Biodiversity is a global issue that calls on each and every one of us to conserve the natural inter-connectivity of every species. This may seem like a huge task (and it is), but you can help right here at home, by knowing and understanding the local area around you, and how local wildlife is linked with our ecosystem.
Only 18% of the UK is ‘natural’ ecosystems – the rest is semi-natural grasslands such as the South Downs, or enclosed farmlands. In the south east, the majority of the natural ecosystems are woodlands, made up of broadleaf deciduous trees such as oak and ash, and heathlands which have been highly fragmented and only small, isolated areas exist in Breckland, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset and the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall.
In London, 8.6 million people are crammed into just 600 square miles alongside 8.3 million trees, and millions upon millions of other plants, insects and animals. According to one UN definition, this makes the city a forest. The Forestry Commission agrees, describing London as the world’s largest urban forest, and it’s a very special urban forest at that!  Any type of greenery contributes to the local ecosystem, so whether it’s in your garden or balcony, in parks, public green spaces or the vast surrounding countryside, every area has it’s part to play.
Here are just some of ‘London’s Living Landscapes’ that you can enjoy over the Summer. They are doing their bit to keep delivering a greener London that is more resilient to climate change, can help to achieve biodiversity conservation objectives and deliver multiple health benefits to people:
- Capital Downs – A collection of dry valley systems containing chalk grassland, chalk scrub, and woodland skirting the North Downs, on the southern fringes of London and northern Surrey.
- The River Crane – Forming part of the west London Green Chain, a 32 km stretch of interconnected green spaces that runs along the River Crane and the Yeading Brook.
- The Lee Valley – Forming a ‘natural’ corridor on London’s doorstep and stretches 42 km along the banks of the River Lee, it contains a variety of landscapes and open spaces, industrial heritage sites and nature reserves, marshes and reservoirs.
- Totteridge Meadows – The largest remaining swathe of open countryside with hay meadows, that once helped to feed London’s horse traffic until the 1920s.
You can do your bit at home as well. We can all help by reducing our use of harmful chemicals by switching to organic for some of the items you use the most and by calling on the Government to set an ambitious pesticide reduction target. Action for Insects is a campaign led by the Wildlife Trusts, supported by a range of partners who are all determined to reverse the alarming declines in insects and help nature recover across the UK and you can sign up for a free guide to help you develop insect-friendly habitats in your gardens and communities. Ideas include creating ‘insect safe’ spaces, choosing plants that provide food for insects, keeping some of your grass long and encouraging a variety of different types of insects.
If you manage to get out or are just enjoying your own little green space, there is plenty of flora and fauna to look out for. Challenge your family and friends with the checklist below to see how bio-diverse your local area is.
 Paul Wood – London is a Forest