Encouraging biodiversity isn’t just about conserving rain forests and saving tigers from extinction. In the UK, biodiversity has been studied for many years, and organisations such as the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) contain a wealth of information about biodiversity in the UK, including maps of the distribution of some species. The RHS has been working with the NBN to map the spread of the rather naughty red lily beetle in the UK, using reports from gardeners across the country. It looks like much of Wales is OK at the moment, but I can vouch for it being present in Chester. Whilst in general I’m all for biodiversity, I’m afraid that my enthusiasm doesn’t extend to welcoming this frass-encrusted blighter into the garden.
The RHS is keen to encourage recognition of the International Year of Biodiversity and to inspire gardeners to ‘do their bit’ to help maintain diversity. Whilst some may mutter about bandwagons and jumping, the RHS has been involved in surveying biodiversity over a long period of time (nearly 40 years worth of moth survey data at RHS Wisley and a long-term review of plant and animal records at RHS sites, with some data going back to 1910). Anyone going to Chelsea Flower Show this year will have a chance to learn more about supporting wildlife in the RHS’s Continuous Learning area.
So practically, what can we do? The RHS suggest that doing even just one thing to encourage biodiversity will help. They have a range of suggestions for encouraging wildlife into the garden, as do other organisations such as BugLife and the RSPB. Sometimes it’s easy to think about encouraging pretty birds into the garden, but the rather less camera-friendly creepy-crawlies are vital to a well-functioning ecosystem. If I may quote Sir David Attenborough, an absolute hero of mine:
“It is that range of biodiversity that we must care for - the whole thing - rather than just one or two stars.”
“If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the land’s ecosystems would collapse. We would do very well to remember them."
As keen garden bloggers, you are probably more aware than many, and more active than many on this topic. And now is your chance to show what you have done to encourage biodiversity in your own little patch of the wider ecosystem, in a competition!
All you have to do is email me a photograph demonstrating biodiversity in your garden, and a short description of how you encourage it.* I will post the photos up on this blog, and will choose a winner shortly after the closing date of Sunday 18th April. The RHS are kindly offering a prize of RHS membership for one year to the winner. Benefits of membership include free entry to RHS gardens (if you’re lucky enough to have one near you!), free access to RHS recommended gardens, 12 issues of The Garden magazine, and expert horticultural advice.
You may well see a few UK blogs running this competition, so if you don’t win on this blog, you may win elsewhere. Good luck, and whilst we may not be able to do much to help the plight of the mountain tapir, we can do a little to support the dwindling numbers of wild birds, butterflies, bumblebees and bugs that help our gardens function.**
* Please email your photos and fewer than 100 words of explanation as to how you encourage diversity to happymouffetard at gmail dot com. All (appropriate!) photos will be posted here, and the winner's photo may be posted on the RHS website. The judge's decision is final. The winner will receive one year's free membership of the RHS. Open to UK residents only, I'm afraid.
** Yes, I know that I’m guilty of double standards, wishing death on the beautiful lily beetle whilst encouraging everyone to support insect life. But they eat my beautiful snakeshead fritillaries!
EDIT: Just found via Twitter this link to the Royal Entomological Society's Garden Entomology leaflet - lots of information on creepy-crawlies in there.