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North west Wales' most popular visitor sites recorded fewer wildlife observations and greater environmental threats during the Summer of 2021, according to a recent study.
The assessment looked at key visitor areas, comparing the lockdown period in June 2020 with the busy tourist season that followed in June 2021.
Whilst just a snapshot, there are some interesting observations which can be considered to manage tourism in a more sustainable way as part of Wales’ green recovery out of the pandemic. It shows we all have a part to play in helping to tackle the Nature Emergency.
The original lockdown survey, undertaken in June 2020 at key sites in North West Wales, revealed that some bird life and plant life responded positively to the reduced disturbance, and levels of littering were greatly reduced. The opposite was found at the sites revisited in 2021 - less abundance and diversity of bird life was recorded, along with more litter and more footpath erosion.
Naturalist Ben Porter was commissioned by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Snowdonia National Park Authority and the National Trust to undertake the surveys. He visited the four upland sites of Yr Wyddfa/Snowdon, Cadair Idris, Carneddau and Cwm Idwal, and the lowland areas of Coed y Brenin, Ceunant Llennyrch and Newborough/Llanddwyn.
Reflecting on the surveys, Ben Porter said: “Whilst we know that longer-term data are needed for more reliable comparisons to the exceptional period of 2020 lockdown, there are clear signs here about our impact on the natural world.”
Fewer bird species were recorded after lockdown compared with during lockdown - a total of 65 bird species across the upland sites in 2020, compared to 50 in 2021.
There were other factors at play during the survey that likely played a big part in these differences too, especially in the upland areas. There was a stark contrast in the two seasons’ weather conditions, with a very cold spring in 2021 delaying breeding seasons for many bird species in the upland areas, leading to fewer fledgling birds recorded at the time of the survey in 2021.
Nevertheless, the role of increased disturbance from the return of high visitor numbers in some areas is a key factor that has played a part in the differences between 2020 and 2021.
A disheartening and clear contrast between 2020 and 2021 was of the amount of litter and waste recorded. The issue of fly camping was observed during the study - a significant problem since the re-opening, post-lockdown, with large numbers of people camping unlawfully around popular sites, often leaving litter, waste, and toiletries and popular footpaths were showing signs of widening and erosion as visitors returned.
There are plans to repeat the survey in years to come.
A detailed summary and individual site-by-site reports are available on the Snowdonia National Park Authority website.
Read what Angela Jones, Partnerships Manager, Snowdonia National Park Authority and the report author's Ben Porter had to say about the first report in this article written for CJS here.
The UK's rarest nesting seabird, the roseate tern, has broken breeding records for the sixth year in a row on the RSPB’s Coquet Island in Northumberland. Coquet Island is home to the only breeding colony of roseate terns in the UK, and thanks to dedicated conservation their numbers have climbed from 104 breeding pairs in 2016 to 150 pairs in 2021
Roseate terns almost went extinct back in the 19th century because of the demand for their feathers in women’s hats. These striking black-capped white birds grow a flush of rosy-coloured feathers on their breast during the breeding season, which the male shows off by flying above the female with a fish in his beak. In 1989 there were only 467 breeding pairs across the whole of the UK and Ireland, but dedicated conservation efforts have boosted Ireland’s population to 1,989 breeding pairs, with all of the UK’s 150 breeding pairs living on Coquet Island.
This year was also a record for breeding pairs of common terns and kittiwakes on Coquet Island, the latter of which are on the red list of conservation concern. This year Stephen Lunn, long-time volunteer and award-winning blacksmith, created bespoke ‘kittiwake hammocks’ to act as extra nesting spaces on cliffs. These were a big success and helped to boost the breeding pair numbers from 453 to 466.
The Canal & River Trust, the national waterways and wellbeing charity, has been awarded over £1.4 million in funding for seven major heritage projects across the country. This is the second tranche of funding for the Trust, which received over £1.6m in the first round last year.
The funding, which has been awarded via the Heritage Stimulus Fund, part of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, will help the charity’s vital work to safeguard the nation’s historic canals and rivers, so the public can enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of being by water.
The following projects will benefit from funding: Locks 13 and 15 on the Ashton Canal in Greater Manchester, Ryders Green Locks 1 and 3 in Sandwell, Wigan Locks 73 and 80 and Bingley Five Rise on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, plus conservation work along the Hertford Union Canal, at Soulbury in Bucks, and at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal in Stockport.
Richard Parry, chief executive at the Canal & River Trust, said: “Canals are at the heart of the nation’s industrial heritage, forming the transport network that enabled trade and industry to expand more than 200 years ago. Now they provide valuable health and wellbeing benefits to those who spend time by or on the water, boating, exercising, or simply enjoying the peace of mind that can come from stepping away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. They provide corridors for nature in the heart of our towns and cities. “Faced with the demands of a changing climate and more extreme weather events, the task of looking after these ageing assets is a greater challenge than ever, so that we keep them in good working order. We are delighted that the importance of our work has been recognised once again by Historic England and the Government. These Heritage Stimulus Fund grants will be spent during our annual winter works programme, which is essential to ensure our canals and rivers can continue to provide a valuable resource to the public.”
Stark images of extreme weather, wildlife in decline and pollution were accompanied by images of hope and nature recovery in Campaign for National Parks’ (CNP) Photography Competition 2021.
Following the release of CNP’s National Parks and the Climate Emergency report in June and in the run up to COP26, this year’s competition focused on documenting climate change in National Parks, attracting entries from National Parks across England and Wales, showing both the impact of climate change and the work underway to address this.
Main award winner: Exmoor-based photographer Shaun Davey won over the judges with his stunning image of sunset on Porlock Marsh in Exmoor National Park to be crowned the overall winner.
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