BGS blogs

The importance of biodiversity in achieving net zero

Protecting the natural world is an important component in achieving net zero.

broad backed chaser dragonfly at BGS Keywort
Broad-backed chaser dragonfly in the pond at BGS Keyworth. BGS © UKRI.

Managing our landscapes, from individual gardens to vast areas of native woodlands and peatlands, is vital for sequestering and storing carbon while also increasing and protecting the biodiversity of our plants and animals. A recent study by Natural England has shown that a hectare of woodland sequesters as much carbon dioxide (CO2) each year as 13 flights between London and Rome. 

At BGS, we have been creating meadows from our former lawns and, by maintaining native trees in small patches of woodland, we are contributing to carbon sequestering.  

long-tailed tit in BGS Keyworth
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Long-tailed tit in the trees around the BGS Keyworth campus. BGS © UKRI.

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Our Keyworth site, located on the outskirts of Nottingham, was highlighted as a prime place to manage one of our estate’s landscapes and return the area to a more natural state. Our grassland areas are now 80 per cent ‘no mow’ between April and October, after a recent survey of these areas showed we have many ‘old’ meadow plants, including bee orchids. Various patches of the site have been left to go completely wild and now hundreds of small native trees (hawthorn; blackthorn; holly, etc.) have popped up between the large established trees, while the undergrowth is a mass of brambles and nettles, which is great for butterflies and bees. 

Other initiatives to increase our biodiversity include:

  • maintaining a pond, which is filled from rainwater diverted from a nearby roof
  • installing 60 bird boxes for small birds and owls
  • adding several hedgehog boxes
  • planting an orchard with twelve apple and pear trees, which will bear fruit for staff and insects in the next couple of years  
  • establishing three large bug hotels and several bee mounds in our newly created orchard for our smaller guests (insects, mice, voles and shrews)
Bug hotel at BGS Keyworth
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The BGS site is full of different initiatives promoting local biodiversity, such as this bug hotel made from recycled materials. BGS © UKRI.

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In one sunny space, we recently removed and chipped several Leylandii, thus creating an place that is desirable to our local grass snakes. The space includes a large, warm compost area, swathes of heat-absorbing wood chip and rock caves built from waste rock-core material. 

To celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee we created a walkway of Japanese cherry trees. While not native, these cherry trees will provide nectar early in the season to feed early-emerging bees and other insects. We have planted thousands of spring bulbs including bluebells, snowdrops, wild garlic and daffodils. The Keyworth grounds have also been enhanced with wild-flower circles; the ox-eye daisies have looked particularly amazing through June. 

Ox-eye daisies at BGS Keyworth
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Ox-eye daisies blooming in the grounds of BGS Keyworth. BGS © UKRI.

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The BGS Keyworth site is a good example of how, by changing the management of the grounds, we are helping to sequester carbon as well as reaping multiple other benefits. We save money by reducing our gardening costs, improve the health of our plants and animals, and the beautiful grounds are admired by our staff and encourage lunchtime walks, which supports the health and well-being of both staff and visitors.

About the author

Prof Mel Leng
Prof Melanie Leng

BGS Chief Scientist, environmental change, adaptation and resilience

BGS Keyworth
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