No.81  - Winter - 1999/2000


Cornwall holds a significant proportion of Europe's diminishing lowland heath. Our work clarifies species and habitat status and seeks to reverse declines. Photo: Jayne Herbert



Superb examples of rare maritime grassland can be seen on Cornwall's cliffs. There are many other habitats and species for which Cornwall remains an important area. Photo: Nick Tregenza

Conserving wild Cornwall

The loss and decline of wildlife and habitat in Cornwall has been well documented, particularly in recent decades (Box 1). However, despite this, the county still retains an extremely rich environment (Box 2). Here we set out some key elements in the programme of work which the Trust will be undertaking as we go into the next millennium to ensure that we look after our very special natural heritage for future generations.

Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (ERCCIS)

From its beginning, the Trust recognised that sound information on Cornwall's biodiversity was essential. With this we can monitor the resource, identify key issues and campaign or advise to ensure its conservation.

Further development of the records centre is therefore one of our key tasks, ensuring that it provides a comprehensive service to all users and providers of data, including the Trust itself.

We will be seeking, in particular, to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Projects to clarify the distribution and status of many of Cornwall's mammals, work to develop a systematic and comprehensive picture of the county's extensive intertidal habitat, and the development of systems for monitoring the many actions being taken to conserve Cornwall's biodiversity are three areas of particular concern which are currently high on the agenda.

Facilitating access to data and supporting biological recording and recorders, so vital to our work, are also major elements in the work programme.

Of course, none of this will be possible without support and we will continue our work as part of the National Biodiversity Network programme to secure further service level agreements with agencies and organisations who we anticipate will increasingly turn to us for assistance with data management and associated functions.

Nature reserves

Nature reserves remain one of the best ways to secure the future of key habitats and species, and we will continue to take forward our active programme of acquisition. We will regularly review our approach, ensuring we use our resources to best effect in safeguarding the most threatened and vulnerable of the county's habitats and species.

Our programme of habitat enhancement, access improvement and interpretation will also continue, ensuring that our reserves continue to play a major role in the promotion of wildlife conservation in Cornwall.

Conservation and education programmes

As we enter the next millennium it is likely that both pressures on the natural environment and opportunities to protect it will increase, the Objective 1 programme being just one example of how this may happen.

Resources available for the development of conservation and education programmes will always be limited so we must continue to ensure they are used wisely. In particular we need to ensure they are complementary to the actions increasingly being taken by other organisations and agencies. Our continued involvement in the Cornwall Biodiversity Initiative, which has brought so many organisations together, will help ensure this.

Perhaps most importantly, we will be aiming to increase substantially the community's involvement in our work, whether this be at the individual landowner or larger village or parish group level. To succeed in our objectives we need to engage everyone in the conservation of our natural environment.

Trevor Edwards and Paul McCartney

Box 1

Wildlife loss in Cornwall

  • Wildlife habitat in general has declined this century at an average rate of 4% per decade.
  • Culm grasslands in North Cornwall have been lost at a rate of 10% per decade - few areas now remain.
  • 50% of ancient woodland has been converted to conifers.
  • Heathland and upland grassland has disappeared at a rate of 7% per decade since World War II.
  • Hedgerows were lost at a rate of 100km per year in the 1980s.
  • Species have also suffered a widespread decline: the loss of the chough and the drastic decline of cetaceans around the coast and water voles in our streams, to give just a few examples.


Box 2

Examples of our rich biodiversity

  • Despite the long-term declines that have occurred, Cornwall remains one of the most important areas for certain habitats and species.
  • There are nine candidate sites of European importance within the county and about 100 Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
  • Cornwall holds about 2.5% of all the lowland heath in Europe, including rare types found nowhere else in the world.
  • Many of the shallow bays and estuaries are important for their marine life and their wildfowl and waders. The Fal and Helford in the west of the county and the River Tamar complex in the east both have internationally important marine flora and fauna, while the Tamar is also recognised for birds such as the avocet - this being one of its winter strongholds.
  • The cliffs in the north of the county, exposed as they are to frequent oceanic storms, are some of the best examples of Atlantic cliff coastline in the country, containing excellent maritime heath and grassland sites.
  • The River Camel has been designated as being of European importance for its otter population among other things.
  • Many former mining sites have rare lower plant communities, in some cases found nowhere else in the world.


Contents - Wild Cornwall - No.81  - Winter - 1999/2000

Index Wild Cornwall Magazines

Cornwall Wildlife Trust home page

Five Acres, Allet, Truro, TR4 9DJ
Tel: (01872) 273939 or (01872) 240777
Fax: (01872) 225476
e-mail: cornwt@cix.compulink.co.uk