Somerset Wildlife Trust

Work For Us|

The County Gazette - 5 Somerset Wildlife Species in Danger

 20th Sep 2016

5 Somerset wildlife species in danger of becoming extinct unless we act now

By AndrewDoyle  |  Posted: September 18, 2016   

Somerset Wildlife Trust has issued an immediate warning on species in the county which could become extinct.

It comes in the wake of a worrying publication released this week - the State of Nature 2016 Report, put together by more than 50 leading wildlife and research organisations.They've pooled their resources to present a clear picture of the status of our native species.

SL 1

The report found that over half of UK species studied (53%), have declined since 1970, while one in 10 - (1,199 species) of nearly 8,000 species assessed in the UK are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.  

Launching the report at the Royal Society, the icon that is Sir David Attenborough, star of countless BBC nature shows, said: "The future of nature is under threat and we must work together; Governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife."

Simon Nash, CEO of Somerset Wildlife Trust, added: ""There are vulnerable species in Somerset that are struggling to overcome the impacts of climate change and fragile habitats that desperately need dedicated year-round support, so we look to the people of Somerset to put nature back in their lives, rediscover its value within our communities and do what they can to help us reverse the decline of Somerset's wildlife for the benefit of our next generations."

Between 1982 and 2002, there was a 61% decline in snipe and 29% for redshank on lowland wet grasslands across England and Wales, attributed to changes in land use and drainage practices which severely inhibited the feeding and nesting opportunities for these two most distinctive wading birds.

SL 2

In Somerset their diminishing populations are currently restricted to just eight sites within the whole of the Somerset Levels and moors (that covers an area of 600 square kilometres).

If water levels within our wetland habitats and reserves aren't maintained and we don't continue to create 'muddy edge' features to support feeding chicks, these very special Somerset residents could disappear completely - or be restricted just to one or two nature reserves, making them incredibly vulnerable to climate change.

Once a familiar sight throughout much of England and Wales, Britain's native population of hazel dormice has fallen by a third since 2000, and have entirely disappeared from 17 English counties. The loss and fragmentation of our woodland and hedgerow habitats, and changes to farming and woodland management practices, alongside the dormouse's intense vulnerability to climate change – particularly warmer winters - mean that this shy and wonderfully endearing little mammal , is now increasingly vulnerable to local extinctions in the UK.

SL 3

Somerset Wildlife Trust's work across the Mendip Living Landscape and its reserves to monitor and record dormice populations and restore and enrich woodland and hedgerow habitats to enable successful foraging and hibernation is critical. 

Modern intensive agriculture and farming practices have led to a loss of habitat and in addition the increased use of pesticides has resulted in a reduction in the abundance of insects which the LHB's rely on as their only food source.

Alongside a continuing lack of public awareness when it comes to food provenance means that this trend looks set to continue. Historic trends for hedgerow removal on farms in the last century has no doubt negatively affected , a number of bat species who rely on them, including one species in particular.

Lesser horseshoe bats use rich, healthy hedgerows as superhighways to move across the landscape, also relying heavily on the wealth of invertebrates found in these hedges. Recent conservation efforts to work with landowners to replant many of these hedgerows is likely to be tied to a change in the fortunes of the Lesser Horseshoe, though they aren't out of the woods yet.

SL 4

Somerset Wildlife Trust aims to provide support to farmers to help replant and manage hedgerows, introducing cutting programmes and land management techniques that support species such as lesser horseshoe bats. 

A tentative success story: Despite over 50 years of effort to halt its decline, the large blue butterfly was pronounced extinct in Britain in 1979, predominantly as a result of changes in countryside management practices which impacted on the populations of one particular red ant species upon which the large blue's lifecycle depends.

Since its reintroduction in 1992, and some incredible landscape-scale conservation work to create optimum habitat on many of the former Large blue sites - the stronghold being on Somerset Wildlife Trust's Green Down Nature Reserve - the species has made an incredible recovery- large blue egg numbers doubled between 2014 and 2015 and 2016 looks to be a bumper year.

This is thanks to targeted scrub clearance programmes and careful grazing of wildflower-rich grasslands – which also helps a huge diversity of wild plants and other insects to thrive.

SL 5