You probably have already heard about Alderney’s West Coast & Burhou Marine Reserve but Alderney holds two more natural reserves. Longis and Val du Sau are terrestrial sites which are managed by the Alderney Wildlife Trust for nature conservation. But what does a Nature Reserve mean and why are these sites important for conserving nature? The response is quite simple: a nature reserve is a place managed for the main purpose of preserving those species or habitats which are important and present on that area. In a crowded world like nowadays’ nature reserves become very important giving wildlife a home and protecting them from building and other human activities that threatens wildlife elsewhere.
However, the fact of restricting human activities doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the place! Most of the nature reserves are designed to allow visitors enjoy watching a Coot feeding their chicks from a bird hide or walking along a meadow full of summer butterflies and noisy crickets.
A good example of what sort of jobs are carried out in a Nature Reserve is our Longis Nature Reserve. Here most of the important wildlife present such as Meadow Pipits, Wheatears, Western Clover or Autumn Lady’s Tresses is related to grasslands. If we didn’t manage these grasslands, bigger plants like Bramble and Bracken would spread over and the grassland would eventually turn into a dense scrubland or even coastal woodland. To avoid that, we rely on one of our best allies: domestic cattle! Four cows graze to maintain these scrubs in low densities like wild cows and other grazers used to do in prehistoric times, creating a perfect habitat for birds such as Meadow Pipits, Stonechats and Wrens. Since cows don’t usually like feeding on Bracken, we help them by cutting it down several times a year using a tractor to avoid its growth and spread. Other works include reedbed management to avoid bramble encroachment, control of exotic, invasive plants keeping footpaths clear of vegetation (you don’t realize how quick the grass grow in summer until you see it!).
Do you know any Nature Reserves near your home place? What are the two most important species present there? What sort of work is done to preserve them?
- Robert, Conservation Officer