Woods, Moor, Heath The Truth about Wildlife

Woods, Moor, Heath

Similar Content

Browse content similar to Woods, Moor, Heath. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



The New Forest in Hampshire. Once a Royal hunting forest, now one of


the nation's great woodland treasures that we can all enjoy.


And as it happens this is my own personal neck of the woods too.


This is where I cut my teeth. It was a different world. Maybe one


blue tit I can hear. Certainly not the buzz of insects. It is


disastrous required. There are not the birds that used to be here.


That is the truth of it. It's really really sad. Of all the birds


in the UK it's our woodland ones which have suffered the greatest


declines in the last two decades. Like the beautiful wood-warbler.


Sleek-looking bird. Sadly its numbers are down by two thirds and


it's on our red list of endangered birds. It's the same with the


lesser spotted woodpecker. Of our three UK woodpeckers this is the


rarest. Vulnerable too, the nimble marsh tit, and the lovely redstart.


Climate change and loss of the birds' habitat in other countries


may be partially to blame for their decline but important too is the


You might think this is a beautiful glade but where are the flowers,


where are the young trees? In the New Forest there is very little new


forest. That is simply because everything from Viadana simply


eaten away. -- from here it down. And caught in the act. The culprits.


Some of the Forest's 1200 fallow deer. People love to see them but


their voracious grazing has damaged the habitat for other species, like


birds and butterflies. It's a problem in woodlands throughout the


UK. With no natural predators the deer numbers build up. Here the


Forestry Commission try to control them by culling but it's difficult


to get some landowners to agree to it. It's the impact the deer's


grazing habits have had on butterflies such as the stunning


pearl-bordered fritillary that's particularly worrying. Once common


throughout England and Wales, its survival here is highly threatened.


Parts of the New Forest, like this enclosure I've come to, are now


managed to help the butterflies by keeping the deer out. But Hampshire


ecologist Adrian Newton believes more could be done to make the New


Forest the vibrant stronghold for butterflies it once was. What is


going on here? The more species you have the more butterflies you can


have. This honeysuckle. The deer are door read. This would be very


hard hit. Would this be like a hundred and 50 years ago? Many


people came here. People would stick their business card on a tree


to claim it. It was that important. Could we rebuild it? We could. It


is not that difficult because we understand these things, they need


food plants. So what are the plants need? They need well lit woodland,


light coming in and not to be eaten. So we know good woodland management


can make a difference. Keep the deer down, get the habitat right


for plants and insects and the butterflies should flourish. Now


I'm heading north to Gloucestershire to another of the


UK's best-loved woodlands, the Forest of Dean. Just how


passionately we feel as a nation about our great woodlands was seen


earlier this year after the government announced plans to sell


them. Some of the biggest protests were held here in the Dean. With


strength of feeling like this, the Government backed down. So is the


future of this great forest safe? Well if I'm honest with you I've


got my doubts come up here and I'll show you what I'm talking about.


Vast tracts of non-native, for plantation. From horizon to horizon.


From the 1920s onwards great swathes of native broadleaf trees,


mostly oaks, were cut down here by the Forestry Commission to make way


for conifers grown for timber. And plantations like these, Douglas


Firs have had a devastating impact on the forest's wildlife. It's


pretty poor, it really is, there's some moss growing on these felled


boughs, some of the saddest looking bracken I've ever seen in my life


because so little is perforating through this deep dark dingy canopy


I'm even more disheartened by what one local conservationist has


I am even more disheartened by what one local conservationist has


invited me to come and see. The Forestry Commission says it is


committed to conserving wildlife. So why is still planting non-native


Douglas fir trees here? It should be planted with nature species. Now


with Douglas fir which originates on the west coast of America. It


has no association with vertebra so when it grows tall there are no


Is it an opportunity missed? If this were planted broadleaf it


would see perfectly. Why is it not happening? Because the Parameters


the Forestry Commission work till are basically economic parameters.


