It’s no secret that we’re in the middle of a biodiversity emergency. Nature has declined massively over the last 70 years, and we now have less space for nature, with species populations declining, and habitats becoming more isolated and fragmented. In 2017 Wild Oxfordshire worked with BBOWT and TVERC to create the Oxfordshire State of Nature report. This tracked the national picture and showed the widespread loss of species-rich grasslands and fragmentation of habitats. The State of Nature highlighted that we urgently need to create larger and more connected areas of high-quality habitats. We also need people to come together to take the best action on the ground, and the funding to make that happen.
These indicators show that, at best, there have been some very small increases in nature since 2017, and other areas are still in decline. This is in no way the step-change needed to achieve nature’s recovery. We need to reverse the decline and achieve significant increases if we are to survive the nature and climate emergencies.
We need as many organisations, groups, and individuals as possible helping. Fortunately, there are many people out there with the shared aim of creating a more biodiverse Oxfordshire, and Wild Oxfordshire, along with our partners, understand what’s needed to achieve nature recovery, and how everyone can contribute.
Oxfordshire County Council has been named by the government as a ‘responsible authority’ for the Oxfordshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy. Development of the upcoming Local Nature Recovery Strategy will involve working with the wide variety of communities, businesses, and landowners in the County to set out priorities and actions for nature recovery in Oxfordshire and identify where we should focus our efforts at the county-scale (building on the work done with identifying our Conservation Target Areas, State of Nature, and the draft Nature Recovery Network. We will be working closely with the county council to co-ordinate these plans for nature recovery in Oxfordshire, and urge everyone to get involved as the process unrolls over the next 18 months.
We have excellent data available from the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre, and it is really important that everyone shares wildlife sightings, locations of potential priority habitat and potential Local Wildlife Sites with TVERC so that decisions are based on the best information available, we can collectively monitor how nature is doing, and we can change track if we need to. Record your wildlife sightings here.
Also essential will be a delivery plan - we don’t want another strategy just sitting on the shelf. We have some brilliant examples of delivering nature’s recovery in Oxfordshire at the landscape-scale, including Catchment Partnerships such as the Evenlode Catchment Partnership, Farmer Clusters such as the North East Cotswold, and Conservation Target Areas. There are also hundreds of groups delivering nature recovery in their local area at a smaller scale, with just a few of these examples on our website.
All this work requires funding, and that is why we’re working together on a Green Finance Strategy for Oxfordshire to catalyse a framework of natural capital investment. This will radically enhance nature, delivering natural solutions to climate change and wider benefits for communities, health, water, and the environment. It will enable the development of a project pipeline and fund delivery of environmental enhancement projects by leveraging public, private, third sector and philanthropic funds. The market will function with high integrity and transparency and be guided by local evidence in alignment with the priorities of the forthcoming Local Nature Recovery Strategy. This will be launched in September so make sure you’re signed up to the LNP newsletter to hear more.
As mentioned earlier, we need everyone to get involved and play an active role in the co-design of the strategy. Look out for opportunities to get involved later this year, and in the meantime, keep doing what you’re doing on your patch, whether that’s your garden, community greenspace, nature reserve, farm, estate, farmer cluster, river catchment, or conservation target area.