Biodiversity, or biological diversity, describes the total variety of all living things. It includes all plant and animal species, genetic variation and habitats. Changes in land use and lifestyles have resulted in rapid declines in semi-natural habitats and the species they contain. In Northern Ireland over 50 species of plants and animals have become extinct in the last century.
Most gardens already benefit biodiversity. Gardens contain many habitats and species. Gardens provide food, shelter and water for animals. Walls, cracks, soil, pots, even your garden shed, can be used by wildlife. Remember – the more obvious species such as birds and mammals may depend upon less obvious species such as insects and fungi.
Whether you have a few pots at your door, a large back garden or no garden at all, there are small things you can do to encourage biodiversity.
Feed the birds especially throughout the winter months. Clean feeders regularly. Avoid salty or spicy food or items such as bread or uncooked rice which may swell when eaten.
Plant native species; overall these help our wildlife the most. Plant hanging baskets and window boxes to attract butterflies and other insects. Record the plant and animal species you see. This information is vital to determine when species are declining. Send all records to the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR).
Volunteer to help wildlife in your local area with organisations such as Ulster Wildlife Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Conservation Volunteers and Woodland Trust.
Compost garden material and kitchen scraps to reduce household waste going to landfill. Do-it-yourself compost is free, can be of excellent quality and provides a home for insects and fungi. Plant climbers such as honeysuckle or ivy, which provide food and cover for birds and insects.
Water wisely – water is a very precious resource. Collect rainwater in a water butt. Plant native trees such as rowan or holly. Provide water for birds to drink and bathe in. Create a variety of habitats such as a mini pond, log or rock pile. These are great for insects and are quick and easy to make. Take care not to plant invasive species. Avoid using pesticides, herbicides and slug pellets.
Put up bird and bat boxes. Plant a dense border to provide cover for small mammals. Consider leaving part of your lawn uncut for part of the summer. Long grass is beneficial to many species. Better still create a wildflower meadow and attract a host of butterflies. Create a pond or a water feature for frogs and newts. Plant a native species hedge to provide a home and food for birds and mammals.
Remember to check if a species is native to you (UK or Ireland). Delay any major pruning of hedges and trees until late autumn outside the bird nesting season. Grow plants that flower in different seasons for a year round supply of food. Use organic methods to control pests. Source materials for your garden such as wood products responsibly. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council logo which ensures woodlands are managed sustainably.
Put up bird boxes. Allow plants to set seed to provide winter feeding for birds. Ensure bird tables are positioned to keep birds safe from cats and other predators. Grow plants and vegetables in containers using peat-free compost. Peat bogs support many rare and threatened plants and animals. Most of Northern Ireland’s bogs have been destroyed. Choose plants that will attract wildlife. Create a mini pond using a stone trough or enamel sink. Create an insect home, encouraging insects such as ladybirds and lacewings which will help to reduce pests such as greenfly.
Alongside our everyday business activities there also exists a less obtrusive world that shares our surroundings – a world of plants, birds, mammals, invertebrates, fungi and micro-organisms. This variety of life is called biodiversity. As land managers, biodiversity conservation is an important part of our environmental management at all Acheson & Glover sites by means of careful planning, operating and restoration.
Biodiversity is actually an important consequence of our quarrying operations as we provide wildlife havens in areas where biodiversity is otherwise limited by other forms of land-use such as intensive farming. Within our limestone quarries and sand pit we have increased habitat diversity for example: species rich grasslands for insects and butterflies, cliff exposures for breeding Ravens and Peregrine falcons, nesting banks for Sand martins and wetlands areas for amphibians and dragonflies.
Acheson + Glover demonstrate their commitment to protecting and enhancing biodiversity by contributing to the Quarry Products Association NI Biodiversity and Geodiversity Action Plan for the Aggregates Industry; partnering in a number of environmental projects ensuring that nationally and locally important species and habitats are conserved and enhanced.
Everyone has a role in protecting and enhancing biodiversity, whether you’ve got acres or just a window box you too can manage your own habitat.
Find out how you can do more at:
RSPB – Giving nature a home
RHS – Conservation & biodiversity:
Wild About Gardens: