Information below has been correlated from a variety of sources, some drawn in person (Professor Alastair Driver of Rewilding Britain, Ian Smith of WWF UK, Environmental Scientist Jay Neale plus numerous other Ecologists, Wildlife Experts, Urban Planners and Rewilding Specialists) and some drawn (on advice) from academic papers & research, especially from recognised names like Dr Ben Wheeler.
Wildlife/Pollinators (on which our survival depends) are in decline…
Our wildlife, pollinators and birds are facing a near apocalypse due to loss of habitat & human impact. The decline of hedgehogs in the UK is especially concerning because hedgehogs are generalists – not particularly fussy in terms of habitat and food. If that sort of species is declining it exposes underlying problems elsewhere in the environment too in terms of biodiversity and the invertebrate prey species it is eating.
Scientists agree that it is becoming clear that insect losses are now a serious global problem. “The evidence all points in the same direction,” said Prof Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex in the UK. “It should be of huge concern to all of us, for insects are at the heart of every food web, they pollinate the large majority of plant species, keep the soil healthy, recycle nutrients, control pests, and much more. Love them or loathe them, we humans cannot survive without insects.” * (The Guardian)
Humans are suffering from health epidemics caused by pollution & (research heavily suggests) disconnection from nature…
83.1% of the UK population live in urban areas. (*Statista)
Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK, with between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year attributed to long-term exposure. There is strong evidence that air pollution causes the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and lung cancer, and exacerbates asthma. *(Gov.uk)
“In recent decade, investigators in public health and health economics have intensified empirical research on the role of nature contact and the environment as a general promoter, including mental health.” (Science Mag Research Paper, ‘Nature And Mental health: An Ecosystem Service Perspective.’)
Our urban spaces (cities, towns and villages) contain 100,000s of green grass patches along 10,000s of our streets. These patches could be easily rewilded to create protected habitats for uk wildlife and pollinators, offering a crucial biodiversity boost as well as regenerating our urban centres (especially the economically deprived urban areas) as well as offering local & immediate environmental benefit: cleaner air and water.
Every rewilded area will also run a simultaneous litter campaign with Clean Up Britain to protect local wildlife and aid socio-economic regeneration.
Environmental Benefits of ’Patchwork Rewilding’….
As stated by an internationally experienced Ecologist, specialising in Ecosystem Ecology & Conservation, Ms. C.L…
“Urban sprawl is a concept that we know all too well. With it, comes the inevitable loss of biodiversity that once thrived, with ecosystems falling into disrepair and the organisms that form them struggling to adapt to “city life”. Urban rewilding is a growing movement that is taking place across the world. It is a conservation effort to restore degraded or damaged ecosystems and to reclaim land to introduce once more species of both flora and fauna, that once inhabited these areas.
The concept can be explained by Patch Dynamics, an ecology theory dating back to the 1940’s when plant ecologists studied the structure and dynamics of vegetation as a function of the patches that comprise it interactively. This theory falls under the general umbrella of landscape ecology within which it has been postulated that ecosystems, communities and populations can be better understood by considering them as mosaics made of up many smaller sub-ecosystems, meta-communities and sub-populations that interact with one another, allowing for genetic connectivity and therefore in the light of this topic, maintenance of biodiversity.
A few small patches of reclaimed land in cities will not do much to aid the problem of biodiversity loss and ecosystem decline. But many patches of an adequate size, containing native vegetation, that through specific physical processes, helps restore the conditions required for life to thrive (think of sugar maple trees native to Canada, that by a process called ‘hydraulic lift’ help bring ground water to the surface, aiding the hydration of smaller shrubs and plants) could be a start. Together with introducing keystone species that play (hence the name) a key role in restoring biodiversity (either by reoxygenating soils or distribution of nutrients) urban land could potentially be reclaimed to restore natural habitats for native wildlife.
Needless to say, the benefits would be many. To our physical and mental health, of seeing and breathing nature and cleaner air in otherwise polluted cities, to our children that they have the chance to witness nature and how it functions even if on a small scale and to our society as a whole, with the aim to move towards a more sustainable future.”
