Wildlife, ecology and biodiversity
This page is an introduction to these very large subjects. They are relevant to life in the UK and London as much as anywhere, and of concern to us all.
Our handy advice leaflet on fauna and flora, Plants, Animals, Creation, may also be downloaded from this page.
Wildlife means all living things, those fauna and flora that have not been cultivated by humans. We might think, only those that have not been interfered with by humans – though hardly anything would qualify then – we have interfered with everything!
Ecology is the scientific discipline that studies species, their habitats, and the networks of relationships between them.
Biological diversity or biodiversity refers to a specific aspect of wild nature worldwide – its variety at every level – eco-systems, groups and individual species, populations, individuals and their habitats.
There is wide agreement that biological diversity is becoming severely depleted, and that individual species are becoming extinct at an increasing rate, largely due to human populations and behaviours.
UK and London policy are contained in:
- The GLA London Plan 2011
- The UK National Eco-system Assessment 2011
- The Natural Environment White Paper ‘The Natural Choice: Securing the value of nature’, 2011
- Natural England/DEFRA ‘Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services’, 2011.
The protection and enhancement of biodiversity constitutes a major theme in the UN’s work.
The Church of England was a partner in the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity 2010 (IYB).
IYB projects in England included:
- The Church of England’s Cherishing Churchyards Week
- The Conservation Foundation’s ‘Green Corners’ scheme. All Saints Harrow Weald and St Mary Magdalene Holloway were the winning ‘Sacred Spaces’ for June and July 2010.
International efforts to conserve biodiversity are overseen by the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity. Significant progress was made at the UNCBD’s Nagoya Convention in 2010.
Wildlife in the Diocese of London
City of London
The City Corporation has been encouraging the birds and the bees in the Square Mile.
In 2010 bee hives were placed on the roofs of eight buildings including St Paul’s Cathedral.
St Pancras Church in Euston Road (London Borough of Camden) installed a working hive of 10,000 bees on its roof in April 2012. Hive and bees were donated by Jon Harris, a beekeeper based in Brixton. The bees, and the flowers for them to forage, have been looked after by local firefighter Christopher Brooks and church gardener Audrey Alexander.
St Lawrence Church Little Stanmore also has working beehives.
Bees don’t just make honey; their work of pollination is vital to life on earth. Recent years have seen a steep and disturbing global decline in bee populations, probably due to a combination of factors including disease, mite infestation, habitat loss and toxic chemicals.
Neonicotinoid pesticides, which are harmful to bees, were temporarily banned in the UK, but the ban has been lifted by the government after lobbying by farmers. This is concerning, since the ban is needed even though it is only a partial solution.
Nesting boxes for sparrows and swallows have been installed in churchyards in the City and West End and other boroughs. The 2012 City of London Festival included numerous events around the theme of birds.
St John at Hampstead
This church was the scene of a major churchyard refurbishment project, Life and Death in Hampstead.
Swifts are among our most popular and recognisable birds. They spend almost their whole lives on the wing. When they nest they return to their traditional sites, in holes in eaves and other building cavities, only to find that they have often been blocked off. Nesting boxes need to be provided, for example when insulating a roof. For a wealth of advice, see Swift Conservation.
Ash die back
Pretty well everyone must have heard of this unfolding tragedy by now.
The ash tree is a widespread and much loved feature of British towns, gardens, churchyards and countryside. Now it is menaced by the Chalara fraxinea fungus – which has been stealthily approaching from mainland Europe and has now reached various parts of our shores.
Ash trees in London including in churchyards are expected to be affected by ash die back from 2014.
Can we pay attention whenever we see an ash tree – look out for its condition and be prepared to report any signs of disease. See the Forestry Commission for an explanation all about it, and what to look for.
Acute oak decline
This disease affecting mature oak trees has been around for longer than ash dieback, but remains a threat. See the Woodland Trust.