New Sheffield State of Nature report highlights need to protect our stunning wildlife and wild spaces now more than ever

1st May 2018

Over a third of Sheffield is covered by sites that are designated (i.

e. protected to some extent), and positively managed or in a favourable condition for wildlife consistently increasing. Over 100 Local Wildlife Sites, however, are still in need of better management. Sixteen per cent of Sheffield is wooded, far higher than the UK average of 10 per cent, and over 90 per cent of Sheffield's residents have access to a large area of woodland within 4km of their home. Sheffield's woodland birds are doing well but farmland birds represent four of the five most severe declines in local bird species, mirroring a national trend. Otters have returned to the Don and 26 out of Sheffield's 31 fish species have recolonised or been reintroduced to the city's rivers thanks to tireless efforts to improve its water quality. A new report by Nature Counts, led by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, has brought together a wealth of information on Sheffield's many natural assets. The report highlights a pressing need to do more to protect local wildlife whilst recommending ways to achieve this. The new Sheffield State of Nature 2018 report, the first of its kind and the exciting culmination of the two-year Nature Counts partnership project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been created to show what we know about Sheffield's wildlife. The project's aim has been to explore, celebrate and challenge our knowledge of the local environment to produce a snapshot of how nature in Sheffield is faring. The report was developed through the Nature Counts partnership a collaboration of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, Sheffield City Council Ecology Unit, Museums Sheffield (Weston Park Museum), the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Sorby Natural History Society and Sheffield Bird Study Group. The report showcases the wide variety of habitats that Sheffield boasts, from moorlands, uplands, grasslands, farmlands, rivers and reservoirs in the district's centre, as well as wooded and green urban landscape. This collection of habitats has the potential to support a rich diversity of species. Professor Philip Warren, from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield and a member of the Nature Counts steering group, said: -Most of what we know about what is happening to our biodiversity in Sheffield is through the efforts of hundreds of naturalists, recorders and researchers who dedicate much time and effort to documenting where species are found from year to year. A report such as this is vital in bringing all that information together to see the bigger picture of how our wildlife is faring, what is changing, and where we should be targeting our efforts to conserve the biodiversity in our own back yard. -In 2016 we had the last UK State of Nature report, but it is also important to have reports like this that take stock of our natural environment at regional and local scales, because this is where many practical, on the ground, conservation and planning decisions are made. -The report reveals many fascinating stories about our wildlife, some successes, but some that are serious concerns. These shed light on the many different pressures on biodiversity, and also on the ways in which we can, whether through policy or individual actions, make a real difference. A key finding of the report is that over 36 per cent of the Sheffield district is covered by sites that are designated with 25 per cent protected at European level. Over 99 per cent of Sheffield's Sites of Special Scientific Interest are in favourable or unfavourable recovering condition, higher than the UK figure. Over half of Sheffield's Local Wildlife Sites (LWSs) are in positive conservation management, but over 100 are still not. There is some uncertainty surrounding the future protection of our European-protected habitats and support for the management of farmland habitats post-Brexit. The report also showcases the exceptional extent of Sheffield's woodland. 16 per cent of Sheffield is wooded, far higher than the UK average of 10 per cent. Sheffield supports over a third of South Yorkshire's woodland, despite covering less than a quarter of the area, and 1,256 hectares of ancient woodland can be found across the district, 92 per cent of which is protected to some extent through site designations. Over 90 per cent of Sheffield's residents have access to a large area of woodland within 4km of their home. Sheffield's woodland birds are doing well but others are mirroring national declines. Four out of the five most severe declines of local bird species correspond to farmland specialists. Rivers are central to Sheffield's ecology and draw wildlife into the heart of the city. The report reveals that 26 out of 31 fish species have recolonised or been reintroduced and otters have returned to the Don. The report however reveals that local threats to wildlife are all too real with the near-disappearance of priority species such as white-clawed crayfish, turtle dove and water vole. The report recommends the development of targeted conservation action plans for these key indicator and priority species. It also highlights a need to develop strategic plans to minimise the introduction and spread of key invasive non-native species and their impact on local native wildlife and habitats. Over the last two years, the Nature Counts team has also undertaken a series of citizen science projects, including mapping native bluebells across the city and recording the return of otters to the River Don in the heart of Sheffield. The data and results from these surveys have been incorporated into the main report. It is hoped that the Sheffield State of Nature 2018 report will be a catalyst for nature conservation across Sheffield to better inform and target delivery, working in partnership across the city for the benefit of wildlife and people. Sara Blackburn, Nature Counts Project Coordinator and Editor and Lead Author of the report, said: -Having worked on the Nature Counts project for two years, including producing the Sheffield State of Nature report, it's clear that many individuals and organisations in Sheffield work tirelessly to build a better future for the wildlife and wild spaces we all love. "Despite these efforts, local threats to wildlife, such as invasive species, remain and there's still lots we don't know about Sheffield's natural environment. The challenge now is supporting people to record, monitor and protect Sheffield's key species and habitats, and to promote the active conservation of wildlife for future generations." For more information and to download the full or summary version of the report, visit wildsheffield.com/stateofnature

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