Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas and, by 2050, this is expected to reach 68%. Urbanisation can bring great benefits, such as access to education, health care, employment and social services. However, it could also cause a disconnect between ‘our world’ and the natural world.
Some countries have lost 75% of flying insects in the last three decades. The effects of farming, logging and invasive species mean that 40% of bird species worldwide are now in decline. And bats face a similar fate, with a third of bat species listed by the IUCN as threatened (vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered) or data deficient.
Those of us living in cities may be blind to this steady decline in biodiversity. Even for those of us who do get out into nature, we may feel that we are powerless to reverse this worrying trend.
As Yago wrote in his article “Beyond veganism: Capitalism, Feminism and Self-awareness”, there are many changes that we can make in order to live more sustainably. There are also some practical ways you can welcome wildlife into your urban world.
Take action, be creative and reconnect with nature!
Wild urban spaces
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, there are various ways you can create wild areas. You could build a small pond for amphibians, plant trees or turn part of your lawn into a wildflower meadow!
What if I don’t have a garden?
In cities, outdoor space is often a premium, so you need to work with what you have. With a bit of imagination, creativity and hard work, even a patio, balcony or window ledge can become a small haven for nature.
Plant a vertical garden
Vegetation is the starting point of most ecosystems and a vertical garden is a great way to create your own green space. Choose a sheltered, sunny spot and select plants that suit your local climate.
In order to attract pollinators, like butterflies and bees, you need to provide them with a source of nectar or pollen. Flowers with a simple, flat structure (e.g. Geranium and Cosmos) are easiest for insects to feed on. Try to place each plant in groups, so that the colour and scent are easy for insects to detect.
There are hundreds of vertical garden designs on Pinterest, but here’s our selection of simple solutions for a low-cost vertical garden.
- get hold of some second hand pallets and turn them on end
- close off sections of the pallet with other pieces of wood or landscape fabric
- fill in spaces with soil and start planting
- reuse or buy a hanging shoe organiser
- attach it to an outside wall
- fill the pockets with soil and start planting
- collect 10-12 large plastic bottles with lids
- cut a section out of each bottle (see photo)
- attach each bottle to a fence with wire or cable ties
- if you don’t have a fence, you could hang them from a washing line
- fill the bottles with soil and, you guessed it, start planting!
Create an insect hotel
An insect hotel is any kind of structure made to provide shelter for insects like ladybirds and butterflies. This gives them a place to hide away, lay their eggs and hibernate in the winter. The great thing about insect hotels is that they can be created with just about anything.
Why are insects so important?
As Peter Marren writes in Bugs Britannica, “…we would not survive without them. Not only do they pollinate our flowers and crops, they are the cornerstone of ecosystems, the creatures that generate the cycles and food-webs of the living earth.”
So, the least we can do is offer them some decent accommodation! Here’s a video by the RSPB to show you how it’s done.
Build a bat box
If you like the idea of housing wildlife and are looking for a more challenging project, why not build a bat box?
No matter how beautiful it is, bats won’t move into a box if it’s in a busy, inner city street. A bat friendly box should be placed at least 3m from the ground and no more than 7-8m from the nearest tree branches. Best results come in areas of diverse habit, preferably with a stream, river or lake nearby.
However, even if you don’t live somewhere that matches that description, you can still make a bat box for a friend who does. It’s the perfect present for a nature-lover!
Here’s a visual guide by The Wildlife Trusts to get you started.
Put out water for birds and bees
This final action may seem obvious, but it’s not just us humans that need to drink more in the summer months. For birds and bees, having access to fresh water is essential for their survival.
As well as drinking water, birds will jump in and wash themselves to rid themselves of parasites. Bees on the other hand, not known for their swimming ability, will probably drown if they fall in.
Therefore, it’s really important to put out containers with a rough surface. Instead of a plastic tub, try using an old terracotta dish. It’s also a good idea to place some stones or pieces of wood at the edge of the dish, so that insects have a way out.
For more about wildlife gardening check out the full series of guides by Wild About Gardens!