What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the term used to describe all life on earth – from micro-organisms to plants and animals, the places in which they live and their genetic diversity.
Why does it matter?
The Earth's entire collection of living things and the natural environment surrounding them are part of the global ecosystem. This ecosystem creates an environment suitable for life and in which we can live and thrive. It provides a huge number of goods and services (ecosystem services) that sustain us such as: food, clear water, healthy soils, and clean ai Our health, wealth and happiness are inextricably linked to biodiversity. The natural environment and species within it are absolutely essential for both our physical and mental well-being.
Yet, over the last fifty years at a global scale our actions have resulted in the loss of approximately one fifth of the topsoil, one fifth of the land suitable for agriculture, almost 90% of the large commercial marine fisheries and one third of the forests (ed. Chivian, E. and Bernstien, A. (2008) Sustaining Life - How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity Oxford University Press).
The picture in the South East
The South East is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity – due to our mild climate, varied geology and history of farming – and is an area of great importance for its natural beauty. Its wildlife habitats of national and international importance range from coastal mudflats to ancient woodlands, river valleys, heaths and calcareous grasslands.
The South East has:
- over 30% of England’s broadleaved, mixed and yew woodland;
- over 40% of the ancient woodland in England;
- over 40% of England’s lowland heath;
- over 10% of the lowland calcareous grassland resource;
- over 60% of England’s vegetated shingle resource;
- over 10% of the intertidal mudflats;
- 16% of coastal lagoons;
- over 15% of coastal and floodplain grazing marsh;
- over 40% of Europe’s offshore chalk exposure;
- 36 NNRs covering 6700 hectares
- 682 Sites of Special Scientific Importance - (SSSIs - amounting to over 134,000 hectares) many of which are internationally important (86 international SPA,SAC, RAMSAR designations)
Biodiversity is an integral part of the South East's economy, supporting livelihoods and our well-being, providing ecosystem services, natural resources and improving our quality of life. Yet the threats to the wildlife of the South East are great, ranging from inappropriate land management, habitat loss, environmental pollution and invasive non-native species. In a region of highly fragmented habitats these threats are compounded by climate change . For further information please see the links in the left hand column.