British Eco Holidays and Wildlife Conservation

British Nature Is In Decline

 

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The State Of Nature Report 2016, supported by David Attenborough, outlines that the UK continues to show a severe loss of nature since the 1960s. The report pools data and expertise from more than 50 nature conservation and research organisations – here are the key findings:

  • The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, losing significantly more nature over the long term than the global average.
  • Of the nearly 8,000 species assessed, 15% are extinct or threatened with extinction from Great Britain.
  • The greatest threats to nature are agricultural change and climate change.
  • We have a moral obligation to save nature. Not only that, we must save nature for our own sake, as it provides us with essential and irreplaceable benefits that support our welfare and livelihoods.
  • Thousands of dedicated volunteers in Britain help to record vital wildlife data; it is largely thanks to their efforts that we are able to chart how nature is faring.
  • Well-planned conservation can successfully improve problem areas.
  • The UK has commitments to meet international environmental goals including the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals but we are not on course to meet these targets.

Affected areas in Britain include:

– Farmland
– Upland
– Woodland
– Coastal
– Freshwater and wetland
– Urban
– Marine

As a result, a vast variety of species are in decline including: great crested newts, dotterels, hen harriers, barbastelle bats, natterjack toads, pug moths, ringed plovers, water voles, marsh grasshoppers and hedgehogs.

What is being done?

At the moment, conservation efforts are insufficient to put nature back where it belongs. There are, however, many inspiring examples of conservation action helping to turn this tide; organisations, governments, businesses, landowners, communities and individuals are working together to help the UK’s nature. Conservation efforts can be found across the UK at a local, regional and national level, including the following:

Nature reserves and protected areas

The UK has a proud heritage of protecting the best sites for wildlife. In 1821, the first nature reserve was founded at Walton Hall in West Yorkshire, and we now have a network of sites that are protected by national and international legislation.

Nature reserves cover around 2% of the UK, and designated sites, such as Special Protection Areas, cover 10%. However, this total falls short of the global target of at least 17% of land area and 10% of marine area under protection. It is also important to note that a protected area designation does not mean that a site is safe from pressures or that it is being managed effectively.

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Improving habitats

Decades of conservation experience, backed with the findings of research programmes, means that we know more about how to manage habitats for the benefit of nature than ever before.

Traditional methods, using practices such as low-intensity grazing and coppicing, are combined with new knowledge and technology to deliver specific requirements for wildlife. Developing our methods in this area is particularly relevant in light of future climate change, since habitats are likely to need to facilitate the movement of species in response to changing climatic conditions.

Creating new wildlife sites

Conservationists have begun to master the art of recreating habitat and restoring degraded areas, while incorporating the dynamic nature of ecosystems. Many of these are new wetland sites or dramatic coastal realignment schemes. Heathland, semi-natural grassland and woodland are also being restored in some areas.

Working beyond boundaries

Conservationists have become increasingly aware of the need to work beyond the boundaries of protected areas, realising a need for bigger, better, and joined up wildlife sites that function as a network and allow wildlife to move through the landscape more easily.

Conservationists are collaborating with a range of landowners on large-scale projects, for example the Nene Valley Living Landscape project, which encourages the management of land in wildlife-friendly ways across landscapes.

Taking action for species

Protecting, improving, extending and connecting special places can bring great benefits for wildlife but some of our most threatened species require a bespoke approach.

Recovery projects have been able to identify the exact requirements of a species, and then roll out multifaceted actions aimed at slowing declines, stabilising, and ultimately increasing, populations of the target species.

In recent decades, this approach has had some of the most celebrated conservation successes, such as the return from UK extinction of the large blue butterfly and pool frog, and the recovery of lesser horseshoe bats, red kites and bitterns.

Citizen science

Broadly defined as the involvement of volunteers in projects that contribute to our scientific understanding, citizen science has become very popular in the past decade. In the UK, it is founded on a long history of wildlife observation by volunteer naturalists. There are currently more than 200 voluntary wildlife-recording initiatives across the UK such as: Zooniverse, Big Garden Bird Watch, Beachwatch, Big Seaweed Search etc. These collectively generate a staggering 4.5 million wildlife observations annually.

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Take Action – how can YOU get involved?

Now, more than ever, there’s a need for active nature conservation in the UK and everyone can play a part through their daily choices including how they travel, what they eat, what they do on holiday.

There are plenty of ways for the people of Britain to take action including:

Eco holidays

Tourism can be a great way to experience other places and people. Some holidays make nature the focus of that experience; whale or bird-watching are especially popular. Eco tourism goes further and aims to positively benefit nature by engaging directly with wildlife and contributing to its conservation.

The eco tourism concept is well developed outside the UK and has seen huge growth in the past 30 years – ironically it is partly driven by ease of air travel and is particularly popular with tourists from more developed countries including Britain.

In the UK, eco holidays are not well developed, however there is huge potential for a more sustainable model. Andy Jefferies is founder of Wild Days Conservation, which delivers hands-on UK wildlife conservation holidays and has set out to develop an attractive model for true eco tourism in the UK.

Jefferies says: ‘It was quickly clear that many people wanted this kind of experience but couldn’t find the opportunities. The popularity of walking, wildlife and other activity holidays is evident and wildlife conservation holidays combine the best factors of all these; outdoors and active, interesting and informative, sociable and fun, quality accommodation and food, as well as having the vital ingredient of making a positive contribution to conservation. ‘This is exactly what I had been looking for’ is typical feedback we get from the people who take part.’

Here are a few organisations that do eco tourism well:

Wild Days Conservation
National Trust Working Holidays
Trees for Life in Scotland
Waterways Canal Camps

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Working to connect children with nature

Recent research shows that nature can have positive impacts on a young person’s education, physical health, emotional wellbeing, personal and social skills. It also helps them to become responsible citizens. If children are connected to nature they are more likely to be interested in their environment and take part in nature-based activities as well as having a natural instinct to save it.

For more information on how to encourage your children to spend more time in nature visit Wildlife Watch and The Wild Network.

Choosing to live a greener lifestyle

Many of the challenges facing our wildlife and environment can’t be addressed with a geographical, habitat or species focus alone. Other issues require a society-wide response such as: tackling carbon emissions in order to limit the extent of climate change, reducing air and water pollution and achieving sustainable use of marine species.

We often need a governmental lead with appropriate policies but to effect real change we all need to step up and do our bit to protect the environment we rely on for healthy and happy lives.

Conservation volunteering

There are many ways to get involved in specific wildlife campaigns, groups and projects in your local area. Whether you give time, money or help to raise awareness, your support will be invaluable.
Here are some good places to get started:

The Wildlife Trusts
National Trust
Natural England
National Parks
Areas Of Natural Beauty – Landscapes for life
The Conservation Volunteers
The Mammal Society
Earthwatch

 

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