Rare brownfield wildlife under threat

Thursday 12th September 2013

A new report by wildlife charity Buglife- The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, highlights the alarming loss of wildlife-rich brownfields in the Thames Gateway. Some brownfield sites in the region can support rare and endangered wildlife including nationally important invertebrate populations.

‘The state of brownfields in the Thames Gateway’ report shows the rapid loss of habitat supporting rare species such as the Shrill carder bee.  Over a six-year period, over half (51%) of nearly 200 important brownfield sites in the region identified by Buglife have been lost, damaged or are in immediate threat.  In London, this figure is a staggering two thirds of sites.

Brownfields can support a huge diversity of wildlife, often providing refuges for species which have suffered population crashes due to declines of natural habitats such as wildflower meadows, which have disappeared from the landscape.  Brownfields can include quarries, disused railways lines, spoil heaps, even former industrial estates that have been allowed to develop into urban havens for wildlife.  Often these are the only wildlife-rich areas left in our towns and cities.  However, development pressure is threatening the future of many key sites and the survival of species such as the Streaked bombardier beetle and Distinguished jumping spider.

Jamie Robins, Buglife Stepping Stones Officer said “Brownfields are special places for rare invertebrates, including bees, beetles, flies and spiders.  Losing so many of the region’s richest wildlife sites puts the future of many fascinating species at risk.”

Buglife have previously examined the value of brownfields in the Thames Gateway for wildlife in their ‘All of a Buzz in the Thames Gateway’ project which showed 40% of the region’s brownfields to be valuable for rare and scarce invertebrates.  This new report has looked at how many of these sites, which were assessed between 2005 and 2008, remain intact for the region’s special wildlife.

Dr Sarah Henshall, Buglife Lead Ecologist said “The loss of over 50% of wildlife-rich brownfields sites in the Thames Gateway is seriously worrying. We are failing to protect some of the UK’s richest wildlife sites, despite these sites containing Priority habitats and species. If attitudes and the way we value brownfield sites does not change then we are going to see extinctions of insect species in the UK. We would like to see the very best wildlife sites protected from development, with sympathetic and sustainable development delivered on other brownfield sites.”

Buglife used up-to-date aerial images provided by Getmapping Ltd, and site visits to look at nearly 200 sites. David Horner, Managing Director of Getmapping said “Our nationwide aerial photography is updated continuously, making it particularly useful for projects like this.  We also hold archive imagery making it a simple matter to compare sites over time.”

The work was funded by the Tubney Charitable Trust, Essex Environment Trust and Veolia North Thames Trust.