A new paper, led by Callum Macgregor and colleagues at the University of Hull, UKCEH and Butterfly Conservation researched the species richness of birds, plants and insects in relation to historical landfill sites.

They combined data from three national-scale UK biological monitoring schemes, including the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme and compared species richness in relation to the presence of historic landfill sites. The paper shows that species richness is higher for all three groups in landscapes containing ex-landfill sites and that this increases as the area of ex-landfill increases. For birds the rarity of the assemblage associated with ex-landfill sites is higher.

For birds and insects, the species richness declines over time once landfill sites have closed while for plants species richness increases.

These findings provide evidence that development of brownfield sites may have unintended negative consequences for biodiversity, and that such development should only occur on the smaller sites or those in areas with a high density of such brownfield sites.

Nigel Bourn, Chief Scientist, Butterfly Conservation

Macgregor CJ, Bunting MJ, Deutz P, Bourn NA, Roy DB & Mayes WM (2022) Brownfield sites promote biodiversity at a landscape scale. Science of The Total Environment 804: 150162. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150162