By now most students have left Leicester for the summer and are at home enjoying the freedom that comes with the end of another academic year. But for those of us studying the third year module ‘Conservation Biology’ we had a five days of field based teaching. This took place in locations around Leicestershire and Rutland and form the first part of teaching for the module that will run in semester 1 next year.
Over the week we were introduced to five areas of conservation; woodland management, wetland management and osprey conservation, agriculture, river restoration, and biodiversity offsetting.
I’m going to split this post into two, because it’s quite a long one so be sure to look out for Part 2 next week!!
We visited two sites during the day and looked at the way that ancient woodland is managed and restored. Following WW11 a lot of coniferous trees were planted, but the biodiversity value of deciduous forest is higher and there have been projects to restore these.
One of the sites we visited was a SSSI (site of special scientific interest) and the other wasn’t. It was very interesting to see the difference between the management approach at each site. In the site which wasn’t SSSI other species which might benefit the canopy can be introduced and the construction of pond to help insect species which like water to survive is possible. This site had much less restrictions on it than the SSSI site.
One important method for improving the woodland is coppicing the tree and also thinning the canopy. Both encourage more growth from the trees and a better quality woodland.
We also learnt about diseases which threaten British woodland, for example Ash Dieback which is currently causing the loss of many of our Ash trees.
Wetland management and osprey conservation:
Rutland Water is a wetland site and home to many wetland bird species. When we visited the site we had the opportunity to visit the Sand Martin banks. These are basically long buildings which have little boxes, with holes to the outside, for the sand martins to nest in. There is a ringing programme in place to track the birds born here and measure the number that return to nest each year. Currently the oldest they have is six years old. Recapturing the birds to determine how many have survived and returned means that they can identify any issues in the population. Whilst the birds are nesting weekly surveys are taken to determine how many nests have eggs, chicks, etc, these are entered into the British Trust for Ornithology database.
Rutland Water is home to 30,000 wild fowl in the winter and the birds go to nest and feed at the site. One of the most famous bird species to nest here are the ospreys. Ospreys were first introduced here in 1996 from Scotland and was the first place in England to have the birds breed in 150 years. Ospreys are site faithful for they return to their birthplace to nest again. Currently they have 8 breeding pairs nests.
The Allerton Project is demonstration farm (which is a business) and a shooting ground. This farm has been a centre for research into conservation techniques in arable farming.
We looked at trials of different field margins, aimed to increase biodiversity and benefit invertebrates. They also had beetle banks, which are sections of land in the centres of fields designed to provide a place for predatory beetles to live.
There were experiments investigating the best way to remove sediment from the waterways and ways to lessen fertiliser runover, both of which are not good for water based species. This affects many species including wild trout which also has a fishing value.
Look out for Part 2 of this blog to find out what else we got up to over the week!!