Springs and seepages are formed where water surfaces from an underground source, creating an important habitat for invertebrates. Thanks to funding in 2010 from Wessex Water, Buglife began a 5 year project to assess the springs and seepages present within the Wessex area.
What are springs and seepages?
Springs and seepages are flowing water bodies characterised by low flows. They are generally very shallow and some are little more than a thin film of water flowing over the ground. Springs and seepages are often associated with the upper sections (close to the source) of rivers and streams, but this isn’t always the case.
Seepages are areas where underground water is released onto the surface, over a wide area, whereas springs well up from a single point. These create marshy and wet habitats where unique groups of plants and animals thrive.
Where are springs and seepages found?
The character of the spring or seepage is defined by geology and underlying soil type.
They can occur in all kinds of areas, including cliffs, woodlands, heathland and limestone areas. They can be easily spotted by a change to water-loving plants… and a sudden dampness under foot!
What lives in springs and seepages?
Seepage habitats are often home to a diverse invertebrate community, including flies (particularly Soldier flies), crane flies, caddis flies, stoneflies, spiders, flatworms, worms and water beetles as well as dragonflies and smaller damselflies (e.g. the Small red damselfly).
Why are these areas vulnerable?
Springs and seepages are vulnerable because of their small size, isolation and because there hasn’t been much research into their unique character and how best to look after them.
It’s likely that many important spring and seepage sites in the UK are unprotected and many will have been overlooked in habitat surveys that do not consider distinct habitats on such a small scale.
Springs and seepages are very vulnerable to the effects of climate change, drainage and water abstraction, but also to changes in land management, all of which can lead to damage and disappearance.
Wessex Springs and Seepage project
The Wessex Water region is an important area in the UK for springs and seepages with seven associated Biodiversity Action Plan species occurring in the region.
These sites are often overlooked and there is little awareness of their importance. Buglife’s project is to identify key spring and seepage sites for invertebrates in the Wessex Water area and provide management advice for their care and preservation.
The project has looked at sites in the Blackdown Hills area; the area around Lyme Regis which has some interesting cliff seepages, the Mendip Hills area and some of the spring complexes of the west Wiltshire chalk and limestone. The following reports were generated;