The UK Government talks a great talk about protecting our nature and our wildlife but unfortunately, like many things, that is as far as it goes. We have made no inroads in tackling our national crisis over biodiversity during the past decade, in fact we have gone backwards, despite the UK government signing up to a worldwide commitment in 2010 (The Aichi Biodiversity Targets) to not only put an end to the rapid decline but to reverse the trends.
This trend is mirrored across the world, the Amazon Rainforest that are being rapidly destroyed for development is not alone, the very same thing is happening under our noses. Driven by the motives of profit in the corporate sector and accepted by governments as a means to achieve financial growth. Our natural landscape and wildlife has been forsaken for hundreds of years and seen as an endless resource to be plundered time and time again.
Offsetting is used as an argument to justify the loss of our nature to development but this is shown to rarely work with trees planted and left unmanaged and are lost in a short space of time.
The government’s commitment to protect its biodiversity can be summed up by the fact that they have cut funding by 29% between 2012 and 2017 to just £456 million per year, 0.02% of the UK GDP.
According to State of Nature over 40 percent of the UK’s species are in decline since 1970. So why is this important and why is biodiversity important? Well quite simply we are destroying the Earth’s habitats at such an unsustainable rate that on our current trajectory we are heading towards our own extinction. To use our body as a metaphor, it is like smoking 40 cigarettes a day and knowing full well they will eventually kill us, but ignoring the fact because of the illusion of the perceived benefits we gain. In this case, the addiction on successive governments for endless growth at all costs.
The RSPB, (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) have written a damning report of the government’s lost decade of Biodiversity action. Please do take a look here. They have assessed the UK government’s performance in tackling Biodiversity, which is somewhat worse than that of the government’s own opinion of its own handling since 2010. The government admits to failing to meet 14 of the 20 targets set.
So what does this mean for Oxfordshire?
In Oxfordshire you can find more than 200 species as being recognised as a priority for conservation of which 80 are a protected species. Less than 10,000 hectares of the county retain special value for wildlife which makes up 4% of the land mass. These special value areas include beechwoods in the Chilterns, flood meadows along the River Thames and rare fen.
The species of animals in Oxfordshire receiving the strictest protection are bats, dormouse, great crested newt, natterjack toad and the otter. Other species are receiving varying levels of protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act ; including the water vole, common lizard, grass snake, slow worm and roman snail. It is also illegal to take a roman snail or freshwater crayfish. 18 rare plants are also protected within the county.
More information on the Biodiversity in Oxfordshire can be found here, which is written in partnership by: The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), Oxfordshire County Council and the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC).
In conclusion I believe we need to dramatically push our natural habitat, wildlife and Biodiversity up the county’s priority list and establish Oxfordshire as an example to the world on how to not only halt the decline in Biodiversity, but to be at the forefront of rejuvenating and reinvesting in our local green spaces and to move from exploiters to guardians of our land.
In order to achieve this we need to bring under protection more natural wildlife sites and dramatically increase the funding available. The RSPB suggest 30% of land protected for wildlife of the whole UK by 2030. So I would suggest that is the aim for Oxfordshire by 2030. The current level of CTA's Conservation Target Areas are just over 20% of the county, according to Oxfordshire County Council.
We also need to clean up the Oxfordshire Rivers. In order to do so, I believe the UK Government will need to create tougher regulations on the water companies and their consistent dumping of sewage into the counties highly polluted rivers and they should substantially increase the fines imposed if they are found to be in breach of the rules.
If you would like to get involved with a local organisation who is working to restore nature, here is the link to BBOWT our local Wild Life Trust. In their words,
‘Protecting local wildlife’
"Your local Wildlife Trust has a vision of a wilder Berks, Bucks and Oxon. We’re restoring nature across these beautiful counties and empowering people to connect with their local wildlife’.
‘As we work to manage habitats to tackle the nature and climate crises locally, we provide vital breathing spaces in a crowded world’.
‘Our expert team work with more than 1,700 volunteers to look after 85 nature reserves and four education centres, run hundreds of amazing events, and campaign to make nature’s recovery a reality".
Personally I think the biggest impact we can have is to say no to the OXCAM ARC. Do take a look at a recent article called ‘Raising the Alarm’ by The Oxfordshire Project.
Written by Ben Molyneux