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What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is, literally, the variety of life on earth. It embraces all living plants and animals (including mankind), their genetic variation and the ecosystems on which they depend. Biodiversity is everywhere: in gardens, fields, hedgerows, mountains, rivers and in the sea. Biodiversity represents quality of life. It gives pleasure, interest and an appreciation of our natural environment.

As well as its own intrinsic value, biodiversity can be of great economic importance, providing food, materials and medicines, as tropical rain forests continue to demonstrate.

At a local level, biodiversity greatly influences the character of our landscape. Carmarthenshire is justly renowned for its magnificent coast, quiet estuaries, steep wooded valleys and rugged uplands. Throughout much of the rest of the county there is a patchwork of woodlands and fields, bounded by the hedge-banks that are frequently of historic importance. The sea and seabed around the Carmarthenshire coast are also rich in species, some of which are of considerable economic importance.

This natural beauty of the county is a major factor on which the local tourism and recreation industries depend. Biodiversity is therefore fundamental to the physical, economic and spiritual well-being of all who live and work in Carmarthenshire.

The natural environment of Wales supports the huge variety the wildlife that lives here. But we must remember that biodiversity also sustains our lives. A healthy natural environment is a vital part of a sustainable and robust society in Wales. Wildlife provides us with pleasure, inspiration and attractive communities.

Carmarthenshire’s natural environment matters to us all - in many different ways. Although it is not always obvious, biodiversity provides us with many of the things that sustain our lives, through a number of important services:

  • Provisioning - providing food (wheat, fish, etc.), fuel (timber, coal), fresh water, medicine, textiles.
  • Regulating - disposing of pollutants, controlling floods, absorbing carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases), stopping erosion.
  • Cultural – beautiful landscapes, a sense of place, recreation and tourism, inspiration and investigation from schoolchildren to scientists.
  • Supporting - maintaining soils and plant growth.

For more information visit the Wales Biodiversity Partnership website.

Biodiversity matters then for a whole variety of reasons: ethically, emotionally, environmentally and economically. It is at the very foundation of our society and the basis of our economic success and wellbeing.

A lot of these services we get for free! The cost of replacing these (if possible) would be extremely expensive. For example, bees are vital to our economy – they pollinate many of our crops such as strawberries and apples as well as animal fodder crops such as clover. In 2007 The National Audit Office collated research working out the value of honeybees to the UK economy. The values of the bees’ services were estimated at £200m a year. The retail value of what they pollinate was valued closer to £1bn.

Under the Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act 2006, we have a duty to consider biodiversity when carrying out all our functions and this is particularly relevant to the Council’s responsibilities in respect of the Local Development Plan and Development management.

Biodiversity is a core component of sustainable development, underpinning economic development and prosperity, and has an important role to play in developing locally distinctive and sustainable communities. The conservation and enhancement of biodiversity is vital in our response to climate change and in the delivery of key ecosystem services such as food, flood management, pollination and provision of clean air and water.

Nationally the Wales Biodiversity Partnership (WBP) brings together key players from the public, private and voluntary sectors to promote and monitor biodiversity action in Wales. WBP provides a leadership role and an expert steer on priorities for action on biodiversity in Wales.

We are committed to undertaking, reviewing and reporting on the action agreed annually with the Wales Biodiversity Partnership to meet our Biodiversity Duty under the NERC Act 2006.

We regard biodiversity conservation as an essential component of the vision for Carmarthenshire in the future, as demonstrated in the Integrated Community Strategy. This strategy has a vision to ‘Protect, enhance and conserve our natural and built environment and champion biodiversity in the County’. The council is one of the partner organizations on the Local Service Board that delivers the aims and objectives of the Community Strategy.

Trees are an important natural asset and contribute much to the quality of our urban and rural environment. In addition to their visual amenity, trees act to filter noise, light and dust and can host a range of wildlife. The Council can protect trees by issuing Tree Preservation Orders (TPO). A TPO aims to protect trees that make a significant impact on their surroundings, for example, if they are a good example of their species or form an important feature within the local landscape. A TPO can be made by the local planning authority in respect of a tree, group of trees or woodland including hedgerow trees but not hedges, bushes or shrubs. Members of the public may make a formal request for a TPO to be made.

Properly managed hedgerows are valuable for wildlife supporting a rich diversity of insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. In many lowland areas, hedges are the most significant wildlife habitat remaining. The health of hedgerows is crucial for the survival of many of our common as well as rarer species and can act as wildlife corridors. In 1997 regulations came into force to protect important hedgerows, in particular hedgerows which are more than 20 m long or which meet another hedgerow at either end. It should be noted that garden hedges are not affected. We enforce these regulations, you will find more information on our hedgerows page. 

Local Biodiversity Action Plan
We contribute to the implementation of the Carmarthenshire Local Biodiversity Action Plan. The Carmarthenshire Local Biodiversity Action Plan has been produced by a partnership of organisations concerned with the conservation of the county's wildlife.

The LBAP contains a series of action plans covering the nationally threatened or declining species and habitats in the county, as well as species and habitats of local concern. It includes for example, action plans for lowland meadows, upland oak woods, red squirrel and water vole.

Each action plan includes actions aimed at conserving and enhancing that particular habitat or species within the county. If these actions are to succeed, they will require a number of individuals and organisations to work together in partnership - including land owners, government agencies, wildlife conservation groups, local authorities and industry.

The Biodiversity Partnership includes representatives from organisations including government and non-government wildlife bodies, wildlife charities and voluntary groups - all working together to conserve and enhance Carmarthenshire biodiversity.

For further information about the members of the Carmarthenshire Biodiversity Partnership click on the links below or visit www.carmarthenshirebiodiversity.co.uk for details on their local projects.

There are a number of ways in which we can help conserve biodiversity in Carmarthenshire and everyone can take part. Even simple changes can make a difference. For example:

You can help in general by:

You can help in the home by:

  • Recycling organic waste such as vegetable peelings on a compost heap. This can then be used for garden compost and it creates a habitat for slow worms and hedgehogs. Or try a wormery, which will also provide liquid fertiliser for your plants.
  • Sorting out your rubbish and recycling items such as paper, plastic, milk cartons, cans and glass. This will reduce the amount of countryside needed for landfill.
  • Making more use of environmentally friendly and recycled products.
  • Buying locally produced, organic produce or growing your own. Visit the Soil Association website for useful advice.
  • Saving energy. Electricity production uses up non-renewable energy resources, which in turn contributes to global warming so turn lights and appliances off when they are not being used. Use solar-powered gadgets.
  • Ensure your house is properly insulated so heat is not being wasted.

You can help in the in the garden by:

  • Planting locally native plants and shrubs and avoiding planting species that are known to be invasive. Natives are preferred to exotics by bees and butterflies and more wildlife will be encouraged in your garden.
  • Planting nectar rich flowers to attract bees and butterflies.
  • Stopping the use of slug pellets and pesticides that are killing beneficial insects and affecting the birds which eat them e.g. song thrushes which are becoming increasingly scarce. Instead use environmentally friendly methods. For example use old plastic bottles over young plants, put seaweed around your plants or use beer traps. For more information on organic gardening visit the Garden Organic website.
  • Installing bird and bat boxes and putting up bird feeders, especially in winter when birds may struggle to find food. Remember to keep them away from squirrels and cats.
  • Growing plants and shrubs which produce berries or seeds for birds to feed on, such as teasel, sunflower, berberis or cotoneaster.
  • Creating a garden pond and designing it with wildlife in mind.
  • Buying or making your own compost bin. Visit Home Composting for advice on home composting. Using your own home-made compost rather than peat helps save peat bogs which are a threatened habitat which have been adversely affected by extraction of peat for garden use.
  • Providing places in your garden for creatures to inhabit and shelter. Stones, for example, or dead wood and leaves can become home to hedgehogs, fungi and insects. Hibernating toads, frogs and newts like log piles in dark damp corners of your garden.
  • Creating a window box to encourage bees and butterflies if you don't have a garden.
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The Carmarthenshire Biodiversity Partnership is asking people to set aside small areas of lawns or grass for pollinators, which they might manage at home or as part of school grounds, cemeteries, public buildings, play areas or around businesses.

Try marking out a small area of lawn or grassy area and let the grass grow and see what flowers appear – it can be fascinating to see the range of insect life that will live in your mini meadow.

Dare to let your grass grow - help our pollinators!

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The Carmarthenshire Bogs Project has a blog!

Find out about the exciting discoveries of the PhD students at Swansea as they undertake their research on the bogs in the project. They hope to reconstruct the history of the bogs to see what they were like in the past and investigate what is going on beneath the surface of the bogs today by looking at the movement of groundwater.

Carmarthenshire Bogs Project - for peat's sake

Page updated on: 05/07/2016

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