Amddiffyn cyfoeth bywyd gwyllt ym Mynyddoedd Cambria
We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
The Cambrian Mountains include a wide range of habitats from; the heather moors and lakes of upland plateaux, through boggy terrain, down into native woodlands of the valleys, all connected by a maze of small streams and rivers. A large proportion of the blanket bogs in Wales are found here as well as very significant areas of upland and lowland wet and dry heathland. Some fine examples of classic Atlantic Oak Woodlands are found clinging to hillsides as well as superb wet woodlands of willow and alder sitting alongside a variety of fen habitats. In all some 15 Priority Habitats found in these hills are included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and on the List of Habitats of Principal Importance in Wales.
These habitats are rich in wildlife including; 35 mammal species, 100 species of breeding bird, and 300 species of moss & liverwort, (not forgetting 15 species of dung-beetle!) Many of these species are rare in Wales as well as in the UK, and some are of international importance. In all over 30 species of plants and animals found in the Cambrian Mountains are on the UK and Wales Priority/Principal Lists including;
- Golden plover – nearly all of the Welsh population is now found in the Cambrian Mountains,
- Water vole – some thought to have retreated to upland lakes, away from predatory Mink,
- Welsh Clearwing Moth – whose larvae burrow into old stand alone birch trees,
- Waxcap Fungi – which are largely found, during autumnal forays, in unimproved grass land,
- upland lake water plants including Floating Water-plantain and Quillwort,
- Bog orchid – diminutive gems with green flowers found in a scatter of upland flushes.
The higher hills have breeding pairs of Merlin as well as the occasional Hen harrier, and very occasional Ring ouzel, whilst lower down in the wooded hillsides during spring we find Pied flycatchers after their long flight from West Africa. The Elan valley hosts a rich mix of traditionally managed hay meadows including Penglaneinon Meadow, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Radnorshire’s Coronation Meadow. The valley also holds 9 of the UK’s 16 species of Bat including Natterer’s and Daubenton’s. To the south, the Twyi Forest is a refuge for a growing Red squirrel population and further north the Vincent Wildlife Trust have focused their recent reinforcement of the Welsh Pine marten population in and around the Devils Bridge area. Also, over the last few years, at least one pair of Ospreys have returned to breed in the Cambrian Mountains, on the shores of Lyn Clywedog. Many other plants, animals and fungi found in the area are included on Red Data lists of threatened and endangered species.
The importance of the wildlife in the Cambrian Mountains is nationally recognised, with more than fifty SSSIs alongside several Nature Reserves – both Local (LNRs) and National (NNRs). From an international perspective, the mix of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) still in place emphasise the importance of these hills for nature.
And yet the Cambrian Mountains are not immune from the widespread damage to its natural and semi-natural habitats. Biodiversity continues to decline despite the warning signals – when was the last time you saw a Curfew of Curlews or a flowering spike of Lesser Twayblade on a walk across the Cambrians? Clare Pillman, chief executive of NRW was reported in 2019 saying: “We recognise that the continuing declines in biodiversity require urgent action from across society.” The RSPB’s Wales Summary Report noted: “Assessments of extinction risk within Wales have been made for 3,902 species for which sufficient data were available. Of these, 666 (17%) are threatened with extinction from Wales, and another 73 (2%) have gone extinct already.”
The threats to natural habitat and biodiversity losses in the Cambrian Mountains are mainly twofold:
- Existing land management practices in the uplands, such as inappropriate grazing regimes leading to problems such as soil compaction and widespread Molinia swards, and large, limited species, clear fell conifer plantations; and
- climate change.