The British countryside is a vast area covering more than 80 percent of England. It has a high population consisting of more than 40 percent of the population. It plays an important role in feeding the population of Britain since it is the major source of food stuffs consumed in the country. On the other hand, it contributes more than 14 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. It supports a lot of people in terms of good living environments, enjoyment, beautiful sceneries, tourism, adventure as well as recreational activities. It also provides appropriate sites for exercise. Most importantly is the presence of biodiversity in the region. The land is less polluted and therefore the natural ecosystem has been relatively maintained compared to the extensively polluted industrialized urban centers. However, there has been a decline in wild life species over the past years. This has been caused by intensive farming that has been in practice since the end of World War II when farmers began maximizing productivity of their land, leading to mass clearing of bushes for farming land and the use of pesticides as well as fertilizers. These eventually caused pollution of the surface water as well as loss of biodiversity (Gallent, N., Juntti, M., Kidd, S. and Shaw, D. 2008 pp. 27-33).
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The government realized recently that there are enormous losses that have been caused by felling of trees and clearing of wildlife habitats. This realization compelled the government to set measures meant to conserve and prevent further loss of biodiversity. Targets have been set to prevent loss of vulnerable animal, bird and plant species. These targets are fulfilled through systems that are supported by non-governmental organizations, local authorities as well as state agencies with a common goal of environmental conservation. They are usually pilot projects that are aimed at establishing the best conservation practices which assist the government to formulate policies about environmental conservation. This came after the realization of the fact that the biodiversity that has been in existence for thousands of years can be destroyed within 50 years, and it will take many thousands of years to be restored. Its loss is mainly attributed by recent farmers whose driving force is mainly the economic gains derived from the land. Farmers are now being encouraged to engage in ecologically sound farming practices in order for the land to be more productive for a longer period of time (Bishop, K. and Phillips, A. 2004 pp. 78-83).
People have realized that biodiversity is an important part of their lives. This knowledge has generated attention towards biodiversity conservation in the rural area of Britain. Protecting, managing and maintaining biodiversity has taken the centre stage in most of the recent schemes. Nevertheless, most of them fail to address their objectives because of the rising demand for food and the desire to use modern agricultural practices that use highly polluting chemicals and agricultural inputs. Politicians and conservationists are vehemently promoting biodiversity conservation which has become a major issue of discussion. It is mainly being focussed on the rural areas which are regarded as the home for many wildlife species. However, politicization of conservation makes it easy for the politicians to make moves and statements which are meant to promote biodiversity conservation without necessarily understanding their insinuation. However, the success of the process may be attributed to the presence of preservationists who have knowledge and experience in the best procedures to follow in conservation (Gilg, A. 1996 p.96).
The major weakness in British rural conservation is the dominance of conservationists whose interest is mainly concerned with conservation of a few species of organisms that are popular, rather than focussing on the whole biodiversity. Some of these organisms do not have a wide range of species. They include butterflies, flowering plants and birds. On the other hand, environmentalists usually rely on traditional methods of conservation rather than scientific conservation techniques that are recommended by wildlife managers. This includes old and new scientific conservation methods. Government’s focus through the established nature conservancy is mainly centred on identification and protection of the areas that are regarded to be of scientific importance which might serve to represent the rest of the natural resources in the country, which include the geological, biological and the physical features. However, this is not inclusive of the policy on rural conservation. Rural conservation requires an integrated approach which takes in to consideration the element of pollution from agricultural inputs, clearing of bushes for farming land as well as the depletion of the natural biodiversity due to the introduction of foreign genetic composition in the ecosystem (Smith P. and Rose C. 1984 pp.71-76). The government focused on promoting conservation through offering incentives to farmers in order for them to appreciate the value of conservation. However, the existing land use policies were not corresponding to these efforts and therefore conservation ahs not been fully achieved. More over, the demand for agricultural production is rising, coupled with agricultural mechanization which is a major drawback for conservation efforts. The economic value of the land is viewed in terms of the yields per small portion of land.
