Pictures: Conservation in the natural world

Wildlife monitoring on Blacka Moor
Wildlife monitoring on Blacka Moor

Sheffield’s ‘State of Nature’ Report has its public launch next week... and will aim to paint a positive picture against a backdrop of environmental concerns

‘The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before,’ said Sir David Attenborough in the national State of Nature report in 2016.

The report painted an alarming picture of many species in serious decline, (such as water voles, hen harriers and hedgehogs).

The 50 conservation bodies involved reported that the number of animals, birds, fish and plants in the UK is now 15 per cent lower than it was in 1970.

The report blamed intensive farming, urbanisation and climate change for the changes, and author Mark Eaton of the RSPB said although there were good examples of work to improve habitats for wildlife, funding cuts meant these were few and far between.

“The ability to do it is within our grasp, it is just about resources and the willingness,” he said.

Sheffield’s own State of Nature Report has its public launch on April 27, and will hopefully show a somewhat more positive picture.

“Producing the report has highlighted just how many people have come together in an effort to understand and protect the wildlife that we all care about,” said Nick Howard of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust (SRWT), who will publish the report.

“For example, the River Don is returning to its former glory, with otters found on its banks in urban Sheffield, thanks to the tireless efforts of local organisations to improve its water quality in recent years,” he said.

“Sheffield’s stunning ancient woodland sites thrive as a haven for both wildlife and people, and urban Sheffield continues to grow greener for the benefit of everyone.”

The report, the first of its kind for Sheffield, is the culmination of the Trust’s two-year Heritage Lottery funded Nature Counts Partnership where over 2,000 local people have helped in a variety of ‘citizen science’ wildlife recording projects in a collaboration between SRWT, Sheffield City Council, Museums Sheffield, Sorby Natural History Society, and both city universities.

It highlights case studies on wildlife, habitats, and local conservation work, including the resurgence of red and roe deer in the city, and uses new software to claim that Sheffield’s tree cover is significantly higher than the national average. The report aims to help drive positive conservation initiatives throughout the Outdoor City.

“It’s clear that many individuals and organisations in Sheffield work tirelessly to build a better future for our wildlife and wild spaces,” said report editor and Nature Counts project coordinator Sara Blackburn, who added that there’s a big appetite for citizen science in Sheffield.

For example, nearly 500 people helped map the distribution of hedgehogs across Sheffield for the report, and over 20 dedicated individuals helped collect over 120 field signs of otter (including spraints, or ‘anal discharges’) along 15 miles of the river Don.

“Despite these efforts, local threats to wildlife, such as invasive species, remain. There’s also still lots we don’t know about Sheffield’s natural environment,” Sara said.

“The challenge now is supporting people to record, monitor and protect Sheffield’s key species and habitats, and to promote the active conservation of wildlife for future generations.”

More details of the report will appear at www.wildsheffield.com/stateofnature and the public are very welcome to attend the public launch at Sheffield Hallam University on the evening of April 27.