Nature conservation and biodiversity
What is Biodiversity?
Biological diversity - or biodiversity - is a term we use to describe the variety of life on Earth. This provides the support that humans require to survive. The complex interactions between life forms in different ecosystems have evolved through millions of years and these interactions form a healthy planet. Whether it is the essentials of life or the pleasures gained from nature's beauty, biodiversity is of significant value.
Worrying Trends in Biodiversity
However humans are causing an increasing threat to biodiversity. In May 2019, The United Nations body on Biodiversity (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services or IPBES) published a global assessment of biodiversity which revealed a rapid deterioration of our natural environments.
Life on Earth has suffered five mass extinctions of biodiversity in its long history, and this report warns that we are moving towards a sixth mass extinction. This one is different from previous ones as it is not caused by natural changes in the climate or geology but by humans. The report estimates that we are losing around 135 plant, animal and insect species every day with 1 million species threatened with extinction. The drivers of this crisis are in descending order (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.
These worrying trends are reflected on a local level too. In 2019 the Scotland State of Nature Report revealed that there has been a 49% decline in studied species since 1970, with 11% of species considered threatened and one in nine species including kittiwakes and wildcats facing extinction.
What is South Ayrshire Council Doing?
Biodiversity Action Plan
South Ayrshire Council is committed to the protection and conservation of the area’s biodiversity. Through the Ayrshire Biodiversity Action Plan 2007 – 2010 the Council commits to preserving and enhancing its natural environment.
Conserving our coastlines
The Council manages the coastline promoting natural coastline management processes and addressing risks to species and habitats due to coastal erosion. The Council has restored sections of sand dunes at Troon, Girvan and Ayr beaches using Christmas trees to trap sand on the beach to encourage the formation of dunes. Sand dunes play a vital role in protecting our beaches. They help us adapt to climate change by protecting low lying areas from coastal flooding and preventing coastal erosion from our shorelines. This process along with local planting in shore front areas enhances biodiversity along the coast.
Promoting natural habitats
The Council is a member of the Central Scotland Green Network partnership, which seeks to strengthen habitat networks and reduce habitat fragmentation. The adopted Local Development Plan (LDP) includes policies which promotes networks of green space (covered in soil and vegetation) and blue space (water covered) and protects these areas from the impacts of developments.
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Partnership
The Council is a funder and partner of Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Partnership. This Partnership was established following the designation of the Biosphere by UNESCO in 2012.The aim of the Biosphere Partnership is to develop sustainable and innovative solutions and projects to support the natural heritage and rural communities of South West Scotland. More information about the Biosphere Partnership can be found on their website.
Where's Wildlife in Ayrshire
South Ayrshire Council continues to work with the South West Scotland Environmental Information Centre following the conclusion of the "Where's Wildlife in Ayrshire" Project. This project delivered a number of outcomes including citizens science projects, a programme of wildlife talks, and the formation of a database of wildlife records. The final report of this project can be found here.
South Ayrshire Ranger Service
South Ayrshire Ranger Service organises and leads biodiversity focused activities for local schools, community groups and the general public to increase awareness of biodiversity.
The Rangers carry out conservation activities such as biological monitoring and recording, habitat improvement and tackling Invasive Non Native Species (INNS) such as Rhododendron Ponticum. For more information visit the South Ayrshire Rangers Facebook Page.
Reporting on Biodiversity in South Ayrshire
Under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act (2004), all public bodies in Scotland are required to further the conservation of biodiversity when carrying out their responsibilities.
The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act (WANE Act)(2011) further requires public bodies in Scotland to provide a publicly available report, every three years, on the actions which they have taken to meet this biodiversity duty. This South Ayrshire Council Biodiversity Duty Report 2019-2017 outlines what South Ayrshire Council is doing to fulfil this duty.
The Council acts as non-statutory consultee on biodiversity and ecology of planning applications.
View a map of key environmental and conservation information for South Ayrshire including wildlife, habitats, parks, archaeology, listed buildings, local footpaths and cycle routes.