The Urban Nature Project
We're working in partnership across the UK to start a new urban nature movement.
It has never been more important to make our towns and cities healthy and sustainable places to live.
Wildlife is in trouble in the UK. The natural world faces unprecedented declines and needs help now more than ever. We particularly need to understand and protect the nature in our cities, so monitoring its changes is vital.
Everyone can play a part in giving nature a helping hand, so we're working to give people across the UK, no matter who they are or where they live, the motivation and tools to safeguard the nature in towns and cities so that people and planet can thrive.
Read about our plans in detail below.
The Urban Nature Project
The Museum's five-acre site in South Kensington is being transformed into a welcoming, accessible and biologically diverse green space in the heart of London.
New outdoor galleries will showcase the Museum's scientific research and provide a space for the public to learn about the incredible diversity of life on Earth and how our planet has changed over time. Access to the garden will also be improved, with universal step-free routes across the site.
The existing Wildlife Garden will be extended to double the area of native habitats within the grounds, providing a fabulous setting for our historic building.
Museum staff will also work with organisations across the UK to inspire the next generation, create new opportunities for young people in cities and help everyone to learn about humanity's impact on the natural world.
An expanded schools programme at the Museum will allow schools to explore the gardens with a focus on building a connection with nature, valuing biodiversity and pro-environmental actions.
Working in partnership with local community groups, a community programme will co-create four family activities and resources for an onsite family learning programme. This will include self-guided experiences, handling stations, natural crafts and activities contributing to urban biodiversity. All will be delivered to family groups with children aged 6+ and will be an opportunity for families to learn together and from each other about the species that can be commonly found in and around London.
A new volunteer programme will be delivered to diversify volunteer roles and volunteers and to grow the programme. A summer programme for 35 school leavers will also be rolled out.
See the developing designs
The designs for the new gardens are developing.
A planning application has been approved by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Thank you to everyone who took part in our consultation earlier in 2020. Find out more about how we are responding to your valuable feedback.
- The design teams leading the gardens transformation are Feilden Fowles and J & L Gibbons, and the project management consultants are Mace.
- The Museum has also worked with several external experts and consultants who have provided feedback at critical points in during the design process.
- Building work is due to start in 2021 and the transformed gardens are due to be opened in 2023.
The Urban Nature Project will develop new scientific tools and skills urgently needed to monitor, understand and protect urban nature.
Understanding how wildlife is responding to change requires large volumes of data. The Museum will take the lead in convening a national partnership of urban nature professionals, including academic researchers and conservation practitioners.
The gardens will become a hub for urban nature identification and field survey skills. We will pilot a range of technologies for monitoring change in urban environments, including eDNA and acoustic monitoring, and will share these with our partners alongside a DNA library and teaching collection.
A series of workshops on how to best monitor and manage urban nature will be run in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust.
Up to five new long-term urban wildlife study and engagement sites across the UK will also be established to act as test beds for how best to manage urban spaces for wildlife.
We will develop a new public-facing biodiversity and environmental monitoring data ecosystem to help capture, share and interpret urban nature data for different audiences.
Through cross-sector consultation we will identify key species and habitats to monitor as the 'canaries in the mine' to track change within the UK's urban biodiversity., in addition to developing easy ways to monitor these species.
Our work will make it easier, quicker and cheaper to monitor urban habitats by developing and implementing low-cost, efficient and effective DNA, acoustic and digital environmental monitoring methodologies. Large-scale open access datasets of the information collected will then be made available for research and conservation use.
A note on COVID-19
At a time when many of us are confined to our homes, the nature on our doorsteps has never been more important or appreciated. But it is also under threat like never before.
We're continuing to safely progress plans for the Urban Nature Project because the issues of climate change and biodiversity loss have not gone away. The Urban Nature Project is allowing us to safeguard the future of the natural world.
Creating new opportunities to connect with nature
A UK-wide learning programme will inspire the next generation to care for the nature that surrounds them.
We'll be supporting teachers, developing curriculum-linked schools programmes, creating a nationwide schools challenge, providing new training opportunities for young people and developing a brand-new citizen science project informed by young people.
We have developed a Youth Advisory Panel, which will provide a voice for one of our key target audiences and help with the ongoing development of the project reaching 24 young people and supporting their personal development and skills. Our first Youth Advisory Panel shared their thoughts and recommendations on improving access to nature for all.
Taking that first step to nature can be daunting for some, so alongside this a new online hub will provide a range of ways to support people wanting to take action for nature at home.
To help us reach disadvantaged young people with low connection to nature we will work in partnership with The Prince's Trust to develop a series of programmes aimed at young people aged 18-25 who are Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET) and young people aged 14-18 who are at risk of becoming NEET.
36 young people will be involved in the Prince's Trust Get Started with Urban Ecology programme at the Museum, Birmingham & Black Country Wildlife Trust and RSPB Glasgow sites. The programme will provide a 1-week place on site, providing engagement motivation, urban ecology learning and career entry level skills development, with 12-week's of mentoring following the placement.
The future of the natural world is in our hands. We're doing our bit to protect it because our vision is of a future where both people and planet thrive.
Earth is changing fast under the influence of human behaviour, and biodiversity loss - the loss of the great variety of life - is just one of the consequences. Humans rely on this nature to survive, so protecting biodiversity means protecting generations to come.
Engaging with biodiversity begins at home, yet it is declining in the UK.
Over 80% of the UK population live in urban areas, and this is projected to rise to 92% by 2030, leading to larger cities and more challenges for wildlife. This means towns and cities are rapidly becoming where most people will experience nature, therefore key places to protect the UK's biodiversity.
We need to learn more, connect with each other and act together to protect our urban nature, and we need to do it now.
The Urban Nature Project has been generously supported by the following funders.
The Trustees and Executive Board of the Natural History Museum
The Urban Nature Project has been generously supported by the following donors:
- Hussain Aga Khan
- Kirk B Alexander
- Stephen and Janian Green
- Dr Douglas Gurr
- The Hobson Charity
- Huo Family Foundation (UK)
- Johnson Matthey
- Hilary Newiss
- Simon and Harriet Patterson
- Holly Smith and Neil Osborn
We thank all funders to the Urban Nature Project campaign so far, including those who wish to remain anonymous, for their generous support.