What to do if you find a stag beetle

During work, tree surgeons ( especially while removing decaying tree stump) sometime find large black beetles. They may be concerned that they are Greater Stag Beetle Lucanus cervus and want to know what action to take to protect them.

Greater Stag Beetles are protected against sale in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 and are also a Priority Species under the NERC Act and an Annex II European Species.  They do occur in Norfolk, but are much commoner futher south in Ipswich and Suffolk.

Often though they will be stag beetles but the easily confused Lesser Stag Beetle Dorcus parallelipipedus , which is more widely distributed.

Lesser stag beetle Lucanus cervus

Decaying wood is important to all mini-beasts, especially in the “tidier” urban areas like Norwich.  An easy approach if possible is to reduce any stump in large sections and re-sited somewhere safer (something the lesser stag beetle colony will appreciate).

If you do find any text a photograph to us and we are happy to identify for you and let you know what to do.

We are also happy to carry out full invertebrate surveys of sites and make recommendations for managing them for charismatic stag beetles.

What is a root protection area ?

The root protection area

The root protection area is the minimum area around a tree that it is considered is necessary to protect its root system from damage such as construction or compaction.

Arborists calculate it either by a formula or by drawing it manually.

How is a root protection area calculated?

Under the British Standard BS5837 for each tree, the arborist calculates the RPA by multiplying the diameter breast height ( DBH ) of the tree in meters by 12.  A simple circle is then drawn around the centre point of the trunk to this distance.  A maximum RPA of a radius of 15m is assumed.  There are more complex rules for calculating trees with multiple stems.

The arborist can hence provide a simple diagram of the root protection areas for trees, which is easy to calculate and understand.

How is a root protection area estimated manually ?

Although root protection areas are drawn simplistically as a circle, often in practice they are asymetrical or even irregular shapes.

Drawing a root protection area manually is more complicated than the formula approach  and requires input from an experienced arborist. The estimation may also often involve further ground investigations. This might include digging of small test pits to look for roots or other specialist equipment. The arborist will allow for the factors like :

  • hard surfaces,
  • previous trenching works,
  • water sources,
  • soil conditions
  • and the ecology of the tree.

Accurate manual drawing of root protection areas is particularly important on resticted sites or for large trees and important specimens.

How is a root protection area used ?

Architects and planners can use root protection area in site design for buildings and roads, but service trenches as well.  The arborist will use it later for a detailed Arboricultural Method Statement to show how to protect tree roots in constuction.

 

 

TLC for trees : watering in hot weather

Why do trees need TLC in hot weather ?

A newly planted tree arrives from the carefully controlled conditions of a tree nursery into a potentially hostile setting with all the attendant stresses.  Hot dry weather can quickly kill a newly planted tree during the first five years before it becomes established, especially if planted into a hot urban environment.

Birch trees dead from water stress ( not ours !)

The right tree for the right location

Picking the right tree species is key : where a tree is planted into an unsuitable location then it becomes more easily stressed by extremes of weather, especially prior to it becoming fully established in the first five years.

We always suggest to our clients that they make their choice of species based on what we know will thrive in an area rather than what looks nicest in the catalogue.  Whilst you can grow most trees in most locations, an unsuitable location will most likely lead to higher maintenance needs and either potentially slower growth or complete failure.  Obvious examples include many conifer or Japanese maple species planted in chalky soils.

Good preparation

Getting the root environment right for your tree is key to it flourishing in its’ new environment.  The planting pit and surrounds should provide well prepared soil to easily expand into and after planting the surface should be mulched heavily with compost or manure.

How much, how often to water

For your trees survival regular frequent irrigation is more important than the volume, so maintenance plans should include the logistics of staff getting water out to site.  When you consider the “how often” and “how much” of your irrigation regime, you need to consider the water holding capacity of the soils.  These points should be covered in the design stage so that irrigation can be done.  Trees though aren’t fussy, so any water (including grey water sources like washing-up water) will serve in a pinch.

As a rough indication, then 40-60 litres ( 3-4 buckets of water ) twice per month are likely to be required in areas of low rainfall and high temperatures.  When you water a tree, take into account the prevailing weather conditions, soil moisture release characteristics (sandy/ chalky/ clay ) and how that tree species responds to potential water deficits (drought ) or prolonged soil saturation ( flooding ).

Watering creates significant issues where drainage is poor, as adding water will create waterlogging and airless conditions for roots. Poor pit preperation for planting is a frequent cause of this, creating a bucket effect that gathers water.

Techniques for avoiding drought stress in trees

Tree planting will normally be designed with a watering pipe or tube, embedded underground, which allows water to quickly reach the roots rather than flow down the pavement. This also avoids disturbing roots during watering and reduces risk of fungal infection.

Where the soil becomes hard baked ( as in many clay soils in East Anglia ) then mulches can help not only be reducing evaporation, but by increasing organic content of the soil.  They may need a top up regularly post planting.  Gaiter bags and mulch mats can reduce water stress by reducing evaporation.

Good tree stakes and ties with appropriate irrigation system.

Monitoring tree stress is especially important if there are prolonged high temperatures. As a guideline for East Anglia, check trees when there are ten consecutive days during the growing season with temperatures of 25 oC or greater.  When monitoring be aware of the visual signs, something we come back to below.

Overwatering for some species can be as deleterious as underwatering as roots will waterlog and rot.  The symptoms of waterlogging are easily confused with those of water stress, includiong wilting. A waterlogged plant actually is water stressed due to roots drowning and not functioning to absorb any water or nutrients for the tree.

What does this mean in practice ?

Looking after trees in the first few years whilst they become established is critical to their survival and water stress can either quickly kill them or lead to die-back causing later poor growth or fungal infection.

Pick the right tree for the right location and consider their watering needs.

Once established with a well-established root system, trees are drought-proof and will not generally need watering. Getting them to this stage is critical for successful establishment.

How can we help ?

We can help you with a full planting plan for your site, including :

  • Soil testing and ground preparation
  • Choice of species and sizes
  • Design of planting pits
  • Costings for plantings
  • Alternatives to pit planting
  • Planting and aftercare
  • Monitoring

If you have issues with your existing plantings, then please do call us as we may still be able to offer advice.

 

 

Photo gallery for newts

Update: Great Crested Newt licencing and mitigation review

Natural England is reviewing its approach to great crested newt licencing and mitigation approach, which will be introduced across the country. In each county, the approach will begin with a study to identify where newts are, and then create a map of the potential impacts of development to form appropriate conservation strategies in partnership with local government bodies. In the meantime, the existing methods of great crested newt mitigation for development projects withstand and there are no plans to abolish the laws protecting this species.

Great Crested Newt on hand

Read more about it in our previous newsletter article

If you want advice about how these changes might affect your company please contact us.

 

Licencing Spotlight: Water voles

Water voles, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it a criminal offence to injure, damage or disturb them. They like soft-shored banks for burrowing, wide swathes of soft vegetation growing from the banks and water and slow-flowing and relatively deep water courses.

vole

Water vole: Photo courtesy of Ann Roberts

Surveys of a development site for water voles are required if either:

  • Known local distribution and historical records suggest their presence
  • There is suitable habitat for water voles in or adjacent to it.

After these surveys we assess the impacts a development would have on water voles without mitigation measures . This can be used to support any relevant planning application or discussions with the drainage board or Environment Agency.

In most cases, you could avoid harming water voles by adjusting your planned work. If you can’t  and will damage their habitats, you may need a licence from Natural England. Some displacement activity can be done under a class licence by a registered person; other activities will require a site-specific licence.

A licence will be required if development would need to displace water voles or if trapping and translocation is necessary. Any licence application needs to show an overall net conservation benefit for the water voles. For example, increasing the amount of habitat available to water vole population and/or improving the quality of habitat.

We can advise you on delivering water vole mitigation and licencing and anything else water vole related, please contact the NWS team: office@norfolkwildlifeservices.co.uk

Can eDNA detect great crested newts later in year?

Natural England [1] only accept “negative” eDNA results for newt licencing where efficacy has been proven ( e.g. between the above dates and by trained personnel ) . “Positive” results clearly have no such limitation.

The pilot work [2] on using eDNA for detecting newts relied on comparing conventional field survey techniques to eDNA and comparative results were therefore only available during their sampling period i.e. mid-April and late June. Detection rates for sites where newts were known to be present were 99.3% using professionals and 91.2% using volunteers.

The report [ 2 ] states that “Overall, collecting eDNA appears to be a highly effective method for determining whether Great Crested Newts are present or absent during the breeding season. We do not know how effective the method is outside this period.”

Natural England indicates the peak season for surveying for larvae is August, so in theory these should be detected by later eDNA tests.

eDNA declined rapidly once great crested newts were removed from experimental ponds [3] – to undetectable levels over 1-2 weeks. Ponds could therefore have been utilised by adults earlier in the season e.g. for foraging, but the absence of larvae would point towards absence of successful breeding.

References

[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/great-crested-newts-surveys-and-mitigation-for-development-projects

[2] Biggs, J., Ewald, N., Valentini, A., Gaboriaud, C., Griffiths, R.A., Foster, J., Wilkinson, J., Arnett, A., Williams, P. and Dunn, F., 2014. Analytical and methodological development for improved surveillance of the Great Crested Newt. Defra Project WC1067. Freshwater Habitats Trust: Oxford. http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=18650&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=wc1067&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder=Asc&Paging=10#Description

http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=18650&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=wc1067&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder=Asc&Paging=10#Description

[3] Thomsen, P., Kielgast, J.O.S., Iversen, L.L., Wiuf, C., Rasmussen, M., Gilbert, M.T.P., Orlando, L. and Willerslev, E., 2012. Monitoring endangered freshwater biodiversity using environmental DNA. Molecular ecology, 21(11), pp.2565-2573.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/34355462/Thomsen_Kielgast_et_al._2012_Monitoring_endangered_freshwater_biodiversity_using_environmental_DNA.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1502361592&Signature=Mjs46Dii13qt4xOQn90M6w5u72M%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3Dpapers.pdf

What is a Habitat Regulations Assessment?

