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Environment and Energy

Wildlife is everywhere in our beautiful city, from the peregrines nesting in the city centre, to the blue tits in Jesus College, and right down to the bees that feast on herbs and flowers in the city’s gardens. It is wonderful to appreciate wildlife, but we should also do our best to protect these species and increase the number and variety of animals, birds and bugs that make Cambridge their home.

A Biodiversity Action Plan to improve biodiversity across the University’s operational estate is currently in development. However, we do not need to wait for the publication to improve biodiversity. There is lots we can do to protect habitats on University sites.

If you are interested in promoting biodiversity on your site, you can follow these steps:

1. Find out what is already on your site

The recently completed Biodiversity Baseline Report contains a record of the species that have been found on many University sites. Contact the Environment and Energy section to learn more about your site.

To supplement and update this information it may be worth carrying out a wildlife audit on your site. For example, this simple survey sheet can be downloaded to survey hedgerows on your site. Why not carry out the audit in teams, encouraging your colleagues to get out and engage with their surroundings.

Figure 1: Survey sheet (Source: Opal Centre for Environmental Policy)

2. Investigate your options

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to biodiversity. Understanding your site and the needs of species on it will guide your options for improvement.

A recent report put together by students in the Social Innovation Programme, looked at a number of wildlife interventions and how they could be used to improve biodiversity on University sites. There are examples from across the University’s operational estate and you can use this report to work through your options.

Nest boxes

Benefits

Considerations

Cost

● Provide a safe habitat for nesting birds and their young.

● Easy to put up.

● Migratory birds may use the nest boxes as well.

● A review of nest box studies found nest boxes to be on average 67% effective

(Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A.,

Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., Sutherland, 2018)

● They must be cleaned every winter with hot water.

● They are sometimes limited in terms of their impact because they may help just a

small number of nesting birds.

Estimated Costs

● Can be bought for as little as £5.

● Raw materials are inexpensive

Table 1: Nest box example

Biodiversity report

Figure 2: Small Scale Biodiversity Improvements Report

3. Speak with those around you

When it comes to biodiversity improvements, the more people you can engage the better. One group it is always worth speaking to is the site gardeners. Speak to them to see what is already happening on your site and to get their opinion on what you are proposing.