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ACE News

20 MAY 2022


Two ACE Emerging Professionals explore biodiversity ahead of International Day for Biological Diversity

To coincide with International Day for Biological Diversity, which this year takes place on Sunday 22 May, Hannah Brown, town planner at Arup and Niamh McCloskey, sustainability coordinator at Curtins, explore biodiversity.

This piece forms part of a series, what sustainability means, which brings together two of ACE’s Emerging Professionals to explore what how sustianability impacts their own lives and day-to-day work.

“Biological diversity is essential to […] the ecosystem services humans depend on”

I have been working as a town planner since 2019 and have recently started a part-time Masters in Biodiversity, Wildlife and Ecosystem Health, with an aim to work as a hybrid planner/ ecologist with my current employers, Arup. The direction of legislation around the environment and biodiversity is moving quickly and I believe it is becoming increasingly important to have an understanding of the natural environment and for more joint up working.

One of the requirements of the new Environment Act is for developments to achieve mandatory 10% Biodiversity Net Gain. This is an important shift as it shows that minimising the impact of the built environment is not enough and instead, developments should be improving the state of biodiversity. In project work, this will mean a change in approach to an ecological perspective leading design and development. Another element of work will be working alongside local authorities to ensure that robust policies are in place to support Biodiversity Net Gain in their local area.

The built environment sector has a large responsibility to make space for nature to help reverse biodiversity decline. Biological diversity is essential to support healthy ecosystems and for the ecosystem services humans depend on, including contributing to climate change mitigation.

Hannah Brown, Arup

“The opportunity lies in more thoughtful design, the responsible sourcing of materials, and encouraging the reuse of buildings”

In 2019 the UK declared a biodiversity emergency and businesses have signed declarations committing to take action to avert it.

National Geographic defines biodiversity as, “every living species, plants, bacteria, animals, and humans”. It means we have food, medicine, everything from the clean water we drink to the oxygen we breathe. It is fundamental to our life as a species. The biodiversity emergency is the human induced acceleration of species extinction through the destruction of natural ecosystems through deforestation, overfishing and global warming.

A study by the Natural History Museum states that a global average of 90% biodiversity intactness is required to avoid an “ecological meltdown” and global starvation. Looking closer to home, a UN 2021 report found that the UK has lost 50% of the wildlife and plant species since the industrial revolution.

Human actions have direct impact on destroying plant and animal life, who have no choice or control over their own future. The industry I work in, building and construction, has a direct impact, responsible for around 40% of carbon emissions globally.

The opportunity for us lies not only in more thoughtful design, but in the responsible sourcing of materials, and encouraging the reuse of buildings instead of building new.

Niamh McCloskey, Curtins

Read more from the What Sustainability Means series. Find out more about ACE's Emerging Professionals.