Wales Biodiversity Partnership

Latest News

Welsh Beaver Project Update

Since 2005 the Welsh Beaver Project led by Wildlife Trust Wales has been investigating the feasibility of reintroducing wild beavers back into Wales.

The Eurasian beaver Castor fiber was once found throughout Wales, but they were hunted to extinction; mainly for their meat, fur and scent glands. Beavers are often referred to as ‘keystone species’ or ‘ecosystem engineers’, because they can restore habitats, increase biodiversity and provide ecosystem services. Research has shown that beaver dams can reduce the risk of flooding, increase water storage and improve water quality through filtering pollutants and trapping sediments. These impacts can benefit both wildlife and humans. Beavers can also provide economic opportunities to local businesses through ecotourism.

The recent decision by the Scottish Government to formally recognise the Eurasian beaver as a native species has been welcomed by The Wildlife Trusts in Wales. This is the first formal mammal reintroduction in UK history and it will have positive implications for reintroducing beavers to Wales.

The Welsh Beaver Project has been working with a range of different organisations and it has been investigating the suitability of potential release sites across Wales. The Welsh Beaver Project/Wildlife Trusts Wales is now working with a partner organisation and it will be submitting a licence application to reintroduce beavers to Wales in 2017. The project has also been investigating the possibility of reintroducing beavers to enclosed sites where they can be used as a management tool to assist with habitat restoration.

The Welsh Beaver Project is currently fundraising to faciliate the return of beavers to the Welsh landscape.

Alicia Leow-Dyke
Welsh Beaver Project Officer, supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery
www.welshbeaverproject.org
December 2016

Image Eurasian beaver © Allard Martinius

Big Butterfly Count 2016 results

Butterflies did not fare well in this year's count despite a relatively warm summer. Short-term changes are typically caused by natural factors such as the weather and populations of parasites while the long-term trends of butterflies and moths tend to result from human activities such as habitat destruction and climate change. The results of big butterfly count 2016, however, don't fit this pattern and researchers will be investigating the reason why.

The results of big butterfly count 2016 show the numbers of blue butterflies were down as were common species like the peacock and small tortoiseshell. Species of 'white' butterfly fared much better overall. In Wales, widespread species such as the Ringlet (61% down), Meadow Brown (48% down), Small Tortoiseshell (40% down), Comma (64% down), Peacock (24% down), Small Copper (33% down,) and Gatekeeper (32% down) all struggled, with numbers falling in comparison to last year. Large White was the most abundant species in Wales during the Count with its population up by 85% compared to last summer. The Green-veined White saw numbers rise by 134% and the Small White was up by 107%. The Red Admiral also had a good summer with its abundance up by 66% year on year in Wales.

Altogether, 38,233 counts were submitted across the UK which is a fantastic effort!

Text modified from Butterfly Conservation source

Meadow brown © Sean McHugh

Wild about Welsh Meadows

Wild about Welsh Meadows’ guide is now available to order (free of charge). You can view the online version here.

This is the first of 5 guides in the ‘Wild about Welsh...’ series which will be produced over the next year and will cover a range a habitats.


Species Champions initiative

The Wales Environment Link (WEL) Species Champions initiative asks Assembly Members to lend political support to the protection of Wales’ special and threatened wildlife by becoming ‘Species Champions’. The project aims to highlight the incredible diversity of nature in Wales. Assembly Members will be able to champion a wide variety of species from the Welsh clearwing moth to a fungi named dark purple earthtongue, the greater horseshoe bat, harbour porpoise and Europe’s largest wading bird, the curlew. The work of Species Champions will be important in ensuring that Wales meets the international target under the Convention on Biological Diversity to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020. It will also help to ensure Wales delivers on the ambitions within the Environment (Wales) Act and the Well-being of Future Generations Act. Species are the key components or building blocks of ecosystems, and are therefore essential to achieving the objective of an ecosystem approach.

Species Champion Launch 15th June © Nigel Pugh

The Breeding Bird Survey 2015

The population trends of the UK’s breeding birds is available on-line here

The report is compiled by the BTO and other conservation organisations and includes information on the recently updated Birds of Conservation Concern lists (BoCC4) and how BBS data helped with the species assessments, an introduction to the Waterways Breeding Bird Survey (WBBS) and the annual reporting and trends as normal – along with the addition of country and regional mammal trends.

