will benefit from a much larger area of protected land in mid Cornwall from today, says Government wildlife adviser Natural England.

Marsh fritillary butterfly (image: Natural England)Marsh fritillary butterfly (image: Natural England)

The new Mid Cornwall Moors site of special scientific interest (SSSI) merges the six original SSSIs which previously dotted the landscape either side of the A30 and east of Indian Queens, extending their boundaries and protecting around 50% more of the countryside. The SSSI includes several closely located patches of land, connecting important habitats and helping wildlife to withstand pressures from climate change in the future, creating a stronger refuge and network for rare plants and animals.

The countryside across the Mid Cornwall Moors is a rich and varied mix of heathland, woodland, and wildflower meadows; a vital sanctuary for wildlife, as well as an important asset for local people, visitors, and businesses. Fens and mires in the headwaters of the Fal and Par catchments also help to provide clean water and have the potential to reduce flood risk to homes and properties located further downstream.

Natural England has joined forces with landowners, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation, building on the successes of the Mid Cornwall Moors LIFE project to create the perfect conditions for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly, which should see its fortune improve as a result. The wet woodlands throughout the area are important for the diminutive willow tit, which has virtually disappeared from large parts of the UK and declined by an estimated 81% since the mid-1990s. The new areas added to the SSSI include important breeding sites for both of these special species.

 

New wildlife record for WWT Washington – The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

The regionally rare avocet has made its earliest ever return to one North East wetland reserve.

Avocet on Wader Lake (image: David Dinsley)An unringed female adult was spotted on Wader Lake at WWT Washington Wetland Centre yesterday morning (21 February 2017) – two days earlier than the site’s previous record of 23 February set in 2014.

Avocet on Wader Lake (image: David Dinsley)

Reserve warden David Dinsley said: “It’s always very exciting to see the first avocets return each season and we’re thrilled that a new record has been set this year.

“We now expect numbers to start gradually building as more birds move further north during this mild weather and we’ve already begun reducing the water levels on Wader Lake in anticipation of their arrival.

“This creates more habitat and also exposes the invertebrate-rich mud on which avocets feed; picking prey from the surface or foraging by sweeping their long, up-curved bill from side to side through the sediment.”

Avocets began breeding at WWT Washington in 2006 and since then numbers have steadily increased; hitting an all-time high of 42 on site in June 2016.

 

New online tool makes broadleaves management easier – Forestry Commission Scotland

An online tool that helps land managers get the right tree in the right place has been upgraded to include key productive broadleaved species as well as conifers.

The move means that forest managers and land owners can now make even better use of this IT-based “ready-reckoner” to optimize their forestry investment

Broadleave Planting (image: Forestry Commission)Broadleave Planting (image: Forestry Commission)

Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) has funded the £30,000 upgrade, being carried out by Forest Research (FR), to the Establishment & Management Information System (EMIS). FCS funding reflects that most hardwood is grown on private sector land, but Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) is looking to play an increasing role in that market.

Accessible to all land managers, this upgraded version of EMIS will help resolve many of the restrictions, concerns and fears identified by forest managers in growing productive broadleaved species.  By inputting location and site details, landowners will be presented with information on a wide range of factors – from assessments of site quality and species selection and planting advice, to preparing restock sites, brash and stump management and other establishment operations. Where possible, it will also highlight site or species specific issues.

A pilot session on the upgraded tool is being organized by FES for March 2017. Anyone wishing to take part should contact andrew.hunt@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

 

Scientific Publications 

Davidson, K. E., Fowler, M. S., Skov, M. W., Doerr, S. H., Beaumont, N. and Griffin, J. N. (2017), Livestock grazing alters multiple ecosystem properties and services in salt marshes: a meta-analysis. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12892

 

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Disclaimer: the views expressed in these news pages do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CJS.