While constructing new buildings like the new Oxford United stadium and the growing infrastructure vital to accommodating growing populations and industries, it’s equally crucial to remember the delicate balance of the natural world surrounding these developments. Biodiversity refers to the range of different life forms within a particular area, which play a critical role in creating sustainable and balanced ecosystems.
From the smallest insects to the grandest trees, every life form holds value and has its part in the intricate web of life. So, when it comes to planning your next property project, you may be wondering how you can ensure that you’re making choices that respect, nurture, and enhance the natural world around you. Below we’ll offer insights into best practices to uphold and enhance biodiversity throughout property development, ensuring a harmonious relationship between the built and natural environments.
Understand The Local Ecosystem
Before embarking on any property project, it’s important to have a deep understanding of the local ecosystem. This means familiarising yourself with the various species of plants, animals, and insects that reside in the wildlife habitat and local area, as well as the specific environmental conditions they thrive in.
Different regions can have unique microclimates and soil compositions that support particular flora and fauna, with four species of flora critically endangered in Oxfordshire and many vulnerable. And among the animals hedgehogs, otters, wild roe deer and dormice are present in Oxfordshire and endangered, with Red Squirrels not officially recorded in the county for a good few years now.
By conducting thorough research, potentially through consultations with local environmentalists, developers can gain insights into which aspects of the ecosystem are particularly delicate or endangered. And this is especially true in Pinkhill ponds that have proved exceptionally rich biodiversity successful for 80 wetland plant species, water voles, otters and toads.
Utilise Tree Surveys
Incorporating tree surveys into the early stages of property development is a proactive approach to environmental conservation. Tree surveys offer a detailed examination of the trees within a potential development site, identifying their species, age, health, and any potential preservation orders.
By partnering with professionals, developers can ensure they have accurate, up-to-date information on the trees within their project boundaries. This data allows for informed decisions on which trees can be safely removed, which need protection, and how the overall site layout can best accommodate and make the most of the existing natural features.
Incorporate Green Spaces
Green spaces, including parks, gardens, and other open areas, are vital in supporting biodiversity in urban environments with a green infrastructure. By incorporating these spaces into property projects, developers not only create habitats for various fauna and flora but also offer residents and visitors areas for relaxation and recreation.
These spaces become safe havens for birds, insects, and other small wildlife, promoting an ecological balance and fresh air within urban sprawl. Thoughtfully designed green areas are more than just aesthetic elements with mental health benefits. They’re crucial components for sustainable urban living. For instance, in the last 7 days rare birds like the Greater Scaup have been seen at Farmoor Reservoir, and a Caspian Gull at Port Meadow. And there are regular guided walks to see rare butterflies in the county with the Upper Thames Branch of the Butterfly Conservation.
And we are lucky in Oxford, with a high number of parks, gardens, meadows and natural areas. Including Christ Church Meadow, Port Meadow & Wolvercote Common, South Park & Headington Hill Park, Wellington Square, Burgess Field Nature Park, Cripley Meadow, Cutteslowe Park, Hook Meadow and The Trap Grounds, Iffley Meadows, Rock Edge Nature Reserve, Warneford Meadow, and the many University Parks including the University of Oxford Botanic Garden.
Oxfordshire also has two country parks in Shotover and Cornbury Park. And other Grade I and II listed parks and gardens including Blenheim Palace, Broughton Castle, Buscot Park, Farnborough Hall, Friar Park Cotswold Wildlife Park, Greys Court, Harcourt Arboretum, Kingston Lisle Park, Nuneham House, Rousham House and Waterperry Gardens.
Other notable green spaces include Over Norton Park, Stonor Park, Henley Park, Albert Park, Mill Meadows, Wallingford Castle and Raleigh Park.
Explore Sustainable Construction Methods
The construction industry has seen significant advancements in sustainable building techniques in recent years. Adopting eco-friendly construction methods reduces the environmental impact of development projects. This could include using recycled or sustainable building materials, implementing energy-efficient systems, and integrating water conservation methods.
Moreover, considering techniques such as green roofs or walls can support local biodiversity while simultaneously providing insulation benefits. Solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and permeable paving are other methods that can be incorporated. By exploring and implementing these sustainable construction methods, developers not only ensure the efficiency of the property in the long run but also contribute positively to the environment.
Promote Native Planting
One of the most effective ways to protect biodiversity during property development is by prioritising the use of native plants in landscaping and gardening. Native plants are adapted to local conditions, requiring less water and maintenance than non-native species. In Oxfordshire most woodlands are oak, ash, beech, sycamore, elm, Scots pine and larch.
Moreover, they provide familiar habitats and food sources for local wildlife, including birds, bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. Using native plants also helps in preventing the spread of invasive species, which can otherwise disrupt the local ecosystem already in place in the wooded estatelands of Oxfordshire. This way, you’re not only ensuring a beautiful, low-maintenance landscape but also actively contributing to the preservation and enhancement of local biodiversity.
Mitigate Light Pollution
As urban areas expand, the issue of light pollution becomes increasingly prevalent, having profound effects on both humans and wildlife. Excessive or misdirected artificial lighting can disorient nocturnal animals, affect bird migration patterns, and disturb ecosystems. For property developers, it’s crucial to adopt lighting strategies that reduce light pollution.
This might involve using fixtures that direct light downwards instead of upwards, choosing lower-intensity lighting, or integrating motion sensors to ensure lights are only on when necessary. Mitigating light pollution doesn’t mean compromising on safety or aesthetics. Instead, it’s about being mindful of the broader environmental and health implications of our lighting choices.
Integrate Water-Sensitive Urban Design
Water-sensitive urban design is an innovative approach to the sustainable management and conservation of water within urban areas. It integrates the urban water cycle, including storm water, groundwater, and wastewater management, into urban design to minimise environmental degradation and improve aesthetic and recreational appeal.
For property developers, this means incorporating permeable pavements, rain gardens, and constructed wetlands. Such features not only enhance the property’s appeal but also play a pivotal role in reducing flooding risks, recharging groundwater, and providing habitats for local aquatic life.
Introduce Wildlife Corridors
Urbanisation can fragment natural habitats, leading to isolated pockets where wildlife populations can become vulnerable. However, wildlife corridors can bridge these gaps, offering safe routes for animals to travel between separate habitats. These passages can be as simple as hedgerows, or more structured pathways like underpasses or green bridges over roads.
Integrating such corridors in property development projects ensures that animals can find food, mates, and migrate without coming into frequent, potentially hazardous encounters with humans or traffic. For developers, these corridors can also serve as unique selling points, emphasizing a commitment to both local wildlife and broader ecological conservation.
Ensure Continuous Monitoring
Once biodiversity-friendly measures are implemented in a property project, the job doesn’t simply end there. It’s crucial to continuously monitor and assess the effectiveness of these initiatives. Continuous monitoring involves regularly checking on the health of planted native species, observing wildlife movement within designed corridors, and evaluating water quality in constructed wetlands or retention ponds.
By employing advanced tools and technologies, developers can obtain real-time data, facilitating timely interventions when necessary. Also, regular monitoring ensures that the protective measures taken remain effective and can be adapted based on the dynamic needs of the local ecosystem.