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RSPB Lake Vyrnwy Nature Reserve, Llanwddyn, Oswestry, Shropshire, Wales

Farming in Wales

Farming is vital in giving Welsh nature a home. Wales’s farmers are under pressure to produce ever more food. We work together with farmers to find wildlife-friendly methods.

Farming and nature

Farming plays a crucial role in giving nature a home in Wales - around 80 per cent of Welsh land is managed for farming in some way. 

The mixed farming systems developed in Wales over the centuries – with crops grown alongside livestock – have provided habitats for a wide range of species. The country’s geography has also meant that farming has been less intense in difficult-to-access areas.

Welsh farmers are under pressure to produce ever more food. But the intensification of farming has brought problems for farmland wildlife:

  • Loss of habitat as farmers try to maximise the potential of their land, draining damp areas and removing trees and hedgerows – valuable places for wildlife
  • Pollution of rivers, streams and ponds from increased fertiliser use and poor waste management
  • More pesticides and herbicides used on the land, affecting the food available for birds and other wildlife.
RSPB Lake Vyrnwy Nature Reserve, Llanwddyn, Oswestry, Shropshire, Wales. RSPB organic farm at Lake Vyrnwy with Farm Manager Gwynfor Evans. Welsh mountain sheep and Welsh black cattle.
Shepherd and sheep at RSPB Lake Vyrnwy

Special species

Some of Wales’s special farmland birds are at particular risk from climate change. A number of species - particularly the lapwing, curlew and golden plover - have suffered severe declines. 

These species have traditionally relied on upland farming systems that provided a mosaic of habitat for nesting, food sources and cover for chicks and food for adults. Understanding and addressing the factors leading to these declines in Wales could help prevent declines in other areas.

Curlew Numenius arquata, flapping wings after bathing in shallow pool, Geltsdale RSPB reserve, Cumbria, England, May
Curlew
David Douglas (Conservation Scientist) heads up a team looking into the effects of a wind farm on Golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, Sutherland, Scotland
Golden plover
 Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, amongst grass
Lapwing

Finding solutions

In order to thrive, farmland birds need somewhere to breed, food for both adults and young during the breeding season, and food in winter. RSPB Cymru works with farmers to find wildlife-friendly ways of farming.

Researching

We need to understand what drives the decline of farmland species and how these factors can be tackled in a way that benefits both wildlife and farming. We’re researching this on our own land, as well as with farmers and partners, to discover which management techniques help the most.

Demonstrating

Working with farmers, we’re developing demonstration projects to show how techniques can be used in real situations. We also want to show how these fit with agri-environment schemes.

Advocating

We have a small team of policy staff working to make sure that nature and wildlife-friendly farming is on the agenda at the Senedd. 

Read more about our advocacy work in Cardiff.

Sheep grazing on Lake Vyrnwy nature reserve

Working together

RSPB Cymru has a history of working with farmers and land managers - the EU LIFE Blanket Bog Project between 2006-2011 is a prime example. This project restored upland blanket bog areas in Mid- and North Wales, and was very successful mainly because of the participation of a number of farmers.

Current projects include work in the Nant Ffrancon valley of North Wales, where we are working with farmers and the National Trust to help the twite, a small finch which breeds in the uplands.

Working together, we can show how we can ensure twite have everything they need - including breeding habitat, feeding areas for adults and a food source for chicks - and how this can be achieved while limiting the impact on an individual farm business.

By establishing management through options available within the Glastir agri-environment scheme, we can also ensure a sustainable future for the project, which will be key to supporting one of the last breeding populations of twite in Wales.

Across the North Wales Moors, we’re working to secure the future of a number of species, including the curlew, golden plover and black grouse. Our work includes practical, on-the-ground management, and work to ensure landowners fully understand the importance of some of these upland areas.

We also collaborate with farmers on a day-to-day basis on and around our reserves in Wales, for example at Lake Vyrnwy. In some areas where we do not have our own livestock, we depend on famers to provide animals for conservation grazing purposes, or to carry out contract work managing habitats.

It works both ways: we also provide a source of income for farmers who assist in our work, benefiting vulnerable businesses.

Flower-rich margin at Hope Farm

Hope Farm

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At our arable farm we develop and showcase wildlife-friendly farming techniques. With your help, we can continue this vital work.

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