Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Environmental work is improving wildlife habitats — and that's official

WILD Oxfordshire has just issued its first report on the state of nature in the county following national reports in 2013 and 2016 which showed, for example, a huge loss of lowland meadows between 1930 and 1982 and therefore a decline in plant and butterfly species.

Both public and private bodies support this conservation charity and the report covers our flora, fauna and land use. While 74 per cent of Oxfordshire’s land is agricultural, 66 per cent of us live in towns.

These and the other measurements will give a baseline for evaluating gains and losses to guide future land policy.

One immediate change in farming has been noted since the Brexit vote — the headlands of fields are being reduced from the 6m required to qualify for EU funding to almost nothing. Obviously the farmer must maximise his resources but this report stresses the importance of marginal strips as corridors for wildlife and reservoirs of insects and flowers, which produce healthier soil and crops.

The good news is that pollution control has favoured the otter and water vole and the great variety of water birds we see on the river.

Above all, the work of the 222 environment groups in the county does make a difference. Where they are at work improving habitats and protecting sites, there is a greater diversity.

The challenge now is to link Oxfordshire’s seven special areas of conservation, 162 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 362 local wildlife sites as this research by hundreds of volunteers shows that, where the habitats are protected, the wildlife thrives and increases, like the voles at Ewelme watercress beds and the bitterns and marsh harriers at Otmoor.

Our local SSSI below Fawley Court is part of the short remaining stretches of Thames bank which have not been campshedded.

Here and on the stretch above Marsh Lock, dragon and damsel fly larva can still crawl out of the river and emerge from pupation to fly. To read the full report, visit www.wildoxfordshire.org.uk/state ofnature

Wild Oxfordshire also produces a comprehensive newsletter detailing all the national and local initiatives, including our own Henley Wildlife Group.

To receive it, email clare@wildoxfordshire.org.uk

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