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Part of: Natural Environment

Related to: Rural Areas, Mental Health and Illness, Air Quality, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Spaces, Waste and Recycling, Built Environment

Key Facts:

  • 14 out of 18 bat species on the EPS list are in BANESThe Combe Down Stone Mine complex and Monkton Farleigh mines, which includes Brown’s Folly, are of international importance, designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
  • The South West Biodiversity Partnership identifies 11 Strategic Nature Areas either fully or partially within Bath and North East Somerset

Biodiversity is a term commonly used to describe the variety of life on Earth. This encompasses the whole of the natural world and all living things with which we share the planet. It includes plants, animals, even invisible micro-organisms, bacteria and ourselves. All these interact in complex ways with the physical environment to create living ecosystems.

Biodiversity is all around us: not just in wild places and nature reserves but also in our cities, the places we live and work, our farmland and our countryside. We are very much an integral part of this biodiversity and exert a major influence over it.

Although we may not readily appreciate it, biodiversity provides us with many of the things that sustain our lives.1

“A healthy, properly functioning natural environment is the foundation of sustained economic growth, prospering communities and personal wellbeing” 2

Biodiversity and human health 3

By securing the life-sustaining goods and services which biodiversity provides to us, the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity can provide significant benefits to our health. In contrast, the continuing loss of biodiversity on a global scale represents a threat to our health and well-being.

Biodiversity:

  • supports food security, dietary health, livelihood sustainability
  • provides important resources for traditional and modern medicine
  • provides important resources for medical research
  • plays a role in the regulation and control of infectious diseases
  • is essential for climate change adaptation
  • supports ecosystems that can reduce disaster risks and support relief and recovery efforts

What does the data say?

Global perspective 4

A major report released in March 2005 highlighted a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth, with some 10-30% of the mammal, bird and amphibian species threatened with extinction, due to human actions. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) added that Earth is unable to regenerate from the demands we place on it. (see Millennium Ecosystem Assessment)

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has stated that many species are threatened with extinction, including:

  • 1 out of 8 birds
  • 1 out of 4 mammals
  • 1 out of 4 conifers
  • 1 out of 3 amphibians
  • 6 out of 7 marine turtles

In addition:

  • 75% of genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost
  • 75% of the world’s fisheries are fully or over exploited
  • Up to 70% of the world’s known species risk extinction if the global temperatures rise by more than 3.5°C
  • 1/3rd of reef-building corals around the world are threatened with extinction
  • Over 350 million people suffer from severe water scarcity

Whilst many administrations recognise these problems, both the global and European commitments to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 were not met.

National Perspective 5

The most recent studies for England show 40% of priority habitats and 30% of priority species are still declining. Eight priority species were lost entirely from the UK between 2002 and 2008.

Bath and North East Somerset 6

Species7

The Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC) provides basic statistics about the local species, habitats and protected sites for which records are held. Its data covers the 35,123 ha (hectares) area of Bath and North East Somerset in the context of the West of England’s terrestrial area of 133,410 ha (hectares).

 

West of England

Bath and North East Somerset

% in BANES

Area

133,410 ha

35,123 ha

26%

Priority habitats

20,605 ha

2,556 ha

12%

 

 

 

 

Notable Species

343,876

87,107

25%

 

 

 

 

European Protected Species (Total number of records of EPS species)

Otter

970

497

51%

Great Crested Newt

589

84

14%

Common Dormouse

587

11

2%

Bats (Roosts and sightings)

3,864

1,598

41%

Porpoise

10

0

0%

Dolphin

2

0

0%

Killarney Fern

1

0

0%

 

Table 1: Biodiversity Statistics for  the West of England and Bath and North East Somerset based on data provided by Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre on 23/05/2012

From the European Protected Species (EPS) list of 26 species:*

  • 4 occur in the B&NES area: otter, bats, great crested newt, dormouse
  • 7 occur in the West of England BRERC area

* NB. All bats, turtles, whales, porpoises and dolphins counted as 1 species per group

Of the 18 UK bats on the EPS LIST there are 14 recorded in Bath and North East Somerset.

  • Serotine Bat
  • Bechstein's Bat
  • Brandt's Bat
  • Daubenton's Bat
  • Whiskered Bat
  • Natterer's Bat
  • Leisler's Bat
  • Noctule
  • Nathusius' Pipistrelle
  • Common Pipistrelle (45kHz)
  • Soprano Pipistrelle (55kHz)
  • Brown Long-eared Bat
  • Greater Horseshoe Bat
  • Lesser Horseshoe Bat

Regrettably we don’t have good monitoring data to provide a current picture of the health of biodiversity in Bath and North East Somerset, and we have little understanding of the extent and significance of habitat fragmentation across the district.

Habitats and protected sites8

Studies published back in 1990 indicate that only 6% of Bath and North East Somerset was characterised with semi-natural habitat of high wildlife value. This is quite a low figure compared with the national average and very low compared with the rest of Europe.

The semi-natural habitats that do remain are typically small and are often isolated from each other. This reduces their wildlife value and viability since it is harder for most species to survive and flourish in small isolated sites. It can be assumed that the national picture of decline in species numbers and range, and in the extent and quality of natural habitats is replicated here.

