Species diversity is essential for healthy ecosystems
All of the Earth’s plants, animals, insects and microbes contribute to biodiversity with each individual species playing its own unique part.
Without biodiversity, we would not have clean air, water or soil. Our food sources, raw materials and even our climate can be dramatically affected by changes in species diversity.
Development and the increased modernisation of our lives have caused an alarming decrease in biodiversity worldwide;
- The pressures of urban expansion place an ever-increasing demand on fragile natural resources and available habitat
- Globalisation has led to the spread of invasive species which rapidly outcompete native wildlife
- Pesticides from agriculture can be linked to a decline in 40% of all insect species
Halting biodiversity loss is a huge challenge, particularly in the light of climate change, which will accelerate much of the decline.
There are numerous pieces of legislation and many site designations in place at local, national, EU and UN levels to help conserve and enhance biodiversity. Government has promised that post-Brexit policy and legislation across the UK will remain stringent and be properly enforced. While ensuring compliance is a great place to start, good sustainable development should take a ‘beyond compliance’ approach that contributes to and promotes biodiversity.
DEFRA recently completed a consultation on a “Net Gain” policy for the environment, development and local communities, presenting an opportunity for developers to proceed whilst at the same time improving our environment by more than compensating for biodiversity loss where it cannot be avoided or mitigated. Provisions for Net Gain have subsequently been included in the Environment Act 2021 with detail to follow. It is hoped that Net Gain will incentivise responsible development that properly embraces the principles of biodiversity enhancement. BREEAM, CEEQUAL, LEED, the Considerate Constructors Scheme and the Home Quality Mark help the industry to measure and report on biodiversity impacts as part of wider environmental assessments. Critically, organisations responsible for maintaining the existing built environment can enhance wellbeing for users and the community by encouraging biodiversity through green roofs, landscape enhancements and other additions.
Enhancing biodiversity on site
Biodiversity enhancement isn’t limited to new developments. Bear in mind most of our built environment is here already! Refurbishment and maintenance scheduling for the existing built environment can significantly influence biodiversity. By incorporating ecological features and management regimes, spaces can be improved to provide habitats for wildlife whilst improving user experiences and contributing to our wellbeing.
Initiatives can include;
- Green roofs
- Living walls
- Bird/bat boxes
- Bird feeders
- Planting low-maintenance native species on site
- Ponds and water features
- Planting butterfly/bee-friendly species on site
- “Bug hotels” and beehives
- Even investigating opportunities for species reintroductions
This short animated film outlines why we need to be aware of and promote biodiversity in the built environment.