Wednesday, April 28, 2010

British Conservationists Wear Red Coats

Two predators cast an eye on each other.

The Daily Telegraph reports on a new publication with a forward by Sir David Attenborough:

It has been called the "Domesday book of British wildlife" - a new publication, compiled by 40 of Britain's leading scientists, provides a complete picture of the state of the country's wild animals and plants.

The book, called Silent Summer, makes for some grim reading. Farmland birds, brown hares, water voles and many butterflies and other insects are in decline because of changing farming practices and loss of habitat, it says.

There are, however, some success stories. The otter, which between 1957 and the Seventies disappeared from 94 per cent of its habitats, is now back at more than a third of those sites, thanks to a special conservation programme.

... [C]ontroversially, the book credits field sports with helping to conserve several species, saying activities like hunting and shooting are "almost universally good" for the hunted species and many other species living in the same habitats.

The 600-page book was written by a team of experts and edited by Professor Emeritus Norman Maclean, of Southampton University's School of Biological Sciences, and a leading UK authority on fish genetics and genomics.

The book records how some farmland birds, including the skylark, have seen their population fall by more than half in recent decades. Farmland birds are a key government barometer for measuring the countryside's health.

.... The book highlights the importance of field sports to the wellbeing of wildlife. Robin Sharp, Chair Emeritus of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, says that "field sports ... have been almost universally good for the hunted species and the non-hunted, non-predators that thrive in the same habitat".

Prof Sharp praises foxhunting and reveals that 86 per cent of woodland managed for hunting had vegetation cover – important for other species – compared with just 64 per cent in unmanaged woodland.

Managed areas also had an average of four more plant species, greater plant diversity and more butterfly species than unmanaged areas.

Prof Sharp also reports on a study of three areas in central England which found that all owners of land used for hunting and shooting had planted new woodland, compared with only 30 per cent of landowners who did not host hunts or shoots.

"This suggests that those who hunt and/or shoot provide significant conservation benefits," he said.

Prof Sharp calls on hunters and shooters to make more effort to explain the benefits of their activities to conservationists, policy-makers and the public.

"Overwhelmingly the target species for field sports have fared well over the last century ... More game-keeping, game crops and habitat management would undoubtedly achieve even more."

4To order a copy.


Laura L. said...

Your articles always give me food for thought. I try to read them over twice to absorb everything.

I like the Running with the Foxes article-I have seen foxes in the field with the sheep and they aren't bothered by them when they're hunting for mice and whatever else they're eating. The LGDs only watch them they don't treat them as a predator. Interesting about the earthworms!

Marge said...

This Hebridean island needs some terriers.

The residents paid a fortune to eliminate the rats; now they're overrun with rabbits.


Seahorse said...

"Running With The Foxes" was a fascinating read! Just shows how often the truth is counter-intuitive.