They would argue it is a good thing for us in this country to grow


timber but the question is should we grower it on one of our most


important ancient forest lands? There must be other places to


grower and the Forest of Dean. This should be native would land. What


is the mix of assiduous against, for here? About 40 per cent, for.


Our intrigued to discover how the Forestry Commission defence it's


policy. Would it not be better to put more broad leaves in? These


non-native things are not brilliant for biodiversity. We have some


biodiversity benefits. They are different than those of broadleaf


trees but they are important in other ways. So we maintain goshawks


Would it not be better over all to replant purely with fraud Leeds?


do not think so. We get a better return with con of the trees. They


grow quickly, lot up carbon, have a rapid turnover which means we can


influence landscape. There are many good reasons for social, economic


and Obara mental reasons for planting, this. I would argue the


main reason for planting these is cash. You're not putting this in


the ground to help wildlife, this is a cash crop. Not specifically


for wildlife, but not for cash either. We used about 60 million


cubic metres of timber every year and that timber has to come from


somewhere. Most of it comes from abroad. 85 per cent of it. Is it


not right that we should grow some of that at Hove as well? Wildlife


that genuinely needs these, this. I am not convinced. I am not


convinced it could not fight a broad leafed alternative. As far as


planting these things at the expense of our ancient woodland, I


would rather not. It is trees like this that are really important.


What an award beauty. In the UK we now only have two per cent of the


ancient woodland we used to. On land it is our richest habitat,


more things live here than in any other. We have been going on and on


about the loss of trouble go rain forests where in our own backyard


our woodland has been disappearing without a peep. It is a real shame.


However, with the right management restoring ancient woodland that's


been planted with conifers can work. They have cut this tree down and


let the light in. Wood sorrel here, foxglove, violent, we have the


pioneers, those plants which are coming back from the ancient


woodland that used to be here. And, with restoration of the habitat


there's a better chance for birds like the pied flycatcher and the


nuthatch, which thrive in this kind Yet only one per cent of our


ancient woodland is currently being restored. Have we got our


conservation priorities right? Well, I for one think we've been focusing


rather too much time and effort on some what shall I say, more


favoured species Dormice have been dramatically in decline - their


numbers have dropped by more than 50 per cent in the last 25 years.


That's because of the loss of woodlands and hedgerows where they


live. Special dormice bridges are being built to avoid disturbing


their habitats. This one in Wales cost the local council �190,000.


The big question we have to ask is with so much at stake are we


spending a disproportionate amount of time and effort on the


undeniably cute and cuddly? I've come to Paignton Zoo to find out


more about why so much attention is lavished on these little mammals.


Here they run a captive breeding programme. In the last decade


they've re-introduced more than 600 dormice into northern counties of


England where they'd become extinct. There have been the infamous


dormouse bridges and people think they are too expensive, one little


mouse crossing the road, is it worth it? It is hard to judge.


Hopefully other animals will benefit. I cannot say about the


cost. But I think it was an experiment worth doing and possibly


vitally important. It may have got these animals into new areas and


allowed populations to be more varied. We are getting numbers out


there are more. They are developing the areas themselves and spreading


out into areas that are not their prime habitat but they can manage


in them and seen to be doing well. Is there a chance we are practising


survival of the duties? We are using an attractive animal for the


benefit of the others. By saving this one we will be saving natural


pommes, waterways in that area, then we should be working to make


sure those are suitable for the animals that also need it. To raise


money for a project you need something like this to do it. It is


important work. We got a step ahead before this animal became on the


brink of extinction in this country. A lot of what Julian says makes


sense. But I have to say and still not convinced when it comes to the


cost of looking after this one creature. We asked one UK wildlife


charity how much was spent in the UK on doormats conservation every


year. They said they could not tell us. It worries me. Conservation


should know how much it is spending. But there may also said they did


not really want to tell us "because the figure might seem very high and


that would not sound very good because the species is still in


And whilst our attention is caught up with the fluffy and cute, some


of our most fragile wildlife areas have been left in a shocking state.


