Dorset Wildlife: which species are thriving this year?
PUBLISHED: 09:08 10 December 2019
The State of Nature Report has set alarm bells ringing across the land. Sally Welbourn of Dorset Wildlife Trust looks at some of the local winners and losers in the fight for survival
2019 has seen many people wake-up to the global climate emergency. Thankfully, environmental campaigning is getting smarter, and individuals outside conservation organisations are now supporting the message that we've been talking about for years: we need to do something about the decline of wildlife and wild spaces, and we need to do something right now. Many of us won't see any differences from day-to-day, due to a phenomenon called 'shifting baseline syndrome' where, over time, knowledge is lost about the natural world as changes happen gradually and aren't perceived. But the surveys, the science and the facts speak for themselves after many years of a slow, but consistent, downward trend. This is reflected in the latest State of Nature Report, revealing that 41% of the UK's species studied, are in steady decline.
But there is some good news here in Dorset. Thanks to careful management and thousands of hours of conservation work put in by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) staff and volunteers, wildlife is thriving on our nature reserves. There is always more work to be done though, and with the support of our members and supporters, DWT's projects, people and places are never far away.
This is one of the fastest declining butterflies in the UK, having lost two-thirds of its colonies between 1990 and 2000. However, in Dorset, Marsh Fritillaries have expanded their core range at DWT's Bracketts Coppice Nature Reserve, from an area covering 0.46HA to 1.5HA, and have been steadily increasing in their numbers since 2011 when consistent monitoring on the site began.
This crepuscular migratory heathland bird, has been impacted by the reduction of lowland heathland. This is due to urbanisation causing loss of this increasingly rare habitat, as well as fragmentation and increased (anthropomorphic) pressures on what areas remain. However, on Upton Heath and Tadnoll & Winfrith Heath - two of Dorset's largest lowland heath nature reserves - the nightjar has increased territories over the last decade.
New marine conservation zones for Dorset
Six new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ's) were designated in Dorset in 2019: Albert Field; Purbeck Coast; South of Portland; Southbourne Rough; Studland Bay and West of Wight-Barfleur. This is wonderful news coming after years of campaigning to get the recognition that these sites need, and to stop damage by trawling and dredging. The protection of these sites will benefit many species in Dorset waters including black bream, spiny seahorses and peacock's tail seaweed.
Fortunes are down for…
Badgers continue to be culled in Dorset as part of the wider roll-out of the badger cull by the government. DWT volunteers and staff are continuing our badger vaccination programme against Bovine Tuberculosis on selected nature reserves in west Dorset to demonstrate that there is an alternative to culling. Whilst we understand the serious implications for farmers who lose stock as a result of this disease, we believe there are more effective ways of controlling it, including vaccination of badgers and, in the long term, cattle vaccination.
Insects and Pollinators
The dramatic decline of insects and pollinators is a very real problem globally, but here in Dorset we are tackling this issue at a local level. Over 4,000 people pledged to do something in their gardens for the benefit of pollinators this spring and summer as part of the Get Dorset Buzzing campaign -that's over 1% of gardens in Dorset, but we need more to come on board. If bees disappeared, it is estimated we would lose a quarter of all species on earth, and without pollinators we would also lose the crops we rely on for food. It's not too late to make changes in your garden. Get inspired at dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/get-dorset-buzzing
The UK's hedgehog population has fallen by more than 30% since 2009, and sightings are at an all time low. Garden pesticides, contaminated water, loss of habitat and traffic collisions have all impacted on their dramatic decline, and there are now thought to be less than one million hedgehogs remaining in the wild. One thing we can all try to do is to create a hedgehog highway between our gardens; simply make a hole, big enough for a hedgehog to get through, in the bottom of your fence. Also provide some shelter for them such as putting a hedgehog home in a sheltered corner of your garden, or simply leave some wilder areas for them to set up home.
How can you help?
To help us get a picture of how wildlife is faring here in Dorset, why not take part in our Species of the Month citizen science project dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/get-dorset-buzzing/species-month. For January, we're looking for sightings of starlings. Find out more about The Wildlife Trust's vision for a Wilder Future and join the campaign at wildlifetrusts.org/wilder-future.