The health of our wildlife is a major concern, not just because it’s fascinating and creates a wonderful natural environment in which to live, but because we actually depend on it!
Protected sites like Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are immensely important as the ‘pilot lights’ which could, in theory, reignite biodiversity health in the wider countryside and marine environment. However, these sites can’t exist in isolation. They depend on the wider countryside allowing wildlife to move around and populate new areas.
Habitat survey of Wales took place between 1979 and 1997. The survey showed the amount of land within Pembrokeshire classified as species-poor, indicating the difficulty species populations face in moving around the Pembrokeshire countryside, and showing how sites of wildlife interest have become isolated. This is particularly the case away from the coastal slopes and estuary areas. Where the wider countryside is fragmented by land use, ecosystem function is degraded and climate change will exacerbate existing pressures on wildlife, as well as adding new ones.
The county and adjacent waters of Pembrokeshire are covered by a Local Biodiversity Action Plan. This identifies habitats and species of local, national or international importance and sets out the conservation measures that many of them need.
A review in 2003 of habitats and species in the Plan concluded that:
• 20% were in a favourable condition
• 13% were in an unfavourable condition (but getting better)
• 40% were in an unfavourable condition (and getting worse)
• 27% were in an unknown condition
This situation is a reflection of wider ecosystem quality and function - evident also from the state of some features of designated sites.
So our countryside, which at first glance appears so green and healthy, is fragmented by land use. You could say that the countryside is too green – intensive agricultural activity, promoted for many years by European and UK policy, has left little room for wildlife. Ecosystems cannot function properly and climate change will make existing pressures on wildlife worse, as well as adding new ones.
The Wales Environment Strategy outcomes 19-21 are particularly relevant to the Authority’s work in this area. These outcomes relate to halting and reversing biodiversity loss, improving the management of the wider countryside for wildlife, and improving the condition of protected sites.
So what’s the National Park Authority doing to try and address the issues? Find out about our nature conservation projects!