Paul Wilkinson explains how The Wildlife Trusts' Living Landscape conservation schemes are reacting to our changing environment
The wildlife around us is changing. Whether these changes are driven by habitat loss, human disturbance, invasive species or climate change; it's obvious that our environment is shifting to find a new balance.
It is a new way of thinking about how we manage our land to do more for wildlife, people and the economy.
Whilst nature moves to try to establish a new balancing point, conservation projects and land managers must also adjust their strategies to help maintain long-term support for species diversity. The Wildlife Trusts' vision for A Living Landscape project aims to address conservation on a much larger national scale.
The Wildlife Trusts, with many partner organisations, have created more than 100 Living Landscape schemes, covering an area of 1.4 million hectares nationwide
By creating and linking a series of Living Landscape schemes across the UK, we will develop a network of high-quality natural areas for people and wildlife.Paul Wilkinson - The Wildlife Trusts' Living Landscape
Living Landscape schemes project aims to work with people and communities to restore damaged and fragmented blocks of habitat; to reconnect these habitats and link them to the green space in our cities, towns and villages; and to rebuild nature in our midst so that we can benefit from the essential services it provides.
Past conservation efforts have focussed on protecting key wildlife sites, unique and special places alive with wildlife. These sites represent islands of high quality wildlife habitat. But the 'sea' surrounding these islands is often inhospitable to wildlife. Intensive farmland, towns and cities, busy roads and railways, all make it difficult for wildlife to move between safe havens. Islands of refuge are not a long-term solution. As a conservation organisation, we have had to think differently about how to protect wildlife in this modern landscape.
Through Living Landscape schemes, The Wildlife Trusts are joining the dots, making the whole landscape more wildlife-friendly. Linking isolated reserves allows wildlife to move freely, to trickle out through the landscape. Eventually, we hope this will mean we all experience the splendour of nature as part of our daily lives.
Each Living Landscape scheme covers a large area of land: a naturally functioning landscape, such as a river catchment, encompassing several Wildlife Trust reserves and other important wildlife areas. The schemes see individual Trusts up and down the UK working with partners, landowners and local communities to restore the natural landscape.
Our conservation work provides the opportunity to influence land use policy and land management in the wider countryside.
Waves on Heath © Bryan Thomas
A huge amount of monitoring occurs on our reserves and the data collected is managed by Biological Records Centres.
Our methods include:
- Vegetation surveys
- Key species surveys eg rare plant counts, butterflies, bats, dormouse, water vole, otter
- Hydrological monitoring
- Measuring successional change
- Fixed point photography and aerial photos
Our success stories
The scheme covers 240sq km and includes four forest areas. Female barbastelle bats at one of the sites (Ebernoe Common) were radio tagged to identify roost locations and forage locations. Bats present a good indicator of a high quality environment as roosting, foraging and movement all have different habitat requirements. The survey was initially completed in 1998 and then repeated in 2008. In ten years, the population of breeding females doubled and, on average, flight lines halved.
The management of Scilly's maritime heathlands under the Waves of Heath Project has been a huge success with an increase in the variety of plants in heathlands. Those of note are Lesser adder's-tongue fern (nationally scarce), Autumn lady's-tresses (near threatened) and Allseed (near threatened).
A Living Landscape is the aspirational end-point where the UK's environment, society and economy co-exist for the benefit of wildlife and people. And beyond the coast, the connections will continue to create Living Seas. The Wildlife Trusts are working to transform the environment we live in, restoring, recreating and reconnecting wildlife-rich spaces in rural and urban areas by working in partnership with local communities. We want wildlife to thrive, to disperse and re-colonise our landscape so future generations can encounter, experience and enjoy our natural heritage. And so that we can too.
Explore the topic of climate change with the OU.
How our wildlife is coping with climate change.
Chris investigates what climate change means for UK wildlife.
Explore the impact of climate change on UK wildlife.
Take part in a wildlife survey.
Cut down your carbon emissions with our ideas for a holiday at home.
Find prehistoric life in everyday places with our guide.
Where to see whales, dolphins, sharks, seals and seabirds in the UK.