Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A Year of Biodiversity

The UN have designated 2010 “International Year of Biodiversity” in recognition of both its importance to all life on Earth, including the human species, and its increasing loss – mainly due to human activities such as deforestation, industrial monoculture food production, habitat pollution and climate impacts. The website declares the designation “is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity.”

“Why is it so important?”

Humans are but one animal within the Earth’s diverse flora & fauna, however there is one huge difference between our species and all others – we have the ability to protect or destroy the natural diversity. We depend upon the networks of other living species for food, fuel, health & wealth. Whether your belief in how this arose is through Darwinian evolution, or in the design of nature by a creator God or gods, there is no living organism on this planet which does not perform some service to others, and it is to our own detriment to endanger these networks – whether deliberately or unwittingly.

“Yes, but what good can I do?”

The main International Year of Biodiversity website urges us to do just one thing towards biodiversity, and gives a huge list of what we might pledge to do - from creating a wildflower meadow, planting a window box, not mowing part of our lawns, applying for an allotment, tackling Japanese Knotweed see here for more information on this), to encouraging bats.

The UK’s IYB website, hosted by the Natural History Museum, explains how we can all get involved. There’s information on saving the British dormouse; how to build a bug hotel in the autumn to help insect over-winter; joining in with the Big Wildlife Garden (more of this below); looking for lichens; enemy invaders (helping to monitor non-native species of ladybirds) and counting banded snails as part of Evolution Megalab, being run by the Open University, supported by the Royal Society.

The Big Wildlife Garden

Natural England are running this campaign which recognises two major aspects - the important part gardens play as habitats for many species, and that gardening in a wildlife-friendly way can increase the diversity of plants and animals. This is a topic I’ve alluded to several times here, such as growing fruits in my front garden, growing veggies in window boxes, and (not) tidying the garden for winter.

You can register your own garden here as part of the Big Wildlife Garden and gain points for the things you do to encourage wildlife - even just leaving a patch of nettles (which hosts 40 species of insects, including some of our most colourful butterflies) - building up your score towards Bronze, Silver, Gold and Green award levels. There’s an online forum too, to share ideas from other organisations.

School Wildlife Gardens
Of particular interest to me is the competition for the Big Wildlife Garden School of the year since I’m involved with a local infant school to develop just such a garden. Schools must work their way to Green level, and then send in an article and photos of their wildlife project. Judges will choose regional winners, as well as an overall national winner.

Biodiversity - join in – whatever size space you have!

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