The High Seas Treaty – What is it and Will it Be Effective? 

The High Seas Treaty is a new agreement signed by the UN which aims to put 30% of international waters into marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2030. International waters are two-thirds of the world’s ocean, established under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, where all countries have a right to fish, ship and conduct research. Currently, only 1.2% of these areas are protected, leaving the rest open to exploitation from a wide variety of threats.

What are the current threats to the world’s oceans?

There are a number of key threats to the health of our oceans. A recent assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that nearly 10% of marine species are at risk of extinction. Overfishing and pollution are the two biggest threats, according to the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research. The number of overfished stocks has tripled globally in the last 50 years and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one-third of the world’s assessed fisheries are being pushed beyond biological limits. Illegal fishing, under-researched, unbacked or unregulated fishing quotas, and bycatch all combine to create a major threat to global marine ecosystems.

Around 4 million fishing vessels are currently in operation around the globe. Poor government management and control of fisheries and trade, along with subsidies provided by many governments to offset business costs and a criminal fishing network worth around $36.4 billion annually, are all serving to drive overfishing. This leads to degraded ecosystems, changes in biotic factors such as abundance, average fish size, reproduction strategies and speed of maturation, leading to imbalances between predator and prey dynamics that can erode food webs.

Commercial fishing boat. Image by Gary Leavens via Flickr

While plastic pollution is often the most discussed type of marine pollution, there are actually a broad number of sources, including chemicals and excess nutrients from agricultural runoff, industrial wastewater and sewage, oil spills, ocean acidification and other non-biodegradable waste. They can be broadly grouped into two categories: chemicals and trash. Chemical pollution creates negative effects on the marine environment by changing the chemical state of the ocean, artificially increasing nutrient levels which can lead to toxic algal blooms and impacting the physiology of marine life by reducing their capacity to reproduce, reducing offspring fitness, impacting growth or increasing their vulnerability to parasites and diseases. Marine trash can cause entanglement or be consumed, which can impact the health of marine life and even become fatal.

Other threats include those from shipping traffic, such as noise and collisions, climate change, deep-sea drilling or mining, weapons testing and sonar. Climate change impacts the oceans in a variety of complex ways, from sea level rises changing the abiotic factors of many habitats, temperature rises causing marine heat waves, more frequent and intense storms, and changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels leading to anoxic water and ocean acidification. Shipping noise, mining, weapons testing and sonar produce high levels of sound waves in the ocean, disrupting marine communication and impacting the behaviour of species such as whales, causing them to travel miles away and even beaching themselves to avoid the disturbance. All these stressors impact marine life, leading to mass mortality events and threatening ecosystems.

Whale strandings can occur due to a variety of causes, one being excessive noise pollution. Image of a mass pilot whale stranding by Oregon State University via Flickr.
What is the plan?

The talks, called the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, have now reached an agreement on the legal framework after almost 20 years. One of the main elements of this treaty is the aim to create international MPAs, restricting industrial fishing, deep-sea mining and other potentially destructive activities. Another part of the treaty looks to reassess environmental impact assessments, creating consistent ground rules that all nations will need to follow when calculating the potential damage of human activities in these areas. It would also open up the sharing of genetic resources from international waters, which has both scientific and commercial benefits.

Will this be effective?

More than 100 countries are part of this agreement. While the treaty has been agreed upon, it is not yet been ‘legally agreed’, meaning that the treaty must first be formally adopted and then be passed legally into all the countries that have signed up. Effective implementation is crucial, as if all countries do not abide by the new treaty, it will not have the full impacts that are desired. Talks have previously been held up due to a number of disagreements over fishing rights and funding.

For MPAs to be effective, they need to be properly regulated and enforced. This means that fishing quotas must be backed by thorough research, catch numbers need to be reported accurately and illegal fishing must be controlled. Many existing MPAs fail to protect marine biodiversity and keep fishing to sustainable levels, according to a report by the European court of auditors. A study even found that 59% of the MPAs in Europe were being trawled by commercial vessels more often than in areas without protection. Therefore, without proper and rigorous regulation, these areas will simply provide a false sense of security without any actual progress in conserving and restoring our marine biodiversity.

Over 80% of marine polution comes from land-based activities. Image by Ravi Khemka via Flickr.

Additionally, while creating MPAs that would regulate fishing, shipping routes and research such as deep-sea mining, it does not protect from the other threats to marine health. Over 80% of marine pollution comes from land-based activities, therefore these new MPAs will continue to be threatened by pollution. They will also still be threatened by the impacts of climate change, although intact ecosystems are much more resilient to these stressors than degraded ones. Therefore, if these new MPAs can repair biodiversity in these areas, some of the effects of these threats could be at least partially mitigated.

To aid the approval of the treaty and its early implementation, the EU pledged €40m (£35m). The continued success of this, however, requires continued funding. This is why countries will still be allowed to profit from marine genetic resources, as a proportion of this will need to be placed into a global fund. High-income countries may be asked to contribute more, and the fund will need to be regulated to make sure the correct contributions are being made and that funds are being used effectively and fairly.

  • This new UN treaty will place 30% of international waters into Marine Protected Areas by 2030, restricting fishing, mining and other destructive marine activities.
  • The marine ecosystem is under threat from a variety of sources, including pollution, overfishing and climate change.
  • The MPAs will need to be properly regulated. This treaty will not protect the areas from all threats but, if the ecosystems become more intact and stable, this will help to mitigate some of the impacts.
  • Funding will need to be continuous and used fairly and effectively for this treaty to be successfully implemented.

International Day of Forests 2023

21st March marks the 12th annual International Day of Forests. On this day, the UN encourages countries around the world to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of forests, through events, activities and campaigns large and small.

The theme of this year’s International Day of Forests is ‘Forests and Health‘. This topic aims to bring attention to the myriad of ways in which forests are linked with human health – through provision of foods and medicines, by improving our physical and mental health, and by helping to keep global warming in check.

Key messages of International Day of Forests 2023

Forests are a vital source of food and nutrition
Nearly one billion people globally depend on harvesting wild food such as herbs, fruits, nuts, meat and insects for nutritious diets. In some remote tropical areas, the consumption of wild meat is estimated to cover between 60 – 80 percent of daily protein needs.

Forests are natural pharmacies
Around 50 000 plant species – many of which grow in forests – have medicinal value. Local communities use forest-derived medicines for a wide array of ailments and many common pharmaceutical medicines are derived from forest plants, including cancer-treating drugs from the Madagascar periwinkle and malaria medication quinine from cinchona trees.

