Last week started off rather grim for nature lovers: The UN global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services revealed that 1 million species are at risk of extinction. Largely as a result of human activity, coral reefs and rainforests are destroyed at accelerated rates. But one needn’t look afar to find our life support systems eroding: a widespread loss of pollinating insects in recent decades has been revealed by the first national survey in Britain earlier this year.

So how do you tackle such a monumental challenge? On the local level, the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames has just been filled with new life. Launched last Thursday at the London Wetland Centre in Barnes, sixty invited guests got the first glimpse of the strategic document which was compiled by the Richmond Biodiversity Partnership over the past two years. The BAP outlines the species and habitats which are in need of support, where they are located, what actions are needed for their conservation, and what land owners, managers and residents can do to help protect and enhance our local wildlife for future generations.

The Guardian environmental correspondent Sandra Laville urged that it was now or never that we needed action to halt the decline. The UK was on track to miss most of its 2020 biodiversity targets. But how can local people make a difference? Giving the example of Greta Thunberg’s solitary action and its snowballing effects, she encouraged the audience that indeed they can contribute significantly to help nature in their local community.

In fact, in the fourteen years since the first local BAP was published, much has been achieved in the borough. Colin Cooper, Chair of Richmond’s Biodiversity Partnership and CEO of the South West London Environment Network, gave examples of successes: Local organisations had planted more than 1.5kms of hedgerows, created new reedbeds and restored around 1km of river habitat. The installed stag beetle loggeries, as well as bat and bird boxes on a large number of sites, and mistletoe has been transplanted so successful that it no longer requires a dedicated species action plan. Dr Richard Bullock, ecology officer at The London Wetland Centre, gave some practical examples of how the BAP had been implemented on the site.

Richmond Council Cabinet Member for Environment, Planning and Sustainability, Cllr Martin Elengorn encouraged the audience to build on these achievements. He stated that it required bravery and keeping up the pressure whenever planning applications or other human activities threaten the rich biodiversity that still exists, not only for our own sake but also for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.

A highlight for many attendees certainly was hearing Sir David Attenborough words: “I am so heartened that an audience of this kind should turn out to consider local action plans of the most practical and most humble level.” Feeling privileged to live in Richmond since 1952, he felt comforted and encouraged that we did indeed look after our environment. “This work is modest and unpretentious, but nonetheless crucial.”

The Richmond Biodiversity Partnership will now continue implementation of the plan with Richmond Council as well as a number of local groups and engaged citizens. If you are interested in finding out more, please get in touch at biodiversity@swlen.org.uk

If you would like some other pointers on how to you can help, see here our useful tips for creating wildlife-friendly gardens

Download Richmond Biodiversity Action Plan

Read a summary leaflet of the plan

This post was written by Daija Angeli, Biodiversity Volunteer at SWLEN