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Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks.

CABE 2006

Table 1 Building Blocks for Biodiversity in Urban Greenspace

1.1 Trees and Woodland
Building Block



Ancient or old
woodlands, or
woodlands that
have not been
planted. Often
contains a broad
range of ages of
Planted woodlands.
Usually all trees of a
similar age.
Younger plantations
may be dense, with
limited development
of woodland ground


Woodland edges,
including edges of
woodland glades,
woodland paths
and rides, and

Tree groups in
mown grass.
Avenue trees.

Mixture of shrubs
and small trees,
usually relatively
narrow and linear.
Can be a major
opportunity for
increasing wildlife
value around the
edges of small sites.
Groups and clumps
of trees in an opejn
parkland landscape.
Often non-native or
ornamental tree

Public Perceptions and

Visually attractive, but can
also be seen as unsafe,
particularly with dense
shrub layer alongside
paths. Important for
informal recreation

User perceptions
improved by:
Maintaining clear
sightlines from major paths
through woodland.
Encouraging colourful
woodland wildflowers

Young plantations often

dense, dark and univiting but
can be used for play where
accessible. Older
plantations can be attractive
and well used for informal

Coppicing edges to reduce

sense of threat along
Encouraging or planting
species at edges with
attractive flowers, fruits or
leaves. Encouraging
colourful woodland
Maintaining crisp mown
edges, and incorporating
flowering and fruiting trees
and shrubs.

Often background rather

than visited landscape.
Attractive, particularly if
flowering and fruiting trees
and shrubs included, and
relatively safe. Important
play landscape where
Neat, tidy and attractive,
particularly if flowering
trees are used.

Plant bulbs beneath to

provide spring colour

Main Wildlife Interest

Enhancing Biodiversity

Hole nesting animals,

including bats
High canopy birds
Woodland and leaf litter
Woodland mammals
Woodland and woodland
edge birds.
Small mammals.
Woodland invertebrates

Encouraging woodland
wildflowers. Coppicing
and planting to maintain
diverse canopy structure.
Promoting and maintaining
a range of tree ages, and
incorporating standing and
lying dead wood.
Coppicing and planting to
diversify canopy and to
promote a greater variety
of tree ages. Leave logs
and prunings to decompose
in situ. Introduce
woodland wildflowers and
ground flora

Potentially very rich,

incorporating sun-loving
and shade tolerant plants,
and supporting a wide
range of wildlife,
particularly on warm,
sunny edges. Woodland
and woodland edge birds
Small mammals.
Common urban birds,
especially ground feeders
such as thrushes

Not mowing right up the

woodland edge; allow
rough grass or meadow
transition zone to develop.
Promote a complex mosaic
of shrub, trees and
grassland. Include
flowering and fruiting
shrubs and trees and vines.
Leave grass uncut
underneath, where
appropriate. Encourage or
introduce wildlflowers to
carry on display after bulbs
Do not remove deadwood
unless a significant safety

Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks. CABE 2006

Specimen trees in
grass or hard
surfaces. Parkland

isolated or widely
spaced trees

Veteran Trees

Very old trees, often

in historic
landscapes. Can be
found in most of the
above situations.
May be partly dead,
and may drop limbs

Seen as attractive except

where very large and close
to private gardens and

Canopy prune as
appropriate to maintain
local support for long term

Common urban birds,

especially ground feeders
such as thrushes

Where appropriate, leave

grass uncut beneath and
introduce bulbs and

Various invertebrates

Can be very attractive

because of gnarled
appearance and structure.
May be associated with
perceived and actual safety

Careful pruning to
eliminate danger.

May support a wide range

of wildlife, but of
particular interest to to
groups favoured by large
standing and lying dead

Retaining where possible,

standing dead wood, and
leaving fallen branches to
decay on site.

Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks. CABE 2006

1.2 Scrub, heathland and shrubs

Building Block



An open mix of
scattered clumps of
shrubs and isolated
small trees amongst
grassland. Large
bramble patches
frequently found.

Heathland and


Shrub plantings

Public Perceptions and

Often important informal
receational landscapes.
Can be attractive, but may
indicate nature taking
over, and can attract antisocial uses such as tipping
and motorbike scrambling.

User perceptions improved

Preventing access for antisocial use. Regular grass
cutting along edges of paths
to indicate intentional
maintenance and care.

Relatively lowgrowing but often

dense woody
vegetation occuring
on acidic soils.
Dominated by
heather, with other
plants such as gorse
and broom.
Relatively rare in
urban areas
Linear belts of
vegetation to divide
space and define
boundaries. Can be
important as a
means of increasing
biodiveristy in
restricted spaces

Often heavily used

recreational landscapes
because of their open,
sunny nature. Attractive
when in flower, and a
distinctive regional
vegetation type. May be
seen as a potential fire risk

Often relatively little action

required. Interpretation and
education can increase
awareness of the local
importance of heathland and
moorland habitats.

Long-standing acceptance
as a boundary. Sometimes
seen as a nuisance because
of the requirment for
annual trimming.
Unmaintained hedges may
appear untidy and indicate

Use of mixed hedges with

flowering and fruiting plants
may compensate for less
intensive maintenance.
Prioritise regular hedge
cutting for prominent or more
formal locations

Often dense
plantings of usually
ornamental shrubs
bounded on several
or all edges by
mown grass. A very
common landscape
type that may be

Widely accepted as a
traditional component of
designed landscapes and
seen as attactive,
particularly when
containing flowering or
colourful shrubs.

Introducing wider range of

shrubs to extend visual
interest through the year.
Where possible, replace
mulched or cultivated soils
with a herbaceous layer of
woodland plants, or a
herbaceous ground cover.

Main Wildlife Interest

Potentially very rich,
providing conditions
similar to open farmland.
Patches of bramble provide
cover, nectar sources, and
fruit late in the summer
Ground nesting birds eg
Especially important for
reptiles lizards, snakes,
slow worms and for
heathland birds

Insectivorous birds
Butterflies and Moths
Need to mention plants as

Insectivorous birds
Butterflies and Moths,

Relatively little
management required.
Succession to occur.
Shrubs can be
periodically coppiced to
maintain open scubby
character. Remove
Japanese Knotweed if
Periodic removal of
invading scrub and trees

Reducing frequency of
cutting where
appropriate to promote a
more open structure.
Introducing climbers
and increasing diversity
of single-species hedges.
Incorporate flowering
and fruiting species.
Introducing wildflowers
such as primroses at the
Repalce intensive
cutting with less regular
pruning. Replace
mulched and cultivated
soils with woodland
wildflowers and
groundcover. Coppice

Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks. CABE 2006

Rose beds

composed of a small
number of different
species. Soil
beneath usually
mulched or kept
clean of weeds

Shrub mass that is

regularly cut to a uniform
height may be regarded as
neat and tidy

A traditional
feature of more
formal landscapes.
The ground beneath
the roses is usually
kept clean of weeds
or mulched

Traditionally regarded as
highly attractive with a
multi-sensory appeal

Replace mulched or
cultivated soils under roses
with a flowering herbaceous
layer or ground cover

Various invertebrates

periodically to both
regenerate shrubs but
also to provide light for
herbaceous ground
cover. Use flowering
and fruiting shrubs that
provide food sources for
Replace mulched or
cultivated soils under
roses with a flowering
herbaceous layer-ground
cover. Use roses wth
abundant fruits.
Encourage use of
species roses and singleflowered roses.

Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks. CABE 2006

1.3 Grassland
Building Block


Public Perceptions and

Can be seen as untidy if
not cut because of lack of
colourful flowering plants.

User perceptions
improved by:
Maintaining mown edges
alongside paths.
Interpretation. Adding
additional flowering
species (obtained from
local sources)

Main Wildlife Interest

Enhancing Biodiversity

grassland or
relic grassland

Remants of old
grassland that have
not been ploughed
up, fertlised or resown. Potential
may not be realised
because they are
part of a standard
mowing regime.

Often dominated bya wide

range of native grasses.
Shorter semi-natural
grasslands (e.g acid
grasslands) are very
valuable for ground
nesting birds such as

Regularly mown
short grass. The
most common
landscape type in
urban green space.

