Summit to Sea: Exploring a cross-sectoral approach to delivering for nature at scale in Mid Wales

Working alongside the communities, natural resource users and owners of the uplands, lowlands and coastline, Summit to Sea will be developing collaborative land and sea management solutions at scale. These solutions will support healthy and biodiverse ecosystems that deliver economic, ecological and social benefits, through connecting land and sea, appropriate to the local place and culture in Mid Wales. The project is co-designing a model conservation and land/sea use appropriate to Mid Wales, stretching from the tops of mountains to the expanse of the sea of Cardigan Bay.

The Project Area

Situated across the central Welsh counties of Powys and Ceredigion, the project area stretches from the Pumlumon uplands (the highest part of Mid Wales) to the marine-protected areas of Cardigan Bay. The Pumlumon massif forms the largest watershed in Wales and is the source of the rivers Severn, Wye and Rheidol. Overlapping with the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere Reserve and comprising the Dyfi National Nature Reserve, this area also contains several Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas.

The wider area of this project provides a diverse range of habitat types including grazed upland grassland, deciduous woodland, lowland pasture, saltmarshes, dune systems, freshwater lakes and rivers, an estuary and marine reefs. The communities who live here are rightly proud of this extraordinary but little-celebrated part of Wales.

Project context and opportunity

Across Wales there has been a significant proportion of natural habitat lost, including  44% of upland heathland and 30% of its wildlife-rich dune systems. Only 12% of woodland in Wales is ancient or semi-natural, and much of that has become degraded and fragmented.

In the project area itself, rivers and riparian habitat form important links from land to the marine environment where structures prevent fish species movement, freshwater pollution is evident and coastal and estuarine zone habitats are degraded or fragmented. Fragile seabed communities are also being damaged by nomadic dredgers who, with little or no enforcement of regulations, have been observed fishing illegally in Cardigan Bay.

The wider area, comprising 15,000 people in 11 communities and 250 farms, and faces economic uncertainty post-Brexit. There is an opportunity, however, to develop a new, collaborative, landscape-scale approach to managing land and sea in mid-Wales. There is a real sense of place amongst local people and a strong will to improve the biodiversity and ecology that exists, numerous examples of positive land management and a strong basis on which to build a more local, wildlife beneficial economy. In addition, political will for a more sustainable future encompassing wellbeing of ecology, people and economy is strong in Wales.

What the project will do

Summit to Sea will work to develop collaborative land and marine management interventions to deliver nature benefits at scale, across resource ownership and management boundaries. This needs a shared, agreed, and inspiring approach to realise multiple benefits across natural resources and their uses.

The five areas of focus to the co-designing of solutions are:

  • Enhancing riparian and estuarine ecological connectivity from summit to sea through increasing biodiversity and favourable habitat, reducing pollution and siltation, whilst improving upland and lowland bog for improved carbon capture
  • Improving water routes and quality through reducing pollution and removing fish barriers to allow greater connectivity for nature which improves habitat resilience and biodiversity
  • Expansion of woodland and native tree cover in the right places for multiple benefits alongside improving woodland management; creating uneven aged sylvicultural systems; and continuous cover
  • Supporting healthier biodiversity through increasing benefits of land management systems to provide greater habitat biodiversity across a wide range of land holdings
  • Connecting people to nature by strengthening human relationships with local natural resources and ecology, whilst building better links for positive ecological benefit between local business and place and supporting health and wellbeing initiatives

All of these aims will be underpinned by strong social and economic benefits.

Summit to Sea recognises that solutions to these environmental challenges, and realising these opportunities cannot be found by excluding local communities, protecting only small and isolated pockets of wildlife, or disregarding the wealth of knowledge, understanding and concern for the land that already exists in the area.

The only ethical, just way to turn around environmental degradation is for local people to be at the core of the change. We need to be ambitious and crucially work at scale. Solutions will build connectivity to enable impact at scale, underpin the local economy, and celebrate the local culture and sense of place.

Project Partners

RSPB Cymru (Wales)
Coed Cadw (Woodland Trust – Wales)
Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau (SAC)
Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust
Marine Conservation Society
Whale and Dolphin Conservation
WWF

Quick Facts

Project Lead

Project location:

Cambrian Mountains

Country:

Wales, UK

Key habitats:

Grazed uplands, blanket bog, grassland, lowland pasture, saltmarshes and marine reefs.

Focal species:

Horseshoe bat, pine marten, otter, bottlenose dolphin, grey seal and lobster

Project Gallery

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