State of Nature Report 2019

The State of Nature Report 2019 has been published. The report outlines the changes in abundance and distribution of UK species and documents how human impacts are driving changes in wildlife across the UK. Conservation action and initiatives to recover nature are also highlighted in the report. The report covers the period 1970-2016 and is presented in a UK State of Nature Report and Reports for the UK countries and UK overseas territories.

In Wales, both losses and gains for biodiversity are reported; and on average Wales’ wildlife has declined in recent decades. This is against a widespread loss and degradation of habitats across Wales, dating back many centuries, from which the country’s wildlife has not recovered.

The full report and all the summaries can be accessed at the following link The State of Nature partnership consists of over 70 partners drawn from conservation NGOs, research institutes, and the UK and national governments. The State of Nature 2019 report uses data collected by tens of thousands of expert volunteers. These data are analysed using rigorous statistical methods to report on the state of nature across the UK and in the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, and at the scale of the UK’s constituent nations.

The Big Butterfly Count run by Butterfly Conservation reports that 2019 has been a ‘Painted Lady Year’ – a natural phenomenon that happens about once in a decade, when unusually high numbers of this migratory butterfly arrive in the UK.

The second most recorded butterfly across the UK in the 3 week survey was the Peacock, with counts up 235% on last year. The Marbled White experienced a 264% increase and there was a 64% rise in counts for the six-spot Burnet moth. Third in the list was the small white which was down 42% compared to the same period last year.

in Wales, Painted Lady was the most abundant species recorded followed by the Peackcock and Gatekeeper butterfly. Unusually though, many of the highest Painted Lady counts came from the north coast and Anglesey, rather than south Wales as is normally the case for this immigrant butterfly.

The Peacock (up 153% on 2018), Small Tortoiseshell (up 138%) and Red Admiral (up 54%) all did well, as did the day-flying Six-spot Burnet moth, which was up 169%.

The three common white butterfly species fared less well in Wales. Small White and Large White dropped from first and second place in 2018 to 5th and 7th respectively, with declines of over 50%. The Green-veined White also suffered a decrease in population of 50%. The Common Blue, decreased by 61% compared to the same period last year.




Text modified from Butterfly Conservation source

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) © Alun Williams

Boost to the Celtic Rainforest in Wales

The humid, temperate woodland in upland mid, west and north Wales forms part of the Celtic rainforest and is a jewel in the landscape and biodiversity of Wales. Rare lichens, lesser horseshoe bat, dormouse, redstarts and pied flycatchers are some of the important species in this ancient landscape with woodlands dominated by sessile oak, downy birch, ash and hazel. Threats include invasive species such as Rhododendron ponticum and grazing by sheep and deer. An 8.6 million project to restore sections of the Celtic rainforest in rural Wales has been launched with funding from the Welsh government and the EU. Four areas of the Celtic rainforest will be targeted in north and mid-Wales will be the focus of the project including Coed Felinrhyd and Llennyrch in Snowdonia. Other areas are Cwm Einion, Cwm Doethie and the Elan Valley. The project involves removal of invasive species, improving woodland management including grazing regimes and developing tourism and visitor opportunities. The project will be led by the Snowdonia National Park Authority along with RSPB Cymru, Natural Resources Wales, Welsh Water, the Woodland Trust and the National Trust.

Wales' only little tern colony nests at Gronant Beach near Prestatyn in Denbighshire, an internationally important site as it contributes to over 10% of the entire UK breeding population as well as supplementing other important colonies.

Funding has been secured to employ wardens to protect the site, contribute to the scientific study of Little Terns, work together with volunteers from North Wales Little Tern Group to increase public awareness, and conserve this internationally important nesting site. 2019 has been a good breeding year to date for little terns at Gronant with around 250 chicks ringed this season, and 110 fledging to date as of July 9 th.

The funding was provided by the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme – a Welsh Government funding programme managed by WCVA and the project follows on from an EU LIFE programme intervention.

