Monitoring of the Open Pits, Dungeness RSPB reserve
Dungeness is home to many rare species and several unique shingle habitats. These include a series of natural peat filled hollows known as the Open Pits that support rich wetland plant communities. Their species composition has been changing since the 1950s, partly due to natural succession, water level fluctuations and changes in management practices. In 2012 we were asked to monitor a series of ninety nine transects around the pits to record the changes and inform the management plan for the site.
In the managed pits there was a gain in species richness with a number of plants that are scarce in Kent recovering from the seed-bank or becoming more frequent. These included common cotton grass, marsh speedwell, marsh willowherb, tufted sedge and bottle sedge. A bonus was the discovery of new locations for two threatened species, the water vole and great crested newt.
Left to right: water vole, cotton grass, marsh cinquefoil.
In contrast the unmanaged pits exhibited the continued spread of grey willow, bramble and common reed and reduction in the diversity of fen plants, with greater water-dock showing one of the most pronounced declines, along with marsh cinquefoil. The GIS package Map Info was used to demonstrate changes in plant distributions.
Medicinal leech – New Romney
The medicinal leech is a rare and protected species that has its largest UK population on Romney Marsh on the Kent/East Sussex border. Many of the wetlands in the area are protected as Sites of Special Scientific interest partly on account of this species. In 2012 we were asked to survey ditches and ponds that could be affected by a proposed water pipeline so that impacts on this species could be avoided if possible by choosing alternative pipeline routes, and if not by appropriate mitigation.
Great crested newt mitigation - Broad Oak
Work started under a European protected species mitigation licence for the building of a number of dwellings. As well as completing the removing newts from the building area work in 2013 will include the construction of hibernacula, and the removal of shading trees from a pond to provide better breeding habitat. Hibernacula are piles of building materials and branches capped by soil which provide a high density of crevices in which newts can live.