The Living Coast

We’re proud to be part of the only designated urban biosphere in the UK.

The Living Coast is Brighton and Lewes Downs UNESCO World Biosphere region. UNESCO recognises the area for its commitment to: 

  • nature conservation
  • sustainable development
  • environmental education and awareness

We’re one of the lead partners on the Living Coast and we support many eco projects in the area. These projects help protect local biodiversity.

Cityparks rangers and gardeners

Our rangers and gardeners look after natural habitats and species in our parks and greenspaces.

They carry out practical conservation tasks and surveying. They also lead and train volunteer and community groups in active conservation. 

Find out more about what our rangers do and follow them on their Rangers’ Facebook page.

Chalk Downland

Sussex and the South Downs are known for our Chalk Downland. It has some of the rarest habitats in the UK. 

These grasslands are centuries old. They support a huge variety of biodiversity. So much so, that naturalist David Bellamy called them Europe’s rainforests. 

Most species that live on our Downland are chalk specialists. The spectacular Adonis blue butterfly is one of them. This means they’d struggle to survive without this rare habitat.

"Adonis Blue Butterfly at Whitehawk Hill Nature Reserve"

     

    Visit our Downland in summer and you will see a stunning display of native wildflowers. These include: 

    • orchids
    • lady’s tresses 
    • the flower of Sussex, the round-headed rampion

    Since World War 2, the country has lost around 80% of grasslands like these. On the Downs, over one-third of sites are now less than one hectare in size. 

    We need a site of at least 20 hectares to secure the future of this important habitat. The smaller the ecosystem, the less resilient it becomes.

      Common spotted orchid, Devil's Dyke

      We’ve been working with partners and volunteers for over 10 years to protect our Downland. This involves a wide variety of supporting projects like: 

      We’re also part of a Heritage Lottery funded partnership called The Changing Chalk

      It’s led by the National Trust to further protect the chalk grasslands. It also aims to engage people with the land and heritage sites of the Sussex Downs.

      Grazing animals are an important part of the Downland landscape. It has evolved over centuries because of this continued grazing. 

      Many of the specialist plant species only grow here because animals graze the longer grasses. These longer grasses would otherwise out-compete them in their fight for nutrients and sunlight.

      Grazing is more beneficial for the land than mowing because:

      • grazing happens over several weeks, so the impact is less intense and allows time for insects, birds and animals to move away
      • other species’ nests are not damaged
      • it removes different plants at different rates - sheep find some plants tastier than others
      • aggressive weeds, like nettles and brambles, don't take over

      Sometimes, we have to do conservation mowing. This is a short-term way to stop scrub from getting too comfortable. We do this on important chalk grassland sites that aren’t currently suitable for grazing.

      Mowing is not the best management for conservation areas. This is because it’s quite destructive to wildlife. 

      It’s also expensive to collect and compost the cuttings. If we left the cuttings to rot on the land, it would enrich the soil too much. Most Downland species would be unable to thrive.

      Trees

      Our arboriculturist service manages:

      • thousands of trees in our parks and open spaces
      • over 12,000 street trees across the city 
      • over 500 hectares of woodland in and around Brighton & Hove

      Since the 1970s, Brighton & Hove has been known for its work to manage Elm Disease. 

      Now, we have the largest stock of Elm species, cultivars and varieties in Britain. We’ve held the National Elm Collection since 1998.

      There are a few ways you can help us reduce the risk of Elm Disease in the city. 

      Only buy logs for winter fuel if the supplier can guarantee the wood isn't Elm. Don’t bring any Elm timber into the city to use as garden ornaments or seating. 

      Find out more about our work to stop Elm Disease.

      Planting trees can be very beneficial for the environment, but it’s important to choose the right tree for the right place.

      If you would like to plant trees in your garden, the Woodland Trust can help you choose the right tree and where to plant it. You can also find out how to look after the tree, to give it a long life.

      Find out how you can request a tree planting through our Tree Trust scheme

      Join a greenspace volunteer group to plant trees locally.

      Support biodiversity at home

      There are many ways to support local, national and even global biodiversity. You can help, even if you don’t have a garden. 

      You can choose organic food to help support wildlife. Or join a greenspace group to get involved in a more hands on way.

      If you do have an outdoor space, the Royal Horticultural Society has information about supporting wildlife in your garden.

      "Volunteers creating a bee and butterfly bank in one of our city parks"