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Nature Recovery

Redshank by water

In the UK, sadly the abundance and distribution of species on average continues to decline. This worrying scenario was highlighted in the State of Nature Report 2019.

This report showed that of the 7,615 species found in England that have been assessed using the IUCN Regional Red List criteria, 971 (13%) are currently threatened with extinction from Great Britain.

The purpose of Nature Recovery is to engage partners to inspire and inform positive action. Through Nature Recovery work and projects we aim to conserve what remains, whilst also taking steps to reinstate what’s been lost.

The Colchester Declaration

The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) made a collective declaration on nature in AONBs in 2019.

Set against a backdrop of unprecedented concern for the future of the natural world, and intergovernmental reports that the current global response to the effects of human impact on nature is insufficient, the NAAONB decided to set out a strategic plan in the Colchester Declaration (PDF).

In order to fulfil the ambitious target laid out in the Colchester Declaration, each AONB is now preparing a Nature Recovery Plan.

By 2030, the NAAONB pledges to achieve the following ambitious targets to help reverse the decline of nature:

  1. At least 200,000 hectares of SSSI’s in AONBs will be in favourable condition
  2. At least 100,000 hectares of wildlife rich habitat outside of protected sites will have been created/ restored in AONBs to further support the natural movement of plants and animals
  3. At least 36,000 hectares of new woodland will have been planted or allowed to regenerate in AONBs following the principle of the right tree in the right place
  4. At least thirty species relevant to AONBs will be taken off the list by 2030 by each AONB immediately adopting a species on the threatened list and by preparing and delivering a Species Action Plan
Redshank on a wooden post

Flagship Species: Redshank

As part of our Nature Recovery Plan, the Redshank was chosen to become the flagship species for the Coast & Heaths AONB.

The Redshank (Tringa totanus) sometimes referred to as the Sentinel of the Marshes was selected by AONB environmental partners representing 16 organisations with an interest in the AONB’s wildlife.

Although it was a very difficult decision, the Redshank shone through in the end and is a fantastic choice to represent the wildlife and habitats of the Coast and Heaths AONB.

Swift bird in a swift box

Priority Species: Swifts

Swifts have declined by 45% in just under 20 years in the UK! Their nest sites are often lost when old buildings are knocked down or repaired and many new buildings have no nooks and crannies for them to nest in.

You can help swifts by installing nest boxes on tall buildings and playing their calls to attract them. If you live in the AONB and think you may have a suitable location for a set of six swift boxes, apply for a free set, along with a swift caller system.

Priority Species: Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover are vulnerable to habitat loss and disturbance, hence their population has declined by 59% in the UK in only 25 years. Between April-July they lay four tiny eggs in a scrape on the ground which are neatly arranged with the pointed ends always in the centre of the nest.

As part of a project between the Coast & Heaths AONB and the Harwich Haven Authority, work is being done to raise awareness of the ringed plover and educate visitors and local residents on how they can help support the ringed plover population and avoid some of the behaviours that can cause disturbance.


Priority Species: Hedgehogs

The hedgehog is a priority species in the Coast & Heaths AONB Nature Recovery Plan. In the past decade over a half of rural hedgehogs and a third from towns and cities have been lost.

Areas in and around towns and villages can be excellent habitats for hedgehogs, and hedgehogs often prefer them over farmland. We are working to create hedgehog-friendly gardens in the AONB.

Nature Recovery Plan

Nature Recovery Plans are a key commitment of the Colchester Declaration. The Nature Recovery Plan for the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths AONB will relate to the AONB Management Plans as a spatial expression of the shared vision for beautiful, resilient landscapes rich in wildlife.

Through the implementation of the plan it is hoped that habitat and species recovery will be addressed at a landscape scale. The AONB will strive to ensure incentives such as the new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM) will play a key role in resourcing positive change in the AONB’s landscapes.

The Nature Recovery Plan will also relate to land outside the protected landscape boundaries. Their compilation will inform process and help gather data relevant to the later development of county-scale Local Nature Recovery Strategies which will be a statutory duty on Local Authorities arising from the Environment Act.

The Nature Recovery Plan will be co-created with a wide range of stakeholders across the landowning and conservation sectors and the wider community.

Policy Context

A key objective of the UK government set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan is to develop a Nature Recovery Network. The creation of the Nature Recovery Plan for each AONB will be key to the creation of the Nature Recovery Network.

The Landscapes Review 2019 (often referred to as the Glover Review) determined that protected landscapes need to do more for nature. The Environment Bill 2020 mandated Local Nature Recovery Strategies to be prepared for each local authority area.

There will be opportunities to support the realisation of Nature Recovery Plans through ELM, mandatory biodiversity net gain, the National Planning Policy Framework and Green Investment.

AONB partnerships have facilitated integrated land management, including nature recovery for over 30 years. Examples can be seen on the Landscapes for Life website.