Biodiversity

Biodiversity

London is a diverse city, reflected not only in its population but across its landscapes and wildlife too. It's this mix that makes London special and we want to do all we can to look after it. 

Interwoven with the city’s buildings, roads and train lines are wilder spaces and valuable habitats such as grasslands rich with wild flowers, rivers, reedbeds, and ancient woodlands. Along with other green and blue open spaces, like gardens and canals, they provide shelter and food for a wide range of wildlife. Over 14, 000 different species of plants, animals and fungi have been recorded in London, many of which are permanent residents of the city. This amazing diversity of living things and the natural habitats they live in is called biodiversity.

Biodiversity is part of the heritage of London and helps to make the city a comfortable and pleasant place to live. Trees and woodlands help clean our airbees and other insects help pollinate our crops, earthworms make our soils more fertile and reedbeds help clean our water. Spending time in nature can bring mental and physical health benefits too.

The Mayor wants to protect biodiversity and give all Londoner’s the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from the wildlife of the city. The London Environment Strategy sets out how the Mayor will work with others to make sure London's biodiversity is enhanced and more Londoners can experience nature.

What can I do to help wildlife?

Across the capital volunteers help to manage important habitats, record where species can be found or help others to enjoy wildlife, learning new skills, getting active and meeting people at the same time. You can find out more about volunteering through the Mayor’s Team London website. Organisations including London Wildlife Trust and The Conservation Volunteers also offer a range of opportunities to get involved in supporting wildlife in your local area.

You can also take part in National Park City Week when a programme of London wide events will make London greener and create more space for wildlife.

Gardens cover almost a quarter of London. With a little effort they can act as a mini nature reserve providing wildlife with food and shelter. Together with other gardens they also create space for wildlife to move around the city. Choosing nectar rich plants, planting a fruit tree or leaving some dead stems overwinter all help wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts and Royal Horticultural Society provide advice on gardening for wildlife through their Wild About Gardens project.

London's special habitats and species

A number of London’s habitats and species have been identified by the Mayor, boroughs and other statutory and voluntary organisations as priorities for conservation action. Many are national conservation priorities too. The London Environment Strategy includes more information about these priority habitats and species and identifies the actions the Mayor will take to support their conservation. It includes targets to create new areas of habitat, as well as including policies in the new London Plan to protect the most important wildlife sites and ensure new developments contain wildlife friendly features.

London's Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation

London's most valuable and special places for wildlife are recognised by the Mayor and London borough councils as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs).

Over 15,000 SINCs have been identified across the capital. They cover nearly 20% of London, forming the core of London's ecological network. Some of these sites are also designated as Local Nature Reserves or as internationally or nationally important sites for the habitats or species found within them.

Many SINCs are places where Londoner's can enjoy nature close up. You can find out where publicly accessible SINCs are and about the wildlife you might see if you visit using the iGiGL interactive map. 

SINCs receive a high level of protection from development in the Mayor's new London Plan. Most are managed by boroughs or other public bodies. The Mayor is not a major landowner and does not have responsibility for or powers relating to the day to day management of these sites or other parks and greenspaces.

You can learn more about SINCs in Spaces Wild, a joint publication by the London Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the Mayor of London

How are SINCs selected?

The London Wildlife Sites Board (LWSB) offers help and guidance on the selection of SINCs. The SINC selection process and the LWSB’s roles and responsibilities are set out in a SINC Selection Process guidance document available to download at the bottom of this page. 

The LWSB meets three times a year. If you have documents or proposals for the LWSB to review, please submit these at least two weeks ahead of the LWSB meeting. 

To find out more (including the date of the next LWSB meeting), please email: [email protected]

What types of places are selected as SINCs?

A comprehensive network of SINCs stretches across London, covering a breadth of important wildlife habitats, to public parks, cemeteries and community gardens. However, private gardens cannot be identified as a SINC. Nearly all areas of priority habitats and many sites with important populations of priority or legally protected species are selected as SINCs. 

There are three tiers of SINCs:

  1. Sites of Metropolitan Importance include the best sites in London. Over 140 metropolitan sites have been identified, with a total area of nearly 16,000 hectares (10 per cent of London’s land area). They include nationally important wildlife sites like Ruislip Woods, Ingrebourne Marshes and Farthing Downs, and locally important places like Sydenham Hill Woods and Hounslow Heath where Londoners can discover wild places that belie their urban setting
  2. Sites of Borough Importance include woodlands, rivers, grasslands and some of the more mature parks which have ancient trees and meadows. There are almost 800 borough sites identified to date, with a total area of about 12,000 hectares (almost 8 per cent of London’s land area)
  3. Sites of Local Importance give people access to nature close to home. They are parks and green spaces with local intrinsic nature conservation value. About 460 local sites have been identified, with a total area of 1,700 hectares (just over one per cent of London’s land ar