Little Tern © Margaret Holland

This is the twenty-fourth annual report of the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), documenting the population trends of widespread UK breeding bird species during the period 1994–2018. This is followed by the latest BBS results, which show us how weather appears to have played a part in shaping bird population trends from 2017 to 2018.
The BBS is the main scheme for monitoring the population changes of the UK’s common breeding birds, providing an important indicator of the health of the countryside. BBS trends are produced each year for over 110 species, and the results are used widely to set priorities and inform conservation action.

UK trends
The year-on-year trends suggest the severe winter weather nicknamed the ‘Beast from the East’ in late February and early March 2018 hit some of the UK’s smallest resident bird species hard. Goldcrest declined
by 38%, Long-tailed Tit by 22% and Wren by 21% between 2017 and 2018. Goldcrest and Wren can be double-brooded and all three species have clutch sizes of between five and eight eggs: therefore it is possible for populations to recover fairly quickly providing this is a one-off harsh winter. Kingfisher also appears to have been affected, with a year-on-year decline of 38%. UK’s migrant species - House Martin (-17%), Sand Martin (-42%) and Swift (-20%) all declined
between 2017 and 2018, along with Whitethroat (-18%) and Willow Warbler (-23%). Better news for Cuckoo which arrived back not only on cue, but also in good numbers.
Wales trends
Data from 310 BBS squares contributed to the long-term data set for Wales in 2018 and were used to produce trends for 60 bird species. Over the period 1995-2017, Swift and Greenfinch recorded a 69% decline. Great Spotted Woodpecker have increased by 201% between 1995 and 2017 in Wales - this is not unexpected as the Bird Atlas 2007–11 identified a range expansion from the core population in England spreading north and west through Scotland and Wales. A decline of 68% has been recorded for Curlew in Wales between 1995 and 2017. In the UK as a whole, the decline was 48% during the same time period. This is worrying as the Wales decline is greater than the UK average and also as the UK holds around 28% of the European breeding population. Better news for starling - the species recorded a short-term increase (2017–18) but this is set against a long-term decline of 68% between 1995 and 2017.

Text based on BTO report
Curlew © BTO





bee

Buglife Cymru have launched their Wales Threatened Bee Report, the first report of its kind to examine the health of our most threatened wild bees in Wales.

The report highlights some of Wales’ rarest and most threatened wild bees and the positive things we can do to help these species, ultimately ensuring they

do not go extinct in Wales. The report has found that seven of our bees have gone extinct in Wales, and a further five – such as the Long-fringed mini-mining bee

(Andrena niveata) - are on the brink of extinction. Most of the wild bees species assessed by the report have suffered significant declines, including the Shrill carder bee

(Bombus sylvarum) whose core populations are now confined to South Wales, raising concerns about the future prospects of these species.




Image Buglife


State of Birds in Wales Report 2018

Long-term monitoring shows that the numbers and distributions of almost a third of Welsh birds are declining significantly according to the latest State of Birds in Wales Report.

Monitoring through the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) showing trends for terrestrial and freshwater species, as well as the latest Wetland Bird Survey trends for wintering waders, wildfowl and other waterbirds were used to compile the report.
The report illustrates the importance of Welsh bird populations in urban, woodland, farmland and coastal habitats.

The Wales wild bird indicator, based on BBS results, tracks the declines since 1994 in both lowland and upland farmland bird species, as well as an upturn in woodland bird populations, the latter most notable over the past seven years.

Notable among the BBS results are the positive trajectories of Wales urban populations of House Sparrow, Feral Pigeon and Collared Dove relative to in the UK overall. Welsh House Martins are holding their own but Starlings are in steep decline.

A special feature of this report is a section called ‘Patterns of change in Welsh birds’ in which key Wales-specific outputs of the 2007-11 Bird Atlas (Balmer et al. 2103) are highlighted. These include measures of the importance of Wales in supporting the UK breeding populations of Chough (76%), Pied Flycatcher (69%), Redstart (47%) and Honey Buzzard (47%) as well as significant proportions of the UK wintering populations of coastal species such Common Scoter and Guillemot as well as rarer winter visitors such as Brambling and Great Grey Shrike.

