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In the Summer 2020 edition of the Expert Witness Journal, Baker Consultants’ Managing Director, Andrew Baker, discusses the ecological assessment of air quality and the need for multi-disciplinary expert witnesses.

Andrew has long experience in giving evidence as an expert witness in a number of different public inquiry cases.  He is often called upon by senior barristers to stand as an ecology witness and has worked on a number of air quality cases in recent years.

On the challenges of cooperation between the ecology stand point and other disciplines called to give evidence at inquiries, Andrew observes, “As a veteran of many ‘call in’ inquiries, examinations in public of Local Plans, planning appeals, hearings into Development Consent Orders and Parliamentary Select Committees, I am very familiar with the rigours of being on the stand as an expert witness. As an ecologist I am used to working in teams of planners, heritage consultants, hydrologists, noise consultants etc”

“While there is often some crossover between my area of expertise and the other disciplines, exploration of air quality issues requires an entirely new level of interdisciplinary cooperation. The work of the traffic consultant, air quality expert and the ecologist need to be seamless.”

Updated guidance on air quality assessments can be found via Natural England, IAQM and Highways England, that all focus on thresholds below which ecological effects can be ruled out. Each discipline assessing air quality therefore needs to be aware of the guidance, which in practice, causes problems.

A High Court decision in March 2017 (Wealden District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Lewes District Council and South Downs National Park Authority [2017] EWHC 351 (Admin) led the judge in the case to criticise the guidance that was in place at the time. With the ecological effects of air quality at the forefront of the environmental agenda, air quality policy makers, conservation bodies and lawyers have had these issues brought into sharp relief.

The print edition will be available from early August, and the electronic version is available online for free for subscribers on the website link below – flip to page 40 to read the full article: https://www.expertwitness.co.uk/articles/journal/issue-32-of-the-expert-witness-journal-is-now-online

Andrew’s other key areas of expertise are nature conservation law, Habitats Regulations Assessment and bioacoustics.  For more information or advice get in touch via contact form on the website, you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on info@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

Baker Consultants’ has been appointed as an Ecology Consultancy to Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) covering areas of Central & Southern Scotland, Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and North Shropshire.

Baker Consultants’ has been appointed as an Ecology Consultancy to Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) covering areas of Central & Southern Scotland, Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and North Shropshire.

Scottish Power service over 3.5 million homes across their network, through a distribution network of over 30,000 substations and over 40,000km of overhead lines and 65,000 km of underground cables. This maintenance of this infrastructure often requires work in or around sensitive ecological habitats or species, some of which may have significant statutory protection, and it is this facet of work that Baker Consultants will be advising Scottish Power on.

Baker Consultants have been working on individual projects for SPEN in north Wales for the last couple of years, and we’re delighted to have been successful in acquiring this long-term framework contract and continuing that existing relationship. We are looking forward to the opportunity to work on more projects in Scotland – expanding the amount of our work in this geographical area, with its unique ecology, and different legislative and policy frameworks.

If you need advice on ecological surveys for land management, planning or development, then please  get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on info@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

 

Baker Consultants’ Technical Director Carlos Abrahams is leading a webinar in association with the Institute of Acoustics and UK Acoustics Network on 13 May from 2pm.  The session will take delegates through the use of bioacoustics for field survey covering a wide range of species groups including birds, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates.

Baker Consultants’ Technical Director Carlos Abrahams is leading a webinar on the use of bioacoustics for field survey in association with the UK Acoustics Network on 13 May from 2pm.

If you would like to know more about how bioacoustic recording can provide a cost effective, highly robust method for gathering ecological data, register for this free session at the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/using-bioacoustics-for-field-survey-carlos-abrahams-tickets-104430179478

If you need advice on surveys for land management, planning or development, then please  get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on info@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

At Baker Consultants we maintain very close contacts with a number of Universities, teaching on under graduate courses and keeping up to date and contributing to the latest research. These academic links also mean that we can offer opportunities to the brightest and the best of the newly qualified ecologists taking their first steps in their career ladder. Under the Covid-19 lockdown, although we have altered our processes when working in the field in line with DEFRA, Environmental Agency and CIEEM guidance, there is still the need to carry out plenty of surveying and other fieldwork.

And so, we are happy to welcome to the team two new Assistant Ecologists, Isabel Commerford and Jed Weaver, who will be helping us in the 2020 summer season.

Baker Consultants are happy to welcome two new Assistant Ecologists, Isabel Commerford and Jed Weaver, who will be helping us in the 2020 summer season.

