At a small ceremony attended by businesses and local authorities on Friday, the team who developed the Biodiversity Index received a Green Apple Gold Award from The Green Organisation. I proudly accepted the award on behalf of everyone and made a short speech which, in the spirit of my “reduce, reuse, recycle” policy, I’m posting here. Thanks to Bobbie Lane for the photo, Richard Moore for help with the speech, and Gareth Thomas for the notion of biodiversity as the “fourth resource”.
Ladies and gentlemen.
In June 2011 the UK National Ecosystem Assessment reported to Government that the value of the natural environment to the British economy was at least £30 billion per year in terms of the ecosystem services it provides, such as carbon storage, soil fertility, tourism and pollination.
In contrast, earlier this year the State of Nature Report by 25 of the UK’s leading wildlife organisations, suggested that 60% of animal and plant species for which we have data have declined in the past 50 years. To add to this, some recent work by my research group at the University of Northampton has shown that 23 species of pollinating bees and wasps have gone extinct in Britain since the late 19th century.
Clearly there’s a contradiction here: at a time when we value biodiversity more than ever, it is declining at an ever-faster rate. So what can we do about this situation? How can individuals and organisations help to reverse this trend? This is one of the aims of the Biodiversity Index.
Energy, water and waste are typically the main resources actively managed by businesses and organisations, but there is growing interest in understanding and managing biodiversity as a fourth resource that is critical for society as a whole. In contrast to some of the other speakers you have heard today, the Biodiversity Index is not going to make you money. In fact, if you are in the commercial sector, it will cost you a small amount of cash to join. But the broader benefits of staff engagement with wildlife conservation, and the positive effect this will have on our country as a whole, are priceless.
The Biodiversity Index is an interactive web-based tool, developed by the University of Northampton and believed to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. It enables organisations with little or no knowledge of biodiversity to undertake a rapid but scientific assessment of the level of plant diversity on their site and suggests ways to improve each habitat.
The Index widens access to the knowledge and tools required to make a start in improving the management of biodiversity on urban sites, with the potential to assist schools and colleges, universities, hospitals, local authorities, SMEs and larger businesses to improve the environment in which we work and live.
The tool was developed as part of the SEED Project and was launched at the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges annual conference in April 2013. To date the Biodiversity Index has been used by over 30 UK universities and endorsed by several companies including Ricoh UK Ltd, a Global 100 sustainability company.
On behalf of the team that developed the Biodiversity Index I am delighted to accept this Green Apple Gold Award as an acknowledgment of the innovative work undertaken in this collaboration between the School of Science and Technology and the Department of Infrastructure Services at the University of Northampton.