BENEFITS TO REWILDED COMMUNITIES
(Broken Into Sub-Sections)
Greater Socio-Economic Equality Across Our Cities
To walk across our cities, you cross effortlessly from affluence to deprivation and struggle and back again. Poorer communities/boroughs feature run down homes and significantly more litter. Yet when I’ve walked (to give an example) from Balham (London) south down to Colliers Wood and across to Morden, whilst Balham was noticeably more affluent, walking merely a mile into Morden revealed scores of significant green patches of grass running down every street and surrounding a good sized park. I stood and imagined the scene in front of me if - instead of roads strewn with litter and patchy grass squares - those same squares (in my mind’s eye) could be wild and full of lush hedgerows and flowers and shrubbery with the whole area being litter free and the park being bordered by hedges and trees.
The entire area would be transformed.
“Improving urban green space represents an important and cost-effective opportunity for people to transform their local neighbourhoods and improve their quality of life. Local people are best placed to know the benefits that good-quality green spaces contribute to their community. But they have not always had the opportunity to direct improvements to their local environment.” *(Community Green Report)
Research commissioned by CABE, ‘Urban Green Nation: Building The Evidence Base', explored over 70 major data sources to discover what the quantitative data says about England’s publicly owned and managed urban green space. It found that if you live in a deprived inner-city area you have access to five times fewer public parks and good-quality general green space than people in more affluent areas.
The relationship between low income and poor health follows a social gradient. People living on a low income are more likely to experience worse health and be less physically active.
Providing good-quality green space is a hugely effective way to tackle these inequalities. Green space has been proven to reduce the impact of deprivation, deliver better health and wellbeing and create a strong community. The simple presence of green space is related to a reduced risk of serious problems like depression and lung disease. Living close to green space reduces mortality, which can help reduce the significant gap in life expectancy between rich and poor.
“Effects of Urban Green Space on Environmental Health, Equity and Resilience.”
Traditionally, urban planners and practitioners in land and resource management have relied on conventional engineering solutions to adapt to climate change, but this may not always be cost-effective, sufficient or sustainable. Nature-based solutions can address societal challenges from climate change and urbanization in a sustainable way. By using ecosystem services, nature-based solutions are innovative solutions that use natural elements to achieve environmental and societal goals. They offer significant potential to provide energy and resource-efficient responses to climate change, and to enhance our natural capital. Nature-based solutions provide additional multiple benefits to city residents such as improvements in health and wellbeing, and improvements of the local green economy.
European Commission, DG Research and Innovation, Marco Fritz Sustainable Management of Natural Resources
Nature-based solutions (NBS) can foster and simplify implementation actions in urban landscapes by taking into account the services provided by nature. They include provision of urban green such as parks and street trees that may ameliorate high temperature in cities or regulate air and water flows or the allocation of natural habitat space in floodplains that may buffer impacts of flood events. Architectural solutions for buildings, such as green roofs and wall installations, may reduce temperature and save energy.
Importantly, by integrating NBS in urban landscapes, multiple benefits related to climate change adaptation and mitigation are increasingly recognised as influential determinants of human health and well-being (Barton and Grant 2006; Hartig et al. 2014). They relate to the provision and improved avail- ability of urban green spaces and may result in better mental and physical health (Keniger et al. 2013). In addition, NBS may, in many cases, present more efficient and cost-effective solutions than more traditional technical approaches (European Commission 2015). In policy and practice, NBS complement concepts like green infrastructure or ecosystem-based mitigation and adaptation.
Modern urban lifestyle is associated with chronic stress, insufficient physical activity and exposure to anthropogenic environmental hazards. Urban green space, such as parks, playgrounds, and residential greenery, can promote mental and physical health and reduce morbidity and mortality in urban residents by providing psychological relaxation and stress alleviation, stimulating social cohesion, supporting physical activity, and reducing exposure to air pollutants, noise and excessive heat.
Many epidemiological studies have demonstrated various positive health effects of urban green spaces, including reduced depression and improved mental health, reduced cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, improved pregnancy outcomes and reduced rates of obesity and diabetes (reviewed by WHO Regional Office for Europe 2016). Thus, providing urban green space is a nature-based solution with a variety of known health and well-being benefits. While urban green space can also be associated with health hazards, such as increased exposure to allergenic pollen, infections transmitted by arthropod vectors such as ticks or mosquitoes, and risk of injuries, potential detrimental effects can be eliminated or minimized through proper design, maintenance and operation of green space (Lõhmus and Balbus 2015).
