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Resources > Leaflets > Biodiversity

Wildlife conservation is an issue churches should take seriously. This page is the web page version of our Biodiversity leaflet. It can be downloaded as a pdf leaflet and displayed at your church

2011 is The International Year of Forests- of Tree Biodiversity

Download this double A5 leaflet in rtf format
Useful Links about extinction rates - at foot of this page.

CHRISTIAN ECOLOGY LINK

BIO-DIVERSITY

"Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy" (Ps. 96:11-13).

Bio-diversity simply means the variety of life on earth. 'As the psalmists so eloquently sang, God's glory is to be found in the whole of the vast order of the universe and in the miraculous detail of nature in all its forms', said the Archbishop of Canterbury in July 1997.

Out of the 5 to 15 million species of living organisms which live on earth only 1.75 million have been identified. Many will be small and not yet described by specialists, but provide essential food or support for more familiar forms of life. Humans and other animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms depend on each other.

It is estimated that between 1% and 10% of the world's species could become extinct in the next 25 years, mostly as a result of human activities. This rate of extinction is 50 to 100 times the average expected natural rate of extinction and in some areas may rise to 1,000 to 10,000 times that rate due to habitat loss.

Overleaf are a few examples of bio-diversity loss, some reflections on why this matters to Christians and what each of us can do to help.

PLANTS

'Without plants, life on Earth would cease to exist', (David Attenborough)

Over the next 50 years, a quarter of the world's seed bearing plant species will face extinction. In response to the crisis the Government's UK Bio-diversity Action Plan aims to save UK bio-diversity and includes costed targets and action plans for the conservation of key species and habitats. Kew Gardens' Millennium Seed Bank Project is gathering and storing seeds from plants most at risk across the world.

The concept of bio-diversity also includes variation within species. This genetic diversity is what enables a species to survive in face of adversity, such as pests, disease, drought and climate change. When populations of a wild species decline, or crop plants are restricted to a small number of widely grown varieties, those that remain are much more vulnerable to devastation and even extinction, by, for example, climate change or the evolution of a new strain of disease.

The varieties of fruit and vegetables grown and sold commercially are very limited. Regulations restrict the sale of vegetable seeds to a few registered varieties. The H.D.R.A. Heritage Seed Library contains and exchanges UK seeds from 700 unregistered vegetables they are not allowed to sell. National fruit collections keep our genetic heritage safe. Brogdale in Kent grows 2,500 different apple varieties, plus pears, plums and soft fruit. Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate preserves the UK rhubarb collection.

UK HABITAT LOSS IN LAST 40 YEARS

Saving the habitats where plants and animals live in the wild is vitally important, both in the rainforests and in the UK.

Lowland bogs down 95%
Chalk downland down 70%
Native pinewoods down 70%
Lowland wet grassland down 60%
Lowland heathland down 40%

BIRDS

'The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon which he planted.
In them the birds build their nests; the stork
has her home in the fir trees' (Ps.104:16-17).

In the last 20 to 30 years the numbers of UK farmland birds in at least 24 species have declined.

Songthrushes down by 73%
Lapwings down by 62%
Bullfinches down by 76%
Skylarks down by 58%
Swallows down by 43%

According to the RSPB this loss is largely caused by:-

· indirect effects of pesticides on the insects eaten by birds
· loss of mixed farms with their range of habitats
· change to planting autumn sown crops instead of spring

The RSPB is committed to the development of organic farming which benefits birds, butterflies, and other wildlife as well as people.

OTHER ANIMALS

'The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the badgers' (Ps. 104:18).

Some animal species that have become extinct in the UK this century:
Exploding bombadier beetle 1928
Horned dungbeetle 1955
Burbot (a fish) 1972
Mouse-eared bat 1990
Ivell's sea-anemone 1983 Essex emerald moth 1991 (now globally extinct)

SEA CREATURES

'Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which
teems with things innumerable' (Ps. 104:25).

We know more of the moon than we do of the deep mysterious oceans. Industrial fishing and fish farming are increasing. Fish stocks are plummeting, coral reefs are being destroyed by pollution, dynamite fishing, tourism and souvenir hunters. Non-Government Organizations, and campaigning groups, have battled long and hard to protect large sea mammals.

WHY DOES BIO-DIVERSITY MATTER TO ChristianS?

' The earth is the Lord's and everything in it'

(Ps. 24:1).

Some would argue that the extinction of the dung beetle is insignificant or that extinctions are all part of God's plan. Psalm 8 describes people as "rulers over the works of God's hands". Everything is "under their feet" (v. 6). But in the first and last verses the Psalmist proclaims that the earth is God's. We are accountable to God for how we use other creatures.

John Calvin (d. 1564) wrote in his commentary on Genesis, 'The custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition that, being content with the frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain.'

The Earth Summit's Agenda 21 states that "Biological resources feed and clothe us and provide housing, medicines and spiritual nourishment". But according to the Bible all creatures are good in themselves. They are not just for our use. All creation from wild animals and cattle to fruit trees and people praise God by living their natural lives. As Pope John Paul II said, 'Nature should be respected and preserved so that by establishing a healthy proper relationship with it, people can be led to contemplate the mystery of God's greatness and love.'

Thought ......

Country churchyards often contain the last 'unimproved' grassland in an area. Some parishoners want to manage part of the churchyard as a meadow, cutting the grass only late in summer so wildflowers can seed, and to encourage Sunday School children to observe wildlife attracted by the long grass and flowers. Others like the churchyard to look tidy with short grass and think children wandering around graves looking for insects and lichens is disrespectful to the dead.

What do you think? Is a compromise possible?

PRACTICAL STEPS

1. Encourage prayers and liturgies which include God's earth and people struggling to protect bio-diversity.

2. Manage your churchyard to benefit wildlife. Plan a Nature Trail through an old part of your churchyard pointing out different trees, plants, lichens, and stone used in the building and grave stones.

3. Urge central church authorities to nurture land under their control in ways which increase its bio-diversity.

4. Adopt a 'HDRA' vegetable. Savour wonderful, 'outlawed' vegetables while helping to preserve them.

5. Grow old and rare fruit varieties from Brogdale in your garden.

6. Garden organically, use peat free compost, dig a pond and leave some wildlife habitats. Remove some slabs or concrete and let life live. Allow plants to produce seed before you rush for the secateurs to tidy up, so the birds can feed on them. Leave some old growth on perennials overwinter to protect the soil surface and the minibeasts below ground, and provide shelter for others on the surface like frogs and hedgehogs.

7. Play nature games with the Sunday School.

8. Support local, national and international conservation charities.

ORGANIZATIONS AND BOOKS

Brogdale Horticultural Trust, Brogdale Road, Faversham, Kent ME13 8XZ.

Church & Conservation Project, Arthur Rank Centre, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire CV8 2LZ.

County Wildlife Trusts, address from RSNC, The Green, Witham Park, Waterside South, Lincoln LN5 7JR.

English Nature, Northminster House, Peterborough PE1 1UA.

Heritage Seed Library, (HDRA), Ryton Organic Gardens, Coventry CV8 3LG.

Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Project, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB.

Plantlife, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD.

RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Beds SG19 2DL.

For conservation and bio-diversity enquiries contact:- WWF, Panda House, Godalming, Surrey GU7 1XR (Tel. 01483-426444); and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 219 Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 ODL (Tel. 01223-277314).

BOOKS

Chris Baines, How to Make a Wildlife Garden, Elm Tree Books, 1985.

CEL Gardening leaflet from Steps Towards Sustainability Pack.

Jeremy Cherfas & Michael & Jude Fanton, The Seed Savers' Handbook, Grover Books, 1996.

Nigel Cooper, Wildlife in Church and Churchyard, Church House Publishing, 1995.

Joseph Cornell, Sharing the Joy of Nature, Dawn Publications, 1989.

Joan Morgan, The Book of Apples, Ebury Press, 1993.

Ghillean Prance, The Earth Under Threat, Wild Goose Publications, 1996.

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To obtain this biodiversity leaflet in RTF format, ready to photocopy for a double A5 leaflet click here

Links
www.cbd.int Convention on Biological diversity Jan 2002
30,000 and 60,000 species of plant under threat (More than 1 in 8)
Landmark new study finds up to 87% of Singapore's plants and animals have become extinct during the last 183 years due to deforestation, warns SE Asia will lose up to 42% its biodiversity by 2100.
www.wildearthnet.org Wildlife extinction rates and economics.
Readable article.
Given the uncertainty as to the number of species, it's naturally difficult to estimate the rate of extinction. Estimates of all extinctions vary dramatically, from about 230 species per year to over 40,000 species per year, depending on the scientist doing the estimating. The methods used to obtain the extremely high values are inherently flawed-little better than wild guesses-and the truth is likely to lie closer to, but above, the lowest estimate. Even that lowest estimate reflects a rate of extinction that is 1,500 times higher than the background rate of natural extinction. ........
www.worldwatch.org Bird extinctions are running at some 50 times the natural rate due to habitat loss and other consequences of human activity.
Plant Talk

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