Nature in the United Kingdom is in decline. Populations of priority species have decreased by more than 60% since the 1970s, and there is no evidence of a reversal in this trend. UK landscapes are under more pressure than ever to deliver housing, infrastructure and food. Several species, including once common animals such as the European hedgehog, are in danger of disappearing forever. We need to ensure that policy and conservation methods protect the best of the biodiversity that we have left within the UK.
Sara King BSc (Hons) MCIEEM
Defra are looking to release an upgraded biodiversity impact calculator - the Defra Biodiversity Metric - to assist with the quantitative assessment of net gain and no net loss. Yet its failure to assess biodiversity means Ecosulis remains one step ahead. Sara King, Our Biodiversity Assessment Specialist, provides a summary in this article.
Scotland is one of the wildest places in the UK, with mountains, lochs and woodland extending out for miles. It is where the first beaver reintroduction trial sites were established in the UK; where pine martens roam and osprey soar through the skies. Experiencing these areas allows you to believe that Lynx, elk and wolves could be reintroduced to these areas more successfully than in southern England, for example.
The British Standard for Biodiversity BS42020 was published in 2013 and the Ecosulis quality system meets the requirements of the standard; however, it is only just starting to filter into planning applications and is becoming increasing recognised as a standard to adhere to. The standard was written for Ecological Consultants, Local Planning Authority ecologists, and anyone else in the ecology profession, to provide a national standard of working. The standard has been written to be used throughout the UK, independent of legislation and policy.
Ecosulis are now offering a Pioneering Pre-Acquisition Rapid Risk Assessment to allow an initial ecological site assessment to be made at the pre-acquisition stage. Ecology can have timing constraints and constraints to layouts, especially where notable habitats or protected species are present. There are too many projects where ecological consultants are brought in at a late stage when the layout has been fixed, and as a result it can be difficult and expensive to change the layout to accommodate ecological mitigation.
Beavers often get bad press for being the cause of flooding, and this is one of the key factors affecting the decision of whether to reintroduce beavers to Britain’s waterways. Heavy rain has caused flooding in Alyth Burn in Scotland, and many theories have linked this flooding to the presence of beavers in the area.
A “one in 200 year flood” occurred this summer and this caused extensive flash flooding within the village of Alyth, leaving homes without power.
This month saw the launch of Rewilding Britain, which is a charity set up to encourage rewilding projects across the UK. This includes enhancing biodiversity and natural habitats across the country, as well as improving our health and wellbeing through the enjoyment of natural areas. Rewilding is also frequently associated with the reintroduction of key species back to the UK, including beavers (which are already in parts of Scotland and Devon), pine martens, lynx and eventually wolves.
Technology and biodiversity are two concepts that are usually viewed as polar opposites. However, the source of technical advances are often inspired from the natural world. Species in particular that have evolved to a certain role or niche provide unique opportunities for us to learn and develop technology and materials. Maintaining high levels of biodiversity will protect the vast range of species and their evolutionary functions, some of which could be utilised to improve our way of life.
Rewilding is an increasingly popular concept which involves restoring large areas back to their natural state, and the reintroduction of species that have recently been extinct. This ranges from the reintroduction of bison, big cats and bears into Europe, as well as smaller reintroductions such as the recent reintroduction of beavers in the UK.
Bristol has been awarded European Green Capital for 2015, and has launched its programme to celebrate this. Features range from recycling initiatives to sustainable architecture and biodiversity. There are a whole range of events that are open to members of the public to get involved. This includes a range of biodiversity enhancements, including floating harbours, details on birdfeeders and lichens and plant collections.