First Nature Improvement Areas announced
On 27th February, Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State at Defra, announced the first 12 Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs)
to create wildlife havens, restore habitats and encourage local people to get involved with nature. Each NIA will receive a share of £7.5m of government funding over three years.
Creating an ecological network
Nature Improvement Areas were a flagship policy contained in last year’s Natural Environment White Paper The Natural Choice, which set out aims to improve the quality of the natural environment across England, halt the decline in habitats and species, and strengthen the connection between people and nature. The 12 NIAs will help meet the commitment of the white paper to support the natural environment to function more effectively through joined-up action at local and national levels to create an ecological network which is resilient to changing pressures.
Significant improvements for wildlife and people will be delivered through the sustainable use of natural resources, restoring and creating wildlife habits, connecting local sites and joining up local action.
Visiting the Birmingham and Black Country Living Landscape NIA, the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, said:
“Each of these projects has something different to offer – from the urban areas of Birmingham and the Black Country to the rivers and woods of North Devon; from marshes, coalfields and wetlands to woodland and arable chalkland and grassland. The exciting wildlife projects are the result of different organisations all working together with a common purpose – to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come.”
Professor Sir John Lawton, chair of the selection panel and leader of the 2010 review of England’s wildlife sites and the connections between them, said:
“For more than 40 years I have had the privilege of working on nature-conservation issues in the UK, both as a professional scientist, and in the voluntary sector. Never in all that time have I seen the sort of creativity, partnership working and sheer enthusiasm that the NIA competition has released in consortia that want to deliver more effective conservation for England’s wonderful wildlife in their area. Choosing 12 winners from 76 bids was an awfully difficult task, but I believe we have 12 outstanding NIAs, each unique in what it is setting out to achieve, for the benefits of people and wildlife.”
The Nature Improvement Areas
The 12 NIAs will be:
- Birmingham and the Black Country Living Landscape: includes urban, wetland, river and heath habitats, aiming to create heathland on brownfield sites and 40 hectares of new native woodland;
- Dark Peak: includes moorland and woodland in the Peak District National Park, and will be restoring habitats such as upland heathland and creating 210 hectares of native woodland;
- Dearne Valley Green Heart: mostly farmland and former mining settlements with woodland and wetland; it will be restore the River Don floodplain and create new wetlands and woodlands;
- Greater Thames Marshes: includes agricultural marsh and urban habitats. It will create and enhance grazing marsh, salt marsh and mudflat habitats;
- Humberhead Levels: straddling Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, it is mainly wetland, lowland and peat habitats. It will create or restore at least 1,427 hectares of wetland habitat;
- Marlborough Downs: this is predominantly a farmer-led partnership looking to restore chalk and grassland habitats and increase the numbers of farmland birds as well as creating a network of traditional clay-lined dewponds to act as wildlife havens;
- Meres and Mosses of the Marches: incorporates wetlands, peat bogs and ponds in Cheshire. It will aim to reduce diffuse pollution by working with farmers, improve peatlands and restore wildlife areas around the River Perry;
- Morecambe Bay Limestones and Wetlands: the most northerly NIA, this consists of limestone, wetland and grassland habitats. It will restore coast and freshwater wetlands and create 200 hectares of woodland, planting 10,000 native trees and develop habitat for six species;
- Nene Valley: within the River Nene regional park, this project will work with farmers to restore habitats and restore tributaries and reaches of the River Nene;
- Northern Devon: this incorporates river, woodland and grassland. The project will recreate and restore 1,000 hectares of priority habitat and restore the River Torridge so that it can support the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel;
- South Downs Way Ahead: encompasses key chalk sites of the South Downs National Park. The NIA will restore 1,000 hectares of chalk grassland and encourage the return of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly and several species of farmland birds; and
- Wild Purbeck: is a variety of river, wetland, heath and woodland habitat as well as the largest onshore oil field in Western Europe. This NIA will introduce livestock to manage heathland , restore wetland and create or restore 15 ponds as well as creating 120 hectares of new woodland and a new seven hectare saline lagoon.
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