“Biodiversity is key to the survival of life on Earth. Its loss deprives future generations of irreplaceable genetic information and compromises sustainability.” So how do we go about preventing mass extinctions in the UK?
“Biodiversity is key to the survival of life on Earth. Its loss deprives future generations of irreplaceable genetic information and compromises sustainability.” The Rt Hon. Caroline Spelman MP
“Biodiversity is essential for life. Nature provides us with food, health and medicines, materials, recreation, and wellbeing. A healthy ecosystem filters our air and water, helps keep the climate in balance, converts waste back into resources, pollinates and fertilises crops and much more.”
“Nature also provides for businesses: half of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), €40 trillion, depends on nature.”
But, “We are losing nature like never before because of unsustainable human activities” and, “the global population of wild species has fallen by 60% over the last 40 years. 1 million species are at risk of extinction.”
now is the time to act
What a tangled web we weave
“Biodiversity loss and the climate crisis are interdependent. When one gets worse, so does the other. “
By destroying habitat, and using fossil fuels, we have inadvertently dissolved the web of life, the complex ecosystems that we rely on. In doing so we have weaved a tangled web of destruction.
But, the good news is that restoring biodiversity will result in reducing climate change, building in climate resilience, and improving the health and well being of humans.
“Restoring forests, soils and wetlands and creating green spaces in cities is essential to achieving the climate change mitigation needed by 2030.”
So we have to take action and, now is the time to act.
Protect and restore
The headline strategy is simple. We have to;
- Protect the habitat, ecosystems and, biodiversity that still exists and,
- Restore habitat, ecosystems and, the biodiversity that have been lost.
The detail plan and tasks are more complex and will take time;
- time to conduct the baseline studies to identify habitat and each of the species (our asset base)***
- time even to identify which ranges of species and habitat we should target for restoration***
- time to prepare and implement a plan, a thorough Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), and harness businesses and residents in a citizen science program
- time to create natural capital and urban greening in a way that fits in with the BAP
But in the short-term we could and should;
- Stop building on the green belt and green spaces
- Encourage and facilitate citizen science***
- Include robust requirements for developers to create habitat which can be repurposed as the BAP is developed***
- Develop and apply metrics that allow us to calculate the biodiversity value of each asset (e.g. each tree) in our biodiversity asset base e.g. the work of Cllr Da Costa with Natural England can help facilitate this and, help developers submit planning application with greater certainty for all***
- Start developing Citizen Science programs with TVERC and other biodiversity databases, and designed by scientists and ecologists***
- Identify the resourcing needed to do the thorough job that future generations demand of us
- Secure the funding for the required resourcing by setting up an active Fund Raising Group
*** This has to be done working with scientists, local authorities, specialist interest groups, and DEFRA (there is much funding available from Defra via say Reading University)
What others say
As a Councillor, I have takena more strategic view of the direction, objectives and resourcing so, I want to point you to the comments of the Wild Groups in the Borough who have been deeply involved in these issues at a grass roots level.
Their response to the consultation contains some excellent plans and more detailed points including, and I quote;
- “Call on the Council to develop a strategy that addresses all land in the Borough with plans to work with landowners to achieve biodiversity net gain across all areas, not just those opportunities that appear through the planning process
- Tell our Councillors they need to be far more ambitious. Point to achievements so far (eg renewable energy supply for Borough offices, a start on roadside verges). Urge them to find some quick wins that would set an example (could mention opportunities close to you and/or the great opportunity with Battlemead to demonstrate commitment to biodiversity and adopt approach of local naturalist groups to this). Editor – I also suggest no building on green space e.g. Maidenhead Gold Course
- Call on the Council to focus on Priority Habitats, coupled with targets for priority species, as the best vehicle to deliver biodiversity net gain.
- Request that these sites are effectively monitored to ensure they all achieve net biodiversity gain.
