Managing green spaces for nature

Managing green spaces for nature

Our city’s natural habitats and the species they support are important to us all.

Across the UK we have seen a significant loss to wildlife. Since 1970, around the world we’ve lost 60% of wild invertebrate and up to 76% of insects.

In response, in 2020, Bristol declared an ecological emergency.

Out of this declaration, a task group of Bristol’s One City Environment Board published an Ecological Emergency Strategy (PDF), which sets out actions against four key goals:

  • for 30% of land in Bristol to be managed for the benefit of wildlife
  • to reduce the use of pesticides in Bristol by at least 50%
  • for all waterways to have excellent water quality which supports healthy wildlife 
  • to reduce consumption of products that undermine the health of wildlife and ecosystems around the world

We’ve already reviewed and adapted our approach to the management and planning of green spaces to reverse the decline in wildlife and achieve these four key goals.

Working closely in partnership with local wildlife and climate organisations, volunteers and the wider community, we’ve:

  • created new roles within our teams
  • forged new partnerships
  • bid for additional funding to support the creation of new spaces where nature can recover and wildlife can thrive

Important sites for wildlife

We’re responsible for over 1000 hectares of land designated for nature conservation. 

We maintain this land for wildlife and people, either directly or in partnership with others.

This management includes 198 hectares of species-rich grassland which is managed as hay meadow (pdf, 184KB) (opens new window) , where the grass is cut as hay and removed. This is a traditional regime that brings significant benefits to wildlife. 

Sites of Nature Conservation Interest

Designated sites, known as Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs) or Local Wildlife Sites, have recently been surveyed. 

The information gathered is being used to review how they’re managed and find new opportunities to restore and enhance them. 

Our Estates have significant areas of natural habitat that are great for a variety of wildlife, and so most of these areas are designated as SNCIs, like:

In partnership with Avon Wildlife Trust, and with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we’re working to restore and enhance eight other sites through the My Wild City project.

We encourage people to get involved with these sites, either through a guided tour, courses or volunteering.

Local Nature Reserves

Some of the SNCIs we look after are also designated as Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) and we manage these working closely with Friends Of groups. 

Managing other parks green spaces for nature

Across other parks and green spaces, we’re also creating new habitats and managing in a way that benefits wildlife:

  • We’ve supported Friends Of groups to create areas of habitat such as wildflower meadows, ponds, orchards and woodlands in a number of parks and green spaces across the city
  • We’ve a one-cut per year grass management regime in place on 82 hectares of land in parks
  • This year we’re starting to change some areas to a one-cut every three years to make sure there is long grass available over winter to benefit invertebrates
  • We’re introducing long grass margins alongside hedges and woodland edges to give a transition between habitats, where this can be done without affecting access
  • We’re reducing the frequency of cutting native hedgerows in locations where they’re not immediately next to footpaths. This will increase the amount of berries and nuts available to birds over the winter
  • We’ve also reduced mowing underneath trees, to help reduce compaction of the soil to benefit the health of the tree

West of England Nature Recovery Network

The West of England Nature Partnership has mapped a regional Nature Recovery Network (NRN) which seeks to protect and enhance existing habitats, as well as create new areas of species-rich habitat.

Using these NRN maps, we’ve identified opportunities for connecting some of our existing habitats, including woodland and species-rich grassland, to make them more resilient to the impacts of climate change and to help wildlife to move between them more easily.

We surveyed over 100 Bristol parks and green spaces in the NRN and identified the best opportunities to create new habitats for wildlife or enhance what is already there.

Based on the assessment so far, there are opportunities to create:

  • 5.6 hectares of woodlands
  • 3.1 hectares of orchards
  • 9.4 hectares of large native open grown trees
  • 1 km of hedgerows
  • 1 hectare of species-rich scrub
  • 12 hectares of species-rich grassland
  • 5.6 hectares of tussocky grassland
  • 10 ponds

Next steps

The work we’ve done so far highlights the potential for nature recovery in our parks and green spaces both in helping to deliver the One City Ecological Emergency Strategy and contributing to the Nature Recovery Network. 

The next step is to put together some more detailed future designs for new habitats on a site-by-site basis and consult on these ideas with communities.

It's important we take these next steps together, and that everyone has an opportunity to be involved and have their say.

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