Linking Landscapes: vitally important (but oh so difficult…)

‘every generation grows up in an ever depleted landscape. Growing up in a depleted landscape one thinks that that is normal..’ Oliver Rackham

The Suffolk Naturalists’Society hosted the Linking Landscapes conference in Autumn 2011. The overriding theme was one of response to loss of insects and other wildlife. This loss has resulted from a reduction of habitat and of links between habitats, which then impacts upon plants, insects, birds, mammals…us…

Some responses are large scale and ambitious – they need to be when one is looking at geographical systems – but they also create a framework within which we can all work on a more local scale.

All the speakers were thoroughly engaging and the topics they covered extensive. Rather than go into them in depth I have tried to highlight some key points. Food for thought.

(I also have to admit to missing the first two speakers due to having locked myself out of my house and needing a locksmith before setting out…sorry)

RSPB Futurescapes: Aidan Lonergan

* ‘we are losing nature constantly….living beyond our environmental limits’
* We know that biodiversity is greater in larger areas
* We know that the presence of key species is more likely in larger areas
* We know that biodiversity correlates with habitat variety
* Aim to increase the quality and quantity of biodiversity in protected areas
* Consider the use of wildlife corridors or stepping stones as well
* What are the most important areas to target?
* What is the government doing and how can it work with NGO’s effectively?
* How do we get environmental work mainstreamed (and funded)? – it is essential after all, not just ‘nice’
* How to engage with local people, those who have the area ‘etched on their souls’?

Richard Mabey (who I always think speaks so eloquently about the perils of monoculture or lack of diversity)

* Boundaries are not defined in nature but by us and our expectations of an area
* Using nature ‘reserves’ turns them into ‘reservations’, this creates an artificial boundary and is detrimental to our perception of nature. It gives licence to destroy habitats in favour of ‘development’.
* Be aware of trading species, protecting one may adversely affect another through habitat and ecosystem alteration
* In the USA several large scale projects connecting landscpes are underway, see this one in Washington
* A recent Government Bill allows communities to put forward plans for developing their area, as long as it doesn’t interfere with housing or other ‘essential developments’!

Chris Baines ‘Making nature work for people’

* CATS!!! (and that isn’t said in a positive way..)
* How to reintegrate the environment and us, needs to be as dramatic as the disintegration of the last 50 years
* Conservation needs to make sense to agriculture
* In the UK 90% of us live urban lifestyles
* Green spaces act as breathing spaces, both physiologically and psychologically
* Trees are vital to urban landscapes, shelter from them can reduce heating and cooling of buildings by 10%, they slow the rate of rainfall to the ground, help with air pollution, and provide an excellent base for an ecosystem, they protect against solar radiation and decrease the risk of skin cancer
* If managed well the high speed train link could provide an opportunity for a ‘wildlife corridor’. Connecting urban and rural.
* Need to look at whole systems; the water system needs more water retentive areas upstream, wet woods and meadows instead of overgrazing and intensive farming.

Buglife species-scape: Matt Shardlow

* The B-Lines project in conjunction with the co-operative group is creating wildflower rich corridors across Britain (currently being piloted in Yorkshire). Aim for two lines in each county, each at least field width wide (nesting habitats, lacking in smaller areas such as hedges).
* 3,000,000 ha of flower rich grassland has been lost since WWII, only 100,000 ha remain. 0.3% (6,500 ha) has been recreated with agri-environment schemes. B-Lines could create 150,700 ha at 2.5% of the agri-environment budget (I think I have that right..)

So: we need to create ‘wildlife reserves’, but we also need to expand upon this, to link larger areas together more formally and also to integrate with our local environment. NGO’s, farmers, the public (us) and the government all need to find a way of working together as a necessity not a nicety.