Biodiversity in East London boroughs

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Biodiversity – the range of plant and animal life globally and locally – is in the spotlight after a UN report on Sunday said one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction.

These findings show that biodiversity is more crucial than ever before.

According to the UN report:

  • Human actions are threatening more species than ever before
  • Nature and its contributions are vital for human existence
  • Irreplaceable species are going extinct at an unprecedented rate
  • Biological communities are becoming more similar
  • Food, resources, and materials are being supplied to more people in more places at our futures’ expense.

So how does this relate to Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets? What are the issues that locals should be thinking about?

Mathew Frith, Director of Conservation at the London Wildlife Trust, is optimistic about East London’s biodiversity.

Frith told Eastlondonlines: “Because we throw fewer pesticides around, the air quality is still poor, but work over the last 30-40 years has brought about significant changes. I think that people are much more aware and sympathetic to nature being close at hand.”

But he does think London has a way to go on the journey to biodiversity.

“There are 15,000 species of wild animals, plants and fungi recorded [in London]. Some of those are very rare and some pop in very briefly, but we have a great many ancient trees, we have some birds here rarer than golden eagles,” he said.

He believes the main problem with biodiversity in London is the lack of awareness. People are no longer involved in understanding local wildlife.

Frith added: “If you go into a class of about seven-year-olds and show them a picture of a polar bear, they can tell you what it is, but they can’t tell you the birds in their garden or down at their local park, because we’ve lost that connection with nature close to home.”

According to Frith, things are being done within East London boroughs to encourage biodiversity.

“I think that there is action going on on the ground within various local authorities, the trust, with friends of parks,” he said.

Regardless, Frith explained that the main things that need to happen in London are rooted in our policies. He said: “What needs to be done is we need to make our planning policies a little bit more robust. The biggest challenge is we’ve got a projected growth [in London] to 10 million people by 2027. We’re currently at 8.6 million. We don’t want the city to go outwards, and most people don’t want to live very high. That means there’s going to be greater pressure on the spaces we cherish.”

48 per cent of tall buildings are built in East London boroughs such as Hackney, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, and 11 per cent are being built in South and South-East London boroughs such as Croydon.

“We need better planning policies, we need developers to actually ensure that there are gains for nature, there’s someone doing that already but, there’s a long way to go,” Frith explained.

These buildings provide housing opportunities, but there is a toll on London’s ecosystems. With developments increasing and green spaces decreasing, it is no shock that London’s biodiversity is in decline.

In the Mayor of London’s London Environment Strategy, it is stated:

“As green space has been lost and what remains has in some cases reduced in quality, the range of plants and animals that live in London has decreased. With careful attention, London can be home to a wide range of animal and plant species, but without it, the number and diversity of birds, wildflower and bee species will continue to decline.”

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