England’s endangered species – a list that includes everything from natterjack toads to water voles – are set to benefit from a generous influx of £14.5m to be used for nature conservation projects. This substantial funding boost will be directed towards various initiatives such as breeding programs and habitat improvements, which are crucial to the survival of these rare species.
Statistics have shown that a staggering 15% of England’s wildlife species are teetering on the brink of extinction. In these desperate times, the chair of Natural England – the government’s trusted advisor on environmental concerns – Tony Juniper, expresses a glimmer of hope. He assures that while nature is presently in a state of severe deterioration, it’s far from an unsalvageable scenario. He offers evidence of successful recoveries in the past, like the once endangered bittern and water voles, who’ve made remarkable comebacks.
One such initiative slated for funding is the Wiltshire Chalk Partnership, which aims to restore around 2,000 hectares of flower-rich grasslands. This landscape is vastly important, serving as a breeding ground for numerous insect species including butterflies. The Partnership, a collaboration between conservation charities RSPB, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and the local Pewsey Downs Farmer Group, aspires to create the perfect home for the the wart-biter bush cricket, marsh fritillary, the large blue, the Adonis blue and the Duke of Burgundy butterflies, and by doing so, help them thrive.
However, because these species are habitually specific, meaning they require very particular habitats to prosper, they’ve seen a substantial 27% decline over the past 50 years. This is largely attributable to the encroachment of urban areas and farmlands. Yet, these species are fundamental to the ecosystem, providing food for birds and bats and pollinating plants, marking them as excellent indicators of the overall health of the environment.
Despite the severity of the situation, with the UK ranking among the countries with the most nature-depleted areas globally, measures like the 25-year Environment Plan set out by the government in 2018 hold promise. However, recent findings indicate that many of the government’s environmental targets are not being met.
Central to the preservation of global species, pouring more funding into nurturing the UK’s natural environment presents an opportunity for growth. The White-clawed crayfish that is globally endangered, for instance, has seen a worrying 70% decline in UK populations, primarily due to diseases carried by invasive North-American signal crayfish and increasing pollution of their freshwater habitats.
But with the ‘Claws for Thought Project’, which plans to establish a new crayfish-rearing facility, they can help support crayfish through their vulnerable early years with their successful breeding programme that ensures 60% of the crayfish reach breeding age, a significantly higher rate than in the wild.
The two-year nature recovery programme will benefit various other species too including the large marsh grasshopper, lapwings, and the grey long-eared bat. All in all, this project stands as a promising stride in the right direction in the fight to bring Britain’s endangered species back from the brink of extinction.