Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth. It encompasses the rich variation to be found in living organisms; the variety within a species, between species, from one habitat to another and between ecosystems. It is not restricted to just rare or threatened species but includes the whole of the natural world from the common place to the critically endangered.
Swansea's biodiversity is of outstanding quality and beauty. The diversity of landscapes and habitats which make up over 80% of the County's total area include upland moorland, coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, heathland, woodland, wetlands, river valleys and estuaries.
These habitats together with the many historic parks and gardens, pockets of urban green-space and large areas of farmland make it one of the most attractive and ecologically diverse counties in the UK, with over 50% of the County's area being of significant ecological interest. This wealth of wildlife habitats supports a huge diversity of plant and animal species (biodiversity). Nearly 70% of the habitats and at least 20 %of species identified as being of importance for Biodiversity Conservation in the UK can be found in Swansea, and approximately 17 % of the County's area is protected by designations at a European (SAC, SPA, RAMSAR) or National (SSSI, NNR) level.
These designated areas and priority habitats represent only the very best of our biodiversity. They do not, however, encompass all that is irreplaceable and cannot by themselves maintain biodiversity. Even common habitats, urban wildlife sites and green spaces, are important in maintaining a network of semi-natural sites, and the quality and extent of the biodiversity resource as a whole.
Sustainable development is about ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come, achieving higher living standards while protecting and enhancing the environment.
During the last 100 years the UK alone has witnessed an unparalleled rate of loss of wild plants and animals across Britain, with the extinction of more than 100 species. Furthermore the declines in numbers of species observed during the last 50 years indicate that we are likely to see many more extinctions in the immediate future.
The last decade has seen a growing awareness of the need to protect biodiversity at an international, national and local level, and there have been many changes in legislation, awareness and action.