Isabel is soon to graduate from the Manchester Metropolitan University where she studied Wildlife Biology at Bachelor level where she is on course for a First Class Degree.  Her interests are very broad and she has the makings of an excellent all-round ecologist. Her dissertation was on mountain hares on Bleaklow in the Peak District, so she is no stranger to arduous field work, she is a keen botanist and is close to getting her bat survey license.  Last summer she attended the British Ecological Society’s under graduate summer school where she was awarded a bursary to fund her further training and equipment.

Jed graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a First Class degree in Biological Sciences, Ecology and Environmental Management, a course which we have been very happy to contribute to over the years and is accredited by our professional body CIEEM (https://www.ntu.ac.uk/course/science-and-technology/ug/bsc-hons-biological-science).  He has an interest in environmental law and policy and will be helping our Habitats Regulations Assessment team, which is extraordinarily busy, as well as helping organise our survey schedule. He is already proving very capable and has taken on the mantle of managing this year’s DNA testing kits.

So we’re sure you will join us in warmly welcoming on board these two new rising stars to our team.

We are continuing to carry out ecological consultancy work during the Covid19 lockdown. If you have any general queries then please  get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on info@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

Welcome to the first volunteer bulletin!

Firstly, thank you for volunteering with the On The Verge project to conserve, monitor and improve the biodiversity in road verges across the Dearne Valley. The Road Verge Biodiversity Project aims to enhance biodiversity across the area by increasing local understanding of the value of verges for biodiversity through practical conservation work and monitoring surveys of key indicator species.

So far a condition assessment of 17km of road verges has been completed to initially identify the quality of these verges to identify where the project can make the biggest biodiversity gains. The condition assessments also looked at the safety of the road verges for volunteers to work on, as well as soil quality, plant species present and potential management activities. Bird and butterfly surveys have now been completed too, with birds including yellowhammer, garden warbler, and 40 other species being recorded. Six species of butterfly were also recorded across the three boroughs during the surveys, with other invertebrates such as the cinnabar moth and white-tailed bumblebee also present

Three species of orchids found on Manvers Way, including Bee Orchid, Southern Marsh Orchid and Common Spotted Orchid

 

The Highways Agency are also becoming increasingly involved in the On The Verge project. We have met with Rotherham who are very keen to be involved in this project. Doncaster and Barnsley meetings are planned for the future. Other private stakeholders are also looking to become involved in the project, so watch this space!

We have also started to develop the On The Verge 5-year Management Plan that will leave a lasting legacy and guide the management of the selected verges. The plan will outline the verges selected for volunteers to manage, containing detailed maps of the roads and where management work shall take place, as well as management activity timescales. The practical conservation work outlined in the plan will focus on bulb planting, wildflower sowing, living bird tables and scrub clearing.

This is where you come in, we’re keen for local communities to engage and drive the management plans, so we would like to hear management ideas from the volunteers. We will be running three Community Meetings to discuss management options, as well as to gain an idea of particular areas of interest.

The meetings will be held on the following dates:

7th August – Elsecar Heritage Centre, Elsecar @ 6pm

8th August – Wentworth Village Hall, Wentworth @ 6pm

14th August – St. Peter’s Church Hall, Barnburgh @ 6pm

Alongside the practical conservation work will also be a monitoring programme. The monitoring surveys aim to increase biological records of road verges as they are severely under recorded. The surveys will target key indicator species including plants, birds and butterflies. The training workshops for plant, bird and butterfly recording are to be planned soon, so keep a look out!

If you have any questions about the On The Verge project that you would like to discuss, please contact:

Katie Watson

Ecologist, Baker Consultants

Mobile:             07701 289321

 

 

 

Would you like to join Baker Consultants terrestrial team? We are looking for Senior Ecologists with at least 5 years’ experience to join us and expand our in-house team.  You will need to be self-motivated, have the ability to run projects, assist in attracting new clients and help drive to continue growing our business.

If you want to work in a fast-paced, innovative and forward thinking organisation that offers a flexible and nurturing working culture we’d love to hear from you. 

Contact any member of our senior team for an informal confidential chat (see our website for contact details) .

Recruitment agencies need not apply!  

 

Baker Consultants is seeking a Principal or Senior Ecologist to help deliver and expand our project work in southern England. We are looking for a highly experienced consultant who is willing to work remotely from our main office in Derbyshire, has the ability to attract new clients, and the drive to continue growing our business.

Location is flexible, although the M4/M3/M25 corridor would be ideal. Basic salary will be commensurate with experience – and we operate a profit-related bonus scheme.

About You

You have at least ten years experience of working in consultancy, with an excellent knowledge of the region, and the ability to manage complex projects. You will have developed a technical specialism over your career, hold protected species licences and have broad experience, both in terms of species and survey techniques, ensuring best practice as standard and challenging the norms where new methods would lead to better outcomes. You are self-motivated, and able to run with existing projects while attracting new work.

Download the full job spec here and email your application via cv and covering letter to jobs@bakerconsultants.co.uk

 

Andrew Baker has been invited to speak about the legal position of European Protected Species (EPS) at a Planning and Design Group (P&DG) breakfast seminar on Thursday 14th July.
Read more

A review of evidence published in the Journal of Ecology (as recently reported by BBC News,) has concluded that the ash tree is likely to be wiped out in Europe. A fungal disease known as ash-dieback (or Chalara) and the spread of an invasive beetle (the emerald ash borer) are killing off ash trees across Europe; although the beetle has not yet reached UK shores. It is believed that the impact of ash-dieback could mirror that of Dutch elm disease, which largely wiped out elm trees in the 1980s.

UK woodland by Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director

UK woodland by Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director

Ash-dieback

Ash-dieback is caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, which kills the leaves, then the branches, trunk and eventually the whole tree. It is believed to have the potential to destroy 95% of ash trees in the UK. 

Ash dieback was first seen in Eastern Europe in 1992 and now affects more than 2 million square kilometres across Europe. Since being first identified in England in 2012 in a consignment of imported infected trees, it has since spread from Norfolk and Suffolk to South Wales.

The emerald ash borer

The emerald ash borer is a bright green beetle native to Asia. The beetle hasn’t yet reached the UK, but is currently spreading west from Moscow at a rate of 25 miles (41 km) a year. It is thought to have reached Sweden. Although the adult beetles feed on ash trees, they cause little damage. It is their larvae that kill ash trees, by boring under the bark into the wood.

The impact

If ash trees are wiped out in the UK, research from the Journal of Ecology indicates that the UK countryside will be changed forever. Ash is the second most common woodland tree in the UK, second only to the oak, and our towns and cities have 2.2 million ash trees in and around them. Furthermore, loss of ash trees won’t just change our landscape, but will have a severe impact on biodiversity. There are 1,000 species associated with ash or ash woodland, including 12 types of bird, 55 mammals and 239 invertebrates.

Our view

This is a highly complex issue, and we at Baker Consultants keenly follow research developments, such as that in the Journal of Ecology. Harnessing our collective decades of botany experience, our view is that ash will no doubt significantly decline, but that UK extinction is unlikely if the disease follows the usual epidemiology route. This is partly because in Northern Europe many of the ash tree populations are of a very narrow gene pool owing to decimation during the two World Wars and planting of replacements. In the UK, we have a wider gene pool of ash, which increases the likelihood of resistance of certain types of ash to ash-dieback. For this reason, some botanists, including ours, think that UK native ash has a better chance of survival than European strains due to this genetic diversity.  However, many of the imported strains of ash that have been planted in the UK will likely rapidly succumb to ash-dieback. 

Following on from this, one of the big debates in the forestry and conservation communities is what to plant in place of ash? We may have to create more mixed woodlands to give fauna and epiphytic flora (a plant that grows on another plant upon which it depends for mechanical support but not for nutrients e.g. ferns or moss) any chance of survival. Also, non-native sycamore trees are often controlled in woods where ash and sycamore co-exist. Given the potential implications of ash-dieback, should this policy of sycamore control be relaxed?

These are questions we need to consider as individual ecologists and as an industry.

Today is World Wetlands Day, celebrated on 2nd Feb each year to mark the adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (aka the Ramsar Convention) is an intergovernmental treaty providing a framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Convention was adopted in the city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have become ‘Contracting Parties’.

There are currently:

  • 169 Contracting Parties
  • 2,227 Ramsar Sites
  • 214,875,598 ha of designated Ramsar sites.
Wetland by Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director

Wetland by Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director

The Ramsar Convention: mission

The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international co-operation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

The Convention uses a broad definition of wetlands. It includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.

Wetlands are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems, providing essential services and supplying all our fresh water. However, the degradation and conversion of wetlands to other uses is common.

Under the three pillars of the Convention, all Contracting Parties commit to:

  • work towards the wise use of all their wetlands;
  • designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance (the ‘Ramsar List’) and ensure their effective management;
  • co-operate internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.

Learn more

Download the ‘Introducing the Convention on Wetlands’ PDF leaflet here or visit the Ramsar website to read more about the convention.

We’re pleased to announce that one of our senior ecologists, Mark Woods, is now a certified Chartered Ecologist.