This is Dartmoor, not an area I know very well, but I have been


told there is a big problem on these upland moors. Vast areas of


blanket bog - it precious peat reserves that protect the


environment by holding stores of carbon - have been drying out. And


from what I can see, the wildlife seems to have been vanishing, too.


We have been up here for a couple of hours. The only birds we have


seen not two Swallows and they have gone from one horizon to the other.


It is an ecological -- ornithological desert here. I don't


know why I'm bothering. There is nothing to look at.


The man charged with the job of restoring this sorry looking bog


land is Andy Guy from Natural England. The most important impact


on the landscape here have been overgrazing and burning. The


numbers of sheep went through the roof up here. That had a really


detrimental impact on the heath habitats. Burning, or swaling - a


setting fire to the moorland vegetation - is an effective way to


encourage the growth of fresh grass for livestock. But according to


Natural England, the burns have been done too often and too


extensively. Repeated fires, they say, are destroying the peat or


blanket bog on the tops of the moors. This is a blanket bog, isn't


it? The thing is, with the best of respect, this does not look like


some of the blanket bogs that I have seen. There is no sphagnum


moss, which has an integral part of that. The sphagnum is what burns


the peat, so we are standing on five metres of peat, which has been


built by sphagnum over the years. We can now see that sphagnum is


pretty much absent. It is too dry? It is to drive for sphagnum at the


moment, yes. This is a loose peat. There is nothing sticking. It is


just washing away. It is a bit of a mess. Can it be fixed? It can be


fixed, yes. We take a scoop of peat and put it in one of these channels


across here to create a damn it, which will form shallow pools that


sphagnum can colonise and start building peaked again. Quite


honestly, I am staggered that such a large and important area for


wildlife and the larger environment is in this sort of state. A �1


million project, funded by the local water authority, is under way


to re-wet 120 hectares of blanket bog on Dartmoor over the next five


years. That should bring back the specialist bog plants - cotton


grass, and the fascinating insect- eating sundew. But it is not enough


- it is less than 2% of the total natural England say needs to be


done. I have been looking around and this is the only healthy patch


of sphagnum moss that I can find down here. If I take my blood as of,


I can skip some out so that you can appreciate just how good at holding


water this material is. -- take my gloves are off. It seems to hold


more than its own volume in water and that is why it is so important


for these blanket bogs. I will put this back in here and hope that it


regenerates and that in time, this hall blanket bog can regenerate and


there will be areas like this of green sphagnum covered in birds.


They will be sweeping majestically across this blanket bog. There will


be loads of lapwings. Yes, in my dreams!


On Dartmoor, as elsewhere, wildlife has been lost as habitats have been


destroyed. To stem the decline, I believe we have to manage that


wildlife on a much bigger landscape scale - and I am not alone. It is


exactly what ecologists who have been advising the government are


calling for, too. Habitats in general are still crashing in terms


of abundance and richness. How will we halt the loss of this


biodiversity? What we need to do in this landscape scale approach is


about changing philosophy. It is about understanding nature and how


the natural environment works and trying to support the processes


that lead to more habitats. We need to take a fresh look at those sites


and their place in the landscape and how we are joined together,


work with the landowners between those sites, to ride a farm at more


or to build green spaces into new developments, and to provide


stepping stones and corridors for wildlife to move around more freely.


And one of the priority habitats to be linked up - heathland. What we


have left of this habitat in the UK makes up a 5th of the entire total


left in the world. It is special because of the fantastic range of


wildlife that it supports, like this smooth snake, Britain's rarest


reptiles. And the vulnerable Dartford warbler, which feed on


insects in the gorse. Huge chunks of this habitat have vanished,


swallowed up by urban development across the south. But now,


conservationists are working to reconnected. To snatch a glimpse of


this landscape scale conservation in action, I have come here to the


RSPB's beautiful reserve in Dorset. They have a very ambitious project


to join back together some patches of one of our most exciting


habitats. We are standing on the bridge, with Wareham over in the


mist. This is the backdrop of Dante's big idea. What is the idea?


