Groundbreaking habitat restoration project gets started

Monday 18th November 2013

This wildlife charities RSPB, Buglife and The Land Trust will start work to restore a nationally important home for nature on Canvey Island, Essex. The abandoned oil refinery at Canvey Wick (recently featured on BBC Countryfile) is one of the most important sites for bugs in the UK. This special site has been abandoned for more than 30 years and nature has taken hold, over time a rich mosaic of wildflowers, bare ground and scrub has developed providing a perfect home for some very special bugs, bees and other wildlife. Supporting over 1400 species it has more species per square metre than any other site in the UK.  In recent years the scrub and trees have become too thick shading out the wildflowers and open habitat that are vital for the survival of bumblebees and Canvey’s other rare insects.  The three organisations are working together to restore this valuable habitat and save these species in the nick of time before they would be lost forever.
Canvey Wick is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interested for its nationally important invertebrates some of which are only found on Canvey Island or elsewhere very locally. The ‘Canvey Island’ ground beetle was rediscovered on Canvey Wick after last being recorded 100 years ago. Canvey Wick also supports one of the most important remaining populations of the endangered Shrill carder bee in the UK. Buglife along with local volunteers have been working hard to survey the site and working with the RSPB have come up with a management plan of works that will ensure the best habitat possible is provided in line with recommendations from Natural England.
Neil Fuller, Natural England Lead Conservation Advisor said “Canvey Wick SSSI is nationally important for its invertebrates and provides a local haven for wildlife. We are delighted that these organizations are working in a unique partnership to meet the challenges of managing this site for the benefit of nature conservation and people”
Phase one restoration is starting in late November and will include clearing trees over an area the size of a football pitch, leaving a mix of trees and shrub of varying heights. Felling a percentage of the trees on this Site of Special Scientific Interest will allow more sunlight to penetrate the ground encouraging more of the wild flowers that the incredible species of this site rely on. Areas of bare ground and space for flowering plants to grow will also be created to ensure that the special bumblebees and bugs of this site can thrive. The restoration of this area will be monitored before further phases of work are carried out.
Dr Sarah Henshall, Buglife Lead Ecologist. “Canvey Wick is one of the best sites in the UK for bugs and we need to keep it that way! This work is absolutely essential for the survival of rare and endangered bumblebees and other insects. By opening up the habitat nectar and pollen rich wildflowers will flourish and bare sandy ground will provide perfect nesting habitat”

This groundbreaking habitat restoration project is the first of its kind within the UK and the RSPB, Buglife and The Land Trust are excited to be working together to make it happen.