"Resilience (environmental issues) should not be seen as a silo but as a ‘cross-cutting’ theme with integrated solutions.” (Participant at Future Scenarios event 20th September 2016)
The former mining and iron industries and the associated heavy industrial sites have had a big impact on the landscape of the county borough. Coal mines were located throughout the county borough, with the Upper Rhymney Valley alone having forty coal mines by the beginning of the 20th Century. These industries have contributed to the legacy of poor health within the county borough. By the end of the 20th Century, following the closure of all the pits, many of the remnants of those industries were reclaimed or removed and many areas were landscaped to remove the visible evidence of the county borough’s industrial past. This past industrial legacy illustrates the importance of both maintaining and enhancing the natural heritage of the county borough, in order to improve quality of life and create a healthier environment for local people. However, it should also be noted that many of the remaining derelict and contaminated sites contain the most ecologically important landscapes within the county borough.
The greening of the South Wales valleys has been transformative – where pit heads and mine workings once stood, country parks and forestry now offer a green and healthy environment that attracts thousands of residents and tourists every year. The landscape is maintained, conserved and improved by farmers, enterprises and groups, supporting linked ecological systems, rich biodiversity, mitigation against climate change and providing the food on our plates.
The county borough also has 13 nationally important Sites of Special Scientific Interest, of which ten have been designated for their biological interest and three for their geological interest. In addition there are four Local Nature Reserves, 190 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation and four Visually Important Local Landscapes.
Despite these protective measures, the biodiversity of the county borough is declining, reflecting losses being experienced in other parts of the UK and across the world. There are 110 species listed in the Caerphilly Biodiversity Action Plan that are in need of conservation action, and an additional 87 species are listed in the Species of Principal Importance in Wales. Of these species, at least five have disappeared from the county borough and have not been recorded for at least 10 years, and many other species have declined in their numbers and distribution.
Pollinators have been declining for the last 3 years, nutrients in soil need careful management and access to water for agriculture in some parts of the UK (including Wales) is predicted to be severely challenged by climate change.
Rising energy costs for farms and food businesses and the impact of climate change on production and land management are likely to impact on food production methods and growth. Wales’ farming population is ageing, with fewer young people remaining in the industry. Food expenditure is taking up an increasingly large part of household income.