Our biodiversity expert, Steve Alton shares how GRIDSERVE is working towards restoring fragile ecosystems with the nature sanctuaries at our solar farms.
As part of World Environment Day 2021, the UN are encouraging us all to become part of #GenerationRestoration and pledge action to reverse the loss of some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems. It can be hard, as an individual, to know how to make a difference in the face of the massive pressures facing our planet, but the World Environment Day website provides some simple changes that we can all adopt, from changing how we manage our gardens to reducing plastic usage.
Here at GRIDSERVE we are already part of #GenerationRestoration through the work we carry out on our solar farms, where habitat creation is a key part of what we do. One of the UK’s most threatened habitats is the wildflower meadow; an astonishing 97% of them have been lost since World War II, mainly to what is termed ‘improvement’ – adding fertiliser and herbicides to improve agricultural yields.
The meadows and other grasslands that remain have an incredibly rich flora and fauna; one square metre of chalk downland, for instance, can support 40 plant species and a typical community of meadow plants provides food for 1,400 invertebrate species. The hay produced from species-rich meadows is better for livestock – the varied diet provides a broader range of nutrients than a monoculture of ryegrass – and floodplain meadows have a significant role to play in slowing down the movement of water into our rivers, reducing flooding downstream.
Then there is carbon storage; grasslands in Britain store more carbon than any other habitat, and according to Trevor Dines, of conservation charity Plantlife, “What’s really exciting is that the biggest levels of carbon sequestration happen when you convert an arable field into a species-rich pasture.”
Which is exactly what happens on GRIDSERVE’s solar farms. All our sites incorporate extensive areas of native grassland, grown from UK-sourced wildflower seed and managed in the traditional way, with a ‘hay’ cut in late summer, when the flowers have gone to seed.
Together, our solar farms will form a Nature Sanctuary Network of protected and managed sites, each one supporting vegetation appropriate to the local soils and climate. They will provide havens for wildlife but more importantly act as ‘stepping stones’ of habitat to allow species to move through the landscape.
So, what can you do to help?
We can all be part of the effort to conserve meadows, through some relatively small changes. Many urban grasslands are remnants of much older meadows, the flowers suppressed by decades of mowing. Try easing off on the mowing of your lawn and see what species spring up. The wildflowers in our lawns will happily flower through until August, the time when farmers would traditionally have cut for hay. Or buy a packet of native meadow seeds and sow them; even the smallest containers can host a ‘mini-meadow’. Through these small actions we can all become part of #GenerationRestoration and celebrate World Environment Day 2021.