Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland Biodiversity Action Plan
Biodiversity is the variety of life in all its forms and the habitats where it occurs.
In 1992, at the ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio de Janeiro, the UK Government signed the Biodiversity Convention. This was followed up by the publication of Biodiversity: The UK Action Plan, in 1994, with the stated goal ‘to conserve and enhance biological diversity in the UK....‘. One way this is to be achieved is through Local Biodiversity Action Plans, which aim to focus resources to conserve and enhance biodiversity by means of local partnerships, taking account of national and local priorities.
To this end surveys of the local habitat resource (Bowen & Morris 1996) and key species (Lott 1997) in Leicestershire and Rutland, were published. A working group of representatives from 19 organisations, lead by Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, used this information to draw up the local plan, “Biodiversity Challenge: An Action Plan for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland”, which was produced in 1998.
The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LLRBAP) was modelled on the national UK Action Plan but concentrated on habitats and species of local conservation concern. There were 17 Habitat Action Plans and 14 Secies Action Plans. When the plan was revised in 2005 an Urban habitat plan plus Dingy and Grizzled Skipper species plans were added. In addition, the numerous targets and actions detailed in the original plan were considerably reduced in number and simplified.
Wildlife habitats – the current resource
Habitats are the places where wildlife lives and they vary in the type and quantity of different wildlife species they can support. Intensively managed farmland is poor for wildlife whilst land which is less intensively managed with little or no applications of chemical fertiliser, pesticides and herbicides is much richer in wildlife.
In Leicestershire and Rutland, where more than 80% of the land is farmed, good habitats for wildlife are now few and far between and much of our wildlife is being squeezed out and continues to decline.
Click here to download a Key Facts Summary document, which illustrates how Leicestershire and Rutland are amongst the poorest counties in the UK for sites of recognised nature conservation value. The very best sites (Sites of Special Scientific Interest or SSSIs) represent only about 2% of the land area.
The resource of nationally important habitats is even smaller. For instance there are only:
- 38ha of calcareous grassland (28ha on SSSI)
- 134 ha of heath grassland (34 ha on SSSI)
- 0.3 ha wet heath
- 1,165 ha of species rich neutral grassland (407 ha on SSSI).
(SSSI data from Bowen & Morris 1996, non SSSI data derived from LRWT Local Wildlife Site totals at March 2009)
These important or BAP priority habitats comprise only a very small proportion of the area of Leicestershire and Rutland. In addition, many habitats are clustered in specific areas (for instance East Rutland, Charnwood Forest,) with large parts of the two counties containing little or no priority habitat.
The LLRBAP has been particularly successful in promoting the creation of new local wildlife habitats, many of which fall outside those defined in the UK BAP and yet these have had a significant positive impact on local wildlife. Good examples are the Trust’s new nature reserves in the Soar valley at Cossington Meadows and Wanlip Meadows; wetland creation at Rutland Water Nature Reserve and much of the work in the National Forest.
If the LLRBAP was to focus solely on high quality national priority habitats, it would fail to address the poor state of wildlife in the wider countryside and would ignore some of the best local habitat creation schemes.
The scope of the LLRBAP has therefore been widened to include habitat creation in the wider countryside. This is where most of our wildlife is found and it is where many common species (farmland birds, butterflies and moths being the best documented) are in decline.
Space for Wildlife is the title of this latest version of the LLRBAP and it has three main components:
- To promote the restoration, management and creation of BAP priority habitats
- To promote the creation of new wildlife habitat in the wider countryside
- To survey, monitor and promote favourable management of existing good sites through the Local Wildlife Sites system.
In essence, Space for Wildlife goes back to the broader intentions of the 1992 Biodiversity Convention - to halt the loss of biodiversity – by broadening the overall scope of the LLRBAP to also address wildlife conservation in the wider countryside.
By focussing on more than just the prescribed habitats of the UK BAP the intention is to promote a new more flexible approach to nature conservation and areas managed for wildlife in Leicestershire and Rutland which is relevant and applicable to all parts of the local landscape.
Click here to download a copy of Space for Wildlife - the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Biodiversity Action Plan 2010 - 2015
Click here to download a copy of the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Biodiversity Action Plan Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Click here to download further guidelines for habitat creation projects in Leicestershire and Rutland.