Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has published its own State of Nature report, based on the 3-year Wild Watch project that involved volunteers in events and surveys. The next step is to produce a Nature Recovery Network Strategy.
The report explains that Nidderdale has a range of habitats – moorland, grassland, farmland, woodland, and wetlands. Almost 35% of it is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
This includes upland heath and blanket bog, and is home to curlew, lapwing, snipe, and birds of prey. Raptors including peregrine and hen harriers are at risk from disturbance and persecution.
The AONB will work alongside moorland land managers and the Yorkshire Peat Partnership to restore peat habitats and safeguard birds of prey from illegal persecution.
Grassland and farmland
Species-rich grassland and farmland does not have legal protection and is under threat from agricultural intensification. The AONB has developed Habitat Suitability Maps, and will work with landowners to restore hay meadows. They will also support Yorkshire Water’s plans to expand its network of Beyond Nature farms.
Trees and woodland are 8% of the Nidderdale area, against 10% on average in England. Threats include climate change, fragmentation, invasive species, tree diseases and pests. Since 1970 there has been a decline in woodland birds (20%) and woodland butterflies (51%).
The AONB will produce a woodland plan to restore damaged ancient woods, plant more trees, and manage woodland sustainably. Special attention will be paid to the redstart.
Water and wetlands
The report notes that Gouthwaite is the only water body with protection as an SSSI. Threats to rivers, streams, reservoirs and ponds include pollution and invasive species.
Plans include controlling invasive plants like Himalayan balsam and providing natural solutions to flooding. The dipper and grey wagtail are the focus of conservation action.
The Wild Watch project began the task of collecting information on mammals, birds, invertebrates and flowering plants, but more information is needed to understand long-term population trends.
The plan is to collect more data, partly using citizen science, and to conserve species including otters, curlew, black grouse and adders.