GETTING TO GRIPS: Wetland management for people and wildlife: Habitats: Plants and Animals

Habitats:

Ponds – Are considered important if they are up to two hectares in size (less than three football pitches, of high ecological interest and home to rare species.

Hedges – Are often found along one side of ditches and adjacent to rifes. They are an important habitat providing food, home and protection for many species as well as flightlines which bats can follow as they search for food.

Reedbeds – form where the UK’s largest grass grows. These help provide vertical diversity attracting birds such as Sedge, Cetti’s and Reed Warblers, Reed Bunting, Bearded Tit and, occasionally, the Bittern which use reeds at different heights like a block of flats.

Saline lagoons – perhaps surprisingly, Water Voles can make use of saline lagoons within the Harbours, the only known population to do so.

Species:

Plants – Plants matter as they underlie every other form of wildlife. Wet meadows are uncommon on the peninsula and plants in many of the ditches have become less varied.

Trees – mature solitary trees are often found on boundary edges alongside ditches and they enhance the habitat providing variety. For example, the Black Poplar, is associated with river floodplains, and is now rare in the UK (only 5,000 left). It used to provide the framework for carts as it’s very springy.

Marginal and aquatic plants – these plants provide a good quality habitat for numerous
invertebrates, birds and mammals, and are becoming increasingly squeezed out by development, litter dumping, poor watercourse management and poor water quality.

Amphibians – need ditches and ponds to be well managed for good quality habitat to ensure their long term survival. The Great Crested Newt is our rarest newt and is a European protected species. Habitat management work must be carefully planned to comply with the legislation protecting this species. Work to improve the habitat could be illegal if it risks killing, injuring or disturbing individual animals

Reptiles:

All of England’s six native species of reptile have legal protection and are UK BAP species ie on the peninsula this includes Slow worm, Common Lizard and Grass snake.

Birds:

No work should take place in nesting habitats between 1 March to 31 July (WCA, 1981).
Vegetation can be cleared outside the breeding season from the end of October to mid February. If nests are discovered work should stop immediately and the site fenced and protected under ecological supervision. Work can only continue after the young have left the nest.

Farmland birds – Lapwings rely on damp meadows in order to feed their young.

Kingfisher – a nationally declining species that is a good indicator of a healthy riparian habitat. This charismatic bird needs earth banks for nesting and clean water for fish fry to thrive in. The young of the year appear in Pagham Harbour in September.

Mammals:

Bats – Features such as hedges, treelines and waterways are used by bats to navigate between roosts and feeding areas and the continuity of such features is very important to them. These are EU protected species. All UK spp of bats are included in Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive and 7 spp are included in the UK BAP. Roosts are legally protected whether they are in use or not.

Water Voles – England’s fastest declining mammal has found a refuge on the Manhood Peninsula and this native population is considered to be of regional importance. Water Voles suffered a 97% decline in their population. The animal lives in the linear habitat of ditches, rifes and ponds and relies on good management and an absence of the American mink. The population is formed of separate sub groups and they need the system to connect up so they do not get marooned or cut off in a cul de sac. An eye also needs to be kept on water levels, which would involve any pumping or abstraction agreements on the Manhood Peninsula. Given drought, extreme weather events and climate change impacts would mean needing to ensure that the ditches carry sensible levels. It would be essential that water could be retained in the ditches.

Advice for Wildlife

Chichester Conservation Volunteers – voluntary group undertaking practical conservation tasks www.chichesterconservationvolunteers.org.uk; Chair Scott Robertson

Chichester Harbour Conservancy – Harbour Office, Itchenor, Chichester, West Sussex PO20 7AW Tel: 01243 512301; Email info@conservancy.co.ukhttp://www.conservancy.co.uk/
Oversees the Harbour, produces management plan for the area, Runs series of walks and solar powered boat trip.
• Ecologist, Ed Rowsell

Chichester Natural History Society – http://www.chichesternaturalhistorysociety.org/#Home
membership organisation hold bi-monthly talks and series of monthly guided walks
• Chair: Rosemary Marshall

Mink control – John Dewey c/o Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve

Pagham Harbour – Local Nature Reserve, Selsey Rd, Hunston, Chichester, West Sussex PO20 7NE
Tel: 01243 641508. http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/p/paghamharbour/
• Warden Rob Carver

Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre – Woods Mill, Henfield, West Sussex BN5 9SD Tel: 01273 497521;
Email: info@sxbrc.org.uk – holds wildlife records entered by volunteers for the County
• Penny Green

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