Bigger is better in RSPB’s radical new approach to wildlife conservation
4 May 2010
The RSPB is launching a radical new approach to nature conservation to make space for wildlife in the 21st Century.
Reaching out beyond its traditional nature reserves, the Society hopes to restore disappearing species to huge swathes of the wider countryside.
Dubbed ‘Futurescapes,’ the programme will see the RSPB working in partnership with others to create whole landscapes where people and nature can co-exist.
Aidan Lonergan, The RSPB’s Futurescapes Manager, said: “Nature reserves are vitally important – they are a refuge from where plants and animals can spread into the wider countryside.
“But that countryside is increasingly unfriendly to wildlife because of decades of habitat loss, which has robbed many species of food and shelter.
“Now climate change threatens to add even further pressure.”
“We need to turn that around. Working with others, we can once again make large areas of the countryside rich in wildlife. We need to move beyond the nature reserve and create really big areas of land, whole landscapes, where wildlife has space to move and thrive.”
to showcase its new approach, the RSPB has chosen the Greater Thames; more than 1000 square kilometres straddling the river from Tower Bridge, along the estuary and out into the North Sea.
- Owns or manages 40 sq km of land for wildlife on the Thames.
- Has spent more than £50 million regenerating land and opening up large areas for people to enjoy.
- Worked with DP World to make sure the new London Gateway Port results in new habitat and a net gain for wildlife.
- Forged a partnership with the Port of London Authority to produce a Conservation Management Framework that will guide the PLA in their day-to-day operations.
- Joined with waste management firm Veolia ES Limited to regenerate large areas of landfill and grassland, transforming them into wetlands and public space.
- Reached agreement with local councils to take on and manage large areas of land for wildlife and people.
Aidan Lonergan said: “What’s happening on the Thames is a fantastic example of what we want Futurescapes to achieve right across the UK.
“At first glance some of our partners on the Thames may seem unlikely bedfellows for the RSPB, but the transformation we want to see in our countryside is too big a job for any one organisation – everyone needs to pull together to make it happen.
“We have already started work on almost 40 other projects up and down the country; with fellow environment organisations, local communities, farmers, landowners and government at all levels.
“This is a crowded island and we need to meet the needs of wildlife alongside human uses of the countryside. We need our land to do more than one thing.
“If we succeed, it will not just be wildlife that wins. By taking a landscape scale approach for wildlife, we can improve other natural services provided by the land, including carbon storage, water management, and recreation, alongside food production and other important economic benefits.
Find out more
Find more information about Futurescapes
- Futurescapes is the RSPB’s response to the continued decline of the UK’s wildlife and wild places. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, the date by which biodiversity loss is meant to have been halted. Instead numbers of many species continue to fall. Like many in UK conservation, the RSPB believes a landscape scale approach is needed in addition to traditional conservation measures if the situation is to be reversed. Futurescapes is our contribution. It aims to provide rich habitats for wildlife and diverse, green spaces for people to enjoy in our countryside, not only in protected areas but far beyond.
- Some of the other futurescapes in development include:
- Wiltshire Chalk Grasslands
Chalk Grassland is one of the richest landscapes for wildlife in the UK, capable of supporting over 40 species of herbs and grasses per square metre. More than three quarters of England’s chalk grassland heritage has been lost in the last 100 years. Half of what remains – 18,000 hectares – is in Wiltshire
Chalk grassland is home to a variety of wildlife and supports butterflies like the silver spotted skipper and the adonis blue, and birds such as the stone-curlew and corn bunting. Its spectacular landscape and summer flowers make chalk grasslands popular places to visit among both naturalists and the general public. More chalk grassland will help to improve water quality for public water supply because, unlike other land uses, it requires no addition of inorganic fertilisers which may lead to polluting runoff.
