Bold new plans to mobilise communities to save UK nature

The Wildlife Trusts announce new strategy to put nature into recovery by 2030

New plans announced today will mean that people will be able to experience nature in a way that they may never have done before – with large, populated areas butting up against large rewilded landscapes, say The Wildlife Trusts. The charity’s new Strategy 2030, launched today, shows how people will be at the heart of vast nature restoration projects that will do more than just halt the decline of nature – they will reverse it instead.

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and, with 41% of species in decline since the 1970s plus 15% of species at risk of extinction, urgent action is required to stop hedgehogs, water voles, and red squirrels disappearing forever. The Wildlife Trusts plan to empower people to reverse the trend.

 


two of the animals in decline and at risk of extinction
Photos: Hedgehog V. Mathews, Red Squirrel M. Hamblin

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

 “The situation is dire and nature needs to be put in special measures – we must ramp up action as never before by triggering a decade of nature restoration. Conservation of the wildlife and habitats that remain is no longer enough because what we’ve got left is so fragmented and diminished. In the past we’ve focused on preserving habitats and species – now we need to restore the abundance of nature, and with it, the ecosystem processes that’ll get nature working again.

“Despite the huge loss of wild places and wildlife that depends on them, there is hope. The UK has committed to protecting and managing 30% of land for nature by 2030 and we’re going to be working with all national governments and local authorities to make sure this happens.”

The Wildlife Trusts have three new goals:

  • To put nature in recovery by making more space for it, connecting habitats on a large scale, restoring the abundance of nature and enabling ecosystems to function again
  • To inspire one in four people to take action for nature by working with communities, especially young people, to rewild their neighbourhoods
  • To enable nature to help humanity so that wild places store carbon, prevent flooding, reduce soil erosion, aid pollinators and support people’s wellbeing

The Wildlife Trusts are working in every county of the UK empowering people to drive change. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust provide sone of very many examples of how to increase the land that benefits nature to 30%:

Gloucestershire has just 13% of natural land and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust recognises that working in partnership with the people of the county is crucial to achieving an increase of at least 17%. The Trust plans to achieve this in a variety of ways from creating exciting new wetlands to huge treescapes using the natural catchment of the River Severn as the backbone for recovery. Projects include:

  • Severn Treescapes – a 60 mile, north-south woodland nature recovery corridor across Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire covering 1,728km2.
  • Severn Wild belt – to encourage communities to allow land that is currently of low biodiversity value to be enhanced for nature with a series of connected wetlands on the floodplain to aid flood management, carbon capture and recreational space
  • Putting 69,000 hectares of the county into Nature Recovery Zones around existing good habitat; increasing the size of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s estate by 50%, and creating 5,000 hectares of new habitat by working with farmers and partners
  • Integrating nature into new building developments with beautiful green infrastructure – from parks to sustainable urban drainage systems that collect water
  • Exploring a beaver reintroduction – because bringing back this keystone species is our best ally in the fight against flooding

Beaver Re-introduction in Gloucestershire (Photo D. Parkyn)

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“Nature needs people to act now before it’s too late and we can all be part of the effort to restore our natural world at the scale so desperately needed. We’ve found that people want to get involved, and The Wildlife Trusts – with staff in every part of the UK – are well placed to enable this to happen. It’s up to us all – businesses, landowners, schools, governments, and individuals – to heal our natural world.”

Liz Bonnin, President of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

 “We can succeed at putting nature into recovery if we all work together as one interconnected community. Our precious ecosystems – all interconnected and interdependent themselves – need to be able to do their job in maintaining the health of our planet. The Wildlife Trusts’ Strategy is harnessing the tremendous amount of expertise from all 46 Trusts to restore our wild places, putting people at the heart of it all. It’s time to fall in love with our planet again, and become the responsible custodians it deserves.” 

 

Major new study showing the role Beavers can play in restoring Scotland’s rivers

Beavers could make an important contribution to improving the condition of Scotland’s rivers, including helping to improve water quality and limiting the effects of drought.

The positive role they can play in water resource management, as well as in creating habitat, carbon sequestration and river restoration, is highlighted in a report produced by scientists at the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute.  They have collated evidence from 120 studies of beaver populations worldwide, as part of a large-scale review of their effects on streams and rivers.

Read the full report here  Beaver Main Report

Exciting nature recovery project is awarded National Lottery funding

The South Devon AONB Unit is delighted to announce that it has been awarded a £220,900 development grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund as initial support for its multi partner ‘Life on the Edge’ programme to help restore thriving populations of some of the UK’s rarest insects living along the South Devon Coast between Berry Head and Wembury.