State of the UK Birds Report 2015

The latest 'State of the UK's Birds report, 2015' (SUKB) is now available. Data from the Breeding Bird Survey, up until 2014, plays a vital part in compiling the report. It looks at the state of our farmland birds, amongst others, and what is being done through strong partnerships to help them. The report acknowledges the huge contribution to bird monitoring across the UK is thanks to the dedicated BBS volunteers and Regional Organisers

Text modified from BTO source
Image House Sparrow © BTO

Nature Recovery Plan for Wales

The Minister for Natural Resources has agreed the content of Parts 1 and 2 of the Nature Recovery Plan for Wales and their publication through the Wales Biodiversity Strategy Board. Further development of Parts 2 and 3 by the Strategy Board and working groups will continue. If you would like a copy of Part 1 and 2 please email

The Nature Recovery Plan for Wales is aimed at addressing the underlying causes of biodiversity loss. For further details outlining the aims of the NRP and an explanation of its constituent parts please visit the Welsh Government website

Heritage Lottery awards - Gwent levels, Clwydian Range and Elan Valley

HLF’s Landscape Partnership programme has recently awarded 3 flaghsip projects in Wales significant funding to deliver landscape-scale projects for people and wildlife.

Living Levels Partnership (£2,865,300)
The Gwent Levels is a South Wales estuarine landscape, rich in both historical and natural heritage. Reclaimed from the sea in Roman times, the land is a criss-crossed network of fertile fields and historic watercourses, known locally as reens. This unassuming yet appealing landscape of high skies and low horizons lends it its status as one of the finest examples of a ‘natural’ landscape really crafted by people in Europe; and one of the largest tracts of bio-diverse wet grassland left in the UK. Living Levels formally brings together like-minded stakeholders to work together to collectively restore, enhance and protect the historic area for all to enjoy. The Living Levels is a partnership that will work with the local communities and farmers of the Gwent Wildlife Trust.

Clwydian Range and Dee Valley (£1,382,300)
The project centres on the landscape of the Dee Valley and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site, and is focussing on the journeys that have been, and continue to be, a key feature of the area which is cut by the canal, Telford’s A5 and the River Dee. Visitors have drawn inspiration from this beautiful valley in art and poetry since the 18th century, and it continues to captivate tourists in search of the ‘sublime’ to this day. But this landscape is under extreme pressure, with high numbers of visitors drawn to what are often its most fragile sites. The communities on its doorstep, born from the area’s industrial past, are now less connected to the benefits the landscape offers. The five-year project will invest in key visitor sites and engage communities living locally, while reinterpreting this rich landscape for a new generation.

Elan Links – People, Nature & Water (£1,713,300)
Elan lies at the heart of the Cambrian Mountains in Mid Wales. Its unique landscape combines remote hill land, isolated farmsteads, steep-sided wooded valleys and an extraordinary feat of Victorian engineering that brought clean water to the then rapidly expanding industrial city of Birmingham. Today, Elan’s 20,000 hectares - 1% of Wales - is a haven for wildlife and people. Its 154,000 visitors a year enjoy the breath-taking scenery, nature, recreational facilities and extensive free educational resources for schools, families and communities. The project’s vision is to further develop all aspects of this special place to benefit people, as well as the environment itself.

Text taken from HLF source

Image Gwent Levels © Sean McHugh

Pine marten reinforcement planned for Wales

The Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) is aiming to restore a healthy population of pine martens, a native Welsh mammal, to Wales. The pine marten (Martes martes) is a cat-sized member of the weasel family that preferentially lives in woodlands. Pine martens were once common and widespread in Wales but the population has undergone a severe decline and has fallen so low that it is now very unlikely to recover without intervention. The VWT is planning to reinforce the population by translocating pine martens from a healthy population in Scotland. This will provide a boost to numbers and increase genetic diversity. The Trust has carried out a thorough feasibility study, part of which involved identifying suitable potential release sites. An area of mid Wales has been selected as a release site, as it has extensive woodland habitat, low density of road networks and minimal conflict with human interests such as game shooting. A small number of pine martens will be taken from sites in Scotland and, once released in Wales, will be intensively radio-tracked. This will allow us to monitor where they establish territories and assess the success of the release. The restoration of a healthy pine marten population will offer great potential for wildlife tourism through people visiting Wales to see pine martens, as occurs in Scotland. It may also benefit woodlands and woodland managers if pine martens reduce grey squirrel populations, as has been the case in Ireland.

To find out more about the project visit the pine marten recovery project website


Image © Vincent Wildlife Trust

Coronation Meadows Project

Summer meadows with splashes of colourful wild flowers among the grass sward may be a distant memory now autumn is here but it's a good time to reflect and to look forward to next years' display. The extent of Welsh Lowland Meadows is a fraction of its former extent and the Coronation Meadows Project is seeking to help reverse the decline and some good progress has been made:

Success Stories in Wales

Record numbers of stunning greater butterfly-orchid have been counted in Gwynedd's Coronation Meadow, Caeau Tan y Bwlch, double the number of last year. Seed from this site has been used to restore three new meadows in the county, with yellow rattle and eyebright being early signs of success.

Pembrokeshire is the latest county where restoration has taken place through the project. Seed from the county Coronation Meadow, Mountain Meadows, has been spread this summer at a nearby farm to begin the process of creating around 3.5 acres of further wild flower–rich meadow in the county.

Work will soon be underway to bring a wild flower meadow back to life in Dyffryn Conwy. After many years advising people on how to restore such meadows, Dr Trevor Dines, Botanical Specialist at Plantlife, will now be getting to work himself, using donor seed from Conwy's Coronation Meadow, Moss Meadow, to restore the wild flower meadow.

You can find out more by visiting the Coronation Meadows website

Coronation Meadow

Image © Plantlife Cymru

£6m Nature fund update

Recent announcement: Funding for a further 18 collaborative projects have been announced by Welsh Government as part of the Nature Fund initiative. Projects range from work to improve river catchments and marine ecosystems, to peatlands restoration and pond creation. This brings the total to 20 projects. For a full list of projects and supporting information please visit the Nature Fund section of the Welsh Government website.

Nature Action Zones

The £6m Nature fund will be used to support activity in seven selected geographical areas or Nature Action Zones specially chosen because of the challenges and opportunities they present for biodiversity and Wales’ natural resource action. The Nature Action Zones are:

  • Brecon Beacons - focusing on the Usk and Wye catchments
  • Cambrian mountains
  • Conwy Valley
  • Pembrokeshire coast
  • South Wales Valleys
  • Berwyn and Migneint
  • Llyn Peninsula
  • The fund will support practical actions that are appropriate to the needs of each of the seven Nature Action Zones and will fund activity that tackles the decline in our biodiversity while delivering environmental, economic and social benefit. It will also recognise projects that demonstrate innovation, collaboration and good practice.

    Particular priority will be given to actions that improve river catchments, fisheries management and marine ecosystems, actions that enhance natural green spaces, actions that realise potential in the uplands and action that stimulates and develops the existing interest in a payment for ecosystem services.

    The Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales will work closely with partners to deliver the Fund, which will complement work already underway in Natural Resources Wales’ three trial areas.

    A small number of proposals outside of the Nature Action Zones will be considered if they demonstrate innovation and collaboration and can deliver key outcomes.

    The Welsh Government will be holding events in the seven selected Nature Action Zones in order to support the development of detailed projects.

    Background

    Welsh Government hosted a State of Nature Summit at the Royal Welsh Show in order to bring together wildlife organisations, land owners and businesses in Wales and agree a joint approach to halting the loss of Wales’ biodiversity.

    The first stage of developing the Nature Fund was to gather ideas from stakeholders to help design the fund in a way that will support practical action that will deliver the outcomes sought. As the invitation for ideas made clear, this was not a bidding exercise.Over 450 ideas for the new fund were received from a wide range of interests. Welsh Government are currently reviewing all of these, looking at the links between ideas, the emerging themes and potential geographical groupings so we can take the fund forward and identify the right funding mechanisms. The ideas are now available on the Welsh Government website. This will enable you to see the emerging theme sand links between ideas, and where collaboration might be established going forward.

    Reclassification of three Special Protection Areas

    Three Marine Protected Areas have been extended in Wales and become part of a European network of protected areas, established to safeguard Europe's most important areas for wildlife.

    The changes are to:

    • update the lists of bird species which are considered of international importance for two of these three sites Aberdaron Coast and Bardsey Island SPA, and Skokholm and Skomer SPA
    • update the numbers of birds on Grassholm SPA
    • extend seawards the existing boundaries of these three SPAs

    Link

    Resilient Ecosystem Funding 2013-2015 awards

    25 projects have been approved which is a welcome boost for biodiversity and ecosystem resilience in Wales. A wide variety of projects will now be taken forward covering higher and lower plants, invasive species, research projects, management of wildlife sites and projects covering all the major habitats in Wales.

