Our extraordinary biodiversity and cultural heritage needs protecting
Almost 200 of the rarest and most threatened species in the UK including plants, birds and butterflies have been recorded in the project area across 32 important and vulnerable habitats.
Species missing from the landscape, maybe for generations, may also have cultural significance in the area and are documented in place names such as Cater (Beaver), Earne (the nesting place of eagles) and ‘mart’ indicating the presence of pine martens.
These species were once as much a part of the Cumbrian identity as Wordsworth’s daffodils. As this local connection between nature, culture and heritage has diminished over time, so too has the relationship between communities and the natural world around them.
Our extensive species loss needs addressing to prevent further extinctions
Natural England reviewed species in the South Cumbria lowlands around Morecambe Bay and found many that have become locally extinct over the last 200 years, including species such as goldilocks aster and burnt orchid, sturgeon and sea-eagle.
Some species survive in isolated pockets, including maidenhair fern on a wet Arnside rock face and northern-dune tiger beetle in the Drigg dunes. Many more, however, are lost altogether for an assortment of reasons, including hunting, changes in habitat management, habitat loss altogether, and the movement of species reacting to climate change. The landscape today is impoverished in species and our experience of it diminished as a result. However, positive change due to recent successful habitat restoration undertaken by projects like Rusland Horizons, Dunes of Barrow, and Headlands2Headspace now provide ideal conditions for species restoration and reintroduction.
Our extensive cultural loss needs addressing to ensure long-term restoration
In some cases, natural heritage loss leaves few physical signs, and the presence of some species only survives in the memory of older generations; passing from the awareness of the wider community.
This ‘invisible loss’ or ‘shifting baseline’, and acceptance of a degraded landscape as ‘the way it should be’ has been made worse by demographic change in South Cumbria. Many of the people living in South Cumbria today are unaware of lost species and often lack the ‘intergenerational connectedness’ to their local natural history: out of sight is literally out of mind.
Nature, culture and heritage are deeply entwined - restoration of a locally extinct native species will help reconnect the people of South Cumbria with their natural landscapes. We will be running workshops for people to help shape the decisions about managing their local natural heritage for positive environmental change.
Natural restoration is in demand nationally and enhanced by local initiatives
Bio2020 is a national government strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services published in 2011, and provides a comprehensive picture of how we are implementing our international and EU commitments. It sets out the government’s ambition to halt overall loss of England’s biodiversity by 2020, support healthy well-functioning ecosystems and establish coherent ecological networks, with more and better places for nature for the benefit of wildlife. This includes aims to get 90% of priority habitats (definition or link) in favourable or recovering condition and at least 50% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in favourable condition.
Complementing this strategy document are successful local practical projects which have restored or improved habitats in the area. These include those overseen by the Morecambe Bay Local Nature Partnership, including the Morecambe Bay Nature Improvement Area project; the Headlands to Headspace Landscape Partnership; Dunes of Barrow WREN-funded restoration; Wetlands Vision funded Morecambe Bay Wetlands project; and the Catchment Restoration Fund’s ‘Source to Sea’ project. Cumbria Wildlife Trust has also been working hard to restore raised bogs in the area with extensive peatland restoration at Foulshaw, Meathop and Ireland Mosses. These examples of habitat restoration provide healthy functioning ecosystems for our introduced species to thrive in.
South Cumbria has areas of substantial deprivation; demanding improvements to health and wellbeing
Barrow-in-Furness has 13 communities that rank within the 10% most deprived of areas in England, six of which are classified as being within the 3% most deprived nationally. Three of these communities are located in Central ward, while the remaining three are located in the Ormsgill, Hindpool and Barrow Island wards. Furthermore, over 20 areas in Lancaster District rank in the most deprived 25% of the country. Of these, seven areas are in the worst 5% nationally, and one area in the most deprived 1% of all 32,468 areas in England.
The project will work within these communities, running events and activities outside and developing apps record the natural world within the project and ecomuseum. The project will also offer huge opportunities to local schools, colleges and other groups to participate in a ‘living laboratory’ of natural heritage restoration.