- Call on the Council to engage much more proactively with local environmental groups to develop and implement local biodiversity action plans. Suggest getting their support to conduct species and habitat surveys, write wildlife conservation management plans , run conservation work parties
- Call for the creation of a Biodiversity Specialist group involving the Council, environmental groups and local experts
- Urge a review of priority species records by January 2021, including the 128 priority species noted by Wild Maidenhead’s Maidenhead’s Nature Matters report
- Suggest that a service level agreement is put in place with TVERC (Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre) to ensure up to date ecological data is provided to help inform planning decisions and to enable the Council to report annually on its biodiversity performance
- Urge that all Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) are positively managed to conserve and enhance the site in line with the the criteria set for them and are surveyed at least every five years.
- Call for a Pollinator Action Plan for RBWM in partnership with local environmental bodies to help deliver the Buglife B-Lines initiative locally
- Build on the work done in Ascot (and many other Councils around the country) to create wildlife corridors. Provide some resources to local groups to make these happen
- Demand that the Council modifies management of selected green spaces to encourage wildflowers, using native wild-flower seeds/ plants to further enhance grassland as required.
- State that the draft Strategy plan for roadside verge mowing is totally insufficient, that they need to move immediately to a more wildlife-friendly regime. The 2024 target proposed for a limited number of verges is not soon enough.
- Call on the Council to recognise that the natural environment has a key role to play in capturing and storing carbon and other emissions and to set targets and programmes that reflect this
- Urge them to use available data to identify where best to focus efforts to maximise land use for capture and storage and where changes in land use must be avoided.
- Call for the Council to move much faster and to be much more proactive in seeking help from local groups to drive the Emergency programme
- Urge the Council to accelerate the change in its roadside mowing regime: at least half the length of all RBWM’s road verges to be managed for wildflowers by 2024. And at least 10% of public parks to be managed for wildlife by 2025
- Bring forward the timetable for training planning officers and biodiversity/environment awareness training for all officers – to complete by end 2021
- Call on the Council to look more closely at best practice to short-cut much of the process
- Urge them to review the way they use Objectives, Actions and Measures of Success to define their programmes and find a more effective way to link strategy to specific objectives and the programmes and actions needed to achieve them.
- Suggest that the Council raises the role of public communications and engagement to a major component of the strategy, rather than a supporting tactic for each activity (Question 8)”
So what can you do?
Remember, we have a limited window of time and opportunity. Now is the time to act.
- Learn about these issues and join one of the local Wild groups – see “More information” below
- Read all my articles related to Environment and Climate change – see “More information” below
- Have your say in the RBWM Environment and Climate Strategy Consultation – click here
- Keep on keeping on. We’re in this together.
Cllr Wisdom Da Costa
Co-Deputy Vice-Chair, RBWM Cross Party Climate Change Panel
- East Berkshire Green Party site – click here
- RBWM Climate Emergency Coalition Facebook page – click here
- Wild Maidenhead Facebook page – click here
- See references below
- Scottish Biodiversity Strategy – click here
- To download a copy of the Environment & Climate Strategy – click here
- To learn the basics about Climate Change and how we can reduce carbon emissions – click here
- To find out about Climate Change Resilience i.e. how we prepare our towns and cities for the guaranteed extreme weather – click here
- Find out what others are saying about the RBWM Environment & Climate Strategy – click here
- Find out what you could say – click here – to follow shortly
- Find out how to submit your response to RBWM – click here
References & credits
- Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash
- Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69446/pb13583-biodiversity-strategy-2020-111111.pdf
- EU Biodiversity strategy for 2030 – https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/actions-being-taken-eu/eu-biodiversity-strategy-2030_en
- This post is part of the WWRA Councillors regular series of Blogs to inform and empower local residents; as promised in their election leaflet
- It is also to comply with clause v of the Members Code of Conduct which states, “You must be as open as possible about your decisions and actions and the decisions and actions of your authority and should be prepared to give reasons for those decisions and actions.”
- The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the West Windsor Residents Association (WWRA).
- Any errors are unintentional so, I would value you bringing them to my intention so I can correct them. You can Email me firstname.lastname@example.org