Biodiversity is the variety of plants and animals in the world, or in a particular environment. A high number of species is usually a sign of a healthy environment.
You are an integral part of nature; your fate is tightly linked with biodiversity, the huge variety of animals and plants, the places they live and their surrounding environment, all over the world.
You rely on this diversity of life to provide you with the food, fuel, medicine, and other essentials you simply cannot live without. Yet this rich diversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate because of human activities. This impoverishes us all and weakens the ability of the living systems, on which we depend, to resist growing threats such a climate change.
For more information visit the Decade of Biodiversity website.
If an environment is able to support peak predators such as Barn Owls, then it will be supporting a much greater range of other life forms too, as illustrated in the Trophic Pyramid diagram (right).
In the Barn Owl’s world, the primary producers are the tussocky grass areas; the primary consumers are the invertebrates and small herbivorous mammals, such as Field Voles; the secondary consumers are the omnivorous and carnivorous small mammals, such as the Bank Vole and Common Shrew; and the tertiary consumers are the Barn Owls themselves.
The fact that Barn Owls are not present on some farms in the UK is mainly due to the lack of suitable habitats, but the lack of nest sites is also a contributory factor, which is why our project put new nest boxes up where they were needed.
Data was sought at the start of this project to find out if potential nest sites, mainly artificial types, were available on our farms. On those farms where potential sites were absent, we installed nest boxes.
The nest boxes we used were ones used widely and successfully by the Barn Owl Conservation Network and Wildlife Conservation Partnership throughout the UK during the last two decades. They were put into those areas of the farm where rough grassland was available as hunting ground for the owls.
In 2011 nest boxes were installed on 28 farms between February and March 2011, just prior to the breeding season for Barn Owls. The number of nest boxes was increased in 2012.
Evidence of an early breeding season for Barn Owls in the UK became apparent in April 2011, during the early stages of the project. This enabled the nest visits, necessary to monitor and ring chicks, to take place between mid-June and early July when most chicks would be 4-8 weeks of age. Chicks were weighed and measured at this time so that their ages could be determined. They were also ringed and the number of chicks per nest box was carefully recorded. Second visits were undertaken where this was considered necessary, although visits were kept to a minimum to avoid disturbing the owls.
Details were recorded of the species that was occupying the nest box (it wasn’t always a Barn Owl!), numbers of eggs and chicks, chick weights, feather lengths and individual ages. Nest box type, condition and general suitability to Barn Owls was also recorded.