Insights from industry

Accelerating Biodiversity and Conservation with Innovative Ecosystems

insights from industryTerry SmithsonExpert EcologistBioScapes
AZoCleantech speaks to Terry Smithson from BioScapes about the company's self-contained biodiversity units developed to support rewilding and nature connectivity efforts that are critical for our planet. 

Can you tell the readers a little bit about BioScapes?

BioScapes supports the restoration of biodiversity through the UK’s first-ever range of self-contained multiple biodiversity units developed for any outdoor space.

Part of the Rolawn® Group, BioScapes has drawn on more than 50 years of experience and innovation in horticulture and landscaping to develop products that support rewilding and nature connectivity.

We have worked with expert ecologists and conducted extensive research to create practical solutions for people and organizations wanting to help tackle the biodiversity crisis.

Our unique, patented innovations have been carefully crafted to maximize impact. They provide a combination of wet and dry habitats, supporting the process of rewilding through the development of ecosystems that encourage small mammals, amphibians, insects, other invertebrates, and plants to thrive.

Trials conducted by ecologists showed a significant increase in species density and overall biodiversity gains and we continue to work on enhancements to increase these benefits.

What are self-contained, integrated ecosystems?

Our unique, patented innovations have been carefully crafted to maximize impact. They provide a suite of different habitats which support a broad spectrum of different species, from native wildflowers and herbivorous insects to predators and decomposers. All are brought together into a compact space where species and habitats create a mutually supportive ecosystem.

With a combination of wet and dry habitats, our biodiversity units require little maintenance, and the integrated nesting areas and refuges provide homes for rare and endangered species, from hoverflies to hedgehogs.

What challenges do the UK and the world face in terms of biodiversity?

We are in a biodiversity crisis and, unless we act quickly and on a large scale, we will face mass extinction like that experienced by the dinosaurs. Most groups of organisms from insects to birds are already showing major declines in abundance.

One study in Germany found that insect numbers had plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years. Many species are threatened with extinction, including 15% of UK species, and the current rate of biodiversity loss means we are losing species faster than we are discovering them.

Biodiversity is vital to our future, for example, by pollinating our food, providing clean water, and filtering the air we breathe. The biosphere is inextricably linked to the climate crisis and the restoration of biodiversity presents the single biggest step we need to take to address devastating climate change.

The massive decline of biodiversity in the UK and across the globe has become a huge concern for many people. Developers, architects, business owners and other key decision-makers recognize the importance of biodiversity, but many struggle to implement a practical solution – this is what has led to the creation of the BioScapes products.

How could these products help boost biodiversity and conservation?

To reverse the decline in biodiversity we need to make space for wildlife in all its forms and this needs to happen at speed and on a significant scale.

tree, biodiversity

Image Credit: Krailath/Shutterstock.com

The UK Government has made a commitment to manage 30% of land for nature and although this will be a significant step forward, many organizations including the Wildlife Trusts believe this does not go far enough. Delivering the restoration of our biodiversity will need to go beyond our National Parks and nature reserves and for many people to truly connect with the natural world, we must succeed in boosting the biodiversity of our built-up areas.

Within our urban areas, city centers and commercial settings, space is at a premium and must serve a multitude of purposes but it is here, arguably, that access to nature is most important. We know that access to nature improves our wellbeing; it speeds recovery from ill-health, increases productivity, stimulates learning, promotes social connectivity, and boosts the economy. It is this connection to nature, this reintegration of Homo sapiens back into the ecosystem, that will deliver a sustainable future for the multitude of species coexisting on planet earth.

BioScapes offers a range of products that have been designed to quickly boost biodiversity in any residential, educational, community or commercial setting. As self-contained units, WildPod, NatureArk and BioCube have a compact design which enables many different habitat types to be held in one place, making effective use of even the smallest open space.

From pollinators to predators, BioScapes units create a hotspot from which wildlife can expand and, linked to other habitat units in the local area, can help to create a network for biodiversity throughout a neighborhood, business park or city.

Is there a potential for this technology to be adopted throughout the UK and across the world? What are the challenges that may be faced and how could these be overcome?

The technology developed by BioScapes enables this approach to be applied in any public or private open space across the globe. With only minor adjustments, the biodiversity units can be tailored to suit the range of species typical of any country or region or accommodate the different climatic conditions of these areas.

How do the eco-systems help to directly offset the negatives effects of biodiversity loss such as those seen as a result of housing and commercial property construction?

BioScapes units provide a solution for housing and commercial property developers to directly offset the negative impacts of biodiversity loss through the provision of attractive and effective biodiversity units. New build sites are often very poor in biodiversity and, with limited open space available for nature, BioScapes provides a compact solution that supports a wide range of species.

With a range of different sizes and configurations, BioScapes biodiversity units can be used to enhance the landscape and biodiversity value of any public open space, communal area, or education setting. As an optional extra for home buyers, they enable them to quickly increase the biodiversity value of their garden. By creating a one-stop-shop for wildlife, BioScape units become a hotspot for biodiversity, allowing species to colonize these sites more quickly and then spread to other areas.

How were these products developed over time and what research was needed?

Over the last 50 years, the Rolawn group has built a reputation for top-quality products and for innovation in the horticulture and landscaping world. With the aim to become a leading voice in providing solutions to address the biodiversity crisis, BioScapes has emerged to develop products that support rewilding and nature connectivity.

We have worked with expert ecologists and conducted extensive research over the last three years to create these practical solutions enabling people and organizations to make a tangible step toward protecting the planet.

Trials conducted by ecologists have shown a significant increase in species density and overall biodiversity gains and we continue to work on enhancements to increase these benefits.

How do your eco-systems respond to new targets set by the government within the Environment Bill from the 2019 Spring Statement?

The UK Government is committed to reversing the loss of biodiversity and the Environment Act 2021 places a requirement on all development proposals to provide a 10% net gain in biodiversity. In many situations, this will force developers to create biodiversity enhancement areas away from their development site without direct benefits for their customers.

BioScapes will enable developers to provide biodiversity net gain within the site footprint, making a clear and obvious statement of their contribution to biodiversity and providing direct benefits to tenants, residents, and prospective buyers.

How do your products support rewilding efforts?

We know that getting close to nature will provide many benefits in return. The natural world is complex, vibrant, and nurturing, so, while stimulating our senses and increasing our creativity, it is also restorative, helping to offset the negative effects of our sanitized and cognitively drained human world.

Rewilding cannot just be about wilderness, wolves, bears and aurochs. It is about rewilding ourselves - reconnecting with nature and realizing that we are one part of this wonderful ecosystem. To achieve this, we must be able to reconnect with nature easily. At BioScapes, we will support the process of rewilding, encouraging small mammals, amphibians, insects, other invertebrates and plants to thrive and brighten our built environments.

What are the next steps for the project?

We are receiving lots of feedback that BioScapes products are ideal - people need guidance and support to act for biodiversity and see BioScapes as a positive solution.

Housebuilders and housing associations have been the first to reach out for BioScapes products to enhance biodiversity on new build sites and within established residential areas.

Schools love NatureArk, particularly due to its size and accessibility as well as its more natural look.

In commercial settings, the larger and more formal BioCube has been used to enhance outdoor spaces where visitors and employees can take a break or benefit from an outdoor meeting. We have found that our biodiversity units also present a great opportunity for businesses to give something back to their own communities, by donating a NatureArk to local schools, for example.

BioScapes products are available on our website and will soon be available in garden centers and other retail outlets.

Where can readers find more information?

Please provide links to any materials that may be relevant to our audience.

Rolawn and BioScapes

https://bioscapes.co.uk/

https://www.rolawn.co.uk/

Biodiversity decline

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2019/february/the-world-s-insect-populations-are-plummeting-everywhere-we-look.html

https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/about-hedgehogs/why-are-they-disappearing/

Biodiversity Net Gain

https://cieem.net/i-am/current-projects/biodiversity-net-gain/

Rewilding

https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/explore-rewilding/what-is-rewilding/defining-rewilding

Benefits of nature

https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/about/insight/research/space-thrive

About Terry Smithson

With over 30 years of experience in the nature conservation industry, Terry has delivered species recovery programs and habitat restoration at a landscape scale. Passionate about protecting the planet’s natural habitat, with a deep understanding of species and ecosystems, he has delivered economic, social and wellbeing outcomes with a positive impact on people and our environment.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

Laura Thomson

Written by

Laura Thomson

Laura Thomson graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with an English and Sociology degree. During her studies, Laura worked as a Proofreader and went on to do this full time until moving on to work as a Website Editor for a leading analytics and media company. In her spare time, Laura enjoys reading a range of books and writing historical fiction. She also loves to see new places in the world and spends many weekends looking after dogs.

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