Category Archives: Biodiversity

Supporting ecosystems: biodiversity net gain at Newcastle University.

Biodiversity is a complex term with a range of definitions and contestations and a powerful reach across environmental work, legislation, and popular culture (Callaway, 2020). Understandings of the concept include the variety of different species in an ecosystem, the nature and intensity of their interactions, and the roles each species plays. These understandings are complex because biodiversity is complex (a fuller guide and definition can be found in our introduction blog here). However, across these definitions a key takeaway is biodiversity’s central importance to the health of both ourselves and the environment (Perrings, 2014; Bonneuil and Fressoz, 2016). Due to this, preserving biodiversity is crucial to supporting ourselves and the natural world and a recent approach to achieving this is biodiversity net gain.

Image: The sunshades of the University’s Ridley 2 Building shield teaching spaces amongst the greenery of Lover’s Lane. Credit: Chris Bishop.

What is biodiversity net gain?

Biodiversity net gain (BNG) is a policy approach that was adopted by the government in 2021 and came into force in February this year. Unlike previous legislation, this approach stipulates that development projects must create an increase or improvement of biodiversity, rather than just preventing a loss. Therefore, if executed well, this legally-binding process could lead to an ever-expanding spread of biodiversity across our cities. There’s plenty of work involved in achieving these improvements in a meaningful way, however (Bull and Brownlie, 2017).

Following BNG, the first step for any development project is to establish a record, or baseline, of how many biodiverse habitats there are on the relevant site(s). This method, focussing on habitats, is just one approach to baselining and we’re working to gather this data alongside other baselining efforts we’re making to meet the University’s Nature Positive Pledge. There are Lots of things to consider when measuring this data as, when it comes to biodiversity, human impacts and ecosystem complexity make it hard to measure everything (Allard et al., 2023). Consequently, to get as informed an idea as possible of the ecosystems on our estates, we’re focussing not only on the presence of habitats, but also on factors including the campus’s physical context in the city and the types of species that need extra support in our urban environment.

Collaborations with institutions including the City Council, Northumbria University, North East Ambulance service, and the Newcastle NHS Trust have proven important in this process. An example of the power of these partnerships is the Newcastle Biodiversity Group (of which all the above are part), which has helped to join up biodiversity efforts including mapping species migration and habitat corridors across the city. This work has led to the planning of a series of green infrastructure opportunity areas and biodiversity enhancement corridors across the city – and our campus is part of both.

This work is important as, when we then look to improve our estate and add new facilities, such as our cutting-edge Stephenson Building refurb or the sector-leading Health Innovation Neighbourhood, we have an informed view of how best to deliver BNG on these developments. Drawing on expertise from across the region, we can link our efforts to work such as the Newcastle and north Tyneside Biodiversity Action Plan, and, through this, ensure the maximum possible gain in habitat quality, while meeting the legislative requirements of BNG.

Image: The University’s ‘bat house’ shelter for roosts of local Pipistrelle bats. The shelter is pictured under the shade of a nearby tree at the Park View Student Village. Credit: Charlotte Robson.

A huge thank you to my colleague Charlotte for her help with this blog and all the amazing work she does on biodiversity. While we don’t yet have any case-studies of BNG being implemented on campus, we’re always working hard to help improve biodiversity on our estates. You can read about the special care taken to preserve trees as part of our recent Stephenson Building refurbishment here, or learn more about our biodiversity work on our website and our other blog posts.


Allard, A., Carina, H., Keskital, E., and Brown, A. (2023) Monitoring Biodiversity: Combining Environmental and Social Data. Taylor and Francis International Publishing.

Bonneuil, C., Fressoz, J-B. (2016) The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History and Us. Fernbach, D. (translator). 1st edition. New York, N.Y.: Verso Books.

Bull, J.W., and Brownlie, S. (2017) ‘The transition from No Net Loss to a Net Gain of biodiversity is far from trivial’, Oryx. 51 (1). pp. 53–59.

Callaway, E. (2020). Eden’s Endemics: Narratives of Biodiversity on Earth and Beyond. Charlottesville, V.A.: University of Virginia Press.

Perrings, C. (2014) Our Uncommon Heritage: Biodiversity Change, Ecosystem Services, and Human Wellbeing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hedgehog Awareness Week at Newcastle University!

This week is national Hedgehog Awareness Week – a celebration of the role these wonderful animals play in our endemic ecosystems, and a call to action to help protect them from the threats they face. According to the Mammal Society, the Western European Hedgehog has been vulnerable to extinction in Britain since 2020. The species’ continual decline in Britain has been suffered despite its numbers remaining stable in much of the rest of Europe. So, what can we, both as individuals and as a University, do to support hedgehogs at home and on campus to restore them to the healthiness of their European cousins?

Image: shade beneath the boughs of a tree on the edge of Claremont Quad. Credit: John Donoghue.

The challenges

Hedgehog numbers in rural areas have been dropping for many years and, according to the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022 report, have declined by 30-75% since 2000, depending on the area of the UK. Population decline in urban areas is slower – likely aided by awareness raising campaigns by organisations such as the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), but hedgehogs still face many challenges here, including:

  • Increasing traffic volume making streets more perilous,
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation as hedges and verges are lost or overly mown and gardens are cut off from one another by fences with no paths through,
  • Disruptions to Autumn nest building due to garden clearing and bonfire night celebrations,
  • The continued use of garden pesticides and poisons.

How we can help

As part of our biodiversity remit, we in the Sustainability Team have been working to ensure that our campus is as friendly as possible to a variety of species, including hedgehogs, and we’ve been running awareness raising campaigns for several years now. Accordingly, the University’s Sustainable Construction Specification stipulates that all new projects must create a biodiversity net gain and our colleagues in the Grounds Team work hard all year round to create quality green spaces across our campus. In addition to this, we’ve collaborated with the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences to host a number of fundraising events for hedgehog conservation which have raised hundreds of pounds!

Hedgehogs don’t need too much to thrive in our urban environments and even minor interventions made by individuals in their gardens or allotments can make a big difference in improving and expanding habitats. The Hedgehog Street campaign recommends a range of actions you can take to support your local hedgehog populations, including:

  • Creating small holes in garden fences to safely connect gardens,
  • Leaving a corner of your garden or allotment wild and undisturbed to provide hiding places,
  • Clearing away any old gardening netting and litter from green spaces,
  • Avoiding chemicals (such as pesticides, poisons, and weedkillers),
  • Becoming a Hedgehog champion through Hedgehog Street.

More ideas can be found here and you can also learn how to build a Hedgehog house with this guide by the Woodland Trust. If you find a hedgehog that is in distress or may have been orphaned, please contact the BHPS who can provide guidance and a list of independent hedgehog rescue centres across the UK.

Image: a person sits on a bench amid the sun dappled greenery of Claremont Quad. Credit: Chris Bishop.

Thank you for reading and taking the time to consider biodiversity in our urban environment! If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or allotment please do consider how you can make it more friendly for a variety of plant and animal species. Plus, if you’re interested in learning more about biodiversity on campus and beyond, have a look at our website and our blogs on biodiversity, bees, the UN Biodiversity Conference, and sustainable agriculture!

The Seeds of Change: Innovating for Sustainable Agriculture

Agriculture is a vast and vital industry that provides livelihoods for hundreds of millions and food for billions across our planet. Similar to other sectors, however, agriculture’s expansion and industrialisation have increased its impact on the environment to unsustainable levels (Alam and Rukhsana, 2023), especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions and the biodiversity crisis. As a result, work is now crucially needed to adopt new technologies and alternative practices to ensure that the world’s five billion hectares of farmland can store carbon and provide quality habitats as well as feeding us. To get an idea of the challenges facing sustainable agriculture and how they might be overcome, I’ve spoken to researchers from Newcastle University’s own School of Natural and Environmental Sciences.

Hay bales at Newcastle University’s Cockle Park Farm. Credit: Matt Horne.

Sustainability challenges

Implementing sustainable practices into farming is a complicated and difficult process for a variety of reasons. Postgraduate researcher Sophia Long points to cost, and a lack of resources, technology, education, and training as key concerns that are affecting different farms in different ways and slowing down agriculture’s progress towards sustainable practice. Additionally, she notes that many sustainable innovations, including novel machinery and new chemistry and crop varieties, require an adjustment period to be implemented, further delaying change.

