City Council publishes Biodiversity Review for Oxford City Council Parks and Nature Areas 2020

Published: Friday, 5th June 2020

On World Environment Day, Oxford City Council has published a Biodiversity Review for its parks and nature areas.

This document sets out what initiatives have already been put in place to further protect and increase biodiversity in the green spaces managed by the Council, and identifies what additional steps can be taken to ensure these vital urban habitats are achieving their full potential.

The document complements the 2015 Biodiversity Action Plan (2015-2020) which identifies the council’s wider sustainability policies and initiatives, and provides an overview of the national context for the biodiversity of Oxford. 

ODS manages just over 600 hectares of accessible green space in the city and surrounding area on behalf of the City Council, including a country park, 33 nature areas and over 60 urban parks. Oxford also has 12 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, covering 278 hectares and including four managed by the city council; Port Meadow (which has been meadowland for at least 4000 years), Wolvercote Common, Shotover Country Park, and Lye Valley Nature Reserve.

Biodiversity Review for Oxford City Council Parks and Nature Areas 2020

The review explores the projects and initiatives which have been undertaken to support biodiversity and improve sustainability in the last five years, including planting 7000 new trees across the city, work with Treeconomics to prepare a tree ‘Canopy Cover Assessment’ around Oxford’s Urban Forest, 5,000 hours of conservation volunteering, the creation of biodiversity action plans, and improved green waste management.

The review recognises the on-going involvement and dedication of regular volunteers, as well as work facilitated through ODS, the Wildlife Trust, Low Carbon Oxford, Wild Oxford Project, and other groups across the city.

The review also highlights the importance and benefits of achieving greater public awareness and involvement in wildlife and habitat conversation, as well as the benefits of increasing and diversifying habitats across the city.

It also highlights the need for a balance between the potential to increase and improve wildlife in green spaces such as parks, with the desire to maintain recreational opportunities, as well as future proofing for growth.

The Biodiversity Review for Oxford City Council Parks and Nature Areas concludes that:

  • There is a clear potential to further enhance or create new habitats across the city
  • It is important that there is close collaboration between partner organisations and landowners
  • The biggest challenge to enhancing, creating and maintaining specialised habitats is ensuring they are well managed
  • The increasing level of public interest around biodiversity and sustainability should be utilised
  • Green spaces need to be maintained with the aim of providing a complete range of habitats and food sources for wildlife to restore the natural balance vital to sustain biodiversity and halt the decline in many species

Next steps

In order to increase biodiversity across Oxford, the City Council will be:

  • Working on an Urban Forest Strategy, which will determine how the City Council can improve and maintain Oxford’s 248,200 tree strong urban forest.
  • Continuing to plant trees across the city’s parks, recreation grounds, and on housing developments.
  • Exploring how to apply a Natural Resource Management approach to decision making - considering a strategic approach to biodiversity, focusing on balancing the needs of all ecosystems and protecting and maintaining important habitats such as meadows and wetlands.
  • Reviewing our grass mowing policies in order to re-wild our highway verges wherever possible

Climate emergency

In January 2019, Oxford City Council unanimously declared a climate emergency in Oxford. In April, the Council set a vision to reduce its own emissions to net zero by 2030 at the latest - sooner than the Government’s deadline of 2050.

In the recommendations from the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, enhanced biodiversity was seen as central to the overall ‘net zero’ vision of Oxford and it was recognised that tackling climate change and ecological breakdown together was important.

Assembly Members were positive about creating more biodiversity and green space around Oxford. They found that protecting and enhancing biodiversity and “greening” the city was a key route to engagement with communities and individuals, and recognised that responsibility for biodiversity was spread across government at local and national levels and citizens.

“Oxford’s parks and nature areas are full of wildlife which helps our city’s biodiversity, and provides us all with beautiful spaces to visit, exercise, and play. We know that many people enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of being around nature, and we want Oxford’s green spaces to continue to thrive and to be places that we can all enjoy. We have a long and successful history of managing our green spaces to help increase biodiversity, and this review outlines the work that we have done, and the projects and initiatives that we will continue. We will continue to work with volunteers, as well as our partners, to ensure that the city council’s green spaces are high quality and diverse habitats that everyone is able to enjoy.”
Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Parks