‘High Impact’ Wildlife Projects Aim to Restore Habitats Across England | Environment

Restoring a kelp forest off the Sussex coast, creating new habitat for heat-sensitive butterflies, and connecting fractured wetlands for beaver reintroduction are among 12 new projects funded for help the UK tackle climate change, the Wildlife Trusts said.

The planting of new seagrass pastures in the Solent, the expansion of the salt marshes on the Essex coast and the restoration of the peatlands of Cumbria, Durham, Yorkshire, Northumberland and Somerset are some of the ‘impact’ programs. high ”which the nature charity says will help alleviate the impact of the global crisis. heating on land and at sea.

Alongside the projects, backed by nearly £ 2million in funding from popular postcode lottery players, researchers will study how best to protect UK ecosystems and biodiversity from rising temperatures, while paving the way for the reintroduction of locally extinct species in some cases. .

The Great North Bog in the north of England, which the Wildlife Trusts is in the process of restoring. Peatlands are capable of storing large amounts of CO2. Photograph: Yorkshire Peat Partnership / PA

A project in East Anglia will work with researchers at the University of Cambridge to understand how micro-habitats in limestone grasslands can be created to protect temperature-sensitive butterflies like the Little Blue, Chalk Blue and Owl of Burgundy. Another in Derbyshire will restore the forests of the Derwent Valley and, if successful, could lead to the reintroduction of pine marten and red squirrels to the area. The funding will also go to a project off the Sussex coast that advocates the restoration of 200 km² of lost kelp forest.

John Hughes, director of development at the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, which receives funding for a project to restore fragmented wetlands known as mothers and mosses in the West Midlands, said he hoped the programs would encourage the public to support large-scale restoration. ecosystems.

a beaver
Restoring wetlands will create habitat for beavers. Photograph: Nick Upton / Cornwall Wildlife Trust / PA

“If you want to inspire people, you do something like release a beaver. It is not about the individual animal. It is about explaining that nature has many answers to the problems we face. Beavers are a wonderful solution to so many problems plaguing the wetlands of this country, ”said Hughes.

The industrious rodent helps maintain wetlands and prevent downstream flooding by building dams, also supporting amphibians, insects, plants and fish that share their habitat. Natural England requires beavers to be fenced under current reintroduction rules, although record numbers are expected this year.

Dr Gwen Hitchcock, senior surveillance and research officer for the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, said the funding would allow further research on how to protect native insect species in the climate change. His trust’s project will test different designs of butterfly beds in limestone grasslands to encourage abundance of insects when temperatures rise.

“Butterflies have very limited means of influencing their own body temperature. Research has shown that larger and paler butterflies are better able to protect themselves from extreme temperatures, but darker, smaller species – especially specialists – have a harder time, ”she said. “Depending on the extent of climate change, all of our species may end up depending on particular habitat characteristics. The purpose of this study is to determine which features will be best for them. “

Chalkhill's Blue Butterfly
The Chalkhill Blue butterfly is sensitive to changes in temperature and is therefore vulnerable to global warming. Photography: Patrick Jefferies

Other plans include an effort to create a new nature reserve in South Lakeland, Cumbria, and to establish the county’s first malaria project to grow sphagnum moss, which contains up to 20 times its weight in water and helps in the formation of peat. Another in Devon will create a nature-based solutions center on a farm to show how nature can help reverse the impacts of intensive farming.

A Nottinghamshire project will work with farms to create a network of restored habitats for farmland pollinators and birds. New funding for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust will help expand the Great North Bog project, which aims to put over 4,000 hectares of highland peatlands under restoration management.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of Wildlife Trusts, said the 12 programs focused on both climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“We urgently need to think about how we can let nature help tackle the climate crisis [and] how it can help with adaptation. A lot of it is about retaining water in the landscape: recreating our wetlands, restoring our peatlands and reintroducing beavers, ”he said. “We know there’s a lot of eco-anxiety and sometimes people feel like we’re not changing fast enough. If we can scale up projects and really start making a difference, we can demonstrate what can be done in the UK. “

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at the People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “We are delighted that the funds raised by our players are helping Wildlife Trusts restore habitats across the country that play a key role in the accumulation and carbon storage.