Fracking threatens some of our key wildlife sites, says Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Debbie Tann
The government’s so-called dash for gas is beginning to become very real, with the recent announcement about new licences for fracking companies.
We at the Wildlife Trust have serious concerns about fracking’s many local and wider impacts upon wildlife.
As well as the building of a rig and surrounding infrastructure at the drill site itself, the constant supply of materials often means new roads need to be built and an increased amount of industrial traffic.
The physical disruption, noise, and light pollution disturbs local wildlife and could fragment or even decimate sensitive habitats.
The government acknowledged these visual impacts when ruling out fracking in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty a few months ago, but failed to recognise that wildlife-rich sites like Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) would be impacted too.
The fracking process also risks a wider range of environmental impacts – it often demands enormous amounts of water at a time when our freshwater rivers and wildlife are already struggling to cope with abstraction for public use. Fracking in other parts of the UK has led to minor earthquakes – which could compound the land instability that parts of the Isle of Wight already face from erosion, and the potential loss of sensitive habitats.
With all these impacts, it’s astonishing that the government won’t commit to a ban on fracking in SSSIs, as they pledged to in January.
Across England only a third of our SSSIs are in a good enough condition for wildlife. Allowing fracking in SSSIs will only make nature’s recovery even less likely. In addition to existing licenses granted near Winchester and Portsmouth to name a few, the government’s latest round of licensing includes much of the Isle of Wight.
It makes no sense that the government accepts fracking could harm nature in the South Downs, but wildlife-rich SSSIs elsewhere are considered fair game.
Finally we’re concerned that fracking is being given such high priority in government energy policy, when we really need to be moving towards renewable sources to reduce our contribution to climate change.
Global warming, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification will have largely irreversible impacts on our wildlife. We must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions - through improving energy efficiency and developing low carbon energy sources – in order to prevent biodiversity loss.