It is important to note that disadvantaged population groups often live in neighbourhoods with reduced availability of green space. Studies have shown that socio- economically disadvantaged individuals tend to benefit the most from improved access to urban greenery. Thus, reducing socioeconomic disparities in the availabil- ity of urban green space may help to reduce inequalities in health related to income, minority status, disability and other socioeconomic and demographic factors (Allen and Balfour 2014).
Providing equitable access to green space is an important goal of health-oriented urban policies.
Green Space Effect On Stress Hormones
The evidence of health benefits due to mental restoration and relaxation from having contact with nature and green space is well documented (Hartig et al. 2014; Hartig 2007). It has been suggested that contacts with nature (e.g. views of green space) can trigger positive effects for persons with high stress levels by shifting them to a more positive emotional state (Ulrich 1983; Ulrich et al. 1991) and that stimuli in natural settings help to restore a sense of well-being in persons suffering mental fatigue (Kaplan 1995; Kaplan 2001).
Recent studies have also provided evidence of chronic stress alleviation by green space. Using diurnal cortisol patterns was an innovative approach applied in the United Kingdom to demonstrate that exposure to green space reduced chronic stress in adults living in deprived urban neighbourhoods (Roe et al. 2013; Ward Thompson et al. 2012; Beil and Hanes 2013). Similar relationships between green space and stress reduction have been shown using hair cortisol as a biomarker of chronic stress (Honold et al. 2015; Gidlow et al. 2016b).
Green Space Effect On Our Immune Systems
Kuo (2015) suggested a central role for enhanced immune functioning in the pathways between nature and health. Associations between visiting forests and beneficial immune responses, including expression of anti-cancer proteins, have been demonstrated in Japan (Li et al. 2008). This suggests that immune systems benefit from direct exposure to natural environments or through contacts with certain factors in the green space. It has also been shown that children with the highest exposure to specific allergens or bacteria during their first year of life were least likely to have recurrent wheeze and allergic sensitization (Lynch et al. 2014). Living in residential areas with more street trees was shown to be associated with lower asthma prevalence (Lovasi et al. 2008). One hypothesized immunological pathway is exposure to commensal microorganisms in biodiverse natural environments (Rook 2013), which can play an immunoregulatory role. Studies have demonstrated that increased biodiversity in the environment around homes is linked with reduced risk of allergy (Ruokolainen et al. 2015; Hanski et al. 2012). Greater exposure to com- mensal microorganisms, especially in the early life, may lead to more diverse skin and gut microbiomes, and provide protection against allergy and autoimmunity
(Kondrashova et al. 2013).
Green Spaces Encourage Exercise: Even Walking To School/Work
Physical activity has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, mental health, neurocognitive development, and general well-being and to prevent obesity, cancer, and osteoporosis (Owen et al. 2010). Providing attractive and accessible urban environments may encourage people to spend more time outdoors and facilitate physical activity (Bedimo-Rung et al. 2005). The quality of the urban green space and pres- ence of specific amenities are important factors facilitating physical activity in older adults (Aspinall et al. 2010; Sugiyama and Ward Thompson 2008). For urban resi- dents with mental health problems, physical activity in green space may be particularly therapeutic (Roe and Aspinall 2011). Other populations or subgroups may benefit, in a similar way, from green space that makes outdoor activity enjoyable and easy, and encourages less sedentary lifestyles.
Hartig et al. (2014) summarized available evidence for an association between green space and physical activity levels in three domains: work, active transport and leisure. While access to green spaces has been linked to active leisure, associations between greenness and active commuting (such as walking and cycling) are incon- sistent because very green living environments can be highly car-dependent for transport (Bancroft et al. 2015).
