Metronet on track to protect wildlife


Source: Atkins

A recent Metronet report highlighted the ecological importance of the London Underground, home to a staggering wealth of wildlife. Badgers, water voles and grass snakes are just a few of the species that can be found in the variety of habitats along the side of the track in the outer reaches of the London Underground network.

Metronet are responsible for renewing two thirds of the network and have recently completed the most comprehensive study of biodiversity on the Underground to date. The two year study has shown that the line-side habitats provide essential green corridors allowing the movement of wildlife within the capital, especially in inner London areas where green space is in short supply and there is increasing pressure from urban development.

The survey meets with the aims of the Mayor of London’s Biodiversity Strategy to provide a London-wide framework for maintaining London’s diversity of wildlife. The findings highlight ‘biodiversity hotspots’ which are important for different species or habitats and areas which should be targeted for improvement. The stretches of rough grassland and open habitats along the District Line between Dagenham Heathway and Upminster provide excellent habitat for reptiles such as common lizard, slow worm and grass snake as well as many insects and water voles are thriving on the rivers and streams that flow under the track. At the western end of the Metropolitan Line badgers have made their homes in a number of woodland slopes and diverse sections of grassland are present, a habitat which is in short supply elsewhere in London.

Ecologists from Atkins have been leading the surveys of the track-side habitats. Ric Collinson, Head of Atkins Ecology said “During the first year we walked all of the overground sections to gather data on species present and identify potential areas of interest. During the second year we have we have carried out a whole range of detailed surveys and the results are fascinating.”

Many of the species found are in decline within London and the UK and are legally protected.” said Ewan Campbell-Lendrum, Metronet’s Environmental Manager “The survey shows that we can play an important role in conserving and enhancing biodiversity in the capital.

The continuous tree-lines along the trackside can provide important foraging routes for bats and over 570 species of insect have been found, of which six are nationally endangered, vulnerable or rare. The wildlife corridors are also important for more common species such as the fox and provide places for many birds to nest.

Recent work by Metronet has included protection of water voles and reptiles during slope stabilisation works at the eastern end of the district line, creation of new stag beetle habitat and plans to create species-rich grassland, a wildlife pond and enhance habitats for great crested newts at the western end of the Metropolitan Line and protection of badgers during track replacement works near Amersham.

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