Climate Challenges: COP26 First Week Update

COP26, the 26th annual summit of the United Nations climate change conference, is currently taking place in Glasgow. In this article, Hana Ketley looks back over the first week of COP26 and discusses the key pledges and targets that have been announced so far.

COP26 is taking place between 31st October and 12th November. US Embassy via Flickr
Emissions targets

Ahead of COP26, many countries announced new emissions targets, including India, which aims to halve its energy emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2070, and Nepal, which now aims to reach net zero by 2045. Net zero refers to a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions emitted and removed from the atmosphere, and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°, the world must reach net zero by 2050 to limit global average temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Several countries have committed to meeting this target, with 80% of the world’s economy now striving for net zero emissions. Many of these targets, however, are under discussion, in policy documents or as proposed legislation, rather than being enacted into law. Additionally, several countries have not updated their targets, such as China, which continues to aim for net zero emissions by 2060, a full ten years after the recommended date. Many climate groups and critics are questioning the validity of these pledges, a theme that continues through many of the outcomes from the first week of COP26. As many of the targets set at previous COPs have not been met, there are doubts that they will be achieved this time.

Furthermore, the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, consisting of 15 of the world’s leading climate scientists, have produced a report warning that achieving global net zero by 2050 may no longer be enough to avoid many of the worst impacts of rising global temperatures. The report, titled ‘The Final Warning Bell’, was released in August 2021 and builds upon the most recent report from the IPCC’s Working Group 1, which was released earlier in the same month. Using the IPCC’s insight, the Climate Crisis Advisory Group determined that meeting the 2050 target will only result in a 50% likelihood of preventing average global temperatures from exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. They suggest that aiming for net-negative emissions by 2050, rather than net zero, will provide countries and industries with the best chance of curbing global warming. Only two countries, Suriname and Bhutan, have achieved net zero (based on self-assessment) and only a few others, such as Finland, Germany and Sweden, have net zero ambitions that are set to be met before 2050. As a result, current global objectives are unlikely to fulfil the proposed target set by the Climate Crisis Advisory Group.

Climate protests in Australia, coinciding with the first day of COP26 in Glasgow. Extinction Rebellion activists burnt an Australian flag on the steps of the Victorian Parliament in Melbourne, in response to the Australian government’s perceived inaction on climate change. Matt Hrkac via Flickr

The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use, which aims to cease and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030, was one of the first major pledges made during COP26. This historic pact was signed by nearly 130 world leaders, and has been hailed by some as the summit’s first big achievement. As the countries that signed are responsible for roughly 85% of the world’s forests, this pledge might have a considerable influence on deforestation and climate change if it results in effective action. Alongside this commitment, 12 nations, including the UK, U.S., Canada, France and Germany, have also collectively pledged to mobilise £8.75 billion of public funding over the next five years. This fund will be utilised by developing nations for a variety of schemes, including supporting the restoration of degraded land, combating wildfires and defending the rights of indigenous communities. This is backed by the commitment of more than 30 major financial institutions, such as Axa and Aviva, to look at eliminating commodity-driven deforestation from their investment and lending portfolios by 2025. They have also agreed to several other stipulations, including assessing the amount of their investments that are linked to deforestation by the end of 2022. By the end of 2023, they must disclose this information and their mitigation efforts and, by 2025, publicly report credible progress on their goals.

But, due to a lack of detail on enforcement, these pledges on deforestation have already been criticised. The success of this summit and the fight against climate change will be determined by how well all the pledges launched and signed during COP26 are implemented. Many signatories have not specified how this implementation will be monitored, nor has it been defined how countries will be held accountable if they fail to follow through on their commitments. Many critics point to other pledges to reduce or halt deforestation that have not been fulfilled, as many voluntary pledges, such as the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests, have failed to deliver on their promises. One of the key goals of the 2014 pledge was to reduce the rate of forest loss globally by half by 2020, but the rate of tropical primary forest loss has actually increased since the signing.

Deforestation on September 2021 in the Amazon, Peixoto de Azevedo, a municipality in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Much of the untouched forest is within the Capoto/Jarina Indigenous Land and Parque do Xingu Indigenous Land. Image generated through sentinelhub

When questioned about the reality of meaningful action and willingness to halt deforestation by countries that have signed this pledge, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated that the emphasis may be placed on the financial sector. During the press conference on 2nd November, he suggested that these goals would most likely be reached through the “agreement of companies around the world that they will no longer support or invest in these communities”. He also suggested, however, that the pressure on these banks, financial institutions and companies to meet their promises will come from consumers. This is similarly reflected in the proposed Treasury rules, which would require most large UK corporations and financial institutions to release a detailed public plan by 2023 outlining how they will transition to a low-carbon future in line with the UK’s net zero 2050 target. Any commitments suggested by these companies would not be made mandatory by the UK government, as these rules only aim to increase transparency and accountability. Consumers must once again be relied upon to exert pressure on these firms to make serious changes. There are strong criticisms for this lack of regulation by the government, with many arguing that, without legal obligations, these pledges are doomed to fail.


More than 100 world leaders have also signed the U.S. and EU-led pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% over the next decade from 2020 levels. Methane has a higher heat-trapping capacity compared with carbon dioxide but breaks down in the atmosphere considerably faster, and so it is hoped that cutting methane emissions could have a rapid impact on limiting global warming. The Global Methane Pledge was first announced in September and it now has half of the top 30 methane emitters as signatories. Critically, however, China, Russia and India, three of the top five emitters, have not yet signed on. Australia, which is among the top ten emitters, has also refused to sign. In 2018, these four countries emitted 2.894 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, accounting for around 35% of the global total of 8.175 million tonnes (calculated from data sourced from The World Bank, sourced from CAIT data: Climate Watch). The countries that have signed up constitute “nearly half the global methane emissions”, according to Biden, but the pledge’s impact may be limited without the backing of these large emitters. 

Further pledges

Other important key pledges and outcomes from the first week include:

  • The Breakthrough Agenda, an international plan launched by the UK to help deliver clean and affordable technology everywhere by 2030
  • The Global Energy Alliance, a group of philanthropic foundations and international development banks that announced a $10.5 billion fund for emerging economies to switch to renewable energies, with the goal of raising $100 billion in public and private capital
  • The Coal Pledge, which has been signed by more than 40 countries, pledging to end all investment in new coal power generation and to phase out coal power in the 2030s for major economies and the 2040s for developing economies. Around $18 billion has been pledged to assist this transition. Notably, China and the U.S., two of the biggest coal-dependant countries, have not signed up.

These, as with all other pledges launched and signed during COP26, will only have a significant influence on our fight against climate change if they are effectively implemented and translated into tangible action. While there is cautious optimism that the pledges and targets announced during the first week of COP26 could be sufficient to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2°C, there are mounting concerns that they may not be enough to keep the rise below 1.5°C. The head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated that these new promises could reduce projected global warming to 1.8°C. This is better than the prior predictions of 2.4–4.8°C, based on high-emission scenario SSP5-8.5, but it is still above the Paris Agreement’s desired 1.5°C limit. A rise above 1.5°C will most likely see a worsening in the negative impacts on resources, the intensity and frequency of extreme events, ecosystems, biodiversity, lives and livelihoods, making adaptation to climate change much more difficult.

References and useful resources

IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., et al. (eds)]. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp. Available at:

A news report on the countries that are now aiming for net zero:

Net Zero Tracker, showing the target year by country and information on their status in law or policy, presence of a detailed plan, reporting mechanism, use of international offset credits and greenhouse gas coverage:

A news report on the Climate Crisis Advisory Group’s August report on the aims for global net zero by 2050:–climate-scientists-urge/

The Climate Crisis Advisory Group, 2021. The Final Warning Bell. [online] Available at:

The COP26 website information on the Glasgow Leader’s declaration on forests and land use:

The UK Government’s press release on the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use:

World Bank’s data on methane emissions:

The UK Government’s Press release on the new Breakthrough Agenda:

The New York Times report of the Global Energy Alliance:

The Guardian news report on the Coal Pledge and its criticisms:

Comments by the head of the International Energy Agency on the impacts of pledges made this week at COP26:

IPPC. 2021. Future Global Climate: Scenario-Based Projections and Near-Term Information. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., et al. (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press. Available at:

The NHBS Introduction to Habitats: Farmland

Farmland by Tony Armstrong-Sly via Flickr

The next habitat in our NHBS Introduction to Habitats series is farmland. Farmland encompasses a wide variety of different habitats, many of which can be rich in wildlife. Farmland itself is not defined under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as a habitat, but it contains four habitat types that are identified: arable and horticulture, boundary and linear features, improved grassland and standing open water. These habitats are important for many plant species, as well as a variety of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

Farming has been a part of the UK landscape for thousands of years and methods are constantly changing as consumer tastes shift and new technological innovations emerge. With an estimated three-quarters of the UK being farmland, it is unsurprising that these habitats are used by so many species. It is also not surprising just how important environmentally friendly farming practices are.

The need to utilise as much of the land as possible to increase productivity has led to a rapid decline of boundary and linear features, such as stone walls and hedgerows. These features constitute a significant ecological part of the farmland habitat, providing variety, food and shelter for wildlife, as well as helping to reduce run-off, flooding and soil erosion. Hedgerows and tree lines can also play an important role in carbon sequestration in agricultural landscapes.

What species can you find here?

Beyond crop species, farmland can be home to a large number of flora species that can all play key roles in the ecosystem. These plants support the large variety of fauna species found on farmland. The abundance and diversity of plant species depends on the type of habitat and the level of ‘improvement’. Improved grasslands are areas that have been re-seeded and treated with chemicals, such as fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, and typically species diversity is much lower compared to unimproved or semi-improved grasslands.

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

Blackthorn by Rob Hodgkins via Flickr

A common hedgerow species, blackthorn flowers in early spring and produces fruits in autumn and winter, providing an important food source for many species, including invertebrates and birds. It is visually similar to several other species, such as wild plum and wild cherry, but can be distinguished by its fruit size, leaf shape and the time of year that the flowers bloom.

Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Hawthorn flowers by Bjorn S and haws by Tristram Brelstaff via Flickr

Hawthorn is another common hedgerow species, providing food and shelter for species such as yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella) and the hawthorn moth (Scythropia crataegella). The red berries, called haws, develop during autumn and winter, and are an important source of food during the colder months for many farmland species. Did you know that hawthorn was originally associated with May Day? It was used before the development of the Maypole, with its leaves and flowers used in garlands.

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

White clover by Hideyuki Kamon via Flickr

This plant is often used as a companion plant for crops, providing additional ground cover to reduce soil erosion. White clover also fixes nitrogen within the soil, allowing for better crop growth. Clover suppresses the growth of unwanted or damaging plants too, and also acts as a trap for pests to draw them away from valuable crop plants. This practice helps to improve farmland for wildlife as it prevents it from becoming a monoculture, adding more variety in food and shelter resources. The use of cover crops within agriculture has reduced, however, and white clover is much less abundant on farmland than it once was.

Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Creeping thistle by Peter O’Connor via Flickr

The creeping thistle is an important source of food for many farmland birds, such as goldfinches and linnets, but it’s often considered a ‘weed’ and is normally quite heavily managed on agricultural land. Its flower heads consist of lilac-pink florets on a cylinder of spiny leaf-like structures called bracts. During the late summer, it releases fluffy, wind-borne seeds en masse.


Many iconic UK species use farmland and the fauna present changes depending on the time of year. Farmland can seem to come alive during spring and summer, although there is still much to see during the colder months.

Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix)

Grey partridge by Ekaterina Chernetsova (Papchinskaya) via Flickr

This species is an iconic part of farmland wildlife, with its orange face, dark black semi-circle patch on its abdomen and stripy grey and orange-brown feathers. The grey partridge relies on the seeds, leaves and certain invertebrate species that it finds in open farmland and has a preference for areas with hedges. It is a ground-nesting bird, laying the most number of eggs per clutch of any bird (the record is 25).