Healthy forests protect us from diseases
Forests have traditionally served as a natural barrier to disease transmission between animals and humans, but as deforestation continues, the risk of diseases spilling over from animals to people is rising. More than 30 percent of new diseases reported since 1960 are attributed to land-use change, including deforestation.

Forests boost our mental and physical health
Spending time in forests increases positive emotions and decreases stress, blood pressure, depression, fatigue, anxiety and tension. Trees in cities also absorb pollutant gases from traffic and industry and filter fine particulates such as dust, dirt and smoke, which help shield urban populations from respiratory diseases.

Forests play a central role in combating the biggest health threat facing humanity: climate change
Healthy forests help keep global warming in check: forests contain 662 billion tonnes of carbon, which is more than half the global carbon stock in soils and vegetation. Forests and trees also help buffer exposure to heat and extreme weather events caused by climate change, which pose a major global health challenge. For example, trees properly placed around buildings cool the air and can cut air conditioning needs by up to 30 percent, also saving energy.

Forests are under threat and need our help
Ten million hectares – roughly the equivalent of 14 million football pitches – of forest were lost per year to deforestation between 2015 and 2020. Forest insects damage around 35 million hectares of forest annually. Fire affected approximately 98 million hectares of forest globally in 2015. Through forest-friendly policies and increased investment in forests and trees we can protect our planet and our health.

How to get involved

• Organise or join an existing event to celebrate and promote the role of forests in maintaining human health. Great ideas include forest walks, tree planting gatherings, forest-related art exhibitions and public talks or debates.

• Let the UN know about what you’ve been up to by emailing If you send them your photos, they can also add them to this year’s gallery.

• Download the logo, banner or poster and share these to help get the word out about the 2023 International Day of Forests.

• Share your experiences on social media using the hashtag #IntlForestDay

Associated UN publications

Forests for human health and well-being: Strengthening the forest-health-nutrition nexus

This publication examines the many linkages of forests and human health and offers recommendations for creating an enabling environment in which people can benefit from them. Designed for practitioners and policy-makers in a range of fields.


Further reading on forests

Finding the Mother Tree: Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest

No one has done more to transform our understanding of trees than the world-renowned scientist Suzanne Simard. Now she shares the secrets of a lifetime spent uncovering startling truths about trees: their cooperation, healing capacity, memory, wisdom and sentience.


The World Atlas of Trees and Forests

The earth’s forests are havens of nature supporting a diversity of life. Shaped by climate and geography, these vast and dynamic wooded spaces offer unique ecosystems that shelter interdependent webs of organisms. This book offers a beautiful introduction to what forests are.


Ancient Woods, Trees & Forests: Ecology, History and Management

From ancient times until today, trees and woods have inspired artists, writers and scientists. This inspiring book helps us to understand the web of connections relating to ancient trees and woodlands, and to offer techniques to ensure effective conservation and sustainability of this precious resource.


A Forest Journey: The Role of Trees in the Fate of Civilization

Now in its third edition, this classic book provides comprehensive coverage of the major role forests have played in human life – told with grace, fluency, imagination, and humour. It has been named one of Harvard’s “One Hundred Great Books”.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 20th March 2023


An invasive snail is helping an endangered bird in Florida. The snail kite is bouncing back from the threat of extinction, due to the abundance of a new food source. Their original food source, a local apple snail, suffered severe declines due to droughts in the early 2000s. This new non-native island apple snail is five times bigger than the original species; continued monitoring of the snail kite has shown that their bills are getting bigger to accommodate this larger food source.

Snail kite by Andy Morffew via Flickr

The Yangtze finless porpoise population has increased for the first time. The latest census conducted by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs shows that the population has increased by over 23 percent in the past five years, from 1,012 to 1,249. This is seen as evidence that the conservation effort for the world’s only freshwater porpoise is effective.

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has purchased Great Wood, an ancient woodland in North Wiltshire. The 71 hectare site will be transformed into a nature reserve, a move that will protect the area from being sold off to multiple landowners or commercially managed. Only 3% of Wiltshire is ancient woodland, with only 8% covered by woodland.

Extinction risk

Humans are altering the diet of the Tasmanian devil. Human-modified landscapes may be narrowing the diet of this species and accelerating their decline, according to a new study. Devils living in human-impacted areas, such as cleared land, fed on mainly medium-sized mammals. However, in undisturbed habitats, their diet was broader, including smaller animals such as birds.

Tasmanian Devil by Steven Penton via Flickr
Climate change

There is a drought risk to multiple English regions after a dry February. England had its driest February for 30 years, with some rivers at their lowest on record. Scientists are warning that South West England and East Anglia are at risk of drought unless ‘unseasonably sustained rainfall’ occurs in the coming months.

Global fresh water demand will outstrip supply by 40% by 2030, according to experts. The new report calls for governments to stop subsidising the extraction and overuse of water, and for industries from mining to manufacturing to overhaul any wasteful practices. The report has set out seven key recommendations, including scaling up investment in water management and pricing water properly.

Scientists have delivered the ‘final warning’ on the climate crisis. The final part of the sixth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set out on Monday. This comprehensive review of the knowledge of the climate crisis took eight years to compile and has one clear message: act now, or it will be too late. The report, called the synthesis report, will most likely be the last assessment while the world has a chance of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5°C.


Ecological emergency has been declared by councillors in South Tyneside, UK. This is part of efforts to boost the biodiversity in the borough, while also safeguarding the natural environment. This declaration has set out 11 pledges which will increase ‘eco-literacy’, develop ‘member champions’ for biodiversity and ensure that council strategic decisions and policies will consider and maximise nature recovery.

Biodiversity Net Gain

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is a new scheme from the government which requires that all new developments improve the natural environment rather than degrade it. From November 2023 onwards, new developments must make sure that the habitat for wildlife is in a better position than it was before the development.

The developer must try to avoid any loss of habitat in the land that is being developed. If this is not possible, additional habitat must be created, either on-site or off-site; at an alternative area that the developer owns, by purchasing units from a land manager or by buying statutory credits from the government. A combination of all three options can be used to make up BNG, but approval from local planning authorities must be gained.

Who will be affected by this new scheme?

The main people who will be impacted by this new scheme are: 

  • Land managers 
  • Developers/construction 
  • Local Planning Authorities 
  • Ecologists 

If you own or manage land in England, you can get paid by selling biodiversity units to developers. Currently, the new scheme will only cover England, although existing regulation in Wales requires developments to provide a net benefit for biodiversity. Within Scotland, the 2019 Planning Act requires developments to provide positive impacts for biodiversity. 

How much gain is needed?

