Some shocking news came out this week on the decline of insects in Cornwall since 1980. The study looked at 23 species of bees and estimated that as a group their distribution across Cornwall has declined by 44%. The distribution of wasps has declined by 71% and the butterfly distribution across 36 species has declined by 47%. Even worse the distribution of butterflies that rely on specialist habitats has declined by 81%. The fantastic picture above is from thehoneybeeconservancy.com.org website. These declines will have had further negative impacts on other animals higher up the food chain like amphibians, reptiles and birds. It is all very worrying,
These are the results of work done by Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (ERCCIS) who analysed thousands of species records to estimate the difference in the distribution of various species in Cornwall between 1980 and 2017. I read these results on the Cornwall Wildlife Trust website http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/ . Cornwall Wildlife Trust manages over 5,000 acres of nature reserves and works with farmers across Cornwall delivering advice on how to enhance wildlife. Frank Howie, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Strategy Committee Chair said “We now know how serious the decline of wildlife is in Cornwall. Charities like Cornwall Wildlife Trust cannot fix these problems alone, saving Cornwall’s species is a shared responsibility; everyone needs to play their part.”
New Government legislation could change how our land and seas are managed and help reverse the decline. This week on 10 October 2018 Defra’s Agriculture Bill had its second reading in Parliament. The Bill proposes to pay farmers for delivering more than food; payments for reducing flooding, providing clean drinking water, enhancing wildlife and nurturing healthy soils.
I did not realise this was going through and it sounds great. Looking at the Government website it says “The Agriculture Bill sets out how farmers and land managers will in future be paid for “public goods”, such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding. This will replace the current subsidy system of Direct Payments, which is ineffective and pays farmers based on the total amount of land farmed. These payments are skewed towards the largest landowners and are not linked to any specific public benefits.” If it goes through from next year the government will work with farmers to trial the new approach.
Cornwall Wildlife Trust supports the principles behind the Agriculture Bill which give you more confidence in what is being proposed. It says many farmers in Cornwall already farm in ways that are sensitive to wildlife and minimise impacts on soils and water and the Agriculture Bill could mean that these farmers are rewarded for these efforts. It should also encourage many more farmers to create and protect wildlife habitats.
On the Lizard the Cornwall Wildlife Trust have formed a partnership with the National Trust (NT) and Natural England called the Linking the Lizard partnership and they work with National Farmers Union, The Cornwall Area of Outstanding Beauty Partnership and the University of Exeter. These partnership organisations co-ordinate their work to ensure joined up thinking and a sensitive approach to enhance their conservation and land management work across the Lizard. The partnership has a great website http://www.the-lizard.org It is so good that they all work together as so much more can be achieved with a collaborative approach.
On this website I learnt that earlier this year the NT completed the purchase of a small parcel of land just south of Mullion; just over 12 acres of flower-rich permanent pasture. The fields are also home to many invertebrates and consequently farmland birds such as goldfinch, whitethroat and blackbird. This land is sandwiched between the existing National Trust owned land at Teneriffe farm, Predannack Airfield (where we start a walk from) and parts of the Lizard National Nature Reserve managed by Natural England and Cornwall Wildlife Trust. This parcel of land may be small but it plays a crucial role providing a wildlife corridor between important habitats. The picture below is from the website.
Funding for this lan was made available through the Lee Bequest, a generous donation made by Mrs Elizabeth Lee to acquire land to be managed for nature on the Lizard. This same funding has helped with the purchase of other land across the Lizard now being managed for wildlife and conservation. A lovely legacy!