Conserving and enhancing the special landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Parks is a key part of what National Park Authorites do.
As most National Park land is in private ownership, much of our day-to-day work focuses on advising land managers on how best to look after the wildlife on their land, and the landscape itself. We also work with partner organisations on many projects.
Many National Park Authorities have grant schemes that help farmers with conservation work and planting native trees. We work with farmers and other landowners to research the condition of the key habitats and species within the National Parks. This often involves people and communities creating local Biodiversity Action Plans.
Protecting cultural heritage
Much of what makes National Parks special is the human impact on their landscape and environment. Conserving this cultural heritage involves protecting archaeological features, from the prehistoric standing stones found across Dartmoor, to the miles of Roman built Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland, even 18th Century industrial sites like Magpie Mine in the Peak District.
English Heritage, working with the Engligh National Park Authorites, have collected some great examples of how the National Parks are working to protect the historic environment, and help people learn from it and enjoy it as part of their heritage. You can see all the examples in their report:
A Landscape Legacy - an English Heritage report showing examples of protecting historic landscapes in National Parks.
Protecting cultural heritage also means protecting and enhancing the beautiful buildings, villages and towns in National Parks by designating them as conservation areas.
What is a Conservation Area?
A conservation area is described in law as: "an area of special architectural interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance". This means that certain villages and towns within National Parks can be made into conservation areas to keep their traditional look and feel. Our facts and figures table gives more details of how many there are.
There may be extra planning rules that apply to houses in conservation areas. Specialists within each National Park Authority advise indviduals and communities on architectural, design and conservation matters and help with grants. Sometimes living in a conservation area means funds are available towards repairing buildings. These services are normally provided by the planning teams in National Parks.
There are also special rules to protect trees in conservation areas by a tree preservation order.
Find out more about conservation projects in individual National Parks in the links below. There are also links to major conservation organisations.
What is biodiversity?
Biological diversity - or biodiversity - is the name we give to the variety of life on our planet, the result of billions of years of evolution.
Biodiversity is (literally) the web of life - and we're an integral part of it.
So far, scientists have identified about 1.75 million species, mostly small creatures such as insects. In total there are probably more like 13 million species, though estimates range from three to 100 million.
As well as plants, animals and micro-organisms, biodiversity also includes genetic differences within each species - for example, different crop varieties and breeds of livestock.
Biodiversity also means the ecosystems in our deserts, forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers and agricultural landscapes.
Why we're losing it
In a word: humans.
The loss of species has always occurred but the pace of extinction has accelerated dramatically as a result of human activity.
Based on current trends, an estimated 34,000 plant and 5,200 animal species - including one in eight of the world's bird species - face extinction.
The threats to species and ecosystems include:
- habitat destruction
- over-exploitation of natural resources
- introduction of alien species
- climate change
- increasing demands on nature from rising human populations
Biodiversity matters because...
We're a part of it - and we can't live without it.
Most of the oxygen we breathe comes from plankton in our oceans and the forests around the globe.
The fruit and vegetables we eat have been pollinated by bees. The water we drink is part of a huge global cycle involving clouds, rainfall, glaciers, rivers and oceans.
Our diet depends almost entirely on the plants and animals around us - from the grasses that give us rice and wheat, to the fish and meat from both wild and farmed landscapes.
If that's not enough to make us stop and think, the natural world also supplies us with:
- timber and plant materials for furniture, building and fuel
- the mechanisms that regulate our climate, control floods and recycle our waste
- the compounds and chemicals from which medicines are made
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