Mark has been a practicing ecologist for over 25 years. His career to date has included managing nature reserves, conservation in the voluntary sector, consultancy and lecturing. Mark has made a significant contribution to the ecology sector by sharing his knowledge through lecturing at further and higher education levels, including postgraduates, and training adults in practical countryside management and forestry skills. He has been the joint Botanical Recorder (BSBI) for Nottinghamshire for several years.

Mark Woods, pictured far left at a Baker Consultants away day, has just received Chartered Ecologist status

Mark Woods, pictured far left at a Baker Consultants away day, has just received Chartered Ecologist status

Receiving chartered status from CIEEM is a prestigious award. Being accepted to join the Register of Chartered Ecologists is in recognition of an ecologist who has effectively applied a knowledge and understanding of ecology to the highest standards of practice.

Andrew Baker, our Managing Director, has been invited to speak at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity (APPGB); a forum for informed discussion between cross-party parliamentarians, senior policy makers, industry leaders and environmental organisations on biodiversity issues. He will share the stage with Stanley Johnson, formerly of the European Commission and European Parliament, and the RSPB’s Kate Jennings.

Andrew Baker, Managing Director

Andrew Baker, Managing Director

The meeting will discuss the ongoing review of the European Commission’s Habitat and Birds Directives, which form the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy. The Habitats Directive protects over 1,000 animal and plant species and over 200 habitat types of European importance. The Habitats Directive has been in place since 1992 and the Birds Directive since 2009, when it replaced the 1979 directive on the conservation of wild birds.

This takes place in the context of the ongoing ‘fitness check’ of the Habitats Directive and also under the shadow of the UK’s referendum on UK membership of the European Community. Andrew has been asked to speak to represent the views of ecology professionals operating in the commercial sector.

The meeting is scheduled for 5pm November 17th at Westminster. If you wish to attend, please contact Andrew Callender, Secretariat APPG Biodiversity.

About the speakers

Andrew Baker is an ecologist and Managing Director of Baker Consultants and Baker Consultants Marine. He has a particular interest in nature conservation law and has been an active member of the UK Environmental Law Association for over 10 years. He is a veteran of many public inquiries and has given evidence on biodiversity issues to parliamentary select committees. He is familiar with the sharp end of the Directives and, while he is a staunch supporter of Europe, has often been critical of how the Directives are implemented in the UK.

Stanley Johnson is a well-known environmental professional, having held senior positions at the European Parliament and European Commission. He is a successful environmental writer, having published ten environmental books, and has won high profile environmental awards from the charities Greenpeace, RSPCA and, most recently, the RSPB. He has also been a trustee of several environmental organisations, such as Plantlife and the Earthwatch Institute. He is also the father of Boris Johnson!

Kate Jennings is Head of Site Conservation Policy at the RSPB, a position she has held since 2012. She previously worked as a Site Policy Officer, also for the RSPB, and as Senior Officer and Site Designation Officer for Natural England. She is also Chair of the Joint Links’ Habitats and Birds group, which represents 100 voluntary organisations across the UK.

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.

As The Guardian reported, this January saw the announcement that wild beavers living on the River Otter in Devon would be allowed to remain, providing they are ‘proven free of disease and of Eurasian origin’. This is a potentially historic decision, as it is thought that beavers became extinct in the UK at the end of the 17th Century.

Update as of March 2015: The wild beavers have now been released back into the River Otter after being confirmed disease free.

Beavers are considered a keystone species due to their beneficial impact on biodiversity. As John Lister-Kaye, director of the Aigas Field Centre, describes it, “Beavers shift everything, tirelessly, instinctively, creatively. That’s why ecologists call them a ‘keystone species’. By doing their own thing, they create habitats and opportunities for just about everything else”.

Beaver by Aigas Field Centre

Photo by Aigas Field Centre

A nine-year study of essentially wild beavers carried out at the Aigas Field Centre found that, when measured against adjacent wetlands the beavers had not utilised, biodiversity had expanded by a factor of four.

As well as this benefit for wildlife, the wetlands created and restored by beavers can trap sediments, reduce pollution and slow water flows through a river catchment. This can help improve water quality and reduce flooding downstream, helping sustainable management of the water cycle and benefiting human communities in nearby areas.

The Devon beavers are not alone in the UK, as there could currently be around 300 wild beavers, including those in an official beaver trial in Knapdale, Argyllshire and the beavers ‘unofficially’ living wild on the River Tay, Perthshire. However, aside from the Devon beavers, no decision has been made regarding the future of beavers in the UK.

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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