ECOLOGISTS of a certain age will probably fondly remember first reading Last Chance To See, a book that introduced thousands of readers to a variety of endangered and exotic creatures.
Written by Douglas Adams, bestselling author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and zoologist Mark Carwardine, the book shed light on animals in imminent danger; like the giant Komodo dragon from Indonesia and the kakapo from New Zealand.
Terry Smithson has devoted his working life to protecting endangered species in the local area. In his current role, he hopes to show business owners and homeowners how they can provide wildlife habitat on their doorstep. Small steps can halt the drift toward extinction.
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“Growing up on the North York Moors, I studied zoology in Manchester and then ecology in Aberdeen,” he recalls. “I noticed over time that wildlife was disappearing from the landscape and rivers that were full of trout were becoming polluted.
“Most of my work has focused on getting people excited about the benefits of the natural world; from boosting local economies through nature tourism to promoting health and well-being through access to wildlife.
“A lot of research shows that access to nature is really valuable in terms of good mental and physical health,” he said. “Nature offers a multitude of benefits, and that value becomes much clearer when there’s a financial component.”
Today, Mr. Smithson is Biodiversity Manager and Ecology Expert at BioScapes, a new sub-brand of Rolawn, the topsoil and turf specialist company based in Seaton Ross, near York.
BioScapes have introduced a number of self-contained ‘ecosystems’ to promote biodiversity across the UK. The units bring together a variety of habitats under one roof to create a compact ecosystem for a large number of plants and animals. This can include, for example, a hedgehog house, a bee hotel and planting areas.
Ecological trials have shown that they quickly bring wildlife to some of the most inhospitable places. The units were referred to as “planters on steroids,” according to Mr. Smithson.
“It was pure chance that got me into this role,” said Mr. Smithson. “I rode a bike with one of the directors of the company and he said the company was looking for an ecologist.
“I knew Rolawn was known for innovation and now BioScapes goes further by developing products that make it easy for people to bring nature back into their spaces.
“People want to respond to the biodiversity crisis and connect with nature, but in our busy lives this needs to be something that’s easy to maintain and easy to understand.”
Big names in the retail world have enlisted BioScape’s support.
Mr Smithson said: “We are working with McArthur Glen (in York) to help the company improve the visitor experience whilst taking a huge step towards improving local biodiversity.
“Having access to nature boosts our creative energy and improves productivity.”
BioScapes products are available in different sizes. These include WildPod, which is suitable for a small garden or balcony, to NatureArk, which is ideal for medium-sized spaces such as schools, and BioCube, designed for a commercial setting.
“The units create an attractive element in any garden or open space and are easy to install and maintain,” said Mr. Smithson.
“We also worked with a social housing project in Durham, installing various BioScapes habitat planters in neighborhoods to improve biodiversity and create a sense of place and space,” said Mr Smithson.
“Biodiversity is all about the richness and diversity of life,” he added. “It can be the smell of a flower or the song of a bird. For me, it’s really about inspiring people to connect with nature. If people can appreciate it, they will protect it.
“BioScapes offers a solution that suits every home and every business. The people of Yorkshire are very proud of where they live and of the beautiful countryside. It’s a key selling point for the region.”
“The biodiversity crisis is at the forefront of people’s minds, and we know that restoring the natural world is the most important thing we can do to address the climate crisis.”
According to BioScapes, their products are more than just large planters. The company’s products provide multiple integrated habitats and support a wide range of UK flora and fauna, from unicellular microorganisms and fungi to pollinators, amphibians and small mammals; all are important for the future of our planet.
“We get a lot of feedback that these products are ideal,” said Mr. Smithson. “People want to fight for biodiversity, but they need an effective solution.
“Home builders are also interested because our housing units, like WildPod, give homebuyers an option to do their bit for the planet.”
“We have seen steady growth in business so far, but we anticipate demand to skyrocket.
“The timing is right,” he said. “People want to do something for the planet, and attractive green spaces around their homes and businesses underpin their value.”
Born in Middlesbrough, Terry Smithson is a biodiversity professional with extensive experience working in the conservation sector.
He has a passion for protecting the planet’s natural habitat and a deep understanding of species and ecosystems.
Mr. Smithson offers support and guidance through his role at BioScapes on the importance of promoting biodiversity and the most effective ways to achieve this.
Mr. Smithson is the company’s chief ecologist. He said: “A study published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that nine out of ten people agree that access to natural spaces is good for mental health and well-being.”