Motivations for Conserving OP’s Urban Biodiversity

Orchard Park – aerial image taken on 2 September 2017.
Photo credit: John D Fielding. Used with kind permission.

As shown by this great aerial photo, we have green space around and within OP and you’ll be surprised to see what lives here – if you take a moment to look. This blog page explores some motivations for conserving our urban biodiversity and is based on scientific research. Perhaps you’ll see something that encourages you to take positive action if you haven’t been stirred to do so yet.

But what prevents you from taking positive action for our wildlife?

Is there something missing here that would motivate you to get involved? If so, please do get in touch and tell us, we’re open to new ideas and suggestions: opwildlife@gmail.com 

Motivations

Reproduced from Dearborn & Kark 2010

The diagram above, and selected motivations for conserving urban biodiversity explored briefly below are taken from Dearborn & Kark (2010).

As surprising as it may seem to some, OP offers an important setting for conservation biology, as do most urban areas, though “people’s attitudes towards nature might influence whether they connect with it” (Dickinson & Hobbs 2017). 

A lot needs to come together to be successful in conserving biodiversity in our Urban Green Space:

“…diverse stakeholders – including ecologists, managers, developers, students, and citizens – should be encouraged to join in collaborative networks to share data, engage in interdisciplinary research, and discuss urban biodiversity management, design, and planning.” 

Aronson et al. 2017

OPWP engages with these diverse stakeholders and to a greater or lesser extent in most activities mentioned in this quote. We welcome anyone with knowledge or skills to share and help, or anyone that would like to learn.

  • To preserve our local biodiversity

“Between 1970 and 2013, 56% of UK species declined. Of the nearly 8,000 species assessed using modern criteria, 15% are threatened with extinction. This suggests that we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world. 


Of the 218 countries assessed for ‘biodiversity intactness’, the UK is ranked 189, a consequence of centuries of industrialisation, urbanisation and overexploitation of our natural resources.” 

State of Nature Report/RSPB 2016 

Given the depressing figures above, surely we should all do what we can to help? OP sits on a former green site and most wildlife habitat was destroyed for the development.

  • To create stepping stones to nonurban habitat

“Increasing the area of habitat patches and creating a network of corridors is the most important strategy to maintain high levels of urban biodiversity”

Beninde et al. 2015

Ensuring OP’s habitats such as the Wildlife Area, Orchard, Wildflower Bank, and Living Roof on the Community Centre are properly managed is important, and we welcome volunteers to help with that. A few years ago we raised funds to have a Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire, and this plan guides our practical habitat management activities. We also encourage the Community Council to adopt its recommendations.

As well as the habitats mentioned above that have been created with wildlife in mind, the total area of all of our small gardens added together – if each is made a bit more wildlife friendly – could play a role in increasing OP’s wildlife habitat, and in creating these stepping stones to our neighbouring green areas. As Aronson et al. (2017) note most people are unaware of how their decisions of what they do with their gardens affect biodiversity in their own and their neighbours’ gardens. OPWP works to improve this understanding and promote how suitably managed gardens can support wildlife, with the aim of enhancing biodiversity across OP. 

  • To connect people to nature and conduct environmental education 

“Studies support the idea that the experience of biodiversity, actual childhood interaction with variation and diversity with living and nonliving items from nature allows children important learning opportunities, inclusive of biodiversity understanding. The results support practical implications for sensory rich environmental education and underscores the practical importance of childhood access to nature”.

Beery & Jørgensen 2016

OPWP runs a range of free wildlife themed activities through the year that aim to be fun and informative for adults and children.

  • To provide ecosystem services 

“Because ecosystem services are, by definition, for humans, it makes sense to ensure they are provided in areas where human population density is high. In an urban context, even small green spaces can provide high-impact ecosystem services, if they are well planned.” 

Dearborn & Kark 2010

Such ecosystem services include:

  • pollinating (Mendes et al. 2008)
  • improving some aspects of air quality in urban areas (Dearborn & Kark 2010)
  • sequestering substantial amounts of carbon through increased urban vegetation (Pickett et al. 2008)
  • To fulfill ethical responsibilities 

“In many philosophical, religious, and secular traditions, there is a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet.”

