Gardens as invaluable habitat?

Gardens are usually seen as isolated pockets of grass, trees/shrubs and flowers. Pockets of personal solitude and private entertainment. Sadly shrinking country side, intensive country side management and increasing habitat fragmentation is all contributing to the rise of domestic gardens as havens, as well as turning gardens into an important source of food for all kinds of wildlife.

wildlife_habitat_gardens0707-19

In 2008, gardens in the UK covered an estimated 432, 964 hectares (with some estimates putting the estimated coverage figure at over 500,000 hectares), this is roughly the same area as the Norfolk broads, Exmoor, Dartmoor and the Lake Districts national parks combined! With all that space available in an estimated 16 million gardens, we all need to think about the ways in which we manage our gardens and how they interact with the community and landscape around us.

Species such as hedgehogs, bats, sparrows, song, thrushes, and stag beetles are all in decline, but we can all help out these iconic species by looking at the way we manage our gardens and the practices we use.

Lets take a closer look at an iconic British species, the noble Hedgehog! these marvelous little creatures can roam between 1 and 2 km per night! But with the ever increasing amount of fencing we place around residential properties, they are denied access into gardens, resorting to wondering streets where they are much more vulnerable to traffic and accidents. One simple thing you can do for this icon of British wildlife is to get together with your neighbours and cut 13cm x 13cm holes in your fence to make a ‘hedgehog highway’, linking your garden(s) to your neighbours and the wider community. Simple acts like this can be a good start to make your garden a haven for wildlife.

Hedgehog on the grass
Hedgehog on the grass
  • Domestic gardens account for 18% of urban land use
  • It is estimated that 16 million gardens exist in the UK
  • The total areas of gardens in the UK is estimated to have the combined size of Norfolk broads, Exmoor, Dartmoor and the Lake Districts national parks combined!
  • In 2010, 25% of new homes in Britain were built on previous residential land, including former back gardens
  • New residential builds average garden size has been been decreasing year on year from an average of 169m2 to 113.4m2

The ‘typical’ British garden

According to the Kent Wildlife Trusts a typical garden can be home to 40 species of bird, 5 to 6 species of mammals, up to 6 species of reptiles and/or amphibians along with a garden study in Leicester recording 364 species of moth/butterfly and 251 species of beetles! How is it possible that a simple garden could be home to such an abundance of species?

It turns out gardens can have more biodiversity than some rain forests! This is made possible with the high density of plants we populate our gardens with, along with the creation of new habitats through seasonal bedding changes, addition of hedges, trees and shrubs along with features such as rockeries, ponds and water features all helping to create micro climates in your garden, suited to a myriad of species.

Water Lillie's floating on a pond
Water Lillie’s

Wildlife & Eco Gardens will be featuring articles showing how you can work with nature in your garden ensuring you, your family, friends and wildlife can all enjoy your garden and live in harmony.

The RHS and Wildlife Trusts have some great advice and ideas about wildlife gardening over at Wild about gardens

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