Do we need to protect our hedges in Stoke?

"We are becoming more aware of the importance of green infrastructure within our towns and cities but there has been very little research into hedges, especially those in urban environments."

Elle Atkins, PhD student

A Staffordshire University student is investigating the impact of Stoke-on-Trent's hedges on local wildlife and mental health - and hopes to inform future planning in the city.

Previous research from Staffordshire University has proven how 'green walls' can improve air quality and animal biodiversity, with another project revealing how green spaces can benefit our mental wellbeing.

Now PhD student Elle Atkins is leading a new study investigating the importance of urban hedges and what types of hedgerows most benefit animals, residents and the environment in Stoke-on-Trent.

She said: “We are becoming more aware of the importance of green infrastructure within our towns and cities but there has been very little research into hedges, especially those in urban environments.

“Hedges offer a space efficient way of bringing nature to our streets and help to improve air quality and aesthetics but unlike rural hedges they are not protected by government regulations.”

The research aims to measure the bio-diversity of local hedges and gather public opinion to determine which types of hedgerows are most beneficial. This data can then be used to inform planners, developers and authorities in future.

Elle also hopes that the research will provide evidence that the protection of hedges should be extended to those in urban environments.

“Urban hedges are just as important, if not more, than those in the countryside and we need to look after them.” Elle commented.

“We've measured how important urban hedges are for birds, small mammals and invertebrates and discovered even more wildlife than we expected. 63% of the hedges surveyed were inhabited by mammals including mice, voles and shrews – even those right next to pavements or streets are well used.”

Elle is now seeking public opinion and needs more than 500 local residents to complete a questionnaire on hedges for the study.

She explained: “Scientific research doesn't always pay interest to what the public think, but, as this is something that will directly affect peoples' environment within our city, we believe that the public should have their say.

“We want to know what people like or dislike about hedges and the reasons why. Hopefully, if we know more about what the public opinion is, then we can add this to our findings about animals and birds to provide a more complete picture and improve our city for both humans and wildlife.”

Take the questionnaire online here. For further information visit the study's Twitter page @perceptionhedge or email eleanor.atkins@research.staffs.ac.uk