Under the Environment Act 2021, all new developments need to deliver at least a 10% net gain, with the habitats needing to be secure for at least 30 years. These areas must be either delivered on-site, off-site or via the new statutory biodiversity credits scheme. A national register will hold records and information of all net gain delivery sites.

How is this measured?

An area will be assessed based on its value to nature so that developers or land managers can understand the biodiversity value of a site. The biodiversity metric can be used to assess the value of the land, demonstrate biodiversity gains or losses, measure direct impacts on biodiversity and compare proposals for creating or enhancing habitats on- or off-site. Creating a consistent approach to biodiversity assessment will help planning authorities and communities to better understand the impacts that development can have on the natural environment and to provide the necessary monitoring to ensure that environmental improvements and mitigations for habitat loss are effective. 

Hedgerow by Andy Maguire via Flickr.

The metric will calculate the value of a site as ‘biodiversity units’, which are based on the size of the habitat, its quality or condition and location, including whether the sites are in locations identified as local nature priorities. For example, each habitat condition is assessed based on certain criteria, including essential criteria that must be met to achieve a good condition score. The condition is then scored as either poor, moderate or good. Other factors that affect the biodiversity value include how connected the habitat is with other areas and the rarity or diversity of the habitat and the species found in it.

There have been multiple versions of the biodiversity metric, starting in 2012 when the first metric was piloted. With each new version, changes have been made based on suggestions put forward by experts. Currently, biodiversity metric 3.1 is being used, but the government is advising that a future biodiversity metric 4.0 will be Defra’s standard from November 2023. The calculation tools and user guides can be found on Natural England’s Access to Evidence website.   

Once the values are obtained, the developers must deliver a biodiversity gain plan, setting out how the development will deliver this net gain and allowing planning authorities to assess whether the proposals meet objectives. The plan should cover:

  • how any adverse impacts on habitats will be minimised,
  • the biodiversity value of the onsite habitat pre- and post-development,
  • the biodiversity value of any offsite habitat,
  • if any statutory biodiversity credits will need to be purchased,
  • any further requirements set out in other legislations.
The UK has lost 90% of its wetland habitats. Image by Stephen Gidley via Flickr.
How will this impact the environment in England?

Development, land-use change and urban expansions are among the leading causes of biodiversity loss. The UK is one of the most depleted countries, having lost nearly half of our biodiversity since the 1970s. We are ranked in the worst 10% globally for biodiversity intactness. Overall, 41% of species in the UK have declined, with 26% of mammals at risk of extinction. We’ve lost 97% of our meadows, 90% of our wetlands and 80% of lowland heathlands. A scheme where development will no longer lead to biodiversity loss, but instead to net gain, is a step in the right direction to preventing further loss and helping to begin repairing our degraded environment.

Replacing any established habitats with new ones, however, will have a temporary negative impact on the environment, as newly created habitats can take years to be properly established. This would mean a short-term loss in biodiversity which may have serious consequences for vulnerable species. This is essentially the same issue with COP26’s Declaration on Forest and Land Use, which does not actually forbid the cutting down of forests, but rather aims to end net deforestation, with forest loss being replaced “sustainably”. However, replacing primary or old-growth forests with new growth has serious negative environmental consequences, as the highly complex ecosystems supported by old-growth forests have an irreplaceable value.

There is hope, however, as the Environment Act includes provisions which will exempt irreplaceable habitats from the BNG requirement, as the National Planning Policy Framework states that “development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats…should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists”.  This, therefore, will prevent the new scheme from weakening existing protection for these irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodlands.

Ancient woodlands, areas of woodland that have persisted since 1600 (1750 in Scotland), only make up 2.5% of the UK. Image by ines s. via Flickr.

Most important, however, is the need for accurate monitoring to ensure that the pre- and post-development biodiversity values are accurate. A recent report has shown that HS2 Ltd has been undervaluing existing nature and overvaluing its compensation measures, with biodiversity loss from Phase 1 of HS2 being at least 7.9 times higher than calculated, and loss caused by Phase 2a 3.6 times higher. The report found that habitats such as watercourses, ponds and trees had been completely missed out from the data and habitats such as well-established tree-lined and species-rich hedgerows have been valued lower than the new hedgerows HS2 Ltd is planning to plant. Inaccurate reporting will undermine the main aim of the BNG scheme, reducing its effectiveness and continuing the degradation of biodiversity in England.

What are the barriers?

There are several issues which may impact the successful implementation of this new method. The first is a lack of resources within local authorities. All new biodiversity gain plans must be approved by local authorities to make sure they are accurate and meet the correct objectives, therefore there must be someone with ecological expertise within the local planning authorities who can review applications and oversee the delivery of these plans. Additionally, local planning authorities may not be able to identify and set up off-site compensation measures needed if a net gain cannot be produced on-site.

Additionally, a lack of clear information, awareness or training for developers, land owners/managers, planning authorities and farmers is another barrier to the success of this method. If those involved are not given access to the correct training, it is unlikely that BNG will be implemented successfully, delaying developments and putting our environment at continued risk. A further issue includes cost implications, as delivering BNG will involve an extra cost that will need to either be absorbed by developers or passed onto customers. However, the scheme will open a new market for landowners, helping to provide environmentally positive incomes.

There has also been criticism about how the previous iterations of the biodiversity metric classified habitats. Scrubby landscapes, such as those dominated by bramble and ragwort, were classed as a sign of degradation, despite them being key features of many rewilding projects. Certain plants, such as docks, were considered ‘undesirable’ despite being a key food plant for many insect species. Due to these classifications, these areas might not be properly compensated for, meaning that the net gains planning would be inaccurate.

Ragwort, fed on by a cinnabar moth caterpillar. Image by caroline legg via Flickr.
  • From November 2023, all new developments must deliver a 10% biodiversity net gain, either through on- or off-site plans or by purchasing statutory credits.
  • The biodiversity value of the habitats on the development site must be determined using the Biodiversity Metric 4.0, which should be released in Spring 2023.
  • This scheme will help to reduce biodiversity loss and begin to repair the environment in England, but only if it is properly implemented and enforced.
  • A lack of funding, awareness and training could be barriers to the successful implementation of this scheme. Other issues such as additional costs and poor habitat classifications are also risks to success.

The government website on Biodiversity Net Gain.

CIEEM’s information on BNG.

The government website on the Net Deforestation pledge.

Report by The Wildlife Trusts on the accuracy of HS2 Ltd’s biodiversity value reporting.

