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.

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


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 Marsh Fritillary is one of the most rapidly declining butterflies in Europe. Knowing where the core populations are in Wales, how they are faring and making sure that sites are well managed are critical for the long term outlook of the butterfly.

Monitoring

Butterfly Conservation Wales (BCW) co-ordinates a Wales-wide programme of visits in which every population gets at least one survey visit every five years. Key questions address in the survey are:

  • on which sites are they present? (Population Status surveys)
  • how strong are our key populations? (Larval web Surveillance Programme)
As well as confirming presence or absence, these visits can also highlight concerns, such as management issues, that need following up. The Wales Marsh Fritillary Surveillance Programme was established in 2012 by BCW in partnership with Natural Resources Wales. Distribution surveys show that there are now 132 Marsh Fritillary populations in Wales.

2017 population trends

The 2017 sightings report a net gain of 2 populations with an addition of five populations and a ‘loss’ of three populations for the most recent five-year period (2013-2017).

Carmarthenshire remains the stronghold in wales with 41% of current populations. Worryingly, only 9% of Welsh populations are in north Wales largely due to unfavourable land management.

Future work

Work to develop the Marsh Fritillary surveillance network continues, the aim being to make it more representative of our Welsh populations, with the majority of the key populations included.

In 2017 work continued to finalise monitoring methodologies and standardise the data and plug gaps in network coverage..

information from surveys, surveillance and habitat mapping is allowing better targeting of conservation work

within this site network and enabling BCW to chart our progress towards conserving this species in Wales.

Read the full report The Status of the Marsh Fritillary in Wales 2017


Text adapted from Butterfly Conservation source
Image © Wildlife Trust South & West Wales

The State of the UK's Birds 2017

The latest 'State of the UK's Birds report, 2017' (SUKB) is now available. The report highlights the effect of climate change on resident and migratory birds. The report acknowledges the huge contribution to bird monitoring across the UK is thanks to the dedicated BBS volunteers and Regional Organisers.

The report notes that birds in the UK are showing changes in abundance and distribution, predominantly moving northwards, in a way that is consistent with a changing climate.

Average UK temperatures have increased by nearly 1 °C since the 1980s and sea surface temperatures have increased. Resident species such as great tits, wrens and nuthatches appear to be benefitting from milder winters.

Great tit, swallow, chiffchaff and willow warbler have advanced their egg-laying date; great tits lay their eggs on average 11 days earlier than they did in 1968.

Short distance migrants such as Blackcaps and chiffchaffs have increased by 289% and 104% respectively since 1970. Due to milder winters in the UK and Europe.

For UK seabirds, declining productivity associated with warming seas and changes to food abundance and habitat suitability is projected to shift species ranges northward over the next century including species such as kittiwakes, fulmars and puffins, as well as common, Arctic and little terns.

Previously scarce species, such as Cetti’s warbler and Dartford warbler have recently expanded their ranges. Both birds have colonised Wales. In the case of Dartford warbler, the European range of this species (classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Global Red List) is likely to contract and UK will become increasingly important for the global conservation of this species.


Text modified from BTO source Image House Sparrow © BTO

Big Butterfly Count 2018

2018 was the ninth year of big butterfly count and by far the most successful so far breaking previous records for the number of people taking part both in the UK as a whole and in each of the participating countries. The number of people taking part in Wales was up 85% and the the average number of individuals was up 19% in Wales (to 12 per count).

In Wales the top of the big butterfly count 2018 chart for Wales was very similar to that in England, with Small White the most abundant species, followed by Large White, both species showing big increases on the same period in 2017, and the Gatekeeper taking third place. Gatekeeper numbers were unchanged in Wales compared with the 2017 count, contrasting with a large decrease in England.

The Common Blue, in fourth place, showed the greatest year on year increase of any big butterfly count species in Wales in 2018. Four times as many Common Blues were recorded than in 2017 and the species had its best showing in Wales of any big butterfly count. The average number seen per count in Wales in 2018 was higher than in any of the other UK countries. The Holly Blue also did well with its numbers up 162% on the summer of 2017, as did Brimstone (80% up) and the Silver Y moth (262% up).

The greatest annual declines in Wales were suffered by the Six-spot Burnet (62% down on 2017), Red Admiral (58% down), Ringlet (51% down) and Comma (32% down). While some of these may be genuine population declines, others may have been unduly influenced by the early emergence of species, meaning that their numbers were already on the wane by the start of big butterfly count. Further analysis will be required to separate out this potential effect, revealing the real underlying change in the fortunes of the species concerned.




Text modified from Butterfly Conservation source

Meadow brown © Sean McHugh

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.

    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

    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.

    Species in Wales

    Amphibians & Reptiles

    Birds

    Lichens

    Terrestrial Mammals

    Bryophytes

    Invertebrates

    Helping Wildlife

    Wildlife Gardening