The Natura 2000 network makes a vital contribution to the protection of some of our most threatened species and habitats. Despite this, biodiversity continues to decline and it is clear that site-based strategies on their own are insufficient to tackle this crisis.
A coordinated approach is needed to join up sites with targeted management in the wider countryside, providing links and buffers to protected areas that are often too isolated or fragmented on their own to fully support functional and biologically diverse ecosystems.
The RSPB’s Futurescapes programme, supported by the EU LIFE fund, was developed to explore and implement landscape-scale conservation solutions. This has been done through targeted coordination amongst partners, communities and individuals in 38 landscape focus areas across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Work in these Futurescapes and at national levels, supported the Natura 2000 network in the UK through an ambitious programme of advocacy, communications and partnership development. The legacy of the programme is not only the substantial practical conservation actions undertaken, but also the partnerships established and creative engagement tools developed.
Futurescapes resulted in the development of 144 partnerships delivering more than 100 000 hectares of conservation enhancements and the provision of land manager advice on over 168 000 hectares of land. In total, 134 Natura 2000 sites were influenced by these project actions, and 310 000 members of the public were reached through a community engagement programme. Actions ranged from linking iconic Caledonian forests in the Cairngorms, Scotland, to working with private water companies in Northern England to protect and enhance peatlands. A number of ecosystem services studies were undertaken at a landscape level.
The RSPB plans to continue to work with partners to scale up their response to the current loss of biodiversity and deliver a step change for nature that results in a society more connected with a natural world where biodiversity is thriving.