CORNWALL'S WILDLIFE IN DECLINE?

PUBLISHED: 22:21 16 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:41 30 August 2017

Black-oil-beetle,-photo-by-Ben-Lee,-Buglife

Black-oil-beetle,-photo-by-Ben-Lee,-Buglife

The national State of Nature report made very gloomy reading with 60% of UK species studied were in decline - what does this mean in Cornwall?

Press coverage about the national State of Nature report back in the spring made very gloomy reading. The report found that 60% of the UK species studied were in decline

The message was that all our best nature conservation efforts are not enough; we need to do more, quickly. In Cornwall the situation is similar; we have 360 species on our Biodiversity Action Plan list due to their rarity or rapid decline.

The pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly for example is now restricted to just five sites in the county and we know of only six pairs of breeding common snipe on Bodmin Moor, they used to be much more abundant. Habitat loss is another cause for concern.

'Choughs and cirl buntings have a foothold again, rare plants on the lizard like pygmy rush have re-appeared after 30 years and volunteers have recorded good numbers of black oil beetles'

Data from the Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly shows a net loss 152km of Cornish hedges from 1995 to 2005. We must work together to stop this constant nibbling away of our wildlife and wild places.

Thankfully, it is not all bad news. Choughs and cirl buntings have a foothold again, rare plants on the lizard like pygmy rush have re-appeared after 30 years and volunteers have recorded good numbers of black oil beetles in Cornwall despite them being lost completely from many other counties. There is room for hope, but conservation organisations and our dedicated volunteers cannot reverse the fortunes of on our own.

Conservation organisations active in Cornwall have worked successfully in partnership with farmers and landowners for many years. The challenge now is to expand this work but also to get new people and new sectors involved. We need to look to businesses in Cornwall to do their bit; so many of them rely on the natural environment be it to provide their raw materials or the stunning landscapes that draw in their customers.

There is an awful lot we can do as individuals, and collectively it can have a big impact. We can all welcome wildlife into our gardens, industrial estates, parks, school grounds and churchyards. Attracting wildlife can be simple and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Research at the University of Sheffield found that the presence of a variety of trees and large shrubs was the most important factor in attracting invertebrates, or creepy crawlies, to gardens. Invertebrates are of course a key part of the garden food chain; bees, butterflies, slugs, beetles, bugs and worms are food for other forms of garden wildlife like blue tits, sparrows, pipistrelle bats, slow worms and hedgehogs. The next best thing we can do for wildlife in our gardens, grounds and parks is to leave areas of grass to grow long. This does not have to look messy; try leaving a small area with cut grass around it so it looks planned.

'If you can leave a small area of grass long all-year round even better, this is where invertebrates will hibernate through the winter months ready to buzz around your garden the following spring.'

You might be surprised at what turns up, bee orchids and marsh orchids have been known to spring up once mowing has stopped. Even if you don’t have many wild flowers in your patch you are still providing a habitat for grasshoppers, crickets and butterflies that lay eggs on long grasses like meadow brown, small skippers and wall brown. If you can leave a small area of grass long all-year round even better, this is where invertebrates will hibernate through the winter months ready to buzz around your garden the following spring.

Volunteering is another way individuals can make a big difference collectively. Nature Conservation organisations could not do what they do without the generosity, skills and knowledge of an army of local people giving their time for free. The possibilities are endless; fundraising, practical conservation tasks, recording wildlife, running activities for children or even helping with office tasks. Everyone who gets involved is helping us to protect Cornwall’s wildlife for current and future generations.

We gain so much from our natural environment; food, drinking water, flood protection, carbon storage and recreational space. The loss of Cornish hedges, woodland, flower-rich grassland and heathland on our watch is taking out a loan from nature that we cannot repay. The connection between the economy and the environment in Cornwall is self-evident, with tourism accounting for almost 50% of private sector jobs. We must work together to help protect and enhance the very thing people pay to come and see; our natural environment and the wildlife it supports.

The formation of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Environment Partnership gives some cause for optimism if it can work successfully and innovatively with the Local Enterprise Partnership. When we add to this the collective actions of individuals and local community groups, we might just see the step change in nature conservation action that we so desperately need.

For more information on Cornwall Wildlife Trust or to find out how to be come a volunteer visit www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk

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