Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Take heed

Students of ecological processes will be familiar with the principles of succession. This is the often linear progression of vegetational development from bare ground to early pioneer plant (and animal) communities through to grassland, scrub and onto climax woodland. From the start of the industrial revolution landscapes have been used and abused for the winning of minerals leaving large areas despoiled with waste material. It was only a short time ago that government agencies viewed an industrial landscape as derelict and something worthy of re-profiling, mass rye grass seeding and tree planting. Thankfully the Blaenavon landscape has avoided the ravages of tax payer funded landscaping schemes, thereby leaving nature and its sucessional process to advance uninterrupted.

On display during last weekends early morning visit around Canada Tips, Blaenavon were all stages of re-vegetation. This variety, officially branded as open mosaic habitats on previously developed land, is one of the most interesting habitats in Gwent. But changes in tree cover are becoming more evident. Hawthorn, rowan and conifers are now appearing more frequently among stands of heather. Whilst the odd tree adds to diversity, unchecked the landscape overtime will change to one that is effectively wooded. 

Given this landscape is of international heritage value this in itself suggest that the current open vistas with differing types of spoil tip development should be retained as a management priority.  So how can the move to scrub and woodland be arrested? It seems that in the absence of herds of grazing animals employed to control woody species that the only activities that are helping to slow down succession are the villains of the piece the motor sports enthusiasts. Those charged with managing the wider Blaenavon landscape would do well to plan for a future whereby tree management should a priority otherwise the tips, ponds and acid grassland that are so much of a feature of the area will be lost to woodland. 

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