Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) for Wildlife

Streetside Swale in Seattle

Streetside Swale in Seattle

Our aims here at the Wildlife Trust include protecting and creating wildlife habitat, and inspiring individuals to take action for wildlife and the environment. With this in mind,  we have recently started branching out into a new and exciting area with huge potential for improving habitat for wildlife in urban areas; SuDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems).

SuDS mimic the countryside in our towns and cities using features such as ponds and green roofs, which intercept rain water as it falls, storing it in periods of high rainfall and removing pollutants from water. This reduces the risk of flooding and prevents damage to our wildlife. They can be on a huge variety of scales, from a small garden pond to large wetlands and swales which may be used to drain larger building sites.

In 2015 we worked with Natural Resources Wales to identify areas in Swansea which would benefit from SuDS and built a Rain Garden at the Swansea Vale Resource Centre, with two large Rain Garden planters which capture rain water from the roof that would otherwise go straight down the storm drain. More information on this can be found here.

Rain Gardens are the perfect way to make your garden work for water and wildlife. They come in many shapes and sizes, but all have a common goal; to capture water in a beautiful and wildlife-friendly way! Rain gardens are usually depressions in the ground or raised planters into which a downpipe is directed, thereby capturing water during storms that would otherwise have gone straight down the drain. They can be planted with native, nectar-rich plants, providing food for invertebrates such as butterflies and bumblebees.


Wildlife Pond

Our aim is to discover the most cost-effective and easiest ways of creating a Rain Garden with the hope that you may be inspired to create one in your own home! If you like the sound of Rain Gardens or other wildlife-friendly SuDS and would like to learn more about them, please contact Rose (email). We would be pleased to help and advise you.

Rain gardens are not the only way of using SuDS in your own garden and all of the following have multiple benefits for wildlife. Please read on to find out more about them and where you can get advice to create them in your own garden:

  • Dig a Pond

A pond will contain permanent water with the capacity to store additional water during storms, releasing it slowly to reduce the stress on the river system. This will also remove pollutants from the water before it reaches the river, improving the overall health of the river.

A wildlife pond is also one of the best features for attracting new wildlife to an area and it is now thought that some amphibians, such as frogs, are now more common in garden ponds than in the countryside. Since 1950, over half the UK’s ponds have been lost due to habitat destruction, leading to a 50% reduction in great crested newt populations and extinction of 10% of our breeding dragonfly species. As well as providing numerous drainage benefits, building a pond will help increase this valuable habitat.

The Wildlife Trust Pond Pack below can provide you with more information on how to create a pond for wildlife. If you can reconnect a downpipe so it feeds the pond, this will provide additional SuDS benefits.

  • Create a Rain Garden
Rain Garden fed with water falling on the road at Greendale Grange

Rain Garden fed with water falling on the road at Greendale Grange

Rain gardens are shallow depressions or raised planters, usually connected to a down pipe from a building, which collect rain water after a storm. A rain garden is planted with native species able to tolerate short periods of inundation, which in turn absorb water and remove it from the water system.

When planted with native wildflowers, rain gardens are a valuable source of nectar and pollen for pollinating insects such as bumblebees, butterflies and hoverflies. Bumblebees are in decline across the UK, with 2 extinctions in the last 30 years, and so they need all the help they can get.

A good source of information about Rain Gardens is the UK Rain Garden Guide, which can be viewed online here.

  • Grow a Green Roof
Green roof on shed

Green roof on a shed

Green roofs are planted-up roofs which could contain wildflowers, grasses and sedums, which intercept rainwater and decrease run-off from roofs. They are very visually attractive and can provide a variety of habitats for wildlife. They don’t need to be substantial and can be put on anything from the roof of your shed or garage to a dog kennel!

You can find out more about how to create a green roof on the living roofs website here. We are hoping to hold a training course with Dusty Gedge and John Little of at Parc Slip in 2016. If you would like to be kept up to date with this course, please contact Rose on email and let her know.

  • Install a Living Wall

Living walls are formed with climbers ‘trained’ on wires or trellis or with planters that are fixed to the wall, fed with harvested rainwater or grey water. They are likely to be slightly more complicated and potentially more expensive but look very striking and provide multiple water interception and wildlife benefits.

The RHS provides some information about Living Walls on their website here.