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International Day for Biological Diversity

At BGS we have a series of initiatives aimed at promoting various species of plants and animals on our sites.

22/05/2021
Blue tit using a feeder at Keyworth
A blue tit making use of one of the bird feeding stations around the Keyworth campus. Source: BGS © UKRI

Today (22nd May) is the International Day for Biological Diversity, an event initiated by the United Nations to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues – a theme central to UN’s development agenda as part of the sustainable development goals.

At the British Geological Survey’s Keyworth campus, we currently have a series of initiatives to promote various species of plants and animals, and enhance both the amount and the diversity. A small group of staff (the Wilding Group) have been working with our Estates Team and together have made huge progress. Over the last few years we have been working on initiatives around site including managing a former bramble patch that used to be the caretakers garden with a small pond. We chopped back about 90% of the bramble to create some new habitats. The bramble (or blackberry) is good in small patches as it offers protection for nesting birds and for small animals. Its flowers are a good source of nectar and the juicy black fruits are good food for birds and small mammals. In the caretakers garden we have left areas of shrubby blackthorn, hawthorn and plum as small woodland. The trees are tightly packed, meaning there is plenty of shade and protection. In one small grassy area, restricted mowing has allowed spring flowers to pop up, including cowslips, bluebells, snow drops and a beautiful patch of fritillaries. These spring flowers will soon give way to geranium, buttercup, daisies and dandelion. A small area of the garden is centred on a magnificent white poplar, we have left a hedge of bramble and blackthorn and it provides a ‘secret’ garden for staff. This area currently has herb bennet, goose grass, nettle, chickweed, cow parsley and some three-cornered leek. In a few months, a long forgotten Mirabelle plum will provide fruit for insects, birds and staff!

The small pond is a vital source of water for insects, birds and small mammals. Our night camera has caught plenty of late night visitors including a buzzard, sparrow hawks and hedgehogs. Other wildlife initiatives in the garden (and around the rest of site)  include the installation of bird boxes, insect hotels and a toad hole (a hole dug in a shady spot and filled with rocks which creates a damp, dark habitat for various amphibians). Holes cut into the new perimeter fence allow wild life to pass through the estate including hedgehogs, squirrels, shrew, rabbits and other small mammals.

Around the wider site, we are leaving 70% of our lawns to grow over the summer months (no mow areas) to promote wildflowers which not only look lovely but provides food for pollinators such as bees to collect more nectar. The wildflowers including clover, buttercup, daisy, vetch, oxeye daisy and our magnificent bee orchids. This spring we counted over 700 bee orchids on site and we are currently looking forward to seeing them flower in June.

We have also recently placed 10 bird feeding stations around site, and we regularly see blue tits, robins, dunnocks, blackbirds, long tailed tits, sparrows and wood pigeons (to name the most common).

At the centre of the British Geological survey walkway, a walk along the 130m rock concourse takes you through geological time starting with a three billion year old rock from the Scottish highland to the last great ice age (last 2.5 million years). We have recently added geologically relevant plants from the first vascular plants (represented by horsetails in the Devonian, more than 300 million years ago) and magnolias (one of the first flowering plants around 20 million years ago). Pampas grass represents the first grasses and of particular note is a splendid Monkey Puzzle tree which were common in the UK in the Jurassic period.

Monkey_puzzle_web
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Geologically relevant plants have been added to the BGS Walkway through the Keyworth campus, such as this monkey puzzle tree. A species common in the UK during the Jurassic period. Source: BGS © UKRI

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During the year ahead we will engaging with local wildlife groups so we can document and monitor our wildlife (hopefully adding night time cameras and undertaking mammal, bird and insect surveys), we will be increasing the numbers of bird and bat boxes on site, and planting more native deciduous and berry/fruit bearing trees.

If you are interested in getting back to nature this summer why not consider taking part in the Wildlife Trust’s #30DaysWild challenge running throughout June?

About the author

Prof Mel Leng
Prof Melanie Leng

BGS Chief Scientist, environmental change, adaptation and resilience

BGS Keyworth
Find out more

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