The team provided an update on its activity to date at a recent meeting of West Lothian Council Environment & Sustainability Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel (PDSP).
The team has quickly assumed an integral role in coordinating services across the council with regard to the council's duty to preserve and enhance biodiversity, from strategy and policy to practical projects on the ground. A key part of their work sees the team pick up on fundamental ecological issues, which may have previously been missed due to a lack of dedicated ecological expertise, and which may otherwise contribute to the loss of biodiversity across the area.
The team has also highlighted awareness of ecology issues and biodiversity loss across West Lothian, and has begun to engage the public in helping to monitor and enhance biodiversity throughout the area.
A key area of the team's work is the development of an updated 10-year Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP)
LBAP's are put together by Local Authorities, to ensure that global and national biodiversity policy commitments are put into practice at a local level and to ensure the protection and survival of locally important ecosystems.
The first phase of work relating to the LBAP has seen the team work with consultants to update digital mapping of West Lothian, identifying all the existing habitats throughout the county, covering an area of 43,170 ha. From this, the team is creating a natural asset register for West Lothian Council's own landholdings (4,125ha), to facilitate the planning of habitat protections, enhancements and changes in management, as appropriate and required for resiliency.
The second phase of the LBAP process is to involve stakeholders, to ensure achievable and effective outcomes for biodiversity across the area. An initial consultation has established where current activities are taking place and what the challenges are. Further opportunities for involvement are planned, in order to form a comprehensive Biodiversity Action Plan for the area. This work will also help the team to plan and implement essential Nature Networks across West Lothian.
The team has also been heavily involved in a number of projects including the Blackmoss Nature Park Restoration Project and has provided strategic advice in relation to the management and status of Local Biodiversity Sites in the area.
Executive councillor for environment and sustainability, Tom Conn said: "The general consensus from leading experts around the globe is that we are very much in the midst of a climate crisis. Locally, the council's Ecology & Biodiversity team have been involved in work which will help us better understand our local environment and what steps we can take to ensure it thrives. The team has achieved a great deal in its first two years and the expertise of officers has proven invaluable to their colleagues across the council and the wider public."