The results of the most comprehensive survey of the Welsh countryside and its natural resources were published on 21st July in a report by the Countryside Survey partnership.
The report identifies some positive changes including an increase in the area of broadleaved woodland, an improvement in the physical condition of streams, an increased number of ponds, and a reduction in soil acidity in line with reduced emissions of sulphur. However, there is evidence that these changes have taken place against a general backdrop of decreasing plant species richness that is at odds with the aim of halting biodiversity loss. The survey also found that topsoil carbon stocks have remained stable over recent decades.
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Defra commissioned the UK wide survey on behalf of a partnership of governments, and their departments and agencies. The research in Wales was carried out by NERC’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, in partnership with the Welsh Assembly Government, Defra and Countryside Council for Wales (CCW). Additional funding from the Welsh Assembly Government and CCW allowed extra sampling in Wales to be carried out to produce the first ever country-level report for Wales.
Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones said: “The Countryside Survey provides a valuable and scientifically reliable insight into many aspects of the Welsh countryside, including the state and condition of our habitats, landscape features such as hedgerows, water systems and our soils. Evidence from the survey will have an important role in predicting the likely outcome of different policies and pressures such as agri-environment schemes and climate change.”