Farmers, land managers and foresters are contributing to improvements in Welsh countryside for people and nature, a new report shows.

The report by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) on behalf of a wider consortium for the Welsh Government, examines early findings of the impact of the Glastir land management scheme and long term trends in the Welsh countryside.

Evidence from over 50indicators collected in a major field survey campaign suggests there have been many improvements in the Welsh countryside for people and nature over the last 30-40 years.

The report found there are two to three times more indicators improving (26-30 per cent) than declining (8-14 per cent) in the short and long term, with the remaining 60 per cent showing no change.

Real success has been seen in the improvement of blanket bogs over the last two decades which has been the focus of so much restoration action.

Improvement has also been seen in stream water quality and there is now overall stability in bird diversity and specialist butterfly species, with improvements in woodland and upland breeding bird populations.

Overall, plant species richness and those indicative of good condition are stable or improving in woodland, open habitat and improved land. More public rights of way are now easy to use.

Remaining areas of concern are that just under half of our historic environment features are under some type of threat, 35 per cent priority bird species remain in decline and only a minority of ponds are in good ecological condition.

Soil quality is generally stable, but with some early warning signs of some potential problems which need to be monitored.

These data provide a robust baseline to assess future impacts of the Glastir scheme. Glastir is the main mechanism by which the Welsh Government pays for environmental goods and services.

To assess the effect of entry into the scheme on farmer actions, a survey of 600 farmers was carried out. The results show 54 per cent of farmers in the Glastir scheme, compared to 37 per cent outside, are taking action to combat climate change. More actions by farmers in scheme are also taking place to improve diversification and efficiency.

Modelling work to explore the benefits of these actions suggest more concerted and targeted action is needed to meet the ambitious targets set by the Welsh Government for the sustainable use of our natural resources. However, the field survey suggests land which has come into the scheme has more characteristics thought to help make land more resilient to disturbances and stress.

Professor Bridget Emmett, lead author of the report and head of CEH’s Bangor site, said: "The results illustrate the many benefits already delivered by farmers and land managers across Wales, but also that more concerted and targeted action will be needed if ambitious targets from Welsh Government are to be met.”

The report concludes by highlighting the need to establish the relationship between the area and condition of our natural resources and the health and well-being of the wider population, as well as highlighting the potential value of the GMEP findings to inform the Welsh Government’s response to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU with respect to future regulatory frameworks and land management schemes.