How Convenient?

Biodiversity Awareness

Wildlife Corridor: Live Project Brief

Marcela Teran and Jen Yoohyun Lee

I. Design Proposal

As the students of MA in Design and Environment, and in response to the brief of the course Technonatures, we are presenting a design proposal for the management of the east side of the New Cross Gate Railway Cutting. Taking into consideration, the objectives of Goldsmiths’s draft of the Biodiversity Action Plan in conjunction with the goals of London Wildlife Trust to preserve the site, we have considered relevant to propose the establishment of BDA (Biodiversity Awareness), a student’s society within Goldsmiths. The aims of the society meet the objectives of the school’s Biodiversity Action Plan1:
Promote and implement biodiversity; raise awareness of biodiversity conservation issues and best practice; facilitate both formal and informal learning about nature conservation; increase awareness of the value of rail side habitats; promote environmental awareness and personal responsibility; contribute towards relevant local and regional Biodiversity Action Plans and open space strategy objectives.

2010 is the year of biodiversity. In a recent article published at the website of Natural History Museum, David Minter, President of the recently founded European Mycological Association, says that “biodiversity is so much more than ‘animals and plants’.” Fungi conform one of the five kingdom classification of life. But Rio Convention on Biological Diversity failed to take fungi into account and “it's difficult to over-emphasize how important fungi are.”2 Lichen, a type of fungi, is commonly thought to be a sensitive indicator of air pollution.3 On the same frame of ideas, bryophytes, composed of mosses and liverworts, according to Saxena and Harinder, “modify their micro-climate and serve to conserve moisture, check soil erosion on hilly slopes, and … are now increasingly being used for purpose ranging from pollution monitoring to new sources of pharmaceutical products.”4

Under the emerging notion of multispecies, where boundaries between nature and culture are being reconsidered and entanglement between species is looked at in a new light5, the relationships with kingdoms of fungi and plants enable new ways of engagement. In this sense, BDA will bring awareness to the importance of biodiversity by promoting the study of species that are usually neglected, such as fungi and bryophytes, which not only play important roles in ecosystems but also serve as bioindicators as it has been stated in recent studies mentioned above.

Studying small scale organisms is an effective way to determine the condition of the site. “Lichens are sensitive to local variations in the amounts of nitrogen-containing pollutants in the air and illustrate what conditions are like in your local area.”6 Different species of lichens grow depending on the levels of nitrogen present. “Liverworts and mosses are very sensitive to air pollution. … By making regular survey and counting abundance and frequency of species of mosses, an IAP (Index of Atmospheric Purity) can be calculated. Bryophytes have also been used to monitor airborne pollution caused by emissions from various sources.”7 Hence the condition of the site can be estimated by locating and keeping track of them.

The east side of New Cross Gate Cutting- “the site”- has not been managed up to date, while the west side has been maintained by London Wildlife Trust. Even though the organization has been focused to “conserve the acid grassland, try and maintain the pioneer woodland community as best possible, maintain reasonable access around the site, and - critically - ensure its boundaries are safe and secure”, their future management plans also includes “taking account of climate change issues.” Our proposal is relevant to both the current work as well as the future plan.

Due to lack of resources, the maintenance of the reserve has been almost completely relied on volunteers. For this reason, the creation of the society becomes relevant. Unlike volunteers, the rate of society members attendance should remain stable, hence providing reliable management. In the absence of an up to date database of the species that are present in the area, there is no accurate biodiversity action plan to follow. Therefore we are proposing that one of the initial aims of the society would be to work in conjunction with the London Wildlife Trust to make a biodiversity survey taking specific interest in fungi and bryophytes. This will involve the collection of samples that with help from Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, will allow to determine the state of the site and establish which actions need to be undertaken to preserve or reinforce its biodiversity.

In parallel, we are proposing a curriculum for BDA that could be run every year, consisting of a series of activities held in a weekly session on campus, with several interventions in or related to the site and also field trips to the Natural History Museum and other locations, promoting an interdisciplinary approach. Additionally, a monthly training/working session could be held with the London Wildlife Trust engaging with activities that are relevant for the management of the site and/or the study of biodiversity.


1 Goldsmiths College, 2010. Biodiversity Action Plan. [draft] April 2010. London: Goldsmiths College, University of London.
2 Minter, D., 2010. Biodiversity is life [online]. Available at: [Accessed 11 December 2010].
3 OPAL Air Center, Imperial College London and British Lichen Society, 2007. The OPAL Air Survey. [leaflet] London: Natural History Museum.
4 Saxena D.K. and Harinder, 2004. Uses of Bryophytes. RESONANCE, 9(6), pp.56.
5 Kirksey, E. S. and Helmreich S., 2010. The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography. Cultural Anthropology, 25(4), pp.545-576.
6 OPAL Air Center, Imperial College London and British Lichen Society, 2007. The OPAL Air Survey. [leaflet] London: Natural History Museum.
7 Saxena D K and Harinder, 2004. Uses of Bryophytes. RESONANCE, 9(6), pp.58.

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