Climate change and biodiversity loss are colossal twin challenges in a struggle society has to win. No corner of the globe is left untouched. Recently the focus picked out Siberia where, it was revealed, between May and October of this year temperatures were 3 C higher than average. It was another startling indication that the crisis we face is as global as it is substantial.
The postponed COP26 UN climate conference, will take place in November 2021 in Glasgow. And Scotland’s largest city will have a unique opportunity to showcase its own strides in tackling climate change within an international context.
As far as tackling the issues facing pollinators is concerned the city has much to be proud of and will be able to reflect on an increasingly positive outlook. Put simply Glasgow is overhauling the way it manages its public estate.
Glasgow has its own Pollinator Plan which neatly dovetails with the city’s Local Biodiversity Action Plan Monitoring, and Biodiversity Duty reporting. Coronavirus and subsequent restrictions may have put a sizable spanner in the works, but it hasn’t halted progress by any means.
The city’s biodiversity drive is increasingly well honed. The opportunity to pro-actively promote habitat connectivity was seized with the launch of an Open Space Strategy in February 2020 which will seek to provide an integrated habitat network throughout the city.
Glasgow is well-placed to deliver on this strategy. Already 30 key grasslands sites are managed as traditional meadows under an innovative mixture of management approaches.
For example, 13 meadows are managed through the Council’s contracting procedures with work being undertaken on site under supervision of the Biodiversity Officers, whilst 15 smaller sites lean heavily on the enthusiasm and expertise of The Conservation Volunteers. And it’s a constantly evolving area of work which can deliver wider biodiversity gains – take for example the wildflower meadow which is cut and lifted specifically as part of the water vole grassland management trial. Great news for water voles, great news for pollinators.
Enhancing how the city looks, as well as how it delivers for biodiversity is a social task for sure. Two ‘Friends’ groups have been an outstanding social as well as biodiversity success. The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis and Yorkhill Greenspaces in creating highly beneficial (and incredibly attractive) wildflower strips in their local areas have boosted prospects for pollinators and provided a green sanctuary for people to come together in when needed most during the pandemic.
One of the bedrocks of the Glasgow approach has been the ‘Flower Power’ nursery at Pollok Country Park. There the Countryside Rangers ran fortnightly volunteer sessions in their wildflower nursery on Tuesdays and Saturdays engaging a total of 191 individuals whilst providing 288 hours in volunteer time towards raising 1,120 wildflower plugs and plants across 27 sites. Behind the impressive numbers was a triumph of connecting people in a time of crisis.
Perhaps the busiest local group has been the aforementioned Friends of Yorkhill Greenspaces. They are led by the energetic and highly knowledgeable Scott Shanks who has a finely tuned sense of what pollinators need. He has worked with his local community to plant bulbs at Overnewton Park for early nectar and pollen sources, this complementing the work to plant year-round nectar-rich plants in borders and beds.
Froglife, the amphibian and reptile group, got in on the act too. Through their Glasgow Green Pathways project they planted over 200 crocus, grape hyacinth and snowdrop bulbs at different sites for pollinators and created wildflower areas in 15sq m of parkland in the shape of raised beds, and redesigned previously mown grass areas across Glasgow. For a small group it’s a big effort and contributes to the growing goal of creating connectivity that wildlife can exploit.
For Glasgow introducing nectar-rich plants into its formal planting schemes in parks and open spaces is a matter of course now. This is coupled with an aim to ensure early and late nectar sources in plantings. To this end 350,000 early flowering bulbs were planted city-wide and grass left uncut until October. It’s an approach that recognises the need for food for pollinators from the start of the season in early spring right through to autumn.
Much of what is achieved in Glasgow is on the back of positive partnership working. Working with Buglife Scotland meant Glasgow could hold 12 workshops/talks on pollinators with over 90 attendees in Castlemilk, Pollokshaws and the Seven Lochs Wetland Park. There was an equally inspiring link up with Butterfly Conservation to raise awareness of the role of pollinators and the variety in our midst.
The world is coming to Glasgow in November 2021. On the evidence of what they are doing for pollinators this is a city that is up for the challenge of identifying actions that make a difference.