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The State of Nature... in Long Ashton and the UK

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

In recent years, Long Ashton has witnessed significant losses in its biodiversity and local environment, mirroring the broader trends seen across the nation. Hares, cuckoos, hedgehogs, swifts, yellowhammers and brimstone butterflies were once common but have now gone or their numbers are dwindling.

And as a whole, the UK, despite its rich history of diverse ecosystems and awe-inspiring landscapes, is now grappling with a severe loss of biodiversity, making it one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. And the situation is getting worse with 1 in 6 species at danger of extinction.

The State of Nature Report

The State of Nature report, which was released last week, acts as a comprehensive assessment of the state of biodiversity and wildlife in the United Kingdom. It provides insights into the health and trends of various species and ecosystems, highlighting the challenges and threats they face.

This report focuses on three measures of biodiversity change:

  • abundance (the number of individuals)

  • distribution (the proportion of sites occupied)

  • extinction risk

These measures have been assessed for hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of species native to the UK. You can read the full report here.

The backdrop of nature in the UK

The report is set in the context that the UK's biodiversity decline is not a recent phenomenon but rather a culmination of centuries of change. Over the past 50 years, significant factors contributing to this decline have been identified. In the UK's terrestrial and freshwater environments, the management of land for agriculture and the effects of climate change have had profound impacts on wildlife. Similarly, the marine ecosystem faces threats from unsustainable fishing, climate change and coastal development.

Despite growing awareness of the importance of nature and conservation, the overall trend is one of decline. But biodiversity loss, and climate change, is what fuels us at LANCE. Over the past two years, we have been involved in over 10 projects. Many of these you will see around the village. What you may not see are the signs of improved conditions for some of our endangered species and we are recording some very positive results.

Nature needs space to thrive

The report, which looks at habitats as well as individual species, highlights that the UK - Long Ashton included - has diminishing space for nature to flourish. Human activity (housing, agriculture, roads, commercial building) have encroached on natural habitats. The consequences of this include impacts on human health such as air pollution and direct costs associated with adapting to the loss of ecosystem services.

For example, pollinating insects, such as bees and butterflies, play a vital role in agriculture and are worth millions of pounds to UK agriculture. Their declining populations pose a significant threat to food production.

Conservation efforts in Long Ashton

Long Ashton, like many other communities in the UK, is not untouched by these challenges. However, it is also a place where passionate individuals and communities are committed to protecting and restoring nature. Recently, two endangered species have garnered attention: the turtle dove and hazel dormouse. We are incredibly uplifted to have come across both of these rare species in LANCE’s survey work, and they truly symbolise the urgency of conservation efforts at the local level.

In addition, the skylark, a species which saw shocking declines of 75% between 1972 and 1996, has started to recover in Long Ashton over the past decade. You may have delighted in them singing once again in Ashton Court. This positive change is attributed to the adoption of considerate agricultural and environmental practices in pastoral systems, emphasising the importance of sustainable land management. Working with local landowners and farmers is a key part of what we do at LANCE.

Collaborating for nature

Long Ashton's experience is not unique; it represents the broader challenges and opportunities for nature conservation in the UK. To reverse the alarming trends of biodiversity loss, we need to engage in urgent action. This includes not only increasing conservation and restoration efforts but also addressing the root causes of biodiversity decline, particularly in our food systems. Efforts to make food production more sustainable and nature-friendly, along with responsible consumption patterns, can significantly contribute to halting biodiversity loss. Importantly, conservation is not a task for a select few but requires the active involvement of society as a whole.

Perhaps one of the most encouraging statistics is that 85% of young people in Long Ashton express a desire to pursue environmentally related careers. This enthusiasm reflects the growing awareness and commitment to conserving nature among the next generation.

In Long Ashton, among LANCE and all the other environmentally-minded groups and individuals, the journey towards a more sustainable and nature-friendly future has begun. Now, it's up to all of us to join hands and ensure that Long Ashton, the UK, and the world at large thrive with nature.

The way ahead

In Long Ashton, in common with many other parishes, there’s both awareness of the problem and moves to reverse the trend. The LANCE Trust is working with the Parish Council to create a Local Nature Action Plan to tie in with a Local Climate Action Plan with projects earmarked this autumn and winter to help maintain and increase species such as swifts, brimstone butterflies and hedgehogs so that younger generations have more opportunities than their parents to enjoy wildlife on their doorstep.

Come and hear what we’re up to at our stall in Long Ashton Community Centre’s Open Day on 15th October, 10.00 – 14.00

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