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BIGGA to promote biodiversity

News
19.11.2020
BIGGA R&A

Last week the British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) announced a formal relationship with the RSPB and The R&A to increase awareness and support for biodiversity conservation on golf courses.

Providing inspiration and best practice for greenkeeping teams, BIGGA will help continue the significant progress made in recent years in encouraging biodiversity and ecology at golf facilities.

The RSPB will provide BIGGA with advice and resources, including a presentation from Business Conservation Advisor Dr Marie Athorn at BIGGA’s educational events such as the flagship ‘Continue to Learn’.

Changing perceptions

James Hutchinson, BIGGA’s Membership Services Manager for Ecology and Sustainability, says one of the main aims was to “alter the perception of those who believe golf courses as detrimental to the environment” and that “turf professionals everywhere have an awareness of their role as stewards of the wider landscape”.

Changing perceptions is also the goal of PGA Catalunya Resort’s in-house environmental biologist, Oriol Dalmau, whose hard work helped earn the venue the 2020 IAGTO Sustainability Award for Nature Protection.

In this feature discussing the value of green spaces, Dalmau says: “When golf is planned correctly it can create a great diversity of habitats and therefore act as host for an incredible diversity of species.”

Mental wellbeing

In Slovenia, Royal Bled Golf’s superintendent Stephen Chappell has highlighted the importance of the superintendent’s role in not only protecting but enhancing the environment for significant health benefits.

“People are not just looking at it from a point of view of manicured turf or a well-conditioned golf course,” says Chappell.

“You hear the birds singing, the water running, wildlife, the backdrop of the mountains. There’s a lot to be said for what golf courses can offer from a physical health point of view but also mental health.”

Steve Isaac, The R&A’s Director – Sustainability, agrees, saying: “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the health benefits golfers and other users of golf courses gain from enjoying recreation surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.

“Greenkeepers will, obviously, play a vital role in this and the relationship between the partnership and BIGGA provides exciting opportunities we all have for golf and nature.”

Opportunity to support nature

Golf courses constitute large areas of mixed habitats, from areas of trees, heathland, wildflower meadows, wetland habitat and even bunkers, and they play a hugely important role in preserving the UK’s under-threat wildlife species.

Dr Athorn, the RSPB’s Business Conservation Advisor, also identified urban golf courses as having particular importance in promoting environmental harmony.

“With many golf courses being located in close proximity to densely populated areas, golf courses, if well managed for nature, can provide connectivity across an increasingly urban landscape,” she said.

“With more than 3,000 golf courses in the UK, the golf industry is in an amazing position to support nature conservation on a landscape scale.”

BIGGA Owl

Best management practice

In the USA, Gina Rizzi of Radius Sports Group has had great success helping superintendents and associations develop Best Management Practices to better nurture habitats.

The guides, which are unique to each state, advise on areas such as surface water management, integrated pest management and pollinator protection.

"Sustainability is a term that has been overused and people don’t necessarily understand,” explains Rizzi.

"What it means is how do we meet the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations. In other words, how are we balancing the impacts around the environment, people and business, without compromising the needs of the future?”