Hilary Benn Launches Countryside Survey: Initial Results

Yesterday saw the launch of the initial results of the 2007 Countryside Survey, with a series of presentations and workshops in London. Opening the event, Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, praised the dedication of the ecologists and others behind the work and commented on the ‘fundamental’ importance of the report to Government. He also used the occasion as an opportunity to launch a new fund of over £1 million to improve the recording of wildlife in England. This money will be available from 2009 and will be channelled through the biological recording centres.

The results released yesterday signal just the start of the reporting period of the Survey, with further reports to be released in 2009 (reports for Wales, Scotland and England; raw data from the 500 study sites examined in the survey; land cover map; detailed analysis of soils and freshwater). 2010 will see the publication of an integrated assessment, bringing all these parameters together and examining the ecological impacts of different pressures on ecosystem services.

Some headline results from the Survey, in addition to those highlighted in yesterday’s Blog post, include:

– Species richness in all random plots examined by the survey has declined since 1978.
– There has been a decline too in the species richness of areas adjacent to linear features, such as hedges, streams and roads, which provide refuges for species which cannot survive in intensively managed land.
– Areas targeted by the survey for their particular botanical interest have seen a worrying decline in species over the same period.
– There has been a 6% decrease in the total length of managed hedgerows since 1998. There has been a corresponding increase in the length of lines of trees and relict hedges, indicating a lack of hedge management.
– The number of ponds in Great Britain increased by 11% between 1998 and 2007, but over 80% of ponds in England and Wales were found to be in poor condition. Questions should be asked about the quality of the habitats provided by the new ponds.

Visit the website of the Countryside Survey at http://www.countrysidesurvey.org.uk/