From the conservation section
The conservation section of the Trust was restructured at the beginning of this year to take account of the growing volume of work and the incorporation of the functions of the Cornish Biological Records Unit, which was transferred to the Trust on 1st January. Paul McCartney and Victoria Scott have taken on the roles of managing the Trust's Data Unit, and the nature reserves and advisory elements of the section's work, respectively.
We have a number of project officers within the section. Philippa Hoskin will be working on the Biodiversity Initiative until June, and Sion Brackenbury's post has been extended until February 1998 in recognition of the success achieved in attracting grant aid through individual advisory visits. Catriona Neil is working on the roadside verge audit and Nick Phillips has been appointed until February 1998 to work on the Cornwall LIFE Project and Data Unit integration.
A significant development has been the appointment of a project officer for the Cabilla and Redrice Woods project as a result of the successfu application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £1/4 million. The appointment is for the duration of the five-year project.Unfortunately we have not yet been able to secure funding for marine conservation work, but it remains a high priority and every effort will be made to develop projects in this area.
The Cornwall LIFE Project is reaching a significant phase, with county-wide data and analysis of land-cover change between 1988 and 1995 available for the first time. Integration of the data with the biological records that were transferred with the CBRU will be a major challenge for the Trust in the coming months.
Southern marsh and pyramidal orchids at Hayle roundabout - a roadside verge audit is under way to assess this sort of conservation resource.Photo: Sarah McCartney
Cornwall LIFE Project
The LIFE system is churning out habitat loss data, confirming our worst fears and emphasising the necessity for contributions to the Trust's Habitat Appeal. Loss of rough grassland appears to be the biggest problem, with over 700 hectares going between 1988 and 1995. The biggest category of loss is open farmland - at 1,400 hectares this means that more and more of Cornwall is disappearing under concrete, damaging our landscape and reducing the area available for habitat re-creation in the future.
As the technical side of the project draws to a close, the use of the system and the dissemination of results is increasing rapidly. A range of publications is in production, and information from the project is being used to target advisory visits, support the recommendations in Volume I of the Biodiversity Initiative report, and assess the effectiveness of the development plan system. There is still a small amount of data to include in the system, including some digitisation for sample areas of Brittany and the completion of digitisation of the ancient woodland site boundaries.
The challenge for the Trust now is to integrate the system developed by the LIFE Project with the biological recording system for the county to provide a comprehensive environmental records centre.
Cornish Biological Records Unit
The CBRU was transferred to the Trust on 1st January 1997. The library and species records have been assessed and integrated with the Trust's library, species, sites and geographic data. It is intended that the same services and acilities will be available to users and providers of data that were provided previously at the CBRU, although there are still some details that need to be finalised.
There are a number of issues to be addressed in a development plan for the centre, which will be produced by mid-1997. Many of these are related to the need to work towards the standards required to achieve accreditation as part of a “National Biodiversity Network”. Issues include the use of standard electronic taxonomic dictionaries, standard procedures for dealing with enquiries, and a professional approach to all matters concerning the centre. Interactive access to the electronic database (ERICA) is available, although printed reports are currently not possible. Details of the work needed to provide full access to electronic species records will be included in the development plan.
In summary, all records that were held by the Trust and the CBRU are now integrated and accessible at the Trust. New records are welcome, and the Trust strongly encourages recorders to continue providing them. Please feel free to contact Paul McCartney, Trevor Edwards or Chris Howe at the Trust if you have any questions about the current progress or future plans for the records centre.
Regional Biodiversity Initiative
Thirty-one regional biodiversity action plans have been produced in the year since the publication of the South West Biodiversity Audit. These plans provide a regional framework for biodiversity action, within which local plans can fit. They also provide clear aims and targets for action by regionally based organisations such as the Environment Agency and Forest Enterprise. Publication of the action plans is due in June.
Head-On Collision ~ South West
The South West Wildlife Trusts published the region's report on road schemes affecting sites of county importance for wildlife in March. Many road schemes were withdrawn at the time of the last government review, but there are still a number of damaging or potentially damaging schemes in existence. In Cornwall, we are pleased with our work in avoiding conflict between roads and wildlife and, as the LIFE Project has shown, roads cause a very small part of the total habitat loss in this county.
There may well be more road schemes proposed in the future and, given the continuing problems with public transport, Trusts must be vigilant and continue to highlight potential problems. The Cornwall Wildlife Trust will maintain a strong position on any scheme that threatens important areas for wildlife.