What does local biodiversity mean to you? Badgers boldly bustling about Bilton? Barn Owls and Bats in Brownsover? Birds in Brandon? Bloody Nosed Beetles? Bullfrogs? Bumble Bees? Bunnies? Butterflies? Well, it certainly includes protecting any local endangered species, habitats or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
Bee populations are in serious decline for a number of reasons, including a severe loss of their habitat. Unsustainable land management and farming practices together with the wrong flowers growing at the wrong time in the wrong place mean that degraded biodiversity is weakening bees' immune systems, leading to disease; yet biodiversity survey data is out of date and inadequate. Use of pesticides is also affecting bee populations in the countryside, in villages, in towns, in schools, in parks, and maybe even in your street as a lot of damage has been done in ordinary gardens with pesticide sprays.
Bees are important pollinators and their loss impacts on hundreds of different plants grown as the food crops we eat, such as nuts, peppers, and tomatoes. This is not only significant in economic terms, such as rising food prices, but is essential to our very survival. Without bees we would have a third less food on our plates.
Bees also pollinate species which provide things we hold dear, such as important habitats for other wildlife, yet the beautiful wildflowers which support bees have been eradicated from public spaces. There is insufficient local bee-friendly green space, including in residential gardens, yet three bumblebee species are already extinct. 25% of the remaining 250 species of bee in the UK are threatened, so there needs to be;
Many people are not interested in protecting local wildlife but still want their own green space. Over 4,000 hectares of the Borough are urban land (over 11% by area), yet a substantial proportion of this will be made up of gardens which can contribute substantially to biodiversity and species such as song thrush, bats and great crested newts can depend on garden habitats. Public rights of way, gardens and natural spaces can also help people to relieve stress and help to make Rugby a safer place. However, these requirements are generally set at national or regional levels.
English Nature's (now Natural England's) urban green space standards recommend that people living in towns and cities should have:
"The Borough of Rugby has a legacy of a number of quality parks such as Caldecott Park, countryside sites and other green spaces. Rugby is split into distinct areas: the main urban area and the surrounding predominantly rural areas. These areas consist of approximately 200 hectares of parks, recreation grounds and open spaces, diverse range of ecological biodiversity consisting of 7 sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) , 3 Local Nature Reserves (LNR), 2 Regional Important Geological Sites (RIGS) and 14 sites of importance for Nature Conservations (SINCS).
The Council has a wide range of duties and guidelines that must be accounted for in planning decisions particularly in relation to biodiversity and designated nature conservation sites".
Rugby Borough Council's website now refers to 'Parks and recreation' as 'Parks and open spaces' and with regard to Rugby Borough Nature Areas
it says there are FOUR 'major' Nature 'areas';
The Borough Council in partnership with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) provide 4 Nature areas that are managed for the benefit of wildlife. Two of these are Local Nature Reserves;
Natural England's Nature on the Map shows about ten SSSIs in or
near Rugby of which seven are in the Borough. Parts of Ryton Pools are SSSIs jointly owned/run with other authorities and part of the next door wood is managed by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (WWT).
Ryton Wood is an 84.8 ha SSSI with open access from Ryton Pools Country Park, but the jewel in WWT's crown is Brandon Marsh, a gorgeous place to be, great for the kids and this 92.3 ha SSSI is in the borough. The WWT list 16 SSSIs and their map also shows Draycote Meadows (an SSSI with 5.5 ha of flowers) and Stockton Cutting (5.5 ha SSSI for butterflies), which lies on the border of Rugby and Stratford, accessed from the main road a bit further south from The Boat, near Stockton Household Waste Recycling Centre.
In Coventry, Stoke Floods is a 7.7 ha LNR adjacent to the River Sowe and there are a run of SSSIs along Sowe Valley. The Sowe Valley project, to be run by the WWT, has been awarded over £200,000 of lottery funding through the Access to Nature grant programme.
The Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull Local Biodiversity Action Plan contains 26 Species Action Plans for our threatened plants and animals as well as 24 Habitat Action Plans covering our farmland, woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, urban areas and post-industrial land.
The amazing diversity of life on Earth is in danger of disappearing including:
Key Species actions in Rugby are;
The borough has one of the largest concentrations of semi-improved neutral grassland in Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull at the Rugby Radio Mast site. With regard to the plans to build 6,200 homes on this site, we should remember that the Earth gives us:
We should be asking for fundamental changes to transport policies which are burying wildlife under new roads and airports. Survey work in the footprint of the proposed airport identified that a very high proportion of the 45 kilometres of hedgerow surveyed was species rich.
Although local quarries are leaving our local landscape badly damaged, sometimes for birds (etc) a cliff is more valuable than, say, "improved" grassland. One of the best 'SSSIs' is private - The road verges adjacent to Cemex's Malpass Quarry on Parkfield Road, Newbold are species rich. The quarry was once home to a peregrine falcon.
The days of farmers being paid to rip out wildlife-rich hedgerows have been replaced by farmers being paid to restore them. However, there are good and and ways of farming. Fordhall Farm in Shropshire is owned by nearly 8,000 people from around the world and continues Charlotte Hollins' father Arthur's method of 'Foggage' farming using 20 species of grass and avoiding the perils of ploughing.
School Grounds, as well as providing habitat for a range of species, offer a great opportunity to develop environmental education. The key target is to establish wildlife features and areas that can be used to promote a greater understanding of biodiversity. The Royal Horticultural Society have a Campaign for School Gardening.
Careful coppicing of our woodlands would improve biodiversity and combat climate change by providing wood for use as a sustainable biofuel. WWT do a lot of coppicing and there is at least one charcoal man using their woods. However, a Habitat Biodiversity Audit (HBA) found that Rugby Borough only has 1,219 hectares of woodland which is less than 3.5% of the area. This is below average even for Warwickshire, a county which is sparsely wooded. There is a target for about 7.5 hectares of new woodlands to be established in the borough per year.
With regard to international aspects, rainforests might seem like far away places, but even here in the UK there is a lot you can do to help prevent their loss. There is action you can take locally by buying good wood from retailers selling FSC certified garden furniture or sustainably managed timber that doesn't damage our rare and precious habitats.
The growth of oil palm plantations is driving the clearing of forests and increasingly it's being used as a biofuel. But growing crops for fuel means more land is needed and more forests are cut down. In some cases - any carbon dioxide savings are wiped out.
In Indonesia Friends of the Earth has helped prevent 50,000 hectares of forest (around a 1/3 the size of greater London) from being destroyed. You can join us in stopping rainforest destruction.