South Downs National Park

South Downs National Park to ‘renature’ area six times the size of Westminster

Image credit: Rob Joines | Unsplash

A campaign to raise £100m has been launched to “renature” an area six times the size of the City of Westminster in the South Downs National Park.

The UK’s newest national park currently has a quarter of its land managed for nature such as woods, heaths, ponds and nature reserves.

The park authority is now hoping to create an additional 13,000 hectares - approximately the size of 21,000 football pitches - of habitat for plants and animals to thrive.

This extra land would bring 33 per cent of land in the national park managed for nature, exceeding the UN-backed target of 30 per cent by 2030. The park authority is in fact aiming for 67 per cent of land managed for nature by the same date. At the recent G7 summit, held in Cornwall, UK, all members present signed up to the global '30×30' initiative.

Ecologist Andrew Lee, who heads countryside policy and management for the national park, said: “The biodiversity crisis is real and it’s happening before our eyes, but the good news is it’s not too late to turn the tide of wildlife loss. Nature can thrive anywhere given the right support and we can all work together to make a real difference.

“Located in the busiest part of the UK in the South East, the South Downs National Park has a crucial role to play to lead nature recovery and be the hub of an interconnected ‘nature network’ for the entire region. Nature needs us now and we also need nature, perhaps now more than ever before in this post-pandemic world, where green spaces have taken on a new level of importance.”

“Apart from being incredibly beautiful and part of our shared appreciation for planet Earth, nature gives us everything – whether it be clean water, fresh air or food to eat. We’re launching this campaign without a moment to lose because it’s time for all of us to help nature to renature.”

The latest national State of Nature report showed that 41 per cent of UK species studied have declined, with 133 species assessed to have already been lost from British shores since 1500. Around a quarter of the UK’s mammals could also be at risk of disappearing altogether with climate change, pollution and habitat loss being among the causing factors.

The biodiversity of the South Downs includes more than 20 species of butterfly along with 12 native reptile and amphibian species. Lee said: “The crux of this initiative is that we want nature everywhere for everyone. Nature recovery in the South Downs National Park is not one big ‘rewilding’ project: it will be achieved through lots of different projects, both large and small, that together will create nature recovery.”

“Our goal will be achieved by working with our farmers, land managers, communities and local authorities, as well as other partners and environmental charities. It will include everything from hedgerow restoration; to planting thousands of trees; to the restoration of individual village ponds; to planting new wildflower corridors.”

“Nature recovery is about a National Park that is better for wildlife and people, that will also restore, conserve and enhance the magnificent and varied landscapes that make the South Downs so special.”

Donations to the South Downs National Park Trust’s appeal can be made online.

In December 2020, the UK government pledged to plant 800,000 trees across the country as part of its 'Green Recovery Challenge'. Sixty-eight projects in the UK will funding to create over 300 hectares of woodlands, restore hedgerows and plant trees in cities.

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