Environmental audit to catalogue countryside
A huge survey of the environmental assets of the British countryside has been launched to provide a better insight into the state of nature.
A similar survey will be carried out by a separate team in Northern Ireland.
The information will be used to assess the present impact and potential future dangers of environmental factors such as pollution, climate change, introduction of new crops including those used for biofuels and the arrival of non-native species.
The survey will cost £8m to carry out and is being funded by Natural Environment Research Council, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and a number of Government bodies led by the Defra.
It is the fifth of its kind, the first having been carried out in 1978.
Professor Pat Nuttall, director of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said: "In the twenty-first century it is more important than ever to gather reliable data to underpin our scientific understanding of the environment.
"Countryside Survey is a key part of this process and I'm delighted that we are playing a leading role. I look forward to seeing the results."
The results of the survey will be fed back to Government and will inform policy on the countryside.
Biodiversity Minister Barry Gardiner said: "I greatly welcome this year's Countryside Survey. The countryside is constantly changing. It is the product of millions of decisions by individual farmers and consumers, along with the policies of government, public and voluntary bodies.
"It is essential that we understand the effects of change, so that we can conserve its best features and guide the direction of change in the future."
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