Berry 2006

“Biodiversity conservation in urban areas could facilitate the fulfillment of these moral obligations because opportunities for conservation are located in or near residential neighborhoods. This geographic proximity allows people to more easily experience the reinforcement of having lived by their ethical or religious mandates. For individuals without an existing sense of environmental responsibility, exposure to urban biodiversity (particularly via educational programs) may help instill a conservation ethic.” 

Dearborn & Kark 2010

By showing people that are not aware of what lives here that we’ve got hundreds of species on our doorstep, OPWP tries to instill a conservation ethic. People can’t care and take action for things they know little or nothing about.

To see what lives here see:

Summer Safari finds, What lives hereWildflower Bank

  • To improve human well-being 

Research has shown through our being in greener spaces and interacting with our urban nature that:  

  • our mental health benefits (Clark et al. 2014)
  • we gain improved regulation of our immune systems by contact with microbiota (Rook 2013)
  • we have a space for contemplation and relaxation (Niemelä 1999)
  • stress and pain are reduced (Hansmann et al. 2007)
  • active habitat management can be effective for depression (Townsend 2006)
  • we report higher measures of subjective well-being (Carrus et al. 2015)
  • we gain a sense of discovery, and social connection (Dickinson & Hobbs 2017)

These are just a few of the documented benefits, there are a plethora of studies proving that helping to give nature a home can benefit you too.

References

Aronson, M.F. et al., 2017. Biodiversity in the city: key challenges for urban green space management. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 15(4), pp.189–196.

Beery, T. & Jørgensen, K.A., 2016. Children in nature: sensory engagement and the experience of biodiversity. Environmental Education Research, 24(1), pp.13–25.

Beninde, J., Veith, M. & Hochkirch, A., 2015. Biodiversity in cities needs space: a meta-analysis of factors determining intra-urban biodiversity variation N. Haddad, ed. Ecology Letters, 18(6), pp.581–592.

Berry, T., 2006. Evening thoughts: reflections on the Earth as a spiritual community. In San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, pp. 1–10.

Carrus, G. et al., 2015. Go greener, feel better? The positive effects of biodiversity on the well-being of individuals visiting urban and peri-urban green areas. Landscape and Urban Planning, 134, pp.221–228.

Clark, N.E. et al., 2014. Biodiversity, cultural pathways, and human health: a framework. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 29(4), pp.198–204.

Dearborn, D.C. & Kark, S., 2010. Motivations for Conserving Urban Biodiversity. Conservation Biology, 24(2), pp.432–440.

Dickinson, D.C. & Hobbs, R.J., 2017. Cultural ecosystem services: Characteristics, challenges and lessons for urban green space research. Ecosystem Services, 25, pp.1–247. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.04.014.

Hansmann, R., Hug, S.-M. & Seeland, K., 2007. Restoration and stress relief through physical activities in forests and parks. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 6(4), pp.213–225.

Mendes, W. et al., 2008. Using Land Inventories to Plan for Urban Agriculture: Experiences From Portland and Vancouver. Journal of the American Planning Association, 74(4), pp.435–449.

Niemelä, J., 1999. Ecology and urban planning. Biodiversity and Conservation, 8, pp.119–131.

Pickett, S.T.A. et al., 2008. Beyond Urban Legends: An Emerging Framework of Urban Ecology, as Illustrated by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. BioScience, 58(2), pp.139–150.

Rook, G.A., 2013. Regulation of the immune system by biodiversity from the natural environment: An ecosystem service essential to health. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(46), pp.18360–18367.

State of Nature/RSPB, 2016. State of Nature 2016, RSPB. Available at: https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/our-work/stateofnature2016/.

Townsend, M., 2006. Feel blue? Touch green! Participation in forest/woodland management as a treatment for depression. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 5(3), pp.111–120.

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