Reconnecting with the web of life

A new report from over 70 UK conservation groups has called for urgent action to stop the decline of our natural world. The latest ‘State of Nature’ report shows, that in spite of clear warnings, trends in the natural world are looking worse than the last review in 2016, with 15% of species threatened with extinction in Great Britain.

Urbanisation is described as one of the top five reasons  why we are seeing a decline in wildlife species around the UK. Major factors include:

  • Intensive conventional agriculture – involving habitat loss, reduction in soil quality and heavy use of fertilisers and pesticides;
  • Pollution – from over consumption and the production of wastes harming species and habitats;
  • Urbanisation – fragmenting habitats and degrading the natural environment
  • Climate change – extreme weather events and changes in the pattern of seasons affecting wildlife behaviour and forcing some species to seek more habitable climates;
  • Non-native invasive species – out competing native species or spreading disease.

The report does highlight some positive trends where conservation and alternative practices are producing better results. Many of the partners in the Biodiversity in Planning project supported the production of the State of Nature report and are working hard to reverse these trends. This includes the ‘ Back from the Brink project which aims to restore key habitats for 20 of the UK’s most endangered species. For example, Limestone grasslands are being restored in the Cotswolds to protect this key habitat for a whole host of species, including the Red-shanked Carder Bee, the Duke of Burgundy and Marsh Fritillary butterflies, Fly Orchid, Basil Thyme and the rare Greater Horseshoe Bats.

The partners argue that, through better planning and development humanity can live more harmoniously with nature. Our three case studies, a self-build project in Hampshire, Gloucestershire services station and the Springhill Co-housing project, highlight that even smaller housing and infrastructure projects can be produced in ways that benefit from and support natural ecosystems and wildlife. The partnership have pooled their knowledge about the distribution of species to produce a free tool for developers; the  Wildlife Assessment Check, designed to help identify those species and protected sites that might be affected by a development and to highlight whether the developer needs ecological expertise. In an ideal world, all developments would take account of their wildlife impact and seek to enhance biodiversity, as the government’s new Biodiversity Net Gain  proposal is calling for. However many smaller developers may be unaware of the statutory protections in place to support wildlife. The  Wildlife Assessment Check aims to help them take greater account of their impact and consider ways to enhance their proposals to promote wildlife.

It is vital we find ways to reconnect with these species and ecosystems that are essential to humanity, as Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England argues:

It’s important to remember that that loss of wildlife literally represents an unravelling of the web of life. And it’s in that web of life that all of human society and our economy is in the end embedded.

Not only should we redouble our efforts to conserve nature for its beauty and its intrinsic values but because we depend on nature for our health, wealth and security.

 

Further information

Partnership for Biodiversity in Planning

State of Nature 2019: Full UK report

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