Attractive for recreation,

regarded as neat and tidy

If replacing areas of close

mown grass in visible or
well-used locations with
less regularly mown grass
ensure that colourful
wildflowers and bulbs are

Ground feeding birds,

Rough grass or
tall grass

Unmown areas of
grassland. Usually
dominated by tall,
vigorous grasses,
with docks and

Often seen as highly unattractive, especially when

dying after flowering. Also
seen as a fire risk.

A potentially valuable
habitat providing cover for
small mammals, frogs and
toads, and important for
some invertebrate groups
and seed feeding birds.


Diverse mixtures of
grasses and
wildflowers, often
purposefully sown

Very popular when in full

flower. Attractive to
children. May generally
be seen as unnattractive
before and after flowering.

Interpretation, and
sensitive location away
from high use areas.
Maintain areas of close
mown grass along edges
and as wide paths through.
Introducing vigorous bulbs
and wildflowers along
Adding additional
colourful spring flowering
bulbs and wildflowers. It
appears that public
acceptance of colourful
flowering meadows
increases the more familiar
they become with them.

Not mowing for one

season to discover which
flowering plants may be
present. Mow with
reduced frequncy (or hay
cut regime) to promote
greater plant diversity.
Add additional species
(grown form locallysourced material)
Reduce the total area of
closely mown grass.
Change cutting regimes,
converting to flowering
lawns for periods of the
year, convert areas not
required for recreation or
access into rough grass or
wildflower meadow
Increasing species and
structural diversity through
management and planting.
Alternatively, encourage
succession to scrub to
increase habitat diversity

Mown amenity

As for rough grass but also

for many insects attracted
by nectar and pollen

Cut back and remove

arisings in late summer. In
visible locations close
mow in autumn. Increase
species diversity as
appropriate with additional
planting or sowing.

Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks. CABE 2006


Herbaceous perennial dominated habitats

Building Block


Public Perceptions and

Generally seen as highly
attractive, although
increasing evidence of
views that traditional very
formal bedding displays
are over-used.

User perceptions
improved by:
Increasing the range and
combinations of plants that
are used. Producing less
formal schemes.

Main Wildlife Interest

Enhancing Biodiversity

Annual bedding

Often highly
maintained planted
mixtures of tender
plants to produce
colourful seasonal

Bees, butterflies and moths
Seed eating birds

mixtures, commonly
containing old
weeds of cornfield,
such as field
poppies, that
provide rapid

Very popular because of

intense colours. Can be
used to show quick and
visible effects in green
space regeneration
programmes. Very
attractive to children.

Extending the season of

flowering interest by
including late-flowering
speces, or by sowing at
different dates.

Nectar and pollen feeding

insects. Seed-eating birds.

Plantings of
perennials, often
mixed with
ornamental shrubs

Generally seen as highly

attractive when colourful,
and with good architectural

Maxmising the duration

and drama of the flowering
season, and including
plants with attractive
winter seed heads and

Bees, butterflies and moths
Seed eating birds, small
mammals, frogs and toads

Increasing the diversity of

plants that are used.
Avoiding double flowered
annuals. Replace annual
plantings with perennial
plantings. Replace
bedding schemes with
cornfield annuals.
Extending the flowering
season with late-flowering
plants or by sowing some
areas later. Not reomving
dead seed heads and
skeletons of dead plants
but leaving to stand over
winter for seed eating birds
and winter invertebrate
Do not cut down until
spring to maximise winter
habitat and food value.
Increase species and
structural diversity. Select
plnats with known wildlife
benefit. Avoid species that
need protection from slugs
to survive

annuals and


Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks. CABE 2006

1.5 Built infrastructure

Vegetation type/
Green Roofs

Climbing plants
on buildings

Free standing
walls and
retaining walls

Paths, paving,


Public Perceptions and


User perceptions
improved by:

Main Wildlife Interest

Enhancing Biodiversity

Vegetated roof
surfaces of various
types. They offer
opportunities for
wildflower meadow
creation and other
habitat creation in
high density urban
development where
opportunities on the
ground are limited.
Use of climbers
(both self-clinging
and on trellises or
supports) to provide
vegetation cover on
otherwise bare
Old walls,
particularly if
constructed from
local stone and if
loosely mortared,
often become
colonised with
locallycharacteristic plant
Paths and paved
areas can take up
significant room in
green space. Piles
of stones, rubble
and paving slabs
can provide habitat
for a range of
reptiles and

As yet, not very common

and therefore difficult to
give a clear statement.
May be unattractive when
very dry in summer.

Interpretation and
education. Where roofs
are highly visible ensure
that visual elements are not
ignored, for example by
maintaining green growth
for a long as possible,
including flowering plants
and wildlflowers.

Potentially provide habitat

and feeding opportunities
to ground nesting birds and
urban invertebrates, as
well as to specialised
invertebrates and plants of
highly infertile habitats.

Can be very attractive to

the public. Possible
negative perceptions of
buildings owners over
potential damage to

Ensuring seasonal
highlights are possible,
such as good autumn
colour, or sumer flowering.
Maintaining need borders
around windows and
Inspection to remove dead
vegetation and make safe
overly loose stones.

Moths, butterflies, bees.

Small birds
Ivy provides a valuable
nectar source late in the

Increasing the complexity

of living roof systems by
using different depths of
substrate, different types of
substrate, and a variety of
vegetation types.
Encouraging natural
colonisation of living
roofs. Using regionallydistinctive grassland types
for green roof vegetaion.
Increasing diversity of
climbers, for example
mixing evergreen and
deciduous species. Using
climbers with flowers and
fruit. Maitaining good
foliage cover.
New walls can be
constructed to leave gaps
for plants. Leaving ivy
and other plants rather than

Use attractive flowering

plants, such as colourful
annuals to fill gaps.

Gaps between paving units

provide opportunities for
plant growth, particularly
of annuals and other short
lived plants that are
tolerant of disturbance.
The under-surface of
paving units is used as
cover by soil-living

Old walls can be very

attractive to the public if
well vegetated. However,
walls over-run with ivy
and vegetatation may be
interpretated as a sign of

Vegetation in gaps
between paving stones can
be viewed as untidy

Walls can be very valuable

for introducing habitat in
limited spaces. Spiders,
centipedes, millipedes,
woodlice, soliatary bees
live in gaps between
stones. Lichens and
specialised plants of walls

Sowing annual seed

mixtures to fill gaps. Not
sealing joints in new
paving and laying paths on
a soil bed if they do not
take heavy traffic.

Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks. CABE 2006


Water and wetlands

Building Block


Rivers and

Rivers and streams

in urban green
space have often
been highly
engineered or
culveted. However,
rivers may also be
rich green corridors
through otherwise
built-up areas.
Open water bodies
of still, or very slowmoving water

Lakes, ponds
and canals

Margins of
lakes, ponds and

The edges of
waterbodies, and
the wet ground
waterbodies. Welldeveloped
vegetation around
the edges is usually

Public Perceptions and

Usually well-loved and
treasured. Neglected
stretches of rivers and
streams may have negative
associations with tipping
and danger.

User perceptions
improved by:
Increasing access to, and
visibility of, waters edge.

Existing water bodies are

often well-loved and wellused recreational
landscapes. There are
often significant problems
relating to perceived
danger to children in
creating new urban ponds

Colourful marginal
vegetation is positively
appreciated. Large areas
of tall vegetation that
obscures views to open
water is less valued. There
may be conflict between
angling interests and the
development of marginal

Main Wildlife Interest

Enhancing Biodiversity

Waterfowl, fish, aquatic

invertebrates and mammels
such as back voles.

Reprofiling where
engineering has removed
the natural course and
banks of a stream.
Development of marginal

Creating very shallow,

gently sloping margins to
reduce drowning risk.
Education and
interpretation. Providing
safe access at edges.
Placing ponds in visible,
open locations.

Newts, frogs and toads

Providing easy access

through marginal
vegetation via board walks
and decking.
Encouraging attractive
flowering plants such as
marsh marigolds and
purple loostrife. Providing
fishing platforms and pegs

Newts, frogs and toads

Ensuring margins grade

gradually into the water to
provide a range of different
edge habitats. Periodic
dredging to improve water
quality and maintaining
sufficient depth of water to
prevent take-over by
agressive vegetation.
Introducing native water
lilies and other aquatics.
Creating some no public
access areas of margin to
provde cover and shelter
for wildlife. Planting some
trees or shrubs for nesting
cover. Cutting in autumn
to restrict the dominance of
the most aggressive
species. Underwater late
summer cut for Reeds and
Reed Mace (bulrush).
Introducing additional

Education and

Aquatic invertebrates

Aquatic invertebrates

Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks. CABE 2006

Wetlands and

wetlands e.g
Urban Drainage
Schemes., flood
retention basins.

Areas of wet or
saturated ground,
with some open
water, dominated
by reeds and other
grasses. Wet
meadows, marshes
and bogs.

Areas that collect,

store or transport
water after heavy
rain, but which may
dry out during dry
periods. Increasing
interest in these
features as
alternatives to hard
solutions to urban

Can be seen as unpleasant

and scruffy in some urban
contexts if not well
maintained, and may also
be seen as no-go areas
because of wet ground.

An unfamiliar element as
yet, but can be muddy and
trap litter, and visually
unpleasant when areas that
fill with water over winter
dry out.

Providing easy access via
board walks etc.
Encouraging attractive
flowering spp. Such as
marsh marigolds and
purple loostrife

Ensure litter and storm

debris is regularly cleared.
Interpretation. Ensure
these wetlands have
multiple functions e.g
education, recreation or
biodiversity as well as
water storage.

Newts, frogs and toads

Reed buntings and
warblers. Wading birds.
Aquatic invertebrates

Newts, frogs and toads

Aquatic invertebrates

Cutting in autumn to
restrict the dominance of
the most aggressive
species. Opening up areas
of shallow mud, or patches
that dry out in summer for
invertebrates and bird
Planting or sowing
additional species
Replace mown amentity
grass with wildflower
meadow and wet grassland
where appropriate.

Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks. CABE 2006

1.7 Brown field habitats




Buddliea dominated areas

on cleared industrial sites
and rubbley substrates.
Often found in patches with
brownfield grassland.


Tall herb

Dense young woodlands,

usually dominated by birch,
often with a thin grassy
ground layer. Common on
abandoned land with
infertile soils, such as
railway sidings

Public Perceptions
and Use
May be associated
with dereliction and

User perceptions
improved by:
Maintaining clear lines
of sight along paths.
Cutting back dense
growth along edges of

Main Wildlife Interest

Enhancing Biodiversity

Habitat for woodland

edge birds and

Self-maintaining. Allow
succession to mature woodland

Seen as attractive in
flower because of
butterflies, but may
also be associated
with perceptions of
dereliction and

Discouraging tipping
and anti-social

Potentially very high

when combined with
brownfield grassland.
Valuable late nectar
source for butterflies
and other insect groups.

Allow succession to continue to

occur to pioneer woodland.

Interpretation and
explanation of the
positive value of such

Open grassland on infertile

post-industrial sites. Often
diverse with a mix of native
grassland plants and nonnative garden escapes such
as Michaelmas Daisy.

Accessible sites may

be used for informal
recreation. May be
viewed as derelict
wasteland and a sign
of neglect.

Discouraging tipping.

Large areas of vigourous

perennials on relatively
fertile soils, such as
abandoned allotments.
Often a mixture of native
species such as Rosebay
Willowherb, and non-native
garden escapes such as
lupins, Canadian Goldenrod
and Michaelmas Daisy.

Generally perceived
as a sign of neglect
but visually attractive
when in flower.
Density of growth
makes this an

Discouraging tipping.
Mowing along edges of
paths to indicate this
landscape is intentional.


Pathways and signage to

indicate this landscape
is intentional.

Alternatively coppice to
maintain open scrubby

Early successional
Can be species-rich,
supporting rare plants
and invertebrates
particularly on alkaline
substrates. Lateflowering species are
valuable nectar sources
for butterflies and other

Leave unmanaged to develop

into tall herb, scrub and pioneer

A diverse vegetation
that provides cover for
small mammals and
birds. Late flowering
plants provide valuable
nectar source for
insects, and seed heads
provide food for flocks
of seed eating birds

Allowing succession to
scrub/woodland to occur.

Alternatively, periodically
remove invading woody plants
such as birch to maintain open
grassland character

Alternatively remove invading

woody plants to maintain open
Control Japanese Knotweed if

Extract from: Making contracts work for wildlife: how to encourage biodiversity in urban parks. CABE 2006


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