About the climate and biodiversity crisis
The climate and biodiversity crises are closely linked and influence each other.
Climate clearly influences where plants and animals can live, and we're already seeing animals and plants shift where they live as a result of a changing climate. But it also works the other way around as habitats can also influence the climate. Habitats store the very carbon that is causing climate change. Soils, peat, trees and vegetation, sediments in pools and the sea all store huge amounts of carbon. How these habitats are influenced by people has a significant influence on how much carbon they can store and how much they can help reduce the impacts of climate change. For example, one hectare of actively growing young woodland can take over 14 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year, while the same areas of arable farming on deep peat soils can release over 32 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Carbon stored in habitats
Natural England has released a useful report giving the best current estimates for the amount of carbon stored by different land uses and habitats, and also how much this store changes every year.
State of nature
How wildlife is responding to a changing climate is very difficult to measure. 'State of nature' reports provide a good best guess at a national level for changes, and the causes of change, to some of our wildlife. Change at a county level is harder to measure, but Shropshire is lucky in having two recent county floras and two recent bird atlases, which can be used to look at changes over time. There are also atlas publications for a wide range of invertebrate groups, but change here is more difficult to measure.
The chapter on climate change in the National Biodiversity Network's 2019 State of Nature report offers a good summary on the national changes in wildlife. Some of the key messages are listed below:
- 13% of species in England are threatened with extinction from Great Britain
- 36 plant species have become extinct
- 48% of moth decline is due to climate change
- 60% of aphid increase is due to climate change
- Public sector expenditure on biodiversity in the UK, as a proportion of GDP, has fallen by 42% since a peak in 2008/9 (£256m in real terms)
- Changing agricultural management has had the biggest single impact on nature in the UK over recent decades. 69% of England’s land is managed for agriculture (79% in Shropshire)
The role of Shropshire Council
We're a major landholder, and manage several countryside sides for the benefit of wildlife and people.
Where possible we'll seek to manage our land holdings for the greatest overall benefit to society. This will include providing access to greenspace for people as close to where they live as possible, but we'll also manage our land to benefit wildlife, to store for carbon, and in ways that help prevent flooding downstream.
We'll also encourage others to manage land for a range of benefits to society - often known as ecosystem services. One example is our provision of free or subsidised trees to those who can plant them in areas visible to the public. As well as a visual impact, the trees will also store carbon, clean the air, and provide benefits to wildlife. For further information please visit our Tree Team web pages.
Biodiversity and planning
The natural environment is impacted by development of many kinds. There are a range of policies and legal protections that cover the natural environment. Our Natural Environment Team work with our development control staff to help minimise negative impacts on the natural environment, and will be starting to require net gain in terms of biodiversity from new developments in line with government policy.
We're also supporting the work of the Shropshire Climate Partnership and other groups working for a more biodiverse and lower carbon county. The Land and Biodiversity group of Shropshire Climate Partnership are particularly relevant to this.