The general situation concerning the contribution that industrial development has made to the conservation of wildlife in Britain is reviewed. Two major types of site have been identified, namely discrete and linear, each being divided into a number of categories, with further subdivisions depending upon the nature of the site: for example, used or disused (canals, railways, etc.) or wet or dry (gravel pits, clay pits, etc.).
The wildlife value of a representative sample of sites of each type is described qualitatively. It is argued that industrial development produces areas which are often richer in wildlife than much of the remaining rural or urban environment. This results from the existence of ‘wilderness areas’ within industrial complexes, from the creation of new habitats, from the passage of time, and from the protection given against public access and against intensive agricultural, forestry, and landscape, management. The linear systems are seen as forming a network of ‘wildlife corridors’ linking together discrete sites, thus providing reservoirs for the colonization of new habitats and enabling wildlife to survive in close proximity to intensively used urban and rural land. Many ‘industrial sites’ provide facilities for field studies, environmental trails, and environmental education, as well as forming the basis of country or linear parks. They also enable many rare species to survive, and probably prevent many of the common species from becoming less frequent.