One of the National Trust’s General Managers, Adrian Colston, shares his thoughts on the findings of a new report, ‘the State of Nature’, which provides a health check on how wildlife is faring in the UK:
Yesterday saw the publication of yet another report: The State of Nature, detailing the decline of animals and plants – 60% of species have declined in the past 50 years.
Lots of different reasons are given for the declines; habitat loss, climate change etc etc but what is striking with this report is how widespread the losses are. Its not just rare species but also some ‘common’ ones like hedgehogs (33% decline since 2000) and small tortoiseshell butterflies (77% decline in a decade).
Faced with all this doom and gloom it is easy to think its all pointless and that nothing can be done. In my view this is not true – there is a lot we can and are doing which makes a difference. Here is one example.
Think big , think long term
I remember when I was working at National Trust’s Wicken Fen in the 1990s developing their 100 year vision I discovered that the average Wildlife Trust nature reserve in Cambridgeshire was just over 16ha! Conserving wildlife in pocket handkerchief sized parcels clearly wasn’t going to work in the long term – nature needs space! The 100 year vision therefore proposed expanding the existing reserve 20 fold in size – buying up agriculture land and restoring it back to wetlands and thereby creating a 8000 ha green lung for people and wildlife.
Achieving such a dream would take time, tactics and patience – hence the 100 year vision – Wicken Fen is already 3 times its original size and wetland wildlife is returning to the newly restored areas.
Working in partnership is also crucial – RSPB helped us manage our reedbeds so that bitterns could return – we carried out the habitat management works and the bitterns did return. Various Universities and research establishments helped us create the right water levels for wildlife and members of the public supported the vision to ensure it turned from dream to reality.
Our challenge therefore is to think big, think long term, work in partnership and gain support from the public. If we do this nature will flourish – if we don’t expect another gloomy report soon.
Adrian Colston was the Property Manager for Wicken Fen from 1997 to 2004. He is now the Trust’s General Manager for Dartmoor and the Trust’s Nature Champion. You can follow Adrian on twitter http://twitter.com/NT_AdrianC