What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is simply the variety of life on earth, from small micro-organisms to plants, animals and the ecosystems they depend on. It is found all around us in gardens, parks, roadside verges, fields, mountains, rivers and underground in our caves.
The Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity is important for a wide range of reasons and we all have a role in looking after native plants and animals, protecting ecosystems, and raising awareness of the value of our natural environment. There have been many reports and studies of how biodiversity contributes to our economy, our health and well-being, and the stability of our natural systems.
Our Local Biodiversity and why the concern?
According to the most recent State of Nature Report 2019;
- Of the 2,450 species found in Northern Ireland that have been assessed using the IUCN Regional Red List criteria, 272 (11%) are currently threatened with extinction from Ireland as a whole.
- Of the extant terrestrial and freshwater species found in Northern Ireland, assessed using IUCN Regional Red List criteria, 140 plants (10%), 11 vertebrates (22%) and 121 invertebrates (14%) are classified as being at risk of extinction from Ireland as a whole.
The State of Nature Report is published every three years, government agencies have joined wildlife organisations for the first time to help provide the clearest picture so far. The information gathered does not provide positive reading and clearly shows our natural environment is under immense pressure.
Key Pressures to Biodiversity
Evidence from various reports show the most significant threat to biodiversity within Northern Ireland are changes to the way we manage our land for agriculture and climate change. Other major threats include habitat degradation and destruction, pollution, invasive species, lack of recognition for the value of nature and over exploitation.
Councils Biodiversity Duty
The Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern-Ireland) 2011 (WANE) is the primary tool for the conservation and protection of Northern Ireland’s threatened or endangered wildlife. Whilst the WANE Act has introduced new species to protected lists, tightened controls on invasive species and increased penalties for wildlife crime, a significant change for Council was the introduction of a new Biodiversity Duty for all public bodies.
Why is required?
There are European, National and Regional targets set to halt the loss of biodiversity. The EU vision is for better protection of biodiversity in the EU by 2050. In Northern Ireland the NI Biodiversity Strategy has set a target to significantly reduce overall biodiversity loss. The biodiversity duty is considered a key measure to contribute to these targets and at a Council level, adopting Biodiversity Implementation Plans that focus on internal Council actions and coordinating Local Biodiversity Action Plans, is agreed as an appropriate way to help meet this duty.
What are the Council doing to help?
Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP)
Before we can determine how to help our Borough’s biodiversity we need an understanding of what we have. Producing an Local Biodiversity Action Plan enables us to gather data to identify habitats and species that are considered a priority within our area (those most at risk in NI). We can then use this information to work alongside governmental and non-governmental partner organisations to develop actions targeted to help these priority habitats and species as well as promoting, preserving and enhancing the overall biodiversity of our local area.
Click here to read the current Ards and North Down LBAP - please note, this plan is currently under review.
How can you Help?
Do your bit for Biodiversity
You don’t have to be David Attenborough to have a positive impact upon your local wildlife and nature. Schools, businesses and local homeowners can all positively influence biodiversity. Here are just some of the simple ways you can help.
1. Improve the biodiversity in your garden / school / business grounds.
- It doesn’t have to be manicured, leave areas to grow wild.
- Alter your grass mowing regime
- Plant pollinator friendly species
- Plant a native tree/s
- Replace fencing with a hedgerow or choose wildlife friendly fencing
- Eliminate the use of pesticide and fertilizers
- Create a pond
- Install a bird feeder / bird boxes / water bath
2. Become a citizen scientist / Volunteer for a local wildlife group
Contribute to science and research by monitoring your local wildlife. There are lots of monitoring programmes within the Ards and North Down local area including:
- Council run fun days including pond dipping
- RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch
- BTO’s Garden Birdwatch (GBW), Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), Heronry Survey and the Bird Ringing Scheme.
The Ulster Wildlife Group, Northern Ireland Bat Group, Butterfly Conservation, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Botanical Society for Britain & Ireland, The Conservation Volunteers, National Trust, Woodland Trust and your Local Red Squirrel Group also offer a wide range of practical volunteer work and monitoring opportunities.
If you would like to find out more about biodiversity, please contact our Biodiversity Officer at ANDBiodiversity@ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk