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New South Somerset Community Biodiversity Toolkit will help Parishes restore biodiversity

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Communities across South Somerset can benefit from a new Community Biodiversity Toolkit developed by South Somerset District Council. The new toolkit has been created to help allow our communities to take the lead in defining and restoring biodiversity in their area.

The toolkit has been designed for use by community groups, local landowners, Parish and Town Councils, schools and youth groups, and provides a structure for how our local communities can better understand what they already have in terms of biodiverse habitats, as well as how to plan for developing greater biodiversity in the future. The toolkit also offers a series of handy tips for how you can manage your own land for biodiversity.

There is so much great work being delivered across South Somerset already and this has also given us the opportunity to showcase some of the many existing local case studies and celebrate progress to date across the district.

Rachael Whaites, Countryside Manager at SSDC, said: “It is really important that we support our local parishes and landowners to manage and monitor wildlife on their land and within communities; this biodiversity toolkit is a fantastic start. Our country parks and local nature reserves cannot halt the decline in biodiversity alone, we need them to be joined up so that species can move and increase in number; this is where the residents of South Somerset play a key role. I hope that communities enjoy getting involved with the natural world as much as we do.”

Laurence Copleston, Environment & Climate Change Officer at SSDC, said: “We’re pleased to be launching the South Somerset Community Biodiversity Toolkit this spring as a way to encourage our communities to come together and engage with their local environment. We have developed this toolkit to provide them with information that, when combined with their enthusiasm, skills and energy, could deliver projects that will have the greatest environmental benefits. This initiative, along with the launch of our dedicated environment website, demonstrates SSDC’s commitment to enhancing biodiversity across South Somerset, as well as supporting our net-zero climate targets.”

You can download the toolkit from our South Somerset Environment website here: www.southsomersetenvironment.co.uk/biodiversitytoolkit

Why are we doing this?

Our biodiversity in South Somerset provides an enormous range of benefits, including for our health and food supply, yet it is more challenged than ever[1]. We want to encourage communities to work together to help reverse the recent trend of decline, so that we can move towards protecting and enhancing biodiversity in all that we do across South Somerset.

What you can do

The Community Biodiversity Toolkit aims to support communities to take the lead in defining biodiversity in their local area as well as help to contribute towards habitat restoration and the creation of new habitats within our district.

Our local landscape is already home to plants and animals that are vital to local ecosystems, so understanding what is already there is the first step to knowing how best to improve it. Even the smallest project in the right place will improve things for local species and important habitats.

As part of SSDC’s commitment to enhancing biodiversity, our countryside ranger team is about to embark on their annual monitoring of our countryside sites. Carrying out wildlife surveys through the spring and summer months allows the team to monitor the populations of important species such as butterflies, birds, dormice, great crested newts, bats and wildflowers. The information recorded can show changes in population or distribution, which can help influence the habitat management works we undertake on each site.

Most surveys take place between April and July as this is the peak breeding period for much of our wildlife. The surveys are carried out at different times of the day and evening, depending on when species are most active!

To get involved in improving biodiversity in your local area you can download our new Community Biodiversity Toolkit here.

How to stay informed

The toolkit forms part of a suite of documents that SSDC has produced as part of our ongoing Environment Strategy. This will include our updated Action Plan for 2022/23, which we will be sharing with our communities shortly.

If you would like to stay informed on SSDC’s eco-projects, including the Biodiversity Toolkit, and community projects, visit our South Somerset Environment website here. In addition, sign up for our monthly environment e-newsletter Get SuSSed and keep in the know about all things related to our Environment Strategy.

You can also get in touch with our environment team via our email address: SSDCenvironment@southsomerset.gov.uk

[1] The UK’s State of Nature report recently highlighted a critical decline in biodiversity across Britain over the past 50 years.

Wildlife survey at Ham Hill

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