The report also includes measures of long term changes (ca 40 years) in breeding range since the first breeding bird atlas. Half of all farmland species in Wales have suffered loss of breeding range, by over 50% in the case of Grey Partridge, Yellow Wagtail and Tree Sparrow. Birds of farmed uplands such as Curlew, Golden Plover, Black Grouse and Ring Ouzel have also showed marked range loss. In contrast, most birds of wetlands had increased in range and new colonists to Welsh wetlands include Bearded Tit, Little Egret, Avocet and Mediterranean Gull. Birds of woodland and heaths had mixed fortunes with declines in the range of woodland specialists such as Willow Tit and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker balanced by increases in species that favour forest plantations such as Hobby, Nightjar, Siskins and Crossbills.

The Report Produced jointly by RSPB, BTO, Natural Resource Wales (NRW) and the Welsh Ornithological Society (WOS)



Wales hosts more than 50% of the UK breeding populations of pied flycatchers and redstart, birds characteristic of western broadleaf woodlands and woodland edges



Text modified from BTO source Image Pied flycatcher © NRW

LIFE project approval

NRW’s Life for Welsh Raised Bogs project has been successful in applying for EU LIFE funding, a £4m project of which £3m is EU LIFE funding. The aim of this project is to improve the conservation the 7 raised bog SACs wholly in Wales by implementing favourable management. NRW is planning to re-submit a Sands of Life project (seeking favourable conservation status of Welsh sand dune habitats and species on key sites in September. Welsh Government is working with Snowdonia NPA and RSPB on a Western Atlantic Woodland project (Meironnydd oak woodlands SAC) for submission by RSPB in September.


Cors Barfog © NRW

The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) have produced a useful new guide for ecologists, land managers and consultants who are looking for advice on how to better manage greenspaces to support local hedgehog populations; this includes any greenspaces from parks, recreational grounds and golf clubs, to churchyards, allotments and school grounds.

hedgehog

Hedgehog © David Cooper / PTES

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

A review of the scarce and threatened spiders (Araneae) of Great Britain

The British Arachnological Society have released a report on the state of GB spiders. The report commissioned by NRW features a 'Red List' of species regarded as being at threat of extinction and shows that 16% of our species are threatened; 18 species are considered Critically Endangered, 30 Endangered and 54 Vulnerable. Three species are thought to have become extinct. An Amber List of species that are not yet considered at risk of extinction but for which the severity of their decline give cause for conservation concern has also been produced. The assessments use data from the National Spider Recording Scheme for England, Scotland and Wales that covers the period up until the end of 2013.

The report draws attention to the conservation needs of spiders and highlights the remarkable efforts of the volunteering recording community.


Text modified from BAS source
Four Spot Orb Weaver (Araneus quadratus) © British Arachnological Society

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

hedgehog street

The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018

The report is compiled by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and updates previous findings and describes the current status of Britain’s hedgehogs a decade after they were made a priority species for conservation.

The most recent analysis, in the report, shows a stark contrast between rural and urban populations. Rural populations are declining while urban populations are stabilising or increasing.

Conservation Strategy for West-European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in the United Kingdom (2015-2025)
This document summarises the main threats facing the hedgehog in the UK, and plans actions for the next decade and builds on previous strategic work.

The overall aims of the strategy are:

1) (urban/suburban areas): Stabilise populations within urban/suburban areas by 2025.

We define the scope of this aim as the establishment of stable hedgehog populations in a major settlement in every county across the UK.

2) (rural areas): To understand and demonstrate the ecological parameters underpinning viable rural hedgehog populations by 2025.


Hedgehog natural history

Western European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) occur throughout most of Europe. In Great Britain and Ireland, they are widely distributed but absent from some of the Scottish islands.
In rural areas, hedgehogs live along woodland edges and hedgerows in meadowland and rough pasture. In towns, they make use of gardens and amenity grassland, as well as other green spaces. Between November and the end of March, when food is scarce, hedgehogs hibernate to conserve energy, remaining largely inactive. During the rest of the year, they are mostly nocturnal, moving over areas of 10-50ha during the summer, and 1-2km in a single night.

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


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.

    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.

    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

    Species in Wales

    Amphibians & Reptiles

    Birds

    Lichens

    Terrestrial Mammals

    Bryophytes

    Invertebrates

    Helping Wildlife

    Wildlife Gardening