Report of the Hon. Conservation Officer 2007

Martin Willing
Some of the key items of interest from the year 2007 are described below.
Advice and help:
Has been given to many individuals and organisations including specimen identification and advice on habitat management.
British Wildlife:
The production of a molluscan wildlife report for this journal has continued with the publication of two reports in February and October 2007. These reports included (1) news that 19 non-marine proposals had been accepted by the UK BAP review to be forwarded for government approval, (2) interesting key points from the marine and non-marine 2006 Officers’ reports particularly with regard to new finds of Assiminea grayana in NW England and (3) details of Robert Cameron’s observations on the absence of certain mollusc species around Sheffield, possibly as a result of air pollution. These reports have allowed publicity to be given to the Conchological Society.
Invertebrate Link and The Invertebrate Conservation Trust (Buglife):
Membership of Invertebrate Link and Buglife continues to provide useful contacts with members from other NGOs and governmental organisations (e.g. Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales) concerned with invertebrate conservation.
Biodiversity Matters:
The UK BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) review has been described in earlier issues of Mollusc World (4:10; 6: 10; 8: 22, 13: 26). In October 2006 a final BAP list was presented to UK Government ministers from the Priority Species and Habitats Review Working Group. The final BAP lists were approved by all four UK administrations in early summer 2007 prior to the official ‘launch’ on 28th August 2007 at Brentlands Farm in Gloucestershire. At this event the Minister for Biodiversity, Joan Ruddock, presented a new priority list of 1149 species (including 19 nonmarine Mollusca) and 65 habitats. The new list, which will assist in the prioritisation of conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), replaces the first list (that included 577 species and 49 habitats) compiled 10 years ago. The increased number of species and habitats is chiefly due to a more rigorous analysis and increased knowledge of a broader range of habitats and species. In terms of Mollusca, work undertaken since the launch of the first BAP (on both BAP priority and nonpriority species) in the mid 1990s has allowed a much better understanding of the status and conservation actions required for those non-marine molluscs of ‘conservation concern’. This has allowed the proposal and acceptance of the extra 8 priority species (Vertigo modesta, Truncatellina cylindrica, Valvata macrostoma, Sphaerium solidum, Gyraulus acronicus, Omphiscola glabra, Heleobia stagnorum and Mercuria confusa) that ‘missed out’ on the first BAP listing.
Earlier in 2007, before the final governmental approval of the BAP listings described above, the joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) initiated a draft ‘signposting exercise’ for the BAP proposals, the aim being to compile the priority actions needed for each of the species. As a result, partly completed spreadsheets were circulated in February 2007 to be completed by the very beginning of March! Despite the incredibly tight deadline 19 forms were completed in little more than a week providing first thoughts on the key conservation actions required for each species together with associated success criteria. Later in the year, at the end of 2007, JNCC again wrote to the Society requesting that the draft proposals submitted earlier (now further refined and expanded by Invertebrate BAP Working Group) be re-examined and checked to ensure that the conservation actions plans for the 19 new BAP species:
1. were appropriate;
2. correctly assigned to each UK principality;
3. reflected known distribution;
4. and included ‘SMART’ success criteria (or at least milestones towards these criteria).
The final upgrading process was to continue until the end of January 2008 and so final outcomes will be reported in the Officer Report for 2008. The draft conservation action plans will be circulated widely to authors of the original BAP proposals as well as many other experts (including non-society members) before returning to Adrian Norris and Robert Cameron for final Society approval. In September 2007 JNCC also approached the Society to scrutinise (and yet again within a very tight time-scale!) a series of governmental reports to be submitted to the EU concerning the ‘European Community Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora’. These documents were the Second Reports by the UK under Article 17 on the implementation of the Directive from January 2001 to December 2006. The species concerning the Society were those molluscs appearing on Annexes IIb, IV and V of the Directive and included Vertigo geyeri, V. angustior, V. moulinsiana, V. genesii, Anisus vorticulus, Margaritifera margaritifera and Helix pomatia. These documents had been prepared by a variety of people from government agencies and although most were reasonable, several required extensive revision by the Cochological Society team!
Deborah Proctor of JNCC has advised the Society that it is timely to review the Red Data Lists in light of the considerable amount of information that has been gathered since the first RDB was produced. As with similar Societies, Deborah has invited the Conchological Society to collaborate in the production of a revised Red Data list (rather than a book). The original lists, which were published in 1991, included 33 molluscan species together with short descriptions giving a brief summary of distribution, habitat / ecology, status, threats, conservation and authorship. The RD lists will be updated using modified criteria produced by the IUCN in 2001 . The process of revision should be fairly straightforward and might mean the addition of new species, ‘status changes’ for several and possible ‘demotion’ for others. Many of the RD species will be those also on the BAP priority species list, but a good number will have no other designation to ‘flag-up’ their conservation importance. Perhaps the species of most importance on the RD lists are those that are not BAP species. Although RD status may carry less ‘punch’ it is often used on a regional and local basis to inform conservation management. Thus RD status is of assistance to developers and those running local biodiversity schemes or managing nature reserves. Work to review the RD listings should begin this year . As with the successful BAP initiative, it is hoped that the RD review will allow wide consultation to take place with input invited from both the ‘experts’ and also the wider Society membership.
Associations with other organisations:
The Conservation Officer continued to attend conservation committee meetings of The Sussex Wildlife Trust. He wrote a report highlighting new vice-county molluscan finds made during 2007 for the ‘Adastra’ magazine (Adastra 2007, Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre, Henfield, West Sussex). In February 2007 the Conservation Officer spoke to the Amberley Wildbrooks Private Landowners Association on the rare and endangered molluscs living on or near Amberley Wildbrooks, West Sussex. The particular focus of the talk related to land management for the European Protected Species Anisus vorticulus (also a UK BAP priority species).