For the last 5,000 years, this was predominantly a heathland landscape.


It is only in the last 100 years that it has been fragmented and


lost through urbanisation, forestry and golf courses. Our ambition is


to peace that back together and create a landscape that is


connected and thriving. Heathland based, though, because this is a


very special area? How long before we can have a sustainable area of


heathland? We are talking 50 or 100 years but I am quite impatient.


There is no reason why we can't deliver some parts of this project


within five years. And restoration is effective. Three years ago, the


RSPB persuaded and neighbouring landowner to cut down a large


section of con others. Already, the land is returning to heath.


Endangered heathland species like the woodlark are moving in. It has


become a vital wildlife corridor, connecting suitable chunks of


wildlife for other creatures, like the spectacular sand lizard. I


don't know about you, Dante, but that animal takes a few boxes for


me. It is stunning. The bright coloration at this time of year is


tremendous. They are one of the species being less mobile that are


going to become increasingly dependent on these corridors. If a


catastrophe happens - a fire is always potentially one of those -


you could lose the whole lot, and if they are joined up. Dot if they


have connecting habitat, they can creep into other areas. People look


at heathland as being a barren wasteland and I don't think people


realise that it is so rare. It is restricted to particular


temperature ranges and soil types. It is not a habitat that you can


just decide to have some overbearing stead. You have got to


have it where it is possible for it to exist. That is a very limited


range of opportunities. -- to have some over there instead of. We know


that if we joined at these places up, creatures like this will have a


sustainable, healthy future. That has got to happen. If there is a


duel on it our heathland that we have to look after, it is this one.


I am giving it a 10 at of 10. It is this sort of reconnection between


habitats that ecologists are now calling on central governments to


fund. To halt the current loss of species in the UK, they say that


the government needs to spend about �1 billion a year on biodiversity.


That is about twice what it spends now. When you think about that �1


billion investment in the environment, this is money well


spent. Their national environment is working in ways behind the


scenes all the time but we don't fully comprehend. But we know it


that healthy, fun to international environment is a good thing to aim


for. Spot-on. It is time to put some of these key questions to the


Environment Secretary. First, I want to know about those awful


Douglas fir trees. Why are the Forestry Commission still sticking


in lots of non-native conifers, which are no good for wildlife and


biodiversity? I am on the public record as saying about I think we


should increase the rate of recovery of plantations on the


ancient woodland site. When the broadleaf trees were chopped down,


the genetic information is still in the soil and we can recover those


sites and enhance biodiversity by doing that. How is the government


going to meet its biodiversity targets went there are so many


heavy cuts in your department? People like Natural England and the


Forestry Commission - how will they do the job without the people and


the funding? We are confident of being able to make good progress on


enhancing biodiversity and helping to halt the loss of biodiversity


with the resources, even though they are restrained. This is


something where we can all get involved - not just the government


but business, communities, individuals. All of us can do our


part to do the best we can for biodiversity. A lot of your viewers


do their part and this is something As far as I am concerned, our


wildlife is on the brink. The question is, can we pull it back?


In this series, I have seen how - on our farm land - a bird, plant


and insect numbers have plummeted tutor decades of intensive farming.


In recent years, we have paid farmers to try to bring back the


wildlife. But although we have won a few battles, we are a long way


from winning the war. For our marine life, a new conservation


zones are being planned - but without effective monitoring and


enforcement, they could be a wasted opportunity. And we have seen how


wildlife has been lost from some of our best-loved landscapes - but we


have also seen how we can restore and reconnect precious habitats. So


I am optimistic, and yet pessimistic at the same time. Let


me explain - I am optimistic because I think we know exactly


what we have to do when it comes to wildlife conservation, and we have


got the techniques to actually do it. But I am pessimistic because


some of our wildlife charities seem to be pursuing out of date and


distracting ideas, which are not as effective as they could be. I am


also pessimistic because government is not giving enough money directly


to wildlife conservation. But for me, the real truth about wildlife


Download Subtitles