Birds, butterflies, other insects and spiders are using protected areas to help them move north in response to climate change.
Perhaps this isn’t surprising, but it’s another good reason to make sure that we cherish and protect our protected areas across the UK, and that we have the resources to look after and manage them properly.
The news comes from a study, in which the RSPB was a partner, just published online. Seven northward moving, focal species of birds and butterflies were able to be studied in great detail and these used protected areas more than four times more commonly than other land, relative to the availability of protected areas in the landscapes colonised. Similar patterns were seen among more than 250 invertebrate species which were studied less intensively, using millions of wildlife records sent in mostly by members of the public. That’s a good reminder of the value of sending in your own wildlife sightings – and of the enormous enthusiasm that people from all over the UK have for wildlife.
It’s good to know that our protected areas, longstanding mainstays of nature conservation for many decades, are vital in helping our wildlife respond to its newest threat, climate change. We will need more, and bigger protected areas as climate change gets worse – the Government’s Lawton report has already made this clear. We must also ensure that this is properly resourced. Defra knows it’s a good value investment, with more than £8 of benefits to society for every £1 put in. A key part of funding is through the Common Agriculture Policy, as many of our Sites of Special Scientific Interest are parts of farmed landscapes. Again Defra knows this, yet the CAP reform discussions need to progress a long way before we’ll have any confidence that these special places for wildlife will be adequately funded.
Whilst protected areas are havens and stepping stones for wildlife across the countryside, they are not, of course, the whole picture. Our protected areas are parts of our landscapes, and it’s these that are the principal home to our ‘everyday’ wildlife as well as to some of our rarer species – such as nightjars and stone-curlews, which were included in the study. The scale of species movement and colonisation, even in these early years of man-made climate change, highlights the importance of larger scale nature conservation, integrating action for wildlife across protected areas and the wider countryside.
But more on our Futurescapes projects another time! Our protected areas are the heartwood of nature conservation in the UK, and look set to be even more so,[ to help wildlife cope with climate change.
So, do you think the Government should step up to ensure that all our wonderful SSSIs are given the proper resources required to keep them healthy?