'Too Often Exploited as Free Goods, Nature's Offers Have Been Used at a Faster Rate Than It Can Replenish, Placing Many Ecosystems at Risk.' We Just Can't Afford to Take Our Environment for Granted, Argues Emyr Roberts, the Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), October 18, 2013 | Go to article overview

'Too Often Exploited as Free Goods, Nature's Offers Have Been Used at a Faster Rate Than It Can Replenish, Placing Many Ecosystems at Risk.' We Just Can't Afford to Take Our Environment for Granted, Argues Emyr Roberts, the Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales


AS ENVIRONMENTALISTS and policymakers from across Europe gather at Bangor University today to discuss the latest in ecosystems management, all eyes are on Wales as it leads the way with its unique all-encompassing single-body approach to environmental management.

We often hear these terms thrown around in environmental sectors, but what exactly do we mean by "ecosystems management" or the "ecosystem approach"? Put simply, an ecosystem is a community of living organisms (plants, insects, birds etc) interacting within their non-living surroundings (air, soil, rocks and water).

The ecosystem approach refers to the way in which we manage our environment to maximise the benefits these ecosystems can provide to our lives - to our communities, our economic development and our health and well-being - while respecting the environment so that its natural resources are sustained, and can continue to provide us with these benefits.

These are found in the obvious forms, such as food, water, fuel, air; and in less obvious forms such as the green spaces we use to relax and exercise, the trees which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the marshlands and bogs which reduce flood risk for our communities - things which we may have never considered before and are often taken for granted.

So much so that, over the years, many of our ecosystems have become damaged through human activities.

Too often exploited as "free goods", nature's offers have been used at a faster rate than it can replenish, placing many ecosystems at risk.

To determine how much damage had been caused to our ecosystems, the United Nations sponsored the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment which estimated that 60% of the world's ecosystems were damaged or declining.

A more detailed survey by the UK Government - the National Ecosystems Assessment - has since identified that, during the past 20 years in Wales, 20% of ecosystems are improved, 31% are in a stable state and 49% have deteriorated.

And with our environment contributing approximately PS8.8bn to the Welsh economy each year, can we afford to ignore our ecosystems? It's in all our interests to protect our ecosystems from further damage and, where possible, to restore them to their former glory.

The birth of Natural Resources Wales provides us with a unique opportunity to manage our ecosystems in a way which reaps maximum benefits for both the environment and the people of Wales.

Our vision is that all elements of the environment are managed as one "living Wales".

So that a project to build a flood defence scheme also complements habitat for migratory wild salmon - therefore increasing local angling opportunities - and a wetland area which supports rare plant species also captures flood water and reduces the risk of flooding for people's homes.

Many examples of this already exist.

We are currently working with partner organisations to protect a special and important feature of Porth Dinllaen within the Pen Llyn a'r Sarnau Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in Gwynedd.

Porth Dinllaen is a special place for many reasons, some which are better known than others.

What most people probably don't know is that beneath the sea lies a vast carpet of a marine plant called seagrass, which is estimated to be worth more than PS364,000 a year to the local environment.

This valuable plant is currently under threat and is declining - we estimate that 10% has been lost after being scoured by mooring chains. …

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'Too Often Exploited as Free Goods, Nature's Offers Have Been Used at a Faster Rate Than It Can Replenish, Placing Many Ecosystems at Risk.' We Just Can't Afford to Take Our Environment for Granted, Argues Emyr Roberts, the Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales
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