Grey partridge numbers have declined by more than 80% in the UK since the 1980s. This has mostly been attributed to a loss of seed sources, habitat loss and predation, for example by cats and foxes. Luckily there are several conservation efforts in place to help this species.

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)

Yellowhammer by Airwolfhound via Flickr

These brightly coloured birds prefer open countryside with bushes and hedgerows, and so they are often found in farmland habitats. Yellowhammers feed on invertebrates and seeds, relying on farmland seeds during the winter as snow cover can make it difficult to find food elsewhere.

Heart and Dart Moth (Agrotis exclamationis)

Heart and dart by AJC1 via Flickr

Farmland habitats are home to a great many invertebrate species, with a large variety of butterflies and moths. The heart and dart is an easily identifiable moth due to its distinctive markings. It has a blackish v-shaped collar, with a dark dart mark and two circular marks on its wings. The wing colour can vary from lightish grey to a much darker brown. They feed on a variety of plants such as brambles (Rubus spp.), maize (Zea spp.) and lettuce (Lactuca spp.).

Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus)

Brown hare by Caroline Legg via Flickr

While not a true native to the UK, as they were thought to have been introduced during Roman times, this species is now considered naturalised. It prefers a mixture of grassland, arable fields and hedgerows, grazing on vegetation and the bark of young, woody plants. Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) can also be seen on farmland, although they can be distinguished quite easily as hares are much larger, with longer limbs and longer, black-tipped ears.

Farmland can also support many of the UK’s small mammal species. For more information on those, check out our NHBS Guide to UK Small Mammal Identification.


Intensification of agricultural practices has led to a reduction in habitat areas that are seen as unproductive, such as hedgerows, rough grassland and open water areas. It has been reported that 60% of farmland species are now in decline. As well as agricultural intensification, other factors behind this decline include changes in farming practices; the use of harmful chemicals, such as insecticides; overgrazing by livestock; destruction of habitats and soil erosion.

Habitat changes caused by development, afforestation or conservation efforts that prioritise alternative habitat types can also pose a threat to farmland. As can changes in management, or a lack thereof; the abandonment of farmland can lead to encroachment by scrubs and trees. While scrubland can be an important habitat for many wildlife species, it is not necessarily suitable for all farmland species, such as ground-nesting birds that prefer open habitats. This could lead to a change in community structure and may even lead to localised extinction of vulnerable species that rely on farmland and cannot survive in other habitats. Changes in land use through development can also impact in a similar way. Furthermore, if the land was originally woodland or wetland, for example, there may be a push to restore it to its previous habitat type, which may not be suitable for the species previously inhabiting the farmland area.

Farmland habitats also face climate change-related challenges. Changes in precipitation, increased extreme weather and increased temperatures can lead to soil degradation, reduced plant growth and changes in the availability of food, shelter and fresh water for wildlife. These factors can also impact crop production, and where this results in reduced yields, this increases the need for agricultural intensification to meet demands, further impacting the farmland ecosystem.

Hopes for the future

A change in the way farmers receive subsidies may signal a shift away from a rather bleak picture for these habitats. Previously, farmers were paid grants based on how much land they owned and farmed. This encouraged them to use as much of their land for productivity as possible. Now, however, farmers will be paid for more sustainable practices instead. Under the Sustainable Farming Incentive, grants will be rewarded for restoration of non-crop habitats, the provision of resources for farmland species year-round and reducing the use of harmful pesticides.

Useful resources and further reading

Farming and Birds
Ian Newton
Hardback | £32.50 £34.99




Wildlife Conservation on Farmland, Volume 1
David W Macdonald and Ruth E Feber
Hardback | £78.99





Farmland Conservation: Evidence for the effects of interventions in northern and western Europe
Lynn V Dicks et al
Paperback | £34.99



The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District
James Rebanks
Paperback | £9.99



All prices correct at the time of this article’s publication.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 3rd November 2021

Satellite images show the positive impact of conservation efforts for China’s coastal wetlands. An international, interdisciplinary research team led by University of Oklahoma professor Xiangming Xiao analysed more than 62,000 satellite images of coastal wetlands in China taken between 1984 to 2018. They found a substantial increase in saltmarsh area and a stable trend of tidal flat areas after 2012, driven by decreased pollution and increased conservation and restoration efforts.

Nature in Australia’s southwest is on the climate frontline. This region has been identified as a global drying hotspot as, since 1970, winter rainfall has declined up to 20%, river flows have plummeted and heatwaves spanning water and land have intensified. This is having a wide range of negative impacts on the region’s wildlife and plants, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned this will continue as emissions rise and the climate warms.

Endangered condor chicks have hatched from unfertilised eggs in a species first. Scientists have discovered two California condor chicks (Gymnogyps californianus) that were born through a form of asexual reproduction, which is extremely uncommon in birds. Only 27 individuals were recorded in 1987, all of which were captive and part of a managed breeding programme. In the decades since, many have been released back into the wild as numbers bounce back to over 500.

COP26 began in Glasgow on Sunday as the ‘last, best hope’ for meeting the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target. Over the next two weeks, delegates from over 200 countries will negotiate how to tackle the challenge of intensifying global warming. It is hoped that many of the largest carbon polluters will raise their climate targets to prevent further warming.

The pledge of $100bn annual climate aid for developing countries has been pushed back to 2023. The UK government has announced a new financing plan which talks of hopes that developed countries will deliver $100bn a year in climate finance to developing countries. However, the financing plan states that it is not likely the original 2020 target will be met, but it is confident that the target will be reached by 2023.

MARINElife: Q&A with Rick Morris and Tom Brereton

MARINElife is a science charity that conducts research on the health of our oceans by gathering information on key marine species. With the help of experienced volunteers, they carry out dolphin, whale and seabird surveys in UK and bordering waters and provide relevant, robust and up-to-date information to those working for the sustainable future of our oceans. MARINElife also runs an extensive programme of educational and outreach events, from species identification to full surveyor courses.

Research Director Tom Brereton and Trustee, Trainer and Wildlife Officer Rick Morris have kindly taken the time to answer a few questions for us.

