The Biodiversity and Green Infrastructure workstream is overseeing the development and delivery of a new Biodiversity Action Plan for the University, setting out our ambitions to further enhance biodiversity across our estate and providing rich opportunities for learning and practical action for people across our university community.
Self guided walking tour
As part of this workstream, we have a self guided walking tour to help you explore our beautiful campus. The walking route is marked by a number of signs, each with a QR code that you can scan to find out more.
Biodiversity Action Plan
As well as protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of our campuses and land, a core part of this strand will be to engage more proactively with students, staff and our local community, to educate and communicate the importance of biodiversity, and to inspire people to get involved in biodiversity and climate action initiatives.
The strategic ambition will be be underpinned by a clear Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and a working group is currently aiming to:
- develop a University biodiversity action plan which includes all UK campuses and land of which we are owners (or custodians).
- review a recent baseline audit of biodiversity across our main UK campuses and recommend improvement opportunities.
Potential measures being explored include the following:
- % increase in space considered high value for biodiversity
- Measure and report on campus habitat and species diversity annually
- Number of students & staff benefiting from formal learning opportunities on campus related to biodiversity and sustainability
- Number of community visitors participating in campus-based conservation initiatives e.g., bio-blitzes
We are working to publish the Biodiversity Action Plan in Autumn 2023.
Nature Positive Universities Alliance
The University has further committed to improving biodiversity on its campuses by joining a new global universities initiative launched at the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15). The Nature Positive Universities Alliance is a global network of universities that have pledged to work towards a global ‘nature positive’ goal in order to halt, prevent and reverse nature loss through addressing their own impacts and restoring ecosystems harmed by their activities.
Meeting the commitments of the scheme is being incorporated into the Biodiversity Action Plan, around setting baselines, identifying improvement actions and reporting annually on progress.
NPUA has been led by University of Oxford, who have recently described their work assessing their biodiversity impacts beyond their campuses – such as through travel, procurement/supply chain etc. We will consider whether this is an appropriate development for our biodiversity impact measurement and commitments in the future.
National Education Nature Park
The Department for Education announced the forthcoming National Education Nature Park on 18th May 2023, National Outdoor Classroom Day, and the University announced its participation as one of a small handful of universities involved in the scheme’s development.
The National Education Nature Park will bring together all the land from across education settings into a vast virtual nature park. It will enable children and young people to get involved in taking practical action to improve the biodiversity of their setting and see over time how the virtual park changes.
The University has announced its intention to offer an improved and more formalised scheme for local schools to access learning experiences on our estate, which will be promoted on the national platform.
We currently envisage that our Nature Park will over time create two distinct new offerings;
- Whiteknights Nature Park – which will join up learning opportunities at the Cole Museum, Harris Garden, Atmospheric Observatory and Lakeside Meadow.
- Shinfield Nature Park – initially focussed on Langley Mead, this will evolve over time as further expansion in the area take place and additional facilities are introduced.
The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) will continue to develop its school offering as a satellite to the Whiteknights Nature Park.
We envisage forming an internal working group shortly, working with partners including the Natural History Museum (NHM) and Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) to understand the emerging national scheme, and designing our pilot activity with local schools from the autumn term. We have several local schools who have expressed interest in piloting the scheme, and it is likely the initial scheme will iterate over 2023-24
‘Living Lab’ – fieldwork on our estate
The School of Biological Sciences have been working to incorporate more university sites in planned field teaching on the new degree programme structures starting in 2024. For example, leading a new standalone Field Ecology module in which first year Ecology & Wildlife Conservation students to visit a number of sites, such as the new research woodland at Thames Valley Science Park and Langley Mead in addition to our Whiteknights campus. These should also be a further opportunity to build in some useful data collection which would be repeated every year.
The University’s main Whiteknights campus (see map here) is set in approximately 130 hectares of parkland which offers a superb mix of habitats for wildlife including formal gardens, managed hay meadows, woodland, wood pasture and a series of lakes. We are proud to have won 12 consecutive Green Flag awards, recognising the campus as one of Britain’s top green spaces, which welcomes thousands of visitors each year including school and other community groups as well as the general public.
Our community of academics, professional colleagues and students, which boasts botanists, ecologists, meteorologists and zoologists (to name just a small section) have been studying our campus for many decades (in fact meteorological observations have been made almost continuously since 1901).
To date, over 2000 species (a current list can be found here) have been recorded in this suburban parkland. Approximately 40% of our Whiteknights campus is managed primarily for biodiversity. The University’s detailed Habitat Management Plan is guiding current activity to enhance biodiversity in key areas.
We are currently scoping a range of student and community projects across our campus which can provide further opportunities to be involved in enhancing biodiversity and learning about the natural world.
Green Festival Biodiversity Tour Whiteknights 2020
Langley Mead Nature Reserve
The University of Reading also owns and manages a community nature reserve at Langley Mead, 18 hectares of wildflower meadows adjacent to the River Loddon which support a significant number of rare plant species.
An extension of Langley Mead will allow the University of Reading and EPR to further improve conditions for wildlife, with an emphasis on creating a highly connected, continuous habitat that brings traditional management practices back to the landscape. Initial works will involve translocating green hay from Langley Mead’s existing wildflower meadows, plant hedgerows, and create wetland features – vital for restoring and developing sustainable wildlife populations.
Natural History Museum coming to Reading
The Natural History Museum has announced plans to develop a new global and sustainable base for high-end natural sciences research and international collaboration with the University of Reading.
Subject to planning permission, the centre will be created at the Thames Valley Science Park (TVSP), which is owned and managed by the University, within Wokingham Borough. It will widen access to the collections for the Museum’s 350 scientists, their collaborators, and researchers worldwide through rapid digitisation and cutting-edge science facilities.
Over 27 million specimens, as well as over 5,500 metres of accompanying Natural History Museum Library material to be rehoused in the largest collections move for the Museum since the 1880s
Check out the Biodiversity Blog to see updates from relevant academic experts on aspects of campus biodiversity: https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/whiteknightsbiodiversity/