With an extensive selection of habitats and a myriad range of species, the United Kingdom is host to a great range of biodiversity. Moreover, bearing in mind that England is the home of 18% of the world’s heath-land and almost 20% of Europe’s Atlantic and North Sea estuaries, protecting biodiversity within the UK is not just a necessity for Britain but is instrumental to the sustainability of environments internationally.
One of the main threats to the UK’s biodiversity is categorised as ‘habitat loss/degradation’, this term referring to the destruction of species’ habitat as a result of development. Agricultural, forestry and river management practices can all contribute to the loss or degradation of biological habitats in the UK, as unsustainable developments which make an abrupt change to an ecosystem can often be too sudden for species’ to adapt to. Furthermore, another predominant threat to biodiversity within the UK is environmental pollution, as atmospheric pollution (acid precipitation and nitrogen deposition), water pollution from agricultural sources, and climate change – with its subsequent sea level rise – can all negatively affect the natural habitat that a wide array of biologically-diverse organisms depend upon to thrive.
In response to the threats being posed to the UK’s biodiversity there are measures that need to be taken, all of which start at a local level. Professor of ecology Sir John Lawton states that the UK needs spaces to encourage biodiversity that are “bigger, better, and more joined-up”, as biological organisms need space and complexity to flourish. In support of this, the Government’s Biodiversity 2020 strategy foregrounds the importance of landscape-scale developments in order to help ecosystems adapt to fluctuating conditions within the UK (e.g. the effects of global warming) and the 159 National Character Area profiles supplied by Natural England help to support this initiative by providing information and advice to help maximise the impact of such landscape-scale efforts. Furthermore, national-scale objectives were outlined in the 2011 Natural Environment White Papers to aid in the preservation and development of ecosystems and priority habitats, the documents also setting targets for levels of biodiversity in England by the year 2020.
Legally, biodiversity is protected in the UK by various legislative acts (such as the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985) and, as stipulated by the 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act, every public body is legally-obliged to consider the implications of their decision making processes on the biodiversity in their region.