    Resilient Ecosystem Project list 2013/15 (pdf)

    The fund is provided by Welsh Government and is managed by Natural Resources Wales. WBP working groups provide expertise to the funding award panel. 

    Connecting with Nature Report

    A new study reveals how connected to nature children are across the UK. The national results show that currently only 21 per cent of 8–12 year olds have a connection to nature that is considered realistic and achievable The categories were scored between -2 and +2 and the average UK score was 1.05. In Wales the figures are lower, with an average score of 0.97% and only 13% reaching the 1.5% threshold- the lowest score in the UK. The RSPB believes that a score of 1.5 is a realistic and achievable target for every child in the UK. A higher score was achieved by children living in a urban environment as compared to a rural environment. The report was commissioned by the RSPB with support from the Gulbenkian Foundation and the University of Essex.

    Tree Health Survey

    Why not take part in a national survey to help scientists monitor and protect our trees and woodland? Trees are the ‘living lungs’ of our environment and support a great variety of wildlife and help combat climate change. No specialist knowledge required

    Take part and download a Tree ID guide and field notebook and other resources (Eng and Welsh) here

    Welsh Sand Dune Report

    A report ‘ A geomorphological survey of Welsh dune systems to determine best methods of dune rejuvenation’ includes recommendations for dune rejuvenation at ten study sites based on rigorous geomorphological evidence.

    Pioneer habitats such as bare and sparsely-vegetated sand and embryo dune slacks support a rich diversity of species but have been lost to grassland and scrub encroachment in recent years.

    The amount of bare sand on Welsh dunes has declined by 86% since the 1940s and now accounts for just 3% (250 hectares) of Wales’ total dune area of approximately 8050 hectares.

    Wales Online Amphibian & Reptile Atlas

    The purpose of the atlas is to display all amphibian and reptile sightings we have in Wales, and hopefully encourage you to fill in the gaps!

    These records are an essential resource for conserving these wonderful creatures. We can build up a picture of species' distribution that will show where they are doing well, and not so well, which can inform conservation decisions and practical conservation on the ground.

    European Beaver reintroduction in Wales-Report

    Feasibility of re-introducing European beaver to Wales - updated beaver report now available

    Biodiversity Action Reporting System

    The new version of BARS has now been released!Please visit the BARS help pages for more information and details on how to make the most of BARS 2. 

    New Brecon Beacons hawkweed named after Sir David Attenborough

    A new species of wild flower, Hieracium attenboroughianum, Attenborough’s Hawkweed, which was found a decade ago in the central Brecon Beacons in South Wales has been named in honour of Sir David Attenborough. This is the first time that a new plant species found in the UK has been named after the world famous naturalist and TV presenter.
    Dr Tim Rich, the plant taxonomist who named the new species, said “Finding a new species is a really exciting moment and something that you dream of as a naturalist. I decided to name this special little plant found in the mountains of the Brecon Beacons after David Attenborough as he inspired me to study ecology when I was 17. This is a personal thank you for the years of fascination he has given me going to different places to search for new things.”
    The Attenborough Hawkweed is one of a group of closely related plants which belong to the daisy family and has probably evolved in the Brecon Beacons since the last ice age. The hawkweeds are close relatives of dandelions and have similar looking flowers.
    Attenborough’s Hawkweed occurs on rocky ledges on Cribyn, one of three spectacular peaks of the central Brecon Beacons which belong to the National Trust. Joe Daggett, National Trust Countryside Manager, said: “It is amazing to think that this is the only place in the world where this plant occurs and that the evolution of a species can occur at such a local level.
    The new plant was first studied in 2004 when Joe Daggett, Graham Motley, Tim Rich and Paul Smith found it whilst looking for the rare Summit Hawkweed, which was found on the adjacent Pen-y-fan.
    More than 300 plants of the Attenborough’s Hawkweed were found flowering profusely on the rocky ledges, safe from the sheep which graze the mountains. It took another ten years of study and comparison with related species to be sure it was new. In late June/early July the hawkweed colours the rocks yellow with its delicate dandelion like flowers and can be easily seen from the main path up to Cribyn.
    Commenting on the naming of the Hawkweed after him, Sir David Attenborough, said: “I am thrilled that my name has been given to the delightful new species of hawkweed discovered in the Brecon Beacons. Bestowing a name on a new species is surely one of the greatest of biological compliments and I am truly grateful. It is an added joy that Hieracium attenboroughianum should be so beautiful and live in such a lovely part of the country.”

    Hieracium attenboroughianu
    © Tim Rich