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What Is Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)?

11 min read

Biodiversity refers to the variety of life within an ecosystem, all the way from microbes and fungi to plants and animals, and it’s absolutely essential in supporting life on Earth.

Researchers believe that countries should be maintaining at least 90% of their biodiversity if we’re to avoid ecological collapse. While the world sits at an average of 75%, in the UK just 50.3% remains.

So what is being done about this?

With almost half of our crucial biodiversity lost since the Industrial Revolution, the government has introduced biodiversity net gain legislation. Coming into effect in November 2023, the policy hopes to regenerate biodiversity by making sure habitats in developments are left in a better state than they were found.

But what does this mean? How will businesses and homeowners be affected and what can you do to achieve it? Read on to find out.

What is biodiversity net gain?

Biodiversity net gain obligates developers to contribute to the recovery of nature while developing land by making sure habitat for wildlife is left in a better position than it was before development.

From November 2023 onwards, developers must try to avoid the loss of habitat on the land they’re developing. If this is not possible, they must create new habitats either on or off-site, and if this isn’t possible either then statutory credits must be bought, but only as a very last resort.

Why is biodiversity important?

The complex ecosystems of our planet are so delicately balanced that even small losses in species can have devastating effects on the air we breathe and the food we eat.

Invertebrates, for example, maintain the health of our soil by unlocking nutrients in the earth that help plants to grow. Pollinators, meanwhile, are responsible for an estimated third of all the world’s crop production, while tiny phytoplankton form the base diet of much of the ocean’s creatures. Any loss in this biodiversity can therefore have huge knock-on effects on the food supplies for the world’s wildlife and, as a result, ourselves.

Biodiversity’s importance is not limited to food, either.

As well as absorbing carbon dioxide and ‘cleaning’ the air we breathe, trees, bushes, wetlands and grasslands naturally slow down water and help soil soak in rainfall to prevent floods, while coral reefs and mangrove forests act as natural defences to protect our coastlines.

Even latex, rubber and most of our medicines originate from innumerable plants around the world.

In short, without the enormous range of animals, plants and microorganisms on our planet, we simply wouldn’t survive.

Threats to biodiversity

While the Earth has experienced changes and extinctions for as long as it’s existed, we’re seeing them occur today at a truly unprecedented rate.

In fact, in 2020, the World Economic Forum said it considers biodiversity loss to be one of the biggest threats to the world’s economy.

According to the Natural History Museum, 41% of species have declined in recent years. Of these, 26% of mammals are at risk of extinction, while some species like hedgehogs and turtle doves have declined by 95% and 98% respectively.

There are a variety of complex reasons for this remarkable fall, however the most prominent direct threats include:

  • Habitat loss
  • Unsustainable resource use
  • The introduction of invasive species
  • Pollution
  • Global climate change

Marine plastic pollution alone has increased tenfold since 1980, causing often fatal consequences for marine wildlife as a result, meanwhile the 97% loss of UK wildflower meadows, disease and the use of toxic pesticides has seen almost a third of UK honey bees be lost in recent decades.

For more information, please read our article ‘Why Are Bees Important To The Environment?’.

pic wrapper A group of hives in an apiary, there are trees in the background of the photo and the hives are on a slight hill

Biodiversity net gain requirements

So what are the requirements for developers to achieve a biodiversity net gain?

The government asks that new developments achieve a biodiversity net gain of at least 10% on every planning permission granted. This means applicants must measure the existing and proposed biodiversity values and set out a clear plan for how they’ll achieve their increase for it to be approved by local authorities.

In an effort to prevent poorly considered quick-fix solutions, onsite biodiversity increases can only be considered part of the post-development biodiversity value if they are properly maintained for at least 30 years following completion of the project.

While some developers may feel aggrieved about these changes, Natural England stresses that they can benefit developers, as an effective plan incorporated into a proposal early on will make you far less likely to receive objections on the grounds of ecological harm, if it’s truly deemed beneficial to the area’s wildlife.

Biodiversity net gain calculator

The biodiversity metric calculates how a development will change the biodiversity value of its site, helping us design, plan and make land management decisions that take better account of biodiversity.

To find a biodiversity net gain using the government’s calculator tool, you’ll need to know:

  • The types of habitat involved
  • The size of each habitat parcel
  • The condition of each habitat parcel
  • The locations of the sites in relation to local nature priorities

How to achieve biodiversity net gain

In many cases, it’s not as simple as replacing 10km of woodland with another 10km of woodland, as the habitat replaced may be of such value that more must be done to make up for it.

For each habitat type, the amount of habitat required to compensate for the loss on-site will vary depending on its value, condition, distinctiveness and strategic significance.

High-value habitats like mature forests will require a much higher gain due to the time it’ll take for the new habitat to reach the same condition.

Knight’s Beekeeping gives businesses and individuals the opportunity to keep their own bees on our apiaries throughout the UK countryside, so they can help pollinate the surrounding area and regenerate falling biodiversity.

By helping local plants and flowers reproduce and spread, your bees will be making a tangible difference to their environment, encouraging the creation of safe, stable habitats and supporting a thriving ecosystem as a result.

How can Knight’s Beekeeping help you achieve a biodiversity net gain?

If you’re looking to hit your sustainability goals or improve your ESG, then get in touch with us and we’d be happy to discuss the perfect plan for you. Take a look at our plans and pricing page to get started.