 

Area in hectares

% of the total area of BANES

Total area

35,123 ha

N/A

Area of land with wildlife/geological designations

 

Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCIs)

5,020 ha

14.3%

Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS)           

327 ha

0.9%

Priority Habitat (not including rivers and hedges)

 

Area in hectares

% of total priority habitat

% of total area of BANES

Total area of priority habitat

2,556 ha

100%

7.2%

Priority Habitat which is within SNCIs

2,047 ha

80.0%

5.8%

Priority Habitat which is outside SNCIs

509 ha

19.9%

1.4%

Priority Habitat which is within RIGS

102 ha

4.0%

0.3%

Priority Habitat which is outside RIGS

2,454 ha

96.0%

7.0%

Priority Habitat which is within urban areas

51 ha

2.0%

0.1%

Priority Habitat which is outside urban areas

2,505 ha

98.0%

7.1%

Table 3: Habitat and protected sites in Bath and North East Somerset based on data provided by Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre on 23/05/2012

Of the good semi-natural habitats that do remain, the key components include:

  • semi-natural ancient woodlands such as Peppershells Wood in Compton Dando,
  • neutral grasslands such as those near North Hill Farm in Chew Stoke,
  • calcareous grasslands of the Cotswolds,
  • some of the river corridors particularly the Avon and its tributaries,
  • the remaining network of ancient species-rich hedgerows such as those at Priston, East Harptree, Compton Dando and Nempnett Thrubwell,
  • the standing waters of Blagdon and Chew Valley Lake and
  • post-industrial sites such as the coal batches of the Somerset coalfields and the stone mines at Combe Down at the edge of Bath.

Many of these features are designated as Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCIs), and reflect a great variety of habitat types and landscape characteristics.

Sites of national or international importance9

A number of these sites are also of national or international importance. The calcareous grasslands make an important contribution to the national calcareous grassland resource, and three different calcareous grasslands are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The Combe Down Stone Mine complex and Monkton Farleigh mines, which includes Brown’s Folly, are of international importance, designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). These are hibernation sites for Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats, and the mixed pastoral landscape around the south of Bath provides important feeding grounds and access routes for the bats. Brown’s Folly is also important as a hibernation site for at least nine other bat species, making it one of the most diverse bat sites in the country.

14 of the 18 species of bat recorded in the UK , have been recorded within the district, making it a particularly important area for these species.

Chew Valley Lake is of international importance, designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for Shoveler Duck and is an SSSI for migratory birds; and Blagdon Lake is a nationally important wetland site (designated as an SSSI). A number of semi-natural ancient woodlands are of national importance (designated as SSSIs), including Cleaves Wood and Long Dole Wood. There are also key areas of mixed habitats of national importance (designated as SSSIs) including Harptree Combe and Monkswood Valley.

The South West Biodiversity Partnership’s Nature Map identifies 11 Strategic Nature Areas either fully or partially within Bath and North East Somerset (see figure 1). These areas were derived from a desktop review and analysis of data held by Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC) and other agencies, and represent an assessment of the best areas to maintain and expand terrestrial wildlife habitats at a landscape scale. Targets to maintain, restore and re-create wildlife might also be best met at these areas.

Strategic Nature Areas - map 

Figure 1: Strategic Nature Areas as identified by the South West Biodiversity Partnership 10

(Click here to see a larger image of Figure 1)

Are we meeting the needs? 11

Avon Wildlife Trust is running a landscape scale project to validate the maps for priority grassland habitats, to then confirm the best areas to target for grassland restoration and to work with landowners to grassland implement restoration. In terms of green Infrastructure and biodiversity planning this initiative provides the evidence base needed to properly plan for strategic habitat improvements that could bring multiple benefits to society.

The area is supported by the Bristol Regional Environmental Record Group (BRERC) which manages the biological and geological records.  

The area is also served by a wide range of wildlife groups, including Avon wildlife Trust; Cam Valley Wildlife Group; Avon Reptile and Amphibian Group; Avon Moth Group; Avon Bat Group, BTO. The species recording groups typically work independently of each other, but feed their data into BRERC.

Existing and emerging planning policy documents for the district include policies to protect and enhance local biodiversity and emerging policies are designed to meet the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework.

What can we realistically change? 12

The UK government has responded to these issues by setting the following vision and mission:

  • 2020 Mission -Our mission is to halt overall biodiversity loss, support healthy well-functioning ecosystems and establish coherent ecological networks, with more and better places for nature for the benefit of wildlife and people.
  • 2050 Mission - Our land and seas will be rich in wildlife, our biodiversity will be valued, conserved, restored, managed sustainably and be more resilient and able to adapt to change, providing essential services and delivering benefits for everyone.

The government confirms the need for a cultural change that puts the value of the natural environment at the heart of decision making. Changes to the planning system are particularly important. Received

Biodiversity and Planning 13

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published in 2012 replaces the former series of Planning Policy Statements. Section 11 of the NPPF contains several new policies specifically targeted at enhancing the natural environment, and biodiversity in particular. These take forward the commitments made in Natural Choice, the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper.