Landscape-scale conservation

The Wildlife Trusts’ Living Landscape vision takes a landscape-scale approach to conserving nature in the UK. This involves enlarging, improving and joining up areas of land to create a connected ecological network across the UK, for the benefit of both wildlife and people.

Dramatic losses and declines

In recent history, our landscapes have seen dramatic losses and declines. Habitats that once stretched for miles now exist as small, isolated fragments surrounded by a landscape often inhospitable to wildlife, dominated by intensive agriculture and urban development. Towns and cities, busy roads and railways all make it difficult for wildlife to move between safe havens.

Nature can't exist in a box

The nature reserves we manage are unique and special havens, alive with plants, birds, mammals and insects, and we will continue to protect these valued wildlife habitats. But reserves alone are not enough - nature can’t exist in a box. Wildlife needs room to move, especially in the face of climate change. Forecasts predict that climate change in the next 50 years will force wildlife to shift 250 miles north if it is to remain in the same temperature range as that in which it lives today.

Living Landscapes

To allow wildlife to disperse through the countryside we are working to restore, recreate and reconnect habitats on a landscape scale, creating A Living Landscape across the UK. The Wildlife Trusts are championing and partly undertaking this work through our Living Landscape conservation schemes.

Each Living Landscape scheme consists of:

Core areas of high quality wildlife habitat

Often these will be protected areas, nature reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) etc. These are the vital sanctuaries from which wildlife will be able to re-emerge into the wider landscape once it is restored.

Connections between core areas

Continuous corridors of suitable habitat, such as river valleys or diverse hedgerows, act as ‘wildlife highways’ allowing species to travel through areas disturbed by human influence as they disperse through the landscape to find suitable living conditions – this is even more important in the face of climate change.

Habitats can also be connected by a series of stepping stones, rather than a large swath of continuous habitat. Stepping stones are smaller, unconnected natural areas, pockets of protected land that act as stop-off points for wildlife on the move – for example a series of copses in open grassland.

Permeability across the whole landscape

Land between the core areas and connecting habitats needs be more accessible to wildlife. It may not all be pristine habitat but we can make changes to the way that land is managed so that it is easier for wildlife to move through and re-colonise the landscape.

It is also important that we manage the wider countryside more sustainably so that we can continue to benefit from the essential ecosystem services provided by the natural environment. Creating A Living Landscape will help to maintain and enhance the natural processes that provide us with essentials such as clean air and water, healthy soils, food and flood management.

What We Do

There are a range of mechanisms for delivering landscape-scale conservation, such as acquiring new land, advising farmers and landowners, working with business and influencing national policy. Click here to find out more about what we do.

How you can get involved

Creating A Living Landscape will also help to reconnect people with the natural world, providing accessible greenspace and ensuring that wildlife is part of everyone’s everyday lives. People are key to achieving A Living Landscape and if you are interested there are lots of ways that you get involved. Click here to find out more about how you can get involved.