The award to the partnership led by the AONB together with Buglife, The National Trust and Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust has been made possible by National Lottery players.  It   will work with residents, parish councils, schools and landowners to protect and restore precious coastal wildlife and connect communities with nature.


Long-horned Mining Bee: D. Greenwood

2021 corncrake numbers continue worrying downward trend


© RSPB Images

Corncrake numbers in Scotland are continuing to decline the latest RSPB Scotland survey has revealed, adding to concerns about their precarious future here. In 2021 only 850 calling males were recorded across the 16 areas in the country where these elusive birds are found, down from 870 in 2019. Corncrakes are usually surveyed annually but the COVID-19 travel restrictions in 2020 meant that it was not possible to complete the count across all areas.

Whilst the decline from the 2019 survey is relatively modest, especially compared to other years where numbers have seen sharp reductions, it continues the overall worrying downward trend since the record high of 1289 calling males in 2014 and highlights how vulnerable these birds are.

Within the survey there are regional differences in how corncrakes are faring. In the Inner Hebrides the population has plummeted by 12.2 percent from 2019 but in the Outer Hebrides numbers are up by 9.9 percent. The reasons for these regional differences are unclear. In order to safeguard the species and try to provide a more certain future for them in Scotland targeted measures are needed.

The Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) has been crucial in supporting corncrake friendly farming methods for many years but its future has looked uncertain in recent times. The Scottish Government’s announcement at the end of October, that AECS will continue for the next three years was therefore welcome news.

RSPB Scotland will work with farmers, crofters and Scottish Government to ensure as much corncrake and high nature value friendly management is delivered through AECS whilst it continues. From 2025, the Scottish Government has signalled that it intends to introduce new farming policy and changes to farm payments. RSPB Scotland is calling for payments for nature and climate friendly farming and crofting to be at the heart of this new policy.

Commenting on the results, Jane Shadforth, Project Manager for Corncrake Calling, an RSPB Scotland project to improve these birds fortunes over the next few years, says: “RSPB Scotland would like to thank everyone who supported this year’s survey. The results highlight how vulnerable this species remains with numbers declining by more than 30% since 2014. RSPB Scotland will use these results to help target management for corncrakes in the right places, working with farmers and crofters through Corncrake Calling and to make best use of the Agri-Environment-Climate scheme. The importance of island communities in protecting this magical species cannot be underestimated. The continuation of AECS over the next few years is welcome news to many. As we look ahead though, developing new farming policy and payments that better support farming and crofting communities everywhere to farm in nature positive ways is vital.”

Corncrake Calling is led by RSPB Scotland and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It is delivering land management advice, practical support and funding to crofters and farmers, advocacy for agri-environment policies which support farming in corncrake and wildlife friendly ways, and education activities to encourage both local communities and people across the country to connect with these rare birds and take action to help them.

The project builds on the work RSPB Scotland has been doing with farmers and crofters on corncrake friendly mowing for many years. It also links up with local communities and schools to inspire them to help corncrakes and asks members of the public to submit corncrake sightings. Work has started recently on a touring exhibition which plans to inspire more people about these birds which were once well known and a common sight across the UK.

Corncrakes are the land-dwelling relatives of coots and moorhens and one of Scotland’s rarest breeding birds. Due to their shy character they are surveyed by counting the number of males making the distinctive “crex crex” call during breeding season. The birds migrate here every summer from Africa and used to be found across the UK before the changes in agricultural practices in the 19th and 20th century saw their range and number contract to just a few isolated pockets in Scotland.

Corncrake Survey Results 2017-2021 (Covid restrictions meant no survey was carried out in 2020)

Location Number of calling males in 2021 Number of calling males in 2019 Number of calling males in 2018 Number of calling males in 2017
Orkney 17 19 13 8
Lewis 89 77 68 75
Harris 6 6 3 7
Berneray 1 0 1 0
North Uist 108 131 128 108
Benbecula 14 13 7 5
South Uist 149 111 89 68
Barra & Vatersay 68 58 73 84
Isle of Skye 10 13 17 14
Isle of Coll 30 47 53 49
Isle of Tiree 285 300 322 315
Isle of Mull 0 0 2 3
Iona 19 15 13 15
Colonsay & Oronsay 23 20 41 36
Islay 26 54 60 75
Durness 5 6 7 6