The State of Nature & That’s LIFE+ ?

After a scorching hot day on Thursday, the forecasters got Friday’s weather right  -it  rained!  It didn’t really matter as the LIFE+ ‘Mid Project Event’ which was held in Crowle was indoors.

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Linda McAvan MEP demonstrated a knowledge and understanding of the value to local people of our peatlands and recognised the local community campaign to secure their future.  Image courtesy of Peter Roworth ARPS.

There were a number of talks and presentations predominantly by those involved in the delivery of the project.  One quote which struck me as strange when you consider the reality of the landscape and vista out there on the moors included one which talked of “looking out onto open space”.  Perhaps I expect too much of people’s observational skills?  Then we were asked at the end to make comments through Facebook accounts to NE so that “staff would be motivated more”. The Vision described for the moors included the usual collection of sound bytes, that they were used as a long-term experimental site, a site which would deliver high level international research, public understanding, volunteer strategy, apprenticeships, more progress in restoring.  There was no mention of the wildlife value nor safeguarding or protecting the sensitive species, or sustainable exploitation in terms of the “asset”.  There seems to be a drive for use rather than an appreciation, an interval of calm where assessment of impact of all the engineering and scrub clearance can take place, a time to observe the change in fauna and flora which finds suitable habitat and takes up residence.  This type of considered monitoring offers a potential blueprint for other schemes, as it documents natural establishment following management.  As more visitors are encouraged, then impact of the increase needs to be assessed?  Already naturalists are beginning to question the origins of some species being recorded, are they natural occurrences or has there been more unregulated introductions and releases?  See Kirk & Melling (2011) Volume 8 of T&HM Papers for example.

The site visit was, in the main, a mini bus tour of Thorne Moors.  It was a shame about the rain because for some visitors it was clearly their first ‘moors experience’ and initial impressions often remain.

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An attentive audience trying to get to grips with the complex issue of the engineered structures which should deliver favourable condition for the Natura 2000 site in terms of management of the site’s hydrology.  Image courtesy of Peter Roworth ARPS.

At least out on site the visitors did notice the ever increasing number of turbines which are slowly creating a ‘ring of steel’ around Thorne Moors.  The other very obvious landscape was the featureless monoculture of agri-industrial sized fields, factory farming on a scale where nature stands little chance?  We drove past fields either already sown with next years crop, or fields being prepared for drilling.  Gone are the days when stubble was left for birds to forage in, no longer the mixed finch flocks in their hundreds and occasionally their thousands.  No hedgerows laden with berries reading for the wintering thrushes.

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Prairie farming to the north east of Thorne Moors, a landscape devoid of wildlife interest?  As soon as crops are harvested, fields are prepared for the next crop with no time for fields to lay fallow.  Heavy use of chemicals can impact upon the  micro organisms essential for a healthy soil structure and function.   This type of agri-industrialised landscape is heavily subsidised through the public purse.  Following ‘Brexit’ we have the opportunity, but it will also be a challenge to ensure that public funds deliver public benefit?  The State of Nature 2016 Report continues to chart the decline in wildlife.  The statistics make painful reading but to anyone involved in conservation, anyone observing how government continues to disregard the environment it is unlikely the findings will come as a surprise.

 

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