Cogs Start Turning
Many of you will have experienced one of the Aire Rivers Trust’s river clean-ups yourself at one point or another. The range of items that we discover always surprises me, whether it’s a rusty bicycle or even ancient scuba gear. It was during our clean-up season this Spring that the opportunity came up to design and put in a bid for a project that focuses on promoting UK plants. I started thinking about what we could do to link the River Aire to plants. And then it hit me. Why not kill two birds with one stone? What if we could increase the number of UK flowers whilst also reducing the amount of rubbish that ends up in the river?
Why the fuss about plants?
Plants underpin all aspects of nature. Without them, we wouldn’t see the extraordinary range of life that calls Earth home. In fact, we wouldn’t exist at all. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants make the energy of the sun available to the rest of the food chain. Humans have also found many other uses for them in clothing, medicine and building materials.
Over millions of years, very finely tuned relationships have developed between the species that are found in the same area. Bees emerge from hibernation at the same time the first flowers are emerging in Spring, ensuring that there is a constant food supply for them throughout the Spring and Summer months. However, this delicate balance is under threat from multiple fronts.
Climate change is causing important ecological events to happen at the wrong time due to unseasonable weather. The introduction of new plants that would not naturally be found in a particular area also disrupts the natural balance.
Plants such as Himalayan balsam, rhododendron and Japanese knotweed have not evolved alongside the rest community they are now often found in. This creates a range of problems including being carriers of diseases that native species have no defence against This can lead to widespread loss of native species across an area. Invasive plants also often have the advantage over native plants as they are often not recognised as a food source. This means that the natural grazing pressures that would help prevent them from taking over an area in their home range no longer exist, allowing them to form dense monoculture stands. Examples of this can be seen across the UK and have a huge impact not only on our native plants but, like climate change, damages ecological synchronicity as areas covered by these monocultures do not have the sequence of different plants providing food at different times of the year.
Alongside this, urbanisation and changes in farming practices have meant that there are fewer areas where plants are able to grow. The areas that do support them are becoming smaller and further apart, a process known as habitat fragmentation. These patches of flowers are of lower quality and therefore support smaller numbers of the associated animals that you would expect to find with them.
But it is not all doom and gloom
Whilst that paints a very bleak picture, it is not a finished painting. As our understanding of where the threats to biodiversity are coming from increases, we can implement strategies to combat them. And it doesn’t have to start big!
The Repot Project is all about using your imagination and creativity to literally give new life to items that would otherwise be thrown away. Whether it’s a holey pair of wellies, empty bottles and cans or worn-out kitchen items, we want to challenge you to create a planter that can be used to boost biodiversity where you are!
Our finished planters...
It doesn't have to stop there...
If you would like to find out more about any of the topics talked about in this blog here are some links to some really interesting resources:
Or to find out more about what you can do to protect our plants go to: