Biodiversity describes the variety of different species that are found in a particular area. This could be a small area, such as a sand dune or a large area like the whole Exe Estuary in South West England or Baie des Veys in Normandy. The climate of a particular area has an important influence on biodiversity. Locations with harsh climates, like high Alpine areas for example, have relatively low biodiversity in comparison to locations with more moderate climates. Any change in climate can therefore have an impact on biodiversity as habitats change and the species that have adapted to that climate find themselves no longer suited to living in it.
One important role for the Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategies currently being developed, will be to identify potential areas around the Exe Estuary and Poole Harbour for new intertidal habitat to be created. This ‘compensatory habitat’ is required by the Habitats Directive and UK Habitat Regulations in order to prevent damage to internationally important sites, including Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas, which together are known as the Natura 2000 network.
The processes of Strategic Environmental Assessment and appropriate assessment are used to assess and reduce the impacts of major projects and plans on the natural environment.
Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment and is responsible for reducing the decline of protected species across England. They are also responsible for advising Government and industry on marine conservation and seascape issues in England’s territorial waters (from the coast out to 12 nautical miles offshore).
Inshore fisheries and conservation authorities (IFCAs) have a remit to “lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries, by successfully securing the right balance between social, environmental and economic benefits to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable industry.”
Marine sites of biodiversity importance are protected through a number of designations, which together form a network of Marine Protected Areas. These include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated under the Habitats Directive, Special Protection Areas for birds (designated under the Birds Directive), and Sites of Special Scientific Interest which occasionally cover sub-tidal areas. In future, Marine Conservation Zones will be designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act