Initially, rural conservation largely depended on traditional land use methods and the balance was achieved since land exploitation for agricultural purposes was minimal. The introduction of government incentives for maximum production of agricultural products was a major drawback to the traditional conservation efforts. Farmers acquired grants and government subsidies that enabled them to maximize the productivity of their land. This caused expansion of the area under cultivation, stressing the biodiversity further. Efforts of the Nature Conservancy Council were thwarted by the rapid expansion of agricultural land. Its influence became minimal. This led to extensive destruction of biodiversity as the efforts of conservation were overcome by the influx of agricultural activities. Biodiversity remained in the protected areas with little interference. The vulnerability of species increased with many of them being pushed around the boundaries of the farms after their habitats were cleared, only to be wiped out by the use of pesticides on the farms. This became rampant around 1970s, compelling the government to review the conservation policies. The countryside was the major area of focus and control systems were to be established. Land owners did not favor policies that aimed at reducing their farming land. This is because they believed that agriculture is a significant activity in sustaining the population and that interference should not be allowed on private land (James Robertson 2006 pp. 96-99).
Legislation to facilitate protection of species and prevention of habitat loss was introduced by the government in 1981, which culminated in the drafting of the wildlife and countryside bill. However, it did not yield any comprehensive conservation of biodiversity. The initial and major causes of biodiversity loss were not addressed. Currently, it is widely accepted amongst conservationists that preservation of the areas of scientific value largely depend on those who posses the land in the countryside. This is because the people who live and exploit the land are the key to its conservation. Land use change can not be influenced by the Nature Conservancy Council. They can only be persuaded through the introduction of incentives that can influence them to change some of their farming methods. These are mainly financial incentives that are supported by regulations encouraging the land owners to adopt other methods of cultivation that uphold conservation activities. Modern agricultural practices are the major threats to environmental conservation in the countryside. However, there are some modern practices and schemes that are known to support biodiversity conservation. Protection of species was made stronger by the 1981 act that brought with it legislation for the protection of birds (Bessant Josphat 2003 pp.77-81). The government is working towards the promotion of initiatives that are aimed at encouraging education of farmers in the countryside about the best practices in order to ensure that the land owners become part of the conservation process. These practices are usually accompanied by incentives to the farmers.
Many of the natural ecosystems in Britain have responded to the impact of agricultural practices which cover a large percentage of the total area. Most of the characteristics of the countryside have been shaped by farming practices. Farming policies which favour food production regardless of its impact on the environment have had adverse effects on the conservation practices. These have been in existence for the last 50 years. The landscape has been left unprotected leading to high levels of degradation. Pollution is mainly caused by continuous use of agrochemicals which pollute the soil as well as water. Highly mechanized agricultural practices lead to clearing of vast bushes leading to loss of biodiversity while on the other hand they lead to exposure of soil to erosion. Farmers who specialize in the production of one type of crop also pose a threat to conservation efforts due to lack of diversity. This trend is usually fuelled by the existence of complementary industries that require raw materials from farms (O’Brien, Robert & Marc Williams 2007 pp.72-76).
The agri-environment program is the major tool currently in use by the government. This is aimed at encouraging farmers to engage in land use practices that take environmental conservation into consideration. The agri-environment scheme has so far incorporated more than one million hectares which is still a small percentage of the total land which is currently under cultivation. Farmers are educated through these schemes on the importance of ecologically sound farming practices as well as how to manage their farms. It has recorded success in the areas where they have been in use. However, more efforts need to be put in order to recover the lost biodiversity, which may take many years to recover. This will depend on the acceptance by the farmers to adopt the new methods of farming that improve on the productivity of the land while on the other hand they boost conservation efforts.