Despite these challenges, however, there is optimism in the sector and Dr David George, a reader in Precision Agronomy here at the University, referred to the recent updates to the Sustainable Farming Incentive as a key element of this positivity. On top of this, the development of carbon and biodiversity markets, inclusion of sustainable best practice as a feature of trade shows and magazines, and recognition of the importance of sustainable management by farmers themselves are all good signs of an improving outlook for sustainable agriculture.

Research and innovations

Newcastle University has a variety of innovative facilities focused on agricultural production, teaching, and research and this infrastructure is being used to develop the skills, technologies, and practices needed to support agriculture’s transition towards sustainability. These specialist facilities include Newcastle University Farms (NU Farms), which hold around 800 hectares of land spread over three sites (Nafferton, Ouston, and Cockle Park), and a series of vertical farm units, growth room facilities, and a food and consumer research facility on central campus. Some of the sustainable innovations, highlighted by Sophia and David, that are currently being developed at these sites include:

  • The development of automated systems and disease sensors in the Vertical Farm units to reduce the need for fertiliser, transport, and water when producing crops whilst improving their quality.
  • Research on the soil microbiome to improve the sustainability of disease management through the development of novel cultural and chemical control plans.
  • Trials of different tillage practices at NU Farms, including ploughing, minimum-tillage, and direct-drilling, to gather data on crop performance and carbon release (from the soil) for each of these practices.
  • Spore sampling technology, which is being explored at NU Farms in conjunction with biopesticides and biostimulants to reduce the use of conventional synthetic chemistry and thereby improve crop health and slow the build-up of pesticide resistance.
  • Scattering silicate rock dust over crop fields for their ability to enhance carbon and nutrient capture in the soil, both sequestering greenhouse gases and improving crop growth (Skov et al. 2024).
  • Remote imaging and sensing for pest/disease detection and environmental monitoring to help boost soil, crop, and animal health. This technology could be used in conjunction with the increasingly precise and automated application of crop inputs, which is also being researched at our university.
  • Methods to engage farmers in overcoming barriers to ‘Regenerative Agriculture‘ in the north of England through machinery solutions.
A tree-lined field with sheep at Newcastle University’s Cockle Park Farm. Credit: Matt Horne.

The future of farming

Sustainability is increasingly becoming the focus of agriculture’s future (Onuabuchi Munonye and Chinelo Eze, 2022) and a range of new technologies are lining up to support this. Across the Agriculture department, NU Farms, and the researchers I spoke to, however, it was stressed that co-benefits must be at the heart of change to ensure that the future of agriculture is truly sustainable. Specifically, change in the agricultural sector must support farmers’ incomes and resilience as well as the natural environment. Here, four key areas are central to a holistically sustainable future for farming:

  1. Technology: Drones and sensors for data, automated and precision machinery, new crop inputs, land use practices, and further technologies are all improving the efficiency and reducing the environmental impacts of crop and livestock rearing for each unique farm.
  2. Biodiversity: Research, education, and stewardship schemes are helping farmers to support and improve the agroecological systems on their land, yielding enhanced natural pest control and soil fertility and combatting pesticide and fertiliser use.
  3. Adaptation: Changes in pest, disease, and extreme/unseasonal weather stresses will force farmers to adapt their crop rotations and water, disease, and pest management practices. Here, plant breeding, education, and community engagement will all be vital tools to pre-emptively future-proof agricultural production against the impacts of climate change.
  4. Income: Many farms here in the UK are under intense financial pressure and even being forced out of business, harming livelihoods, rural culture and knowledge, and impacting the UK’s food security and resilience. Produce prices must reflect the tenuous financial situation for farmers and more transparency from distributors (such as supermarkets) would help consumers to gain a more well-rounded view of the food system they rely upon.

Overall, Dr George summarises the features of a sustainable future for farming as a “good balance of environmental, animal welfare and food production outputs that co-delivers for natural capital gain / net zero and food security, supported by simple yet flexible policy and clear, connected, consolidated and collaborative knowledge sharing”.

A huge thank you to Sophia, David, and everyone else who offered their time and expertise for this piece. If you want to find out more about sustainable agriculture then have a look at the links and references below and you can learn about biodiversity on campus here. Finally, if you’re looking for updates about sustainability at our university, you can sign up to the Sustainability Network.

