Biodiversity is the variety of all life on Earth.
This includes animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms, as well as their abundance and genetic diversity. The Wye and Usk catchments have a wealth of rich wildlife and natural habitats which society depends on. Preventing habitat loss and enhancing biodiversity within these catchments is vital not just to the rivers but to humankind too.
Future biodiversity offsetting opportunities for the benefit of rivers
In England, the 2021 Environment Bill comes into force in 2023. This legislation introduces a mandatory requirement for a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain (BNG) for any development. This gain can be located somewhere else in the country. For example, a new housing development in Milton Keynes could deliver its BNG requirement by financing a new habitat restoration project in the Usk and/or Wye.
BNG also delivers wider benefits too. For example, woodland creation not only enhances biodiversity but also contributes to natural flood management, cooler and cleaner river water, carbon sequestration and wellbeing benefits such as recreation.
In Wales there is no legal requirement for delivering BNG at present. However, the Welsh Government aims to publish its BNG strategy by 2023. Recently, the Senedd declared a “national ‘nature’ emergency”, with the Welsh government called upon to “introduce legally binding requirement to reverse biodiversity loss through statutory targets”.
The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act (2015)3 seeks wider benefits of the natural environment and recognises that “[a] nation which maintains and enhances a biodiverse natural environment with healthy functioning ecosystems that support social, economic and ecological resilience and the capacity to adapt to change (for example climate change).”
Our Natural Capital team are finding opportunities where biodiversity offsetting can improve river ecology.
Our thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding for supporting this area of our work.