Before you drag the pressure washer out of its winter hibernation, let’s talk about the ecological importance of the moss growing between your patio pavers.

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Meadow foxtail

In the summer, County Recorder Richard Aisbitt identified meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) in our fields, a tall grass with a furry flower head that looks like a fox’s brush: hence its name.

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Habitat loss

People think of an uprooted forest when they think of habitat loss: orang utans starving in a palm oil plantation, the rabbits running from the machinery at the beginning of Watership Down, or the man-made desert of a dust-bowl. But habitat loss is, in the majority of cases, a lot less dramatic and much more ordinary than that, and often a great deal closer to home.

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Insect losses

In the UK the populations of our more common butterflies have fallen by 46% in the last 50 years while the rarer species have declined by 77%. We have lost 60% of our flying insects in just 20 years. We have entirely lost 13 species of our native bees since the 1970s and fully expect more to follow.

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Nature reserve problems

We are not the only nature reserve struggling with increased visitor numbers. Here, David Attenborough presents a twenty minute documentary about Richmond Park, showing us a biodiversity not dissimilar to Southwick Country Park’s own, and wrestling with very similar difficulties.

Please comment below. The problems of sharing our few public green spaces with our threatened wildlife in a damaged biosphere grow as our population grows, and we all need to find solutions.

Six spot burnet moth

This is a six spot burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae), a dayflying nectar feeder, photographed on the reserve’s plentiful, nectar-rich, tufted vetch.

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Real or fake?

A lot of people buy artificial Christmas trees in the belief that it benefits the environment, but environmentalists and energy analysts disagree. We need only look at a single element of the hundreds of thousands of artificial trees that will be put up and decorated this Christmas: they are all made of plastic.

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The return of neonicotinoids

On 1st September 2020, the EU’s ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides came into effect but investigators have found that eight EU countries and the UK have since exported neonicotinoids to other nations with weaker environmental regulations. These are unacceptable double standards: the companies that produce these dangerous chemicals are prioritising their profits at the expense of our environment.

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Cop 26 does not appear to have reached an agreement that will limit global heating to 1.5°C. The really frightening thing is that we all know what has to be done but the people who make the decisions are not listening to us.
Here is Sir David Attenborough on the simple matter of saving our planet:


Wikipedia defines bioturbation as the reworking of soils and sediments by animals or plants. Here is a video of a system with and without soil fauna such as earthworms, mites and isopods over a 15 week period: this is what is happening to the fallen leaves all over the reserve.


Challenges such as climate change, habitat destruction and invasive species are pushing our native ecosystems to the edge, making urban and suburban spaces into critical resources. There are 22 million private gardens in the UK, an astonishing potential that, used carefully, might just make the difference between success and failure for the Nature Recovery Networks proposed by the new Environment Bill.

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“Nature is our home”

At the beginning of the year the UK Treasury commissioned and published for the very first time a full assessment of the economic importance of nature. Professor Dasgupta, the Cambridge University economist who carried out the assessment, concluded that our prosperity has come at “devastating cost” to the ecosystems that support us. “Nature is our home,” he said, “good economics demands we manage it better.”

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The whole thing

 “It is that range of biodiversity that we must care for – the whole thing – rather than just one or two stars.”   David Attenborough

Our park doesn’t have snow leopards or white rhinos. Our rarities are small and fragile: water voles, pondweeds, dragonflies zipping past so suddenly they make you jump, a visiting marsh tit, a linnet singing in the trees, little bottom-feeding fish. Then there are the hundreds of flowering plants, thousands of invertebrates and probably tens of thousands of species of fungi hidden away where we can’t see them.

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Usually we would welcome predators into the reserve; they are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. We have resident stoats and weasels, foxes and badgers and are happy to know that our ecosystem can support them. Domestic cats, like this one photographed early in the morning in the woods in Village Green, are a very different proposition.

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