Planning for biodiversity in the wider countryside : recognising opportunities, overcoming barriers
There is an increasing imperative to conserve the biological diversity of the world to ensure its future viability and integrity. The traditional approach in England has been to protect a series of small, isolated sites. Recent research has demonstrated the inadequacies of this approach, suggesting a need to direct energies more towards conservation in the surrounding wider countryside. However, there are considerable difficulties associated with achieving biodiversity objectives in the wider countryside, as there is a heavy reliance on non-statutory planning mechanisms. Whereas solutions to biodiversity conservation have generally been seen to lie in the realm of natural science, this thesis recognises the need for a better understanding of the people, policies and activities involved in the process. It therefore couples social science perspectives with an understanding of ecological science principles, in order to investigate the issues affecting the implementation of biodiversity conservation plans in three case studies in south west England. By employing a range of qualitative techniques this research: defines a number of conservation objectives for the study areas; uses conservation objectives as a basis for conducting a content analysis of biodiversity planning documents, in order to uncover potential implementation opportunities and barriers; presents the results in an analytical framework; explores and refines these through a series of semi-structured interviews with key biodiversity actors. This research uncovers a complex set of interacting issues. These issues relate to partnership styles of working, building agreement and trust, variable levels of knowledge about habitat and species in the wider countryside, restoration techniques, indicative strategies, strategic targeting of resources, financial support to farmers and other land managers, the role of monitoring, and policy responses to recent agricultural crises. The results attest to the importance of a social-scientific understanding of biodiversity planning, in particular, of the forces which drive or obstruct the implementation of local solutions. The thesis concludes with a number of recommendations, based on original evidence, aimed at improving the implementation of biodiversity plans in the wider countryside.