Sourced from the BBC
Urban rewilding projects are tempting nature back into our cities, from creating city butterfly meadows to building unlikely homes for deadly birds of prey.
The middle of London’s hectic West End doesn’t seem like the likeliest location for one of the UK’s rarest birds. There are only an estimated 20-40 breeding pairs of black redstarts in the country. But in recent years, without being artificially introduced into the area, this rare bird has started to make a home in this crowded part of Central London.
The black redstart isn’t the only unexpected species of wildlife to start living in conspicuously urban landscapes. Moths, butterflies, woodpeckers and even serotine bats, more commonly found in rural pastures, have also been on the rise in this part of London.
It’s a trend growing in strength worldwide. While in New York, peregrine falcons – once nearly extinct in the US, can now regularly be seen diving at breakneck speeds from skyscrapers across the city.
These changes are the payoff of increasing efforts to transform dense urban areas from wildlife dead-spots into attractive, viable homes for nature alongside city dwellers. One new initiative is even trying to get offices to keep beehives.
You don’t have to completely redesign a city’s layout to achieve this, says Emily Woodason, a senior landscape architect at the design and planning firm Arup. Sometimes creating pockets of greenery at sufficiently regular intervals is enough to tempt wildlife back into an area. The Wild West End project, involving six of London’s largest landowners, is seeking to create 100 square metres (330 sq ft) of green space every 100m.
“It’s an ambitious objective,” says Woodason. “Ultimately the aim is to create a green corridor between London’s parks.”
As well as planning more green areas, many of the landowners are choosing to retrofit existing buildings with green walls or roofs. So far, it appears to be working. Since a baseline wildlife assessment two years ago, several unexpected species have returned to the area, including the black redstart.