Could you tell us about the work MARINElife does and how your charity began?

MARINElife is a charity (established in 2005) that is dedicated to the conservation of marine wildlife through research and educational activities. MARINElife grew out of the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme (BDRP), which was a survey and educational programme originally based on a P&O ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao (1995-2010).

Today, MARINElife carries out scientifically robust surveys of dolphins, whales, and seabirds, made by experienced volunteers, on a variety of vessels at sea in UK and bordering waters, from angling boats through to large commercial ferries. The work is done in partnership with a wide range of sponsoring bodies from ecotourism through to research institutes and shipping companies.

MARINElife Surveyors by Rick Morris Photography

You survey many key marine species to monitor the health of our oceans. Could you explain a bit more about the role dolphins, whales and seabirds play in the marine ecosystem and the key threats they are facing?

Dolphins perform crucial roles in their native ecosystems wherever they’re found and function as high-level predators feeding primarily on fish and squid. In any ecosystem, carnivores near or at the top of the food chain establish fundamental order all the way down to the bottom, and their removal can have wide-ranging and highly complex repercussions.

Whales play a vital role in the marine ecosystem as they help provide at least half of the oxygen you breathe by providing nutrients to phytoplankton.

Seabirds can be a good and visible indicator of the wider health of the marine environment as they feed on many of the same species as cetaceans and are often found in association with cetaceans during feeding.

The key threats to whales, dolphins and seabirds are: whaling, climate change, overfishing, by-catch, entanglement in ghost fishing gear, noise pollution and ship strikes.

Minke Whale by Rick Morris Photography

The marine realm is an important resource for many communities but is also intensely exploited. Do you believe a balance can be found between its continued use and the improvement and maintenance of ocean health?

We believe that through scientific evidence and good educational programs, cooperation with local fishing communities and everyone who depends upon the marine environment can be established to safeguard the future of our seas.

Presently, you are focusing on your small boat surveys in Lyme Bay monitoring dolphin populations. Have you noted any changes since the start of the pandemic?

Generally, there seems to be less commercial fishing activity during the day than there was a few years ago, perhaps a sign that the area has been “fished out” to some degree. There has been a notable increase in Balearic Shearwaters throughout the summer months in both years, with the Bay becoming more and more important for this species. 2020 was characterised by large numbers of Bluefin Tuna, whilst 2021 was a late season with hardly any Mackerel until September.

Bottlenose Dolphin by Rick Morris Photography

Using data collected by MARINElife, a major study published this year highlighted the importance of south-west UK waters to the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater. What conservation measures would you like to see put in place to help this species?

The main global threats to the species have been identified as drowning in fishing nets and predation by introduced species on their breeding grounds. For the bycatch issue, appropriate mitigation measures are urgently needed, whilst predator control and eradication measures need to be stepped up at breeding sites. Research is required on other threats including light pollution, marine plastics and climate change. More locally, shoaling pelagic fish such as Anchovy, which are key prey items, need to be protected from overfishing and disturbance of moulting flocks need to be monitored and regulated if required. Work needs to continue to identify and designate Special Protection Areas for the species, where these will make a real difference to the conservation of the species.

Balearic Shearwater by Tom Brereton/MARINElife

For those interested in your work and would like to get involved with MARINElife, how would you best recommend they do this?

The best route to get involved would be to email and state what skills you have that would be suited to our work!


Phillips, J. A., et al. 2021. Consistent concentrations of critically endangered Balearic shearwaters in UK waters revealed by at-sea surveys. Ecology and Evolution, 11(4): 1544-1557.

You can find out more about MARINElife from their website and by following them on Facebook and Twitter.


Author Interview with Angela Harding: A Year Unfolding

A Year Unfolding: A Beautifully Illustrated Guide to Nature Through the Seasons is a stunning book by much-loved printmaker Angela Harding, the first solely dedicated to her art. It is a celebration of Angela’s beautiful prints and a glimpse into her detailed and meticulous process.

A Year Unfolding is a journey through Angela’s year in nature, watching the seasons unfold in front of her studio in Rutland. This book shows how nature transforms and evolves over the course of the year, while also telling the stories behind some of Angela’s most popular images, giving context to her celebrated works, as well as new art created specifically for the book. The beautiful illustrations and evocative imagery of the prose make this the perfect book for readers and art lovers everywhere.

Angela Harding has kindly taken the time to answer a few questions for us below.

Could you tell us how you became interested in nature and printmaking?

Born in Stoke-on-Trent, the Potteries, one of the most industrial parts of the UK, it is perhaps surprising that I am more at home in the countryside than in towns. At school, I was the misfit teenager in socks rather than tights, whose bedroom was plastered with bird posters rather than popstars. So it has continued into my adult life, I have never lost my love of the natural world and in particular, birds still inspire my work. As a student of Fine Art at Leicester Polytechnic in the 1980s, I was first introduced to printmaking. My student home was a tiny cottage in the graveyard of St Marys church in Melton Mowbray. I would cycle the 18 miles to Leicester, collecting roadkill that I strapped to my handbags to draw at college. These drawings would then be turned into prints; at that time, I mainly worked in drypoint and etching. So my love of drawing moved easily into a love of printmaking. Today I work in a combination of block printing and silkscreen, but you can still see my love of line in the way I carve the blocks I make.

A Year Unfolding is a journey through the seasons. Why did you decide to give early spring and early summer their own chapters?

I love all the British seasons, but of all of them, it is the energy of spring and early summer that inspires many of my images. I always try to bring movement into my work, so there is a natural fit with the bursts of new growth and new life you get at these times of year. Also, the intensity of colour, the fresh greens of the garden and hedgerow. Birds become so much part of our day in spring and early summer, in the beauty of their songs and in their mad dashing flight to build nests and find mates.

The natural world takes centre stage in your prints; how important do you think art is in bringing awareness to the environment and how do you think it could be better used?

All of us have moved so far from a proper connection with the natural world—our comforts come high on what we need or what we think we need. So if my prints are a small reminder of the fact that we are very much part of the natural world, I am honoured. We all cherish those moments when we spot a kingfisher or come across a hedgehog in the garden. I hope, in my work, I communicate some of that joy. So if these wonders of experience with nature are to continue and grow, we need to be reminded how special they are and how much we value them.
You’ve created many beautiful and striking book covers, including English Pastoral, The Wild Isles and The Salt Path. What is the process of creating these? Do you approach each project differently?

Working with publishers over the years has given me wonderful opportunities to create new work and see my work published on a variety of themes. The advantage of being an older illustrator is that I come with a lifetime of experience. So when I was asked to do the cover for Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path, I could draw on the experience of having walked that coast path and spent a lot of my youth camping in Cornwall. I hope it is evident in the illustration I made for The Salt Path how much I love Cornwall and what great times I have had exploring its coastline.

The covers English Pastoral and The Wild Isles both used print that I had already made and luckily fitted with the themes of the books. English Pastoral featured a print call the Shippen Curlew—made after visiting my friends Mary and Hugh Elliot, who run the Twenty Twenty Gallery in Ludlow. Shippen is the Shropshire word for sheep shed and they live in a converted Shippen surrounded by farmland. Very sadly, Shropshire curlews are not as common as they were when I lived in Shropshire in my 20s, but they are still a bird I very much associate with the area. The Wild Isles shows a nightjar and moth against a seascape—this image is one of three prints made on the same theme. It was inspired by the trips my husband and I make on our small wooden boat—a lot of our summer months are spent sailing on the east coast of Britain.

What prompted you to make the jump from illustrator to author and create your own book?

I have always wanted to collect my work into a book. I work in themes and series so even though many of the images were made years apart, they fit together well. I hope the writing in the book is ok; I am, of course, more comfortable with a pen or chisel! I do come from a literary background; my father was an unpublished poet and a great influence. He studied English at Cambridge in the late 1940s under Professor F. R. Leavis. It is a shame my father is no longer here to see my book; I hope he would have approved. The poems that mark my chapter headings are ones we often shared together.

Finally, do you have any further projects planned that you’d like to tell us about?

I do have new projects in mind, but nothing definite that I can share with you at the moment. I am hoping to do a series of prints about the British coast that my husband and I visit on Wingsong, our boat. Travelling by boat and bike gives a different perspective on our landscape—we mainly spend time on the east coast moving from Suffolk up to Shetland, but we have both been around the whole coast by boat and by bike.

The NHBS Guide to UK Mustelid Identification

Mustelids are species in the family Mustelidae of the order Carnivora. They are medium to small mammals comprising around 56-60 species worldwide, eight of which are found in the UK, including feral ferrets. While the conservation status of most is considered Least Concern in Great Britain, several of these species are considered Critically Endangered or Near-Threatened in individual UK countries. This is mainly due to historical and current persecution and habitat loss. Pollution, however, has also impacted mustelid species, such as the otter, which was particularly affected by pesticides, such as organochlorines.  Thankfully, many of the most harmful pesticides have been banned in most European countries since 1979, allowing populations to begin to recover. Other conservation efforts, such as legislative protection, habitat restoration and relocations, are also helping to restore mustelid populations.

Mustelids, other than badgers, are characterised by their long, thin body shape, which allows them to enter burrows and tunnels used by their prey. These mainly include rabbits and small mammals, but also some birds, bird eggs, invertebrates and fish. Several species resemble one another, particularly the stoat and the weasel, but several key identification features can help you to correctly identify the species. Colouration, body size and distribution within the UK can be helpful, as well as other features such as tail size, shape and colour, snout shape and even their running gait. Binoculars or a scope can help you to identify these features from a distance.

Polecat (Mustela putorius)

Distribution: Found throughout Wales, parts of Scotland and central and southern England.
Body length: 32–45cm
Tail length: 12–19cm
What to look for: This species has dark brown guard hairs, the top or outer layer of the coat, and buff-coloured underfur, giving them a two-tone appearance. They have a dark face with a white stripe across it, similar to a ferret. They can produce hybrid offspring with ferrets that can be difficult to identify, but the hybrids usually have a lighter appearance and more white on their faces.

Polecat by Charlie Marshall via Flickr
Pine Marten (Martes martes)

Distribution: Mainly found in Scotland and Ireland, although fragmented populations are found in northern England and North Wales.
Body length: 46–54cm
Tail length: 18–27cm
What to look for: The pine marten has a chestnut-brown colouration with a pale yellow patch on its chin and throat that resembles a bib and a long, bushy tail. The ‘bib’ is uniquely shaped on each pine marten, meaning individuals can be identified by the pattern.

Pine Marten by Kent Wang via Flickr
Stoat (Mustela erminea)

Distribution: Widespread throughout the UK, although absent on the Isles of Scilly, most of the Channel Islands and some Scottish islands.
Body length: 17–32.5cm
Tail length: 6.5–12cm
What to look for: This species is orangy-brown with a cream-coloured underside and throat. They have a very similar appearance to the weasel but there are some key differences: the stoat is larger, with a longer, black-tipped tail and a distinctive bounding gait compared to the run of the weasel.

Stoat by Charlie Marshall via Flickr
Weasel (Mustela nivalis)

Distribution: Widespread in England, Wales and Scotland but is absent from Ireland and most islands.
Body length: 11.4–26cm
Tail length: 1.2–8.7cm
What to look for: The weasel is the smallest species of Carnivora in the UK, with a russet-brown coat that can appear more orange in certain lights, and a cream underside and throat. Their tails have no black tip and are much shorter compared to the stoat’s tail, and they run with a straight back, rather than the arched, bounding gait of the stoat.

Weasel by Mike Prince via Flickr
American Mink (Neovison vision)

Distribution: Widespread across the UK, thought to be absent from the far north of Scotland and some Scottish Islands.
Body length: 31–45cm
Tail length: 13–23cm
What to look for: The mink has dark brown fur with a white chin and throat and a narrow snout. They can resemble otters but they can be distinguished by their smaller size and face, as well as their darker fur.
Did you know? The American mink is an invasive species, introduced into the wild in the 1950s and 1960s as a result of fur farm escapees and deliberate releases. Accurate population estimates are difficult but many areas are attempting to control numbers as American mink are a serious threat to the endangered water vole (Arvicola amphibius).

American Mink by Kary Nieuwenhuis via Flickr
Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra)

Distribution: Rare but widespread throughout the country, although absent from areas in central and southern England, the Isles of Scilly, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
Body length: 60–80cm
Tail length: 32–56cm
What to look for: This species has brown fur with a grey tint, a paler chest and throat and a broad snout, which can be used to distinguish it from the mink.
Did you know? In the UK, otter populations were in severe decline in the second half of the 20th century, due to hunting, pollution from pesticides and habitat loss. Conservation efforts have allowed populations to start to recover, with otters returning to every county in England.

Eurasian Otter by Dave Pape via Flickr
European Badger (Meles meles)

Distribution: Widespread throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Absent from far north Scotland, Scottish Islands, the Isles of Scilly, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
Body length: 75–100cm
Tail length: 15cm
What to look for: This is a distinctive species, with a grey back, black underside and paws, a fluffy, short tail and an unmistakable black-and-white striped face.

European Badger by caroline legg via Flickr
(Feral) Ferret (Mustela furo)

Distribution: Feral populations throughout Britain, but thought to survive best on offshore islands, such as Shetland, Mull, Harris, Islay, Rathlin Island and North and South Uist. There is also a population in North Monaghan.
Length: 48–56cm (including tail)
What to look for: This species has multiple colour variations, including white, brown, black or mixed fur. Their nose is usually pink, although they can have darker blotches, and they have a thin white band across the face with darker eyes, giving it a bandit-like appearance. They can be hard to distinguish from the polecat, from which it is descended. Where there is an established population of both species, hybridisation can occur. Patches of white on the fur, particularly the paws, can indicate either a ferret or a hybrid.

Ferret by neusitas via Flickr

Author Interview with Roy Dennis: Mistletoe Winter

Mistletoe Winter is a collection of essays on our environment, covering biodiversity, habitat conservation, rewilding and individual species.

Similarly to his companion volume, Cottongrass Summerauthor Roy Dennis expresses his alarm at the crisis currently confronting the natural world while balancing this with his sense of optimism about the younger generations and their fight for the crucial changes needed for the future.  Drawing from his considerable experience of working in nature conservation, his essays are full of insight and originality, providing inspiration and ideas for everyone who cares about our planet and its species.

Roy Dennis has kindly taken the time to answer a few questions for us below.

Mistletoe Winter and its companion Cottongrass Summer are collections of essays on our environment and the challenges it faces. How did you find the response to your first collection and what motivated you to write this one?

I received such a lovely response to Cottongrass Summer from so many people, and such encouraging reviews, that I wanted to cover a range of other nature topics in a similar way. People remarked that they liked the storytelling way of explaining some of the real issues to do with nature in our ever-changing world and this allowed me to cover some bigger ideas in Mistletoe Winter.

In your essay ‘Deep snow, predators and prey’ you noted how the choice of language and terminology may have an impact on the rate at which the general public learns about environmental crises. Could you talk a little bit more about this here?

I was talking about the fact that there is so much excellent science being done on wildlife and ecological issues, but so much is ‘hidden’ to ordinary folk because it is in scientific journals, some of which are not open access, and often written in a formulaic way. We need much better availability of the results written by the scientists involved in plain language, which everyone can understand.

What do you think are the most important and urgent steps that we need to take in the UK to protect our wildlife and endangered species, such as the lapwing?

The most important step is to raise ecological recovery to much higher levels. I would compare it to the major recognition of timber shortages at the end of the First World War, which created the Forestry Commission; and the shortage of food in the Second World War, which created a much enhanced Agriculture Department. In the present crises, we need greatly expanded Nature Recovery government departments with really substantial budgets to restore nature. I’d recommended that 50% of our land and seas is principally for ecological restoration, and budgets need to be in line with the £45 billion we spend on military defence.

You mention young people’s role and engagement in the fight against climate change, as well as your own childhood experiences with nature. How do you think we can best encourage environmental awareness in young people?

I think young people are often fully aware of the climate and biodiversity crises – in fact, more so than their parents. The important step forward is for older people to recognise their worries and do something about it – urgently – for it’s the young that will have to suffer the consequences of our inaction.

Mistletoe Winter will be your second book published in 2021, following the
brilliant Restoring the Wild, published earlier this year. Do you have plans for any further books or other exciting projects?

Yes, I have a couple of interesting book ideas I’m mulling over, and we have wildlife projects we wish to carry out – but I’m a great believer in working up ideas quietly without fanfare and then getting on with them.

Author Interview with Stephen Littlewood: Wild Mull

Wild Mull: A Natural History of the Island and its People guides the reader through the world of the Isle of Mull in its glory, considering every facet of the island’s natural history, diverse species and stories of past, present and future.

Mull is a seaborne landscape off the west coast of Scotland, displaying uncommon biodiversity and full of rare wildlife experiences, but today it faces some of its greatest challenges. With superb illustrations and illuminating text, Wild Mull is testimony to the power of wild places and the duty we have to protect and learn from them.

Stephen Littlewood kindly agreed to answer some of our questions below.

Mull mountainscape across Loch na Keal by Martin Jones

Could you tell us what inspired you to write this natural history of the Isle of Mull and its people?

We live in an era when wildlife is being pushed more and more into the
margins, and many people are starved of the experience and understanding
of wild places. In this context, there is a consensus that Mull is formidably
equipped to display a concentration of land and marine species that is very rare today. It is also a relatively accessible destination. Consequently, the island and its surroundings have become significant attractions for a burgeoning population of wildlife tourists and, it must be said, for the tourism industry which has prospered on the back of a fascination with the so-called ‘wild’. Today, Mull’s reputation for delivering outstanding and intimate associations with many iconic British species draws people from far and wide. However, until now there has been no single resource that explains how Mull came to this position, or what it is about its aggregation of species and habitats that makes it so outstanding. I felt that it was high time to rectify that, but in doing so it was important to address some of the questions that are often overlooked during the pursuit of the profound pleasure to be gained from embracing nature in cherished land and seascapes. The book was always intended to be as much a history, an explanation and an exploration of this special place, as it was a guide to its species and habitats.

White-tailed Eagle by Martin Jones

Visitors typically arrive on Mull with a wish-list of species to see. That list is
invariably topped by eagles (white-tailed and golden), otters, puffins, and
cetaceans. What people tend to be less appreciative of, or often not at all
interested in, is the backstory both to these species and of the multitude of
supporting flora and fauna. All of them are equally beautiful and extraordinary in different ways, and it is the sum of their parts that enables the headline species to thrive. I wanted to encourage the reader to explore as much of Mull’s complex biodiversity as possible, whilst also explaining how, in such an apparently injury-free landscape, it is constantly under pressure and subject to continual interventions by people, in the same way as anywhere else. To do so the book had to be factual but at the same time attractive and not overbearing. This meant that it would have to deliver a visual thrill; to make all of it, even the smallest elements, tangible and exciting. I also knew that Martin could sprinkle that magic, embroider the broad design concept, and embellish the text with the kind of high-quality photo images that would prove irresistible to the potential readership. He has done this wonderfully well.

You mention that human intervention has had a profound effect on Mull.
Could you tell us a little more about the historical relationship between
humans and the environment on the island?

Mull’s environment isn’t perfect, or unblemished. Most of that is down to
the fact that people have been surviving on, profiting from, and ‘improving’
it for 10,000 years. If we were going to tell an honest story of the island’s
natural history, it had to include the role of people, for better or worse, in
shaping it. To begin with, I thought that this would be a tale largely of land
use, of subsistence arable farming, grazing by domestic animals, wholesale
planting and harvesting of cash-crop conifer plantations and so on. Of
course, these are significant elements in the story, but only when I started to examine the historical record did I realise the extent to which species have been manipulated, consciously and unconsciously, by human interventions that have fundamentally impacted the flora and fauna over time. The picture of what we think of as a natural biodiversity, not only on Mull, isn’t necessarily as we perceive it. An extraordinary proportion of our flora and fauna has been introduced, exterminated, or tampered with. What I find interesting is that each time these actions have occurred they have been judged by the social, moral or economic expediency of the age. Today, we may feel confident that we know the right and wrong ways of addressing biodiversity issues, but one wonders if future generations will have a different perspective again.

Dolphins in flight by James West

The pine marten is flourishing on Mull, which is considered by some
to be a success story, given their critical status in England and Wales.
However, you highlight their potential negative impact on many of Mull’s
endangered bird species. How does Mull plan to tackle this conservation

In short, Mull doesn’t plan to tackle it at all nor, I think, is it a topic that is widely discussed. The pine marten is a very recent arrival on the island, and although it was not ‘formally’ introduced, it is generally accepted that it is here to stay. Its presence is mostly felt by the inhabitants to be desirable, so hopefully, its impact upon other species will not be to drive them beyond sustainable populations. Its role as a new predator does raise interesting questions, however. It is certainly thriving, but nobody is monitoring the impact of its reintroduction, nor the size of its population. It is a protected species in Scotland, so, therefore, cannot be deliberately trapped, whilst at the same time, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have said that, because its introduction was never officially sanctioned, if it is accidentally caught in mink traps, for example, it should be removed from the island as an illegal immigrant and liberated elsewhere. We don’t really know if its migration is good or bad for Mull’s wildlife, and we don’t have any inclination to find out. I find this a confused response and a fascinating conundrum in the light of current approaches to the restoration of our damaged environments.

Pine Marten, an ‘accidental’ introducation by Nathen Steggles Briggs

Tourism, particularly ecotourism, contributes a large proportion of the
island’s economy. However, negative aspects of ecotourism, such as
overuse of areas, can lead to environmental damage. What measures are
being taken to keep tourism sustainable?

Ecotourism is probably now the largest contributor to the economy of Mull,
but again this isn’t a question that is really generating much deliberation
about the future or consideration of potential interventions. There are parking issues, particularly in the centre of Tobermory, which have
been the subject of debate and are likely to result in the community and local authority trialling solutions to excess traffic in urban areas. However, in terms of ameliorating traffic growth on the roads, the impact of ‘wild’ camping, or the increasing pressures on species such as puffins and otters by wildlife photographers and so on, there is little formal debate and very little coming forward by way of attempts to make tourism more sustainable to protect the environment. It was interesting, whilst writing the book, to reflect upon the significant behavioural responses of wildlife during the Covid-19 lockdowns. There were many discernible changes, both as a response to restrictions upon tourism and the subsequent lifting of those restrictions.

Puffin on Lunga by Martin Jones

Do you have any future projects planned that you can tell us about?

Mull could be likened to an accessible ‘mini laboratory’ with the potential to
explore many environmental issues which are being played out on a much
bigger stage. I would like to use the prism of Mull to address some of the
big questions that arose in writing the book, although unpacking and making sense of the many wicked issues that come to mind is a complex and hazard-strewn path which would be a wholly different kind of journey. In the meantime, perhaps Martin and I will further develop some of the core themes of this book, which continue to fascinate and engage an ever-increasing number of interested individuals.

Wild Mull by Martin Jones

Climate Challenges: 3. Fossil Fuels

In the lead up to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November of this year, we are writing a series of articles looking at some of the toughest global climate crisis challenges that we are currently facing. This article looks at the use of fossil fuels and their contribution to climate change.

Gerry Machen via Flickr
What are fossil fuels?

Fossil fuels include coal, natural gas, heavy oils and petroleum. They are formed from the decomposition of carbon-based organisms that were buried millions of years ago. This created carbon and hydrogen-rich deposits below the earth’s surface, which can be extracted and burned for energy. Fossil fuels are non-renewable, a finite resource that is being used much faster than can be replenished, but this type of fuel currently supplies around 80% of the world’s energy.

How are they extracted and what are the impacts?

There are several methods of extracting fossil fuels, depending on the type, amount and surrounding area. The main method for extracting solid fossil fuels, such as coal, is mining, where buried resources are exposed by digging or scraping. This can be underground, on the surface or even at sea. Land-use changes associated with mining, such as the construction of access roads, processing plants and other facilities, and the mining itself, have a wide range of environmental impacts. The extraction of coal can pollute local water sources with toxic chemicals and heavy metals, reduce the quality of soil, involve excess dumping of rock and soil and strip the land of vegetation. There are also some very destructive techniques such as the use of explosives, which can have a widespread impact on the local wildlife.

For liquid or gaseous fuels, the method most often used is drilling. This has similar land-use change impacts to mining, but drilling also involves pipelines, the building of which can cause thousands of miles worth of damage. There is also the threat of spillage, such as recently occurred in North Dakota, where nearly 41,000 gallons of wastewater was spilt from a broken pipeline. Oilfield wastewater, also called produced water, contains saltwater and drilling chemicals, including heavy metals. It is not drinkable and can have serious environmental consequences when it’s spilt.

Fracking is another method used to extract gas. The environmental impacts from this method include the release of carcinogenic chemicals into water sources, earthquakes and reduced water availability due to the high volume needed for the fracking process.

Oil pumps in California by CGP Grey via Flickr
What happens when we burn fossil fuels?

Burning fossil fuels generates energy, which is converted to electricity and used for industrial processes and transportation. Since the industrial revolution, our use of fossil fuels has been steadily increasing. The use of fossil fuels is thought to be the primary cause of climate change. Burning these fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at a much faster rate than it can be removed by the carbon cycle. These gases accumulate in the atmosphere, intensifying the greenhouse effect and increasing global average temperatures.

Burning fuels also increases the acidity of precipitation, causes ocean acidification and emits air pollutants, causing respiratory disease.

What are the alternatives?

There are many different alternatives to fossil fuels, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. From hydrogen gas, tidal energy, wind energy, geothermal power, biomass energy, biofuels to wave and solar power, there are several options that companies and countries can use to reduce their carbon footprint. The benefits are reduced direct emissions, the potential for lower fuel prices and that they are renewable energy sources. However, some have their own negative impacts on the environment. For example, wind farms can be harmful to birds, some solar panels are manufactured using heavy metals and are difficult to recycle, and hydrogen gas is mostly produced from fossil fuels. Therefore, simply switching over from fossil fuels to renewable is not an easy process.

However, a higher percentage of the UK’s electricity was powered by renewable energy than fossil fuels in 2020. Renewables powered 43% of our electricity compared to the 38.5% powered by fossil fuels. Together with nuclear power, 59% of the UK’s electricity was powered by low carbon sources. This demonstrates that large-scale use of renewable energy is possible and that we are taking steps on our way to becoming a net-zero country.

Protests in 2015 against the use and funding of fossil fuels by John Englart via Flickr
What is net zero and is it really the solution?

Net zero is the balance between the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. This can refer to the emissions of individual people, companies, countries and the world. It does not mean that fossil fuels will no longer be used however, it instead means that the amount of emissions released is the same as the amount removed. This can be achieved without completely cutting out our emissions output by increasing the removal of greenhouse gases through techniques such as planting trees or capturing carbon during industrial processes. While finding a balance is an important step in tackling climate change as it will reduce global warming, it is not the final solution. The continued use of fossil fuels will have other negative environmental implications, even if our emissions are balanced.

True zero refers to the complete removal of carbon-emitting fuel types from our energy supply or carbon offsetting when using these fuels when renewable energy supplies fall short. This also includes cutting all greenhouse gas emissions, including from sources other than fossil fuels. Carbon negative refers to a carbon footprint that is less than neutral and therefore is removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it is adding. Only two countries are thought to have reached net zero, Bhutan and Suriname, and both claim to be carbon negative. However, both countries still use fossil fuels.

We are already seeing the effects of climate change and the increased average global temperatures. At the 1.5°C increase that the Paris Agreement aims to limit the rise to, we will see even more serious consequences (you can read more about this in our blog: Climate Challenges: What is COP26 and Why is it Important?). One way to truly tackle climate change is to begin reducing atmospheric carbon and greenhouse gases to pre-industrial revolution levels, hopefully allowing average global temperatures to also reduce to pre-industrial revolution levels. To achieve this, more countries must become either true zero or carbon negative.


• The extraction and burning of fossil fuels have serious negative environmental consequences, including temperature increase, air pollutants and water contamination. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has steadily been increasing since the industrial revolution.
• There are multiple alternative energy sources, including renewables, but these can also have negative impacts on the environment. They powered more electricity in the UK than fossil fuels in 2020.
• Net zero is the balance between greenhouse gases produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. True zero refers to cutting all carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon negative means removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than is being added. One way to tackle climate change is for countries to aim for true zero or carbon negative to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Useful resources

• Martins, F., et al. (2019). Analysis of Fossil Fuel Energy Consumption and Environmental Impacts in European Countries. Energies, 12(6): 1-11
• This article on renewable energy generation in the UK in 2020:

This Week in Biodiversity News – 20th October 2021

German non-governmental conservation organisation NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) reported that almost 20% of European bird species are threatened with extinction, based on BirdLife International’s data. Their survey put 110 of the 544 species examined on BirdLife International’s Red List and a further 166 species were shown to be declining. The most at risk are songbirds, such as larks and shrikes, due to habitat loss and the use of agricultural chemicals.

More than 100 nations sign the Kunming Declaration to protect global biodiversity. The historic pledge calls for “urgent and integrated action” to prevent our planet from losing its biodiversity. The pact was adopted during the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15).

BirdLife International has announced the launch of a $3 billion wetland conservation project for birds, nature and people. In partnership with the Asian Development Bank and the East Asian-Australasian Flyway  Partnership, the Regional Flyways Initiative aims to preserve wetlands along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway migration route that extends across more than 20 countries.

Water voles are thriving after a riverbank project in Hertfordshire sparks hope. The endangered species has declined by 90% in population since the 1970s and is now threatened with extinction. The Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust assessed an area around the River Ver and, after finding no trace of American mink, began releasing water voles, hoping to re-establish the once widespread population in Hertfordshire.