A Living Landscape: Creating the wildlife highways

Climate change makes the restoration and reconnection of Living Landscapes to preserve biodiversity even more crucial. Our wildlife communities will need to be genetically vigorous to adapt to whatever unpredictable conditions arise in the future. Tiny populations in stagnant gene pools clinging to isolated patches of ground will not make it. Wildlife will need larger core areas to ensure maximum variability, and these will have to be linked. As the temperature, acidity, water or salt content in the soil changes, whole groups of plants and animal will need gradually to shift along passable corridors – wildlife highways – to new elevations or aspects.
The Wildlife Trusts are uniquely placed to spearhead the delivery of Living Landscapes. Countrywide, there are 47 trusts, owning or managing hundreds of nature reserves – among the first seeds for our core areas. Each trust also has experts with the local knowledge and enthusiasm to provide the hard graft and guidance needed. Between them, the Wildlife Trusts have more than three quarters of a million active and concerned members. But this is not a job for conservationists alone. It will benefit, and must involve, people everywhere.

It’s a statutory duty Already all government departments have a statutory duty to have consideration for biodiversity in all activities. So, apart from the wider conservation movement, early partners will include public bodies such as Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission, the Ministry of Defence, British Waterways and local authorities. The huge amount of land in public ownership can all be managed to contribute to some extent to a Living Landscape. Equally important is to involve the private sector. Housing developers and water companies, for instance, will appreciate the advantage of effective flood controls, and sympathetic farmers can be helped through funding instruments.
Putting nature at the heart of our lives A Living Landscape means the revival of the land we love. Nature has so many uses – it can temper the climate, clean the air, regulate the flow of water, give us space in which to play and heal our souls. It is time to channel it back into the heart of all our lives. A Living Landscape is the embodiment of ‘joined-up’ conservation.

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