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Nature recovery, biodiversity net gain and the Environment Bill

  • by JW

“Something wrong there.”


The Sid Valley is very keen to promote ‘nature recovery’:

Our Plan – Sid Valley Biodiversity Group

As is East Devon:

Creating a nature recovery network for East Devon and the UK – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The government is also keen, as it wants to set up ‘local nature recovery strategies’ – with the whole set-up out to consultation until November:

Local Nature Recovery Strategies: how to prepare and what to include – Defra – Citizen Space

But how will they work?

Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) are strategies that will set “priorities and map proposals for specific actions to drive nature’s recovery and provide wider environmental benefits[1]”. The purpose of LNRS is to reverse the decline of biodiversity in England by driving action needed for nature to recover. The intention is that LNRS will provide the foundation for a national Nature Recovery Network – a network of wildlife-rich places and a major commitment in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

In terms of increasing biodiversity, the Environment Bill requires that all developments deliver biodiversity net gain of at least 10%. To achieve this, developers will be required to provide or fund off-site habitat enhancement where mitigation cannot be sufficiently accommodated on-site. 

Local Nature Recovery Strategies | Charles Russell Speechlys

And there is a new algorithm for this:

Biodiversity metric: calculate the biodiversity net gain of a project or development – GOV.UK

Rural land managers are getting a little jittery about ‘biodiversity net gain’ in particular:

Biodiversity Net Gain: the new metric – Charles Cowap

However, there are real concerns that this will have the opposite effect:

The government’s new metric for biodiversity will have to be urgently improved if it is going to be fit for purpose, academics and conservationists have warned. The biodiversity net gain (BNG) metric, published by Natural England in July, outlines how new roads, houses and other building projects must achieve no net loss of biodiversity, or achieve a 10% net gain elsewhere if nature is damaged on site.

Information about a habitat, such as its type, size and condition, is fed into an algorithm, which then gives a number defining how valuable it is for biodiversity. But the new metric does not value scrubby landscapes dominated by bramble, thistle and ragwort, which are often key features of rewilding projects. Instead it logs them as a sign of “degradation”. Much of the Knepp estate in Sussex, England’s leading rewilding project, would “barely register for biodiversity” under the government’s new calculations, according to its owner, Isabella Tree. “Something wrong there,” she tweeted.

Steven Falk, an entomologist, said: “This has the potential to be the single most dangerous thing to be done by a statutory agency I’ve seen in all my 40 years working in nature conservation.” He said that the designation blighted a high proportion of habitat conditions and could affect hundreds of thousands of sites.

New biodiversity algorithm ‘will blight range of natural habitats in England’ | Biodiversity | The Guardian

‘Works of fiction’: Scientists disparage developers’ biodiversity gain plans (sign in)

Wildlife rules ‘too easy to manipulate’ by builders | News | The Times (sign in)