We were thrilled BBC presenter Lindsey Chapman agreed to introduce the State of Nature Report – a major investigation into the health of Nidderdale AONB’s wildlife and habitat. Lindsey is Patron of the citizen science project that helped collate the vital data, The Wild Watch.
Full press release on the report below!
Major Report Highlights Success of Curlews in Nidderdale AONB
The State of Nature report, a major investigation compiled by Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), reveals for the first time a detailed assessment of the health of its wildlife and habitats.
The iconic call of the curlew is a familiar sound in Nidderdale AONB thanks to focused conservation strategies. Key findings show the AONB is a vital habitat for wading birds such as curlews, with populations relatively stable in comparison with the rest of the country. In 2008, the curlew was deemed of global conservation concern and listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the Red List of Threatened Species.
Relatively rare species were also found in the AONB including Pyropterus nigroruber, a net winged beetle, and moths including Bilberry pug, Devon carpet and V-moth. Otters were also found in more locations in the AONB than before.
However, the findings also saw a large decline in water voles in the AONB, believed to be one of the fastest declining mammals in Britain. No sightings of water vowels were recorded. In response, the AONB team supported the release of 100 water voles by Yorkshire Water in the Washburn Valley in Nidderdale AONB in an attempt to revive the threatened species.
The report highlights the importance of the range of habitats found within the AONB, especially for species like the curlew, whose numbers are declining rapidly nationally. It also provides valuable information to guide future targeted conservation actions across the AONB.
Iain Mann, AONB Area Manager, said: “The report shows the vital importance of conservation to safeguard and improve Nidderdale AONB habitats. It is recognised nationally that biodiversity is in crisis and urgent action is needed. Our team is proud of the conservation success stories we have had in recent years and these findings will act as a springboard for future conservation work.”
Nationally, the UK’s nature is under threat, with 41% of species in decline, with species of greatest conservation concern showing a 60% decline since 1970. Changes in agricultural management and climate change are the biggest threat.
The report includes the results of The Wild Watch, a three-year citizen science project that conducted the biggest ever systematic survey of wildlife in the AONB.
Thousands of surveys were carried out by volunteers collecting valuable biodiversity data revealing new information on 76 target species including owls, hedgehogs, reptiles, invertebrates and flowering plants.
The Wild Watch project has resulted in an army of trained surveyors who will continue collecting new data to monitor wildlife. The data has informed ten Habitat Suitability Models to identify priority areas to support important species. To make biodiversity more resilient to climate change, the team will also look at creating ecological stepping stones and corridors for species moving due to temperature rises.
Important data was also collated with a dedicated Owl Watch campaign, which included educational talks to volunteers and schools in the area, with owl identification postcards and a short film to help identify owls.
Alice Crosby, The Wild Watch Project Officer, said: “It’s notoriously difficult to get an insight into owl data due to the fact they’re nocturnal and hard to spot, but we collected a valuable 675 owl records which has been used for Habitat Suitability Modelling. Records show 48% of our owls are Barn, 36% Tawny, 13% Little and 3% Short eared.”
Bird species already thought to be lost from the AONB include the Lesser-spotted woodpecker, yellow wagtail, wood warbler and hawfinch.
The team work in partnership with naturalist groups, farmers and landowners to conserve and enhance the AONB as a protected landscape for both people and wildlife.
Iain said: “The positive work we’ve done has resulted in over 4,500 hours given by volunteers in The Wild Watch Project. In the last five years, we have also helped channel over £3.4 million of external grants into nature conservation.”
The AONB team has helped local farmers apply for grants worth over £10 million since 2006. It is also working with farmers to help shape DEFRA’s future schemes on how nationally they can support nature and farmers’ livelihoods.
The report outlines projects such as the Yorkshire Peat Partnership, which works with moorland land managers to promote best practice to safeguard these nationally significant habitats. The AONB supports Yorkshire Water’s plan to expand its network of Beyond Nature farms, and works with landowners to restore hay meadows. Its ‘Headwater for Healthy Rivers’ project is currently improving the health of key waterbodies in the Humber river basin district.
Nidderdale AONB is also committed to tree planting, working with landowners to identify best tree-planting locations for new woodlands. Currently 8% of the area is woodland with an estimated two million tonnes of carbon locked up in its woodlands.
Almost 35% of the AONB is covered by sites with European, national or local designations to protect habitat and wildlife. As well as valuable habitat for species, Nidderdale AONB is also crucial to people for its natural spaces for recreation, and the tourist economy. It also has a significant stock of natural capital, with its reservoirs providing drinking water and farms for food production.
Iain Mann said: “Understanding the health of our wildlife and the landscape is crucial for planning to safeguard its future, so we are very thankful to all our partners, and volunteers, who helped gather this data. The AONB is valued for our own health and well-being, as a place to experience beauty and tranquillity with its windswept moors, ancient woodlands, grazing pastures, flower rich meadows, parkland and historic attractions. It is our duty to conserve what makes it so special – its landscape and wildlife.”
Lindsey Chapman, TV presenter on shows like the BBC’s Springwatch Unsprung and Big Blue UK, said: “I’m proud to be Patron of The Wild Watch., I’m passionate about connecting people with nature. The more we understand about the natural world, the more we create memories and connections, the more we’ll want to protect it. More needs to be done. And the exciting thing is it can be achieved with a movement of people to be the custodians of our natural world.”
The full report is available from https://nidderdaleaonb.org.uk/stateofnature
Featured image (girl on rock) by Mark Price.
Fact Box: The Wild Watch
Over 3,000 new surveys were carried out
In excess of 1,000 new citizen science records were submitted
Over 6,400 people attended over 140 events, including training courses, and an audience with Chris Packham and Steve Backshall.
Volunteers gave over 4,500 hours of their time
Nidderdale in Numbers
Nidderdale AONB covers 601km2 in the foothills of the Pennines in North Yorkshire.
95% of the AONB is part of Harrogate District.
The AONB has 24,000 ha of Priority Habitat* which accounts for 40% of Nidderdale AONB.
The most prominent habitats are upland heathland (54% of priority habitat) and blanket bog (35%)
Almost 35% of the AONB is covered by sites with European, national or local designations (levels of protection to wildlife habitats).
By 2024, the AONB will ensure that at least 25% of its SSSIs (Sites of Specific Scientific Interest) are in favourable condition.
Since 2011, Nidderdale AONB has surveyed over 300ha of meadow and grassland and restored and enhanced 230ha of hay meadow.
More carbon is stored in the peatlands of the UK than in the forests of the UK, France and Germany combined. The Northern Upland Chain Local Nature Partnership territory includes almost 40% of all the deep peat in England.
8% of Nidderdale AONB is classed as woodland; lower than the national figure of 10%; woodland creation is one of the team’s priorities.
There are 11 reservoirs in Nidderdale AONB.
*as defined by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006)