As we greet the year 2024, Oxygen Conservation is embarking on a monumental mission that combines ambition with responsibility, foresight with definitive action. Our suite of environmental goals is more than a commitment to scale conservation; it is a promise to deliver positive impact for future generations of both people and wildlife.
Here’s what we’re planning to do and why…
Through 2024 we will work with our incredible funding partners to acquire an additional 50,000 acres of land for conservation. We will target areas which connect to other conservation initiatives to create bigger, better, more connected spaces for nature, allowing our acquisitions to support the protection of up to 100,000 acres of contiguous land for nature, delivering landscape scale recovery. This expansion is crucial for wildlife, offering expansive habitats for species whose territories have been encroached upon by impact by our very presence and “growth” across the landscape. For people, it means more natural spaces for recreation, mental health, and the intrinsic joy of connecting with the wilderness alongside creating huge opportunities for nature based carbon sequestration.
Planting Tomorrow’s Woodland
We will plant an addition 250,000 trees. Planting 250,000 trees is not just an incredible investment in carbon storage; it’s an investment in habitat creation, air quality, soil health, flood management, and the aesthetic landscape that defines our nation. Trees are sanctuaries for myriad species and provide a classroom for experiential environmental and spiritual education. For both people and wildlife, forests are places of wonder and wellbeing, where the bonds with nature are created and nurtured.
Welcoming Back the Wild
We will continue our success and commitment to species reintroduction by welcome five unique species back to our landscapes. Reintroducing five species is a testament to our dedication to ecological completeness and biodiversity. Each species plays a pivotal role in the natural world (and food web) and contributes to the ecological functions that purify our water, pollinate our crops, and balance our ecosystems. For people, these species offer a chance to witness the richness of nature, fostering a sense of stewardship and pride in our natural heritage.
We will begin Restoring our Rivers
We will begin an iconic redesign and restoration of the River Thet at Shropham in Norfolk. Revitalizing the River Thet by restoring its natural meander and floodplain connectivity is a vital act of ecological restoration. It will improve water quality, supports native fish populations, and mitigate flooding, which is essential for nearby communities. For wildlife, a healthy river system is a corridor of life, supporting everything from insects to mammals. The origins of Oxygen Conservation are found in river restoration so it is wonderful to have the opportunity to deliver positive impact to the very arteries of our natural environment and realise the incredible positive impact that will bring.
Doubling the Connection
We were incredible fortunate to acquire two incredible ecotourism experiences in 2023 and have worked closely with Estate Management Teams to extend the range and quality of offers ahead of 2024. We are therefore committed to increasing the number of ecotourism visitors to 1,000 in 2024. By doing so we’re increasing the opportunity for experiential environmental education and creating advocates for nature. These experiences are invaluable for mental and physical health and encourage more regenerative and ultimately sustainable behaviours. For wildlife, a well-informed public is the best defence against abuse, neglect and encroachment of development and the loss of habitat.
Reducing Negative Impacts
In 2023 we removed more than 1,000 sheep from the hillside at Invergeldie at Mornacott to reduce grazing pressure and to help increase ecological abundance and biodiversity. Across the Oxygen Conservation Portfolio of Estate we will continue to significant reduce grazing pressures in 2024 by removing a further 2,000 sheep from the portfolio. Reducing grazing pressures, particularly the removal of sheep from sensitive areas like Invergeldie, is critical for allowing ecosystems to regenerate. It encourages the growth of native vegetation, which stabilizes soil and supports insects, birds, and mammals.
Managing Deer Populations
In 2023 we fundamentally changed the way we manage deer across the Oxygen Conservation Portfolio working with specialist local teams of drone surveyors and stalkers to better understand, and manage the numbers and impacts of deer. As a result we learnt that the number of deer on our land was significantly higher than previous reports and as such we recognised we need to make a bigger impact. In 2023 we killed more than 300 deer and in 2024 we are targeting 500 across our expanding portfolio.
Our use of language, especially with reference to killing deer is intended to follow our principles of honest, transparency and accountable and also demonstrate the difficulties we feel in having to kill living things in the name of conservation – it’s is a weight that doesn’t sit comfortably but one that is of our own collective making and one we know we have to carry.
Managing deer populations is a delicate balance essential for maintaining biodiversity and woodland regeneration. For local communities, sustainable deer management can help reduce road accidents and support local economies through the food chain.
Advancing Regenerative Agriculture
We are incredibly proud to support regenerative agricultural activities across a number of our Estates. In 2024 we will continue to be committed to creating new regenerative agricultural practices as a commitment to future-proofing our food systems. Practices like conservation grazing improve soil health and increase biodiversity, which benefits crop resilience and agricultural productivity. For communities, it’s about securing the future of food that is grown in tune with nature, supporting local economies and a healthier planet.
We are not farmers, and we are not regenerative agricultural specialists, but we are supportive of the incredible partners helping deliver conservation services through regenerative agricultural practices and we will continue to look for opportunities to support their work further in 2024.
Targeting Invasive Species
In 2024 we are going to decisively and sensitively remove five key invasive species from individual Estates. This will include rhododendron at Leighon, Himalayan balsam at Wood Advent, Japanese knotweed at Esgair Arth, Monkeyflower at Swineley, and Wels catfish at Shropham. Controlling invasive species is essential to preserving native biodiversity and maintaining the integrity of ecosystems. Invasive species can outcompete native flora and fauna, leading to a loss of native biodiversity. For people, managing these species can help maintain the health of environments we rely on for recreation and which support local industries such as fishing and tourism.
Implementing Natural Flood Management
We will deliver ten individual Natural Flood Management (NFM) interventions across the Oxygen Conservation Portfolio in 2024. Natural Flood Management (NFM) is a forward-thinking approach that uses nature to help mitigate flood risks. By working with natural processes, we can protect communities from the devastating effects of flooding. For wildlife, these NFM interventions create habitats and increase biodiversity, while also ensuring the health of our waterways.
In 2024, each of these goals is a step on the path to a regenerative future where human and wildlife communities benefit mutually and we continue to realise the positive impact we were founded to deliver. Oxygen Conservation’s vision is a tapestry woven with the threads of ecological wisdom, community engagement, and a profound respect for the natural world, crafting a future where both people and wildlife not only survive but thrive.
What are you going to achieve in 2024?