Biodiversity includes all plants and animals on the land and in wetlands, rivers and seas. Our quality of life depends on this diversity of nature:
biodiversity is fundamental to the complex web of life
we depend on biodiversity for food, medicines and the raw materials for building and industry
plants assist with vital processes such as flood control, filtering wastewater and cleaning pollutants from the air
we enjoy and benefit greatly from contact with the natural world.
The conservation of biodiversity is at the heart of a sustainable future for Hampshire. Action is required to prevent loss of wildlife habitat and ensure that land management practices maintain the ecological value of the land. Hampshire County Council plays a key role in the conservation of Hampshire's biodiversity.
Hampshire has a remarkably varied landscape and a great diversity of habitats from ancient woodlands and wildflower meadows, to heathlands and chalk streams, to river valleys and coastal habitats. Hampshire also includes the New Forest – the greatest area of semi wilderness left in lowland England. These habitats support an impressive array of wild plants and animals. Hampshire has the greatest diversity of species of any county in England.
Britain's most valuable wildlife habitats – designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and protected by law – cover 14.5% of the county, about twice the national average. A further 9.1% of Hampshire is covered by county Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs). Outside these specially recognised areas much of Hampshire's rural landscape, and many urban areas, are also rich in biodiversity.
However, many wildlife areas have been replaced by built development or become degraded through changes in land management, and many species have declined or disappeared. The State of Hampshire's Biodiversity (2006) shows that the rate of loss is now much reduced. Many measures are now in place to help ensure that biodiversity is not only protected, but maintained and restored.