WHAT IS BIODIVERSITY?
Biodiversity refers to the animals, plants, natural environment and ecosystems found on the planet. It provides a range of environmental, social and economic benefits, which people derive from nature, which are referred to as ecosystem services (essential for our survival) to include:
- Provisioning services are the products obtained from ecosystems to include the supply of food, the freshwater that we drink, the clean air we breathe, energy sources for heat, fibre for clothes and medicines.
- Regulating services are the benefits derived from the regulation of ecosystem processes, for example, climate regulation, natural hazard regulation, water purification, waste management and pollination.
- Habitat services highlight the importance of ecosystems that provide habitats for wildlife.
- Cultural services include non-material benefits that people obtain from ecosystems, which include recreational assets for walking and aesthetic values to ensure our physical & mental wellbeing.
However, the value of ecosystem services (natural capital) provided from the natural environment to society is immense and often undervalued. The loss of biodiversity due to habitat loss, pollution, climate change and invasive alien species affects these essential ecosystem services. We all have a responsibility to protect biodiversity. Government, businesses, local communities, landowners and individuals all have a role in protecting biodiversity. If we take care of nature, it will take care of us.
Since signing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992, the UK has committed to halting the loss of biodiversity. Subsequently, the UK Biodiversity Action Plan was published in 1994, which proposed that Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAP) should be prepared to implement the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Since the publication of this first LBAP for the District, there has been several legislation and policy changes relevant to biodiversity. The Wildlife and Natural Environment (NI) Act 2011 introduced a new statutory Biodiversity Duty for public bodies. Also, the Local Government Act (NI) 2014, introduced the creation of a Community Plan by local authorities, to improve the long term social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the District. Therefore, to reflect these changes and to address the threats to the environment, we have responded by developing a Derry & Strabane Green Infrastructure Plan 2019 – 2032. Green Infrastructure recognizes that humans depends upon healthy functioning ecosystems to survive.
Different sectors came together to form the Green Infrastructure Stakeholder Group, to address common threats. They have developed the Green Infrastructure Plan 2019 – 2032,with Biodiversity as a Key Strategic Theme, which represents the District’s LBAP. Under the Biodiversity Key Strategic Theme of the Green Infrastructure Action Plan, there will be several key biodiversity action plans to include the development of a new Habitat & Species Action Plan, a Pollinator Plan and Invasive Alien Species Plan for Council owned sites.
DON'T MOW, LET IT GROW!
Council nurturing local bee population with innovative grass cutting programme
The 'Don't Mow, Let it Grow' initiative is part of Council's Pollinator Plan and will see temporarily reduced cutting on selected sections of Council's parks and greenways network.
The strategy aims to create grasslands rich in wild flowers to create a more favourable habitat for bees in the summer months. The Pollinator Plan forms part of Council's pioneering Green Infrastructure Plan and Biodiversity Officer, Christine Doherty, said it could play a key role in fighting the extinction of many species of bees on the island of Ireland. "A third of the bee population in Ireland is potentially at risk of extinction and that poses a huge problem for us as we rely on bees to pollinate the majority of our crops and wildflowers," she noted. "With a reduction in the bee population we'll have less variety of foods and costs will increase. "This trial in grass management will initially be piloted at ten of our key parks meaning that we won't be cutting grass as frequently and we will use a special type of machinery that cuts and lifts the grass in late August or early September.
"This action will create grasslands rich in native wild flowers thereby increasing the amount of food available for bees and providing them with shelter hopefully leading to an increase in the bee population which is good for our economy and our environment. "The change will also prevent 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from the reduction in grass cutting which is a positive step in mitigating against the impacts of climate change." "Don't Mow, Let it Grow is also linked to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan which encourages all of us to play our part in bringing back the bees." John Quinn, Council's Streetscape Manager, explained out the system will be implemented: "Council will install signage at ten of its key green spaces, to trial a change in grass management in sections of these sites for pollinators. "This change in grassland management will take place initially on over 3% of our estate (26 ha). "The majority of grasslands are cut too frequently, with grass cuttings left behind, which increases soil nutrient levels and stimulates vigorous grasses. "This cycle increases on-going management costs and the need for additional grass cutting."
By changing the grass management, this will create grasslands rich in native wild flowers, which contribute towards the conservation of the UK's biodiversity and help deliver the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. It supports Council to deliver their statutory biodiversity duty, improves the biodiversity value of grasslands, enhances ecological connectivity and contributes towards biodiversity net gain. The change to grassland management, reduces cutting frequency, reduces vegetation growth and provides an opportunity to enhance the existing natural capital value. It will increase the number and diversity of flowering plants, provide a more sustainable service under the current conditions and reduces the Council's carbon footprint. For further information on this initiative and Council's wider Green Infrastructure Plan visit www.derrystrabane.com/biodiversity.