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, led 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.
In essence, this Action Plan 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 Species 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.
In 2010, the plan had a major revision and the scope was 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. It was renamed Space for Wildlife: Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Biodiversity Action Plan (LLRBAP).
The plan was further updated in 2016. All the 19 Priority Habitat Summaries have been revised to include opportunities / conservation measures, an explanation of the link to Local Wildlife Site criteria, and to update the status of the habitat, where known. A further Priority Habitat Summary, for Rivers, is in preparation. A summary of the current extent of habitats has been added, including an assessment of the current trend in quality and extent for each, where evidence exists. (see Chapter 2, Table 1.3 and Appendix 1). The list of core LBAP species remains, but the definition of an LBAP species has been widened to include species listed in Local Red Data Books or identified as ‘rare’ in a County or VC55 checklist. (See Chapter 5). A new Species Action Plan, for Swifts, Swallows and House Martins, has been added. The rest of the document is largely unaltered, apart from minor updates.
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.
This is a reflection of the national picture where many of the UK Biodiversity Indicators show a long term decline over the period 1970 to 2007 (UK Biodiversity Indicators in Your Pocket 2009, DEFRA 2009).
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 (ca. 1.3% for Leicestershire).
The resource of nationally important habitats is even smaller. For instance there are only:
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.
There is little evidence that habitats of national UKBAP quality have been created in our Leicestershire and Rutland. However, Space for Wildlife: LLRBAP has had success in promoting the creation of local habitat which fall outside those defined in the UKBAP 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 including Cossington Meadows and Wanlip Meadows; major wetland creation at Rutland Water Nature Reserve; heathland creation at Bagworth and on Bardon Hill; and extensive tree planting and wetland creation in the National Forest.
Scope of Space for Wildlife: LLRBAP
If Space for Wildlife: 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.
Space for Wildlife: LLRBAP has three main components:
In essence, Space for Wildlife: LLRBAP 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.
See below for downloadable documents: