Nature is dynamic. From the green mantle that clothes the South Downs and The Weald to the lush grazing marshes, floodplains and river valleys; from traditionally managed heathland to all but forgotten ancient ghylls and woodland swathed in rich carpets of bluebell; from sleepy rural villages to oasis-like urban green spaces, the landscape of Sussex has never remained in one particular condition.
A Changing Landscape
Forests are grazed or cleared, open heaths and chalk grassland develop and then disappear under a cover of trees once more: a constant advance and retreat from one state to another and back. This diversity and its constant modification by the people who live and work here has created the familiar, often beautiful, landscape which may look static and eternal, but which continues to be shaped by land-use and management. Agriculture, forestry, conservation and urban development work in complex ways with natural processes to produce a particular Sussex personality, something distinct and precious which needs to be understood, protected and, where possible, enhanced, but not frozen so that natural succession from one state to another no longer occurs.
Recording biodiversity can help monitor the kaleidoscopic assemblages of species and habitats over time. It shows how plants and animals come and go, how old fields become new woods, how wildlife responds to climate change, how the fortunes of aquatic creatures in lakes, rivers and the sea rise and fall. It tells us what we had in the past and highlights which changes are cyclical, which are permanent. Data on biodiversity past and present are as valuable to the conservationist as a balance sheet is to an accountant. As time passes and more records are gathered a better understanding of the health of nature in Sussex is possible and this feeds into both strategic and tactical policy decisions at many levels.
The world and its wildlife are programmed to change. By understanding the dynamic processes better through observation, collection, storage and dissemination of biodiversity records we provide vital information to the growing number of people who believe that human progress should work with the grain of nature rather than against it.