22 May 2010

International Biodiversity Day

Today is International Biodiversity Day and 2010 is the United Nations' International Year of Biodiversity- see more here.

Photos: Buttercup fields viewed from the top of Ash Lane, Randwick

Natural England recently said that England is becoming a country of 'beauty spots rather than beauty'. Their report earlier this year showed nearly 500 species of animals and plants have become extinct in England as a result of human activity since 1800.

In the first ever audit of England’s lost and declining species, 12 per cent of land mammals, 22 per cent of amphibians and 24 per cent of butterflies were shown to have been lost!! The populations of a further 943 species are at precariously low levels including the northern bluefin tuna, the Natterjack toad and the red squirrel, which Natural England says could become extinct in the next 20-30 years without urgent action.

Biodiversity is not some add on that we can do when the economic situation is good - it is a fundamental indicator of our planet's health. Indeed restoring and supporting our ecosystems is what has been described as "cost-effective investment in this planet’s economic survival". Although while we need to more clearly recognise the value of biodiversity in economic terms that doesn't discount other values.....one example given is the Red Squirrel which is not worth anything in economic terms but is hugely important to us culturally, spiritually and aesthetically.

The intensification of agriculture perhaps plays the largest part in terms of biodiversity loss - in particular the overuse of fertilisers and pesticides, the ploughing of grasslands and the loss of mixed farms. Yet producing more food and protecting biodiversity are not opposed - see the many examples of organic farms that have hugely enhanced local biodiversity.

Other scary facts...

Defra statistics released in April 2009 show a deterioration in levels of breeding seabirds, wintering waterbirds, woodland and grassland habitats; farmland bird populations declined by 13 per cent in England between 1994 and 2007; mammals like dormice have disappeared from 50 per cent of their former habitats and only 140,000 native red squirrels remain.

This year the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) estimated 80 per cent of English and Welsh ponds were in a ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ condition while Pond Conservation estimates 75 per cent of Britain’s rivers fail new European standards on biodiversity. In fact I wrote a letter on thsi a while back to the press - see here letter about no pristine rivers being in the South West.

See also the article The Ecologist "UK wildlife becoming the ‘living dead’" by Laura Edgecumbe-Ansdell and Tom Levitt which was useful in putting together this blog entry.

This blog has covered a number of local projects to improve biodiversity - in particular the exciting plans to make Stroud the first Bee Guardian town and the moves by the local hedgehog hospital to protect hedgehogs. Locally we are having a talk soon about how the Ruscombe Brook can be viewed as a living organism.

Lastly I just acme across this article here about saying 'nature has to be preserved' condemns the poor to poverty - and here about how helping poor and biodiversity are two sides of the same coin.


Phantom88 said...

How could the red squirrel be saved?

Probably through science, and inoculation, I suppose.

I hate how the war on the gray squirrel is being used as an excuse to kill and eat them.
Some guy on "Come Dine With ME" served up squirrel meat, that he said he had ordered over the internet...he had a pathetic smirk on his face...

Philip Booth said...