biodiversityYou may have seen recently Sir David Attenborough’s series ‘Wild Isles’, which revealed some very worrying facts about British wildlife. For example, one-quarter of our mammal species and one-third of our bird species are at risk of extinction Just one specific example of loss noticeable locally is that Lapwings are much less common than they used to be, perhaps you have noticed others. With only 13 percent of our land covered by woodlands we are the least forested in Europe, and half of that tree cover consists of non-native monoculture. This variety of life of animals and plants, and their habitats – Biodiversity – is not only important to our ecosystems, but also to humanity. It provides our food, makes oxygen, cleans our water and gives us medicines.

Threats to biodiversity, more particularly relevant locally, could be the intensification of farming, perfectly groomed fields, monoculture, habitat loss such as drainage of our wetlands, and growing pressures from urbanisation. 79% of Shropshire’s land is managed for agriculture, which is 10% above the national average.

In addition, while we are very aware of the threat of global warming itself, scientists predict that loss of biodiversity could be a greater threat to humanity than climate change! The UK Government has supported the view that if we fail to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, by 2030 we increase the risk of further pandemics, rising global temperatures and loss of species. In order to prevent this, the Government is introducing the Climate and Ecology Bill. Following on from this, Shropshire Council (SC) is resolving to formally and actively support this bill. SC has set up a Shropshire Biodiversity Partnership, and Shropshire Wildlife Trust has several Nature Based Solutions for example focusing on woodlands, peatlands and wetlands. And as a Public Authority, the Parish Council also has a responsibility to conserve biodiversity, via the NERC Act 2006, and the Environmental Improvement Plan 2023, from DEFRA.

So what can Wem Rural Parish Council, and parishioners, do to meet this responsibility? WRPC has already supported the SC motion to support the Climate and Ecology Bill. When we receive planning applications we will check then for biodiversity implications, although Planning Officers already do this when relevant. We will be looking to develop and strengthen the Objective in our Action Plan which currently states “To lead the community on issues related to the environment and climate change”.

How can biodiversity be increased in our parish? We should all think what contribution we could make, however small. Allowing any sized patch of land to grow wild is easy, and makes less work! Wildflowers grow better on nutrient-poor soil, so if early mowing is necessary, cuttings should be removed to avoid returning nutrients to the soil. If possible, reduce the severity of hedge cutting, and only mow a verge closest to the road, taking into account road safety. As far as larger areas of grass and hay is concerned, a well-known national agricultural wholesaler accepts that adding diversity to hay production can be tricky. Wild flowers and legumes can be added to improve diversity into hay mixtures, but if included, it may be more difficult to sell it on. However, if a farmer is using hay for his own livestock it would probably be easier to include a wider range of flowering species.

So wherever you are and whatever you are doing in Wem Rural, do something for our local wildlife, and please let the Parish Council know of any examples that move forward our Action Plan, and inspire others. Thank you on behalf of the Parish Council – and the Environment.


helen mccabe
Author: helen mccabe