Priority Species & Habitats and the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership

Mulbarton pond (Ed Stocker)

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 Section 41 (S41) requires the Secretary of State to publish a list of habitats and species which are of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England. These were previously referred to as 'UK Biodiversity Action Plan' or 'BAP' species and habitats.

The History Behind the BAP Process

In June 1992, 159 governments at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro signed the Convention on Biological Diversity. It came into force on 29 December 1993 and was the first global treaty to provide a legal framework for biodiversity conservation. It called for the creation and implementation of national strategies and action plans to conserve and enhance biological diversity. In 1993, the UK government consulted with over three hundred organisations throughout the UK during a two-day seminar to debate the key issues raised by the Convention on Biological Diversity. From this was launched "Biodiversity: the UK Action Plan" in 1994. The report identified 59 broad activities for conservation work to take place over the next 20 years and a steering group was created to take the work forward. It established fundamental principles for future biodiversity conservation in the UK and led to the identification of national priority habitats and species in need of urgent conservation action.

The Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership

In order for the national priorities and targets to be met, it was considered essential that action be taken at local level.  The Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership was established in 1996 to bring together local authorities, statutory agencies and voluntary groups in pursuit of a shared vision - the conservation, enhancement and restoration of the county's biological diversity.  NBIS is a formal member of the Biodiversity Partnership and had a crucial role to play in the development and implementation of the Norfolk Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) – the county’s plan to maintain and enhance the biodiversity of Norfolk. The records and data provided by NBIS were not only important for the preparation of Species and Habitat Action Plans, but also, for the establishment of baselines, the assessment of trends, and the evaluation of progress.
The Norfolk Biodiversity Action Plan, produced by the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership Steering Group, was officially launched in January 1999.  County-level plans were produced for a wide range of national priority species and habitats found in Norfolk.

Priority Species and Habitats

The S41 list of Priority Species and Habitats is used to guide decision-makers in implementing their duty under Section 40 of the NERC Act 2006, to have regard to the conservation of biodiversity in England when carrying out their normal functions. 56 habitats and 943 species of principal importance are included on the S41 list. These are all of the habitats and species in England that were identified as requiring action in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and continue to be regarded as conservation priorities in the UK post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

The research and knowledge in the Norfolk BAPs is still relevent as they cover the species and habitats of most concern to us in Norfolk.

 Photo: Mulbarton pond (Ed Stocker)