What every Sustainability Manager should know about biodiversity....

Ian Boyd Ecologist and co-founder of Artecology is here to help!

What do we mean by ‘Natural Capital’? Click here…..

Biodiversity has become a handy, all-purpose eco-tag. It might be swapped as if synonymous with ‘wildlife’ or ‘the natural world’ or used even more generously to denote the environment at large. And none of that is so much wrong as less practically useful than it might be.

Biodiversity is fundamentally about variety, the richness of flora and fauna that exists and interacts in a place and at a time. This isn’t a very different definition to the more general applications, but it does focus attention on the ideas of species richness and habitat complexity, tools to build more sustainable spaces for people and wildlife alike. Managing for biodiversity IS managing for sustainability and yet there are few examples of corporate strategy that treat the subject in this way.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, and the fact that it sounds idyllic is testament to the amazing job we have done of convincing ourselves that we are not actually a part of biodiversity, that we are not in fact biological organisms at all, and that we exist above and beyond any sort of functioning, or misfunctioning, ecosystem.

A reappraisal of biodiversity in sustainability practice plugs us usefully back into the ecosystems we share with the organic and inorganic world. We can build better habitats for humans and shape places that are better for people, when they are also better for wildlife (because people are wildlife). The UK’s 25-year Environment Plan is already bending policy in this direction and there are good reasons to be ahead of its commitment to change.

The more interesting, diverse and complex an urban design for biodiversity, the richer the suite of animals and plants that results, and the more immediate and lasting the effects on the social, economic and environmental performance of buildings and the urban volume between. Ecological design and management gathers up and combines the central threads of the sustainability agenda, in the management of wind, water and heat, in adaptations to climate change, in the capture and cycling of nutrients and pollutants, the reuse of materials for biologically favourable outcomes, and ultimately in the mental and physical wellbeing of tenants, residents, businesses and communities in the places we inhabit. By using ecological leverage and demonstrating gains for biodiversity, we can be growing human resilience and creating a more sustainable living and working environment.

Ian Boyd

What are 'Nature-Based Solutions'?

Have you heard anyone refer to ‘Nature-Based Solutions’ yet? If you haven’t it’s probably just a matter of time before you do! ‘Ecosystem Services’ is perhaps a more common term but what does it actually mean?

Our ecologist and co-founder Ian Boyd explains here what they mean in simple terms…..

Discovery Bay

It’s National Marine Week this week and so perfect timing for the start of our latest Discovery Bay research project which got under way today.  Our two latest work experience students, Christ the King A-level pupils, Lizzie and Alanah met us out on Horse Ledge, Shanklin at low tide early this morning starting with Rockpool ID practice, looking for, and discovering patches, of the rare seaweed Peacock’s tail, a key conservation target.  We also spotted a Hairy crab, another rare find so great to see it at home at Horse Ledge.  We walked on to Hope Beach, looking at the distribution of sandstone reef features before taking a quick look at the ongoing PhD research with Glasgow University on Hope Beach groyne where together we’re experimenting with man-made textures and their effects on marine colonisation.

Peacock's tail Isle of Wight.jpg

Alanah and Lizzie’s task this summer is to help Artecology and Arc map the reef features in each of the 54 individual bays along the defended coast of the Bay, identifying any areas of Peacock’s tail as they go.

This latest student project illustrates again how our homebase, Sandown Bay provides tremendous opportunities for higher education research into marine ecology, coastal management and big global issues, while on a local level, it helps Island students find topics of interest and inspiration close to home.  Both Lizzie and Alanah are looking at their university choices as we speak and it’s brilliant that the natural world and Sandown Bay can shape, spark and inform their decisions.

Students Lizzie and Alanah at Horse Ledge, Shanklin at the start of their project.JPG

News update: Wightlink celebrates Vertipool survey results

Latest news from Wightlink:

'Pioneering artificial rockpools (or Vertipools) attached to the side of Wightlink’s harbour in Fishbourne last year are already attracting a fascinating range of Solent marine life.

A survey in June 2018 found 29 species including crabs, barnacles and sea squirts living inside the triangular-shaped structures. They are covered by the sea at high water and can be seen when the tide falls.

Isle of Wight  consultancy Artecology designed and installed six of the structures in 2017 as part of Wightlink’s £45million investment in a new ship for the Portsmouth route and improved port facilities.

Wightlink’s newly appointed Environmental Officer Nicola Craig joined Bournemouth University marine biologist Dr Alice Hall and Ian Boyd and Claire Hector from Artecology on the short voyage on a launch from the neighbouring Royal Victoria Yacht Club to the harbour wall to view the vertipools at close range

“As a marine biologist myself, I was amazed at the biodiversity in our vertipools and I’m proud to learn that Wightlink has been the first company to install them,” says Nicola. “I’m sure most of our staff and customers have no idea of the richness of marine life beneath the waves.”

Ecologist Ian Boyd said: “ Vertipools are a true Island innovation and it’s marvellous to see them being deployed with such effect right here at home. Artecology is all about creating a built environment more favourable for wildlife and Wightlink is helping to do just that.”

Dr Alice Hall will be monitoring the vertipools twice a year to keep track of the different species that inhabit them “The Vertipools at Fishbourne have colonised very well and are supporting a wide range of species which would otherwise be absent from the concrete structure. They are also providing a refuge for animals such as crabs and sea spiders when the tides falls. I look forward to monitoring them further to see how they change and develop over time”.

Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield spoke about the company’s green initiatives at the Isle of Wight’s inaugural Environmental Conference at Cowes. “We operate ferries in some of the most beautiful waters of the country and do our best to be as environmentally friendly as possible. We are delighted to provide a location for the vertipools and look forward to seeing how the project develops.”'


Thanks to Karen Woods at Wightlink for this report on our first commercial application of the pools and part of a partnership project with Arc Consulting, Environment Agency, ABPMer and Wightlink. 



What is The 5th International Marine Conservation Conference?

According to the organisers of the 5th IMCC, those active in conservation of the world’s oceans must go beyond science and use policy and management to catalyze effective and positive change. The Society for Conservation Biology's ‘International Marine Conservation Congress’ (IMCC) in Borneo this week will bring together conservation professionals and students from across the planet to help develop new and powerful tools to further marine conservation science and policy. This year Artecology will be represented by Dr Alice Hall from Bournemouth University whose PhD included a comprehensive study of our Vertipool system. Alice’s talk at the IMCC5 in Borneo will suggest that novel green infrastructure engineering techniques can mitigate for habitat loss caused be sea level rise by creating manmade habitable intertidal structures.

Find out more about IMCC5 here https://conbio.org/mini-sites/imcc5/

Jurassic Coast and Artecology NaturePlay.

Creating opportunities for people to experience  wildlife encounter is part and parcel of what we do at Artecology. encouraging wildlife to be obvious, easy to notice, exciting to find and simple to understand is important when reconnecting humans with a natural world from which we have become horribly detached.

So whilst the serious business of research and development into the creation of truly bioreceptive towns and cities continues from our Isle of Wight HQ, we've discovered that the science behind reconnecting people with the natural world works best if it includes a big dollop of fun!

In response we have developed NaturePlay as a way of creating a play driven interactive experience which connects people to local wildlife and local environment. Our latest project, on the cliff tops of Exmouth, is a great example of this, a fun family activity which themed on local prehistoric wildlife of the amazing local Jurassic Coast.

Sandy Bay Holiday Park, owned by Haven Holidays, is the latest recipient of one of our NaturePlay installations. When the holiday park opens in March you will be able excavate a  huge replica dinosaur fossil, giant ammonites and dinosaur footprints and claws, all hand made on site by our in-house artists.

It's hoped that this safe, fun and educational activity will inspire families to think more about wildlife and natural history and even nurture a life long fascination with earth sciences.

More about NaturePlay.


