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Environment and Energy

 

With the trees blossoming, flowers blooming, birds singing and bees buzzing, Cambridge has become a sunnier, greener and all-round happier place for staff and students in recent months. There are many pleasant green spaces around Cambridge, and the University is no exception. From the pleasant ‘quad’ of grass on the Downing site to the rooftop birdboxes on the David Attenborough Building, and from the pleasant pond at the new Cavendish labs to the wooded paths criss-crossing Madingley Rise, there’s plenty of nature to be seen around the University’s estate. But what is the University doing to protect and enhance these spaces?

DAB Bird boxes

Figure 1: Bird box on roof of David Attenborough Building

What has the University committed to?

The importance of protecting biodiversity on all University sites has been recognised through the University’s Environmental Vision, Policy and Strategy. A healthy biodiverse ecosystem provides a number of natural services for everyone, and as a world leader in conservation research the University has a wealth of knowledge that can be drawn upon to improve biodiversity on our own sites. The goal under the policy is that no University development would have a net negative impact on biodiversity and that, where possible, any impact experienced would be positive.

To achieve this goal the University has appointed an Ecological Advisory Panel to oversee biodiversity improvements. The panel is made up of academics who are conservation specialists, Estate Management (EM) staff provide evidence to this panel and work with the panel to incorporate conservation principles on University sites (pictured above Peter Wilderspin EM, Professor Andrew Balmford, Ben Walton EM, Dr David Coomes, Dr Mike Rands, Professor Ian Hodge, Kevin Couling EM, Emily Dunning EM). After just a few months of operation, they are well on the way to completing a full assessment of biodiversity on University sites and are working towards embedding changes that will encourage a wide number of species to make the University their home.

What’s happened so far?

The Panel have gathered examples of best practice from RSPB site visits. A review of the Woodland Management plan and the University’s Stewardship Agreements has been carried to incorporate biodiversity considerations and an Interim Biodiversity Implementation plan has been put in place to complete a baseline assessment of all University sites. The Plan also puts in place processes for considering and enhancing biodiversity. Mapping of several designated sites (Lord’s Bridge, Madingley and Lolworth Farm) has been completed and the formulation of a species priority list is in process for each of these sites

One of the key areas for this work is at the University farm; the farm’s objectives have been amended to include biodiversity conservation objectives and once the breeding season is over improvements will be made to habitats for hares and birds such as the turtle dove (an endangered species listed on the IUCN list).

At a building level biodiversity enhancement have already been trialled at sites. In Greenwich House, for example, wildflower areas have been established, bird and bat boxes have been erected and insects have found a new home in the log piles dotted around the site.

Future plans and how you can get involved

These actions are just the start of a significant effort to improve and preserve biodiversity on University sites. There will be many opportunities for staff to engage with this working going forward; the first of these opportunities will be over the summer as the University participates in a citizen science project monitoring swifts. If you would like to get involved or if you have made biodiversity improvements on your own site, we would love to hear from you.

Working together we can create a welcoming environment where wildlife can flourish.