A news report on the criticism surrounding how certain habitats have been classified.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 6th March 2023


Australia plans to make an area the size of Germany into a marine park in the Southern Ocean. The area around the Macquarie Island will strengthen the protections currently in place, helping to manage the important ecosystem for millions of seabirds, seals and penguins. The proposal will be open for public consultation, with the plan allowing for the continuation of the small Patagonian toothfish fishery. The expansion of the marine park will increase the amount of protected area in Australia’s oceans to 48.2%.

A historic ocean treaty has been agreed upon after a decade of talks. The High Seas Treaty will protect 30% of international waters by 2030. Currently, only 1.2% of these waters are protected, yet all countries have a right to fish, ship and do research in international waters. The new treaty will establish marine protected areas in international waters limiting how much fishing can take place, as well as restrictions on shipping lane routes and activities such as deep-sea mining.

Climate change

Rising sea temperatures have caused sea urchin populations to plummet in West Australia. A number of molluscs and sea urchins on Rottnest Island have seen declines in numbers of up to 90% between 2007 and 2021. Researchers from Curtin University believe rising sea temperatures are to blame. Rader Reef and Cape Vlamingh are designated as sanctuary zones, with the highest level of protection from human activity, but this still isn’t enough to protect against the catastrophic decline in biodiversity.

Rottnest Island by brettanomyces via Flickr
Extinction risk

A newly described snake is being threatened by mining in Ecuador and Panama. The DiCaprio’s snake is one of five new species of snail-eating snakes from the upper Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador and the Choco-Darien forests of Panama. Both areas have seen an increase in illegal gold mining along rivers and streams during the COVID-19 pandemic which, along with deforestation, is threatening a number of species in these habitats.

Researchers have found 26 Australian species that have recovered from the brink of extinction. They reviewed all the animals that have been listed as threatened under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act between 2000 and 2022 and discovered that 15 mammals, eight birds, four frogs and one fish no longer met the criteria to be listed as threatened under the Act. This number includes three that had been legitimately delisted during this time. The researchers attributed this recovery to targeted management. However, far more species have become threatened than recovered over the past 20 years.


The Irish government has announced new measures to tackle pollution, biodiversity loss and climate impacts on Ireland’s seas. The programme of measures will consist of a broad range of actions including expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Areas to cover 30% of their marine area by 2030, updating guidance on reducing underwater noise pollution and providing environmental guidance for offshore renewable energy.

Canada’s environment minister is planning to use a rare emergency order to protect the last of an endangered owl species. The species is in an area in British Columbia where old-growth forest has been slated for further clearcutting. The northen spotted owl faces serious threats to its population, as only one wild-born northern spotted owl remains, with two others, born as part of a breeding programme, recently released into the wild. Before industrial logging, there were nearly 1,000 northern spotted owls in British Columbia.

Northern spotted owl by Kyle Sullivan via Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington via Flickr
New discoveries

A species of ‘ethereal fairy lantern’ has been rediscovered in Japan after being thought extinct for 30 years. The flowering plant in the genus Thismia lives entirely underground except for its lantern-like flowers, rising above the soil during the wet season. Resembling mushrooms, one such species was originally discovered from a single specimen in 1992, but after scientists could not locate another and its habitat was destroyed, it was presumed extinct. A new individual has now been located 30 kilometres away from the original.

Author Interview with Peter Holden and Geoffrey Abbott: RSPB Handbook of Garden Wildlife

Now in its third edition, the RSPB Handbook of Garden Wildlife is a comprehensive and inspiring guide to making the most of your garden for wildlife. Full of practical tips, the book provides information on what plants to grow and how to structure your outside space to make it as attractive as possible for garden species, including mammals, birds, insects, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians. A DIY chapter includes lots of projects such as nest box building and making your own pond.

There is also a comprehensive species account section which includes information and colour photographs of almost 400 garden species, helping you to take stock of the wildlife that is present in your garden, and to monitor how this changes over time. The third edition of the RSPB Handbook of Garden Wildlife also features new material on climate change, recycling and encouraging wild spaces in gardens.

Peter Holden

Peter Holden is the author of the bestselling RSPB Handbook of British Birds. He held senior positions at the RSPB for over 30 years and is the author of several books. Geoffrey Abbott formerly worked for the RSPB and now lectures part-time for the Field Studies Council. He is responsible for the book’s plants and insects sections.

Geoffrey Abbott

In this Q&A we chatted with Peter and Geoffrey about the book, about the importance and benefits of keeping our gardens ‘wild’ and their recommendations for small but impactful changes we can make in our outdoor spaces.


Now in its third edition, it has been 14 years since the first Handbook of Garden Wildlife was published. Do you think there have been significant changes in terms of types/styles of gardens and the wildlife they support during this time?

Geoffrey: there is now even more pressure on natural habitats and wildlife, and a continuing decline in many species such as bees, Starling and House Sparrow. This means that gardens are of even more value for conservation. At the same time there are more new houses, with smaller, or no gardens, and a continuing trend (as David Lindo so graphically points out in his foreword) to cover gardens with concrete or paving. There are also changes in our gardens due to the arrival of new species, some perhaps due to climate change. We have included some of the species (like Ivy Bee and Tree Bumblebee) that you are most likely to see in your garden.

Peter: Gardens will also be affected by changes in climate, especially if we have drier summers so we have introduced a new chapter on dry gardens.

In the book, you recommend keeping a log of the wildlife observed in a garden over the year. Do you think that this has become something of a lost art – taking the time and having the patience to observe the same bit of land over time and enjoying the process of noting the changes?

Peter: Yes, I see fewer people using a notebook and pencil when out birding and they don’t seem to be recording on mobiles either, even though there are excellent Apps like the BTO’s Birdnet. It should be easier than ever to keep notes at home using electronic spreadsheets and diaries. With programmes such as iRecord you can input photos and sightings and have the satisfaction of knowing these records are added to local and national databases – helping to build up a picture of changing wildlife populations.

In the introduction, you mention how important our gardens became to us during the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Improving them for the local wildlife has obvious benefits for conservation, but do you think there are also benefits from making these changes for ourselves and for our children?

Peter: There is more and more evidence showing environmental benefits on wellbeing and general health. There are also the additional benefits of exercise that comes from gardening and opportunities for relaxation. However, best of all, I see gardens being the ideal place for small children to start to learn about nature. It might be watching an ant’s trail, planting wildflowers, feeding the birds or helping to prepare a small pond, making pitfall traps for bugs or doing the Big Garden Birdwatch. And it’s not just parents – grandparents are often the ideal teachers for the next generation – with more time to share their own knowledge and experience.

