Call James on 07973 796 406 for further information

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State of Nature In Oxfordshire 2017 Report 

In 2013 the first State of Nature report was published which detailed the changes nationally in nature since 1960’s. The findings of the 2013 report detailed some shocking and worrying trends including the loss of natural habitat across the board through wetlands, woodlands, wildflower meadows and grasslands. The 2017 report detailing nature specifically within Oxfordshire specifically however shows some signs for positivity and the ‘green shoots’ of recovery across our county in some areas

I have detailed the key findings of the report below;

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Semi-Natural Grasslands – Since the 1930’s Grassland habitats have suffered the widest decline of all natural and semi-natural habitats. Widespread losses in this area have been seen across the country however we are lucky that in Oxfordshire we still have some of the rarest in the UK.

Without targeted further work protecting and increasing areas of grasslands there is the ongoing risk that vulnerable species of plant and animal will become extinct. Fragmentation of these areas has caused pockets of isolated habitats; the report advises of a need to create “wildlife corridors” or stepping stones to join up areas of Grassland to encourage wildlife and plant growth.

Oxfordshire is home to 35 Road Verge Nature Reserves which provides a great haven for common flowers and dry meadow-like grasslands. They are also great for attracting pollinating insects and joining up areas of grassland and meadows.

Rivers and Wetlands – Rivers across the county are far cleaner than they were 30 years ago. This is predominantly due to pollution control, water quality improvements and restoration works of river banks and beds. Targeted action to encourage and re-establish native inhabitants, both plant and animal has had a measurable effect with Oxfordshire’s populations of Water Voles having more than doubled through an effective reintroduction scheme and improving riverbank habitats across the county.

In the county we have a fantastic network of pond resources, with one of Oxfordshire’s flagship pond sites at Little Wittenham designated a European Special Area of Conservation due to its population of Great Crested Newts. There are other important pond sites across the county and with many villages also playing host to a pond which, even though many require some de-polluting still play an important role as a habitat to less water quality sensitive species.

Readbeds across the county have all but disappeared with the only remaining site of substance at the RSPB Otmmoor Reserve. This was previously a common type of habitat throughout the low-lying areas of Oxfordshire.

Woodlands – Oxfordshire is currently under the national average for woodland cover at just over 23,000ha, with 9,000ha of that ancient woodland. Ancient woodland has been a continuous woodland site since 1600AD, this is often the most biodiverse of woodland and home to species rarely found elsewhere. Blenheim Palace in West Oxfordshire is home to one of Europe’s best collections of Ancient Oak Trees, once of which is more than 1000 years old!!

Across the county, Orchards are relatively common place and provide food to mammals and birds, these types of trees are generally long lived and planted in low densities. The large number of these types of trees proves how valued the traditional orchards were to rural communities.

2016 saw the drafting of the of the ‘Nutshell’ strategy. Nutshell is a proposal for making investment in sustainable forestry in Oxfordshire, by effectively managing 80% of the county’s woodland and investing in woodland businesses. It was estimated by the authors that over £35M of extra money would be generated for the Oxfordshire economy.

Agricultural Land and Farming – Since WWII the farming landscape across the county has undergone a period of rapid and dramatic change. The modernisation and industrialisation of farming practices has meant that many traditional farmland habitats are under threat, resulting in a massive decline in farmland biodiversity.

Oxfordshire’s agricultural land is home to 11 types of priority habitat and 4,200ha of this land is managed under agri-environment schemes. Between 2005 and 2015 farmers managed 1,600ha to under these types of schemes to help encourage the populations of bird species that had been in decline, with the creation of nesting sites and winter food crops.

Many of the county’s Hedgerows are truly ancient, they have associated banks and ditches that have huge archaeological importance. Hegerows also provide fantastic biodiverse habitats for insects, mammals and birds, they form networks of these habitats across the country, often linking up patches of woodland.

Field Margins provide key conservation habitats within arable land, they offer food and shelter to birds and mammals, they also provide a home to a range of arable plants which is the fastest declining group of plants in the UK.  Field margins are incredibly important for pollinating insects such as solitary bees and butterflies.

The State of Nature report details the large number of individuals and organisations that are working towards improving the natural environment in Oxfordshire and suggests a joined-up approach to harness the momentum of these passionate people.
I am honoured to be a trustee of BBOWT and Consultant to The Woodland Trust, both of which are working hard towards increasing natural habitats and biodiversity across the county and beyond.  To find out how you can improve wildlife across the region and within your own land management projects please contact us.
We are not only able to offer practical advice on the management and implementation of your own land management and wildlife plans but we are also able to help with sourcing funding for certain types of biodiversity projects.

To read the full report click HERE https://www.wildoxfordshire.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/SoN-cover.png

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James Gillies MIgrAM

Suite C, Unit 1, Eagle Industrial Estate, Witney, Oxon, OX28 4YR

Phone: 07973  796 406
Email: Send me and email

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