A few weeks ago, I gave a talk on biodiversity at the Farnham Sustainability Festival, and wanted to share the key points from my presentation with you. Because, given the state of the planet, I feel this info is far too important not to share. Please read on and forward this post to anyone who'll read it.
Complete biodiversity breakdown
How does this loss impact our climate?
We need a vast array of wildlife (i.e. biodiversity) in order to maintain ecosystems that provide food, medicine, clean air and water, as well as a stable climate. For example, without pollinators, soil microbes and invertebrates (which maintain the health of the soil crops grow in), we won't be able to feed ourselves. And as we continue to lose biodiversity from the ecosystems that lock away atmospheric carbon (soil, ocean, forest, grassland and wetland ecosystems), we'll experience more frequent climate disasters.
Emergency in the UK
The UK is one of the world's most nature-depleted countries. We've lost almost 60% of our flying insects, and have only 2.5% of our ancient woodland (the richest and most complex terrestrial habitat in the country) left. Urgent action is needed to protect our wildlife, as climate change will exacerbate biodiversity loss further.
How can we help?
We don't seem to be able to rely on the government (who are apparently planning to drop their £11.6 billion climate pledge) or industries to move quickly, so action falls upon us. And perhaps the best way to help is through our private gardens (which account for an estimated 1.8 million acres of land across Britain). If we use our gardens to connect our remaining patches of ancient woodland, we could enable species to move and ecosystems to adapt as climate zones alter. This alone could save many plants and animals from extinction.
The best way to cater for a diverse range of wildlife is to provide a variety of garden habitats (think ponds for aquatic wildlife; wildflower/weed patches for insects and pollinators; hedges for small mammals and birds; log piles for reptiles, fungi, invertebrates and insects; nesting tubes for solitary bees; compost heaps for worms; dead plant stems for overwintering insects, etc). Habitats can even be created in the most barren of areas, by allowing and/or installing plants that grow up walls and fences, between paving slabs, and even on roofs. If we plant a variety of native plants; non-native plants; deciduous and evergreen plants, plus those with pollinator-friendly flowers (tubular or flat open flowers), we'll cater for a diverse range of insects and animals year-round too. In fact, any space with a plant will offer something for wildlife, and the more habitats in a garden the greater its biodiversity.
Trees support a huge number of species. Even though they're the Earth's biggest plants, most can be grown in pots if garden space is limited (we have rowan, silver birch and magnolia trees in pots at home).
Trees draw down atmospheric carbon, produce the oxygen we breathe, help maintain soil health and integrity, keep our waterways clear (by increasing infiltration rates and slowing the flow of sediments), provide much-needed shade on hot days (trees cool the surface temperature of cities by to 12 degrees Celsius), plus they feed, house and nurture many insects, birds and mammals. Trees produce 1000s of flowers for pollinating insects, and their berries/fruits/nuts or seeds are eaten by birds (among other species like squirrels, mice and deer). Adding just one tree to an open pasture can increase its bird biodiversity from almost zero species to as high as 80.
These are just some of the reasons why Green Up Britain has focused on tree planting in our efforts to restore nature around the country. To help us continue this work please consider offering us a monetary donation no matter how small (we are a non-profit company that spends 100% of cash received on trees and nature restoration projects), or you can sponsor us to plant trees for your business, and/or volunteer your time to help. Email email@example.com for more information.
Go the extra mile
Outside of the above there are a number of other ways to support our dwindling wildlife. A shallow source of water for example (a dish with water and pebbles) could be a life-saver for thirsty bees this summer, as could stopping the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Keeping our garden and security lighting to a minimum will help bats, moths (who are important night-time pollinators), hedgehogs and our dwindling populations of glow worms, who don't glow or mate around artificial light. It's a good idea to provide a route in and out of our gardens too (i.e. a hole in fences, walls and hedges if needed), to help species to move between them.
The climate clock is ticking
I've only scratched the surface of the frightening losses in biodiversity from the UK in this post, but hope I've conveyed the fact that we still have a window of time to stop and reverse the damage. If we all make small changes now, we can not only prevent further losses of wildlife, but can reduce the knock-on effects of biodiversity loss on our fragile ecosystems and changing climate.