Links and references

NU Farms research webpage

Regenerative agriculture initiative funded by Newcastle University

NU Farms Impact Statement

Press Office article on enhanced rock weathering

Alam, A., and Rukhsana (2023) ‘Climate Change Impact, Agriculture, and Society: An Overview’. Alam. A., and Rukhsana (eds) Climate Change, Agriculture and Society: Approaches Toward Sustainability. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Onuabuchi Munonye, J., and Chinelo Eze, G. (2022) ‘The Concept of Sustainable Agriculture’. Filho, W. L., Kovaleva, M., and Popkova, E. (eds) Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Skov, K., Wardman, J., Healey, M., McBride, A., Bierowiec, T., Cooper, J., Edeh, I., George, D., Kelland, M. E., Mann, J., Manning, D., Murphy, M. J., Pape, R., Teh, Y. A., Turner, W., Wade, P., and Liu, X. (2024). Initial agronomic benefits of enhanced weathering using basalt: A study of spring oat in a temperate climate. PLOS ONE, 19 (3).

Bees on Campus

Bees provide a range of important services that help maintain the health and vibrancy of our natural environment in both rural and urban settings. In our beautiful city-centre campus, for instance, urban bees assist our Grounds Team in caring for greenery from the wildflower meadows in Claremont Court to the tulip beds outside King’s Gate. To learn more about these fascinating creatures and their role in creating our sustainable campus, I had a chat with the lovely people at Newcastle University’s Bee Society.

Image: Members of the University community walk through the greenery of the Old Quad. Credit: Chris Bishop
How many beehives does the Society have and how long has the University had bees?

“At present there are 2 beehives, although the number fluctuates between 2-4 depending on how the years go – our hives are called Mary and Delilah! We’ve had bees since the mid-2010s.” 

I see! Do you know if there are any other urban beehives in or around the University?  

“While I haven’t interacted with them, I’m aware that other university staff have beehives for the sake of research. Newcastle is also home to a chapter of the BBKA (British Beekeeping Association) so it’s safe to assume that there are a few beekeepers knocking around locally.” 

So, what sort of thing does the society do to care for the bees?  

“The nature of beekeeping changes depending on the season – understanding the calendar and how to respond to it is vital to successful care. In the summer we check on the hives once a week (weather permitting), as the time between April-July is prime for swarms. In early spring and the autumn, we check on them far less frequently, once a fortnight or so. In the winter we don’t go in the hives at all. 

How long our checks take is also dependent on the time of year. In the summer it often runs up into the 2-hour mark! We use an acronym to remember what needs to be looked for: D.E.F.R.A, which stands for Disease, Eggs, Food, Room, and Anything Else. The presence of food and eggs are often my main concern, and after a certain point the observations become second nature. 

We always wear suits and gloves for the sake of our members. Stings do occur from time to time, but to a significant extent the victims are members of committee who have to engage with the bees when they are at their most defensive. While this is scary at first it is something you get used to over time; I have been known to scold the hives when they’re acting up!” 

And do the honey and wax get used for anything?  

“When there is surplus honey, we collect it. Last year we involved our members in the processing of the comb and this went down very well, but it isn’t a priority for us. Excess wax has been used by a few of the University’s fine art undergraduates in the production of candles.” 

That’s super interesting! How can people get involved?  

“The primary way that people can get involved is to join the society! While the hives are now being left alone for the winter, we have talks running throughout the colder months and are always happy to share our knowledge and experience.” 

Image: a bed of tulips on campus. Credit: John Donoghue
How do the bees help with local biodiversity?  

“Bees are vital to the healthy functioning of plant life and our bees can often be seen collecting pollen and nectar from the flowers on campus. They roam quite widely – up to a distance of around 5 miles – but with so many options on show in our green spaces I imagine that they don’t have to go far for food. Most of the time they’ll travel less than a mile – pollinating a variety of species in and around campus.” 

What sort of role can urban bee keeping play in a sustainable future?  

“Urban beekeeping has a place alongside the protection of other bee species, but I believe that the awareness it brings is one of the most valuable things it has to offer. The honeybee is not in any danger at the moment, but our native bee populations of bumblebees and solitary bees are in serious decline, and no one pollinator can fill the role of all these individual species. By encouraging informed beekeeping practices and the support of wildflowers/bee-friendly spaces, urban beekeepers can provide both the efficient pollination efforts of their bees and the knowledge and care that we desperately need to protect our pollinators on a wider scale.” 

