The world’s biodiversity is highly valued but is also highly threatened by various types of human activity. As a consequence, statutory measures are in place to protect habitats and wildlife.
These measures range from the global to the local; and variously give protection to whole ecosystems and single species.
The original purpose of the legislation was usually to protect areas from encroachment or intensification of human activity, or to protect certain species from persecution or regulate hunting. The legal protection given to these species has more recently been extended to include the effects of other human activities, such as development.
The protection given to wildlife can therefore affect the locations in which development can take place, the design of the development and the way in which development happens.
The legislation can be divided into four categories:
- Firstly, there are the international conventions and directives.
- Secondly, there is the national legislation which is in place purely for the protection of wildlife. This is often based on the international agreements for the protection of biodiversity. It includes mechanisms for designating sites of high biodiversity importance and protection.
- Thirdly, planning law includes some environmental aspects, which include consideration of protected sites and wildlife.
Many of these regulations also derive from international agreements.
- Finally, there is case law. These are judgements made by the courts when interpreting the statutory legislation
described above. Such judgements influence the way that similar cases are dealt with subsequently. Case law can be
developed at the international (e.g. European) and national levels.