On Saturday 8th August a large fire swept through an area of the Canvey Wick nature reserve, located in South Essex, requiring the attendance of 5 fire crews, including a specialist unit, to put out the blaze.
An area approximately two hectares in size (about two football pitches) of grass, scrub and reed, was burnt.
Canvey Wick is a special site, having the highest number of different species of wildlife per square metre than any other site in the UK. It is also home to many rare species of insects which is why the site was the first Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to be designated specifically for invertebrates.
Natalie Holt, RSPB Senior Sites Manager, said: “We are disappointed that the reserve has seen a number of fires over the past few weeks. Every time this happens, habitat and special plants and animals that live here are destroyed. This fire will have affected many species including adders, great crested newts, lizards, butterflies, moths and rare bumblebees.
“We are grateful to the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service for attending the incident and putting out the fire.”
Fires are one challenge of managing nature reserves, particularly in dry conditions.
Natalie continued: “Unfortunately we usually see an increase in fires in the summer months due to dry conditions, coinciding with school holidays. At the RSPB we actively encourage children and families to get closer to nature on our reserves. We are urging our visitors to be alert to the risk of fire at Canvey Wick at this time of year and to act responsibly.
“It is vitally important that people act in an environmentally aware manner when using the site. We ask people not to have bonfires or BBQs, and to stick to the marked trails.”
The RSPB is asking visitors to remain vigilant when on nature reserves and report any fires as soon as possible by phoning 999, or anti social behaviour by contacting the RSPB South Essex office on 01268 498620.
Canvey Wick is a nature reserve managed in partnership by the RSPB, Buglife and the Land Trust.