Ecological Enhancement

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The mindset for development has progressed significantly over the last 10 years, with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) moving from a no net loss in biodiversity ethos to promoting net gains where possible, contributing to the Government’s commitment to halt the overall decline in biodiversity, including by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures.

Our reports provide suggestions and recommendations for ecological enhancement measures to improve, where possible, the biodiversity of a site and to enhance the living environment for the benefit of human and wildlife inhabitants. It is becoming increasingly important to involve ecological enhancements within a landscaping plan (Naturally Wild can provide this service) and/ or provide an Enhancement Scheme as part of a development. Below is some helpful guidance on what may form an enhancement scheme. These are developed to be site-specific.

Your Development

Native ground and tree planting

The aim of any landscaping design should be to incorporate native planting and tree species across a site, creating a diverse range of habitats and improving connectivity across the site through the creation of linear features (such as hedgerows and tree lines).

Hedgerows are generally created with either hawthorn or blackthorn as the dominant species, supported by common hedgerow species such as elder, guilder rose and dog rose; and tree standard including rowan, alder, oak, field maple and crab apple. Ash can also be included but is often omitted from schemes due to ash die back.

Native tree planting can be used in isolation; however, it is more beneficial to biodiversity to create linear lines, copses or woodland through the planting of native species; such as oak, sycamore, alder, birch, beech, wild cherry, elder and elm. Winter berry species should also be considered, including hawthorn and holly, to provide an important food source throughout the year.

Ground planting should be specific to the habitat created, for example grassland opposed to woodland. A range of habitat-specific seed mixes are available, including wildflower seed mixes for wildflower meadows, woodland, hedgerows and ponds. Wildflower mixes can increase the diversity of a habitat significantly and provide a range of food plants for wildlife and nectar sources for invertebrates.

SUDS Pond

The drainage strategy for a development may include the creation of a Sustainable Urban Drainage System, referred to as a SUDS pond. Whilst SUDS ponds are established for the purpose of drainage, they can also be designed to create a feature of higher ecological value and a resource for wildlife; providing habitat for aquatic species but also a foraging and water source for may terrestrial species. Ideally, the depth of a SUDS pond should be at least 1.5 m in depth (to increase the value for amphibians) with gradual sloped sides and shallow margin areas to develop a range of aquatic conditions and improving the value of the pond. The pond can then be enhanced through native aquatic planting to provide a diverse flora with niches for a range of wildlife. The following species provide an example of those that could be introduced:ecological-enhancementImage: Langton, T.E.S., Beckett, C.L., and Foster, J.P. (2001), Great Crested Newt Conservation Handbook, Froglife, Halesworth

Bat and bird boxes

These features can be incorporated into the fabric of a building (see ‘Your Building’) or affixed to mature trees, with a range of models available for all nesting/ roosting requirements. For bat boxes, the Schwegler brand is considered superior, providing a long-lasting and more robust roosting box. Schwegler also produce bird boxes, which are again a more robust design, although standard hardwood bird boxes are often a cheaper alternative that are still readily used by birds.

Depending on the findings of the ecological study, it may be appropriate to provide an owl or kestrel nesting box, which are usually standalone features mounted on a pole. There are also similar standalone design for roosting bats (rocket boxes).

A bat or bird box should be installed at a minimum height of 2m where feasible, but ideally as high as possible to keep them out of reach from interference, and preferably south-facing or facing out onto habitats of value (such as hedgerows).

Refugia piles/ hibernacula

These provide sheltering locations for a wide range of wildlife; including reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and invertebrates. Refugia piles are easily produced by piling natural materials; such as logs, sticks and leaves; that can be supported by additional materials such as rubble and bricks to form a structure with many cracks and crevices for sheltering. Hibernacula are produced in a similar way, but often require setting into the ground in a shallow pit and topping with soil to enclose the structure and creating a more stable microclimate suitable for hibernating species.

These structures are usually best created along the boundaries of a development, beneath hedgerows or in areas of woodland, where they are less likely to be disturbed.

Connectivity (garden fences)

A simple way to improve the connectivity across an urban environment is to provide a small gap in garden fences, which is most important for hedgehogs that are in significant decline; 13cm by 13cm is sufficient for any hedgehog to pass through. Alternatively dig and support a small channel beneath the boundary fences/ walls to achieve the same effect.

Lighting

Low-level lighting schemes are of great benefit to wildlife, reducing the disturbance impacts to nocturnal foraging and commuting species, for example bats. Studies have shown that bright light can cause bats to avoid areas therefore reducing opportunities for foraging and reducing foraging success. For this to be achieved, the following elements should be considered:

  • Position of lighting: proximity to linear features and areas of high value to nocturnal species (such as tree copses and woodland),
  • Angle of lighting: avoidance of direct lighting and light spill onto areas of habitat that are of importance as commuting pathways (linear features such as hedgerows and associated grasslands). Use of shields on lamps to reduce light spill on to key areas,
  • Type of lighting: studies have shown that light sources emitting higher amounts of UV light have a greater impact to wildlife. Use of narrow-spectrum bulbs that avoid white and blue wavelengths are likely to reduce the number of species impacted by the lighting. A maximum of 1 lux on any vegetation to reduce impacts (equivalent to strong moonlight),
  • Reduce the height of lighting columns to avoid unnecessary light spill.

