A Biodiversity Strategy for Camden: Have Your Say

News – Friday, September 11th, 2020

Nature Conservation Officer at Camden Council, Greg Hitchcock provides an insight into biodiversity in Camden and asks for your input on the new Biodiversity Strategy in light of the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

As part of the declaration of the Climate Ecological Emergency, Camden Council committed:

“…to produce a new ecological plan for Camden to sustain and improve biodiversity in Camden” and to encourage “all citizens, businesses, and organisations or groups in the borough of Camden to join with the Council… to protect and improve diversity, in order to avert impending catastrophe.”

A strategy is needed not only to make Camden more resilient in the face of the climate crisis, but also to make Camden’s biodiversity itself more resilient to a changing climate – climate change is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity. If we can help nature thrive in Camden, it can also continue to provide benefits to the borough’s residents, visitors and economy. The Council has begun work on a biodiversity strategy, and we would like your input.

A diverse range of species make Camden their home. This wealth of wildlife includes widespread species seen in our parks or along the Canal, such as blackbirds or moorhens, but also more specialist species such as peregrine falcons which nest on tall buildings which mimic their countryside cliff-top sites. At least nine species of bat, all of which are afforded legal protection, have been recorded in the borough, as has a variety of insects, including impressive stag beetles and butterflies of conservation concern. The borough also supports an important population of hedgehogs, a species that has declined to such a degree that it has recently been classified as ‘Vulnerable to Extinction’. Gardens and parks – and the connections between them – are vital for this species, and many others.

While some species have adapted to city life well, many have not and are continuing to decline in the face of increasing urbanisation. Making space for nature in our streets and on our buildings, and designing for biodiversity, is also something that needs to be considered and planned for.

We need to help nature to not only make a home in the borough, but also to move through it freely. This will mean maintaining, improving and increasing ‘stepping stones’ and habitat corridors that run through Camden, especially key ones such as the Regents Canal and the network of railways. Failure to maintain and improve these corridors will not only impact Camden’s wildlife but those of neighbouring boroughs and the whole of London, and potentially wider for those species that migrate through the area.

Camden has 36 areas designated as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), covering 414 hectares. Some of these are managed by the council, the rest owned by various organisations; most notably the City of London Corporation, the Royal Parks and Network Rail. These SINCS from the core of Camden’s wildlife network and their protection, enhancement and wildlife connections will be a priority, and we are looking to work with partners across the borough to meet the aims of the strategy.

There is an increasing wealth of research into the health and wellbeing benefits of natural green space, including positive effects on mood, healing, heart rate, blood pressure, stress and concentration. Most recently, a report by the University of East Anglia (August 2020), revealed that exposure to green space reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. Increased species diversity has a positive impact on health and wellbeing outcomes, and exposure to diverse natural habitats, and therefore microbial diversity, is critical for the development of immune response to allergens. People with access to green space are more likely to be active, and green spaces can provide opportunities for social cohesion and reducing social isolation.

The new Camden biodiversity strategy will protect and enhance biodiversity across the borough in order to maximise benefits to the health and wellbeing of our residents and communities, and make them, and Camden’s nature and natural spaces, more resilient to the climate crisis. The initial document, which we hope to have ready by 2021 will set out our core aims, objectives and priorities, and how we hope to achieve them by working together.

We would like to know what is important to you about Camden’s wildlife and natural spaces, and what you may already be doing, to inform this work.

Please submit your comments here.