The Brilliant Ink Cap Journal

July 8, 2022 Off By Wild Anglia

This is a great subscription Sophie Yeo is a great writer and the journal is a really good synopsis of what’s going on do subscribe and help her carry on

Inkcap Journal Inkcap Journal Government Upheaval & Climbing Toads By Inkcap Journal – 08 Jul 2022 – View online → Photograph: Thomas Haeusler Welcome to Inkcap Journal, a newsletter about nature and conservation in Britain. This is your Friday digest. You can still read this week’s feature on wild boar in the Forest of Dean. National news Resignations | Environment ministers Rebecca Pow and  Jo Churchill are among the Conservatives who have resigned from the government this week. In her resignation letter, Pow wrote that she is proud of the environmental achievements of the Conservative party over the last two years – including the Environment Bill – but that “too much has changed”. Meanwhile, a number of sources have suggested that the government upheaval could have negative consequences for the environment. Defra minister Zac Goldsmith did not mince his words on Twitter, writing that “most of the likely contenders [for Prime Minister] are people who, on the whole, couldn’t give a shit about climate and nature”. The Guardian has an article on the ambitions of explicitly anti-green MP Steve Baker,  while the New Statesman explains why putting ex-oil executive Nadhim Zahawi in charge of the economy is deeply concerning. Business Green says Johnson’s resignation could be “very bad news for nature and climate”, and Edie takes a look at the green credentials of the MPs who could replace him. Land | The Scottish government has published a consultation on proposals for the new Land Reform Bill, with legislation planned for the end of 2023. The radical proposals build on recommendations by the Scottish Land Commission, and will look to “address long-standing concerns about problematic patterns of concentrated land ownership in rural Scotland”, according to Màiri McAllan, the environment and land reform minister. Among the proposals is a new legal duty for large landowners to meet the government’s policies on nature restoration, climate mitigation and community empowerment, or else face fines and the withdrawal of subsidies. Other significant proposals include the introduction of a “public interest test” to determine whether significant land transfers or purchases (of all estates over 3,000 hectares) are beneficial to the public. Announcing the consultation, McAllan said: “It is exactly because we are in the midst of these climate and biodiversity crises that we need to ensure that one of the greatest assets this country has – our land – is owned, used and managed in a way that benefits the nation as a whole”. The Guardian, the Herald, the Scotsman and ENDS covered the news.   Targets | Various bodies have published responses to Defra’s consultation on their proposed environmental targets, which closed at the end of June. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has written a letter to the then-Environment Minister Rebecca Pow expressing concern about “critical gaps” in the proposed targets, including the absence of soil health to vague ambitions for the creation of “wildlife-rich habitats”. In particular, the Committee criticised the target for long-term species abundance – a proposed 10% improvement relative to a currently unknown 2030 level. “Meeting a target that would see natural ecosystems in a worse state than they are today should not be a definition of success,” it states. This target was also criticised by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), whose letter to George Eustice and Rebecca Pow states that, under the Environment Act, long-term targets must be objectively measurable and achievable, and therefore the proposed target “does not appear to be lawful”. The OEP also writes that the consultation document “provides little clarity” on how the proposed targets will work together with existing environmental commitments. Edie and ENDS covered the reaction. Meanwhile, the NFU’s response raised concerns about the achievability of targets, particularly those associated with land-use change, such as woodland cover and water quality in agriculture. In other news, a letter to the First Minister of Wales from the Senedd’s Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee warns that the nation is at risk of having the weakest environmental protections in western Europe. The letter states that the post-Brexit interim measures are “far from satisfactory”, with all other UK nations now having some form of permanent environmental governance in place. The government was also criticised by the RSPB, who said it is “bitterly disappointed” by the progress made since the government declared a nature emergency last year. The government responded by promising that both the climate and nature emergencies remain priorities, and that the Nature Emergency Bill would appear before the end of the Senedd term in 2026. The National and ENDS covered the news. In other news: Researchers at the University of Stirling are seeking out Scotland’s highest altitude trees, reports the BBC. Chair of the Environment Agency Emma Howard Boyd has criticised corporate greenwashing in a speech on finance, net zero and nature. Her comments were covered by the Guardian, the Independent, Business Green and Forbes. Wildlife groups have predicted that grey squirrels will kill around 225m of the 1.5b trees the government aims to plant by 2050, reports the Times. Defra has published a policy paper outlining the need for Highly Protected Marine Areas, the process used to identify the sites, and its next steps. All farmers who apply for the new Welsh ‘Sustainable Farming Scheme’ must devote at least 10% of their farm to nature-friendly tree cover, reports ITV News. Steve Wilson, director of Welsh Water, said that farmers should be rewarded for reducing the amount of pollution run-off from fields, reports Nation Cymru. Environment minister George Eustice has given his backing to the controversial coal mine proposal in Cumbria, reports the Times. Across the country Western Isles | Scotland’s last remaining guga hunt has been cancelled due to the avian flu outbreak. The annual event, where gannet chicks are hunted on the isle of Sula Sgeir, has been an ongoing tradition since the 15th century. This will be only the second cancellation since the end of World War II, with the first during the Covid pandemic in 2020. The hunt usually collects around 2,000 chicks under licence, but the team who would have taken part this year – the Ness Guga Hunters – have decided not to apply for permission due to the disease’s devastating effect on seabird colonies in the Western Isles. The team leader, Tam Murray, said the decision had not been taken lightly, but that all being well the hunt would resume in 2023. The BBC reported the news. Photograph: DS Williams Cumbria | Work has begun to remove Bowston weir, a three-metre high dam across the River Kent in Cumbria. Although the 150-year-old weir already contains fish passes, demolishing the barrier completely will allow all fish and invertebrates to move freely up the river, as well as help restore natural processes. The river is designated as an SSSI and is home to white-clawed crayfish, freshwater pearl mussels and water crowfoot, an oxygenating aquatic plant. Bowston is the largest river barrier to be dismantled in the UK this year: Pete Evoy, director of South Cumbria Rivers Trust, said that its removal would help renaturalise the surrounding river section, improve navigation for migratory species and “provide a 44% biodiversity net gain.” The Guardian covered the news. Pontfadog | Back in 2013, the ancient Pontfadog oak, which had stood watch over the Ceiriog valley in northeast Wales for 1,200 years, fell during a storm. This week, a ceremony at the National Botanic Garden of Wales celebrated the return of the oak through five saplings, grown from the old oak’s branches. Genetically they are exact copies of the ancient tree, and horticulturalists at the Botanics hope that the project will protect the genetic diversity of the magnificent specimen. For 69-year-old local Chris Williams, the ceremony was also an emotional affair: “It was more than just an oak tree sitting in a field, it was part of the family. What’s happening now is delightful – it feels like the circle of life continues.” The Guardian featured the story. Elsewhere: The revised route for the Norwich Western Link road would still be “catastrophic” for rare barbastelle bats, according to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. The Eastern Daily Press reported the reaction. RSPB Scotland has proposed relocating up to eight beavers to an “ideal site” at Loch Lomond, reports BirdGuides. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has recruited four Konik ponies to graze the wetland areas at Potteric Carr nature reserve. The future of Trumpington Meadows nature reserve in Cambridge has been secured through ownership transferral to the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants, reports BirdGuides. The government is due to announce its decision on whether to allow the proposed building of the Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk, which could threaten Minsmere nature reserve, reports the Guardian. Rare orchids, including the highly protected lizard orchid, are thriving at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, at least partly due to its tight security measures, reports the Times. A “bumper year” for octopus in Cornwall is causing both joy and consternation, reports the Guardian. Sightings such as this video from the Cornwall Wildlife Trust are usually rare, but conservation officers believe the area is experiencing a population boom, an event last recorded over 70 years ago. Scientists are spraying food-based dyes onto fields in Norfolk in an effort to find natural alternatives to pesticides, reports the Eastern Daily Press. River campaigners are calling for urgent action from Tesco to put a halt to pollution in the River Wye from its poultry and egg suppliers, reports the Guardian. Donkeys have played a key role in the successful management of a wildflower meadow at The Donkey Sanctuary’s headquarters in Sidmouth, reports Devon Live. A project to protect and restore a large seagrass