Living Landscapes, Living Seas and Living islands

Wildflowers and forts the south west cliffs of AlderneyWildflowers and forts the south west cliffs of Alderney

Realising that the biodiversity of the British Isles was still in steep decline, despite the presence of thousands of wildlife reserves, and increasingly active statutory protection, the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT), the national co-ordinating body to which AWT belongs, launched a new Living Landscapes strategy in 2008.

The objective is to conserve not only nature reserves, but also much larger areas of managed countryside, with the assistance of landowners and farming interests.  These can often be linked together by corridors such as hedgerows, woodland and rivers, along which species can travel without human disturbance as local conditions, such as the climate, change.

RSWT’s website sets out some of the key characteristics of Living Landscapes:

People and communities

Our Living Landscape work aims to reconnect people with the natural world and promote the benefits it provides - from the technical and functional (food production, clean water), to the spiritual (nature makes people happy!). We work closely with local communities to promote the wildlife on their doorstep. Living Landscape schemes improve access to wildlife and green spaces and provide opportunities for recreation, education and hands-on volunteering. In fact, our volunteers are often vital to the success of the schemes.

Sustainable local economies

Many Living Landscape schemes also make sustainable, low carbon contributions to the local economy by providing employment opportunities, promoting locally grown food or marketing conservation grade beef from grazing herds.

In a Living Landscape...

.....wildlife is abundant and flourishing, both in the countryside and our towns and cities;

.....whole landscapes and ecosystems have been restored;

.....wildlife is able to move freely through these landscapes and adapt to the effects of climate change;

.....communities are benefitting fully from the fundamental services that healthy ecosystems provide;

.....everyone has access to wildlife-rich green spaces and can enjoy and be inspired by the natural  world


Living Seas

At the same time, there is a recognition that fish and shellfish stocks around the UK have dramatically declined over the past century, driven by huge international demand and the increasingly efficient technology available to fishing fleets.  The RSWT Living Seas vision points to a future in which:

  • Wildlife and habitats are recovering from past decline as our use of the sea’s resources becomes environmentally sustainable.
  • The natural environment is adapting well to a changing climate, and ocean processes are helping to slow down climate change.
  • People are inspired by marine wildlife and value the sea for the many ways in which it supports our quality of life.

Among its most important early objectives is the creation of nearly 150 marine protected areas (MPAs) in British waters.  The new approach was successful in achieving a new UK Marine Act 2009, and there is an ongoing campaign to secure the future of over 100 proposed MPAs which have not been included in the UK government’s first list of protected marine sites. 

Living Islands

In AWT, and in other island Wildlife Trusts such as the Isles of Scilly, the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man, managers realised that a third “Living Islands” conservation strategy is probably required, since there are unique opportunities and challenges for wildlife and local communities in these smaller parcels of land bounded by sea.  In Alderney, there is a special situation, due to the SoA ownership of the seabed within a three mile limit, and on land, only one small town, one farm and full SoA development control of green belt.  Funding has been obtained from RSWT and SoA for a two-year Living Islands project in Alderney, to demonstrate the value of wildlife and historic heritage to island economies, and to pilot new techniques to conserve and promote these assets as a tourism destination.