Nature’s ecosystems are the life-support system of Planet Earth. We all depend on nature. A third of all our food relies on pollination by bees and other insects, the air we breathe is replenished by plants and our mental wellbeing is improved by experiencing the natural world. However, in Surrey and across the country, nature is being increasingly confined to small fragmented areas with little or no connectivity. As a result, wildlife is declining. This was highlighted by Surrey Nature Partnership’s report on the State of Surrey’s Nature, which shows that a third of Surrey’s biodiversity is either extinct or heading that way.
It is no secret that Surrey is an impressively diverse county biologically. Indeed it is possibly the most blessed of all land-locked counties, in terms of its geological positioning, to support a complex mosaic of natural habitat and sheer numbers of recorded species. Surrey is gifted with a significant proportion of the country’s remaining lowland heathland and mires, juxtaposed by smaller but equally well-preserved examples of chalk downland, together with several richly varied river catchments as well as a palette of historically-derived woodland management types. Semi-natural habitats also comprise a proportionately far more significant land-use in Surrey than many other English lowland counties.
With such diversity comes responsibility. Surrey can lay claim to important populations of around 30% of the tranche of rapidly declining species afforded ‘priority’ conservation status under the Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act. These reside within 19 similarly protected priority habitats which can be seen listed in the table extracted from the report. You will recognise many of these different priority conservation areas as part of our Churt landscape and alongside that recognition, an understanding that a significant number of species are now reliant on our efforts to conserve them in this county for their long-term future in the UK.
All of these habitats are a priority, but it is worth giving special recognition to the lowland heath habitats of our local commons, including Churt Common and the Flashes. Lowland Heath is recognised as one of Europe’s most endangered habitats and is internationally important for the variety of rare and endangered wildlife that thrive on it.
Our local commons have collected the status of Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation and are home to a variety of scarce wildlife, including the Nightjar, Dartford Warbler, Woodlark and all six species of native reptile. The rare plants and wildlife on our commons have adapted to the hot, dry and nutrient poor conditions and careful management is needed to ensure that the heath does not get overrun by tree saplings, bracken or invasive garden plants.
This section of the website is starting off modestly but since nature’s ecosystems regulate Earth’s climate systems, it will grow quite rapidly with information and CHEWG projects.