We applaud the national specialist wildlife organisations for their foresight in producing the ground-breaking piece of work. ‘State of Nature'. It will take some time to fully digest the findings of the report, but it confirms some worrying trends that are echoed in our own analyses on wildlife populations in and around Chichester Harbour.
The report estimates that 60% of the species studied have declined in recent decades and 31% have declined strongly.
The local picture in Chichester Harbour reflects this situation, with declines and loss in farmland bird species including Turtle Dove, Seabird Colonies performing poorly with barely any young produced for the past few years and some rare plant species only hanging on in specially managed plots.
But there are winners as well as losers; Cetti's Warbler and Little Egret that have only colonised the area in the past 30 years are continuing to consolidate their position. Many of our over-wintering bird species for which Chichester Harbour is so important, including Brent Geese are maintaining fairly stable populations and the Solent Harbour Seal population continues to expand.
Chichester Harbour Conservancy coordinates numerous projects largely involving volunteers in a range of wildlife monitoring activity; from overwintering birds to marine fish, and orchids to rare arable plants. This extensive programme allows us to monitor the local situation and the data is fed into the national monitoring upon which the State of Nature report is based. The report highlighted the need for continued and indeed increased monitoring, reliable information is only available for a mere 5% of the UK's terrestrial species and a much lower proportion of marine species.
The extent of the decline and the speed with which it is happening is of great concern. Conservationists in the UK have in general been very successful in saving some species such as Bittern, Stone Curlew and Field Cricket from the brink of extinction. The Conservancy manage a number of sites specifically to conserve a range of rare and special species and habitats. We are currently facing declines in species that have not previously been the focus of conservation. In our lifetime once ubiquitous species such as House Sparrow and Starling have massively declined and are now of conservation concern.
We will continue to monitor, promote management and work with our partners to help arrest and reverse these troubling declines in our wildlife resource for future generations.
Photo: David Rose-Massom