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Comeback for the damselfly.

Efforts to safeguard Britain's diverse wildlife have helped to revive dwindling species such as the damselfly and otter.

But despite the creation of a Government-backed Biodiversity Action Plan in 1994, the skylark, marsh fritillary butterfly and sparrow are still on the decline, a conference marking the first anniversary of the National Biodiversity Trust was told.

today, environment minister Michael Meacher heard details of a 10-point action plan designed to preserve the variety of Britain's natural heritage.

Among the plan's proposals are: the shifting of agricultural subsidies from intensive production to sustainable development; a 20% cut in carbon emissions by 2010; changes to the planning system to ensure that it protects biodiversity; the introduction of strategic environmental assessments of all policies; and improved monitoring of the UK's species and habitats.

Dr Mark Avery, chair of the Biodiversity Challenge Group, said: 'Only by commitment to the complete package of 10 recommendations will the Government realise the promises it made in response to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

'We cannot simply pay lip-service to improving our wildlife without taking action.

'Conservation in the UK would benefit if the Government implemented our 10-point plan, but people would benefit greatly too. Conserving wildlife, recreating lost habitats and protecting the environment all add to people's quality of life.'

The Trust - made up of 11 of Britain's leading public and voluntary environmental bodies - produced a report, entitled Biodiversity Counts, detailing progress on some of the nation's key species and habitats.

Among the success stories are the otter, which has seen 'continued increases in numbers and range', the stone-curlew, which has enjoyed a 56% increase in breeding pairs over five years to 233 pairs, and the dormouse, which has been successfully reintroduced to a number of areas where it had disappeared.

But attempts to reverse the dramatic decline in sparrow numbers since the 1970s have failed to do more than stabilise the population, the report notes, as the disappearance of traditional nesting sites in hedgerow trees has not been compensated by the provision of nest-boxes.

Monitoring of the marsh fritillary shows a 'continuing and rapid decline' due to poor management of its habitats, the report adds.

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 22, 2001
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