Thursday, 26 November 2015

Cardiff Urban Buzz

The charity Buglife launched ‘Cardiff Urban Buzz’ at the Chapter Arts Centre on 24 Nov 2015. Cardiff is one of eight cities across the UK that will receive funding over a total of three years (18 months each) within the Urban Buzz project, which aims to benefit both pollinators and people. Funded by a Biffa Award (from landfill tax), the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation and other organisations, depending on location, Urban Buzz will create pollinator habitats, such as wildflower meadows, and engage with a diverse range of people, groups and organisations. The project will provide volunteers with training and experience in the field of habitat creation, habitat assessment, and conservation practice.

Clare Dunham of Buglife welcomed us all to the launch event. She put the initiative into context, for example, its contribution to the Welsh Assembly Government’s Action Plan for Pollinators.

Urban Buzz is one of two projects involving Buglife that aim to benefit pollinating insects (mainly bees, but also other invertebrates such as butterflies, moths and beetles). The other project is B-lines, in which a network of wildflower-rich grassland corridors is being established through the countryside. This is a good example of landscape-scale conservation (see link below), and provides the ecological corridors linking biodiversity that are vital as habitats increasingly fragment and the climate changes. Such a system of B-lines is being planned for South Wales, along the lines of B-lines already created in the West of England as a result of a collaboration between Buglife and Avon Wildlife Trust.

At the Urban Buzz launch, Councillor Bob Derbyshire (Rumney, Cardiff) outlined the importance to Cardiff of the project, which will establish partnerships to enhance parks and gardens for wildlife in the city.

Michelle Bales of Buglife then reminded us of the importance of pollinators and provided more detail about Cardiff Urban Buzz. Urban areas provide an important refuge for pollinators, particularly bees, which are declining in the countryside due to loss of natural habitats, intensive farming practices and the use of pesticides. The decline in the total number and the number of species of bumblebees, honeybees and other pollinators are genuinely alarming, especially given that they are vital for the pollination of many food crops and a large amount of our native flora. One in every three mouthfuls of food, accordingly to statistics presented here, contains a food crop pollinated by insects.

In Cardiff, a local steering group will direct the Cardiff Urban Buzz actions; the group will include Buglife, Cardiff Council, the local Wildlife Trust, the National Museum Wales in Cardiff, Keep Wales Tidy and a range of local community groups. The project aims to create habitats for pollinators in partnership with local organisations. The overall goal is to create 100 habitat areas in the eight cities (25 ha per city), on both the small and large scale. This will include wildflower meadows, green walls, bee hotels, and other appropriate foraging and nesting sites for pollinator species. Engaging with a diverse range of people and organisations, to raise awareness and to get as many volunteers on board as possible, is an essential part of the project. Volunteers will be able to learn new practical skills through training workshops in habitat creation, habitat assessment, identification and monitoring. The project will provide tools and resources for habitat creation, and the capacity that will enable these local initiatives to carry on after the 18 months of the Cardiff Urban Buzz project.

Michelle pointed us in the direction of the project website – - where people can suggest sites for pollinator habitat creation or enhancement. These sites already include parks, Cathays Cemetery, river and lakeside areas, and allotments. Further along the line, there will be a public voting system to prioritise lines of action. This all helps create the sense of ownership necessary for the longevity of the project actions.

The next stage will be volunteer recruitment and the selection of sites, so visit the website or contact Michelle Bales ( if you are interested or know a good as yet unsuggested site.

Julie Hughes, representing the Heritage Lottery Fund, gave the final short presentation. In south Wales, the Heritage Lottery Fund has funded numerous natural heritage projects, including two high profile projects: the Living Levels to promote conservation in the Gwent Levels and the Forgotten Landscape Partnership Project focused on the Blaenavon World Heritage Site (the wildlife value of coal spoil tips and brownfield sites are now starting to be recognised). The selection criteria focuses on what people consider important, and what will provide benefits to both nature and people. So far the Cardiff-based Heritage Lottery Fund Wales has distributed around £320 million to around 2,300 projects of widely-ranging sizes in Wales.

Selected previous posts on pollinators on this blog:

A news story I did on the ‘The Future of Landscape-scale Conservation in Europe’ meeting in Bristol (4-5 March 2015) for the EC LIFE Programme website:

See also: