The term Biodiversity means 'variety of life' on Earth. It includes all living organisms including species, ecosystems and genetic diversity. Biodiversity is fundamental for the Earth's life support system.
More information is available in the Somerset Biodiversity Leaflet in the Information and resources section.
Somerset has some outstanding wildlife areas including:
- 45 miles of coastline
- 1 National Park
- 4 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- 11 Special Areas of Conservation
- 2 Special Protection Areas
- 11 National Nature Reserves
- 124 Sites of Special Scientific Interest
- 2312 Local Wildlife Sites
Somerset's wildlife heritage also includes a large number of other rare habitats and species so it is important for us to protect them.
Like other public bodies we have a statutory duty to conserve biodiversity. To carry out this work we work in partnership with other organisations, voluntary groups and local communities on projects to improve and protect Somerset's wildlife.
Examples of some of the ways in which we work to conserve biodiversity are shown below.
Local Nature Reserves
We own two Local Nature Reserves - Screech Owl (near Bridgwater) and Silk Mills (Taunton) where people can connect with nature and benefit from exercise in the natural environment. You can find out more about all Somerset's current Local Nature Reserves by visiting Natural England website.
The local authority planning process
Our ecologists work with planners to ensure that legislation and guidance to protect wildlife is embedded within the planning process. The county's ecological networks have been mapped working with the Somerset Wildlife Trust to help the preparation of local development plans. Where developments might affect internationally important sites our ecologists conduct a Habitats Regulations Assessment to ascertain whether proposals are harmful or not. If European Protected Species or other legally protected wildlife is at risk our ecologists advise on the best way to safeguard these. Where harm cannot be avoided or mitigation put in place to minimise damage our ecologists evaluate the extent of the biodiversity to be lost and what is needed to compensate through biodiversity off-setting.
If you are thinking of applying to us for planning permission you should be aware that we may need certain information on biodiversity that could be affected by the intended development. Determination of your application may be delayed or permission refused if this information is not submitted. The type of information that may be required and the circumstances when it is needed are set out in Somerset Requirements for information on Biodiversity and Geological Conservation to be submitted with applications for planning permission. The document includes guidance on when protected species surveys will be needed.
Managing Council owned land to benefit wildlife
We have a Highways Biodiversity Manual which can be found in the Information and resources section. This determines how we manage the land around roads because verges provide valuable corridors and homes for wildlife. Where opportunities arise and resources allow we also try to reduce wildlife roadside casualties in dangerous locations, for example by creating tunnels under new roads so that wildlife can cross safely.
We encourage volunteering and there are many ways you can get involved in looking after or just enjoying Somerset's wonderful natural environment and wildlife.
Find out what's available in your area and visit and enjoy these places, such as Local Nature Reserves, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Country Parks. They often hold events, talks or walks, such as bat walks, bluebell walks.
Volunteer to help manage a wildlife site or nature reserve. These sites depend on volunteers and would welcome your help.
If you own some land, do your bit to improve the landscape and help wildlife by planting some native trees or hedges, or perhaps an orchard.
Improve your garden for wildlife - You can find a few ideas of simple things you can do in the Information and resources section or you can join a local gardening group.
We have adopted the Somerset Biodiversity Partnership Strategy 'Wild Somerset'. The strategy is in the Information and resources section.