Category Archives: Conservation

Much Ado About Mothing

Much Ado About Mothing; a year intoxicated by Britain’s rare and remarkable Moths. 2021. By James Lowen. London, Bloomsbury Wildlife. £18.99. 384pp.  ISBN 978-1-4729-6697-1   9 781472 966971

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We have already had a butterfly enthusiast run around Britain in a year to shoot all the butterfly species, in the name of Patrick Barkham in his ‘The Butterfly Isles’; he reviews this book on the cover as ‘Here is colour, wonder, surprise – and fun’.  Now we have James Lowen setting himself the target of chasing rare and remarkable moths around the islands, from Cornwall to the Cairngorms. Not that he is chasing all the moths – an impossible task with about 40 times more moths than butterflies.

Lowen was initially inspired to all things moths by a poplar hawk-moth which he had to hand. Most people are enthralled by the beauty and evolution of animals, and essentially this is what this book is about, it celebrates the enthusiasm that one man has for moths. James is completely moth-centric. He exudes moth enthusiasm the way other people pursue particular wildflowers, fungi, bryophytes or even tardigrades.

James is an all-round naturalist, whose grass roots were in Yorkshire which set his seed for the living world, and he has explored South America and the poles; he writes for various papers and has a number of books to his name.  His conversion to moths has been recent and profound, not least encouraged by the enthusiasm of his daughter, Maya who figures in the book, especially in the eight pages of colour photographs in the middle of book which figure 15 species of moth, but which mostly shows venues, equipment and techniques. Oh for more illustrations for a group with 2,500 species.

There are 20 chapters starting with winter-spring and ending in autumn. Although only four chapter headings give a clue about the subjects (Hawk-Moths, Kentish Glory, Clearwings and Blues – read Clifton Nonpareil), the rest are very discursive and story-like, on how a site visit was formulated, with advice from whom, how they got there, what it was like on arrival, the type of habitat and finally the exaltation of finding the target.

The book is well researched and his sorties to various far flung habitats is usually to link up with regional moth experts to explore last known locales and pabula. Local contacts from wildlife groups and from Butterfly Conservation (which also conserves moths) and RSPB (yes moths too) and national projects such as ‘Back from the Brink’ are often the source of his targets.  He has included classic lep stories and research involving Miriam Rothschild and Bernard Kettlewell and waxes lyrical about the new arrival the horse-chestnut micro. Where would he be without his treacle ropes, actinics and other entomological paraphernalia.

His writing is florid and descriptive to an intense or even excessive level; his descriptions of moths are flowery and romantic, whether it is the Old Lady, Scotch burnet, Netted carpet, Crimson underwings, Merveille du Jour or hawk-moths. In his quest to find moths James clocked up 14,000 miles over 258 days and visited 139 locations across 27 counties of equivalent.  A job well done.  But only touching the surface of moth biodiversity.

The book is ideal for general readership. A good read for moth-ers without the scientific clutter. The book will be of interest to naturalists, entomologists and lepidopterists and as a book on moths it is unique and unrivalled. There is an index, a bibliography and list of acknowledgements which runs to four pages. The cover is exciting and colourful. It’s a good book to hand, especially with the colourful and exciting cover.

From the flyleaf blurb it says…’no animal may be better placed to inspire the environmentalists of the future.’  Good luck with that then!  Moths will still continue to have a bad press (as most are brown, hairy and scary to the general public), even though they are more biodiverse than butterflies and in many cases more colourful than butterflies such as the day-fliers which James covers in his travels.  Let’s hope this book has started a revival in their fortunes.

 

‘Gone’ by Michael Blencowe

             

‘Gone – A Search for what remains of the world’s extinct creatures’ by Michael Blencowe. ISBN 978-0-7112-5675-0  9-780711 256750. Ivy Press, Leaping Hare Press, 2021.   192pp

Focusing on just eleven animals, the author provides an interesting narrative on species that have now disappeared, some rather quickly since being discovered ,such is the impact of man.

The author, from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, describes the Booth Museum in Brighton where the tower clock has stopped at three minutes to midnight – a reminder of the overall global decline of nature and the little time to find a fix.

