Colliery Spoil Invertebrates

There are few sites more iconic in the South Wales Valleys than colliery spoil tips. These unique environments are readily overlooked and underappreciated for their biodiversity value, despite supporting species and habitats of considerable local and national conservation importance.

The Colliery Spoil Invertebrates project aims to increase our knowledge of the distribution and diversity of invertebrates found on colliery spoil sites within Gwent. Invertebrate surveys will be conducted at selected sites and used to inform habitat management works to ensure sites remain, or are returned to, favourable condition. Public engagement events and training will also be used to raise the profile of colliery spoil habitats and invertebrates among local communities, statutory bodies and the wider public. The project is being funded by Welsh Government’s Enabling of Natural Resources and Well-being Grant through the ‘A Resilient Greater Gwent’ work programme.

Why are colliery spoil sites important for invertebrates?

Their nutrient-poor soils and complex topography, including varied aspect, slope, substrate composition and pH, encourage complex habitat mosaics to develop in close proximity on these sites. Since many invertebrates require two or more habitats to complete their lifecycle, these habitat mosaics are highly valuable to invertebrates.

Recent research on colliery spoil sites across South Wales has highlighted the important invertebrate conservation value of these sites, with many sites having been found to support rare and scarce species such as Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis), Dingy skipper butterfly (Erynnis tages), Grayling butterfly (Hipparchia semele) and Scarce blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura pumilio). Further interest lies in the vascular plant, bryophyte, lichen and fungal communities on these sites.

(c) Liam Olds

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