Biodiversity and gardens
Tending to our gardens in a way that encourages wildlife is as important as ever. 2010 was the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB). It has been chosen to highlight the plight of wildlife globally, amid declines everywhere.
Biodiversity plays an important role in sustaining our life on earth. We rely on this biodiversity of life to provide us with food, fuel, and medicine.
What does this have to do with your garden? With the a significant human impact that goes into creating gardens, what difference can they make to wildlife and conservation?
In fact, in many habitats in the UK there is a close relationship between human activity (historic and current) and wildlife benefit. For example, the rich variety of chalk downland plants emerged as a result of grazing, and in woodlands, coppicing is important for some species of butterfly.
So your human impact on your garden - the way you manage it - can make a difference to wildlife. Because each garden is one part of a patchwork, the impact we make is both individual and collective. Each garden can provide a space for nature but many gardens together make a bigger difference.
The right kind of impact comes about from the sheer variety of habitats that gardens can offer. You can have shrubs and trees, perennials and annuals. You can have mini-meadows, ponds, hedges or log piles.
Simply by providing a habitat you are helping even currently thriving populations remain buoyant. Some past extinctions have occurred when high population numbers have made us take a species for granted, and we have not noticed their declines in time. This is, famously, what happened with the passenger pigeon, which went extinct in the early 20th century.
For some already declining species, gardens have become an important habitat or at least supplement to their normal habitat. These are the species that we can be mindful of in the garden. Examples include hedgehog, house sparrow, starling, song thrush, stag beetle, and bumblebee.
This website is all about what you can do to help wildlife in the garden. If you are new to wildlife gardening and want somewhere simple to start, take a look at our Things to Do for ideas to get you going. If you want to know more, why not explore our sections on wildlife, habitats and plants or go to resources.
For more on the International Year of Biodiversity visit IYB-UK, the UK partnership supporting IYB.