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Does nature thrive, where we drive? asks national biodiversity project

Bespoke | News

The SMP Alliance is taking part in a long-term biodiversity and wellbeing initiative led by Hill and Smith Infrastructure, which aims to record information about wildlife living near our road networks.

‘Biodiversity and our Roads: Do we thrive where we drive?’ is an online project set up on the National Geographic iNaturalist app, to discover the impact that our roads have on nature around us.

Hill and Smith Infrastructure, which consists of Hardstaff Barriers, Varley and Gulliver, Asset VRS and Hill and Smith Barriers, set up the project six months ago for employees, road construction partners and members of the public.

Since then, more than 1500 individual observations and more than 550 different species have been logged as part of the project.

From plants and fungi to animals and even microorganisms, observers have been busy – in their work breaks and in their spare time – recording as many different types of biodiversity as possible.

Striking images have been captured on garden cameras, including hedgehogs at night and blue tits flying into their nests, and even sightings of rare insects.

As well as building up a clearer picture of the biodiversity in the UK, the initiative has also helped to boost mental and physical wellbeing and connections between colleagues, family and friends, by encouraging participants to go out into nature.

Traditionally, roads have been thought to compromise the quality of the environment and fragment important habitats for wildlife.

The SMP Alliance, which supports delivery of National Highways wider construction and maintenance programme, is committed to protecting the natural environment that surrounds its roads and has pledged to prevent the net loss of biodiversity through its activities.

Molly Guirdham, Biodiversity Lead at SMP Alliance: “The iNaturalist app is allowing even more of our site colleagues to contribute by monitoring and recording biodiversity on a national level across our schemes. In turn, that is making a measurable contribution to our Enhanced Environments outcome and ultimately the SMP Alliance vision of making the road network safer, greener and evermore efficient.”

Kathryn Cooper, Head of ESG at Hill and Smith Infrastructure, said: “The feedback that we have received about the project has been really positive. People have really enjoyed the sense of purpose during their time outdoors.”

She added: “Consciously looking out for biodiversity has got people out of their heads and into the present moment, taking in the sights, sounds and smells around them, which is proven to contribute to mental wellbeing. It’s been great to lead improvements in mental health and wellbeing for our industry.”