So, there you have it! A huge thank you to our wonderful Bee Society, please go check out the amazing work that they do and next time you’re enjoying our beautiful urban green spaces – spare a thought for the hardworking creatures who keep them looking lush! 

Sustainability Highlights 22/23

With the next academic year due to begin, it’s time to take a moment to reflect on the University’s sustainability activity. From buzzing eco-friendly events and collaborations to receiving exciting awards, this year has been packed with sustainable achievements. 

We held some great events… 

Climate Action at Newcastle University 

On the 10th of November 2022, we invited colleagues and students to join us at a conference-style, collaborative event on climate action. This was a great event where delegates were able to discuss future climate action plans and hear more about more about sustainable initiatives in the higher education sector. 


In December 2022 the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences held Spudfest in collaboration with the Sustainability Team, Keenan Recycling Ltd, EAT@Newcastle and Newcastle Food Bank. This event showcased some of the exciting research on our farms and helped to avoid food waste. It was a spud-tacular event! 

Sustainability Week 

Sustainability Week was a weeklong event in March 2023. We held a variety of activities throughout the week aimed to engage and inspire the University community. Activities included a tour of the National Green Infrastructure Facility, a climate anxiety workshop and a full day festival! 

Environment Awards 

At the end of June, we celebrated the Environment Awards. This was a lovely afternoon where we celebrated the achievements of the University community. From acknowledging the work of LEAF members to celebrating our Grounds Team, there was plenty to celebrate! 

We received some exciting awards… 

In December we received the news that we retained our ‘First Class’ sustainability ranking by the People and Planet University League for the 10th year in a row. 

We were ranked 4th in the UK and joint 24th in the world for sustainable development in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. 

In June, we were externally audited on our Environmental Management System (EMS) and Energy Management System (EnMS). We were recertified to ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 respectively. You can learn more about what this means in our EMS and EnMS blog post. 

We brought our campus to life… 

Our grounds team planted over 1500 m2 of wildflower beds across campus. These really came into bloom in the hot summer weather and have made our campus look great!  

A group of volunteers and the Sustainability Team carried out hedgehog surveys on campus. Newcastle University holds a Silver Award from Hedgehog Friendly Campus. 

In December 2022, we became a founding member of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance. This initiative was launched at COP15 and requires universities to calculate a baseline of their effects on biodiversity and set targets to minimise their impacts. 


And some more great Sustainability activity… 

In January we started the Sustainability Network, a place for communicating sustainability news with the University community. The network currently has over 200 members and is still growing! Sign up to the network here

In October we restarted this blog! This page has become a wealth of information about sustainability in the University and around Newcastle. We currently have over 20 blog posts up on a variety of topics ranging from travel to food. Make sure to watch this space for more posts. 

We would like to say a big thank you to everybody who engaged with our activities this year. Our work wouldn’t be possible without your support. Stay tuned for some more great work in 23/24! 

Actions Newcastle University takes to protect and enhance biodiversity

Biodiversity loss is advancing at a rapid rate, the Living Planet Report (2020) outlines five prominent threats to biodiversity:

  1. Changes in land and sea use
  2. Species overexploitation
  3. Invasive species and disease
  4. Pollution
  5. Climate change

Newcastle University undertakes multiple actions to protect and enhance biodiversity on campus as part of its commitment to environmental sustainability. If you would like to learn more about Newcastle University’s commitment to biodiversity you can read our Biodiversity Policy.

Here are some of the actions that Newcastle University takes to enhance and protect biodiversity on campus:

The use of bat barns and huts

Multiple types of bats are currently listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Threatened with Imminent extinction or Near Threatened on the Red List.

Newcastle University currently has 2 bat barns and 39 bat boxes on campus. These are implemented as bats don’t mind built-up areas, if they have safe spaces for roosting. As our campus is a built-up area and is in the middle of Newcastle city centre, we have installed roosting spaces for local pipistrelle bats.

An image of one of our bat boxes over by Park View Student Village accommodation.

Wildflower planting

The national bee population is declining, and not only do these animals have intrinsic value in nature, but we need them as pollinators for our food.

We have planted up several unused areas of our estate as ‘pollinator gardens’, to provide sources of nectar and pollen as well as suitable nesting habitats. These spaces contain plants and flowers chosen by our own experts as pollinator friendly. We have a range of flowers with differing petal shapes (attracting a range of insects) and a succession of flowering times so insects have a nectar resource throughout the year.

