Around three-quarters of the South West's land area is used for agriculture, which has and continues to shape the landscape that we all enjoy. However, unsustainable use of land as well as changing management practices and economy can and has led to soil erosion, pollutants reaching water courses and harmful impacts on wildlife and habitats.
Trees, woodland and forests make a major contribution to the vitality, attractiveness and diversity of the region as well as to health, flood mitigation and the local economy. As well as benefits to society and wildlife, trees make an important contribution to the global carbon budget and can contribute to climate change mitigation.
Reliable geo-referenced information on land use is required to provide a basis for the sustainable development of land resources. It should also be used to inform policy at national, regional and local level. Experimental statistics were first produced for 2001 using local authority wards but has now been replaced with more up-to-date 2005 data to provide a more accurate picture of local land types. These latest figures remain experimental, in that the methodology is still being enhanced. However, they are considered sufficiently robust to provide some useful insights into major land uses and provide a basis for comparing the extent, distribution and spatial variation in such land uses between similarly defined administrative areas. Because of the enhancements to the methodology underlying the latest 2005 data, the land use statistics cannot be compared with the 2001 statistics for time series analysis. Data for 2005 can be manipulated to compare regions or areas.
Attractive buildings, settlements, historic landscapes, parks and gardens make an enormous contribution to the quality of the region. This historic heritage makes a vital contribution to the quality of our environment. It can consist of a wide range of both natural and man-made features, some of which we can see every day and which contribute to our local, regional and national quality of life and economy.