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A national scale inventory of resource provision for biodiversity within domestic gardens

Davies, Z.G., Fuller, R.A., Loram, A., Irvine, K.N., Sims, V. & Gaston, K.J. 2009. A national scale inventory of resource provision for biodiversity within domestic gardens. Biological Conservation, 142, 761–771.

The human population is increasingly disconnected from nature due to urbanisation. To counteract this phenomenon, the UK government has been actively promoting wildlife gardening. However, the extent to which such activities are conducted and the level of resource provision for biodiversity (e.g., food and nesting sites) within domestic gardens remains poorly documented. Here we generate estimates for a selection of key resources provided within gardens at a national scale, using 12 survey datasets gathered across the UK. We estimate that 22.7 million households (87% of homes) have access to a garden. Average garden size is 190 m2, extrapolating to a total area of 432,924 ha. Although substantial, this coverage is still an order of magnitude less than that of statutory protected areas. Approximately 12.6 million (48%) households provide supplementary food for birds, 7.4 million of which specifically use bird feeders. Similarly, there are a minimum of 4.7 million nest boxes within gardens. These figures equate to one bird feeder for every nine potentially feeder-using birds in the UK, and at least one nest box for every six breeding pairs of cavity nesting birds. Gardens also contain 2.5–3.5 million ponds and 28.7 million trees, which is just under a quarter of all trees occurring outside woodlands. Ongoing urbanisation, characterised by increased housing densities, is inevitable throughout the UK and elsewhere. The important contribution domestic gardens make to the green space infrastructure in residential areas must be acknowledged, as their reduction will impact biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, and the well-being of the human population.

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