In the section of your book on wilding, you describe the ideal garden as ‘organised chaos’. Do you think that the current trend for neatness and tidiness in a garden can be problematic in terms of attracting wildlife?

Geoffrey: Absolutely. Just one example is clearing all the dead heads from the borders which removes important food sources in the form of seeds, for birds and small mammals. Hollow dead stalks are also important sites for many hibernating insects. Tidying beds of leaf litter removes a whole community of invertebrates, and important feeding sites for thrushes, Blackbirds and Robins. Colonies of House Sparrows love scruffy corners and dense shrubs, while a pile of prunings and dead leaves can even provide a hibernation site for hedgehogs and a home for beetles and other invertebrates. Converting part of the garden to concrete or paving, or even replacing a lawn with Astroturf for easier management, will make whole areas sterile of wildlife.

One part of the book that I found particularly useful was the section on seasonal management, which also includes a handy monthly guide to the wildlife you might see and the tasks that need to be undertaken. How much would you say that maintaining a garden for wildlife differs from more ‘conventional’ gardening techniques?

Peter: That is an interesting question as there is not really a right or wrong way of doing things. It’s really about empathy – understanding your garden environment and gradually moving it from a homocentric place to one where wildlife is the focus. Every action will have nature in mind, while still keeping the garden as our own special place – it’s a delicate balance…and its fun…and over time our knowledge will grow as well.

For any readers with an average sized urban or suburban garden who wants a quick and affordable change that they can make, what would you recommend as something impactful but achievable that they could begin with?

We are both agreed that by far the best single improvement is to create a pond.

Geoffrey: This will greatly encourage garden wildlife by providing a source of water (for animals such as bees, birds and hedgehogs), mud for nesting birds, and a variety of extra insects as food. The pond will also add a whole new community of creatures, many of which leave the water at the adult stage. You may encourage frogs, toads or newts, as well as insects such as dragonflies and damselflies. These can give a whole new dimension to the summer garden.

Peter: A pond need not be large or complicated to make. A simple moulded plastic or flexible liner will suffice. It needs to be deep enough not to dry out but have some shelving edges to allow birds or hedgehogs to drink. However, avoid introducing fish – they are incompatible with most other wildlife in a garden pond.

Finally, what are you working on now? Do you have plans for further books?

Geoffrey: I will be writing wildlife notes for local magazines.

Peter: I will continue to work on updates for future editions of this Handbook and also for the RSPB Handbook of British Birds. I will continue with lectures for RSPB local members’ groups and hope to meet some of you there!

RSPB Handbook of Garden Garden Wildlife by Peter Holden and Geoffrey Abbott was published in February 2023. It is published by Bloomsbury Publishing and available from


Author Interview with George Peterken: Trees and Woodlands

Written by one of the UK’s most highly regarded forest ecologists, Trees and Woodlands weaves together personal stories and scientific research in a thorough exploration of our woodlands, their ecology and how we as humans have interacted with them over the course of history. The 12th installment in the popular British Wildlife Collection, Trees and Woodlands will appeal to anyone who is fascinated by the stories told by our native woodlands and who is invested in their future.

George Peterken worked with the Nature Conservancy to start the ancient woodland inventory and later worked as nature conservation adviser at the Forestry Commission. His research interests, which have centred on nature conservation, natural woodland and long-term and large-scale aspects of woodland ecology, benefited from a Bullard Fellowship at Harvard University. He is the author of a large number of books on both woodlands and meadows and was awarded an OBE for services to forestry in 1994.

In this Q&A we chatted with George about the book, about his life and career as a woodland ecologist and about his hopes for the future of woodlands in the UK.

Firstly, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get into working with and researching woodlands?

All my childhood holidays were visits to my Mother’s family on the edge of the New Forest and the woods at Ruislip and the Chilterns were my targets as a teenage cyclist, but woods became fully imprinted with 6th form natural history camps at Beaulieu Road in the New Forest, led by my charismatic teacher, Barry Goater. I gained an entry to woodlands research when Palmer Newbould at University College, London, accepted me as a PhD student to study New Forest woodlands on a Nature Conservancy grant. Then I had the luck to be offered my ideal job as a woodland ecologist at the Nature Conservancy’s Monks Wood Experimental Station. This was a madly exciting and committed place to work where, as you will see from the book’s dedication, we thrived on the freedom we were allowed. Thereafter it was necessary to ride out the constant reorganisations thrust upon us by our paymasters, the Government.

Trees & Woodlands is a wonderfully wide-ranging book. I particularly enjoyed the frequent stories and anecdotes from your own life and career, as well as the well-researched snippets of history, culture and language. Does the human-landscape interaction interest you?

Certainly. Its much more entertaining to explain what I find in a wood in terms of human actions and unforeseen consequences than in terms of soils, climate or some other natural factor. It was Colin Tubbs who taught me this when I was a research student and he was the Nature Conservancy’s warden-naturalist for the New Forest. We would notice some feature of the vegetation distribution or woodland structure and find, more often than not, that we could understand it best as, say, an abandoned extension of agriculture or an unexpected consequence of an Act of Parliament regarding deer. Then at Monks Wood, I found that Max Hooper and John Sheail in particular were just as keen as myself to study ecology in a county record office as we were in the fields and woods. Then, of course, we all came across Oliver Rackham who had seized on the same links between history and habitats. He more than anyone has demonstrated that it’s the human element that generates most interest in the natural world. This interest also had direct benefits for my main work in woodland nature conservation: it was much easier to negotiate management that benefited nature with a woodland owner who had a keen interest in the history of his/her wood.

Your book in large part looks at the interaction between humans and woodlands over the course of history, both ancient and recent, and you state that we would have to go a long way back in time to find a woodland which was not modified by the presence of man. Where in the UK would you say is closest to a ‘natural’ or ‘unmodified’ woodland, ie one that has been affected the least by humans?

This is the subject of one of the chapters. Spending my career working with semi-natural woodlands, I spent a lot of time wondering what natural woodland looked like, then, as you can read in my contribution to Arboreal (Little Toller, 2016), came to the conclusion that natural woodland takes many different forms, but that no woodland existing since the last Ice Age could be entirely unaffected by people. We can witness approximations by allowing an ancient, semi-natural woodland to grow without direct management intervention – which is what we have studied at Lady Park Wood – or by ‘shutting the field gate’ and watching what happens as shrubs and trees invade. Whether the results look like pre-Neolithic woodland, which harboured large herbivores, is a subject that has animated woodland ecologists in recent years: some would say that the New Forest is natural in that sense, even though it has been used and managed for centuries. ‘Natural woodland’ to the general public means ‘woodland of native trees not obviously managed’ and I think ecologists should get close to that.