The most commonly used method of farming which promotes conservation of the environment is the use of the Conservation Grade. In this system, farmers in the rural countryside are required to commit themselves to wildlife conservation. They usually sacrifice part of their land under cultivation for purposes of conservation. The minimum land offered is usually ten percent of the total farming land. They are offered a premium price for their produce, with a two year contract as the guarantee. The farmers benefit from the Conservation Grade in many ways. This is because it provides habitat for insects that help in natural pest control within the farm. On the other hand, these insects serve as agents of pollination, thereby guaranteeing higher yields from the crops. They are encouraged to create a conservation grade with a variety of habitats. The grassland rich in flowers is mainly encouraged because it is considered to be a significant source of most of the insect species. The farmers are encouraged to cultivate crops which can be fed on by birds during winter season, provide boxes where these birds can build their nests as well as conserve endangered species such as skylarks and bats. The assistance offered to the farmers who comply with these requirements is usually good enough to assist in future planning (Cawson, P. 2000 p. 78).
This method has scientifically been accredited in conservation and increasing species compared to other methods of farming. Farmers practicing this farming method are able to produce organic primary produce that is of a high quality. Their produce is therefore able to fetch the best prices in the market, thereby increasing their profitability. The beauty of the countryside is also improved by the Conservation Grade which is usually an aspect of the flower grassland. Researchers and scientists appreciate the biodiversity that arises from the conservation grade. The technique has produced significant biodiversity in the rural countryside and the government intends to extend it to many other parts of the region. It is not rigid in setting and there are chances for it to evolve to suit the environment. It is also designed to produce the most desirable outcomes for the farmers. In order to achieve the desired objectives of the Conservation Grade, the government has set some requirements that should be adopted by all the farmers who are willing to participate. These serve to bind the farmers to the conservation endeavours (Mark A. Karen H. 2007 pp. 101-105)
The conservation habitat protocol states that the farmer has to commit a minimum of ten percent of the land for the Conservation Grade. The farmers are also supposed to enroll as full members of the farm assurance scheme. They have to state in an environmental statement drawn by then indicating that they are ready to comply with the protocol of the Conservation Grade. After these steps, the farmers have to attend training programs where they acquire education about the Conservation Grade. They should then be ready to adhere to the standards of the Conservation Grade. There is usually an annual Conservation Grade protocol verification which is done by an approved expert, who also conducts assessment of the compliance with Conservation Grade habitat requirements. However, in the rural countryside, there is usually resistance against new ideas by some of the farmers. Different scientists also differ about the most appropriate method of biodiversity conservation (Jarvinen J, Kail, A, Miller I, 2008 pp. 81-84).
The role of planning in regard to conservation has evolved over time and changes are still being made in order to suit the most desirable programs. Planning has been facilitated by mapping the areas of accessing the countryside. The maps have assisted conservationists in developing the appropriate approach towards biodiversity conservation. It has also enhanced the development of new agri-environment plans which are useful in conservation. Planning is usually done in such a way that it reflects the environmental policies beginning with local, national, regional and international practices. The plans are normally developed in a manner that targets rehabilitation and restoration of biodiversity, rather than imposing rules on farmers. This has been important in reducing resistance from them. Instead they are supportive of such plans that involve them and which are also educative. The government’s plan to formulate long term objectives that will be supported locally while being coordinated by a local expert are bound to be successful.
The United Kingdom Biodiversity Action Plan was successful in protecting some of the endangered species. These species are those which are largely affected by agricultural practices. The implementation of the plan involved the integration of the local biological information systems which helped substantially in preparation of the relevant agri-environment measures. Planning is also encouraged amongst farmers. They use the Biodiversity Action Plan to draw their own farm plans for them to qualify for the environmental incentives. These plans also help them to identify whether the agri-environment schemes are in line with their farm output projections. It is therefore evident that planning in conservation ahs played a significant role in its evolution. New plans are still being developed to boost the earlier ones, and it is only through effective planning and proper implementation of the plans that conservation of the British countryside can be achieved.
Biological diversity is significant in the existence of humans, and it plays an important role in linking man and nature. It is therefore important for man to appreciate this important role. It is a factor that assists in the maintenance of ecological balance in nature. The need for protection and conservation of biodiversity has been recognized in Britain, and much effort is been geared towards conservation of the countryside. In order to achieve this, there is need to use a comprehensive approach that is all inclusive. Land owners should cooperate with the government as well as conservationists in order for the process to be successful. The impact of every player’s contribution will assist in the conservation efforts.
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