Urbanisation is one of the most radical forms of land-use alteration and can potentially negatively impact biodiversity in a number of ways. Yet the value of the urban environment is becoming recognised increasingly as of being of value for overall biodiversity. Habitats within urban areas, such as gardens and brownfield sites, can be of high conservation importance comparing favourably with rural habitats such as intensive open farmland. There are also examples that demonstrate the importance of urban areas to individual species e.g. the English Song Thrush population is mainly found in suburban habitats and the Black Redstart’s remaining strongholds are located solely within the urban environment. The importance of urban biodiversity is highlighted in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, a 25 year plan for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in Scotland. There are threats to urban biodiversity. The loss of key habitat within already built-up areas can reduce the biodiversity value of existing urban habitat, for example because of encroachment onto existing public greenspace, loss of ‘brownfield’ sites and ‘infilling’, whereby large gardens are replaced by new dwellings. Urban green spaces may also be poorly managed and sometimes dominated by non-native invasive species that are generally of low value for urban wildlife. Urban ecology is therefore increasingly an appropriate target for research and conservation efforts, offering huge potential for improvement through schemes to conserve and enhance biodiversity.
BTO Scotland science in this area cuts across several of the BTO research themes, including monitoring and multi-scale habitats.
Staff contact: Liz Humphreys.