The Wiltshire Chalk Country project aims to re-create the largest network of chalk grassland sites in north-west Europe, connecting Salisbury Plain, Porton Down and the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, redressing historic losses and re-linking remnant fragments. The RSPB is working with farmers and landowners to create new chalk grassland under Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship scheme. We will seek to provide new opportunities for access and recreation, promoting the grasslands of Wiltshire as a destination for people to visit and enjoy.
The Humberhead Levels sit where the rivers of the Yorkshire and Humber flow into the Humber Estuary. It is a low-lying naturally wet landscape spanning over 2000km2 of farmland, rivers, dykes and wetlands, which are home to such species as cranes, bitterns and marsh harriers. Many of the area’s wetlands have been lost due to drainage for farming and those remaining are too small and isolated for wildlife such as cranes, bitterns and otters to thrive. Working with others as the Humberhead Levels Partnership, we want to create and restore ribbons of wetland along the rivers and watercourses, to link the major wetlands complexes in the Derwent Ings, Aire Valley, Humber Estuary and Thorne and Hatfield Moors. Besides helping wildlife, we will provide areas to store flood water, to reduce the risk of flooding to communities and other areas of farmland.
The northern end of Morecambe Bay is characterised by fingers of low-lying land stretching inland and surrounded by limestone hills. To the south is an undulating, glacial landscape of farmland dotted with ponds. The RSPB’s Leighton Moss Nature Reserve at the northern end of the Bay has a mosaic of reedbeds, wet grasslands, saline lagoons and estuarine habitats characteristic of the area.
Our aim is to restore and create wetlands rich in wildlife extending from Morecambe Bay up the river valleys. The RSPB is working with farmers to restore wet grassland and reed beds and reduce agricultural pollution to improve water quality. By revitalising our wetlands, we aim to nurture thriving populations of wetland species such as bitterns, water voles, and dragonflies. As part of the Morecambe Bay Wildlife Network, we want to make the area a popular wildlife tourism destination. The partnership includes: the RSPB, Natural England, Environment Agency, the Wildlife Trusts, The National Trust, Lancashire and Blackpool and Tourist Board, The Forestry Commission.
The North Wales Moors Futurescape is an extensive upland landscape, stretching from Blaenau Ffestiniog in the west to Wrexham in the east. This is an area of spectacular farmed landscape, a mosaic of upland heath, woodland, grassland and blanket bog. Here, RSPB Cymru already works with many partners including the Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and Forestry Commission Wales on a wide variety of projects. These include management work for species such as black grouse and the restoration of blanket bogs around our flagship reserve at Lake Vyrnwy. The North Wales Moors, centred in and around the Berwyn Mountains, boast some of Wales’ best examples of upland bog. Our vision is to enhance the area’s wildlife riches, through working in partnerships. This will help protect populations of birds such as black grouse, hen harrier, curlew, golden plover, lapwing, pied flycatcher, wood warbler and ring ouzel.
Intertidal habitats like saltmarsh and mudflat support a fantastic wealth of wildlife and deliver important benefits for people living and working near seas and estuaries. Sadly, in Scotland these habitats have often been lost over the years, mainly through reclamation for farming and development. The Firth of Forth’s intertidal habitats provide a vital food resource for internationally important numbers of wintering wildfowl and wading birds. At the heart of Central Scotland, the area has a long history of industrial and agricultural use that has resulted in loss of valuable habitat over centuries. With new pressures from development, climate change and disturbance to the birds using the Forth, there is a need for action on a large scale to protect this rich natural heritage and to make the most of exciting opportunities for sustainable flood management and climate change mitigation. Our vision is for large-scale habitat creation over 2000 ha around the Falkirk and Alloa area, centred on our Skinflats nature reserve. By creating a network of new wetland habitats including saltmarsh, mudflat and reedbed we will deliver for wildlife and help achieve a wide range of other benefits for people living around the Firth. In particular, we will work in partnership with local authorities and land managers to make the most of opportunities for sustainable flood management, recreation and education in an area within easy reach of the majority of Scotland’s population.