A major investment which will help to restore Britain’s lost rainforests and reintroduce key species to their natural habitats has been revealed.
The new funding will play an important role in helping the nation achieve its target of protecting a third of its land and sea by 2030.
The Wildlife Trusts announced the launch of a new rewilding programme on Wednesday, which aims to accelerate UK nature recovery, help reverse catastrophic declines in wildlife and assist in the fight against climate change.
The £6 million from the Ecological Restoration Fund will support rewilding, the reintroduction of vital species and better protection for marine and coastal habitats.
It comes as more than 40 per cent of species in the UK are in decline and about 15 per cent in danger of extinction.
The UK is said to be one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with seas at risk from over exploitation and development, rivers dying from agricultural and sewage pollution and many people suffering from a lack of access to nature.
The Wildlife Trusts have already taken measures to reintroduce bison to help improve habitats.
The group is now beginning a major drive to help restore beaver colonies and introduce low-level grazing with large herbivores such as Exmoor ponies, Welsh blacks and Highland cows.
The Wildlife Trusts told The National the funding would be a game-changer in restoring the nation’s lost rainforests.
“Aviva has given us an amazing donation of £38 million to start a really exciting rainforest restoration project and this latest funding will help supplement our rainforest work,” said Emma Robertshaw, head of media at The Wildlife Trusts.
“We are also growing trees and planting tree nurseries.
“We are looking at large herbivores who are grazing animals. They help us to manage large areas of habitat. The larger animals help mimic other animals that grazed the land many years ago.
“Our work with beavers is very important, they are such a fantastic animals for restoring wetlands, which are so badly needed. They are a keystone species and create better habitats for other wildlife to live in as well. They are also helping against climate change.
“The plan is to work towards having beavers living wild across Britain to help us push things in the right direction. This investment is really exciting and will be a game-changer and will really help us start the step-changes that are needed.”
The projects will include moorland restoration in the Peak District across 132 hectares at Ughill Farm to restore heathland alongside nature-friendly farming, reintroducing grey partridges, yellowhammers and curlews.
A nature recovery programme from coast to coast alongside Hadrian’s Wall will encourage farmers and communities to work together.
It is funding peatland restoration in Northern Ireland and marine conservation in Wales.
Temperate rainforests will be restored and expanded in areas where they used to grow along the damper, western flanks of the British Isles.
Dr Rob Stoneman, director of landscape recovery at The Wildlife Trusts, said the projects would help tackle climate change.
“Our bold approach to nature recovery is a highly necessary change of gear that will benefit every single one of us,” he said.
“Restoring and expanding wild places tackles problems of flooding, drought and pollinator decline; this is critical for farming, healthier rivers and seas, and adapting to the changing climate.
“Extinction, pollution and wildfires make headlines with increasing frequency and so it’s vital to go much further with nature recovery across the UK. We must create a place where wildlife, farming and people thrive together; where beavers work their magic and benefit communities; where seas are abundant with marine wildlife, and where there’s easy access to nature to improve people’s lives.
“This game-changing donation from the Ecological Restoration Fund will bolster our work when nature needs us most.”
The programme is designed to help the UK achieve its existing target of protecting at least 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030 and reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Research has highlighted a funding gap of an estimated £56 billion needed to achieve the UK’s nature-related targets over the next decade, The Wildlife Trusts said.
“We're proud to support The Wildlife Trusts in their ambitious vision for UK nature recovery,” said Daniel Hotz, chairman of the Ecological Restoration Fund.
“Recognising that our collective futures are intrinsically bound to the health of our environment, the urgency to address the UK's troubling species decline and habitat degradation is paramount.
“By knitting together and rejuvenating wild spaces, we're not only creating richer habitats for wildlife but also bringing tangible benefits to local communities.”