, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 395-413

Urban domestic gardens (II): experimental tests of methods for increasing biodiversity

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The extent and continued expansion of urbanisation has focused attention on the significance for native biodiversity of those green spaces remaining within such areas and the most appropriate methods of managing them. In the UK, a high proportion of urban space is comprised of the private or domestic gardens associated with residential dwellings, and many recommendations have been made for simple changes to improve their value for biodiversity (‘wildlife gardening’). Here, we report the results of replicated experimental tests of five such common recommendations, involving the introduction to gardens of (i) artificial nest sites for solitary bees and wasps; (ii) artificial nest sites for bumblebees; (iii) small ponds; (iv) dead wood for fungi and other saproxylic organisms; and (v) patches of nettles Urtica dioica L. for butterfly larvae. The broad conclusion is that whilst some methods for increasing the biodiversity of garden environments may be very effective, others have a low probability of success on the timescales and spatial scales likely to be acceptable to many garden owners. If one of the functions of small scale biodiversity enhancement is to develop and encourage awareness of biodiversity and its conservation, then encouragement to conduct particular activities must be balanced with a realistic appraisal of their likely success.