In recent years, it has become clear that there is an alarming global downward trend in biodiversity and that humans are responsible. The causes of this decline are: climate change, unsustainable development and changes in land use.
The international community has come together in unprecedented collaboration to safeguard biodiversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity is a prime example.
This agreement is reflected in planning legislation. This legislation puts a legal obligation on developers to protect biodiversity and increase the benefits provided by the development. It is not designed to cripple development. In Ireland, this principle is encapsulated in the Wildlife Act (1976), the Wildlife Amendment Act (2000) and the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations (2011).
Put simply, the natural world offers a range of benefits to human society and the more diverse the natural world is, the greater the benefits can be. Biodiversity offers aesthetic value and renewable resources, as well as proven benefit to human health. These benefits are described as ecosystem services.
Developers should consider how best to augment and enhance ecosystem services, and therefore biodiversity, whilst fulfilling a clear need of society. As Ecologists, we at EcoÉireann are well placed to provide advice on how best to conserve biodiversity as part of a development, be it from a small-scale housing development to large commercial projects.