Election 2021 - Our 3 Questions

Election 2021 - Our 3 Questions

Ahead of the Isle of Man General Election on 23 September 2021, Manx Wildlife Trust believe that the greatest requirements of the next Government in relation to the natural world are:

  1. Better protecting Manx habitats and species.
  2. Working with and not against nature, including in the fight against climate change.
  3. Meeting the shared needs of people and nature, including improving our health and well-being through access to nature and open spaces.
Bluebell family woodland

Tom Marshall

We have formulated three simple questions that we hope Manx Wildlife Trust members and supporters will ask prospective candidates:

Question 1: How are you going to stop another species going extinct in the Isle of Man?

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer, once a breeding bird on the Island, now extinct here.

Credit-Margaret Holland

The whole planet is experiencing a biodiversity crisis and the Isle of Man is not immune.  Indeed, islands are particularly vulnerable to losing species (known as local extinctions).  This is because there are no adjacent or connected populations that can provide a source for natural recolonisation after a local extinction event, especially for the less mobile species such as plants.

To our knowledge, 18 species of bird that once regularly bred on the Isle of Man are now considered to be locally extinct as a breeding species (however they may still occur as over-wintering birds or during their migration to elsewhere). 

The yellowhammer, once our most abundant farmland bird, has been lost in the last decade and another farmland bird, the lapwing has been lost as a breeding bird during the tenure of the current Government administration.  Without concerted action and adequate funding & resource there may yet be more losses to come; the futures of another two Manx birds, the tree sparrow and the curlew are precarious.

Burnet saxifrage

Burnet saxifrage went extinct in the Isle of Man between 2010 and 2020.

Credit-Philip Precey

The Island has also lost at least 46 native species of plant with many more likely undocumented before their loss.  We have lost almost 10% of our flora that likely arrived after the last Ice Age and before the severance of the Island from the surrounding landmasses by a rising sea.  While some of these losses are historical, almost half of our known local extinctions have taken place since protection of our native plants was provided by law

Decade

Number of plant extinctions

1990s

6

2000s

9

2010s

4

Total since passage of the Wildlife Act 1990

19

To prevent further extinctions, we need:

  1. More legally protected sites:
  • On land: we only have 22 Areas of Special Scientific Interest, despite a candidate list of over 100 sites identified in the 1970s & 90s.  These ASSIs cover only 6% of our Island and many areas important to nature have no protection at all.
     
  • At sea: we only have 10 Marine Nature Reserves that cover just 11% of our seas.  Like on land, many important coastal and deeper water habitats have no protection at all. 
  1. More money and resources for conservation, in order to achieve the 46 actions of the Isle of Man Biodiversity Strategy 2015-2025.

[CLICK FOR MORE INFO – IOM BIRD EXTINCTION LIST]

[CLICK FOR MORE INFO – IOM PLANT EXTINCTION LIST]

Question 2: How will you work with nature to help solve the climate crisis?

If we allow it, nature can provide many ‘nature-based solutions’ to human problems, including ways to store carbon. 

In the Isle of Man, the greatest potential sources of carbon sequestration are:

Seagrass

1 - Blue carbon: a huge amount of carbon can be stored in the seabed, especially where seagrass is found, however for this to occur the marine environment must be highly protected.  Destructive fishing techniques must be prohibited in areas of high carbon sequestration potential. 

30 by 30: Manx Wildlife Trust are proposing that 30% of our territorial seas are designated as well managed and highly-protected Marine Nature Reserves by 2030.  

Peat survey

2 - Peat: large parts of our uplands, and some remaining areas of our lowlands are covered in peat.  Peat is formed when dead plants and animals (which are largely made of carbon) cannot fully rot down due to the presence of water.  This then traps the carbon in the soil.

We need to manage our uplands differently to realise their full potential.  This will involve restoration, rewetting, a legal prohibition of burning on deep peat and less grazing (including complete stock removal on areas of deep peat).  Planting trees on peat is counterproductive and leads to carbon being released by the drying of peat: this must not occur.  These actions will also help reduce flooding by locking more water into our uplands.

Additionally, we must help others to protect their peat by immediately banning the importation and sale of all peat-based products. 

Curraghs

3 - Wet areas: wetlands and wet areas (including seasonally wet fields) also lock-in carbon and these must be carefully managed, not ploughed, drained or planted with trees.  Landowners should be properly incentivised to make their land wetter, not drier.

Hairpin Woodlands

4 - Woodland: trees are a great way of storing carbon, but we need the right tree in the right place.  Care must be taken when planting  trees in wet areas or on our uplands as this can be counter-productive to reducing carbon emissions.  As the larger the tree, the more carbon it contains, therefore we must ensure that mature trees have robust legal protection and that the current trend of permitting many legally-protected trees to be removed for development stops. 

Question 3: Following COVID-19, how can we use nature to improve health and wellbeing?

Mindfulness ramsey forest

During the difficult times of the last 18 months, people all around the world have reconnected with the nature on their doorstep and found peace, relaxation and mental well-being.  Being surrounded by nature improves our mood, while space to exercise and active travel can increase, maintain or even help regain our physical fitness.

 We want to see more trees and green spaces in our communities.  Everyone should be able to experience nature and enjoy an open space within a five-minute cycle or ten-minute walk from their home.  New development should not push nature ever-further from where people live now.  Net biodiversity gain must be a requirement of all new development, which if planned carefully, can provide a better habitat for both people and wildlife.