The Wildlife Trusts launch £30 million appeal to kickstart nature’s recovery across 30% of land and sea by 2030

The Wildlife Trusts launch £30 million appeal to kickstart nature’s recovery across 30% of land and sea by 2030

(c) Russell Savory

Today The Wildlife Trusts launch 30 by 30, a public appeal to raise £30 million to start putting nature into recovery across at least 30% of land and sea by 2030.

Nature has suffered serious declines for decades with 26% of UK mammals in danger of disappearing altogether and hedgehogs, red squirrels, bats, turtle doves, cuckoo, water voles and basking sharks all at risk. It is not only individual species that are threatened; the collapse in the abundance of nature also means many of our ecosystems are not functioning as they should.

Lack of wild places and fragmentation of those that remain has had a disastrous effect. Only 10% of land is protected in the UK and much of this is in poor condition. That’s why The Wildlife Trusts recently called on Government to introduce a new landscape designation for England called ‘Wildbelt.’ This would be for the purpose of putting land into nature’s recovery, such as through the creation of wildlife corridors, natural regeneration of woodland, restoration of wetlands, and rewilding.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“We’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal – to raise £30 million and kickstart the process of securing at least 30% of land and sea in nature’s recovery by 2030. We will buy land to expand and join-up our nature reserves; we’ll work with others to show how to bring wildlife back to their land, and we’re calling for nature’s recovery through a new package of policy measures including big new ideas like Wildbelt.

“The next ten years must be a time of renewal, of rewilding our lives, of green recovery. We all need nature more than ever and when we succeed in reaching 30 by 30 we’ll have wilder landscapes that store carbon and provide on-your-doorstep nature for people too. Everyone can support and help us to succeed.

Funds raised by The Wildlife Trusts’ new 30 by 30 appeal will go towards nature recovery projects that will put new land aside for nature as well as repair and link-up existing, fragmented, wild areas to enable wildlife to move around. The aim is to bring nature everywhere Including to the places where people live.

The 30 by 30 projects range from land acquisition to peatland repair and species reintroduction. Examples include:

  • Lost fenland to be restored – Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust aims to restore 50 hectares of the county’s lost peat-fenland at Bourne North Fen to become a home for a wide variety of wildlife, linking up important nature reserves, creating a multi-purpose wetland which will store water for agriculture, improve water quality for consumers, and underpin a local eco-tourism economy.
  • Repairing peatland to lock-up carbon and help wildlife – Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s pioneering carbon farm at Winmarleigh is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK. Drained for agriculture in the 1970s the carbon farm is part of a project across five European countries to see how peatlands capture carbon. Work has started to rewet fields and plant over 100,000 plugs of sphagnum moss.
  • Beaver reintroduction and farmland bird recovery – Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have plans to reintroduce beavers to the Island. A complex of wetland nature reserves in the Eastern Yar Valley offers an exciting opportunity for this wonderful ecosystem engineer work its magic. The Trust is also working on returning missing farmland birds such as cirl bunting and chough to the Island.
  • Converting low-grade agricultural land into nature areas near homes – Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is changing the way nature reserves are acquired giving highest priority to land with low existing wildlife value where the potential for biodiversity gain is greatest. These areas will be transformed into new species-rich wild areas that will be freely accessible to people and will help capture carbon and prevent flooding. 

Liz Bonnin, science and natural history broadcaster and ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts says:

“We know that the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world and we’re facing the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Put plainly, our wildlife is disappearing and at an alarming rate. Some of our most-loved species are threatened. We’re talking about hedgehogs, barn owls and red squirrels – not the exotic wildlife we think of when we talk about extinction. But there is hope. The Wildlife Trusts have an audacious plan to raise £30 million to heal at least 30% of our land and sea for nature so it can recover by 2030. We can all help them make it happen.” 

Alison Steadman, actor and ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts says:

“Over the last few years, I have been in awe of young people’s concern for the planet, the school strikes and their passion for the natural world. The older generation, too, have been marching for change because they remember a time when things were different. 

“I am supporting The Wildlife Trusts’ inspiring 30 by 30 appeal because we all need nature in our lives once more. This ambitious campaign will unite people in working for a common goal that benefits us all – one of nature’s recovery. We can all do something to help wildlife thrive again – we must do this for nature, for ourselves and for future generations.”

Richard Walker, MD of Iceland and Ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts says:

“During lockdown people across the country reconnected with the natural world around them, appreciating the positive impact nature had on their health and wellbeing. Now, as we start to recover, we need to put nature at the heart of our plans. For too long we’ve taken it for granted. The Wildlife Trusts are calling on every one of us – people, businesses, local authorities and government agencies – to join them in achieving this vision. By working together we can ensure 30% of the UK land and seas are restored and protected for nature’s recovery. As a leader in the business sector, I know that it’s my responsibility to help protect nature in the communities we serve.  That’s why I’m supporting and working with The Wildlife Trusts having seen the benefits of their vital work across the country.”

The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 by 30 appeal asks people, individuals, corporates and communities to donate here.

Join our Big Wild Walk fundraiser 26th October – 1st November!

Donate locally to Avon Wildlife Trust's Ecological Emergency appeal here. 

Editor's notes

Species at risk

State of Nature report 2019.

Multiple benefits of restoring nature

Restored habitats will benefit wildlife, climate and people because they capture carbon and bring people all the health benefits known to be associated with contact with the natural world. Flourishing nature is also the foundation for our food security, and declining pollinators threaten our ability to grow food in future.

Current extent of protected land and sea

About 10% of UK land is currently protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Across the UK this divides as follows:

  • England has 8% of land protected as SSSI
  • Wales has 12% of land protected as SSSI
  • Northern Ireland has 8% of land protected as Areas of SSI.
  • Scotland has 12.6% of land protected as SSSI

However, even these low percentages of land protected are misleading because they mask the fact that much of this land is known to be in poor condition. For example, in:

  • England – 60% of SSSIs (by area) are in unfavourable condition
  • Wales – 68% of SSSIs are in unfavourable condition
  • Northern Ireland – 39% of SSSI ‘features’ are in unfavourable condition
  • Scotland – 35% of SSSI ‘features’ are in unfavourable condition

So, it’s probable that more than half of UK SSSIs – which are meant to represent some of our best sites for wildlife – are in unfavourable condition.  Given that SSSIs are very unevenly distributed across the UK, the areas of land legally protected for nature that also happen to be in good condition are extremely patchy.

We use the figures for Sites of Special Scientific Interest as a baseline because they are protected areas which must be managed for the benefit of nature.  The official assessment (p.170) of protected areas include figures for places that have landscape designations - National Parks and AONBs – even though these are not managed to benefit wildlife and often have little biodiversity value.

There are other areas such as non-statutory Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) that are good for nature. These sites should receive protection through the planning system but development and lack of management are significant threats.  In addition, we don’t know what condition most LWS are in. The most recent report from The Wildlife Trusts on LWS in England shows that we only have information about the condition of 15% of LWS. 

Our call for 30% of land to be protected for nature is not a call for 30% of land to be designated a SSSI – instead it is a vision for 30% that’s better protected, better connected and put into recovery for nature.

At sea the picture is different. While large areas appear to be protected, harmful practices are still allowed across designated sites – such as construction, dredging and bottom trawling (fishing) that destroys seabed habitats. That’s why The Wildlife Trusts are calling for Highly Protected Marine Areas where these practices would be banned.

Why putting 30% into recovery is our target

Our campaign takes its lead from The UN  Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This is an agreement between countries based on natural and biological resources, with 3 main goals: to protect biodiversity; to use biodiversity without destroying it; and, to share any benefits from genetic diversity equally. The CBD has proposed that at least 30% of the world’s land and seas should be protected in the next decade to prevent the destruction of the planet’s biodiversity, as part of a global framework to protect the Earth’s plant and wildlife.

The 30% threshold of wildlife habitat in a landscape has been worked out by looking at a range of different species and their requirements. At less than 30% cover, habitat patches are too small and isolated, and species richness (the number of species in any one area), abundance and survival rates decline. This is what has led to the UK becoming one of the most nature depleted countries on Earth.  Where habitat cover is greater than 30% habitat patches will, on average, be larger and the distance between patches will typically be less, resulting in greater connectivity.  This means that if local extinctions do occur, other populations of the same species can move into the area easily.

UK Context

​​The UK has a human-dominated landscape with a large degree of habitat loss and fragmented natural ecosystems. It is one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet – see the 2019 State of Nature report. In areas where there is little semi-natural habitat left, research shows that ecological sustainability can be achieved through the creation of ecological networks.

The principle is well established and was politically accepted in the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper. This was informed by the Lawton review – Making Space for Nature – which was set up to look at our wildlife sites and whether they are capable of responding and adapting to the growing challenges of climate change and other demands on our land. The Lawton review said no, England’s collection of wildlife sites are generally too small and too isolated to provide a healthy natural environment; we need more space for nature. It concluded that in order to create a coherent and resilient ecological network, we need more, bigger, better and joined space for nature.

Many Wildlife Trusts have thought about what this might look like and have mapped ecological networks – mostly on land, but some also at sea. This thinking has now developed into a call for a Nature Recovery Networks. This spatially-planned approach to working out where best to restore nature requires high quality, proactively-managed data detailing our most precious habitats and species. Funding is needed to implement a new era of ecological data gathering and management.

The Wildlife Trusts published ‘Let nature help – how nature’s recovery is essential for tackling the climate crisis’ earlier in 2020. It outlined key habitats that will store carbon if restored. We need to identify, map and protect these ecosystems, and restore them locally as part of a national Nature Recovery Network. We also need to incentivise farmers and other land managers to improve their land for nature and contribute to this network. At sea, we need effective marine planning, and an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas.

Healthy ecosystems on land and at sea can absorb vast quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere and lock it away as carbon. However, human activities such as intensive arable farming, overgrazing, overfishing and irresponsible development release this stored carbon and drive nature’s decline. As a first step, we urgently need to protect important ecosystems so their carbon isn’t released and they can continue to absorb CO2. We also need to put nature into recovery across a third of land and sea, so the natural world can cope with the climate change that is already happening and contribute effectively to stabilising it. Doing this across a mosaic of connected habitats will also deliver countless other benefits:

  • Flood prevention
  • Coastal defences
  • Healthier lives
  • Natural resilience

The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts believe that people need nature and it needs us. We are here to make the world wilder and to make nature part of everyone’s lives. We are a grassroots movement of 46 charities with more than 850,000 members and 38,000 volunteers. No matter where you are in Britain, there is a Wildlife Trust inspiring people and saving, protecting and standing up for the natural world. With the support of our members, we care for and restore special places for nature on land and run marine conservation projects and collect vital data on the state of our seas. Every Wildlife Trust works within its local community to inspire people to create a wilder future – from advising thousands of landowners on how to manage their land to benefit wildlife, to connecting hundreds of thousands of school children with nature every year.