Biological diversity or ‘biodiversity’ refers to all the variety of life. It includes all species of animals and plants – everything that is alive on our planet.
Biodiversity is important for its own sake, and human survival depends upon it. Biodiversity is the Earth’s life support system, providing essential services ranging from clean water and air, crop pollination and products such as coal and timber, through to the potential to help in flood mitigation and alleviating the effects of climate change. Biodiversity also enriches our quality of life. For example, wildlife habitats in urban areas provide opportunities for everyone to learn about and enjoy the natural world.
Biodiversity impacts on all our lives. Likewise, we impact on biodiversity and, in many cases our actions can have negative implications for the life around us. Unfortunately, we have been losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. The UK has lost over 100 species of plants and animals during the last century. Sadly, many once-common species and habitats have now vanished or are declining rapidly. For example, Over 75% of Sheffield’s wildflower grassland has been lost since 1980, our heaths are becoming increasingly fragmented and degraded and only two populations of white-clawed crayfish remain in the city.
We are working with our partners to try and halt the loss of this biodiversity locally and restore some of the losses. We are doing this through the Biodiversity Action Plans for Sheffield and Rotherham , our Planning work and the development of Living Landscapes in Sheffield and Rotherham.
Biodiversity Action Plans
In 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity was signed by 159 governments at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It called for the creation and enforcement of national strategies and action plans to conserve, protect and enhance biological diversity.
In response to this, the UK Biodiversity Action Plan was developed in 1994, setting national priorities and targets. Action was also taken at a local level with the creation of Local Biodiversity Action Plans.
In October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, over 190 countries agreed to take urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity. This agreement recognised just how important our wildlife and ecosystems are for sustaining a healthy planet and for delivering essential benefits for people.
Biodiversity Action Plans are still one way of delivering this commitment, although plans are moving towards a landscape-scale and ecosystem approach as outlined in Defra’s Natural Environment White Paper and England Biodiversity Strategy. That means much of the activity will be delivered in a joined-up way through our Living Landscapes [insert link] and other priority spatial areas and networks.