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How dormice and orchids can enhance the quality of our life.

Byline: By Steve Dube Western Mail

Eleven projects aimed at protecting the environment in Wales have been hailed as inspirational by Wales Countryside Minister Carwyn Jones.

Mr Jones visited some of the projects in Monmouthshire last week as he officially launched the Wales Biodiversity Partnership publication, Local Success.

He saw initiatives covering a variety of Welsh species and habitats such as dormice, orchids, dolphins, woodlands and even wildlife gardens in schools.

Mr Jones said the booklet celebrated work that will inspire and enthuse new contributions to local biodiversity action. Mr Jones said biodiversity included all plants, animals and micro-organisms and the places where they live.

'We value it for itself, as well as for the role it plays in many natural processes and its direct and indirect economic, social, aesthetic, cultural and spiritual benefits,' he said.

'Securing a biologically diverse environment is a key theme of our recently-launched environment strategy for Wales.

'The projects I have seen here today, and those featured in Local Success, are inspirational. I hope they will enthuse others to get involved and contribute to local biodiversity action.'

Mr Jones, who visited several spectacular meadows and met volunteers from the Monmouthshire Meadows Group, said protecting Welsh biodiversity also benefits the local community and the economy.

Emily Fleur Dicks, awareness officer for the Wales Biodiversity Partnership, said the projects were all achieving national and local biodiversity targets.

'The natural environment in Wales contributes hugely to our national identity and quality of life,' she said.

'It is an important component of the Welsh economy, with the natural resources within our national parks and spectacular coastline supporting a vibrant tourist industry.

The Monmouthshire Meadows project now boasts more than 80 members managing approximately 500 acres of meadows rich in butterfly orchids.

Meanwhile the latest UK biodiversity report shows that corncrakes, lesser horseshoe bats and native pinewoods are among threatened species and habitats showing improvement.

A report on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, published by Defra, shows that 22% of the plan's priority habitats and 11% of priority species are increasing, and that more priority species are showing improved trends than in past reports in 1999 and 2002.

The report says 39% of priority habitats and 27% of priority species are still declining, but the decline is slowing for 25% of the 45 habitats included in the plan, and for 10% of the 391 species.

Another 36% of species and 13% of all habitats identified as being among Britain's most threatened have remained stable.

Notable success stories include the UK population of corncrakes, which has doubled since 1993, and lesser horseshoe bats whose numbers have increased by 42% in Wales and 39% in South West England.

The bittern and the flower, the Deptford pink, have also shown improvements, and more than 23,000 hectares of native pinewood have been planted against a target of 25,000 hectares.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 27, 2006
Words:477
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