Bringing aggregate sites to life

Quarries and other aggregates sites can be important habitats for rare and threatened invertebrates. Buglife works to make sure that these sites are understood, restored appropriately, and cared for.

The processes of extracting aggregates (gravel, sand, and rocks that are crushed and used for roads and buildings) can create valuable habitats for invertebrates, including bare ground and wildflower-rich open vegetation.

These habitats can support many species, including rarities listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) such as the Five-banded weevil wasp (Cerceris quinquefasciata), Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis), and the Dingy skipper butterfly (Erynnis tages).

In fact many of the UK’s best nature conservation sites are on old extraction sites (quarries and gravel pits), and as the sites come to the end of their working lives, they present great opportunities for creating wonderful habitats for bees, butterflies, beetles, spiders and much more.

Groups of ponds and other wetland habitats can support a range of scarce aquatic invertebrates: for example water beetles, or invertebrates with an aquatic stage in their lifecycle such as the Scarce blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura pumilio).

The features that make aggregates sites so attractive for wildlife – bare ground, wildflower-rich grassland and ponds – were once common in the wider countryside. Over time these habitats have dwindled. This means that many scarce invertebrates have become dependent on aggregates sites.

Homes for hard-pressed invertebrates

Habitat creation and site restoration projects on aggregates sites have the potential to make a major contribution to invertebrate conservation and UKBAP targets.

Often small changes in how they are managed can have a big impact, transforming the site into a perfect home for one or more rare species – changes which are often easy and inexpensive to carry out.

Bad news…

But invertebrates are rarely thought about when decisions are made about the future of aggregates sites, and the nature conservation potential of sites is often overlooked.

In the worst cases, inappropriate restoration schemes and site management have resulted in the loss of important invertebrate habitats and the species that rely upon them.

…Better news

Buglife works with the aggregates and minerals extraction industries, raising awareness of the value of aggregates sites for invertebrates, and how they can be restored to help conserve wildlife.

In March 2008 Buglife  published ‘Managing Aggregates Sites for Invertebrates – a best practice guide’. This best practice guide is for those working in the aggregates industry, who each have a vital role to play. Working together, we can make best use of these precious sites for people… and for wildlife.

This project was supported by Natural England through Defra’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund.

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