Biodiversity is the variety of life, and includes all the genetic, species and ecosystems that have evolved on Earth during the last 3.5 billion years. The link between all three is vital because it recognises that nature is continually adjusting to environmental changes, and it is this evolution which creates habitats and supports new species. Biodiversity is important because:
- It provides the support systems and natural services, such as the oxygen that we breathe and the water we drink, which are essential to our continued existence;
- It supplies the raw materials which feed and clothe us, as well as providing us with housing and medicines;
- Plants and animals form an important part of our culture and traditions;
- It is crucial for our quality of life and our standard of living and provides us with important spiritual nourishment through our contact with the natural world.
Although nature is dynamic and habitats and species are in a constant state of flux, recent decades have seen huge declines in all aspects of biodiversity. Reasons for these losses include:
- Direct and indirect losses of ecosystems and habitats as a result of increased development, population growth, agricultural intensification and pollution;
- Loss of species due to habitat loss/degradation, hunting, pollution, and persecution.
Additional threats such as climate change and continued population growth are putting increased pressure on our natural habitats and the species they support.
As a result of huge population declines and on-going threats, much of our native wildlife is now protected under the provisions of national law, such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), and/or international legislation i.e. Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. In Snowdonia, these would include water voles, dormice, otters, sand lizards and all native UK bat species to name but a few. Further information regarding development and protected species can be found by clicking here.
Lesser Horseshoe Bat (© SNPA)