A new assessment by National Parks England has found that England’s ten National Parks are among the very best places in the country for wildlife, providing much-needed homes for many of our most rare and threatened plants and animals.
Statistics compiled by National Parks England show that while the National Parks cover less than 10% of England’s area, they contain much higher proportions of the most wildlife-rich habitats such as heaths, fens and ancient woodlands. Up to 80% of some habitats that have been identified as national priorities for conservation are within the National Parks.
It is not surprising, then, that National Parks are havens for our native plants and animals. 87% of conservation priority butterfly species and 80% of priority orchid species can be found in England’s National Parks. Dedicated management and reintroduction projects are helping special species such as the fen raft spider, the freshwater pearl mussel and the barn owl to thrive and increase their range.
National Parks England believes that National Park designation has provided extra protection, creating the right conditions for nature to flourish. National Park Authorities work with landowners, communities and a range of charities and agencies to implement conservation measures and projects. The Authorities’ conservation expertise and role as planning authorities helps to protect wildlife, and support developments that enhance the natural environment.
Best of all, England’s National Parks – unlike those in some other countries – are not strict preserves where the public cannot visit. Our National Parks are free and open to all, with 90 million visitors every year enjoying the opportunity to get closer to nature.
To secure this natural value for the future, continued protection needs to be maintained across the whole of the National Parks’ area. With investment the National Parks can help expand and join up wildlife-rich habitats, providing even more places where nature can thrive and people can come to enjoy it.
John Packman, Chief Executive of the Broads Authority, said: “National Parks are important places for people and wildlife and the Broads is a very special member of that family. Water quality and the management of our reed beds and grazing marshes has improved in recent years with positive results for our wildlife such as the marsh harrier, otter and swallowtail butterfly.
“There are many threats to the special qualities of the area, including the impact of climate change and sea level rise, and we all need to continue to work hard to protect and enhance the very special place that is the Broads National Park.”
Secretary of State for the Environment, Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, said: “Our National Parks are some of the UK’s most beautiful natural environments which we want everyone to enjoy. They are home to our native plants and spectacular wildlife, from the stunning orchids in the South Downs to the ospreys that return each year to breed in the Lake District. They boost our rural economies with visitors spending £4bn each year and bring together local communities helping the countryside and its businesses to thrive.”
Jim Bailey, Chair of National Parks England, said: “National Parks hold sites of national and international importance, and as National Park Authorities we take seriously our role in looking after such special places. Against a backdrop of national declines in many species, we have seen notable successes. For example, the latest data on high brown fritillary butterflies on Exmoor shows the highest numbers since records began.”