There is another Sussex connection, since the chapter on the dodo is enlivened with the author’s encounter with the world’s expert on dodos who lives in Battle, Ralfe Whistler who has various dodo artefacts.

This selection of doomed animals is just the tip of the 413 species of animals, plants and fungi lost in Great Britain in the last 200 years (quoted on page 176). This does not seem enough loss compared to the overall publicised position. The UK government admits (2021) that 14 out of 42 biodiversity indicators show a long term decline of habitats and species.

Michael has visited many other museums around the world, for instance to see the whole skeleton of the now extinct Stella’s sea cow in the Helsinki (Finland) Natural History Museum. These were huge blubbery mammals weighing several tons, floated on the surface and ate kelp. It took just 27 years between discovery to their butchered extinction.

Blencowe has visited the formidable collections of Lord Rothschild at Tring to see the two specimens of the Spectacled Cormorant, and the Smithsonian Museum, and brings the book right up to date with new discoveries in Japan on recently found bones.

Blencowe has a very discursive style of writing and puts notable events in the text as a reminder of what was happening in the world at the time of more recent extinctions. The book is incredibly well researched with every timeline explored resulting in the ultimate demise of the species. It is a revelation of man’s effect on wildlife.  There is much fascinating detail on expeditions, who ran them, what they doing, and which discoveries were made. The book will appeal to a wide readership, older children and adults, and as a definitive account of these ‘gone’ animals. It is a good book just to pick up and read a single species chapter. Excellent for a train journey.

The book is dedicated to Michael’s long-lived pet tortoise (Tootles) which leads the reader to all about the Pinta Island Tortoise (Galapagos) and the inevitable demise of famous ‘Lonesome George’ on 24 June 2012.

The book includes a world map showing where the selected species lived (Galapagos, California, Iceland, Reunion, Japan, and three in New Zealand, and two in Russia) and the positions of twelve museums (four in southern England, three in New Zealand), to visit. Surely, a bee-line will be needed in Brighton to visit the Booth Museum.

The pages are interspersed with delightful colour prints in various muted colour shades of various greens and browns by Jade Thery,  all nicely displayed on the page. There is a Further Reading section. Altogether the book is a very satisfactory good read and good to have in any natural history library.

April-May Wildflowers

TWENTY  COMMON NATIVE WILDFLOWERS of East Sussex

Hazel (Corylus avellana), Snowdrop (Galathanus nivalis), Colt’s foot (Tussilago farfara), Primrose (Primula veris), Buttercup (Ranunculus sp), Dog’s Mercury (Mercuralis perennis), Wood Anemone (Anemone nemoralis), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis), Wood Sorrel (Rumex acetosa), Sloe or Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) (with Peacock butterfly) Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), Yellow Achangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon), Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Daisy (Bellis perennis), Holly (Ilex aquifolium) flowers (with honeybee), Milkmaids or Lady’s Smock (Cardamines pratensis), White Deadnettle (Lamium album) (with bumblebee), Dog Violet (Viola ), Red Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum).

 

Uplands & Birds 2020

Uplands and Birds by Ian Newton. No. 142 in The New Naturalist Library. London, William Collins. 2020. 598pp.

The author is a seasoned NNL writer, having already penned four volumes, Finches (1972), Bird Migration (2010), Bird Populations (2013) and Farmland and Birds (2017), and guess what from those titles, he is ‘an ornithologist and applied scientist, and a leading expert on bird ecology and migration, specialising in finches, waterfowl and birds of prey’ as the flyleaf states. He started work with NERC in 1967. This must be some sort of record for NNL writers. This is a big book only beaten by ‘Farmland and Birds’ (630pp). There are 17 chapters, mostly on birds – the title could have been reduced to ‘Upland Birds’ but the intriguing chapter on ‘Sward-makers’ is all about how deer, sheep and goats have formed the hillsides, and there are chapters on hill-farming of the valleys and uplands (the ‘Lower Fields’, and the ‘Open Hills’) and an excellent chapter on Native Woodlands from the post-glacial period to the present day. Whilst maps show the uplands down the west of Britain, we are told that peat bogs cover one tenth of the land in Britain and that they are increasingly appreciated as carbon stores.

