January, 2010

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Saving special places

Protecting our best wildlife sites from damage is big part of the RSPB's work - read about our work from the people on the front line
  • A special, special place!

    This blog is filled with references to some of the top sites for wildlife in the UK, Europe or even at a global scale.

    But this weekend the focus is on that special place close to our own backdoors.  Our gardens.  It’s Big Garden Birdwatch  weekend!

    How many of us have had a lifetime’s interest sparked by getting to know the birds and wildlife we share our gardens with?  Jack (who’s five) was watching BBC Breakfast this morning when Big Garden Birdwatch came up – ‘Oh Daddy, we’ve got to do Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend’ – pretty much sums it up really!

    So have a relaxed hour with your family and help make this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch the best yet!

  • Protected Areas in a time of Climate Change

    One theme that should stand out from this blog is that protected areas are extremely important places!  In the European Union, wildlife legislation – in the form of the Birds and Habitats Directives – has enabled real gains to be made for wildlife.  

    Yet wildlife in these protected areas, along with the rest of life on this planet, faces the unprecedented challenge of climate change. What will be the role of protected area networks in the face of wildlife populations responding to find their optimum climatic conditions?

    Any strategy for the future must start from what we have today – and our protected areas are the best places for wildlife now.  The Birds and Habitats Directives have, at their core, the ability to designate sites (forming the Natura 2000 network throughout the EU) – but the protected area stuff (though crucial) is just one part of the range of measures set out in the legislation. 

    Change is inevitable – and the response, both in terms of the management of protected areas and increasing their extent will build in resilience that will be crucial to the ability of species to adapt and survive.  Habitat creation is a vital means of extending the area available to wildlife  - our Wallasea Island Wild Coast project (pictured)is a good example of this approach in action.

    We are convinced that the Birds and Habitat’s Directives, if interpreted correctly and fully implemented, provide further potential to ensure species and habitats have the best chances of adapting to climate change. 

    If you would like to read more about this topic, my colleagues Andrew Dodd, Alice Hardiman, Kate Jennings and Gwyn Williams have written ‘Protected Areas and Climate Change: Reflections from a Practitioners Perspective’ published in the Utrecht Law Review.

  • International Year of Biodiversity

    The International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) has got a hard act to follow.  It is true to say that the global climate crisis is but one side of the coin shared with the parallel biodiversity crisis but following the climate bun-fight that was Copenhagen, the devastation of our natural world has some ground to make up (in media terms at least).

    Well the year has now been launched – it hasn’t yet led calls to hold the front page but it’s a start.  But the year is still young and I’m determined to remain positive – and there are some reasons to do so.

    In England our network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest includes the best representative sites for wildlife where their value is documented and based on sound scientific principles.  It’s long been known that just designating sites is but a start – its how you deal with the management of the sites and the threats they face that determines whether its going to do the job.  Getting 95% of the SSSIs on the road to recovery by 2010 has been a binding target for Natural England and they are likely, more or less, to get there. 

    A central part of the European Union’s strategy to conserve nature is the network of Natura 2000 sites.  This is another success story built on the strength and flexibility of the Birds and Habitats Directive.  Research has shown that the Birds Directive has produced benefits that can be measured in terms of the conservation of some of Europe’s most threatened birds.

    The two Directives regularly come under scrutiny often because they have been effective at producing outcomes that protect nature and this is spun as bad for business and economies.  The RSPB has recently produced a report that highlights the importance of the Birds Directive in securing sustainable development outcomes.  Sometimes that means stopping a badly conceived project in its tracks – far more often it’s about finding a solution that allows development whilst ensuring effective protection of the natural world.

    Recently the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso wrote to the Prime Minister of the Netherlands in response to a call to review the Directives (this is political code for weaken) – Mr Barroso’s helpful response is available here (you need to go to the bottom of the article which is in dutch, and click on 'Lees hier de brief van Barroso' at the bottom of the page).  

    An effective and well tested legal framework is vital – so are the resources necessary to deliver for our natural world.  We have now launched our Letter to the Future campaign (and here)  which gets to the heart of why now is the wrong time to cut back on our support for nature.  If you haven’t signed yours let – here’s a link.