Ecology Wales

BSG Ecology has started work on a range of new research projects in 2014.  This article summarises progress to date on new bat research.
In February 2013 Owain Gabb from our Swansea Office, a licensed bird ringer on behalf of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and a member of Gower Ringing Group, began ringing birds at Oxwich Marsh, on the Gower Peninsula, South Wales.
At BSG Ecology we routinely field requests for invertebrate surveys. These can take many forms, but typically include: surveys of sites with potential to support invertebrate species or invertebrates associated with habitats of principal importance (NERC Act 2006); assessment of biological water quality of ponds, lakes, streams and rivers, using freshwater invertebrates as indicators of ecosystem health; or more bespoke surveys of protected or otherwise notable invertebrate species (e.g. white-clawed crayfish, or rare dragonfly or butterfly species).
Tree climbing surveys (sometimes known as aerial inspection surveys) are an effective way to assess a tree’s potential to support bats. This technique, which uses access skills borrowed from tree surgery, is far more definitive than ground-based survey, and can be very cost-effective.
Over the last few years BSG Ecology has provided ecological support to a heritage lottery-funded project aimed at restoring Whitecliff Furnace, a Scheduled Ancient Monument near Coleford in the Royal Forest of Dean.  Our work to date has included detailed bat surveys to inform working methods which allowed the stabilization of the main furnace flue and re-pointing of masonry, whilst avoiding the need for a European Protected Species license.
BSG has over 30 full time ecologists, many of whom spend considerable amounts of their spare time, as well as their work hours, surveying, recording and photographing wildlife in the UK and abroad.  This interest helps us to refine our survey skills and keep up to date with developments in the ecology world, and our Facebook site provides a forum to share photographs, highlight conservation issues and draw people’s attention to what they can see at certain times of year.
BSG Ecology opens a new office in Swansea, South Wales on 1 March 2012.  This will be led by Owain Gabb, Principal Ecologist, who has moved to Wales after two years in our Oxford office.
Our work with organisations like the National Trust, English Heritage,  Cadw and the Wye Valley AONB project means that we regularly undertake ecological surveys of historic buildings and their grounds.  The sometimes unique nature of these sites means that successful survey can require some creative thinking and the development of non-standard  approaches.
The UK Government’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT), an initiative to provide incentives to people who generate renewable energy to feed some of the electricity back into the National Grid, has generated a lot of interest amongst developers and landowners. In particular, single wind turbine developments are now proving to be very popular but, as with any development, the erection of even a single wind turbine can potentially have impacts on the environment, including ecology.
Summary: In 2009 a paper by Pearce-Higgins et al (see previous BSG news and resources bulletin) concluded that operational wind farms had resulted in the displacement of a number of upland breeding bird species.  Since this time, nature conservation consultees have become concerned about displacement effects and the impacts this might have on wader populations.  Curlew, a species identified in the paper as showing a reduction in nesting density at distances of up to 800m from turbines, has been a particular concern, especially in areas (such as upland Wales) where local populations have been subject to considerable declines and are already extremely fragmented.  This has led to requests for large-scale ‘compensatory’ off site habitat management in relation to some wind farm planning applications.
BSG Partner James Gillespie has co-authored a paper on ‘Applying Connectivity Mapping to Spatial Planning in Wales’. Connectivity maps are key elements of a wider framework of actions to improve connectivity and protect biodiversity. There is strong political interest in this approach in Wales and a drive to include concepts of ecological connectivity within spatial planning at local and national levels to contribute to a broader green infrastructure. This paper reviews the overall approach in Wales to date and reports on the findings of studies in South East Wales.