Before undertaking any habitat management, creation or restoration project consider the following principles.
Do no harm. Ensure that your management decisions are well informed and that you do not inadvertently change or destroy existing valuable habitats.
Undertake a survey of any area that you are intending to manage. See ‘Making Biodiversity Happen’. Also take into account surrounding habitats and how your work will affect them.
Do your homework first. Undertake research into local habitat management and consult land-use records relating to your area or site. Your local Wildlife Trust or local authority may be able to help. Historical records and old maps will also help you to understand earlier land-use. You may already have this information in your institution’s library; otherwise try the historical archives held by your local authority.
Apply specialist treatment where required. If your campus contains a habitat or species that needs special attention, you will need to apply specialist management techniques and approaches. Consult the list of statutory list of priority habitats and species in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and make contact with specialist organisations.
Make use of existing expertise. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience that you can draw upon that will help and support you. Contact your in-house experts, local biodiversity groups, local authority, and national organisations
Give preference to native species of local provenance. Using native plants, shrubs and trees will contribute to the maintenance of UK species that will be adapted to local soils and climates. They will also, generally, provide better habitat and food sources for our native animal species.
Remember that some exotic species such as rhododendron and Japanese knotweed can get out of control, be difficult to manage and cause an adverse effect on local biodiversity. Others, such as buddleia and cotoneaster, are beneficial to biodiversity but should only be used in moderation and within the formal grounds setting.
Design habitats carefully. You may want to create a ‘mosaic’ of different habitats that will provide a range of habitats for more species. You may also want to provide larger areas of the same habitat according to species requirements.
Ideally each habitat should be large enough to contain a mix of sub-habitats. For example, within woodland there could be glades, dead wood, edge habitats and a range of trees.
Link habitats. As far as possible, link habitats by developing corridors to help some species move between them. For example, plant a hedge between two wooded areas or a verge between two grassy areas.
Time your management operations carefully to reduce impacts on breeding, feeding and hibernating species. Carry out tree and hedge cutting during the winter months (December to February) to avoid disturbing nesting birds and to prevent food sources for wildlife being destroyed. Ponds should be managed during the autumn, if necessary.
Record changes that occur as a result of management. Monitoring will help you gauge the success of your project, help you make further management decisions and may also provide useful information for awareness and public relations activities.
Think about pest control. This may occasionally be necessary on some campuses. Always make use of humane methods that affect only the target species and that do not persist in the environment. Remember that any chemicals you use may affect other species further up the food chain. Slugs poisoned with pellets, for example, are toxic to birds and hedgehogs that eat them.