Fenlands are a hotspot for rare species



A pioneering study by the University of East Anglia has shown that the Fens are home to 25% of Britain's rarest wildlife and 13 globally rare species.

The Fens Biodiversity Audit, published in November 2012 shows evidence of 13,474 species from plants to insects, birds, fish and mammals.

Much of this wildlife is very rare.  Some 100 species including birds, bees and butterflies, have already been lost from the area.

Researchers spent 12 months studying over 1 million records collected by scientists and amateur enthusiasts since 1670.  They investigated a 3800km² area across the Fenlands of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.  The area took in better known Fen sites such as the Wicken Fens, as well as lesser known areas such as the Ouse. 

The area is home to 13 Global Red Data Book species.  They include Black-tailed Godwits, Otters, Barbastelle bats, Desmoulin’s Whorl Snail, White-clawed Crayfish, and the European Eel.

82 species were also found to be special to the Fens, among them 20 which are local to the area - they are hardly found anywhere else in the UK.  They include the flowering plants Fen Ragwort and a subspecies of the widespread Heath Dog-violet, the Rosser’s sac spider, feather-winged beetles, a snail-killing fly and Cambridge Groundling moth. 2,630 species of fly, including 30 rare hoverflies, 2,159 beetles of which 92 were rare water beetles, 1,521 moths and 1,531 plants were among the species recorded.

A concern raised by the audit is that so much of the area's biodiversity has been lost.  504 rare species haven't been seen in the last 25 years;  of these 100 have been lost from the Fens because of local or UK extinction. 30 flowering plants, 10 beetles and 17 moths are among them, as are 6 butterflies which are now extinct in the region. 

The report shows which specific wetland habitats were preferred by wildlife in the Fens, how management could be improved for wildlife and where new management techniques could be introduced.  It gives the sound evidence required for sound conservation management, and an understanding of the ecological requirements of many rare species so that conservation will be cost-effective. And it give ideas for creating new habitats tor wildlife.

The Fens for the Future project aims to provide critical expertise in the restoration of the area, and a way to work out how effective it is. 

Recent conservation successes have been the breeding of Cranes at Lakenhearth Fen, on former arable land.  The cranes hadn't bred in the Fens for 400 years.

The report was funded by a number of bodies, including Natural England, the Environment Agency, the National Trust, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Biodiversity Partnership and the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership.  It was supported by the RSPB & the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

The study just goes to show that monitoring wildlife and taking part in surveys can really make a differnce and help contribute towards wildlife conservation.

Source:  University of East Anglia