Connecting for Nature

Keeping Yorkshire folk in touch with their local biodiversity news

Human Impacts on Nature Reserves


An article was written recently for the ‘In Practice’ journal of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) proffering some interesting new data to show that nature reserves closer to settlements suffer greater disturbance and negative impacts.

The article, ‘Human Impacts on Nature Reserves – The Influence of Nearby Settlements’ was co-written by Fin Rylatt, Lauren Garside and Sara Robin of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, and is the culmination of work analyzing reported incidents occurring on the Trust’s reserve network throughout Yorkshire. The authors categorized several types of disturbance, such as anti-social behavior incidents, harm to wildlife, littering and vehicle-related incidents (for instance unlawful access by motorbikes damaging habitats or perhaps a burnt-out car) and grouped reserve sites by their proximity to settlement

Although the data were only recorded ad hoc, the results are quite striking. Most reserves do not have a staff presence on site, this is likely to under-report the real level of incidents – other occurences may have gone unnoticed by site managers who provided the majority of the data.

The full journal is only available to subscribers from the CIEEM, so I have uploaded the individual article pdf below as I feel it warrants wider readership. It has implications for design of new housing development in relation to nearby nature reserves or Local Wildlife Sites and indeed the article goes so far as to suggest appropriate steps by developers and planners. It is well worth reading, if only to see the bar charts displaying the clear drop-off in disturbance incidents for sites more distant from human settlement. In fact the only disturbance category not to peak within 100m of proximity is vehicle-related incidents, which had highest frequency for reserves in the range 100-500m distant.

This is a new area of research, in which little work has been done, so despite the opportunist nature of the dataset there are important lessons for both Local Authorities and conservation bodies who manage sites.

To read the article ‘Human Impacts on Nature Reserves – The Influence of Nearby Settlements’ see this link InPractice97_Sep2017_RylattGarsideRobin


Author: Tim Burkinshaw

I work in ecology and biodiversity in North Yorkshire. I'm often found outdoors snapping nature and landscapes or spotting birds. In the garden I enjoy having my hands in the earth and striving for the perfect mix of greens and browns in my compost. As a Daddy and adopter I'm used to endless questions about the world around us, and generally have an answer up my sleeve for most things. If you spot me and my hat in real life or on social media do say hello!

4 thoughts on “Human Impacts on Nature Reserves

  1. Dear Tim. Allan Rodda suggested I contact you to enquire whether the Cornfield Conservation project is still ongoing. I have been a volunteer for a few years now, but seem to have lost touch with Chris Wilson et al. I missed the meeting at Hutton-le-hole earlier in the year but would really like an update. Also, I wanted to contribute something to help with funding last year, but nobody asked me! Any information you could give me would be most appreciated.


    • Belinda, apologies for delay in responding. The CFP project has been in abeyance, kept ticking over on minimal funds but hopefully an announcement soon about a new lease of life via some funding from Natural England for Stewardship Facilitation Fund. More news soon.


      • Many thanks for message Tim and glad to know there is a future for the CCP. Am willing to help with funding but the NESFF would no doubt be more generous! Let me know if I can help though. The project has been very dear to my heart for a long time now and I love being a plant-growing volunteer. Thanks again. All the best, Belinda R.


      • That is great – Chris Wilson has been caretaking on a minimal level -concentrating on keeping key farmers in contact with the project. The FF will mean a different lease of life for the project – and I don’t yet know where volunteers such as yourself fit into that, but certainly its great to have your support. Please email me your details to and I’ll pass on to Frances who will be coordinating the Facilitation Fund group and let you know when its up and running.


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