Biodiversity: Every garden matters

New research paper by Garden Organic reveals how gardens are a key tool in tackling biodiversity loss.

Garden biodiversity

In the past 65 years, the UK population has increased from 51.6M3 to 67.0M (2021) and during that time urbanisation in the UK went from 78.44% (1960) to 84.15% (2021). Global wildlife populations have plummeted by 69% on average since 1970. Since the 1970s there has been a 13% decline in the average abundance of all wildlife in the UK and within individual species, 41% have shown a decrease in abundance. A further 15% of species are threatened. Research from Germany showed a 75% reduction in flying insects in 27 years since the 1970s too.

Studies have shown that urban gardens can harbour a wide range of biodiversity and contribute to nature conservation. According to the research, small steps taken in the 520 thousand hectares of gardens in the UK can play a major role in restoring lost wildlife. The paper outlines the collective impact gardens can have on biodiversity when they are managed organically to increase plant diversity, lower management intensity, enhance soil protective management practices and encourage soil fauna.

For the Every Garden Matters study, Garden Organicʼs director of horticultural science, Dr Bruce Pearce has collated the latest data on biodiversity loss and reviewed the findings of extensive studies. His research shows simple actions in backyards, balconies and allotments – such as planting a wider diversity of native plants, composting, planting a tree, or creating habitats – can have a major impact on the worrying drop in wildlife populations.

Key research findings:

  • Any size garden will do
  • Big or small, pot or plot – interconnected gardens have a significant impact on biodiversity. Even small urban gardens offer high levels of nectar production, with 85% of the total nectar produced across a city provided by them.
  • Plant diversity equals diverse wildlife
  • The greater range of plants in the garden the better for wildlife density and soil health.
  • Soil health is better on veg plots
  • Well-managed vegetable gardens have a similar soil biological quality to a forest. Soil quality and carbon content in allotments is better than in surrounding farmland, despite light soil disturbance.
  • Taking care of the soil, takes care of pests
  • Green manures and organic mulches can enhance soil organic matter, protect the soil and reduce run off. These practices can also reduce the density of pests and protect crops from more extensive damage much more successfully than using toxic pesticides.
  • Native/near-native plants are essential
  • Above ground invertebrates are more abundant under native or near-native plants, and indigenous birds are more successful in breeding in gardens with higher levels of native plants. Gardens can be designed and managed to favour particular species and could give gardeners a role in the conservation of native birds.

The charity Garden Organic develops organic growing understanding through research and practical application, sharing it with gardeners to implement at home. With 20,000 members, the charity remains at the forefront of organic growing, leading a movement of citizens keen to play their part in supporting the nature and biodiversity on their doorstep.