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Baglan Energy Park Open Mosaic Habitat Brownfield NPT LNP

Open Mosaic Habitats

On previously developed land, on spoil, on industrial land

The State of Nature in Open Mosaic Habitats in Neath Port Talbot

Open mosaic habitats support a significant proportion of the priority species in NPT. This, along with the sheer diversity of species often found in these habitats, and the large number of Section 7 species among them, qualifies these habitats as some of the most important biodiversity resources in the county. However, they are vulnerable to re-development, habitat destruction and species losses. They are also susceptible to successional changes through scrub encroachment by native woody species and invasive non-native species such as Buddleia and Cotoneasters.

 

The role played by open mosaic habitats as refuges for Section 7 species should not be underestimated and there is an urgent requirement to find solutions compatible with development and the maintenance of their biodiversity in the future. e.g. designation of biodiversity refuge areas for protection and management.

Because of their uncertain future, it is difficult to assess the long-term resilience of these habitats. However, attributes such as diversity, extent and connectivity currently score well, so the status quo resilience and the short-term state of nature in open mosaic habitats in NPT has been assessed as good. Maintaining this in the long term will require careful, sympathetic planning.

OVERVIEW

Most of the coastal zone of NPT has been altered radically by the development of heavy industry, perhaps more than any other part of Wales. This has resulted in the loss of large amounts of biodiverse habitats such as sand dunes, coastal marshes and fens. However, when such industrial land is cleared, the open mosaic habitats that are created can provide opportunities and refuge for uncommon species. Basil Thyme is a good example of an otherwise rare Section 7 species in Wales that has benefitted from the creation of coastal, open mosaic habitats in NPT such as on Baglan Energy Park. Other notable species found here include Lapwing, Linnet, Shrill Carder-bee, Small Blue, Dingy Skipper, Inclined Ditrichum (a moss), Autumn Lady’s Tresses, Common Cudweed, Deptford Pink, Marsh Helleborine, Sticky Stork’s-bill, and Yellow Bartsia. This remarkable open mosaic habitat supports the highest diversity of species in NPT, including numerous Section 7 species. In addition, inland spoil and quarry habitats provide refuges for priority and Section 7 species such as Adder, Grass Snake and numerous uncommon beetles, ground bugs, solitary bees and other pollinators.

These sites are often designated as ‘brownfield’ and are therefore vulnerable to development. However, many of these sites in NPT are designated as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) although this does not always protect them from development. Other threats include inappropriate reclamation/ remediation, tree planting, planting with crop biofuels, absence of management, lack of recognition of their value and invasive non-native species.

Open mosaic sites provide habitats for a quarter of NPT’s priority species, including 18 Section 7 species. They provide refuge for numerous species that are vulnerable and they are an asset for wildlife conservation.

Open mosaic habitats in NPT
Baglan Energy Park Open Mosaic Habitat brownfield NPT LNP Nature

Actions for the recovery of
Open Mosaic habitats in NPT

Responsibility for these actions lie with all of us and as such, we have not sought to assign actions to particular organisations or groups. Instead, it is our hope that this document will provide the guidance and inspiration for anybody, or any group or organisation, to undertake the actions that are within their capability to deliver. The Secretariat of NPT LNP (NPT Council) are providing a facilitation role to support, collate and monitor work towards these actions. If you would like to discuss your potential involvement in delivery of these actions, please get in touch with biodiversity@npt.gov.uk.

Shrill carder bee © Mark Hipkin NPT

© Mark Hipkin

Lapwing 4 © Barry Stewart Baglan Energy Park

© Barry Stewart

Basil Thyme Clinopodium acinos Charles Hipkin

© Charles Hipkin

SHRILL CARDER BEE

This very rare bee is only found in a handful of places in the UK with NPT being a stronghold in South Wales.

It’s a bit tricky to identify but with a good look you may see the main features: pale blond in colour, with a dark brown band between the wing bases and a ginger tail. The queens fly very fast creating a high-pitched buzz. The coastal grasslands of NPT are an important area for the species. They favour wildflower habitats such as sand dunes, with plants with long corolla such as Red Bartsia.

LAPWING

Lapwings are a scarce and declining breeding species in the County and are more common on passage and in winter. There have been no recent breeding records in the uplands with breeding sites confined to coastal areas, particularly open mosaic habitats on previously industrialised land, which is often ephemeral. There were a minimum of 8 pairs breeding in the old BP site at Baglan Bay in 2019 and probable breeding at Llandarcy. However, numbers have declined significantly in these sites in recent years. The general decline in lapwing breeding numbers across Wales has been linked to changes in farming policy and practice.

BASIL THYME

A beautiful, small, violet-flowered member of the Sage family that is now very scarce in Britain and considered to be vulnerable in Wales. It is largely a southern species, usually associated with calcareous grassland but it has undergone a significant decline in this habitat in Britain in recent decades as a result of grassland improvements and intensive grazing. It is exclusively coastal in its distribution in NPT where it is a rare species of dune grassland. However, large populations of this species occur in open mosaic habitats on previously industrialised land near Baglan Dunes and these may be the largest populations of this species in Wales. Development of these sites in the future poses a significant challenge to the conservation of this species in NPT and Wales.

Open Mosaic Habitat Projects in NPT

CASE STUDY

MORFA TIP

Morfa Tip is a large mound of landfill built mostly of furnace slag and other industrial by-products from Margam Steelworks (now Tata Steel). The original, unlined tip, which dates back to the 1970s, released significant amounts of caustic leachate, much of which drained into nearby Margam Moors. With the introduction of stringent landfill regulations, the site was eventually decommissioned, capped and covered in an impermeable liner. Following this, in line with new environmental regulations linked with planning regulations, a program of ecological (biodiversity) surveys was initiated and the remediation and development of this open mosaic site has been monitored and recorded each year ever since. To date, a total of 640 species has been recorded on Morfa Tip and immediate, peripheral areas. These include mammals (5), reptiles (5) birds (80), invertebrates (98) bryophytes (71), macroscopic fungi (22), lichens (22) and vascular plants (337).

 

One of the most significant ecological developments on this 93ha site over the last 2 decades has been the accumulation of windblown sand originating from Morfa Beach and the remnant areas of dune which lay to the west of the tip. This has given rise to a dune-like landscape which continues to evolve and now supports a rich assemblage of vascular plant species. Notable among them are orchids such as Autumn Ladies-tresses, Bee Orchid, Marsh Helleborine, Broad-leaved Helleborine, Green-veined Orchid, Early Marsh-orchid and Southern Marsh-orchid. Other species of note include Round-leaved Wintergreen, Variegated Horsetail and two scarce neophytes, Bugseed and French Bartsia.

 

A system of pools and ditches on the capped tip provide habitat for a diversity of aquatic species such as Thread-leaved Water Crowfoot, Small Pondweed and Stoneworts, while a well-developed emergent flora there includes Reeds, Bulrush, Grey Clubrush, and Pink Water-speedwell, among others.

 

Dune grassland with colourful species such as Wild Thyme, Kidney Vetch, Common Stork's-bill, Dove's-foot Cranesbill and Viper's Bugloss occur around the base of the landfill where winter annual, semi-fixed dune species like Hutchinsia may also be found. Large areas on the east side of the tip are dominated by coarse grasses such as Wood Small-reed and Sea Couch. On the bare, damp sandy mud which lay to the west of the capped tip a fascinating community with Frog Rush and Cavernous Crystalwort has developed. The potential for the development of new, species-rich dune slack systems on Morfa Tip is eagerly anticipated. Already there are several areas that support Creeping Willow communities with Round-leaved Wintergreen and remarkable populations of the scarce fungus, Foxy Fibrecap.

Priority fauna species associated with Morfa Tip include Shrill Carder-bee, Lapwing and Brown Hare.

Marsh Helleborine NPT Local Nature Partnership
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