Topically, there are two chapters about grouse on raptors, management and gamekeepers, and another chapter on rewilding. He explains there are now about 300 moors, of which managed grouse moors cover less than one-fifth of the British uplands, mostly in Scotland, but also in England, and now, none in Wales. Management of grouse moors comes down to five actions, 1) rotational patchy sward burning, 2) drainage of damp peat bogs (ceasing), 3) contolling of vertebrate predators of grouse, including ‘foxes, mustelids, corvids and, illegally, also raptors..’ (Newton has written elsewhere extensively on raptors in uplands) 4)  treatment with anthelmintic drugs to reduce infection by the strongyle worm Trichostrongylus tenuis, and 5) treatment of sheep with acaricide. Newton thinks it would be sad to see grouse moors disappear if there is no compromise from both sides; they are are actively working to find a way to manage grouse moors without killing raptors.

Newton prefers to use the term ‘rewilding’ though he says that some splitters like to think of rewilding as ‘an attempt to replicate what might have existed in the Mesolithic’ – if we really knew, and ‘wilding’ which is ‘just letting existing nature take its course’. The most cited rewilding experiment is the Knepp Estate in West Sussex (1,400ha), where they take the view it is wilding, as in their book ‘Wilding’ (reviewed here in 2020). However, as Ian Newton explains this is just a tiny fraction of what is already in progress with examples such as 60,000ha in Speyside, 29,334ha at the National Trust’s Mar Estate and 23,000ha in Glen Tromie.

It is good to see that The Flows are mentioned in detail – under ‘birds displaced by forestry’, and how many of the botanically rich peat bogs were sadly lost to tax breaks, but Newton explains that RSPB removed 2,600ha of conifers and a further 2,000ha have been approved for clearance. He states that ‘nearly one-fifth of the British uplands are currently under conifer plantations’. By replacing peat bogs with forestry eventually increases species numbers and overall bird densities increase with forest age he says – but it can be painfully slow – and he admits that ‘afforestation of former open land leads to the replacement of one bird community with another’ – yes botanically also!  In his ‘Farming and Birds’ book he has a section on insect declines, which sets the scene, somewhat, for the change in avifauna populations seen today.

The book is well illustrated with colour photographs of upland habitats, management of uplands and fauna of the uplands. There are subject and species indexes and a comprehensive table on the ‘Breeding Habitats and Winter Distributions of Upland Birds’ according to the different habitats regions. The book is ideal for libraries, naturalists and ornithologists, and it is a welcome addition to the NNL. It is a comprehensive assessment of birds in the uplands,all supported by peer-reviewed evidence.  What will be the author’s sixth NNL book?

 

 

 

Bill Gates’s climate book 2021

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, the solutions we have and the breakthroughs we need. 2021.  By Bill Gates. Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Books. 256pp. ISBN 978-0-241-44830-4 and 9 780241448304.

 

 

The author, if you didn’t know is a ‘technologist, business leader and philanthropist’ as he describes himself. He is also co-founder of Microsoft. The author is more well known in the world of computers, than his books, previous titles being ‘The Road Ahead’ and ‘Business @ the Speed of Thought’, both with co-authors. But this is now his own book written through Covid 19 and as up to date as one could expect. With Climate Change he says we should remember just two things,51 billion and zero – 51 billion tons being the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere each year, and zero is what we should aim for.  The chapters have simple titles such as How we plug in, How we make things, How we grow things and How we keep cool and Stay warm. In a sense it is really a simple book with everything set out in a basic formula. It is best not to cherry-pick chapters to read, as it really is meant to be read from the beginning, and his ‘Green Premium’ is a thread that runs through the book. Once you understand the Green Premium you can then cherry-pick, and have a fascinating read. The Green Premium is the difference between for instance fossil fuel prices and the higher priced advanced biofuel prices. That is the extra you have to pay for ‘greener’ products.  For each chapter there is this simple formula: how we got there, why these materials are so problematic for the climate: then the Green Premium is calculated to reducing emissions, how emissions are driven down to make the various materials (steel, electricity, or electric vehicles (EVs) without producing carbon.

Here is a man who has spoken to all the experts and listened to all their advice and is written from a unique perspective. He is also fortunate to be rich enough to pursue his engineering passions through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Gates has a fascination with engineering. He particularly likes cement, and waxes lyrical about the longest floating bridge in the world in Seattle, being made of cement with hollows. It seems he investigates everything. We learn that he likes to visit power plants for fun. He repeatedly pours money into new start-ups on the basis that they might perform and do good in the world, often loosing millions. During this Covid 19 pandemic he, via the Melinda and the Gates Foundation committed more than $445 million in grants to fighting the disease, and ‘hundreds of millions more’ to get vaccines.  He has also put $1billion into approaches to offset emissions to zero, all part of his plan to reduce his own personal footprint. He acknowledges that he has big houses and jets around the world, and his foundation was singled out by The Guardian for his effect on the world, and he has more than offset these shortcomings.  In 2015 he encouraged 24 heads of state who formed ‘Mission Innovation’ which now funds $4.6 million annually on clean energy research.

Gates comes out is with simple sentences that sum up world figures, such as on Offshore Wind, that it it is only 0.4% of the world’s energy output in 2019, and that it is only 1/32,000th  of the contribution to America electricity. And on storage batteries, he comes up with a hypothetical scenario if Toyko’s electricity fails from an extreme weather event, how many batteries would be needed to keep the lights on for three days – 14 million, or that is more than the world’s storage capacity in a decade. So we have not got there yet with batteries. There is a lot on solar power, that the cost of panels came down 10 times between 2010 and 2020. The existing old grid is often the problem to moving electricity, for instance to achieve California goal of 60% renewable by 2030, and New York’s goal of 70% green energy cannot do it without enhancing the grid. He loves his calculations and puzzles. Which is the cheapest in the US, a gallon of milk, a gallon of orange-juice or a gallon of gasoline?

The book has a 1950s feel to it, with well read pages and soft and slightly coloured paper – it feels like it should come with the pleasant smell of an old and familiar book – but it is a FSC of paper mix from ‘responsible sources’. There is an index and references to sources for each chapter (and eight blank pages at the back, surely not for notes?). There are quite a few graphs and pie charts and a few black and white photographs, but not overpowered with too many images, and no colour photographs (which it does not need).

Strangely, the book is a cross between a basic textbook on climate change and a ‘Which? guide to which EV car to buy, or boiler, or which energy source to buy, air source or ground source, with a New Scientist article thrown in. The basic worldwide facts are presented from one of the best informed person on the planet. The book is very  US-Centric throughout especially in figures (but bracketed-up with European equivalents by editors) but that is not a detraction; it is of interest how this philanthropist ticks. The book is very readable and is highly recommended for youngsters aged 12 up to adults.

 

 

Pollinators & Pollination 2021

Pollinators & Pollination. Nature and Society. By Jeff Ollerton. Published by Pelagic Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78427-228-9.  2021. 286pp. £24.25