Extreme weather events such as storms and flooding are likely to occur at an increased frequency due to the effects of climate change. Coupled with the anthropogenic impacts of deforestation, land use change and overgrazing, this might seem to paint a dim picture for the woodlands of the future. Moving forwards, what do you think are going to be the main challenges in the UK when it comes to preserving and improving our native woodlands?

The immediate threats come from novel diseases and pests, uncontrolled deer populations and our limited ability to sustain low intensity management, which leads to neglected woods becoming less stable and losing some elements of their biodiversity. Pervasive eutrophication via rain seems to reinforce the biodiversity losses from unmanaged woods.

Deforestation is not really a problem here; storms would have less impact if woods were managed and thus stand ages were younger; trees and woods are part of the solution to flooding; and the main immediate danger from climate change may be a form of self-fulfilling prophesy when, say, beech stands are felled and replaced by introduced species that we think will better withstand future climates. Ancient woods seem reasonably well protected by public opinion, the Woodland Trust and official organisations, but we could easily drop our guard if we again believe – as we did around 1970 – that all these new woodlands will form an adequate replacement.

In terms of woodland management and the policies which govern this, what changes would you like to see in the UK over the coming years?

I’m now way out of the loop of forestry politics, but I can answer in more general terms. Throughout my career foresters have been itching to bring the now neglected former coppices back into management. Most of these are ancient woods and therefore important for nature conservation, so I took the view through the 1970s that they should be left alone, or coppiced, since their likely fate under forest management would have been planted conifers. But from 1982, when what became the Broadleaves Policy was under discussion, I advocated management based on site-native tree species, and I have not changed since. We must find or generate markets for native tree timber and wood, like Coed Cymru did and does, that would benefit wildlife and give more people a stake in the future of ancient woodlands. I like the idea of more community involvement, but in practice this usually comes down to one or two individuals. I am all in favour of leaving a representative selection of woods to grow naturally – limited intervention, or none – partly because they will act as a constant reminder of the benefits of management.

Since you began working in and researching woodlands, have there been any major technological advances that have had a signification impact on the type and quality of research that you do?

Linking my name with technological advances will elicit hollow laughter in some quarters. For years, my fieldwork has involved pencil, paper, girthing tape and metal plot markers. I have tried GPS to mark plots, but in the woods I’ve studied the errors are too large to find small plots. I do use a spreadsheet to analyse the records, though. My research started when statistical analyses were undertaken long-hand on an electric machine that whirred and juddered for ever while it did long divisions, so the arrival of computers, the internet and digital cameras is obviously the key technical advance. This has enabled astonishingly intricate analyses of huge volumes of fieldwork data, but it has also led to papers in, say, the Journal of Ecology becoming unreadable. The need now is to present and explain research results and their implications to as wide an audience as one can summon in a form that can be appreciated by a general readership. Technical advances are important and often amazing, though nothing like as important as developing the skills to write clear, accurate, non-technical, substantial and readable text. I like to think that British Wildlife magazine and the derivative Collection of books have shown the way.

Finally, what’s next for you? Do you have plans for further books?

I’m reaching the age when plans are futile, but I still like to have an on-going project. On books, I am helping Stefan Buczacki write about Churchyard Natural History. One of the most rewarding of recent projects was my collaboration with a group of professional artists, The Arborealists, in Lady Park Wood (Art meets Ecology, Sansom, 2020) and we have plans for a sequel in Staverton Park, a Suffolk wood-pasture I knew well in the late 1960s. For several years I gave up woodlands and took a close interest in meadows, which led to an earlier book in the British Wildlife Collection and gave me an enthusiasm for wood-meadows, so I’m doing what I can from a distance to help the Woodmeadow Trust.

Trees and Woodlands by George Peterken was published in February 2023. It is published by Bloomsbury Publishing and available from


Buyers’ Guide: Trail Cameras

Quick links:
Key features
Our suggestions
Recommended reading


Trail cameras are an invaluable piece of technology allowing users to monitor wildlife without disturbing the animal. The trail cameras in our range can take pictures and video during the day and at night using infrared (IR) imaging technology. Likewise, they can endure tough conditions, surviving harsh winds, rain and extreme temperatures making them suitable for almost all situations.

At NHBS we sell a wide range of trail cameras, and while this does give customers plenty of choice, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which camera will best suit your situation and requirements. The information in this guide will help you to make an informed choice.

Key features

No-glow or low-glow?

There are two main types of IR LEDs that trail cameras use to capture images in low-light conditions: no-glow and low-glow. No-glow LEDs produce a very small amount of visible light which is not visible to the human eye, animals will likely see very little of this light; although, this may well depend on the species. Low-glow LEDs do produce a faint glow, and so are not completely invisible and may alert certain animals. One advantage of low-glow cameras is their capacity to illuminate over a longer range.

Trigger speed and recovery time

Trigger speed is the time taken for a trail camera to take a photo once movement has been detected. Recovery time is how long it takes for a camera to take a photo and be ready to capture another one. A camera with a rapid trigger speed like the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 is ideal for capturing images of fast-moving creatures. Likewise, if you are looking to capture multiple images in a short time frame, a trail camera with a speedy recovery time is the best option. Once more, this is perfect for those quick-moving animals.

Resolution and interpolation

Resolution is a major influence on the quality of your images and videos. It is important to bear in mind, however, that the photograph megapixel ratings offered by manufacturers are often inflated and the result of a process called interpolation. Many trail cameras have the option of adjusting the resolution – increasing it through interpolation or decreasing it through compression. Compression can be useful for saving storage space by reducing the number of pixels. Interpolation digitally adds pixels to an image which eats up storage and generates longer recovery times while doing next to nothing to enhance picture quality. The best way to compare picture quality is to look at sample photographs.

Flash range and motion detection range

If you are planning on monitoring an open area where you expect animals to pass by at a distance, the motion detection range and flash range of a trail camera are worth considering. Motion detection range is the maximum distance a trail camera can register the movement of an animal. The flash range is how far the IR flash will reach. If the flash range is low and an animal is at a distance, you may not see the animal clearly in low-light pictures.

Cellular and solar cameras

Cellular cameras are an excellent choice if you are looking for remote access to your trail camera’s photos and settings without having to regularly interact with your camera in the field. Likewise, the addition of a small solar panel to your trail camera can improve deployment time. This is particularly useful when deploying multiple cameras at the same time or when monitoring inaccessible locations.

Our range of Spypoint cameras are an excellent choice when considering cellular or solar cameras. The Spypoint CELL-LINK, however, enables cellular functionality for trail cameras from non-Spypoint brands and you can purchase solar panels for Bushnell and Browning cameras.

Our suggestions

Entry-level cameras

The Browning Strike Force HD Pro X is ideal for those looking for high quality at an affordable price. This low-glow Browning camera boasts a rapid 0.22 second trigger speed, a colour screen, and superb picture quality.

Alternatively, if you are looking for an economical no-glow camera, the Browning Dark Ops HD Pro X is an excellent choice.


Popular cameras

The Bushnell CORE DS-4K is an excellent trail camera featuring top-of-the-range picture quality and no-glow IR LEDs, keeping disturbance to a minimum. Additionally, this camera will last for an extended period out in the field due to its long battery life.

Another trail camera with excellent picture quality, the low-glow Browning Recon Force Elite HP5 is an outstanding all-rounder. One benefit of this camera is its longer IR flash range when compared to the Bushnell CORE DS-4K, allowing for improved low-light imagery when the animal is further away.

If you are monitoring a particularly quick species, the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5’s trigger speed can be adjusted to a lightning-fast 0.1 seconds. This stealthy no-glow camera also features a rapid 0.5 second recovery time and excellent picture quality both during the day and at night, making it one of the top trail cameras in our range.


Powering your trail camera

Lithium batteries are essential for operating your trail camera effectively. One of the most common reasons for why a trail camera is not working properly is the use of non-lithium batteries. Most of our trail cameras can be purchased as part of a bundle which includes lithium batteries and a suitable memory card.

Keeping your trail camera safe

The 180cm long Python Lock is ideal for securing your trail camera to trees and posts and preventing theft.

Our range of security boxes will provide additional protection against theft and damage. Double check that the security box you are purchasing is compatible with your trail camera model.

Recommended reading

For an in-depth comparison of the trail cameras in our range, check out our trail camera comparison blog.

Take a look at our in-the-field analysis of two of our top trail cameras – the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 and the Browning Recon Force Elite HP5.

Explore our complete range of trail cameras on our website or if you have any questions about our range or would like some advice on the right product for you then please contact us via email at or phone on 01803 865913.

Author Interview with Mark Carwardine: RSPB How to Photograph Garden Birds

RSPB How to Photograph Garden Birds is an inspirational and practical guide to photographing birds in your own garden. Packed full of tips and tricks, the book covers equipment, composition, light and weather, as well as providing guidance on feeding birds to make your garden as attractive as possible to feathered visitors.

The second half of the book contains a range of different projects, each with details on the equipment required and the techniques you will need to use to obtain the desired shot. From using reflecting pools and catching birds in flight, there is plenty here to help you hone your skills and start capturing professional quality images.

Mark Carwardine is a zoologist and an award-winning writer, a TV and radio presenter and a bestselling author of more than 50 books. Well known for his skills as a wildlife photographer, he was selected as one of ‘The World’s 40 Most Influential Nature Photographers’ in the US’s Outdoor Photography magazine and is currently presenting and producing the BBC Wildlife Photography Masterclass on YouTube. He also runs wildlife photography holidays and workshops worldwide.

In this Q&A, we chatted with Mark about the book, about his life and journey as a photographer, and discuss some tips on making photography affordable.

You have been described as one of ‘The World’s 40 Most Influential Nature Photographers’, have chaired the judging panel of the prestigious Wildlife Competition of the Year for seven years, and are presenter and producer of the BBC’s Wildlife Photography Masterclass. With all this experience, variety and skill under your belt, what made you turn your attention to garden birds as the subject of your latest book?

It was a lockdown thing. I’ve been feeding birds in the garden for as long as I can remember (as we should all be doing – there is a lot of evidence that feeding garden birds year-round really does give them a better chance of survival). I loved watching them, and they gave me an inordinate amount of pleasure, but it was only during lockdown that I really started to photograph them. And then I got completely hooked. Garden birds make fantastic photographic subjects. Many of them are strikingly beautiful; they are readily accessible (you can even capture frame-filling images from your kitchen window); they tend to be tamer and more relaxed around people than most ‘wild’ birds out in the countryside; and they are impressively adaptable (you can move the feeders around, change the perches or add a new prop and they will often return within a few minutes). The other great advantage, of course, is there is no need for flights or hotel rooms: you barely have to leave the house.

Image by Mark Carwardine

What came first to you as a youngster, a love of nature or a love of photography? Or did they develop simultaneously?

Definitely a love of nature. I’ve been obsessed with wildlife since before I could walk and talk. The photography came in my teens. My father was a keen photographer and taught me how to print black-and-white prints in his darkroom in the loft etc, so he was the initial inspiration. I still remember saving for my first ‘proper’ camera in my mid-teens – it took me two years, working every Saturday and all school holidays in a camera shop. I’ve been very lucky to be able to make photography a big part of my work – to illustrate books, articles and lectures etc.

You mention in the book that you started out by shooting film. Do you prefer the flexibility of digital photography or are there things you miss about using older techniques and equipment?

I don’t miss anything about shooting film at all! How anyone managed to take great wildlife pictures with a 36-exposure roll of 25 or 64 ASA film – let alone with a separate light meter and a manual-focus lens – I will never know. I’m very grateful to have learnt photography using film, because you had to understand how everything worked and you had to work slowly and carefully, but my photography has certainly improved since the advent of digital. In fact, I was Chairing the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition during the transition from film to digital and watched the standard of wildlife photography grow exponentially.

Image by Mark Carwardine

I imagine a large part of being a good photographer is slowing down and really paying attention, not only to your chosen subject, but to the surroundings, weather, light and other variables. As someone who is evidently extremely productive and busy in your professional life, do you find this aspect of photography enjoyable? Or is it a necessary chore?

It’s the only time I slow down! The funny thing is that I am naturally impatient – I can’t bear wasting time. I hate sitting in traffic, waiting for a late train, being trapped in a meeting that is dragging on unnecessarily. But I can happily sit quietly for hours – no, days – waiting for an animal to appear or do something interesting. That’s a pleasure and in no way a chore. I can sit perfectly still in a hide, without moving, let alone talking, with no problem at all. Every sense is alert, your mind clears and, of course, there is always something to look at. The other thing I love is the sense of anticipation. You could wait all day and nothing happens; or, without warning, you could be surprised by one of your best wildlife sightings ever. And, of course, you do need to be patient in wildlife photography, waiting for the best light, the best pose, or whatever.

Do you think that art and photography have an important role to play in inspiring people to value or get involved with wildlife and the natural world?

