Trinity College Dublin: Trinity’s biodiversity audit highlights urgency of placing it central to all our actions

As world leaders gather for the UN Biodiversity Conference COP15 in Kunming, China, Trinity has today published a report – Discovering Trinity’s Biodiversity – outlining the findings of the recently concluded Biodiversity Audit Pilot project, and listing recommendations and opportunities for the future.

The report highlights that Trinity is home to more than the iconic wildlife species that grab the headlines – foxes, trees and swifts – and the familiar green sports pitches and manicured squares. There is a wealth of hidden biodiversity in the form of plants, insects, fungi and other creatures, many of which go unnoticed.

Discovering and documenting our biodiversity takes time, resources and expertise. For example, a single night of moth-trapping on the Trinity Campus during summer 2021 revealed 32 different species – and they make up only a fraction of the insect biodiversity likely to be living at the heart of the city.

Global biodiversity is deteriorating rapidly, despite decades of knowledge and efforts to address biodiversity loss. This decline is likely to intensify if we continue with “business as usual”, risking livelihoods and well-being for people everywhere.

Current responses to the biodiversity crisis are inadequate at all levels (local, national and international) and Trinity’s report calls for an exemplary response across all operations to catalyse meaningful change both within and beyond College.

While COP15, the global biodiversity conference (equivalent of the climate change COP to be held in November), has seen governments from around the world to agree new targets for nature, this report, and the recent appointment of Professor Yvonne Buckley as the first Vice President for Biodiversity and Climate Action, will put biodiversity and climate change at the centre of Trinity’s governance, operations, research and teaching.

Trinity’s biodiversity audit was initiated by Professor Jane Stout, from Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, and led by Dr Ursula King, funded by the Provost’s Sustainability Fund, the Botany discipline, UNI-ECO Green Challenges and a philanthropic donation. The pilot project was a collaboration between staff and students in the School of Natural Sciences, with members of the Estates and Facilities team, and the Trinity Sustainability Intern.

Professor Stout said:

“This report highlights that there is great enthusiasm and willingness from staff and students to engage in biodiversity issues, but limited knowledge and awareness of biodiversity and its contribution to a healthy Trinity, city and planet. Furthermore, the report outlines that Trinity has hidden biodiversity, and emphasises that revealing and conserving it presents an opportunity for engagement, education and research – but there are skills and funding gaps that need addressing.”

Vice President for Biodiversity and Climate Action, Professor Yvonne Buckley, welcomed the report, and said:

“We rely on biodiversity for survival, physical and mental health, to support economic activity and to provide us with critical ecosystem services like clean water and climate regulation. Biodiversity can be found everywhere, and by noticing it and taking steps to protect, rehabilitate and restore nature in our homes, workplaces, the wider countryside and oceans we are creating a better future for nature and people. This report outlines what habitats and species we currently have on our city centre campus and the great potential to enhance biodiversity across all of our locations with benefits for all of us.”

The report – Discovering Trinity’s Biodiversity — can be downloaded here.

The 10 recommendations to emerge are:

Develop a Trinity Biodiversity Strategy, which encompasses the whole of Trinity’s operations, including buildings, grounds, research, education, and public and policy engagement.
Develop a more dynamic interaction between staff and students, with clear communications, to facilitate a synergy across staff and students in tackling biodiversity loss on Trinity’s estate.
Employ a full time Biodiversity Officer to oversee biodiversity data collection and use, and to engage with external bodies.
Construct a central repository for information, which will be the centralized source of information for biodiversity data.
Integrate the biodiversity data into Natural Capital Accounts for Trinity, to track changes in extent, condition, services and benefits from biodiversity.
Initiate a meaningful biodiversity awareness campaign, focusing on Trinity’s estate and the resources within it.
Enhance the taxonomic and field skills of our natural science graduates to ensure future generations have the necessary expertise.
Increase the knowledge and understanding of biodiversity issues across staff and students in college, beyond the natural sciences.
Instigate a biodiversity outreach programme, whereby the expertise and experiences in Trinity can be shared with the wider community.
Take practical actions to enhance biodiversity across Trinity’s Distributed Campus