As the blurb states Prof Jeff Ollerton is ‘one of the world’s leading pollination ecologists’ who works at the University of Northampton. Most of his 30-year’s research is poured into this major work and it has plenty of graphs as an evidence base for his ideas and theories. He states that he has pitched the book ‘at a very broad audience, and is intended to be comprehensible to anyone with an interest in science and the environment.’ He has succeeded admirably in this aim, and it covers an area not explored by other bee experts whose work is discussed. This is the first time I have seen a blanket acknowledgement for all his academic contacts rather than mentioning bee experts by name. This is not just about bees and pollination – though it may seem that way as Apis mellifera is a major pollinator – it is about all pollinators, birds, reptiles, mammals and invertebrates. There are an estimated 350,000 terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrate species that move pollen, for the estimated 352,000 species of flowering plant: so flowering plants are well catered for and co-evolution is patently evident.  Invertebrates are the commonest pollinators: the estimated number of species, from the largest to the smallest as listed, are Lepidoptera (141,500 species), through Coleoptera (77,300), Hymenoptera (70,000), Diptera (55,000) and Thysanoptera (1,500 species).The book has 14 chapters ranging from ‘To be a flower’ to ‘Agricultural Perspectives’ to ‘New Bees on the Block’ – mostly about the Tree Bumblebee and The Ivy Bee, and the 17 species of bee, wasp and true-flies that have turned up in Britain since 2000. A lot of the collation has been by BWARS.  He even has a chapter on ‘The politics of pollination.’ There is a section on neonics in which Ollerton reminds us they are chemically similar to naturally occuring nicotine, which used to be used a long time ago. He debates all sides of the issue, but unfortunately just missed the latest UK authorisation of neonics prior to publication. In reviewing the literature he shows that some recent research ‘strongly implicated as a likely driver of those declines.’  It is good to see that Buglife-The Invertebrate Conservation Trust is mentioned, as well as the National Pollinator Strategy. As the author states ‘I have tried to provide a personal, state-of-the-art overview of what pollinators are, where they are to be found, how they contribute to the pollination of both wild and agricultural plants, supporting the wild ecosystems…’ etc.  There are just a few colour photographs dotted about the book, but it really offers extended essays on topics rather than pretty photos that can be found in a host of other bee books.   The References run to 32pp and there is an index.

ESCC’s Enviro.. Strategy 2020 & SLNP Natural Capital,2019

ESCC’s Environment Strategy; At pace & at scale’ (2020)

The ESCC Environment Strategy was published in two parts in 2020, the Strategy (16pp) and the Appendix (38pp) dated March 2020 and June 2020 respectively.[1]  It replaces the first Environment Strategy for East Sussex adopted in 2011. A lot of rhetoric, national dilemmas, and UK concerns are repeated throughout this document. Turning to East Sussex, it states that 470 species that are globally threatened in the county, or in rapid decline. The Strategy is updated to be in line with the 25 year Environment Plan (2018) and Parliament’s declaration of Climate Emergency in 2019.

The Strategy’s vision is ‘protect and enhance our natural and built environment for current and future generations and tackle and adapt to climate change.’  That is a familiar mantra that goes back decades and is invested in UK law. ‘conserve and enhance’. The Strategy is disappointing in what it does not cover. There are no references to nature conservation or soil conservation, SSSIs, BAPs, Ancient Woodland, Wood-pasture, or surprisingly nothing major on biodiversity. It acknowledges the impact on woodlands in East Sussex (which has more than most counties), especially the impact on associated woodland habitats ‘the loss of valued areas for recreation.’

Natural Capital is mentioned, and is comprehensively dealt with in the Appendix; whilst everyone is nervously awaiting the result of the Environment Bill in its final deliberation on net gain in which way to jump.  Nationally, it is interesting to note that OFWAT are aiming to ‘protect and improve at least 6,000km of waterways, and protect and improve 1,800ha of protected nature conservation sites by 2025. One hopes this will trickle down to East Sussex. This will clearly be a rolling strategy for East Sussex, but the document as presented, does not have a functioning feedback email address, and the Team Manager is aware of the various typos and states that further information on nature conservation is to be found in the Sussex Local Nature Partnership document ‘Natural Capital Investment Strategy for Sussex 2019-2024.’  At present, it is a disappointing document.

[1] East Sussex County Council, 2020. Is in two parts i) ‘The Environment Strategy’, dated March 2020 (16pp) and ‘The Technical Appendix to the Environment Strategy’, dated June 2020 (38pp).

https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/media/15587/east-sussex-environment-strategy-2020.pdf

https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/media/15589/east-sussex-environment-strategy-2020-technical-appendix.pdf  (accessed 01 December 2020).

Note: The above ESCC Environment Strategy 2020 relies upon the following publication for nature conservation issues, facts and figures.

Natural Capital Investment Strategy for Sussex, 2019-2024. Sussex Local Nature Partnership, December 2019. Final Version. (adopted by Sussex LNP October 2019).  73pp.    

