Trees and urban biodiversity
Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth and is essential for sustaining natural ecosystems and for providing us with food, fuel and resources.
Biodiversity in the UK is directed by the UK Biodiversity Strategy delivered through the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), which is then broken down into species and area BAPs.
Underpinning all Trees for Cities’ projects is the key benefit of planting and protecting urban trees to support biodiversity in cities and towns. Urban trees are under increasing threat from development, the effects of climate change and the stresses of survival in heavily populated areas. Although no empirical evidence as yet, it is widely thought that tree cover in urban areas is in decline. Trees for Cities’ aim is to reverse this trend by campaigning for a National Strategy for Urban Trees. This will make provision for monitoring tree cover over time, and set targets for significant increases so the future is assured for our urban wildlife.
Trees in cities and towns, whether on streets, in woodland or in parks, gardens, schools or hospitals, provide a wealth of benefits relating to biodiversity. They are unique in their ability to support a great variety of wildlife in some of the harshest locations in our urban areas. Many of these species are relatively common – robins, blackbirds and tits are easily recognised by children from nursery rhymes – whilst others, such as bats and bees, are in decline. Native species of trees are particularly important having been around for thousands of years and many hundreds of different species have developed over time to be dependent on them. Willows alone offer food and habitat for over 450 species, many of these are insects that then themselves provide food for birds.
The majority of Trees for Cities’ projects take place in either streets or greenfield sites and aim to enhance the existing habitats of the site. Where projects take place on brownfield sites or where they involve a change of land use, we undertake detailed biodiversity audits to establish what wildlife they currently support and ensure what we do has no detrimental effects on those species including linking to other local projects that help recreate habitats that may be lost. For example, projects that create rubble beds on the top of high rise blocks in London to recreate the habitats for the Black Redstart that sprang up during the bombing of London in the Second World War.
This year Trees for Cities is delivering an exciting range of projects with biodiversity and wildlife value: the Ancient Tree Hunt goes to London Town and the Edible Playground Project at Rotherfield school in Islington, which not only includes trees and plants which are edible for people but also those which provide food for wildlife.
Trees for Cities’ Manifesto champions the fact that trees are a unique way of bringing wildlife into the very heart of our cities and towns - a one stop shop for food, shelter and nesting. We are very keen for residents and schools to recognise the vital part they can play not only to adapt their local area to climate change but also offering a lifeline to our urban wildlife.