Your Building

Bat and Bird bricks

These features can be incorporated into the fabric of a building, creating inconspicuous roosting and nesting locations that require no maintenance. For bat bricks, there are several varieties of in-built roost spaces including the Schwegler bat tubes, which are integrated into the external wall and can be rendered-over leaving just the small access point at the base visible. These come as single cavity boxes or a model with transverse connecting holes that allow several tubes to be placed next to each other in modular form in order to create a much larger space. An optional passage through the rear panel also enables existing cavities in the walls to be accessed via the tube. This provides an excellent solution to the problem of providing access to existing roosts when converting or renovating older buildings. For bird bricks, Schwegler along with several other makes sell integrated systems for a range of urban bird species; including tree and house sparrows and a range of tit species.

There are also a range of externally wall-mounted boxes that can accommodate roosting bats and nesting birds.

Bat and Bird boxes

For bat boxes, the Schwegler brand is considered superior, providing a long-lasting and more robust roosting box. Schwegler also produce bird boxes, which are again a more robust design, although standard hardwood bird boxes are often a cheaper alternative that are still readily used by birds.

Depending on the findings of the ecological study, it may be appropriate to provide an owl or kestrel nesting box, which are usually standalone features mounted on a pole. There are also similar standalone design for roosting bats (rocket boxes).

A bat or bird box should be installed at a minimum height of 2m where feasible, but ideally as high as possible to keep them out of reach from interference, and preferably south-facing or facing out onto habitats of value (such as hedgerows).

Swallow, swift and house martin cups

If swallows, swifts or house martins are present in the local area, artificial nest cups are a simple addition to a building to provide nesting opportunities for the birds. These species have affinity to their nesting locations and so are likely to return year on year, therefore encouraging the birds to nest one year may mean giving them a suitable home life.

Bat lofts

This can either be a full loft void if possible or alternatively a loft can be partitioned by installing a simple timber partition wall to compartmentalise the bat area from the remaining loft void (which may be used for storage for example). Once a bat loft is established, the next task is to install access points, which can be achieved in a number of ways:

  • Raised ridge tile: this is created by leaving a gap of c.10cm between two ridge tiles and fixing a ridge tile above this (forming a bridge over the gap). The route to the loft void should then be kept clear beneath this access point either by avoiding the use of internal roofing membranes* or providing a suitable gap in the membrane to ensure a direct access route.
  • Raised roof tile: the above can also be achieved by installing a specialised roof tile that has a curved surface to provide a gap beneath for access into the loft void. The same principles then apply in relation to any internal roofing membrane*.
  • Gaps under the eaves: if the building has soffit or barge boarding on the exterior, gaps can be provided beneath these features to provide a route into the loft void. Additionally, a gap along the length of external boarding can also form a roosting location in its own right.
  • Access brick: bat bricks and tubes have been created that have a hollow interior and form a passage way from the exterior into a selected internal void. These can be strategically placed to provide access into the bat loft and often can be rendered over to make them inconspicuous.
  • Open access: for some bat species, such as the horseshoe bats (southwest UK), an open access is required (often used in outbuildings or barns). As these bats have difficulty crawling, they require direct flight to gain access into their roost site and therefore access points are usually required up to 400 x 300mm in size (greater horseshoe bat). Small holes or slots are required for most other species.

A bat loft can be enhanced further by providing additional gaps and crevices internally that bats can roost within. Hanging strips of hessian material suspended from the ridge or forming enclose gaps between two parallel boards affixed to the roof edges can increase roosting availability. Materials for the roosts should be rough (for grip), non-toxic or corrosive, with no risk of entanglement. The materials should also have suitable thermal properties that reduce 24 hour fluctuations but allow maximum thermal gain for summer roosts.

*It is important to note that non-breathable membranes should always be used in a loft designed for bats.

Lighting

External lighting can have a negative impact on nocturnal species. It is recommended that sensor security lighting is used where possible, with shields used on lamps to reduce light spill on to habitats of value for foraging and commuting species. Studies have shown that light sources emitting higher amounts of UV light have a greater impact to wildlife. Use of narrow-spectrum bulbs that avoid white and blue wavelengths are likely to reduce the number of species impacted by the lighting. Review the ‘Lighting’ information in the ‘Your Development’ section for more in-depth information.

Living walls or Green Roofs

Information coming soon…

Your Garden

Native planting (pollinators)

It is always best to use native species when planting up a garden and/ or species that hold ecological value, especially those for pollinators. This includes a range of wildflowers; such as common foxglove Digitalis purpurea, bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta and wild thyme Thymus polytrichus. Further information can be found using the links on the main page

Garden fence

A simple way to improve the connectivity across an urban environment is to provide a small gap in garden fences to connect neighbouring gardens, which is most important for hedgehogs that are in significant decline; 13cm by 13cm is sufficient for any hedgehog to pass through. Alternatively dig and support a small channel beneath the boundary fences/ walls to achieve the same effect.

Ponds

Information coming soon…

Bird feeders

Information coming soon…

Invertebrate houses

Information coming soon…

Living walls

Information coming soon…

Compost heaps

Information coming soon…

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