site in St. Catherine’s Bay, Jersey, is underway, reports the BBC. Protest group Coal Action Network has been granted a judicial review of the controversial coal mine expansion in Aberpergwm, reports the BBC. Reports Climate | The risk of wildfire and drought on nature reserves will significantly increase over the next 30 years, according to the Wildlife Trusts’ first climate risk assessment. The report, Changing Nature, assesses how climate change is directly affecting Trust reserves, and sets out the organisation’s actions to improve nature’s resilience to change. The report found that, by 2050, half of British nature reserves will experience 30-plus days of very high wildfire risk per year, compared to only 9% of reserves in 2010. It also found that 55% of reserves will see nearby river flows drop by more than 30% during times of low flow, and almost all sites will experience more than a 1°C increase in maximum summer temperatures. The report outlined the Trusts’ immediate priorities for adaptation action, including facilitating the movement of different species; collating the monitoring of pests, diseases and invasive species; and assessing collective action to manage the increased risk from fire, extreme heat, flooding, drought and coastal change. Wetlands | The Wildfowl & Wetland Trust (WWT) has published a report for creating urban wetlands to boost wellbeing. The report is the first of four route maps – the others being carbon storage, flood protection, and improved water quality – with which the WWT plans to create and restore 100,000 hectares of wetland. This report looks at creating a variety of wildlife-rich wetlands in urban areas, from parks centred on lakes, streams and ponds through to mini-wetlands such as rain gardens. There is a particular focus on promoting wetlands in economically deprived areas, which contain significantly less green and blue space and where residents often suffer the highest risk of poor mental health. As little as ten minutes spent in urban wetlands could be enough to improve someone’s mood, according to the report. However, Dr James Robinson, the WWT’s director of conservation, said that their vision for urban wetlands would require more funding and support from both the public and private sectors: “The opportunities that wetlands offer to enhance and extend our lives are established but not being grasped.” The Guardian covered the report. Farmland | Forty percent of the UK’s most productive agricultural land is used to feed farm animals instead of people, according to a report by WWF. It is the latest report in WWF’s Future of Feed series, and calls for a rethink of the “inherently inefficient” approach of using vast tracts of arable space to grow soy and cereal to feed livestock. Instead, the report suggests prioritising animal feed sources such as grasses, byproducts from the food chain and innovative ingredients such as insect meal, which do not directly compete with human nutrition. By combining this with an overall reduction in livestock numbers, millions of hectares of productive land would be available for other purposes, including growing nutrient-rich crops such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. The report argues that such an approach could form the basis of a transition to regenerative agriculture, creating more space for nature to thrive, and boosting the resilience of the UK’s food system. Science Toads | Volunteers searching for dormice and bats in UK woodlands have been shocked to find toads in their place – residing in trees, up to three metres off the ground. The resulting study recorded over 50 toads living in dormouse nest boxes and tree cavities, despite being previously believed to be a purely earth-bound amphibian. The research, which was led by the University of Cambridge and Froglife, is the first time that the tree-climbing capabilities of amphibians have been investigated on a national scale. It highlights that there is still much to learn about even common British wildlife. Dr. Silviu Petrovan, first author of the study, said that the exciting discovery was significant for understanding the ecology and conservation of common toads, which are one of the most widespread and abundant European amphibians. The study also emphasises the importance of protecting natural woodlands and their remaining ancient trees, whose cavities provide shelter for a wide variety of species. The Guardian featured the research. Doves | Small colonies of rock doves – the rare ancestors of today’s domesticated and feral pigeons – have been discovered in the Outer Hebrides. A team of researchers from Oxford University tested whether the DNA of populations surviving in relative isolation were truly “wild” and separate from feral pigeons. The results were published in the journal iScience, showing that the Hebridean population had very limited gene flow with domestic pigeons. Lead author Will Smith explained that, while there has been plenty of research into how the hybridisation of Scottish wildcats with feral cats has nearly eliminated the former species, the similar trajectory of rock doves and wild pigeons has received hardly any attention by comparison. The authors hope that the research will increase understanding of “extinction by hybridisation”, as well as encourage research into other wild populations of rock doves around the world. The research was covered by the Guardian and the Herald, and Smith wrote a blog about the study for the British Trust for Ornithology. Food | Trees and forests are essential to solving the challenges of a sustainable global food system, according to a paper in The Lancet Planetary Health. The study outlines how trees and forests contribute to healthy diets and environmental sustainability by providing nutrient-rich foods and ecosystem services for food production, as well as adding overall resilience to food systems. However, these benefits have been largely overlooked due to the lack of a system-wide approach to food systems. The study argues that a new global food system must produce a more diverse range of nutrient-dense foods: currently, only 26% of the world’s population have enough fruit and vegetables to meet dietary recommendations. In order to realise the full potential of trees and forests within the food system, the study recommends scaling up current tree-based food production, repurposing agricultural incentives toward nutrient-dense food, and integrating nutrition objectives into forest conservation and restoration programmes. Driftwood Oysters | Countryfile has a feature on the “sea’s kidneys” – oysters – and whether they could help save the oceans through their incredible capacity to filter polluted water. However, oysters were one of the first marine stocks to be overfished, which has led to the demise of over 85% of its global population. There are projects springing up across the country from the Firth of Forth to Hampshire to artificially foster beds of oysters in the hope they can regain their critical role as “underwater vacuum cleaners”, but it will take many such projects to boost their endangered numbers to healthy levels.   Apples | A lovely long read in the BBC’s Forgotten Foods series walks the reader through the UK’s heritage apple renaissance. Although Britain has lost a dismaying 81% of traditional apple orchards, there are around 2,200 species of apple recorded in the National Fruit Collection, and new discoveries are still being made today by “apple hunters” scouring the countryside. These fruit detectives are in the business of  tracking down and identifying “lost” apple varieties hidden unbeknownst in orchards. After identification, grafts are often taken, saving these species from extinction. What the article calls a “growing army of apple activists” are pushing back against the homogenisation of apple varieties found in supermarkets, and instead encouraging people to plant community orchards which promote the diverse pool of British heritage varieties. Photograph: lumix2004 Trees | Various articles about trees have sprouted following the felling of the Bretton Oak in Peterborough, and a study estimating England has around two million ancient trees.  This BBC article explores the reasoning behind cutting down the 600-year-old Bretton Oak, as well as local reactions and what might become of the timber. In the Times, author and historian Ben Macintyre writes about why we must cherish ancient trees, and how they have been shaped by – and have themselves shaped – the history of Britain. Sarah Vine writes in the Daily Mail that felling old trees is “an arrogant assault on history”, and questions why ancient buildings are so carefully preserved yet these living connections to the past are thoughtlessly destroyed. In the Guardian, columnist Tim Adams writes about different forms of protest, with the first featuring an activist who has spent 50 consecutive nights sleeping in a tree to prevent Haringey council cutting it down. Further reading: A BBC feature details Plantlife Scotland’s campaign to reverse the drastic decline of wildflower meadows in Scotland. Environmental author Sophie Pavelle writes in the New Scientist about why it is critical to safeguard and restore seagrass both in the UK and worldwide. A column in the Guardian argues that it’s time to let go of the UK’s addiction to “boring, suburban lawns.” An interview in the Times with Britain’s high-achieving couple, adventurer Steve Backshall and Olympian Helen Glover, discusses how to “rewild your children”, which is the subject of their new book. In an interview in Wicked Leeks, environmental author Sarah Langford discusses why she defends farming in her book Rooted. Happy days Reading | If the talk of old trees has whetted your appetite, the Rewilding Magazine recommends five new(ish) books all about forests and trees. From a guide to the Japanese Miyawaki Method of creating tiny forests, to an in-depth exploration of the international goals to plant a trillion trees, there is a range of tree-themed reading to get stuck into. If you’d rather sample a range of viewpoints, the collection Old Growth, of the best writing about trees from Orion magazine, sounds rather excellent. Thank you for reading Inkcap Journal – your support is essential to our journalism. You can manage your subscription at any time, or email us with any queries at
Inkcap Journal © 2022