South Essex Stepping Stones

The South Essex Stepping Stones project successfully created and enhanced brownfield habitat for the nationally important invertebrate populations in the region.

The South Essex is a national hotspot for brownfield invertebrates, due to its unique combination of a warm, sunny, continental climate and industrial heritage.

The South Essex Stepping Stones Project aimed to enhance and restore brownfield habitats across the region to benefit nationally important populations of rare and scarce invertebrates, such as the Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) and Shrill carder bee(Bombus sylvarum).

At least 15 UK Biodiversity Action Plan species are strongly associated with the increasingly threatened South Essex brownfields. South Essex has suffered from significant losses of wildlife-rich brownfields due to development pressure as part of the Thames Gateway regeneration. By maintaining stepping stones of habitat, invertebrates are better able to disperse across the landscape, helping them survive in the face of habitat loss.

Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) © Steven Falk Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) © Steven Falk

Vange Marsh North

At RSPB Vange Marsh North, we created a 100m sand bank to provide habitat for the Sea aster mining bee (Colletes halophilus) and a range of ground-nesting species.

Canvey Wick

The future of the nationally important Canvey Wick SSSI has been safeguarded and its complex mosaic of herb-rich grassland, early successional vegetation, disturbed bare ground, brackish areas and scrub will now be managed for its invertebrates, in partnership with the Land Trust and RSPB.

Canvey Wick will serve as an example of how wildlife-rich brownfields can also serve as valuable community and educational resources.

Canvey Heights Country Park

A former landfill site of limited wildlife interest, which Buglife has enhanced in partnership with Castle Point Borough Council by creating two wildflower meadows using both locally sources green hay and machine sowing an area the size of a football pitch. Management across the site has been improved and a sand-topped hibernaculum created for reptiles and invertebrates.

Between 2009 and 2012, we successfully restored or created 115ha of open mosaic habitats across the landscape and improved conservation management on 460ha of land.

Community engagement was central to the project’s success with well-attended bug hunts, walks, Bumblebee workshops and stands at community wildlife events. The project aimed to increase the knowledge of invertebrates in the region through surveys, compiling data and sharing this knowledge to best serve the region’s special fauna.

Untidy Industries © Jamie Robins Untidy Industries © Jamie Robins

Thanks to funding from the Tubney Charitable Trust, Veolia ES Cleanaway Pitsea Marshes Trust and Essex Environment Trust, five key sites were improved for invertebrates.

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