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A Draft Framework for Biodiversity in Highland

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is short for “biological diversity”, that is simply the natural variety of plants and animals in the world. We all depend on this richness of plants and animals. It has important economic benefits for farming, fishing, tourism and through the provision of raw materials for medical research for example. Plants and animals, and the landscapes they help form are an important part of our cultural heritage, and give us pleasure and enjoyment. Biodiversity also provides us with “natural services” such as soil creation, biological control of pests and flood prevention.

Where did it all start?

The word “biodiversity” came from the “Earth Summit” held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, where 159 countries (including Britain) recognised the value of biodiversity to human life and signed the Convention on Biological Diversity. This pledges the UK to conserve biodiversity, to use its components in a way that ensures they continue to be available for future generations, and to share the benefits of biodiversity fairly and equitably between all nations and people. This way of using resources is an integral part of the philosophy of sustainable development, whereby any development should ensure that it does not reduce the quality of life of future generations.

Why is biodiversity different from what has happened before?

Biodiversity has become a new “buzz word”, which has already attracted wide spread attention. Although linked to the ideas of nature conservation, the whole approach is far more inclusive, both in the issues addressed and in terms of who is involved. It is not just about habitats and species nor designated sites and protection; it is fundamentally about the sustainable and equitable wise use of natural resources. A key aspect of this is recognising the importance of local action and allowing local communities to set their own priorities.

What has happened so far?

The UK Government has commissioned a detailed set of recommendations on how the Convention on Biological Diversity should be implemented, known as the “UK Biodiversity Action Plan”. This includes lists of habitats and species, which are considered to be the ones most in need of conservation in the UK (the UK BAP priority habitats and species). National plans (Species Action Plans and Habitat Action Plans) or statements (where action required is limited) have been prepared for all these species and habitats. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan also identifies a further 677 other species of conservation importance, for which a national plan is not being produced at this stage, but for which action may be needed.

The national plans outline overall objectives for each habitat and species and detail requirements for policy change, research, management needs and so on. Where a species is very restricted in distribution, implementation of the national plan has often resulted in local action on the ground, but for more widespread species (e.g. water vole or red squirrel), local action will need to be picked up at a local level.

What about Local Biodiversity Action Plans?

The majority of local authorities are now involved in the preparation of Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs), which are contributions to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. LBAPs are prepared by partnerships of interested organisations and individuals. They are a way of ensuring that national plans for habitats and species are implemented at a local level. They are also a way of determining and addressing local priorities for biodiversity and for involving local people in action on the ground. There has been a diversity of approach and rate of progress, but many areas have struggled to move from the plan stage to practical action. This is something we must avoid in Highland.

Objectives for Biodiversity in Highland

to maintain and enhance Highland’s native biodiversity

to increase local awareness and knowledge of biodiversity and foster the active involvement of local communities in looking after it

to raise public awareness of the social and economic value of biodiversity

to encourage sustainable uses of biodiversity

to encourage more sustainable practices in all activities which impinge on Highland’s biodiversity