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From little acorns: Kent Wildlife Trust's 60-year journey

PUBLISHED: 10:10 13 March 2018

A rare wild flower habitat, Marden Meadow nature reserve (photo: Jason Elmore)

A rare wild flower habitat, Marden Meadow nature reserve (photo: Jason Elmore)

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Kent Wildlife Trust reflects on the real difference it has made to the natural environment and its impact on the lives of people in Kent in the past 60 years

From its humble beginnings in 1958, Kent Wildlife Trust has steadily built up a portfolio of nature reserves across the county, restoring and protecting precious habitats from coastal dunes, marshes, grasslands and meadows, through to ancient woodlands.

On average, the Trust has established a new nature reserve at the rate of just over one a year. Our 68 reserves total some 3,327 ha (8,221 acres), half of which we own outright with a quarter under long-term lease and the remainder covered by other forms of agreement, including the occasional ‘historic handshake!’

Most are ancient semi-natural habitats, which support the majority of our rare, threatened and, sadly, declining species. Fifty per cent are ancient woodlands, 25 per cent are coastal habitats and the rest are a mix of mainly ancient grasslands, marsh and heath.

The Trust sites are a crucially important part of our heritage, both cultural and natural. Cultural, because humans have taken, exploited and fashioned the landscape to their own ends over thousands of years, leading to the obliteration of natural habitats and the loss of thousands of species.

Natural, because the surviving shattered fragments of old habitat are the crucial biodiversity refuges and, thanks to the generosity and commitment of our supporters over the past 60 years, have become established Trust nature reserves.

A quarter of these sites have local recognition and are Local Wildlife Sites; two thirds have national protection and are Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Scheduled Ancient Monuments and National Nature Reserves; more than half have international recognition and are designated RAMSAR, Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation.

Our reserves are core areas supporting the last vestiges of ancient heath, bog and fen in Kent and some of the finest old grasslands and ancient woodlands in the British Isles. However, that’s not enough to conserve the full range of native plants and animals. They are too small, too isolated, too fragmented and under too much pressure from human exploitation.

Large areas linked to other large areas support the highest diversity of wildlife because they have larger populations of plants and animals with wider distributions, and are better able to withstand the vagaries of flooding, drought, under and over grazing, which lead to local extinction of species – and sometimes worse.

Kent Wildlife Trust, with its partner organisations, is working hard to address these issues by establishing new sites, extending and linking existing ones through the Living Landscape initiative.

Working examples include the Historic Dover Downlands, Lower Stour Wetlands, Medway Smile, Darent Valley, Sevenoaks Commons, and the Blean Complex around Canterbury.

Our natural heritage is in crisis and we must act now to avoid a catastrophic loss of species. The State of Nature report in 2013 warned that 10 per cent of all UK species, plants, fungi and animals were in imminent danger of extinction; by 2016 this had risen to 12 per cent. To stop and reverse this decline we need more, bigger and better linked areas to form wildlife networks across Kent and linked to neighbouring counties across the country.

Kent Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves are at the core of most Living Landscapes in Kent and Medway and, with your support, we can increase the space and time needed for our wildlife to flourish and for generations of people to access and enjoy.

Find out more

John McAllister is Head of Reserves (East) for Kent Wildlife Trust.

To find out how you can make a real difference, visit: www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk

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