10 December 2011
Biodiversity management has been an important part of Met Office life since 2007 when a small group of volunteer staff got together to make a difference. Since then, things have really grown and in July 2011 the Met Office's headquarters in Exeter was awarded the Wildlife Trusts' prestigious Biodiversity Benchmark Award.
To date, only 15 companies in the UK have attained the Biodiversity Benchmark Award, meeting the rigorous standards set by the Wildlife Trusts. Of these, the Met Office is the only public sector organisation leading the way, integrating environmental considerations into our day to day operations.
As Neal Pearce, Met Office Environmental Advisor explains: "The key to getting this recognition has been recognising and encouraging biodiversity around our headquarters. We've worked just as hard inside the organisation too, making sure that the environment is taken into account in the decisions we make every day. So much so, biodiversity is now fully integrated into our management systems."
Work started in 2007 when some Met Office staff in Exeter volunteered to clear an area of invasive weeds and establish a wildflower meadow. With a combination of meadow stewardship and selective planting of native wildflowers - which the volunteers grew from seed at home - the site's biodiversity quickly improved and the wildflower meadow was extended.
Man-made creature habitats such as bee hives have since been added, along with nesting boxes for swifts, which have been installed as part of a regional project supported by the RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust.
Peter Burgess, Devon Wildlife Trust's Wildlife Advocacy Manager describes how the Devon Wildlife Trust and the Met Office are developing a partnership building on the existing work:
"The Met Office grounds will showcase how wildlife-rich habitats can be incorporated into a busy working environment. Staff and visitors alike will benefit from closer engagement and appreciation of the stunning displays native wildlife can provide. A comprehensive five-year Biodiversity Enhancement Plan will be produced to identify new and exciting projects which will be delivered in conjunction with the Exeter Wild City project. As a link between rural and urban environments, the Met Office occupies an important location. By enhancing the grounds, wildlife can move more freely and adapt to a changing climate."
The work of our volunteer staff was formalised in 2010/11 with specific sustainability objectives based on biodiversity management. We also set up a Biodiversity Working Group to pool staff ideas and continue to make a difference. We're now introducing similar projects to enhance the biodiversity performance across all our sites, sharing best practice and widening our commitment to biodiversity management.
Neal concludes: "This standard is very tough to achieve and maintain as it requires the grounds of our headquarters to be managed to a very high level. The Award reflects the Met Office's commitment to minimise our impacts on the environment and promote biodiversity. We're now working to make sure that our other sites meet the same very high standard."
2008 - two species of Orchid
2009 - butterflies, moths and other insects, including the rare wasp spider
2009 - two more species of orchid
2011 - rare 'Maiden Pink' wildflower - a nationally scarce species
This video describes how we're managing the Met Office site to encourage biodiversity.