Behind the scenes… with Biodiversity Manager Adam Cheeseman
Meet Adam, the Biodiversity and Landscaping Manager looking after Heathrow Airport. Adam is going to be updating us every month on what goes on in managing more than 170 hectares of freshwater lakes, reedbeds and woodland around the airport. But, before that, let’s find out a little bit about him and his role.
What is your role at Heathrow?
As the Biodiversity Manager I’m responsible for managing Heathrow’s 13 off-airport environment sites in all aspects for the benefit of nature conservation. I also advise on all wildlife related issues around the airport as a whole, and collaborate with a number of partner organisations in the surrounding boroughs.
I sit within Heathrow’s Environment team, who work with airport contractors to protect and enhance biodiversity around the airport including Heathrow’s conservation sites.
Heathrow has operated a comprehensive biodiversity management programme for many years, which is part of our commitment to running Heathrow responsibly through our commitment to supporting the UK and local economies whilst managing our impacts on communities and the environment.
What does a typical day involve for you?
There’s no such thing as a typical day as my work can be driven by things such as weather conditions, time of day, seasonality and responding to issues that need immediate attention. Broadly speaking, much of the spring, summer and autumn will see me carrying out surveys – everything from plants to moths to bats and birds and everything else in between.
This enables me to see what species we have present, as well as population numbers and trends, which help to gauge whether our habitat management programme is working or needs adjusting.
Winter time is when I am more likely to be indoors doing IT based work such as reviewing the sites’ management plans, report writing, or maintaining the species database and my Heathrow Wildlife flickr page for example.
Or I could be out working with contractors to ensure that the habitat management works are being completed with Heathrow colleagues from across the business often also helping out.
What do you enjoy most about your role, and what aspects do you find the most challenging?
Nature doesn’t read the rule books so there is always something that could throw me a curve ball. Even after a quarter of a century in nature conservation I am still learning new things about wildlife here at Heathrow.
Finding new species for the airport is always exciting and haabitat management has always been a major interest to me so getting to manage Heathrow’s woodlands, meadows, reedbeds etc. with all their associated flora and fauna is quite a privilege.
It’s also great to gain recognition. Our approach to biodiversity has earned Heathrow the Wildlife Trusts’ Biodiversity Benchmark Award, the only UK national award recognising responsible land management, for 8 years in a row. We were the first airport to attain this award.
Though six of the current biodiversity sites would be affected by the third runway development, there is huge potential for creating habitats in the proposed corridor to the north of the airport.
Effectively starting with a blank canvas there is scope to create any number of regional lowland habitats in suitable areas that will hugely benefit wildlife not only on the sites themselves but further extend the network of connection between sites that currently exists around Heathrow and beyond.
When T5 was built, a whole wet grassland was lifted and moved to the other side of the River Colne where it has continued to thrive. The reason for moving the habitat was that it contains some rare plant species; including the last known wild population in London of Water Avens. We’ve since found rare species of spiders and beetles living there too.
Why is habitat management so important for Heathrow Airport?
Heathrow’s biodiversity management strategy seeks to balance the priority of ensuring aircraft safety whilst playing a leading role in supporting biodiversity management in the local area and beyond. In practice this means managing habitats in a way that minimises high risk bird species but protects and enhances those species that do not.
Heathrow actively manages more than 170 hectares across 13 sites for nature conservation, including four areas that are open for local people to enjoy, as well as the protection of over 2,440 species of flora, fauna and fungi on its sites. In 2015 alone, over 250 species new to the airport have been discovered.
Within landside areas of the airport, Heathrow actively manages more than 170 hectares across 13 sites for nature conservation, including four areas that are open for local people to enjoy, as well as the protection of over 2,440 species of flora, fauna and fungi on its sites. In 2015 alone, over 250 species new to the airport have been discovered.
Each of our biodiversity sites has its own habitat management plan that guides our conservation efforts. These plans run for 5 years, are monitored frequently to assess their impact and are revised after each 5 year period to make sure our actions are appropriate and deliver maximum biodiversity benefit. Outside of the airport our work with partners is very diverse ranging from coordinated surveys and sharing of information, volunteering and joint initiatives and projects.
Wow, 250 new species – that’s a lot! Do you have a favourite?
Well I don’t go in for cute and fluffy, so of all the species I added to the list in 2015 I would have to pick something like the Black Arches, a stunning looking moth, or the Scarlet Elf Cup, a vivid red fungus. Though every time I find something new that sort of becomes the current favourite!
What are the exciting plans for the future?
We believe expansion would create a bigger and better Heathrow, and provide once-in-a-generation opportunities to enhance and add to these biodiversity areas, ultimately creating a 15-mile green corridor.
This would create significant areas of new and enhanced habitats, providing publicly accessible green space for local residents and wildlife. Taken together the plans would result in an area that is approximately four times the size of London’s Hyde Park.
Of course, in terms of our plans for a third runway at Heathrow, we have also thought about how best to mitigate the effects of the development on local rivers and flood protection.
We have produced a plan to enhance the quality of rivers, biodiversity and landscape and our measures will protect people and properties against flooding, offering the potential for an improved situation compared to today, particularly for the residents of Colnbrook and Poyle.
Each month we’ll be bringing you a new piece from Adam with pictures and highlights from Heathrow managed biodiversity areas.