Earth Trust’s pioneering Biodiversity Offsetting Scheme receives recognition

Earth Trust and partners, Environment Bank and Taylor Wimpey, are proud to have been awarded the CIEEM Award for ‘Best Practice – Small Scale Mitigation’ for our biodiversity offsetting project at Bushey Bank.

In 2013, Earth Trust delivered the UK’s first biodiversity offsetting scheme, providing an early exemplar of how biodiversity loss at one location can lead to enhancement of a rare habitat close by. Earlier this month, the contribution and significance of this trailblazing project was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM).

The CIEEM Awards celebrate the outstanding work of ecologists and environmental managers across the UK and Ireland. Earth Trust and partners, Environment Bank and Taylor Wimpey, are proud to have been awarded the 2022 CIEEM Award for Best Practice – Small Scale Mitigation for our pioneering biodiversity offsetting project at Bushey Bank.

A 2.14ha steep south facing chalk slope located on the Earth Trust farm, Bushey Bank, was a degraded area of lowland calcareous grassland when Earth Trust acquired the site in 2011.

In 2013, the Environment Bank brokered an offsetting agreement between Taylor Wimpey and Earth Trust. Assessments highlighted that the habitat was in ‘poor’ condition, but could be significantly improved with a structured management and monitoring plan to achieve the status of ‘unimproved calcareous grassland in good condition’. This improvement would generate the biodiversity units required to offset the Taylor Wimpey development in Southmoor.

As the first UK offsetting agreement, Bushey Bank was the pilot project for the Environment Bank Biodiversity Impact Calculator. An innovative approach at the time, the Bank developed a process by which developers could purchase conservation credits (protected under legal agreements) that allowed them to offset their Biodiversity Net Gain deficit and produce actionable habitat improvement in a focused and evidence based approach.

Offsetting funds were used to enable management of the Bushey Bank site against a 15-year Management and Monitoring Plan, including low intensity grazing by cattle and sheep. After just two years of management, Bushey Bank was already showing significant gains for wildlife, including the presence of a number of nationally scarce invertebrates. A strong population of wild liquorice has been recorded, a locally rare and declining plant, along with healthy numbers of the liquorice piercer micro-moth Grapholita pallifrontana, a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species.

In August 2020, following an Environment Bank monitoring visit, it was identified that the grassland had successfully met the target habitat type. The annual management and monitoring will continue until the scheme ends in October 2028 so there is still much to learn about the biodiversity net gains being generated.

Ian Nutt, Director of Programmes and Partnerships said, “Earth Trust is an organisation that has always worked in partnership with others to pioneer new and innovative nature based solutions. Off-setting remains just one part of a complex solution for supporting healthy ecosystems and working with businesses to address the threats of biodiversity loss and climate change. We welcome more joined-up partnerships and thinking that enable people and nature to thrive together.”