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The annual Isle of Wight Recorders’ Conference on 4th February 2017 was well attended, and provided a valuable opportunity to meet up with other experts and enthusiasts, as well has hear some excellent presentations about the Island’s wildlife.
The first presentation by Jonathan Cox documented the years of recording and research that has gone on in Briddlesford Copses, now owned by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. The site is made up largely of woodland, mostly ancient in origin as well as open fields. It is an important site for mammals – red squirrels, dormice and bats in particular. It has a remarkably rich woodland flora containing 57 species associated with ancient woodlands, as well as a wealth of invertebrates which have been the subject of recording over the years. As a result of the bat fauna, it has been recognised as being of European importance and is designated as a Special Area of Conservation.
Management of the site has to take into account the different requirements of these species. In particular a coppicing regime has been developed to provide areas which are cut on a short rotation to provide the spring light levels required by the woodland flora and other areas where the coppice grows on for longer to provide a good hazelnut crop and wood which is saleable.
Development of additional woodland has been encouraged in recent years both by planting and allowing natural regeneration to occur. These linking strips are providing corridors through which wildlife can move more readily. The open land now has a series of ponds developing which have colonised naturally and support a good range of species.
Following this, a short presentation about a new project, iWatch Wildlife was given by Colin Pope and Tina Whitmore. This is funded as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Down to the Coast’ initiative and will run for the next four years. An event is planned for July 2nd which will provide an outdoor recording event with specialists on hand to help with identification skills and digitising of records.
The all-important networking opportunity that the conference provides took place over tea. There were displays by the Wight Squirrel Project and Isle of Wight Bat group who were happy to recruit new volunteers. A stand from the Isle of Wight Zoo publicised the recently established National Poo Museum, and gave a fascinating insight into the origin of coral sands.
The second talk, by Alice Hall and Roger Herbert of Bournemouth University, was entitled ‘Recording and enhancing marine life on artificial structures’. At the interface between land and sea there are specialised habitats colonised by a range of plants and animals, and they are subject to natural change over time. As development has increased, the construction of more artificial structures along the coast – piers, jetties, marinas and coastal protection schemes - have modified these habitats.
Such structures have always been colonised by marine organisms, if the conditions are suitable for initial establishment and ongoing survival. ‘Coastal squeeze’ is particular challenge to the intertidal habitat as space between hard coastal defences and rising sea levels is decreasing. An experimental project involving marine ecology, hard engineering structures and experimental art techniques is yielding exciting results. Artificial rockpools, attached to sea walls and groynes at different heights to mimic the different levels of the intertidal, have been constructed. These ‘vertipools’ are made of concrete and shaped like the bow of a ship. The cavity retains water as the tide goes out, providing space for animals to take refuge and colonisation has been rapid by a variety of marine organisms. The surfaces of the vertipools have been modified to surfaces provide additional microhabitats by incorporating designs such as DNA code or patterns produced by applying bubble wrap or folded paper moulds.
Studies have shown that the range of life present in these structures is similar to that found on the adjacent intertidal. A further development has been to attach discarded tyres (to make ‘tyre pools’) and concrete tiles with a variety of surface patterns to wooden groynes. These have proved relatively durable and colonisation is occurring, including by species not previously recorded. There have also been studies of fish species attracted to piers by using baited remote underwater videos.
The presentations from the conference can be found at this link