Learn more about how we monitor the Wild West End
Why monitor green space?
Wild West End seeks to enhance ecological connectivity between the existing areas of surrounding parkland through installations such as green roofs, green walls and planters. To monitor the value and function of these installations, baseline surveys were completed in 2016. These surveys provide a baseline against which the success of implemented green spaces and ecology features can be measured, as part of the biodiversity targets for the partnership area. It is intended that surveys will be repeated every two years to provide an indication of changes to the condition of green space and its use by target species.
Our monitoring process
Monitoring began in 2016 and occurs every two years to monitor target species and installed and enhanced features. The monitoring process aims to replicate the surveys carried out in 2016 to ensure that data is comparable to the baseline and enable progress to be tracked.
Wild West End adopts the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal methodology for green spaces*. This assesses areas over 100 sqm for the relative abundances of the different species of flora to determine whether or not there has been significant change in individual species’ abundances over the previous two years.
All green spaces and features are assessed for their value, according to the Wild West End ‘Definition of valuable green space by function’ matrix, and categorised to quantify their potential natural capital. Features are categorised by their area and broad habitat/feature type.
For the purposes of monitoring, Wild West End employs the following green space typologies:
Temporary green space
Intensive green roofs
Extensive green roofs
Target species are also surveyed. Bird surveys were completed using the standard Common Bird Census methodology** at sample locations during the 2016 preliminary ecological appraisal. Where possible, surveys were completed in the early morning on two occasions between late May to early June. It is intended that this survey will be repeated at similar locations every two years to record any changes in species numbers and diversity.
Bats are monitored using remote echolocation devices to record the level of bat activity in the area, the species present, and the types of activity. Each device is left in-situ for one week during the late April to early June period – the peak time for seasonal activity.
Our 2018 findings
The weather conditions from late May to mid-July 2018 were characterised by unusually warm temperatures, often in excess of 30 degrees Celsius, and extended periods of drought. These conditions quickly exacerbated the already harsh growing environment on the rooftops of London. As a result, the majority of the green spaces visited at roof level exhibited high levels of heat stress in flowering plants and grasses.
These findings have helped to inform species selection for new green spaces going forwards and will help to ensure future installations are more resilient to current and predicted future weather conditions.
Our 2018 monitoring recorded the presence of a number of typical urban birds including goldfinch, robin, blackbird, wren and pied wagtail throughout the Wild West End area, along with lesser black backed gull and herring gull. This is in addition to notable species such as the great spotted woodpecker, which was recorded in Bryanston Square. Nesting activity was also recorded for the great tit and blackbird in St James’s.
Of particular encouragement were the sightings of black redstart; a species not recorded in the 2016 surveys. These results demonstrate the existing value of the West End to one of the UK’s rarest species. Its presence is also evidence that provisions of well-designed biodiverse rooftop habitats can be hugely valuable to this elusive species.
Of potential concern is the reduction in swift numbers recorded at St James’s Park near to Green Park underground station between 2016 and 2018. Swift numbers are known to be in decline across the UK due to a reduction in suitable nesting habitat and prey availability; two issues the Wild West End may be able to address going forwards.
In total, four species of bats were identified during the 2018 surveys: common and soprano pipistrelle, noctule, and serotine. High levels of activity were recorded at various locations including St James’s, Marylebone and Piccadilly. The results were indicative of there being roosts within the West End.
One new species was recorded in the Wild West End in 2018; the serotine. This species is rarely recorded in central London. Moths are an important dietary component for this species, which is known to favour foraging within mature woodlands and parks with large trees. The continued planting of a variety of habitats, management of exiting mature trees and garden squares, and planting of new trees which are intended to live a long time may create the right conditions to further encourage this species to forage in central London.