Kate Byng-Hall explores the biodiversity landscape, its challenges and some simple solutions to help it flourish. | Nature and Environmental
Photo by Hannah Bruckner
The UK’s ecosystem is facing a crisis. Scientists approximate that populations of the UK’s most important wildlife have plummeted by an average of 60% since 1970, with three quarters of all butterfly species dropping significantly in numbers in recent years.
We must try to rectify these declines and prevent the same happening to other species. A recent RHS Study has outlined multiple reasons why Britain’s people developing personal domestic gardens could have huge benefits for our ecosystem and our wildlife:
Gardens help control urban temperatures, mitigating the effects of extreme heat and cold caused by climate change.
They prevent flooding by absorbing rainwater that would otherwise overload drainage systems.
They have effectively become some of Britain’s best nature reserves, housing a range of species including birds, mammals and invertebrates.
They support human health by easing stress and providing physical exercise.
Our Green Spaces
Some experts have said that Britain could be facing a period of deforestation due to the inadequate rate at which trees are replanted after being felled. This can be seen as only 1500 hectares of woodland was planted in 2017, well below the 5000 annual target designed to boost Britain’s woodland.
Experts have said that by 2060, woodland needs to cover 12% of the UK’s land, a significant increase from the 10% which it covers today. This is a necessity in order to maintain the country’s essential natural oxygen releases and provide habitats for our beloved wildlife. In the meantime, personal gardens could be the answer for some of these demands.
Insects and Bees Must be Revived
The decline in trees and green spaces in Britain has led to pollinating species disappearing from around a quarter of all UK habitats, meaning that 11 pollinators have been lost from each 1km grid square tested since the 1980s.
Bees have been especially badly affected, with 17 species currently regionally extinct, such as the Great Yellow Bumblebee and the Potter Flower Bee, a further 25 species regarded as threatened, and 31 of conservation concern.
Insects are so important for Britain’s ecosystem because they make up two thirds of all life on Earth, and are the bottom of the natural food-chain, meaning the rest of the country’s wildlife depends on them flourishing in great numbers.
Not to mention that pollinators’ services are worth £690m a year to the UK economy – even the most cynical of people cannot deny that these creatures are invaluable to us.
“If all humankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” – Harvard Biologist, Edward O. Wilson
How to Kickstart Your Own Action
Gardens now account for almost half of urban green space, meaning that they can surely now be used to have a positive impact on the environment.
Here are some tips for utilising your garden for maximum environmental benefits:
Plant ‘pollinators’ which provide the best food for bees + and butterflies, such as gaura and milkweed plants.
Leave seeds out for the birds to eat in the autumn and winter. Switch from electrical to manual lawnmowers.
Ditch chemical fertilisers and weed-killers.
Collect rainwater and use it to water plants during dry periods. Collect food/garden waste to fertilise your garden naturally.
Keep houseplants, as they contribute to oxygen supplies even if you don’t have an outside-garden.
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