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The process of habitat creation, restoration, mitigation and management is an integral part of the ecological consultancy services we provide.
Habitat creation is the provision or enhancement of ecosystems, with the aim of enhancing biodiversity. Habitat creation and enhancement requires a careful assessment of a range of local factors, as well as the needs of the stakeholders, in order to improve biodiversity at the site.
Habitat creation is the provision of new, or the extension of existing, ecosystems, with the aim of enhancing biodiversity and the associated benefits that come from that. The creation of new habitat should consider all the needs of the ecosystem, such as the availability of appropriate nutrients, moisture, light, food-chain species, protection, stability, etc., in order to maintain diverse, healthy and sustainable populations of plants and animals.
The creation of new habitat needs to be done in a way that is feasible, effective and appropriate. Clearly a large infrastructure project will need a different approach to a small residential development.
Urban sites are often constrained by restricted space and multiple stakeholders with high levels of interest and influence. This is often an overriding factor in designing habitat creation works for biodiversity. With a little careful planning, biodiversity can be maximised in even small areas that need to maintain a particular aesthetic in order to keep clients happy.
The process of habitat creation and/or enhancement follows the steps below.
In order to deliver ecological enhancements, it’s important to understand what species and features are already present in the immediate and surrounding area. A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal involves an initial habitat survey that can provide this information. For some projects, a more basic scoping survey will be sufficient.
This must meet the requirements of the development whilst also ensuring that the habitats and species that are to be retained, enhanced or re-located, are appropriately managed. Habitats and buildings should complement each other. There’s no use designing a feature that later proves to be incompatible with the use of the site, or for species that are not going to benefit.
The retention and enhancement of existing habitat should always be the priority. However, often, on areas that have previously been developed, there is opportunity to create new habitats.
This would always be guided by the species and habitats found locally, and the conditions on site.
At its simplest, this could be a change in management to enable more woody and perennial vegetation to develop on an area that had been intensively cultivated.
As well as the physical elements of habitat creation, that provide nesting sites and shelter for various species, a great deal can be achieved at a relatively low cost through planting.
Whilst native planting is undoubtedly going to provide the best opportunities for native invertebrates, it may not provide the visual interest that is wanted. Luckily, many non-native plants can be just as useful when undertaking habitat creation works, by providing comparable sources of nectar and foliage for food.
Common habitats that can usually be created with relative ease as part of proposed development works include the following:
Created by excavating voids or allowing land to flood by diverting a watercourse.
Can simply be created by altering the mowing regime or by replanting with meadow species.
Planting trees demonstrates a long term commitment to enhancing biodiversity in any scheme. As the climax ecosystem in most UK locations, woodlands are some of the most diverse habitats around and their creation should be encouraged wherever possible.
These are relevant for almost all types of development and can include piles of logs, rocks, bricks and leaves for providing refuge and hibernation sites for reptiles and amphibians.
Even small changes in soil level, and sparely vegetated earth, create a new habitat for a range of invertebrates including solitary bees.
These comprise different materials for insects to bury into or hide under, can also be incorporated into many landscaping areas with relative ease.
If a badger sett might need to be moved from a development site, then this can often be done under the strict requirements of an appropriate licence.