Into the Urban Expanse:
gardens as a reservoir for arthropod biodiversity
by Grant Brown
Have you ever wondered how many species you have living in your garden? Which factors determine what makes a good garden for wildlife, and how we can make our gardens as wildlife-friendly as possible?
There is a growing interest in gardening to encourage wildlife, but surprisingly few scientists have looked at what's actually happening in our gardens. Of the studies that have been carried out so far, most have focused on birds, mammals, and butterflies. What about the some of the invertebrates which some people might find 'less appealing' - arthropods like beetles, spiders and springtails?
These creatures play a vital role in many important processes such as decomposition, cycling nutrients, and regulating pests. But despite their contributions to these beneficial and essential tasks the arthropods are seldom considered when it comes to making decisions about managing conservation in the urban environment.
To find out more about the arthropod sepcies in our gardens, staff in the School of Biology launched a project called Gardenlife. Over the next three years this project will study a number of gardens both in the United Kingdom in St Andrews, and, in South Africa at Stellenbosch. We will be looking at the relationship between biodiversity and the age and size of gardens, and also at how different practices in garden management affect the range and scope of species found in gardens.
We hope that the 'Gardelife' project will provide better understanding of the potential that gardens have as reservoirs for biodiversity of these important animals in our towns and cities. Results will help to inform future policy on sustainable urban expansion and allow planners to design in a way which can foster biodiversity in 'the urban expanse'.