UK to get 'motorways for animals'

Corridors of greenery that will allow endangered species to migrate form part of comprehensive review of country's wildlife

A A A

Some of England's most endangered species could be brought back from the brink of extinction as the result of a year-long government wildlife review to be launched tomorrow, which will focus on "rewilding" – returning land to its natural state – and extending habitats.

The review, to be announced this week by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Hilary Benn, is aimed at expanding "ecological corridors". These will allow animals to migrate across the country when climate change threatens their existing homes, and will slow the dramatic loss of species caused by decades of intensive farming and urban development.

According to Natural England, the English countryside has suffered over the past 50 years, with biodiversity loss widespread across the country. Only 3 per cent of grasslands remain rich in native plants, while a decline in the quality of wetlands has led to a 90 per cent decline in breeding snipe, and a lack of woodland management has contributed to a 50 per cent decline of woodland butterflies.

The UK is expected to miss an international target on halting biodiversity loss agreed at the EU summit in Gothenburg in 2001. Globally, a third of all amphibians, a fifth of all mammals and an eighth of birds are threatened with extinction.

"This is a much-needed review," said Sue Armstrong-Brown, head of countryside and species conservation for the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds (RSPB). "It has become clear that the infrastructure we currently have to protect biodiversity is not sufficient. Climate change has now brought a new urgency to the debate."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the review is being launched in response to a "general recognition... that conservation needs to be practised over larger areas", and an awareness that ecological corridors will become more important as climate change force species to migrate.

Keith Kirby, environmental forestry and woodland officer with Natural England, said wildlife sites are increasingly like islands. "If we think a species is going to die out at one place and reappear in another without anything to connect them, that will not happen. With climate change, conditions are going to change and species will need to be able to move to other sites."

A piece of arable land will be home to about 500 species, whereas a designated site of special scientific interest might have several thousand.

Defra is keen to emulate biodiversity schemes such as the Great Fen Project in Cambridgeshire, which aims to create 3,700-hectare wetland between Huntingdon and Peterborough. The habitat restoration project hopes to secure land between two existing nature reserves in order to create a vast green space and preserve rare species.

"Now we are fulfilling the original dream of the national parks, our next task is to enrich and link together more wonderful places where wildlife and bees, flowers and trees can flourish," said Mr Benn. "So I will now ask a group of people who best understand our countryside to come up with a plan that will do just that."

The Government is also looking to follow the example of the Wetland Vision, a 50-year project that aims to create new wetlands and restore the country's existing ones. Earlier this month Natural England announced that it is to give £4m of funding for 2,000 hectares of wetland recovery projects over the next two years. "It is about planning and farming," said Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts. "The Government will really have to work with farmers on this if they are going to join up sites, and innovate if they are to continue development. There is no reason we can't have things like green bridges over motorways like the Dutch do, to enable wildlife to move."

Five species doing well

Wasp spider Massively increasing population has moved northwards in response to our warming climate.

Brown hare The National Gamebag Census has shown a big increase over the past decade.

Pipistrelle bat The bat population has grown by 65 per cent since 1999.

Beaver In May the Scottish Beaver Trial reintroduced beavers into the wild for the first time in 400 years.

Bittern Declared extinct in the UK in the 1880s, this shy wading bird has been rescued by conservation programmes.

Five species that need help

Tiger moth Experts predict that climate change will send the threatened moth northwards.

Bumblebee Of the 25 species of bumblebee native to the UK, three are extinct here.

Bechstein's bat One of the rarest bats in Britain; only 1,500 are thought to live here.

Natterjack toad Now extinct in Wales, and restricted to 50 sites in Britain.

Wryneck The destruction of its woodland habitat has threatened this relative of the woodpecker.

Suggested Topics
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk