Britain must act now to save wildlife habitats
England's wildlife habitats too small and isolated to protect species.
Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 08:02 AM
Britain needs to spend up to one billion pounds a year to protect fragile English wildlife habitats from climate change, intensive farming and population growth, a government-backed report said on Friday.
It urged the government to transform conservation policy in the next 40 years to avoid a devastating loss of the countryside that supports thousands of important plants, trees and animals.
British ecologist John Lawton, who led the year-long study, said England's wildlife habitats are too small and isolated to protect many species from increased strains in coming decades.
Creating a stronger, better connected network of well-managed habitats will cost between 600 million pounds and 1.1 billion pounds each year, the report estimated.
At a time of big public spending cuts, the study urged the government to resist taking money away from the environment.
"It is easy to say we cannot afford it. We fundamentally disagree," it said. "We are ... despite current difficulties, a wealthy nation."
Failure to act could lead to the loss of areas rich with diverse species, such as meadows, heathland, woods and rivers, the report said. Centuries of human activity have helped to shape these habitats and they will need ongoing management if they are to survive, it said.
The United Nations called on world leaders this week to take bold action to preserve animal and plant species. It says the world is facing the worst losses since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago.
England has at least 55,000 species, including significant numbers of bats, bumblebees, wildfowl and mature oak trees.
The pace and scale of environmental change over the last 50 years was worrying and is likely to get worse, the report said.
Future threats include extreme weather, droughts, rising sea levels and the loss of areas like wet grasslands to farming to feed a growing population, the report said.
Its authors made 24 recommendations to create stronger habitats. The measures include better management of habitats, setting up new ecological restoration zones and improved water quality and flood protection.
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