Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Most nature reserves are too small to halt the decline of once common species

10 March, 2014 - 14:05 -- World Land Trust
British Red Kite soaring in the sky looking for prey

Most nature reserves are too small to halt the decline of once common species, says John Burton, Chief Executive of World land Trust (WLT). He argues that land purchase to expand nature reserves is essential to increase the survival chances of threatened species.

In Britain the Red Kite and the Buzzard, which have both increased their range in recent years, are heralded as conservation successes. And rightly so. But these successes are few and far between and tend to mask numerous other conservation failures.

Wild birds and other species suffer from the ‘island effect’. The size of an island has a direct relationship to the number of species that occupies it – and increasingly, nature reserves are islands in the midst of agricultural and man modified landscapes.

“Until we can get to grips with the fact that the majority of nature reserves are too small for longterm conservation, I will remain very pessimistic about the future of wildlife in Britain.”
(John Burton, WLT Chief Executive)

“Until we can get to grips with the fact that the majority of nature reserves are too small for longterm conservation, I will remain very pessimistic about the future of wildlife in Britain,” said John.

In Britain resident species with restricted habitat requirements, such as Hawfinch have a gloomy future. And the outlook for migrants such as Redstarts and Yellow Wagtails is just as grim. Trans-saharan migrants, such as the Cuckoo, once occurred in all the parks and commons around London. Now they are a rarity mostly found in reedbeds and moorlands. Yellow Wagtails, Turtledoves, Nightingales, Snipe, Spotted Flycatchers, Swallows, Wheatears and many, many other species are in what appears to be terminal decline.

Meanwhile, species like Common Lizard and Grass Snake are increasingly found in widely separated populations, and as local extinctions occur there is little or no hope of re-colonisation after natural disasters such as floods or fires.

“Making a donation, however small, to land purchase for conservation is a positive and effective step that we can all take.”
(John Burton, WLT’s Chief Executive)

As reserves are currently too small to halt the decline of wildlife populations, then buying land to create and extend reserves becomes ever more essential. And this is precisely WLT’s mission.

“Many of the reserves WLT has funded over the past 25 years are big enough to have a positive impact on the survival of species. Making a donation, however small, to land purchase for conservation is a positive and effective step that we can all take,” said John. “And if we can create strategic corridors between protected areas, as in the case of the Keruak Corridor in Borneo, the subject of a WLT special appeal, then land purchase has an even bigger impact.”

More information

Read John’s Green Diary on this subject: We must act now to halt the decline of bird populations »

Red Kites can be seen at Kites Hill in Gloucestershire, WLT's only reserve in the UK. Kites Hill is open all year round and is well worth a visit in the spring. Directions to Kites Hill »

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