Numerous studies in multiple countries have demonstrated that recreational walking, increased physical activity and reduced sedentary time were associated with access to, and use of green space in working age adults, children and senior citizens (Epstein et al. 2006; Kaczynski and Henderson 2007; Kaczynski et al. 2008; Sugiyama and Ward Thompson 2008; Cochrane et al. 2009; Almanza et al. 2012; Lachowycz et al. 2012; Astell-Burt et al. 2013; Schipperijn et al. 2013; Lachowycz and Jones 2014; Sugiyama et al. 2014; Gardsjord et al. 2014; James et al. 2015; Sallis et al. 2016).
Almanza et al. (2012) used satellite images and GPS and accelerometer data from children in several communities in California, the United States to demon- strate that increased residential greenness was positively associated with moderate to vigorous physical activity. Bjork et al. (2008) and De Jong et al. (2012), working in Sweden, found a positive association between access to high quality green space and higher levels of physical activity.
There is also accumulating evidence that physical activity in green space (“green exercise”) is more restorative and beneficial for health than physical activity in non- natural environments (Barton and Pretty 2010; Bodin and Hartig 2003). Mitchell’s (2013) study of the Scottish population showed an association between physical activity in natural environments and reduced risk of poor mental health, while activity in other types of environment was not linked to the same health benefit.
Green Space Effects on Debilitating Mental Health Disorders
To quote 'Green cities provide a mental health boost that lasts’… By Ian Alcock, University of Exeter
“Depression and depressive disorders are now the leading cause of disability in middle to high income countries – mental health is a critical public health issue of modern times.
Our findings suggest that improved mental health is not the result simply of the novelty of living in a greener area, which might wear off quickly. Creating parks and green corridors in our increasingly urban landscapes could represent good value-for-money public health services, delivering long term benefits to community health.
How good is green space for urban residents? An earlier study published in Psychological Science estimated the effects on mental health delivered by a 1% difference in urban green space, also working with Household Panel Survey data from England and controlling for the effects of personality. The study found that living in an area with high rather than low green space was equal to roughly a third of the benefit of being married, and a tenth of the benefit of having a job.”
The Role Rewilded Pockets Will Play In Flood Prevention
I have been speaking to Environmental Scientist, Jay Neale since the conception of Urban Pocket Wild-Scaping and he’s officially stated (with regards to the rewilded pockets aiding flood prevention)… “Work to replicate natural Greenfield conditions & change the soil health and structure to allow greater biodiversity to hold more water, slowing the flow of water.”
I will be following a professional Ecologist's specifications to achieve this though planting and turning of the soil.
Countering Any Concerns About Increased Rodent Populations Within Rewilded Communities
I contacted and gained expert advice from David Wembridge - Mammal Surveys Co-ordinator - at The Peoples’ Trust For Endangered Species…
“I would guess that the sort of thing you want to do wouldn’t particularly encourage the species people might be concerned about. Rodents and foxes will already be present, exploiting the more urban features of the environment—the microhabitats created by compost bins, ponds and garden sheds, offering protection and nesting sites; the availability of food, the insects in the microhabitats and the food that people either discard or put out deliberately; the warmth held by buildings, etc. Wood mice and foxes will use such areas, I’m sure, but no more than they already use gardens and other green spaces. Wild areas might be more flower-rich and encourage pollinators and some birds, but species that people might worry about are those that are happy enough in urban areas without wild areas.
Wood mice are common in urban gardens but rarely a problem and rats are only a problem if a site is over-run with them. Urban areas support greater numbers of rats than rural ones and wild sites, away from people and buildings, rarely have high numbers of rats, so I don’t imagine the project will lead to more rats.
With regard to foxes, you might argue that providing alternative foraging sites, where foxes can feed on abundant soil invertebrates and the occasional wood mouse, might encourage them out of gardens—in practice though, they’re intelligent, adaptable animals and, if they’re present, they’ll almost certainly use both.”
Maintenance/Mowing Costs (Saved By The Council)
Councils could be conservatively expected to save on… Maintenance of the spaces (mowing, pesticides) public liability insurance, flooding impact, litter clear up WHILST benefitting from the regeneration of the local area.
“Effects of Urban Green Space on Environmental Health, Equity and Resilience” - https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-56091-5_11
Solutions to Climate Change Adaptation in Urban Areas - Linkages between Science, Policy and Practice - https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319537504
Community green report: using local spaces to tackle inequality and improve health -https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/community-green-full-report.pdf