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Carlos Abrahams article on Data Information and Management in relation to bird bioacoustic surveys has been published in the December issue of In Practice.

Bioacoustic surveys can be used to capture useful and robust data on bird vocalisations to inform studies on avian distribution and ecology. However, currently there are no recognised standard methods for their use in the UK. This article sets out a draft protocol for testing and adoption, and invites feedback from CIEEM members to further develop good practice.

Below is an extract from the article:

 

To read the full article, or for further information please contact Carlos directly at c.abrahams@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

The numbers of breeding bird species in the UK vary year on year, but well over 200 species are known to regularly breed here. Bird species known to regularly occur in the UK are periodically assessed through a collaboration of the UK’s leading governmental and non-governmental conservation organisations. The most recent 2015 review used a range of criteria to place a total of 244 regularly occurring UK species onto one of three lists:

  • 27.5% of species were listed as Red (those with the most rapidly declining populations). This is up from the 21% listed in the previous review in 2009.
  • 39.3% were listed as Amber (populations declining at a slower rate). This is down from 51% in 2009.
  • 33.2% were listed as Green (populations stable or increasing). This is up from 28% in 2009.

A total of 67 species are now on the Red list, up considerably from the 40 species that were on the list in 2002.

A similar collaboration of the UK’s conservation organisations reported in 2012 that there had been an estimated 44 million reduction in the number of breeding birds in the UK since 1966. These figures highlight the problems many bird species face in a rapidly changing environment and emphasises the need for accurate and effective surveys to assess and eventually inform advice to offset or avoid any potential adverse effects that vulnerable bird species may suffer as a result of a development. This is not only important for the UK but can be of international importance, particularly as the UK holds internationally significant numbers of many species of birds.

Protection for breeding birds

All UK nesting birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (as amended) 1981, which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird or take, damage or destroy its nest whilst in use or being built, or take or destroy its eggs.

Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 places a duty on every public authority to have regard to conserving biodiversity and requires that the Secretary of State must publish a list of the living organisms and types of habitats which are of principal importance for the purpose of biodiversity. The Secretary of State must take steps to further the conservation of those living organisms in any list published under this section. A number of bird species are listed as Species of Principal Importance (SPI) and therefore protected under the provisions of the Act. Species of Principal Importance are a material consideration for a Local Planning Authority in the exercise of its duties. There are 49 bird Species of Principal Importance in England and 51 in Wales (listed under Section 42 of the NERC Act). A similar number of bird species are protected under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 and the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

When do I need a breeding bird survey?

Where habitats that could support breeding birds will be affected by a development, a breeding bird survey will be necessary. These habitats could be features such as woodland, hedgerows, barns/buildings, ponds or grassland.

What is a breeding bird survey?

Surveys for breeding birds normally involve an experienced ecologist visiting the site at least three times between April and June. A transect is walked around the site which includes all the habitats previously identified and the area which is to be developed. Bird species and their behaviour are mapped and an assessment is made of the significance of the species present and an estimate of the number of breeding territories.

This information can be used to design mitigation to avoid or reduce adverse impacts on breeding birds and to compensate for any loss of habitat.

Why Baker Consultants?

Baker Consultants have a number of ecologists that have years of experience and knowledge in conducting breeding bird surveys, as well as whole range of other types of bird survey. For general information on our bird survey expertise, visit our bird surveys page where you can listen to Carlos Abrahams, our Technical Director, discussing a typical bird survey, or read our pages on wetland bird surveys and winter bird surveys.

Our Technical Director, Carlos Abrahams, was invited to present a talk at the recent Herpetofauna Workers Meeting.  This national conference has been running annually for nearly 30 years, and attracts around 200 delegates. It is the main meeting covering reptile and amphibian ecology and conservation in the UK.

 

The meeting attracts a diverse audience representing: conservation organisations, ecological consultants, statutory bodies, land managers, academic institutions and students, and enthusiastic volunteers.

Carlos was speaking about his recent publication on declining amphibian populations in northern France. This research, with fieldwork carried out between 1974 and 2011, was undertaken with colleagues from the Netherlands to repeatedly track amphibian populations and habitat change over an area of northern France.

The research showed that common adaptable species remained widespread, but that some rarer species, with more exacting habitat requirements, declined significantly. The main reasons for these were pond loss, increasing urbanisation and changes in agricultural practice in the area, with shifts from pasture to arable production.

However, the benefits of practical conservation effort were also demonstrated, as new ponds created in areas of good quality habitat , were quickly colonised by a range of amphibians. This shows that habitat creation/restoration can play a valuable role in conservation, counteracting the adverse effects of land use change and development.

Baker Consultants, alongside Wildlife Acoustics and Nottingham Trent University, recently organised a national workshop meeting on Bird Bioacoustics.  This was attended by 40 delegates from the consultancy, academic and conservation sectors, who discussed the use of acoustic recording methods for bird survey and monitoring.   The technology and techniques for recording bird songs and calls in the field have developed rapidly in recent years, and can offer improved data and greater coverage than traditional survey methods. The workshop aimed to address this, highlighting the significant benefits and starting the communication of important principles and best practice guidance between professionals.

As part of the output from the workshop, the speakers have kindly allowed their presentations to be made available.  These can be accessed using the links below:

Carlos Abrahams Bird Bioacoustics

Rich Beason Bird Bioacoustics

Paul Howden-Leach Bird Bioacoustics

Amy Leedale Bird Bioacoustics

Stuart Newson Bird Bioacoustics

Paul White Bird Bioacoustics

 

The technology and techniques for recording bird songs and calls in the field have developed rapidly in recent years. Most of this development, though, has been for academic research, with little take-up so far by conservation bodies and ecology consultancies. Automated recorders and call recognition software can, however, offer better data and greater coverage than traditional survey techniques. This workshop aims to address this, highlighting the significant benefits for bird survey and monitoring – and starting the communication of important principles and best practice guidance between professionals.

The free workshop will include demonstration of available hardware and software, and presentations of case-studies. It will also seek input from attendees on how bioacoustics could be used in their work and what type of guidance they would like to see provided by recommended survey methods.

Date:  13th July 2017

Location:  Nottingham Trent University

Full programme details to follow

Interested in attending? Please email c.abrahams@bakerconsultants.co.uk

Ten years on from the previous edition, CIEEM (the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management) has just released revised guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) and our Technical Director, Carlos Abrahams, reviews them here.

“Ecology is one of the most common issues that needs to be addressed within Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), alongside other disciplines such as water quality, landscape and cultural heritage.

“The new guidelines are intended to promote good practice in assessing  terrestrial, freshwater and coastal environments in the UK and Ireland. This can be in the context of formal EIA, or on smaller-scale projects when a simpler assessment is required to support a straightforward planning application. The new guidance sets out best practice in producing an effective assessment, with input from contributing ecologists and other specialists working in collaboration.

Ecological Impact Assessments are needed for a wide range of developments

Ecological Impact Assessments are needed for a wide range of developments

“An EcIA report (or the ecological chapter of an EIA Environmental Statement) should clearly and simply describe the significant effects of any project so that competent authorities and other interested parties understand the implications of development proposals.

“The new guidance joins other advice from CIEEM, the government and the British Standards Institute in how ecological input should be incorporated into the development and planning process, helping to implement the requirements of legislation such as the EIA Regulations and other aspects of the Town and Country Planning Act.”

Our approach to Ecological Impact Assesment

Baker Consultants have experience of all stages of the EIA and EcIA process, from data collection to assessment of anticipated impacts, and from mitigation and assessment of any residual effects, to non-technical summaries and cumulative assessments. Our in-house team of ecology consultants has a wealth of experience of working in large multidisciplinary teams alongside landscape architects, transport consultants, planners, and archaeologists to produce co-ordinated assessments of schemes.

We are always aware that any of our work may be subject to the detailed scrutiny of a public inquiry and have extensive experience of taking projects through the appeal process or even to the courts. For this reason, we have developed a reputation as a ‘safe pair of hands’ and are often called in to deal with situations where careful negotiations are required or where an experienced expert witness is needed.

Read more about our experience of EIAs and EcIAs here

Baker Consultants was awarded a contract with Commercial Estates Group (CEG) to provide comprehensive ecology input for the proposed Hele Park development scheme in Devon at outline planning stage. Following this, Redrow, the housebuilder developing the site, subsequently contracted the team to provide ecological advice on the detailed planning application for Phase Three of the development.

One of the plans of Redrow's development at Hele Park

One of the plans of Redrow’s development at Hele Park

The baseline ecology surveys and Landscape and Ecology Management Plan (LEMP) helped to ensure that the ecological impact of the development was reduced and that the development was integrated into the wider landscape setting. Following our advice, important ecological features were retained and new habitat created as part of a robust green infrastructure. Bats, dormice, birds and amphibians are all set to benefit from early ecological input into the development.

