Biodiversity News

Pine martens released into the Forest of Dean

The Pine marten was once a common animal in British woodlands, but they were driven to near extinction by habitat loss and hunting.  Pine martens belong to the same family as otters and weasels, and have experienced such a dramatic decline that they are now Britain’s second-rarest carnivore after the Scottish wildcat. Recently, a major milestone for recovery of the species has been reached; 18 individuals have been released into the Forest of Dean.
Between August and September this year, these individuals were trans located from healthy populations in Scotland, to Gloucestershire. Their reintroduction may be vital to preventing complete extinction in England, as well as benefiting the entire forest ecosystem.

Burrowing birds create islands of rich plant life in deserts

Tiny patches of rich plant life can be found dotting the deserts of Peru, and burrowing birds may be responsible. Mounds of sand shoveled out by nest-digging burrowing owls and miner birds encourage more seedlings and exclusive plant varieties to grow compared to the undisturbed ground surrounding. Deserts are very hard places for seeds to germinate, not just for lack of moisture but for the crusty, cyanobacteria-covered soil that is commonly found. This crust is a problem for seeds because seeds stranded on top of the soil are exposed to the harsh conditions and the crust forms a barrier for water to reach the seeds below. Burrowing birds break through this tough barrier to build their nests, providing an area of sand and soil that water can pass through, allowing seeds to germinate.

After a 50-year conservation effort, songbird flies off U.S. endangered species list

For as long as there has been an Endangered Species act, the Kirtland’s warbler has required protection- until this year. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the US announced on October 8th that it is removing the Kirtland’s warbler off the endangered species list after active management over the past 50 years. FWS cited the work done by Michigan state and federal agencies to boost breeding habitats and combat brood parasitism. Although, they are no longer classified as endangered, the Endangered Species Act notes that they remain a ‘conservation-reliant species’ in order to maintain their success in the future.

The deeper those octopuses live, the wartier their skin

Deep beneath the surface of the north Pacific ocean lives the warty Pacific octopus, a rather cute, pink and warty creature that wanders the seafloor. Scientists have been studying how the appearance of this octopuses changes with depth and have made some interesting discoveries. Using a manned submersible vehicle, ALVIN, researchers from the Field Museum, Chicago, took 50 specimens from depths ranging from 3,660 to 9,000 feet below the surface of the Northeast Pacific, along with other donated specimens. Despite the octopuses looking very different to one another it was discovered, through DNA analysis that they were all warty pacific octopuses.

Wembury BioBlitz 2019- Interview with Nicholas Helm

 

Some NHBS nets in action, rockpooling.

A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological survey of all the living creatures in a specific area, bringing together volunteers, scientists and naturalists to discover as many species as possible in a precise time frame. This year is the 10th anniversary of the UKs first marine and coastal BioBlitz and it returns to the first location- Wembury Bay. This year’s event is being organised in partnership with the Devon Wildlife Trust, the Marine Biological Association of the UK and the South Devon AONB.

One of the organisers, Nicholas Helm has taken time to speak with us about this year’s event.

  1. The BioBlitz has taken place in different locations across Devon and Cornwall, UK for the last 10 years, what makes this BioBlitz different to other years?

The first BioBlitz we ran in 2009 was at Wembury and was the first public, marine BioBlitz in the UK. Since then we have run one or more events each year for 10 years, several of which have partnered with Devon Wildlife Trust. Returning to Wembury 10 years on allows us to observe what has changed in that time as well as providing a great opportunity to celebrate the milestone. It also coincides with the 25thanniversary of Wembury Marine Centre, which provides a fantastic backdrop to the event.

 

  1. Can you tell us about Wembury Bay and what makes it a great location to explore?

Wembury Bay is a unique and special place. Due to its aspect and location, the shore is home to many southern species, not found anywhere else in the UK outside of Cornwall. The Bay incudes a whole host of habitats, from sand and seagrass in the mouth of the Yealm Estuary to the diverse rocky reefs stretching from Wembury Point – where they are exposed at low water – down to deeper, subtidal ledges beyond the Mewstone. These ledges are home to corals and a huge diversity of fish. The area provides nursery areas for sharks and feeding grounds for basking sharks, sea birds and marine mammals. As well as a diverse marine environment, the bay is fringed by fascinating and biologically diverse woodlands and coastal heathlands, home to rare birds, insects, reptiles and mammals, making it perfect for an event of this kind!

 

  1. What’s your favourite animal you’ve ever found at Wembury Bay?

Personally, my favourite animals in the bay are the giant gobies (Gobius cobitus) which is a large goby, protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and not found anywhere in the UK outside of Cornwall. It is common in the upper shore pools of Wembury and is always an exciting find.  The other star is the ‘St Pirran’s crab’ – a colourful hermit crab thought to have disappeared from the area in the 1960s but making a return in the last few years and now fairly common. Again, Wembury is the only site in the UK outside of Cornwall where this species has been recorded. I also love finding the stalked jellyfish and colourful nudibranchs that can be found in abundance in pools and under rocks if you know where to look!

 

  1. This year, the BioBlitz is returning to Wembury after 10 years. How do you think the types of creatures found this year will compare to the first Wembury BioBlitz?

I expect we will observe a lot of changes, in particular there are likely to be a number of new introduced species and several species which have extended their range into the area as a result of climate change. We will also hopefully record the St Pirran’s crab (Clibanarius erythropus) which, in 2009 was not found in the area.

 

  1. What happens to the data that volunteers, scientists and naturalists will collect at Wembury BioBlitz 2019?

All the data collected will be archived in DASSH (the national data archive for marine and coastal species and habitats) and made publicly available through the National Biodiversity Network Atlas. It will also be taken and held by Devon Local Records Centre and summarised in a final event report, which will be freely available online.

 

  1. How can readers get involved with the activities available at Wembury BioBlitz 2019?

There are lots of ways to get involved, as a volunteer, species recorder or as a participant in the many activities we have scheduled throughout the event. Visit www.mba.ac.uk/bioblitz for more information.

NHBS BioBlitz Essentials List