I have mixed feelings about this. I do think photography can play a critically important role in inspiring people and promotion conservation. The old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is often true – meaning that complex ideas can be conveyed in a single image. There are many examples of one picture spurring a massive campaign and, ultimately, inspiring significant change. On the wall behind me in my office is a signed photograph by Commander Frank Borman, taken during Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon. It’s called ‘Earthrise’ and shows our tiny blue planet hanging in space, as viewed across the surface of the moon. It’s credited with kick-starting the environmental movement in the late 1960s. There are some inspiring examples in nature photography, too. Ansel Adams famously used his photographs to help create Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. And look at the work of the International League of Conservation Photographers. But I have mixed feelings because many photographers these days claim to be ‘helping conservation’ simply by taking pictures of wildlife and wild places. It doesn’t work like that – you have to do something as well.

Image by Mark Carwardine

In the current financial climate, the cost of equipment might put many people off taking up photography as a hobby. I liked that you covered the use of smartphones in your book, as this is something that almost everybody has access to. What would be your top recommendation for an inexpensive accessory that could be used with a Smartphone for photographing garden birds?

Yes, it’s true. Some of the best long lenses these days cost as much as a small family car! There’s a whole chapter in the book about photographing garden birds with a smartphone. One of the challenges with smartphone photography is shooting frame-filling pictures – getting close enough to your subjects. I’d recommend buying a really inexpensive little gadget called a shutter release, or shutter remote. This communicates with your phone via Bluetooth. Once you’ve paired it, you simply tap the button on the remote to take a picture. Then all you do is place the phone near your carefully positioned photographic perch – or wherever you think the birds might land. Sit in the kitchen with a coffee or a beer, using binoculars to see the back of the phone clearly enough to judge when a bird comes into view, and fire away to your heart’s content. It works amazingly well.

What’s in store for you next? Do you have plans for further books?

Actually, I’m working on another photographic book. For the past 30 years, I’ve spent a month or two most winters in Baja California, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, running whale watching tours, doing research and filming. It’s arguably the best place in the world for whale watching. So I am compiling a book of my favourite photographs from those 30 years, called ‘Baja California: Realm of the Great Whales’. I just have a few hundred thousand more images to go through, and I’ll be ready to make the final selection!

RSPB How to Photograph Garden Birds by Mark Carwardine was published in January 2023. It is published by Bloomsbury Publishing and available from


This Week in Biodiversity News – 13th February 2023

Climate change

Climate breakdown could cause British apples to die out, to be replaced by varieties from New Zealand and Japan. British apples are struggling as there is not enough time for the trees to lie dormant in winter and conserve energy for growing fruit. Traditional apple trees need about 1,000 hours below 6°C but above freezing. The Met Office announced in January that 2022 had been the sixth warmest year on record.

Cox’s Orange Pippin by David Wright via Flickr
Habitat destruction

Half of the wetlands in Europe, the continental US and China have been lost in the past 300 years, according to a new study. Researchers found that some areas, including the UK, Ireland and Germany, have lost more than 75%. In total, an area the size of India has disappeared globally. More than 60% of these losses were driven by drainage for growing crops on uplands. Other reasons included the conversion to paddy fields, the creation of urban areas and peat extraction.

According to a report by The Wildlife Trusts, HS2 Ltd is “undervaluing” the amount of damage it is doing to the environment while overvaluing the benefits of its compensation measures. Phase 1, covering 140 miles between London and the West Midlands, will cause 7.9 times more nature loss than accounted for, with Phase 2a causing around 3.6 times more. The report found watercourses, ponds and trees that have been missed out from the data produced by the firm, along with problems with how nature is being valued. Well-established, tree-lined and species-rich hedgerows were given lower nature value than the new hedgerows that HS2 Ltd is going to plant.

Erosion of beaches along the south-east coast of Australia is having a significant effect on local biodiversity. Some beaches in the area are becoming increasingly vulnerable to coastal erosion caused by successive years of La Niña events. A study monitoring the shoreline between Noosa’s Main Beach and Coolum found that the shoreline has retreated by about 20 metres, while the sand dunes have receded between 7 and 10m and have been vertically eroded by 2–3m.

Extinction Risk

Sea turtles are under threat from warming seas and hotter beaches, according to new research. Australian scientists have suggested that marine turtles are unlikely to be able to change their nesting behaviour enough to mitigate the effects of higher sea surface temperatures. As the sex ratio of turtle hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the nests, warmer beaches will yield more females, impacting population dynamics. Higher temperatures have also been linked to lower hatchling success rates.

Sea turtles by Dawn Childs/USGS via NPS Climate Change Response via Flickr

More than 33% of America’s biodiversity is at risk of disappearing, including 40% of animals and 34% of plants. A new report by NatureServe found that 41% of American ecosystems are at risk of collapse, with California, Texas and southeastern states the most threatened. The main threats include habitat degradation and land conversion, invasive species, damming and polluting of rivers, and climate change.

The lynx is facing extinction in France, as the population is down to 150 adults at most. DNA tests have shown that the cats’ genetic diversity is so low that they will become locally extinct within the next 30 years unless there is urgent intervention. The species is under pressure from habitat loss, inbreeding, poaching and traffic collisions. The tests have shown that the population has a level of diversity equivalent to only 38 animals, and there are now calls to either introduce more lynxes from healthier groups or replace poached lynxes and exchange orphaned lynx cubs being cared for at wildlife rescue centres in various regions.


Emissions of the five most harmful air pollutants dropped in 2018 across the European Union, including nitrogen oxides and ammonia. The new European Environment Agency report for 1990-2018 showed an overall trend of steady but slow progress by EU member states in reducing emissions of the main air pollutants present in Europe. The five most harmful air pollutants dropped between 1.6-6.7% between 2017 and 2018.


Costa Rica has announced an all-out ban on hammerhead shark fishing. Including smooth hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead and great hammerhead, this executive decree prohibits the capture, transportation, storage or sale of hammerhead sharks or their byproducts. Experts are saying this should have occurred in 2013 when hammerhead sharks were listed under CITES, as the animals were hunted for their fins and populations have declined by around 90% since then.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark by Kris-Mikael Krister via Flickr
New discoveries

A new silent frog species has been described, found in Tanzania’s Ukaguru Mountains. Researchers discovered this species during an expedition in search of another species, the Churamiti maridadi tree toad. While frogs usually use sound to attract a mate, the males of this new species have tiny spines on their throats. Nearly 25% of all vertebrates in the Ukaguru Mountains are found nowhere else, meaning conservation of the area is essential.