Summary of Biodiversity Strategy for England

Posted by Cain Blythe - CEnv MIEMA MIEEM MSc BSc (Hons) on 23/08/2011

Ecosulis is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity, who recently prepared this useful summary regarding the biodiversity strategy for England published last week. A copy of the strategy can be accessed here

The Natural Environment White Paper included a commitment to publish a Biodiversity Strategy to set out how the government would meet international and EU commitments in England. The Welsh Government is currently working on its Natural Environment Framework, ‘A Living Wales.’ A progress report was published in Febraury 2011 and is available here. Scotland's biodiversity strategy, Scotland's Biodiversity: It's in Your Hands, was published in 2004 and is available here.

The England Biodiversity Strategy includes a commitment to “to halt overall biodiversity loss, support healthy well-functioning ecosystems and establish coherent ecological networks, with more and better places for nature for the benefit of wildlife and people.”

The Strategy sets out four key outcomes that will be achieved through a series of priority actions categorised into four areas. A summary of each of these has been provided below.

Target Outcomes

The Strategy includes the following target outcomes:

1. Habitats and Ecosystems on Land

The Strategy includes a goal that by 2020 measures will have been put in place to ensure biodiversity is “maintained and enhanced… degradation has been halted and, where possible, restoration is underway.”

This is underpinned by a commitment to meeting the following targets:

  • By 2020, 90% of priority habitats will be in favourable or recovering condition and at least 50% of SSSIs will be in favourable condition, while maintaining at least 95% in favourable or recovering condition
  • No net loss of priority habitat and an increase in the overall extent of priority habitats by at least 200,000 ha
  • Ensuring that at least 17% of land and inland water is conserved through inter alia the establishment of nature improvement areas
  • Restoration of at least 15% of degraded ecosystems

2. Marine Habitats, Ecosystems and Fisheries

By 2020 the government commits to have put in place measures to protect and restore biodiversity in oceans and seas.

This includes the following:

  • By the end of 2016 in excess of 25% of English waters will be contained in a well-managed Marine Protected Area network
  • Managing and harvesting fish sustainably by 2020
  • Putting in place marine plans that will cover the whole of England’s marine area by 2022

3. Species

By 2020 there will be an "overall improvement in the status of wildlife and further human-induced extinctions of known threatened species will be prevented.”

4. People

The strategy commits to ensuring that by 2020 “significantly more people will be engaged in biodiversity issues.”

Priority Actions

The target outcomes set out above will be achieved through a series of priority actions in the following four areas:

1. A more integrated large-scale approach to conservation on land and at sea

The strategy commits to establishing coherent and resilient ecological networks on land and at sea.

In terms of establishing these on land, the strategy states that the government will:

  • Improve the quality of priority habitat, particularly focusing on protecting and enhancing the quality of existing priority habitat
  • Increasing the size of remaining areas of priority habitat
  • Creating new areas of habitat, where appropriate
  • Enhancing ecological connection between, or join up, existing areas of priority habitat

To achieve these, the government will inter alia enable partnerships of local authorities, local communities and land managers, the private sector and conservation organisations to establish Nature Improvement Areas. The Natural Environment White Paper included a commitment to setting up a competition to identify 12 initial areas and £7.5 million to support this.

For ecological networks at sea, as aforementioned, the strategy commits to establishing marine protect areas covering 25% of English waters by 2016.

The strategy also commits to the recovery of priority species, whose conservation is not delivered through wider habitat-based and ecosystem measures. Priority will be given to species at most risk of extinction. A new programme of recovery action is to be agreed through Natural England.

A commitment is also made to ensure that agricultural genetic diversity is conserved and enhanced. Actions include incorporating the sustainable maintenance of genetic diversity into key relevant policies and programmes, including incentives.

2. Putting people at the heart of biodiversity policy

The government aims to engage more people in biodiversity issues, increase awareness of the value of biodiversity and increase the number of people taking positive action.

Actions include:

  • Establishing a working group to consider how civil society organisations can help increase the number of people engaged in biodiversity issues
  • A new green areas designation empowering communities to protect local environments

The strategy also commits to taking better account of the values of biodiversity in public and private sector decision making through:

  • Consideration of nature’s value in all relevant Impact Assessments
  • Independent Natural Capital Committee, to advise Government and put the value of England’s natural capital at the heart of our economic thinking
  • Inclusion of natural capital in national accounts, alongside GDP
  • Support and guidance for businesses

The government also promises to develop new financing mechanisms to direct more funding towards the achievement of biodiversity outcomes. This includes:

  • Publishing an action plan in 2012 to expand schemes in which the provider of nature’s services is paid by the beneficiaries,
  • Setting up of a business-led Ecosystem Markets Taskforce to review the opportunities for UK business from goods and services that value and protect nature’s services

3. Reducing environmental pressures

The strategy states that the government will integrate the consideration of biodiversity into those sectors and policy areas that have the greatest potential for direct influence.

These areas - and some of the corresponding actions set out in the strategy - are:

  • Agriculture – the government will maximise the contribution which Environmental Stewardship and the Woodland Grant Scheme makes towards ecological restoration. The strategy also commits to reforming the Common Agricultural Policy to achieve greater environmental benefits.
  • Forestry– the strategy commits to bringing a greater proportion of existing woodlands into sustainable management. The Forestry Commission and Natural England will also consider the role that Environmental Stewardship can provide to support farmers in conserving other ‘woody habitats’, such as field trees, parkland, hedges and patches of scrub scattered through the landscape, which are vital habitat for woodland wildlife.
  • Planning and development– as set out in the Natural Environment White Paper, the government will launch a new, voluntary approach to biodiversity offsets, which will be tested over a two-year period until spring 2014. The government recently launched a consultation on a new National Planning Policy Framework through which it has committed to retaining the “protection and improvement of the natural environment.”
  • Water management– the government will align the river basin planning approach under the EU Water Framework Directive with measures to protect biodiversity. The government has also committed to the reform of the water abstraction regime.
  • Management of the marine environment– the government will develop 10 Marine Plans which integrate economic, social and environmental considerations. The first two Marine Plans (East of England Inshore and Offshore marine plan areas) will be completed in 2013.
  • Fisheries– the government will seek to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to enable individual Member States to manage marine resources more effectively. The government has also promised to trial a new approach to fishing quotas that could help minimise discards.
  • Air pollution control– the strategy commits to reducing air pollution impacts on biodiversity through, for example, measures focused on the transport and the agricultural sectors.
  • Invasive non-native species– the strategy commits to implementation of the Invasive Non-Native Species Framework Strategy for Great Britain

4. Improving knowledge

Finally the strategy commits to improved data sharing to achieve better prioritised decision-making locally and nationally and clear communication of the evidence so that policy makers and wider society can understand the importance of biodiversity and use it to take action for conservation. 

The government will shortly publish a set of indicators to assess delivery of the strategy. These will refine the existing England Biodiversity Indicators already published by Defra.