BIodiversity


On a windy morning last week I was busy explaining the significance of mating sequences to my Year 12 Biology students when I suddenly heard a shriek that could only mean one thing; a flying insect had entered the lab! We quickly identified it as a queen wasp looking for a suitable place to build a new nest, then gently nudged her back outside with the help of a beaker and some card. My classroom is a no-kill-zone, and far from the panicked scenes we all imagine when hearing there’s a wasp in the classroom. These days though, this is a rare occurrence. 

Biodiversity surveys have found that the UK has lost 60% of all flying insects in just 20 years. This is a good thing you might think; less mosquitoes! No more spiders terrorising your kitchens. You might not even have noticed the difference? But when did you last get your windscreen splattered while driving on a country road? I vividly remember this happening multiple times while touring the Scottish highlands the summer of 2007, when the tour-bus kept having to stop to clean the window so the driver could see where he was going. But it didn't happen a single time when we explored the same roads at the same time last year. 

Of course, these pesky flying insects are also the ones that pollinate the plants we eat and give food for the birds, amphibians and small mammals in our gardens. They are crucial cornerstones in our ecosystem, an ecosystem that is now at serious risk of collapse. In the UK we have lost nearly half of the biodiversity of wild animals and plants since the industrial revolution. This is why the Fulneck School Eco Club has made increasing biodiversity of the site our main priority over the last few years. 

Every Friday after school we meet, usually down in the eco garden. In a sheltered corner above the junior playground, we do our small part for the environment. We grow organic and short-travelled vegetables and fruits for ourselves and the school kitchen. We have bird feeders, insect houses, bat boxes and a hedgehog house. We do regular surveys of the diversity of the site and have found a wide range of animals in our school grounds. Examples include the five toads we found sleeping in the pump-box near the pond, the smooth newts laying eggs in the same little pond, the family of tawny owls caught on the camera trap and the Brown long-eared bats spotted with the bat detector. 

Biodiversity projects can be hard work. Especially memorable are the many afternoons in March spent planting trees, usually while battling nettles, brambles and the weather. This year we planted 120 native fruit trees below the DT-blocks in just 30 minutes, in hail and intense winds. They added to the now over 500 trees we have planted around the site in the last few years. These trees will not just provide us with cleaner air in the playground and suck in carbon dioxide, but they are shelter, food and nesting sites for animals, the flowers will provide us with joy and mindful moments and the pollinators with nectar, they will shelter us from wind and stop the footballs getting lost, but also allow the voles a safe corridor to hide in down the hill. 

But it doesn’t have to be hard to help! If we all make small changes, we can make a big difference together. Choose native uk flowers next time you buy for your garden, and the pollinators will thank you. Wait to cut the hedge until the birds have finished nesting. Mow the lawn less frequently, especially in the spring, and allow the wildflowers to peak through. Leave a corner of the garden to grow wild, and leave a pile of twigs and off-cuts behind the shed for the hedgehogs to overwinter in. Lazy gardening is eco-friendly! 

In the Eco-garden, our next project is to build a big bug hotel and some better compost bins. Then I dream of adding lots of planters with native, flowering herbs. In the long-run, we want to make an outdoor classroom under the big trees so all our students can experience the tranquillity and wonder of nature. 

 

Miss Wold

Fulneck Eco-coordinator

 


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