Biodiversity

Biodiversity loss is caused by multiple interacting factors, of which climate change is increasingly important, both directly (such as through increasing temperatures) and indirectly (such as through invasive species). Our decisions about food, information technology and building works in the University can be traced back directly to destruction of nature in South America, central Africa and south-east Asia.

The University harms biodiversity both directly and indirectly. Most of our direct impacts relate to the management and development of our estate. We can mitigate these through commitments to increasing biodiversity in our estate management and in our developments. The indirect impacts from the University’s operations and supply chain on biodiversity are much greater. This includes our sourcing, consumption and disposal of food, water and materials. We also have both positive and negative biodiversity effects through activities such as advising policymakers, education, research and investments. 

Our impact on biodiversity needs to be accounted for, with negative impacts mitigated and positive impacts enhanced, to demonstrate an overall gain in biodiversity from all our activities. 

The Mitigation and Conservation Hierarchy, an Oxford-developed framework, is used to address our impacts through these actions: 

  1. Refrain – refrain from actions that damage biodiversity 
  2. Reduce – reduce the damage our remaining actions create 
  3. Restore – restore biodiversity that has been damaged 
  4. Renew – renew and enhance nature 

The University aims to achieve biodiversity net gain through avoidance and reduction of the negative impact of our operations and supply chain (Refrain and Reduce), biodiversity enhancements on and off the estate (Restore and Renew), and biodiversity offsetting (Renew). The best available metrics for biodiversity will be used.

Biodiversity in our back yard

The University of Oxford estate covers a vast and diverse patchwork of land holdings, many of which are in urban locations. We recognise that even within our urban setting we can create important spaces for nature and connect biodiverse areas. We are hoping to enhance these spaces by installing living roofs, nesting boxes and ensuring effective management of our green spaces.

We also work to provide opportunities for staff, students and visitors to the University to play an active part in supporting biodiversity on our doorstep.

What we are doing

OUR BIODIVERSITY STRATEGY

We are setting our approach to enhancing and connecting green spaces and biodiversity by implementing our Biodiversity Strategy.

This focuses on the four following priorities:

 

Our priority areas of focus are:

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The University of Oxford estate covers a physically large and diverse patchwork of land holdings, many of which are in urban locations. The University is custodian of the associated biodiversity of these sites, which means it has a responsibility to ensure it understands their composition and value.

This responsibility is one of the underpinning principles of sustainable development whereby existing biodiversity is conserved and protected for the benefit of future generations. For certain species or habitats, it may also be supported by legislation.

The size and location of the University’s estate also means it has a significant role to play in contributing to local and regional biodiversity efforts.

This strategy has been developed with reference to several relevant policy documents including the UK Biodiversity Strategy and Oxford City Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan 2015-2020. These include commitments to enhancing as well as conserving biodiversity.

Conservation efforts often create ‘pockets’ of biodiverse habitats by encouraging protection of even relatively small sites. Although valuable, these sites can be quite isolated from one another. It has become well recognised practice to provide links or corridors for wildlife between these sites, enabling them to support greater numbers and variety of species.

Across the University of Oxford estate there are opportunities to link up habitats in this way, joining up the University’s own pockets of green spaces to benefit wildlife.

Engagement with biodiversity is central to the success of any associated strategy. An understanding that the natural environment offers tangible benefits to everyone and that its conservation is a collective responsibility is vital.

The University of Oxford context offers us the opportunity to build staff and student capacity into our approach. Links between monitoring, research or conservation activities with academic programmes are in development. Activity at Wytham Woods is an excellent example of how we can access and learn from world-leading research activity in this area.

 

Our commitments

  • Measure, report and compensate for the damage to biodiversity caused by the University’s operations and supply chain.
  • Agree and implement a plan to enhance biodiversity on the University estate and beyond, taking the wellbeing of the University’s staff and students, and wider community, into account.
  • Set a target of quantifiable biodiversity net gain of 20% for all development projects on University land, achieved and measured in accordance with industry-standard best practice.
  • Bring the University’s biodiversity research and actions to the wider community, for example through engagement events at the University’s museums and gardens, to stimulate interest in and concern for biodiversity, and to strengthen the links between biodiversity and wellbeing.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

Protecting the natural environment is a collective responsibility. We are fortunate to be able to access and learn from world leading research and academic programmes at the University.

Here are a few ways for you to become better informed about biodiversity issues and get actively involved. 

Take part in the Green Impact award scheme. There are some great biodiversity projects underway - maybe you could start your own? Visit Green Impact.

Join in a walk or attend a talk on a range of biodiversity topics. Visit our Events page and keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for dates for your diary and to like, share and comment.

Help to take nature’s pulse and take part in the annual Big Butterfly Count. This nationwide survey helps to assess the health of our environment and is now the world’s biggest survey of butterflies. Read about the Big Butterfly Count.

Reach for the binoculars and join in the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Bird Watch.

Take a virtual ‘walk on the wild side’ and get to know your local green spaces, including their research and educational activities. Then go and explore them on foot for real!

BIODIVERSITY PROJECTS

There is a wealth of biodiversity initiatives out there to help broaden your environmental horizons! 

Did you know?

We are helping solitary bees through Oxford Plan Bee - an exciting research project to create a network of bee hotels across the city of Oxford and in Wytham Woods to encourage the growth of the local bee population. You can find bee hotels at departmental buildings too! Visit Oxford Plan Bee.

In May 2017 Oxford became England’s first “Swift City”. The Oxford Swift City project team is made up of several local partners - including Oxford University Museum of Natural History - and hopes to improve the outlook for swifts in Oxford by raising local awareness of the many ways we can help these vulnerable birds. Visit Oxford Swift City project.

In April 2021 a programme of biodiversity improvements at Old Road Campus began. Read more about the work underway to enhance biodiversity at Old Road Campus.

Look out too for hedgehogs! They need our protection, so why not become a Hedgehog Champion? Visit Hedgehog Street.

For bee, butterfly and wildflower walks and other projects please visit Wytham Woods Citizen Science.

Read more about Oxford City Council’s Biodiversity Strategy and, at a national level, the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.