 WORK IN PROGRESS AT SANDY BAY HOLIDAY PARK EXMOUTH.  Seen before being buried in sand - Duriavenator dinosaur (Dorset Hunter), ammonites dino footprints and dinosaur claws.  Commissioned by Kompan the playground specialists for Haven, Bourne Leisure. 


Seen before being buried in sand - Duriavenator dinosaur (Dorset Hunter), ammonites dino footprints and dinosaur claws.

Commissioned by Kompan the playground specialists for Haven, Bourne Leisure. 

Ceramic Knitting !

We're always on the lookout for great ideas that we might incorporate into the Artecology method - bioreceptive built environments with a strong design aesthetic. And so it was with much excitement that we opened a box of extraordinary things from artist Felicity Jowitt, a 3rd year student at Bath Spa University.  Inside, carefully wrapped, were the most exquisite panels of handmade ceramic knitting - textile dipped in stoneware and then glazed! The result is a highly complex, perforated surface with enormous potential for colonisation as part of a cladding system or ornamental tile array. The pH and surface chemistry of these ceramics are quite different to the concrete and cement designs that make up the bulk of our manufacture and so will lead to new and interesting patterns of, for example, bryophyte and lichen encrustation, something we are testing at the moment.

Watch this space for more beautiful creations from Felicity and the results of our field experiments !




Gatekeepers. The world's first BioGraffiti.

The Gatekeepers project presented us with a chance to try something completely new, something never tried before anywhere in the world as far as we know! We set out to create a sculptural graffiti wall which uses Artecology principles to attract wildlife and provide a completely novel Wildlife experience for the general public who use a little alley way in the city of Newcastle called Jacobin's Chare. The project started with a community workshop consisting of local young people and the team from Streetwise, a young people's charity, whose task it was to design the Gatekeepers graffiti artwork. Once we had a design ready to go, the sculptural work on the wall started on the wall itself. Using a special bioreceptive concrete render, the Gatekeepers Design was sculpted on to the wall by the Artecology team using a technique know as ‘Bas Relief’, this simply means ‘low relief’. By working in this was the team were able to create plant pockets, ledges for mosses and lichens to grow and even holes for solitary bees to nest in. In four days the work was completed and the Artecology team headed back to the Isle of Wight from whence they came, leaving behind the world’s first BioGraffiti wall.

Nigel George said “This was an extraordinary project, a wonderful collaboration between a diverse array of individuals and organisations that has  been able to create something very special indeed. We have left Streetwise and its young people with the task of monitoring the BioGraffiti wall and to report back to us with any information about how the wall is populating with flora and fauna. We call this community reporting process citizen science. The data they gather will help really us with our research and development work into bioreceptive urban environments going forward”.

Project partners were - EcoNorth, The Crown Estate, The National Trust, The Wildlife Trust, The Gate Entertainment Complex & Streetwise.

The Rise Of The Multistory Rockpool .

We've come a long way since our first artificial rockpool was deployed in the intertidal zone of the Solent back in 2013. We call them Vertipools and today we have three different designs available for installation on concrete sea defences and harbour walls.

In the studio at the moment we have a new Vertipool design on the drawing board which we're expecting to field test early next year. This latest Vertipool unit is being developed with the added objective of prolonging the life of the wooden groyne structures to which it will attach.

This summer saw an addition to our growing list of artificial seashore habitats with the installation of our first ever vertical intertidal mud vessel. The 'Mud Bin' (working title) was installed in the Medina Estuary as part of ferry company Wightlink's recent port alteration works. We'll be following the Mud Bin's progress over the coming months and will report progress as soon as we have news.

We now have concrete intertidal Vertipools successfully deployed in Bournemouth, Sandown Bay, Yarmouth IW and Crammond Edinburgh. All of the artificial pools are colonising well and providing high rise habitat for intertidal sea life.

Our objective of buying time for seashore ecosystems with the onset of sea level rise looming seems to be paying off.

 10ltr Vertipool in Crammond Scotland. Artificial rock pool habitat.

