Amey’s plans for Biodiversity improvement and enhancement schemes

Emily Davies, Head of Social Impact
05 June 2020
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Last Friday was World Environment Day – a day which aims to encourage and inspire us all to take action and look after our planet. At Amey, we are committed to finding sustainable and innovative ways to protect our environment and this year’s World Environment Day theme, ‘Make Time for Nature’.

Just one of the many environmental issues we, as a society, must tackle is the decline in pollinator species, such as UK bee, butterfly and moth species. Recent research suggests there has been a significant loss in both pollinators and suitable pollinator habits, such as hedgerows and flower rich meadows, and that the two inextricably linked. The decline demonstrates the deterioration in wider biodiversity and non-crop pollination and therefore, highlights a clear need to act.

In response, Amey has been working to deliver a number of biodiversity improvement schemes. The first of which was completed by Amey Consulting’s Environment and Sustainability (E&S) team, which includes over 80 environmental and sustainability professionals, including a specialist ecology team, in partnership with Highways England on the Area 13 Design Services Contract (DSC). Our input fed into Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Get Cumbria Buzzing Project, advising them about baseline survey methodologies for plants and invertebrates; and discussing the details of habitat improvements.

Cumbria’s Get Buzzing Project aims to create 115 hectares of wildflower rich habitats to help boost pollinators and 62 pollinator-friendly havens alongside pollinator pathways known as ‘B-lines’. The Amey Consulting E&S team completed desktop analysis of available plots and undertook site surveys to identify those plots with the most potential for improvement. The team recorded the baseline of plant species present and current pollinator use; developed design drawings and individual habitat management plans for each plot; and devised a methodology for monitoring the success of this.

In addition, the Sheffield Living Highways project, a partnership between Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, the University of Sheffield, Sheffield City Council and Amey, are adapting management practices, in order to enhance the wildlife on road-side grass verges throughout the city.

In 2018, Amey’s suggestion to decrease monthly mowings on road-side grass verges to one annual grass cut in late summer, on 20% of the urban road verge network, resulted in the growth of dandelions, cowslips, cuckoo flower and cats-ear, creating pollinator habitats. Although the approach was not sustainable due to public perception, the results suggest that high soil fertility will limit the capacity of many urban verges to support biodiverse swards and that at least one additional cut may be required for wide-ranging public acceptance. These results may be critical, when considering how we move forward regarding road verge management and public education.

Not only is Amey working on biodiversity improvement schemes, but our experienced ecologists are finding news ways to measure the impact of them. They are using the DEFRA 2.0 Biodiversity Metric to understand the extent to which a scheme could lead to biodiversity loss or gain and identify opportunities for continual improvement and habitat enhancement. Working closely with our design teams, we are incorporating biodiversity considerations into our design and delivery solutions and continually striving to improve our biodiversity performance.

We recently used the DEFRA 2.0 Biodiversity Metric on the M6 J19 improvement scheme, to calculate the net habitat loss of the proposed design. This information was used to inform the Landscape design and offset much of this habitat loss within the scheme by adjusting seed mixes and adding features like dry stone walls to provide ecological niches and micro-climates. In December 2019, the E&S team carried out plans for a roundabout design scheme called Cross-a-moor, in Cumbria, using UK Habitat classification to map habitats. We were able to input directly into the DEFRA 2.0 Biodiversity Metric and calculate the baseline habitat units for the project. The information can be used at the design stage to calculate the net gain of the proposed design, and where possible offset within the design to provide no net habitat loss.

For more information on Cumbria's Get Buzzing and the Sheffield Living Highways projects, please visit the links provided. 

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