Bird Targets - How You Can Get Involved
The plant and animal species found in the United Kingdom today have all been affected by Man's activities over the centuries. Today, more than ever, these activities are having negative effects on the natural world and its species. Major threats include new development, pollution, changing land usage and intensification of agriculture. Changes across the United Kingdom have also been reflected locally in Southend-on-Sea.
Conserving semi-natural habitats and threatened species which still exist has never been more important, and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is playing its part. Firstly, and importantly, it manages nature reserves both on its own and in partnership with other organisations. It also organises the Biodiversity and Environmental Awareness Working Party, a body made up of representatives from twelve local wildlife organisations, Officers and Councillors, which meets regularly to discuss issues that include nature conservation in the Borough.
Even in the Borough of Southend-on-Sea there are populations of several significant species and areas of nationally and internationally important habitat. Ensuring these species and habitats are protected and conserved is a substantial responsibility for the Borough Council.
The South East Essex RSPB Local Group along with a number of voluntary groups, individuals and organisations play their part in helping to protect species and managing sites for wildlife. These groups rely heavily on the enthusiasm of their volunteers and where possible Southend Borough Council continues to promote their individual objectives and encourage new members.
Garden Birds, the Brent goose and skylarks have all been included in the southend-on-sea local biodiversity action plan. Targets related to these species include improved monitoring, awareness raising, and habitat protection. Southend council and partnership organisations are working hard to achieve these targets. However, these targets can only be met with community support.
What is Biodiversity?
Life on this planet is the result of over 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history. So far around 2 million species have been identified, with the majority of these being small creatures such as insects. Some scientists estimate that there may actually be up to 13 million species, although estimates vary widely, from 3 million to 100 million species, depending on whom you talk to.
Biological diversity or 'biodiversity', as it is now commonly known, is the collective term given to the huge variety of life that exists today. Not only does it include all species of plants and animals, but also their genetic variation and the complex ecosystems in which they live.
Biodiversity is not just rare or threatened species but includes the whole of the natural world from the common to the critically endangered. It includes the plants and animals familiar to all of us in the places where we live or work.
Biodiversity can be divided into three different levels:
It is the broad range of different plant and animal species that occur;
Should we worry about biodiversity?
Yes. Due to human activities, species have been disappearing at 50-100 times the natural 'background' rate. Based on current trends an estimated 34,000 plant and 5,200 animal species - including one in eight of the world's bird species - face extinction.
However, this is not just restricted to developing nations, even in the United Kingdom around 100 species became extinct during the last century. Many more species and habitats are also in danger of disappearing. Whilst much effort has been channelled into preventing further species extinction in the UK, extinction's on a county by county basis continue.
But biodiversity is important, the network of ecosystems, habitats and species that makes up biodiversity provides the support systems that retain human existence. Biodiversity provides many of the essentials of life - our oxygen, water, food, clothing, climate stability, health and relaxation. Furthermore, the value includes the spiritual benefits gained from contact with nature and the economic potential of wild species as new sources of food or medicines.
There is also a moral obligation on us to preserve a world for future generations that has not been impoverished, whose unique and precious natural diversity has not been eroded, depleted and finally lost. We cannot predict what will or will not be important in the future. We are not able to predict what our children or our children's children may need. By driving forms of life to extinction or destroying ecosystems we may cut off options we are not capable of imagining.
Global Action - The Convention on Biological Diversity
Over 175 countries have ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity. Its main objective is to halt the world-wide loss of animal and plant species and their genetic resources. All signatory countries are expected to take responsibility for saving and enhancing biodiversity within their own borders. They are also expected to draw up national plans to forward the objectives of the Convention.
In the United Kingdom a Biodiversity Steering Group has been established and this group has overseen the production of individual national plans for over 400 species and 40 habitats.
However, for national plans to be successful it has been recognised that communities need to support them at a local level. Local authorities are also seen as having a key role in ensuring that the conservation of biodiversity is implemented effectively. Local Biodiversity Action Plans are seen as the most suitable method of delivering nation action plans locally.
Southend's Local Biodiversity Action Plan is Southend-on-Sea Borough Council's answer to the challenge of protecting local biodiversity through a partnership with interested groups, organisations and individuals. It contains 18 habitat action plans, 14 species action plans and 1 habitat statement.
The Red, Amber and Green List explained
The UK's birds can be split in to three categories of conservation importance - red, amber and green.
Red is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action. Amber is the next most critical group, followed by green. Birds in the red and amber lists will be subject to at least one of the relevant factors listed below.
Red list criteria
Amber list criteria
Historical population decline during 1800-1995, but recovering; population
size has more than doubled over last 25 years
Green list criteria
The Birds of the Red List (Species that can still be seen on a regular basis in Southend have been highlighted)
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