10ltr Vertipool in Crammond Scotland. Artificial rock pool habitat.

It’s all about punctuation…

One of Artecology’s founding ideas is called ‘Punctuated Intervention’, based on an important principle in landscape conservation that we can summarise as the ‘not everything is everywhere’ rule! What this means is that wildlife isn’t evenly distributed in the world around us. The density of biological activity is almost always patchy; through a wood, or in a pond, or across a field, in a park or in a garden. A butterfly will spend lots of time making very short journeys around a particularly good feeding or egg-laying spot and then skip the intervening space as it flies 100m to the next. A bat might travel 10km to feed at its favourite pond but bypass many small woods and meadows on the way. A population of ground beetles might flourish in the scuffed bare ground at one end of a school playing field but be completely absent from the other.

Earth Cast pool 4.jpg

The usefulness of the habitats around us varies, and consequently landscapes are necessarily composed of patches of differing ecological value. Some will provide just one of many options for wildlife and are easily replaced if damaged or disturbed (for example a general getting from A to B), others may be a vital and singular resource (for example the only pond in the neighbourhood). Looking at places in this way helps us to concentrate our efforts on the best and most sustainable results. If we can manage small, and sometimes very small, patches of environment to provide high density wildlife activity then we can help to build up ecosystem resilience by increasing the number of ‘hotspots’ available to species and their local populations. If we space these enriched patches to suit the dispersal abilities of particular target species, or an assemblage of invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and songbirds, then, in the jargon of the moment, we can deliver ‘net gain’. This is Punctuated Intervention. The great thing about PI is that organizations can deliver real improvements for wildlife even within the limited funding now available for environmental work, and set these within an existing maintenance regime without complicating contracts and annoying contractors! Even better, it is possible to begin to apply those very maintenance routines to landscape punctuation, stretching existing budgets for better results.

Actually, there’s a little more to it, and that’s the Artecology take on Rewilding, but more on this next time……

Small things really can make a big difference.

At Artecology we're used to tackling very big 'real world' problems. Some of our current projects (particularly coastal ones) are expanding in size and scope, so as we prepare to upscale our operations we are aslo mindful of the importance of thinking and working small! 

Artecology is very often about designing and creating little changes to the urban environment, small interventions that have a big positive effect on the local ecology of the space in which they are deployed.

Our miniature earth-cast freshwater pools are a great illustration of how small interventions can yield big results. Made from Natural Argillaceous Concrete the pool is designed with a large structural surface area. This 'Tardis Effect' has been achieved through clever use of textured interior surface detail. In just 10 litres of water an astonishingly diverse array of aquatic and semi-aquatic flora and fauna has colonised the pool photographed in less than 18 months. The water perfect for wildlife, it's clear and perfectly balanced and is also a hot spot for inquisitive children for whom the pool poses absolutely no threat or danger but does provide a wonderful close up aquatic wildlife encounter. 

 Life has found a way in our tiny urban freshwater pool.

Life has found a way in our tiny urban freshwater pool.

Artecology Isle of Wight's first ever TV appearance.....Newsround!

The Artecology team were up in Edinburgh recently as part of a coastal habitat collaboration with a fantastic set of partners including Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, Glasgow Uni and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The team's trip involved installing artificial rockpools and bio-tiles, presenting on Artecology at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and probably best of all, a series of schools engagement sessions including the genius pupils from Forthview Primary School.  

BBC Newsround have just featured one of the school sessions in this magic film, interviewing the kids as they learnt how to create rock pools on the sea defences near Cramond. Here's their take on climate change, coastal adaptation and biodiversity. Great interview also with Glasgow Uni's Mairi MacArthur who works with us on the bio-tiles project.

#coastal #habitatcreation #biodiversity 

#EdinShoreline NERC: Natural Environment Research Council, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scottish Wildlife Trust University of Glasgow, Edinburgh Living LandscapeLandscapes CBBC @bbcnewsround #IsleofWight #innovation! #TheBay