Monday, 27 June 2011

Pond Assessment, Creation and Management Course

If you’d like to know more about ponds, this training course is for you!

Pond Conservation and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation are running a training course in August that will cover:

  • Ponds in the UK landscape and their conservation status.
  • Methods to assess ponds, including a practical introduction to the National Pond Survey and PSYM methods.
  • An overview of pond plants and invertebrates (but please note this is not an ID course).
  • Best practice principles for creating clean water ponds.
  • Targeting pond creation for BAP species, with a focus on amphibians and reptiles.
  • Pond management and the new risk assessment tool.

If you’d like any further information about the course please download the course leaflet or contact David Orchard on 01204 529312.

To book your place contact the Field Studies page Council on 0845 330 7378.

Keep checking our ARC Training page for the lastest information about our own and outside training course>>>

Friday, 24 June 2011

Upton Heath Fire

Earlier this month a large fire decimated c. 60+ Ha of the DWT heathland nature reserve at Upton. This fire was started deliberately and in drought conditions. It was started on land that is outside of the nature reserve, and due to the drought conditions, firstly burnt through the bog system. This limited Fire Brigade access to the fire edge and by the time the burning front reached the fire-break system its momentum was too large to stop. This fire will have vastly affected all heathland wildlife; mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants within their breeding system. For reptiles it could take c.20-40 years for both habitat and species population recovery. It is estimated that 1000’s of animals will have been directly killed by heat, smoke, loss of habitat and increased predation. This will have affected all 6 of our native species including sand lizard and smooth snake.

Dorset’s urban heaths are constantly under pressure, with increasing visitor pressure and associated increasing new housing and population pressure. All nature organisations try and reduce the legacy of these and the ongoing impacts by working with council planners to reduce direct and indirect public pressure, have increased site staff and volunteer wardening, and via the partnership of Urban Heaths Project improved Fire Brigade access routes to the sites, coordinated and joint Fire Brigade, Police and community involvement, not least via a large educational remit to schools and community groups, to reduce arson and ensure that reduced impacts on the heaths will occur. As ever, the prompt and professional response by both the Fire Brigade and Police limited the impact of this catastrophic event and also reduced the
chance of human lives being lost.

It is very encouraging to note the prompt response by all the organisations staff and volunteers ie. DWT, ARC, DRAG, UHP, DCC, NT and the local community to DWT’s request to help with the reptile rescue. Superb co-ordination and organisation by Steve and Andy ensured that there was often 90 staff and volunteers on site undertaking rescues. This has been ongoing for c.10 days and we estimate c.100+ reptiles, from all six species, have been rescued and relocated in the closest viable remaining habitats. Through such prompt action we know that, with the recovery of the habitats through time, both viable and robust reptile populations will also recover. This is only possible by the efforts of all the groups and volunteers who have helped with this project.

Nick Moulton

Reptile Conservation Officer

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Natural Environment White Paper

Tuesday 7th June saw the launch of the Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) – the Government’s vision for protecting and improving the natural environment in England for the next fifty years. Listening to Caroline Spellman, the Secretary of State for the Environment, it was hard to be anything other than encouraged. The ideas were bold, ambitious and set to put the natural environment at the heart of Government thinking. Clearly Government had taken ideas from the 15,000 responses made to their consultation. Nature should be valued and considered an asset both for its importance to people and for its intrinsic value – no longer should it be seen as an impediment to economic growth. And this was a ‘cross Government’ initiative, this was not just the preserve of one Department, and Ministers for Transport and ‘Communities and Local Government were there to make that point. Importantly, and reflecting a key philosophy that we at ARC and HCT before have long advocated, the important part is ensuring we get a good outcome for nature.

However, like others present, we were left with a few anxieties – uncertainty about how this would pan out rather than opposition to the principles that were articulated. Will it be adequately supported, either across Government or by the agencies that would be needed to take a lead, noting the severe funding cuts that have happened? Will a focus given to just twelve ‘Nature Improvement Areas’ be sufficient to achieve the benefits needed across the country? Will resources be sufficient for Government and for the non-Governmental agencies that will be needed to take it forward? We are also concerned that the way the desired outcomes are expressed, with an emphasis on demonstrating socio-economic benefits and without the explicit recognition that nature is different in different parts of the country, may not provide the right guidance to ensure we are striving to get the right wildlife at the right levels in the right places!

This, though, is just part of the story – the new England Biodiversity Strategy is due to be launched later this month and we hope this may provide some of this important detail. The White Paper offers a lot to be pleased about and to a large degree it is up to us to make it work the way we want it to. We need to ensure that we use this opportunity make significant gains for reptiles and amphibians. Rest assured, ARC will be looking for ways to make this happen.

Tony Gent


Thursday, 9 June 2011

Welcome to our new CLARE Project Officer

ARC has teamed up with the London Wildlife Trust, Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL – the Capital’s Environmental Records Centre) and London Amphibian and Reptile Group (LARG) for an exciting new project. With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund we have set up Connecting London’s Amphibian and Reptile Environments or CLARE.

The aims of the project are:

  • to find out more about where London’s amphibians and reptiles can be found
  • to provide information that will help look after them into the future.
  • to ask people to look for these animals and to tell us where they have seen them
  • to provide an opportunity to see what they look like and to find out how best to look for them in the wild through open days at London Wildlife Trust centers
  • to produce an atlas of distribution based on records and on predictive mapping/ modeling
  • to provide specific training and advice to help staff and volunteers of the London Wildlife Trust, and London Amphibian & Reptile Group, to promote amphibian and reptile conservation, and especially on LWT Reserves and through LWT projects
  • to provide more opportunities for people to see just how fascinating these little animals are!

This new project has just started and will run for one yar. We would like to welcome Sophie our new CLARE Project Officer to the ARC team! Sophie studied Biology as an undergraduate at the University of Leeds and went on to gain a Masters in Biodiversity and Conservation. Her research into understudied and endangered frogs in the tropical forests of Belize is what really sparked her keen interested in amphibians and reptiles. Before joining ARC Sophie worked for Avon Wildlife Trust, motivating the public to take action for wildlife and assisting in efforts to guide wildlife conservation planning and policy. All of this invaluable experience will help Sophie to make the CLARE project a great success. She says;

“With the CLARE Project, I want to achieve new heights in raising public awareness and understanding of herpetofauna in the London region. I look forward to the busy year ahead; collecting data, creating new habitats and inspiring the public to take action for amphibians and reptiles, ultimately contributing to their conservation for years to come.”

We will continue to keep you up-dated on how Sophie gets on and we wish her all the best in her new job!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Great Crested Newt Project gets DEFRA go-ahead

ARC in partnership with Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent, have just secured funding for a 3-year project to investigate the effectiveness of mitigation measures designed to conserve great crested newt populations.

Developers and great crested newts frequently come into conflict and current guidance is supposed to compensate for any negative effects on newt populations caused by nearby development. The project will identify a set of sites where mitigation has taken place since 2004 and investigate the effects of mitigation on their populations. Comparisons will be made with other nearby sites that have not been affected by development.

The project will inform decision-makers as to the effectiveness of current mitigation projects and help adapt future guidance in order to maximise its effectiveness, thus delivering real conservation benefits for this vulnerable species.

Dr John W. Wilkinson
Research and Monitoring Officer