Due to external pressures such as habitat fragmentation, climate change and polluted waterways, our surviving wildlife is found in isolated patches of natural habitats. If our wildlife has a chance of survival, it needs to be capable of responding and adapting to the growing challenges of these pressures.
Why do we need wildlife?
50 Years of Decline
In the last 50 years we have lost an overwhelming number of species globally, that is no secret. Some of the reasons for these declines and extinctions are overpopulation, deforestation, consumer culture, climate change, animal exploitation, and other harming sources. Can you see a pattern in these issues? They all stem from – that’s right, you guessed it – humans.
So, it would be no surprise to you that the number of species we lose per year is close to 10,000! However, when a decline such as this occurs for over half a century, it has resulted in half the world’s wildlife population disappearing. And although someone like Jeffrey Kluger may state that “No species is forever”, considering this accelerated rate of decline is between 5,000 – 10,000 higher than what the natural extinction rate is… well, you can see why we may have a problem. Such a great problem in fact, that the widely accepted theory is saying that we are now in the sixth great extinction in history, known as ‘The age of the Humans’. Yes, we are up there alongside the dinosaurs.
When the world began insisting on environmental protection in the 1960s, conservation laws began passing in the 1980s with both politicians and the public leading the fight. With more and more public involvement and media attention, restoring and preserving wildlife species finally became possible as legislations were put into place.
Earths Many Assets
The Earth has several natural assets made up of plants, animals, water, land, the atmosphere, and of course, humans.
The WWF puts it very well by stating that “Biodiversity underpins the health of the planet and has a direct impact on all our lives. Put simply, reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease, and where fresh water is in irregular or short supply.”
Putting it simply, as biodiversity directly impacts our very lives, then it’s safe to say that conservation efforts don’t just benefit the environment, they benefit humanity too.
Wildlife is intricate, with ecosystems working in unique harmony created over billions of years of evolution, continuously evolving and forever changing. When you remove certain key species from a situation, what happens? For example; imagine a world where bees and other pollinators suddenly disappeared, what would pollinate the countless flowering plants that depended on them? It is acceptable to presume that this would lead to a long term negative impact on us all – not just humans.
Benefits to Humans
- Medicine - It is no surprise to find out that a lot of medicines have been derived from the chemicals produced by animals. Which have then been used to help cure various health conditions, such as heart diseases, disorders, and other illnesses. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service have in fact studied the impact of animal influence on the medical industry and found that over 25% of the medicinal prescriptions given every year contain chemicals from animals. If species continue to disappear, we then lose the opportunity to study and learn from them.
- Food Security – By protecting and conserving our forests from the threat of deforestation and restoring these habitats, we can preserve the biodiversity aids in the carbon-sequestering process, which will then in turn provide new economic opportunities. For our food system to thrive and be robust, wildlife conservation aids in promoting agricultural biodiversity.
- Creating Opportunity - The opportunities are endless, whether it be economically, social, or culturally, wildlife is forever giving us something for everyone.
For an ecosystem to be functional and healthy, biodiversity is essential. If any part of the wildlife is removed from the natural habitat, the ecosystem equilibrium will be disturbed, resulting in disaster. If any species should become extinct, the food chain will be disrupted affecting all the species, acting like a domino effect. For this reason, promoting biodiversity is one of the main reasons why we should protect wildlife.
Wildlife Survival on our Doorstep
Wildlife corridor are useful features that can be found throughout the landscape. They can be used for migration or dispersal of wildlife by helping link habitats together and reduce the chance of populations becoming sparse and isolated. Wildlife corridors can vary considerably in size, and may are not continuous. These non-continuous features can go by another term – ‘stepping stones’. These stepping stone patches of natural features are also able to help wildlife disperse and migrate. In a world where urbanisation is becoming more and more widespread, and the countryside is becoming increasingly fragmented, the role of wildlife corridors has become increasingly important.
An example of a wildlife corridor can be hedgerows. For instance, numerous trapping studies have shown that mice and voles and even carabid beetles move freely along hedgerows. Furthermore, adder migration is helped by not just hedgerows, but also banks and ditches. Badgers, when dispersing, are also known to use hedgerows to find new territories.
What can be a Wildlife Corridor?
- Railway Tracks
- Tree Lines
- Field Margins
- Streams and Rivers
- Remnant Woodland
- Urban Green Belt Areas
Other Corridor Benefits
- Pollution Removal – Trees and Hedgerows are able to decrease the effects of pollutants in built up areas.
- Social and Health Benefits – Many green spaces are also wildlife corridors and also offer recreational value.
Making Space for Nature
In 2010, Dr John Lawton gave us hope with his paper “Making Space for Nature”, concluding that our wildlife does have a future, however, we will have to change how we view nature conservation. The report highlighted the importance of creating better, bigger and more connected wildlife sites, and it was here that landscape scale conservation was born. This approach to conservation comes in many forms, such as increasing the size and improving the management of our existing sites. By connecting sites together through landscape corridors like rivers and streams, hedgerows or networks of ponds and creating stepping stone habitats, then wildlife will benefit as a direct result.
Our Carbon Landscape
It is the movement of wildlife that is essential to its survival, the more freely wildlife can move throughout a landscape, the more resilient they will be.
By viewing our Carbon Landscape as one ecosystem, it then underpins what we are aiming to achieve - Restore a derelict landscape, ensuring connectivity and resilience in an area facing significant threats.
By working in partnership with landowners and managers to improve natural habitats and enhance connectivity we can provide the space for nature to move and adapt to a changing climate.