Twenty-four Sussex Local Nature Partners (SLNP) participated in drawing together this 73pp compilation of Natural Capital Investment Strategy in Sussex. Both East and West Sussex are lumped together, and obvious nature conservation groups have been involved such as Sussex Wildlife Trust, CPRE, CLA, EA, NE, NFU, SDNPA, ESCC (but no LPAs). This reviewer has been told (Dec 2020) by the on-line administrator of The ESCC Environment Strategy 2020 that it relies upon this document for all the information on nature conservation that is not within the Environment Strategy. It is just over a year since this document was produced (adopted by SLNP October 2019), but it still has not published the assets that it is still counting up. Sussex’s assets are its habitat types, and this document lists these which it classifies as ‘natural capital asset types.’  The assets it is relying on are on page14, which lists, for instance four types of Ancient Woodland.

However, it does not list ‘Wood-pasture & Parkland BAPs’ which are Priority BAPs – a serious error. These are associated woodland habitats of ancient woodland recognised by Natural England. There is a risk that the eventual quantum of assets will only be based on some of the statutorily protected areas such as NNRs, SSSIs, SACs, SPAs and Ramsars whilst other important habitats, protected by other statutory instruments will not be represented in the overall audit.

The omission is replicated in Table 2a (p.68) ‘Terrestrial Assets’, where at risk habitats are highlighted in red.  They do note that woodland is under risk of ‘loss of valued areas for recreation’. There is not a word about ‘Wood Pasture and Parkland BAPs’.  It is as if the law embedded in NERC (2006) – a statutory act – is not recognised.

The report has produced various useful maps across Sussex (too small to expand) and an intriquing ‘Woodland Heathmap’. This shows that there are three areas across the Sussexes, one in the east, one in the north central area of Sussex and one in the east. This is where there are:

existing woodland concentrations in Sussex,’ In these areas what is proposed is ‘In terms of biodiversity benefit, new woodland plantings regeneration in the areas of high woodland concentration can be used very beneficially to expand and connect woodland fragments and thus strengthen woodland ecological works.’

 Alarmingly, the document states that ‘At time of writing this strategy, no ‘valuations’ have yet been published for the natural capital of Sussex.’ (http://sussexlnp.org.uk/what-is-natural-capital/).  This is a concerning relevation. Without any valuations there can be no informed or considered view, so the report is not supported by any evidence.  Valuations are awaited to inform the strategy in Sussex, whilst the climate emergency continues.

There are some inherent downfalls in calculating nett gain for the nature conservation, as RSPB points out that removing an ancient woodland to make way for conifers that do a good job in carbon sequestration, plus providing BMX tracts of recreational value, may improve the economic value, but the irreplaceable loss of ancient woodland cannot be quantified. (RSPB (2017) Accounting for Nature: A natural capital account of the RSPB’s estate in England.). Not that anyone is proposing to remove ancient woodland in Sussex, but in other parts of the country the removal of ancient woodland for HS2 has in part been mitigated by replanting.

So, nature conservation in both the Sussex counties is currently held in the balance, whilst the parameters for calculating the assets that the counties are decided. SLNP have not taken Sussex a step forward in knowing what to protect, only advising of the concern that the climate emergency has promoted.  Thus no hope at this stage that the definitive quantitative work for Sussex can seemlessly be slotted into the demands of the Environment Act when it lands on our tables in 2021.  Until their valuations are complete they cannot inform the direction to take to address the climate emergency.

 

 

Who Owns England. 2020

Who Owns England. How we lost our land and how to take it back. By Guy Shrubsole. London, William Collins. 2020. Paperback 376pp   ISBN 978-0-00-832171-0  £9.99

1066 has a lot to do with who owns England today; indeed not a whole lot has changed since then. William the Conquer gave much of his new kingdom to his 200 Norman barons. By the Victorian age 18 million acres of land, or half of England and Wales is still held privately by just 0.01% of the population, this time represented by ‘4,200 Victorian nobles and gentry’. These facts and figures have been meticulously teased out by the author who is an investigative journalist, in conjunction with  colleagues over the last two years. The book deals with the land quantums with sensible chapters on the Crown and the Church, Old Money, New Money, the state, ‘corporate land holdings’ and ‘property owning democracy’. The staggering information is that taxpayers now pay most of these land owners £8m in annual subsidies (figures for 2015), a legacy payment from the desire to reduce the milk lakes’ and ‘butter mountains’ of 2003 crises in Europe from 2003. The figures of land ownership do not add up, since the author believes that about 17% of England’s land is unregistered for various reasons, one of which the Land Registry is still not open to who exactly owns what and where. The Appendices are most interesting and summarise the fruits of these exhaustive investigations. The list of the top 100 land owners is fascinating, so too the list of 24 extant Dukes with their land ownership and the amounts they receive as subsidies. Also of note is the chart on who owns what for all public bodies, the Crown, the Church and Conservation charities; top three are Forestry Commission, the MOD and Highways, with  National Trust, RSPB and Woodland Trust in positions 17-20. The sub-title of the book is summarised with the following ten recommendations comprehensively explored: (listed here:) i) end secrecy, ii) sort the housing crisis, iii) stop subsidies to farmers Iv) restore biodiversity, v) abolish last vestiges of feudalism, vi) reduce tax avoidance, vii) stop the sale of public lands, viii) give people a stake in the country, ix) open up the land to the people, x) introduce a land ethic. This is a well researched book, packed with facts and figures, overflowing with 298 sources of information. There is a small group of colour photographs in the centre of the book, and a good index, though the book is packed with so much data that a comprehensive index would have added far more pages.

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Pembrokeshire, NNS, 2020

Pembrokeshire. No. 141 in the New Naturalists’ Series. by Jonathan Mullard, 2020. London, Collins. 510pp

The author has already provided ‘Gower’ and ‘Brecon Beacons’ in the same series, so this is a Welsh hatrick, and at 510 pages it is a beefy tome, well worth the read. Jonathan Mullard has spent most of his life working in local planning and has been instrumental in managing National Parks, AONBs and Heritage Coasts. The extent of the Pembrokshire Coast National Park is impressive, as shown on the only map in the book, as it embraces nearly all of the coastal area of the county: its symbol is the razorbill of which there are 8,000 birds in the county.  The book has interesting chapters on its rich geology, caves and archaeology and a good section on the early naturalists. The natural history of the islands is described in detail: for Caldey, Skokholm, Skomer, Grassholm and Ramsey. Skomer being the best place in Pembrokeshire for puffins (25,227 in 2018) and has its own Skomer vole. Ramsey is famous for the black rabbits put there probably by the Earl of Pembroke. Skokholm is famous for its genetically different mice with their failed fused vertebral columns so studied by the late Prof. Sam Berry from Kent (see his books in the NNS (No 109 ‘Islands’ and No 61 ‘Inheritance and Natural History’) and for the largest slow worms in Britain – so much for evolution and natural selection on islands of which Pembrokeshire excels with examples. Manx shearwaters breed on the islands (450,000 pairs) but decreasing numbers of Storm Petrels (5,000 birds) are now recorded. The shearwaters have a 22,000 mile round journey each year to South America. It was interesting to learn that some seabird colonies can destroy their own breeding grounds, in the case of the original ‘immense puffin colony’ on Grassholm it is thought that they undermined so much of the peat layer with their nest tunneling that their numbers declined; the habitat has now been replaced by a large gannetry.   The rugged rocks and castle ruins have been the subject of studies on the rich lichen species, including the cuckoo stones in churchyards. For a region that is steeped in humidity the damp-loving ferns and bryophtyes have been clearly described, as well as the natural history of meres. There is the very rare ‘Pembroke dwarf moth’ to look out for, only re-found recently on the Castlemartin MOD Range: there are only five known sites in the UK. The effects of other industry are covered in this book with the exploitation of the Milford Haven, but the outstanding natural history gems of the rugged Pembroke coast, terrestrial and underwater, have all been thoroughly explored in this book. In keeping with the NNS the book is populated with many colour photographs, many by the author and there is the usual  extensive references and index. For the craggy interior of Pembrokeshire, which is always interesting because you never know what is around the next crag, this is an essential book to have back at base (for it is too big and heavy to go in the rucksack). It is a superb book, well researched, and a delight for all those who have ventured on field trips, or wished they had, since it brings to life the particularly rich tapestry of wildlife that this part of Wales now protects.