An example of Newcastle University’s wildflower planting

Hedgehogs on campus

Unfortunately, hedgehogs were recently listed as a species ‘vulnerable to extinction’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List for British Mammals.

Newcastle University is attempting to make life on campus more hedgehog friendly

Hedgehog surveying

In the last week of April, we carried out a hedgehog survey on campus. The surveying was important for understanding more about the biodiversity on and around campus, including finding out if we have hedgehogs on campus. The process included:

  • A group of student volunteers went through survey training in March
  • This group of volunteers deployed the tunnels on campus across our randomised locations.
  • They also checked them every morning for footprints, along with a couple of members of the Sustainability Team

Sadly, we did not find any hedgehog footprints however we did find prints from squirrels, rodents and one cat.

To learn more about how to protect hedgehogs in your local area, have a read of our Hedgehog Friendly Campus post.

An introduction to biodiversity

What is biodiversity? 

Biodiversity is a term you may hear a lot, but what does it actually mean? A simple way to define it is that it describes the variety of plant and animal life in a given area. The more biodiverse an area is, the more ecosystem services it provides. When trying to imagine the complexity and intricacy of biodiversity, next time you are outside in nature, think about all the living animals, plants, and micro-organisms around you and how they interact with each other and form an ecosystem. 

Thriving biodiversity supports life as we know it, however, when biodiversity is diminished, many ecosystems crumble which affects the availability of “food, clean water, medicine, and shelter” (WWF). When ecosystems are out of balance, the species within that ecosystem suffer due to lack of adequate food or a stable environment which enables species extinction to occur at a rapid rate. 

On a human level, conserving biodiversity is not just important to enable future generations to enjoy nature – it is essential to continue the survival of our species. 

What happens without thriving biodiversity? 

When ecosystems are under threat, change to the environment and species chain will be altered, sometimes to the point of no repair. To prevent this from occurring, we must do all we can to protect our ecosystems and repair any damage that we may cause. It is vital that we work together internationally to ensure the wide variety of ecosystems worldwide are protected from human impact. To read more about recent global action agreed at COP15, the UN Biodiversity Conference, read our round-up blog post

What do I need to know about the biodiversity crisis? 

Unfortunately, humans have damaged many ecosystems globally and without rapid reversal, some of these ecosystems will no longer function effectively. Biodiversity is under a major threat, and this is clear due to the very rapid level of species decline. WWF’s 2022 Living Planet Report found an “average 69% decline in global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians since 1970”. If this level of species decline continues, the world will face an extremely high number of animals becoming endangered and potentially extinct, which will induce irreversible damage to ecosystems.  

Like climate change, we can prevent these catastrophic events from occurring if we change our behaviours and work as an international community to reduce and reverse negative ecological impacts. 

What factors are contributing to the biodiversity crisis? 

  • Climate change 
  • Habitat loss or degradation such as land clearing, deforestation, and coral reef bleaching 
  • Wildlife poaching or hunting and overfishing 
  • The spread of invasive species  

Can the biodiversity crisis be reversed? 

The good news is that the biodiversity crisis is potentially reversible, however, according to the Living Planet Report (WWF, 2022), “we have a last chance to act. This goes beyond conservation. A nature-positive future needs transformative – game changing – shifts in how we produce, how we consume, how we govern, and what we finance”. While it is good news that we are still able to reverse some of the negative impacts of the biodiversity crisis, it has been outlined that this will require immediate and extensive international action. 

One step in the right direction is the recent introduction of the Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in December 2022. This framework has set four global goals and 23 targets which are essential to restoring our ecosystems through implementing strategies, resource protection, monitoring and global review.  

Biodiversity at Newcastle University 

Newcastle University has an ambitious Climate Action Plan which outlines our targets and actions to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. 

We acknowledge that the climate and ecological emergencies are deeply intertwined, and to work towards better addressing the ecological emergency, we became a founding member of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance in December 2022. The initiative was launched at COP15 and is a joint project created by the University of Oxford and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and requires universities to calculate a baseline of their effects on biodiversity, set targets to minimise their impacts, take action to address the identified impacts, and report annually and transparently on progress. 

We are in the early stages of our nature positive journey, so watch this space for updates! 

What the University has done for biodiversity on campus so far:  

  • We are a Silver Accredited Hedgehog Friendly Campus.
  • The Grounds Team planted >1200m2 of wildflower areas across campus in 2022, with plans to expand these areas in 2023. Keep an eye out for wildflower blooms across campus in the warmer months! 
  • We also have bat boxes and barns on campus.  

A bat barn for local Pipistrelle bats next to the University’s Park View Student Village.

    Thanks for reading and watch this space for next week’s blog post!

    United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15)

    The biodiversity conference occurs every two years and took place last month in Montreal, Canada. Within this summit an extremely important discussion surrounding a potential international biodiversity framework was the centre of goals and targets regarding biodiversity. The importance of thriving biodiversity and the significance of the biodiversity crisis has been summarised succinctly here: 

    “Nature is critical to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. Adoption of a bold global biodiversity framework that addresses the key drivers of nature loss is needed to secure our own health and well-being alongside that of the planet”

    United Nations Environment Program

    Within this post, we will review some of the positive outcomes of the conference and outline what these mean for the biodiversity crisis.  

    Positive outcomes from the conference: 

    • Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework 

    One of the biggest outcomes from the conference was the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This is an international commitment that has been adopted by 196 countries, the framework lists four long term biodiversity orientated goals for 2050 and 23 action orientated global targets that aim to be addressed by 2030.  

    The importance of the creation, implementation and adoption of this framework is very high as it provides goals, targets, resources, information, and connections for countries on a global scale. Frameworks provide tools and structures to enable change more rapidly, which is exactly what the world needs if we are going to be able to reverse the most extreme biodiversity loss that we are currently facing. As highlighted in the opening paragraph, biodiversity loss is an international problem that requires an international solution, and this framework is an important starting block for change.  

    • Nature Positive Universities Alliance 

    Oxford University and the United Nations Environment Program announced the launch of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance. The alliance is:  

    “A global network of universities that have made an official pledge to advance efforts to halt, prevent and reverse nature loss through addressing their own impacts and restoring ecosystems harmed by their activities”

    Oxford News

    The alliance aims to bring together universities across a global platform and encourage them to prioritise nature on university campuses.  At the time of writing, 522 universities from 11 countries have made a Nature Positive Pledge, and 118 Student Ambassadors have signed up to take action on their campuses. 

    Making a Nature Positive Pledge requires institutions to commit to four key stages: assessing a baseline, setting SMART targets, taking action, and annual, transparent reporting on progress. 

    We are thrilled to announce that Newcastle University was one of the founding signatories of the pledge announced in Montreal at the Biodiversity Conference. 

    For more information on the Nature Positive Universities Alliance, visit their webpage

    • Announced support for the Indigenous community: 

    Within talks regarding the Global Biodiversity Framework were prominent discussions regarding the need to provide support and positive recognition towards indigenous communities when discussing biodiversity. 

    Indigenous peoples and their communities have been highlighted as crucial defenders of biodiversity and should be protected alongside their land. This is highlighted by the Guardian as “Several scientific studies have shown that Indigenous peoples are the best stewards of nature, representing 5% of humanity but protecting 80% of Earth’s biodiversity”.  

    Talks regarding the need for support of Indigenous peoples and local communities proved to be successful as target 3 in the Global Biodiversity Framework specifically outlines rights, territories and contributions by Indigenous Peoples and local communities to deter from land grabbing, this has been celebrated by the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB).  

    It is worth noting:  

    While these three positive outcomes from the biodiversity conference are a very positive step in the right direction for biodiversity protection, it is also worth recognising some elements that can be improved on within the framework and in future conferences.  

    • Lack of focus on oceans in the Global Biodiversity Framework 
    • There are no measurable elements to the Global Biodiversity Framework so how do we measure and track progress? 
    • Conservation of land must include restoration otherwise wildlife will not be getting the help it needs (BBC News).  


    Multiple positive decisions, agreements and frameworks arose from the biodiversity conference in December This includes the creation of a Global Biodiversity Framework, Nature Positive Universities Alliance announcement and the outlined support for the indigenous community within a specific target in the Global Biodiversity Framework. While these are all very positive outcomes, there is a lot more work to be done to turn the tide on the biodiversity crisis.