Another talk and more slides – this time, a presentation by Peter Burgess, Devon Wildlife Trust’s ‘Working Wetlands’ project manager. He gave a fascinating and detailed talk last Friday, about how Devon Wildlife Trust is working towards securing the future of culm grassland, a rare and important wetland habitat, found only in this region of Devon and Cornwall. Culm grassland is vital for a number of our threatened species, like the barn owl and the curlew, and increasingly rare butterflies, such as the marsh fritillary …. The grass is deciduous: seemingly dull and dead for much of the year, but in summer it is intensively alive with butterflies, insects, moths, small mammals such as the hare, the dormouse and the otter, and orchids and wildflowers of all descriptions.
culm grassland – photo Peter Wakely/ Natural England
The areas are important for us humans too – acting as a sort of giant sponge and reducing the risk of sudden flooding in lowland areas, as well as offsetting the effects from greenhouse gases.
Sadly, these crucial areas have been fragmented through building development, agricultural and other practices, much to the detriment of the plants and creatures that live there. The DWT’s aim in the, is to use their expertise to assure a robust and flourishing ecosystem for the future. There is a need to re-establish depleted areas of culm grassland, and there is also a need to make links between wildlife reserves – though with continually rising food prices, land is, of course, under intense pressure to be cultivated.
Peter showed in detail how culm grassland is being restored, and how it is managed through grazing and burning (swaling). He and his team also work in an advisory capacity with landowners and farmers, as well as other organisations, like the Forestry Commission – clearing stretches of industrial forest so wildlife at least stands a chance of shifting with changing conditions, and of reaching each other in order to breed effectively.
All in all, it is a tricky balance to achieve, for we need food and we need wood – but we need to nurture other creatures too, and the web of life that supports us.