How Environment Agency work helps biodiversity: A 5-year report

Licence checks that protect internationally important wildlife sites during the past five years – 250,000.
Endangered freshwater pearl mussels successfully hatched in captivity – 70,000.
Hectares of new wildlife habitat created in England and Wales – 1,200.
Value of maintaining biological diversity – Priceless.

A new Environment Agency report detailing ‘How our work helps biodiversity’ – reveals the conservation and ecology outcomes for England and Wales since the turn of the century.

“Over the past five years the Environment Agency has helped to create 1,200 hectares of new habitat in England and Wales – the equivalent of ten Hyde Parks,” said the Environment Agency’s Head of Conservation and Ecology, Paul Raven.

“We’ve worked on almost 2,000 wildlife projects helping to save 39 threatened species – including successfully hatching 70,000 endangered pearl mussels and attracting otters back to every major city in England.”

But equally important is the Environment Agency’s day to day regulatory work, which goes largely unseen by the public but is vital to wildlife conservation.

“Enforcing hundreds of thousands of environmental licences and permits, has ensured that the £ 20 million we’ve put directly into conservation work, has delivered truly positive outcomes, particularly for water and wetland habitats,” Dr Raven said.

“For example, the strict pollution controls imposed in the last 30 years and regulated by the Environment Agency over the past 10 years have produced the cleanest waterways since before the Industrial Revolution, and wildlife is now really beginning to benefit.”

A major review of the past five years, ‘How our work helps biodiversity’ shows how the Environment Agency’s efforts to reduce pollution, manage water resources and minimise the risk of flooding has helped to protect special wildlife sites and restore habitats.

“Governments across Europe, have agreed to halt the loss of biodiversity by 20101,” Paul Raven said, “and the improving state of Britain’s wildlife provides a good indication of how the Environment Agency’s role as a regulator of industry, is protecting and improving the environment.”

With a proven link between environmental quality and human health and well-being -several of the wildlife habitat creation projects that the Environment Agency has been involved with have focused on urban regeneration. By giving river corridors a new lease of life in towns and cities, local people can enjoy improved protection against flooding with the benefits of more wildlife and access to a better environment.

For example, at Chinbrook Meadows, in the London borough of Lewisham, the Ravensbourne River has been restored to a more natural state. By replacing straight concrete banks with a winding natural riverbank adjoining leafy parkland – an important wildlife habitat and a highly valued community amenity has been created.

“The transformation of Chinbrook Meadows is one of many urban regeneration success stories, that have not only restored a valuable habitat but even been credited with improving house prices in the area,” Dr Raven said.

“We know that otters are now found in every major city in the country, which underlines the benefits of measures to improve water quality and wildlife habitats overall.

”But we can’t be complacent. There are major challenges ahead for our wildlife in the face of climate change and the increasing impact of non-native invasive species.”

Key statistics that influence the Environment Agency’s biodiversity remit: