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March 2015 - Habitat Works at Verity Crescent

 

EPR has recently been delivering some fascinating heathland creation works in Poole, Dorset. Take a look at the photos to see what work we have carried out so far.

We have been involved with the Verity Crescent site for over 15 years, with recent ecological works consisting of a large scale reptile relocation, in which over 6,700 Common Lizards and Slow-worms were safely moved to areas of enhanced habitat. Since then, we’ve been involved with creating and managing habitats across the site to enhance their value for reptiles.

 

The site sits on what was originally part of Canford Heath. However, it was utilised for landfill until the mid-1980s and since then had been left unmanaged. After the landfill was clay-capped, an early successional cover of grassland developed on the mix of imported soils, this then became dominated by scrub vegetation. Little of the original heathland soils appears to have survived over the site.

 

Given the history of the site, it was proposed within the Habitat Management Plan and Reptile Mitigation Strategy to create new pockets of heathland habitat within a new Nature Conservation Area. This area was to consist of a heathland and grassland mosaic, which was ultimately designed to encourage Sand Lizards into the area, as this rare species of reptile had not been recorded on site since 2004.

 

In order to effectively re-create heathland habitat, a number of stages were required.

 

Phase 1 – Preparation of the ground

As the soil was of unsuitable composition to convert into the required habitat types, it was necessary to carry out some preparation works to the ground. To change the structure and composition of the ground, it was necessary to introduce materials which complement the new habitat. This imported material was a mixture of low nutrient soil with gravel and sand. This was delivered to site in Spring 2014 and subsequently spread on targeted areas and mixed where necessary. The ground was then manipulated and shaped under the supervision of an ecologist to ensure the heathland plants would establish and to also provide the topography and features favoured by reptiles.

 

Phase 2 – Introduction of cut heather and heathland seed

Bales of cut heather carrying important seed resources were obtained from the nearby Canford Heath, and were spread and mixed in to the prepared areas of ground in Autumn 2014. Locally sourced heathland seed was also sown into the ground to speed up establishment of this area. This served to both acidify the soil and also to help provide some structure for the heather seeds to better establish themselves.

 

Phase 3 – Nurturing of new habitat and removal of invasive weeds

Our task this year is to monitor and maintain the newly created habitat. Initial tasks are likely to involve the control of any invasive weeds, which is very important in the early stages of the habitat establishment. Equally succession is a never ending process and therefore management of undesirable vegetation in a way that mimics past heathland management practices will need to continue indefinitely. This will predominately involve cutting back or removing vegetation periodically to allow the desired habitat to dominate.

 

EPR’s management of other nearby habitat areas has already proved successful in encouraging back Adder, and we hope to expand on this success with this heathland creation work, with the ultimate goal being to bring back Sand Lizard to the areas that we have restored.

If you have a site that requires habitat creation, restoration or management, please contact our Natural Greenspaces team on 01962 794 720 who would be happy to help.

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