The UK’s international obligations to biodiversity require our rarest and most irreplaceable wildlife sites – those of international importance – to be stringently protected. This includes sites protected for their habitats and species (Special Areas of Conservation, “SACs”), bird populations (Special Protection Areas, “SPAs”) and wetlands (Ramsar sites).

To meet the UK international commitments means preserving these sites except in cases of overriding national need, so evidence provided must be “beyond all reasonable doubt” of no harm; otherwise permission can be refused under the so-called “precautionary principle”. Where this evidence is absent, the usual National Planning Policy Framework para 14 presumption in favour of development no longer applies and is replaced by para 119.

Where development plans or policies do potentially affect these sites, the effects are considered via a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA). An HRA involves screening, scoping and consideration of alternatives – similar to an Environmental Impact Assessment. However, an HRA focuses tightly upon the “integrity” of the site – those features for which the site is designated.

Norfolk Wildlife Services (NWS) has a long track record of dealing with HRAs: as a county Norfolk 8.5% is designated SPA, 5% SACs and 4.2% Ramsar. Within HRAs we often consider hydrology, emissions and recreational disturbance and cumulative and in-combination effects.

 

Responsibility to complete the HRA rests with the “competent authority” – either the planning authority or the inspector. Ecological effects on international sites are a complex area and frequent showstoppers for developers since the responsibility is on the applicant to provide the proof.

Evidence supplied via a “shadow” HRA supplied by NWS is often used to assist these decisions. Altering site design later is often difficult later on so early advice from NWS is advisable to fully understand the options and whether effects can be avoided.

Construction Environmental Management Plans

Recently at NWS we have found ourselves writing more and more
Construction Environmental Management Plans (CEMP).

We’re often asked “what is a CEMP, what does it cover and how Wondering about CEMPwill I know when if my project needs one?”

Well, wonder know more……

 

What is CEMP?

CEMP = Construction Environmental Management Plan

The purpose of a CEMP is to outline how a construction project will avoid, minimise or mitigate effects on the environment and surrounding area. Local planning authorities have an important role to play in overseeing the implementation of an appropriate CEMP.  This includes powers to enforce conditions during the planning process and to prosecute if any criminal offences occur.

When do you need a CEMP?

© Copyright Evelyn Simak

For small projects a method statement setting out specific restrictions and controls is often adequate to safeguard biodiversity interests. However, for larger and/or more complex developments the preparation and implementation of a CEMP is considered as most appropriate.

As suggested above, the planning authority may condition the need for a CEMP to be submitted before construction can begin. However, it is good practice to have one in place before this stage, so contact NWS if you are unsure and we can advise on the best way forward.

What information is included in a CEMP?

The CEMP sets out all necessary practical measures to ensure that biodiversity features are protected during construction and development implementation.

A CEMP is tailored to each specific site but all cover the same principles:

  • Risk assessment of potentially damaging construction-type activities
  • Identification of biodiversity protection zones
  • Identification of practical measures to avoid impacts during development.  This includes the use of exclusion fences, protective barriers and warning signs
  • The location and timing of sensitive works to avoid harm to biodiversity features
  • The times during construction when particular specialists (e.g. an ecologist) need to be present on site to oversee works as well as an overall view on responsible persons and lines of communication.

We follow the guidance in the British Standard 42020:2013 when compiling our CEMP documentation so our clients are assured that everything relevant is covered.

If you have any questions or require a CEMP of your own do let us know.

Happy dog, happy wildlife

Dog walking can be one of the best ways to get people out and about experiencing nature but our faithful hounds and our beloved wildlife often have conflicting needs, making it difficult to create green spaces suitable for both. Follow these top five tips to plan a greenspace that will result in happy dogs, and happy wildlife:

Happy dog, happy wildlife

Emily and Stig (the world’s first water vole detection dog) enjoying a dog walk and experiencing nature.

  1.  Provide areas of enclosed greenspace. Offering safe areas for dogs to run off-lead makes dog-owners more likely to respect on-lead areas.
  2. Create a circular dog walking route, with clear, defined paths. Obvious paths will encourage dog walkers to stick to a set route meaning they are less likely to disturb more valuable wildlife areas.
  3. Ensure these areas and routes are within 500m of new homes. Placing suitable areas within walking distance will deter owners from driving to areas further-a-field that they perceive to be suitable greenspace.
  4. A range of all-weather surfaces with a naturalistic feel will guarantee dog walkers consistent access without having to invest in walking boots.
  5. Construct an area of clean water with safe access for dogs. Providing an assigned ‘splash-about’ area will keep dogs out of water which contains sensitive wildlife.

If you’d like more advice on planning for wildlife and dogs, Hampshire County Council have produced a wonderful document: Planning for dog ownership in new developments: reducing conflict – adding value.

Stig, pictured is the world’s first water vole detection dog. He is trained in the art of water vole poo detection. To find out more about Stig, his partner in training Lola, and their handler Ali, visit Ecology Dogs. Alternatively, keep regularly up-to-date with their water vole finds by following @EcologyDogs on Twitter.