Sunday, 5 August 2007

KENT'S BIODIVERSITY UNDER THREAT

'We are on a slippery slope to a county that will be progressively devoid of nature'

Dr Geoff Meaden, Kent Green Party's leading specialist on biodiversity(1), has expressed concern about the combined effects of climate change and over-development on Kent.

He comments:

"We are on a slippery slope to a county that will be progressively devoid of nature. Clearly, there will be effects upon biodiversity as more of Kent is developed. If we were just considering development, then influence on biodiversity will be relatively minor on a county wide scale. Clearly there will an added potential for flooding around Ashford and in the Darent Valley near where this river joins the Thames. But this flooding will have relatively little longer term affect on wildlife. However, if we combine additional housing/developments with sea-level rise then the situation becomes much more serious. Types of areas affected will include:

1. Mudflats and chalk reefs. Because much of our coast line has built defences, then with sea level rise the sea cannot move inland. This means that a progressively greater depth of water at the coast will see the end of our extensive mudflats at Pegwell Bay and along the Thames estuary plus one of the world's greatest area of chalk reef. Both of these are intensive feeding grounds for birds, shellfish, crustaceans, etc.

2. Tidal salt marsh. Extensive areas will be lost along the Swale and Medway estuaries.

3. Coastal grazing marsh. With sea-level rises of about one metre (easily possible during this century) then much of this marsh land will be lost. This includes the Wantsum Channel, the Ham marshes (between Sandwich and Deal), Walland Marsh, Romney Marsh, the Cliffe marshes, plus extensibe marshes on the Isle of Grain and the south of the isle of Sheppey. This would be a huge economic loss as well as a loss of a unique wildlife habitat.

4. Shingle banks. The extensive shingle of Dungeness provides another unique habitat for flora and fauna. This too is at risk.

"We must remember that our weather is becoming more extreme. From the precipitation point of view this could mean more floods or more drought, e.g. such as they have in Australia. Droughts will not only lead to lack of water but to greatly increased fire risks - such as we presently see in Greece and other Mediterranean areas. Both of these will severely affect biodiversity.

"Development inevitably leads to both the fragmentation and a shrinkage of natural areas. Sites will never be regained."

Notes:
1. Geoff Meaden is a Campaigns Officer for Kent Green Party and South East Green Party Speaker on Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Rural Affairs. He is also a Senior Lecturer in Biogeography. Email for contact: g.j.meaden@canterbury.ac.uk

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