A focus on SDG 15: University Campuses and Biodiversity

Then Peregrine Falcon Live Nest Cam at Nottingham Trent University.

SDG 15 calls on the international community to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. While there have been some encouraging global trends in protecting terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity since the Global Goals started, the UN fears that it is unlikely that the targets in SDG 15 will be met without urgent action from all.

To see a short video introducing SDG 15 produced by Audencia Business School and CR3+ click here.

Protecting important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity is vital and while many universities are conducting important research that connects directly to SDG 15, some fail to fully realise the role they play directly in this issue, through their campus environment. In fact, many university campuses are, or have the potential to become, important biodiversity hot spots filled with unique plants and animal species (relating to targets 15.1,2,3,4,5,8,9, A,B,D in particular). Here are a few examples of Universities protecting, and celebrating, biodiversity on campus.

Charles Sturt University in Australia reports on the number of trees planted on its different campuses in its most recent Sharing Information on Progress Report. Bird surveys were conducted in the university’s biodiversity zone thanks to an ongoing partnership with the Dubbo Field Naturalist and Conservation Society and at their Port Macquarie campus vegetation and koala management plans formed part of the Environmental Sustainable Design plan. Approximately 100 indigenous melaleuca and tea tree species were planted by school students. Overall almost 20,000 trees were planted across the University’s campuses. Plans also include planned burning to encourage the growth of a diversity of native species.

Brennan School of Business in the US created a programme to re-introduce native plant species into the University’s landscaping in order to promote biodiversity on the campus grounds. They also pledged with a local pesticide action centre in order to keep the grounds free of any chemicals or pesticides.

T A PAI Management Institute in India conducted an inventory of species and habitats in and around campus. This was done in part with the active guidance of the Manipal Bird Watcher’s Club. Over 50 species were identified and documented with the aim of raising awareness about the presence of these species on campus.

Kristianstad University is located in one of the first UN Man and Biosphere (MAB) reserves in Sweden. Biosphere reserves are sites for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity, according to UNESCO. There are currently 701 MAB reserves in 124 countries all over the world.  Large parts of the academic and research activities of the university benefit from being situated in a MAB reserve and it has encouraged a strong general interest in sustainable development among staff and students.

Students at Nottingham Business School in the UK said that they wanted more green space and gardens on campus. Based on this feedback, the Sustainable Development Team has been working on the Greening the City project to ensure more pocket parks are created to improve the amount of green space and to increase the level of biodiversity that students encounter during day-to-day life on campus. An example of this work is the Boots Roof Garden, which offers new space for students and staff to relax, socialise and study in on top of the busy City Campus library. The Sustainable Development Team has been working with partners to plant trees on campus in order to reduce the university’s carbon footprint. The trees will provide shelter for wildlife on campus, offer research opportunities for students, reduce flood risk and slow the rain flow into nearby watercourses. One of the species benefiting from this habitat is a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on one of the buildings in their City Campus.  A webcam was set up to monitor the breeding progress of these protected birds and to allow our staff, students and the public to watch the hatching and development of their chicks. This has been hugely popular and has raised the interest in biodiversity locally and globally.

Also in the UK, Winchester Business School campuses feature a mosaic of different habitats, including grassland, hedgerows, ponds and woodland. These are havens for wildlife – from nesting swifts to mining bees, to hedgehogs and the rare white helleborine orchid. There are also green roofs on The Stripe and St Alphege, a Green Wall on the Performing Arts Centre, wildlife ponds and student and staff allotments to encourage staff and students to grow their own food on campus. The University’s Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) sets out plans to create and enhance habitats and support wildlife across their campuses.

The La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary in Australia was created in 1967 as a project in the restoration and management of indigenous flora and fauna. In 2012 the University entered into an agreement with Trust for Nature to place a Conservation Covenant on the land. A covenant is a permanent, legally binding agreement placed on a property’s title to ensure that the native vegetation, including the habitat for plants and wildlife, is protected in perpetuity. Staff, students and visitors have access to educational activities that highlight this resource and how the University campus plays a vital role in the healthy functioning of water ways, flora and fauna in this area.

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