How Terry Smithson of BioScapes aims to tackle the biodiversity crisis
Terry Smithson is on a mission to tackle the biodiversity crisis, writes Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright.
ECOLOGISTS of a certain age will probably have fond memories of the first time they perused “Last Chance To See”, a book which introduced thousands of readers to a host of endangered and exotic creatures.
Written by Douglas Adams, bestselling author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and zoologist Mark Carwardine, the book shone the spotlight on animals in imminent peril; such as the giant Komodo dragon of Indonesia and the kakapo of New Zealand.
Terry Smithson has devoted his working life to protecting endangered species closer to home. In his current role, he hopes to show business leaders and home owners how they can provide a habitat for wild animals on their doorstep. Small steps can halt the drift towards extinction.
“I grew up on the North York Moors and studied Zoology at Manchester and then Ecology at Aberdeen,’’ he recalled. “I noticed over time, the wildlife disappearing from the landscape, and rivers which had been full of trout had become polluted.
“Most of my work has focused on inspiring people about the benefits from the natural world; from boosting the local economy through nature tourism, to promoting health and wellbeing through access to wildlife-rich spaces.
“Lots of research shows that access to nature is really valuable in terms of good mental and physical health,’’ he said. “The natural world provides a multitude of benefits and this value becomes much more apparent when there is a financial component to it.”
Today , Mr Smithson is the biodiversity manager and expert ecologist at BioScapes, a new sub-brand of Rolawn, the company which specialises in topsoil and turf, which is based in Seaton Ross near York.
BioScapes has launched a range of self-contained “ecosystems” to help boost biodiversity across the UK. The units bring a wide range of habitats together under one roof to create a compact ecosystem to support a large number of plants and animals. They can include, for example, a hedgehog house, a bee hotel and planting areas.
Ecological trials have shown that they quickly encourage wildlife into some of the most inhospitable places. The units have been called “planters on steroids”, according to Mr Smithson.
“It was pure serendipity that brought me to this role,’’ Mr Smithson said. “I went on a bike ride with one of the company’s directors and he said the company was looking for an ecologist.
“I knew that Rolawn had a reputation for innovation and now BioScapes takes this further by creating products which make it easy for people to bring nature back into their spaces.
“People want to respond to the biodiversity crisis and connect with the natural world but, in our busy lives, this needs to be something that is simple to maintain and simple to understand.”
Big names in the retail world have enlisted BioScape’s support.
Mr Smithson said: “We are working with McArthur Glen (in York) to help the company improve the visitor experience whilst taking a big step to enhance local biodiversity.
“Access to the natural world boosts our creative energy and improves productivity.”
BioScapes’ products come in a range of sizes. They include WildPod, which is suited to a small garden or balcony, through to NatureArk, which is ideal for medium size spaces such as schools, and BioCube, which has been designed for a commercial setting.
“The units create an attractive feature in any garden or open space and one which is easy to install and maintain,’’ said Mr Smithson.
“We have also been working with a social housing scheme in Durham, installing different BioScapes habitat planters throughout neighbourhoods, to improve biodiversity and create a sense of place and space,’’ said Mr Smithson.
“Biodiversity is all about the richness and diversity of life,’’ he added. “It could be the smell of a flower or the song of a bird. For me, it really is all about inspiring people to connect with the natural world. If people can appreciate it, they will protect it.
“BioScapes provides a solution suited to every home and business. Yorkshire people are very proud of where they live and of the wonderful countryside. It’s a key selling point of the region.”
“The Biodiversity crisis is in the forefront people’s concerns and we know that restoring the natural world is the single biggest thing we can do to address the climate crisis.”
BioScapes says its products are more than just large planters. The company’s products provide multiple integrated habitats and support a wide range of UK flora and fauna from single-celled microorganisms and fungi through to pollinators, amphibians, and small mammals; all are important to the future of our planet.
“We’re getting lots of feedback that these products are ideal,’’ said Mr Smithson. “People want to act for biodiversity but need an effective solution.
“House builders are also interested, because our habitat units like WildPod, provide an option for the homebuyers to do their bit for the planet.”
“We have had steady growth of the business so far, but we expect demand to rocket.
“The timing is right,’’ he said. “People want to do something for the planet and having attractive green space around their houses and businesses underpins their value."
Born in Middlesbrough, Terry Smithson is an expert in biodiversity who has extensive experience working in the nature conservation sector.
He has a passion for protecting the planet’s natural habitat and a deep understanding of species and ecosystems.
Mr Smithson offers support and guidance through his role at BioScapes on the importance of boosting biodiversity and the most effective ways for it to be achieved.
Mr Smithson is the company’s lead ecologist. He said: “Research published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that nine out of 10 people agree that access to natural spaces is good for mental health and wellbeing.”