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Biodiversity is the variety of life on the planet. This includes the plant and animal species that make up our wildlife – and the places or habitats in which they live. Natural England is responsible for ensuring that England’s rich biodiversity is protected and improved.

The UK is one of 188 Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity which was adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. This Convention has three main objectives: the conservation of biodiversity; the sustainable use of biodiversity; and the sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources.  In the UK this commitment led to the launch of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan(BAP) in 1994.

The Plan’s overall goal is to conserve and enhance biodiversity within the UK and to contribute to efforts to conserve global biodiversity.  The UK BAP targets the recovery of some of our most threatened species and habitats in the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments.  For each priority species and habitat, an action plan describes the current status and threats, and sets out an action programme for achieving 10-15 year objectives and targets.

These action plans, and the UK BAP process as a whole, represent a consensus of Government, the statutory and voluntary conservation sectors, land owners and managers. They give us the best opportunity to date of reversing the major declines in the populations, range and quality of the UK’s biodiversity resource.

Each of the four countries of the UK has subsequently produced country strategies for biodiversity.  The England Biodiversity Strategy was published in 2003; it identified new approaches and partnerships across sectors as being essential for achieving the conservation of biodiversity.

At theGothenburg Summit in 2001 the EU committed itself to the objective of halting the rate of biodiversity loss, with the aim of achieving this by 2010.  At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, Heads of Government committed themselves to achieving a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.  These, and other, multilateral environmental agreements cover the UK’s action to conserve biodiversity both globally and within the UK.

Species Recovery Programme

Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme seeks to reverse the declines in England’s animals, plants and fungi. The programme recognises that current habitat-based management approaches are often not enough to prevent extinctions and restore species populations to a point where they are secure. Instead, targeted action is often required. This may include a dedicated research programme to understand why a species is declining and what its habitat needs are; a period of trial management to assess how best to reverse the decline (possibly requiring reintroductions); and a period of recovery management to increase population sizes. Natural England is involved in all stages of this recovery process.

Most of the species selected for our Species Recovery Programme are UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. We work in partnership with government, voluntary conservation organisations, land owners and business to deliver the targets for these species. Whenever possible, we also try to involve the public so that the enriched natural environments achieved by the Programme are enjoyed by all.

Biodiversity duty guidance

The aim of the biodiversity duty is to raise the profile of biodiversity in England and Wales, eventually to a point where biodiversity issues become second nature to everyone making decisions in the public sector.

All public authorities are affected, including over 900 public bodies local authorities, fire, police and health bodies, museums and transport authorities.

In recognition of the key role local authorities play with regard to conserving and enhancing biodiversity, Defra has produced two sets of guidance: