Area plays key role in biodiversity studyMay 28, 2013
Working with the Universities of Exeter and Sheffield and the British Trust for Ornithology, the four year project is being led by Cranfield University.
It aims to improve the understanding of how biodiversity – the variation of plants and wildlife and living organisms – supports urban ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society.
These benefits include water, food and fuel, and services such as the breakdown of waste, flood protection and recreation services.
With over 90% of the UK population living in urban areas, the benefits provided by green spaces are of increasing importance.
Urban areas are often regarded as ecologically uninteresting. However, these areas can be much richer in biodiversity than they appear, providing habitats which are becoming scarce in the wider countryside.
The study, supported by local stakeholders such as Milton Keynes Parks Trust and local councils, will help to identify how our urban ecosystems can be improved for wildlife and people while at the same time keeping them cost-effective to manage.
Following an initial assessment stage to characterise existing green space within the towns, the team are currently setting out a series of six to nine test plots at various sites, each containing different combinations of plant and flower species.
The team will look at the relationship between the developing plants and wildlife within each of the plots and also study the wider ecosystem, including the flow of people and other wildlife to and from the plots.
Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton were selected because they provide a range of differing urban landscapes and green space with which to explore biodiversity, ranging from the planned new town design of Milton Keynes, through the smaller mediaeval layout of Bedford, and the Victorian terraces and industrial areas of Luton.
The project forms part of a larger UK-based Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability research programme which aims to improve our understanding of the role of biodiversity in improving the quality of life and sustainability of natural and urban environments across the UK.