ThinkBIG – New Report on Landscape Scale Conservation

The ThinkBIG report, which was released this week, is designed to provide information for local authorities, land managers, farmers and communities as to how they can contribute to the move towards landscape scale conservation outline in the Natural Environment White Paper, which was released earlier this month. ThinkBIG was written jointly by the statutory bodies, NGOs, land owners and farming communities that make up the England Biodiversity Group. The report in support of the move towards landscape scale conservation and ecosystem approach outlined in the recent Natural Environment White Paper provides advice on how to implement these ideas by reviewing case studies of landscape scale conservation and highlighting the lessons learned.

Maintaining and repairing ecosystems needs to be the focus of environmental projects and planning if ecosystem services are to continue benefiting the economy and society. Every sector of society and the economy has a role to play in landscape scale conservation, no matter how small their contribution is perceived to be.

The report gives some excellent examples of how landscape scale conservation can work in practice, demonstrating how each situation is different and requires a slightly different solution. Some of the most interesting and varied include:

Moors for the Future – This is a moorland restoration project in the Peak District and South Pennines, delivering a variety of ecosystem services such as erosion regulation and water regulation, and improving biodiversity of ground nesting birds and plants.

The Victoria Business Improvement District – This is a business led partnership to improve prospects for local wildlife, businesses and communities by expanding and enhancing green infrastructure. The project has reduced pollution, carbon dioxide emissions and flooding whilst simultaneously supporting invertebrate diversity and several bird species.

Cambourne New Town – Landscape scale conservation can also be included in new development projects such as Cambourne New Town which was built on agricultural land in Cambridgeshire. Careful planning has ensured that local residents are able to benefit from being reconnected with nature, whilst creation of new habitats has re-introduced several species that were once extinct in the area.

Although uniform guidelines to implement this sort of project would be hard to construct the report emphasises several fundamental components that must be in place for projects to be successful. These include accurate information on the current state of the environment, partnership and co-ordination between stakeholders and those involved in implementing the project, incentives and regulations, sensible strategies at the appropriate level, and conflict management. Connected and enhanced wildlife sites which are effectively protected and buffered from human activity are most likely to be successful. The success of many of the initiatives outlined in the Natural Environment White Paper will depend on the extent to which these general principles are adhered to.

The document is intended to provide background and supporting information for local authorities, land managers, farmers and communities, and highlights what different groups of people can start doing now to achieve the aims set out in Lawton’s review of protected areas ‘Making Space for Nature’, and the Natural Environment White Paper, including supporting the work of local conservation charities, managing farmland and woodland more sustainably and collaborating with others within local and national government to help ensure the success of environmental projects.