Biodiversity Action Planning across the University of Leeds residences

Habitat loss and fragmentation are key drivers of biodiversity loss [1], with urbanisation having a greater impact on species than any other habitat conversion [2]. The 2019 State of Nature Report has revealed that since 1970s, 41% of all UK species have experienced population declines, whilst 27% have decreased their ranges [2]. With a growing number of people living in urban areas [2], the development of wildlife-friendly green spaces is becoming increasingly important [2]. Furthermore, human interaction with nature and wildlife is thought to reduce physiological and psychological stress [3]. The inclusion of well designed green spaces, can therefore enrich local biodiversity whilst having positive effects on the well-being of their users.

As a Student Sustainability Architect, I am working closely with the Residential Services to enhance biodiversity across six, off-campus residences. Within my action planning, I am also focusing on providing opportunities for residents and staff to interact with nature, thereby enhancing their well-being. As my work requires comprehensive surveys of plants and animals present on each site, some of the work has been conducted in early autumn and the rest will resume in early spring. Up until now, I have conducted detailed habitat surveys across North Hill Road and North Hill Court Residences. Using the information collected during the surveys, I was able to create detailed habitat maps. The habitats were allocated using the criteria from the University’s biodiversity performance tool, which will allow us to provide a biodiversity “score” for each site. I am currently in the process of developing recommendations for site-specific Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs).

In the meantime, I have been working with Mike Leonard (Residential Property Manager) and Simon Mulholland (Project Manager) to provide recommendations for planting around the new Common Room built at the Montague Burton Residences. After an initial site visit, we have identified the areas of interest for development. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be developing recommendations which will enhance biodiversity across the site. The grounds work should take place before the end of this academic year!

As spring approaches, I will be surveying the rest of the prioritized residences to develop detailed habitat maps and BAPs. The recommendations will focus on enhancing foraging opportunities for birds and pollinators, increasing connectivity of biodiverse habitat patches and providing habitat for other small animals such as hedgehogs. The opportunities to interact with the suggested features through a range of sensory pathways (e.g. fragrant flowers, bright colours, or increased bird song) will be considered throughout all the recommendations.

 

References

[1] Wilson et al. 2016. Habitat fragmentation and biodiversity conservation: key findings and future challenges. Landscape Ecology. 31, pp. 219 – 227.

[2] Hayhow, D.B., Eaton, M.A., Stanbury, A.J., Burns, F., Kirby,W.B., Bailey, N., Beckmann B, Bedford, J., Boersch-Supan, P.H., Coomber, F., Dennis, E.B. […] and Symes, N. 2019. The State of Nature 2019. The State of Nature partnership.[Online]. Available from: https://nbn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/State-of-Nature-2019-UK-full-report.pdf

[3] Ewert and Chang. 2018. Levels of Nature and Stress Response. Behavioural Sciences. 8(5), 49.