Groundbreaking report calls on us all to save nature

Friday 21st October 2016

A nature charity has today published a groundbreaking report that will pave the way for future conservation efforts in a county—but it needs your help.

The State of Staffordshire’s Nature (SofSN)—put together by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (SWT), Staffordshire Ecological Record (SER) and more than 40 organisations—documents 12 months of research into the condition of the county’s nature.

It celebrates conservation success stories, documents trends and calls for every organisation and individual to pledge their support to stop the worrying decline in wildlife-rich habitats and species.

The charity launched the report at a high-profile event at St George’s Park this morning with a captive audience of council staff, business owners, wildlife experts, landowners and other authoritative figures.

One person leading the campaign is Trust Vice-President and presenter of BBC’s The One Show, Mike Dilger, who was brought up in Stafford.

He said: “While some conservation initiatives have been an unqualified success, the continued disappearance of prime habitat is a constant worry, as is the number of already threatened species such as the adder, water vole and hazel dormouse to name just a few.

“I urge anyone who reads the report to take a moment to think how they might be able to either help or continue their support.

“If it inspires a few Trust members to either create a wildlife haven in their garden, or encourages farmers to continue working with SWT staff on the best management practices for wildlife, then it will have been worth all the effort.”

In just 2015, the conservation charity created and restored 45 hectares of wildflower meadows, planted 15,000 native trees in Branston Leas Woods, restored 2,800 metres of rivers, brooks and streams, and advised 155 landowners and farmers on how to manage their land in a more environmentally-sensitive way.

But despite SWT’s constant efforts, the report revealed some shocking statistics: Four bumblebees and two mammals are extinct, there is a decline of woodland butterflies by 55 per cent, an estimated loss of 90 per cent of heathland—and nationally over half of UK species have declined since 1970.

However, there are a number of conservation success stories and the report identifies areas of hope. They include increasing populations of otter, polecat and logjammer hoverfly. The county also holds important populations of fish including Atlantic salmon, brown trout and European eel and birds such as nightjar, woodlark and willow tit. Some of Staffordshire’s rare plant species include floating water-plantain, yellow bird’s nest and frog orchid.

Julian Woolford, chief executive of SWT, said: “Everyone can play a role in protecting our county’s wildlife and habitats and ensure future generations can experience nature. Whether as an individual, a landowner, a business, a local authority or a community leader—everyone has the potential to make a contribution.

“Each section of the SofSN report has a list of recommended actions. If each one of us here today could make some small step—a pledge—towards delivering against one of those recommendations then as well as protecting what we have, we can start to help reverse some of the declines.”

Across the UK, increasing demands on the natural environment have led to a significant decline in biodiversity. Staffordshire is no exception and has suffered losses of habitats and species through increasing pressures including changes in land use and pollution.

Mike Shurmer, Senior Conservation Officer for RSPB Midlands, attended the event and spoke about the charity’s work with woodland birds in the Churnet Valley. He said: “The report gives us important information on how wildlife and habitats are faring in the county and explains what we need to do to help improve the situation.”

To read the report visit www.staffs-wildlife.org.uk/stateofstaffs

State of Staffordshire’s Nature Report Case Studies

Rise in otter numbers in Staffordshire

Drastic declines in the population of otter meant they were considered absent in Staffordshire by the early 1980s.

However, following improvements in river quality and reductions of pesticides in watercourses, otters started to recolonise.

Artificial holts being built by volunteer groups – most notably Staffordshire Mammal Group – gave the otter a boost after surveys found them in most catchments in the county in the 1990s.

It was reported in 2007 that recolonisation had taken place faster than expected and otter were present in all sub-catchments, canals and riverside towns across the county.

Barn owls

Numbers of barn owl have been steadily declining since 1930s in Britain – and that trend is no different in Staffordshire.

Loss of habitats and nest sites have contributed to their decline.

Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group has been working since 2001 to conserve barn owls across the county.

Volunteers for the group install nest boxes in prime habitat to provide alternative nest and roost sites in areas where barn owls have been lost. This is helping to conserve the species – the group has installed over 400 nest boxes since forming which it monitors to provide an insight into population trends.

Picture shows Trust chairman Richard Higgs, chief executive Julian Woolford, and vice-president Mike Dilger at the launch event at St George's Park. Image by Mark Scott.