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The charity London Wildlife Trust is appealing to householders to reverse the trend towards paving over gardens, especially front gardens from which rainwater spills onto roads and into drains.  The following article is reproduced from the Trust's website.

london wildlife trustWe are losing our gardens at an alarming rate. The allure of free off-street parking, a bigger bike shed or simply the idea of a low maintenance space in our busy modern lives has left our city’s gardens in crisis.

In London, gardens make up almost a quarter of the city’s total area, providing a significant amount of London’s open space and fulfilling a key role in keeping London’s environment healthy and liveable for both people and wildlife.

However, the green space within our gardens is being lost at a rate of two and a half Hyde Parks each year due to the advancing surge of paving slabs, bricks and asphalt caused by our appetite for free parking and low maintenance solutions

According to an Royal Horticultural Society study published earlier this year, three times as many front gardens are now paved over compared to 10 years ago in the UK, leaving one in three gardens without a single plant growing.

This rapidly advancing loss is threatening both the urban wildlife that depends on our gardens as a lifeline for food and shelter, as well as the crucial environmental services that green space provides within our cities.

More than aesthetics

Urban gardens and green spaces act as vital environmental support systems for the rest of London. Through absorbing rainwater and allowing natural drainage, they reduce the chance of flash flooding when London’s Victorian (and overstretched) sewer system becomes overwhelmed.

Plants and trees also significantly improve urban air quality through removing carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen and filtering out many of the airborne pollutants released by vehicles and buildings.

And that’s not all, plants also cool down the air surrounding them through releasing water into the air, lessening the urban heat island effect that causes London to be up to six to eight degrees hotter than its surrounding rural areas in summertime.

Losing urban gardens puts many of the benefits that they provide into jeopardy, making London less resilient to extreme weather such as flooding, droughts and heatwaves, as well as making it a less healthy place for people to live, work and play.

London’s wildlife needs your help

However the impact of losing our gardens stretches beyond environmental quality. Two years ago, the State of Naturereport, compiled by 25 wildlife organisations, released startling results, showing that 60% of UK species have declined in the past 50 years.

This worrying decline is partly due to habitat loss. Private gardens in cities are a vital resource for urban wildlife, providing food and shelter for a range of animals including birds, mammals and a huge variety of invertebrates. On a household scale, the way that we manage our gardens has a huge impact on their potential value for London’s wildlife and the health of the city’s natural life support systems.

Simple ways to ‘green up’ your garden

Reducing the amount of impermeable surfaces restores the natural drainage of your garden and creates new spaces in which to grow wildlife friendly plants. By removing paving slabs between car tracks, or completely removing areas of unneeded paving, you can make a big difference.

Plants rich in colourful flowers and nectar provide food for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. 35% of our food crops are dependent on insects for pollination - so its important we continue to look after them. 

From building hedgehog homes, mini beast hotels and creating night-scented gardens, the Wild About Gardens website has lots of simple ideas that can help you to make your city garden into a wildlife haven.

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