The Hele Park development was a particularly complex scheme that successfully received planning permission with very few conditions for its size. Early involvement from our experienced team in assessing and designing the ecology aspects into the project contributed to this success and that of the subsequent Hele Park Phase Three.

Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director at Baker Consultants, said: “The Hele Park development benefitted from our involvement from the early stages of the project. Our expertise allowed us to provide a cost-effective, innovative package of ecological surveys and a comprehensive Landscape and Ecology Management Plan to ensure ecological compliance at all stages of this complex scheme.”

Read the full case study here.

Planning and Design Group (P&DG) has obtained outline planning consent with all matters reserved except access, subject to completion of the Section 106 Agreement, for a high quality, sustainable residential development of 250 dwellings on the edge of Oakwood, Derby. P&DG has been engaged in the longstanding promotion of the site through to an allocation in the emerging Derby City Local Plan Part 1: Core Strategy, working proactively with planners and fellow consultants to secure the positive decision at Planning Committee, concurring with officer recommendations.
Planning and Design Group logo

Planning and Design Group logo

 
The development also includes 75 much-needed affordable homes, provision for an ecological wildlife corridor extending beyond Chaddesden Wood Local Nature Reserve, over 3 hectares of accessible public open space, a neighbourhood play facility, new footpath links and pedestrian crossing to facilitate better linkages towards the Breadsall railway cutting. An overcapacity in the on-site drainage attenuation system has been designed into the north-eastern corner of the site to manage surface water both on and offsite, responding directly to concerns raised during the consultation about flooding further afield in the Breadsall area. Moreover, approximately £1.2 million has been proposed to be directly invested in Oakwood, towards the maintenance and support for new open space, leisure and community facilities, and highway improvements to the A61 corridor as part of the associated S106 Agreement.
 
Following extensive public consultation before and after the submission, P&DG and the rest of the application team have secured a highly desirable development that received the support of material consultees including the Highways Authority, Derbyshire County Archaeology, Environment Agency and Severn Trent Water. The landscape and amenity value of the site, which forms part of a designated Green Wedge were found not to be significant when tested against the Council’s lack of a five-year housing land supply and the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF). Ultimately, the location of development has been proven to be very sustainable in assisting the city’s housing delivery to provide family homes, that should respond positively to the existing built form when developed as part of the future Reserved Matters submission.
 
Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director of Baker Consultants said: “Baker Consultants is pleased to be working with P&DG on this scheme”.

With the terrestrial surveying season now in full swing, our ecologists have dusted down our equipment and headed out across the country on a myriad of different surveying projects using a range of innovative ecology survey techniques.

One of our key pieces of kit for carrying out a bat survey is our GoPro, which is a waterproof, HD-quality video recorder. Small and compact, we can attach this device to a helmet or pole to film footage from the top of trees, inside of lofts and many other locations.

This video shows our Technical Director Carlos Abrahams assessing a tree for its potential to support bat roosts and searching for evidence of roosting bats. It demonstrates the climbing ability and strength our ecologists need for this type of survey!

Tree climbing surveys are conducted by our CS38 qualified tree-climber and licensed bat-worker ecologists. Firstly, a daytime visit will be made to the site to identify trees within the work areas which appear to have roost potential and will require a tree climbing bat survey. Following this ground-based assessment, a tree climbing bat survey, as Carlos carries out in the video, will be carried out for all trees with moderate or high roost potential.

As part of this bat survey, any suitable cavities should be fully inspected using an endoscope. Where this is not possible, then an additional bat survey (such as an emergence survey) might be needed. A survey report will be produced to detail the ground-based, treeclimb and emergence (where required) study methodologies and results, providing an initial assessment of potential impacts and making recommendations for any necessary further survey work and/or mitigation measures.

Our Technical Director Carlos Abrahams conducting tree climbing bat survey

Our Technical Director Carlos Abrahams conducting tree climbing bat survey

We’re hitting the road again to exhibit at the Midlands Infrastructure and Regeneration Conference and Expo in Birmingham on 28th April. With the main terrestrial ecology season about to kick off, this will give Carlos Abrahams our Technical Director and Kelly Clark our Principal Ecologist an important opportunity to catch up with existing clients, meet new contacts and discuss future projects before the all-night bat surveys begin!

Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director and Kelly Clark, Principal Ecologist

Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director and Kelly Clark, Principal Ecologist

As a company with a head office in Derbyshire, we’re delighted to be exhibiting at and attending this Midlands-focused event. Although our business has gone global in recent years, with projects throughout the UK, Europe and as far away as Brazil, the Midlands remains one of our key focuses, particularly in relation to our terrestrial ecology services.

Not only is this a great networking opportunity, we are also keen to hear from the speakers on topics such as the Midlands housing crisis, sustainable infrastructure for balanced and affordable energy, and rail electrification. We have a wealth of expertise in providing ecological surveys within the house building, renewable energy and railway sectors, so these sessions will be of particular relevance to us.

We’d love to meet as many existing and potential clients at the event as possible, so register now to book your place (if you haven’t already) and come and meet us at our stand. Alternatively, to discuss a potential or existing project with us directly, you can contact us now.

A paper on climate change and lakeshore conservation written by our Technical Director, Carlos Abrahams, has recently been quoted in a paper on water level fluctuations and their effect on subtropical floodplain lakes.

Carlos’ paper, ‘Climate change and lakeshore conservation: a model and review of management techniques‘ (Abrahams, 2008), proposes the use of Grime’s CSR theory (a three-way classification of plant life histories, dividing species into competitive, stress-tolerant or ruderal groups depending on their observed traits) as a framework to understand the potential impacts of climate change on shoreline vegetation.

Image of Carlos Abrahams' paper on climate change and lakeshore conservation

Carlos Abrahams’ paper

Understanding such impacts is important, as climate change is expected to cause significant changes to the hydrology of lakes, reservoirs and other wetlands. In particular, it could increase the level of disturbance produced by water-level fluctuations, which could have adverse consequences for biodiversity, water quality and human uses.

Abrahams (2008) argues that strategies to cope with these climate change impacts are currently poorly developed and, as well as proposing the use of Grime’s CSR theory, recommends a series of practical management techniques that will contribute to the adaptation capacity of shoreline ecosystems. The four key areas that he highlights are hydrological controls, substrate conditions, shoreline topography and vegetation establishment.

Baker Consultants has become a member of two organisations this month, INNSA (Invasive Non-Native Specialists Association) and the Freshwater Habitats Trust.

INNSA is the industry body for companies involved in controlling and eradicating invasive non-native species in the UK and the Freshwater Habitats Trust, based at Oxford Brookes University, is the only national freshwater charity that works for the protection of freshwater wildlife in all small water bodies, from ponds, to rivers, ditches, streams, and lakes.

Membership of such organisations can help in useful research and campaigning on issues affecting our environment. For more information on our services in these areas, freshwater or invasive species survey and consultancy, please contact survey@bakerconsultants.co.uk

Please click here for more information on each of the organisations:

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Freshwater Habitats Trust Logo

 

Carlos gets creative and sketches the key points from the CIEEM Annual Conference at Southampton in November.

Baker Consultants Technical Director Carlos Abrahams' sketched notes from the CIEEM Annual Conference

Carlos gets creative. Sketched notes from the CIEEM Annual Conference

Carlos Abrahams, our Technical Director, has taken up a part-time and temporary position within the Biosciences Department at Nottingham Trent University, to teach on the BSc course in Ecology and Environmental Management. As well as providing students at Nottingham Trent with the benefits of his experience in ecological consultancy and countryside management, the post will further strengthen Baker Consultants’ links to academic research, similar to our existing partnerships with Newcastle and Southampton Universities.

A judge has ruled that ministers had failed to follow the EU Birds Directive (2009) and planning permission should not have been granted on the Viking Wind farm in Shetland.

The whimbrel, an endangered wader that nests almost exclusively on the island, breeds only in north Scotland when in the UK. The EU birds directive is the EU’s oldest piece of nature legislation creating a comprehensive scheme of protection for all wild bird species naturally occurring in the EU. The directive recognises that habitat loss and degradation are the most serious threats to the conservation of wild birds. The way that this is implemented is often the subject of detailed public inquiry and developers need to be fully aware of their obligations under this legislation. Lady Clark of Carlton said she didn’t feel that the ministers had dealt explicitly with the legal issues arising from the directive.

The case continues.

To contact Carlos Abrahams about adhering to wildlife legislation or to conduct an ecological site assessment please email info@bakerconsultants.co.uk