The Allerton Project aims to research the effects of different farming methods on wildlife and the environment, and to share the results of this research through educational activities (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, 2019).
The Allerton Project has installed two fully automated wood- fired heating systems which use wood chips created from thinnings (the selective removal of trees).
They also plant more trees than they burn, which makes the heating of the facilities effectively carbon neutral.
In July, wood is chipped directly into the trailers and then brought down to the empty grain shed and tipped. Solar energy generated from 128 panels on the grain store roof is used to blow air through the chip, which reduces the moisture content in the chips to around 20%. Once dry, the chip is stacked in the old sheep sheds and bucketed into the boiler feed hoppers using the grain loader, then burnt in the heating systems (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, 2019).
Cover crops are planted throughout the region to ensure that soils are never bare, as bare soils would reduce the biodiversity of the project. These crops are also nitrogen-fixing, so they take nitrogen from the air and move it into the soil, which greatly increases soil fertility. The soils are kept as undisturbed as possible as there is no direct drilling. This keeps the soil as stable of an environment as possible.
Certain vegetation, such as perennial herbaceous vegetation, has been identified by research conducted to be particularly crucial for birds such as yellowhammers and whitethroats (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, 2019). These birds utilise a wide variety of crops over the course of a year, so the farm has a diverse mix of crops to increase both crop diversity and species diversity. This habitat is also important to the predators of crop pests such as spiders in summer, and beetles in winter.
The Allerton Project controls the crop pest and pollinating crops populations by use of beetle banks raised banks in between open fields which provide a refuge for insects. These banks are placed in locations that allow normal cultivation to continue, so they do not affect food production.
Agroforestry is being investigated rearing lambs in a pasture planted with trees at varying densities. The introduction of trees will increase the diversity of plant species and subsequently the diversity of animal species, whilst the land can still be used for food production. The Allerton Project has a farm that is maintained by a new, light tractor that possesses a Tier 4 engine that allows for more efficient farming that greatly reduced energy usage (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, 2019).
All these various techniques allow the Allerton Project to better manage and balance both the activities they carry out to benefit humans, for example, in food production, and the effects these techniques have on the species that live in the habitats that could be at risk.
The data collected for the belt transect at Allerton gives a species diversity of 10.487. This value shows a high species diversity in the area in which our belt transect was carried out. Throughout the belt transect, the pH readings for both the ground and air are consistently 7. At the time of data collection, our group did not have a functioning data logger, so it was not possible to collect data for air temperature and the levels of O2/other gases. As a result, it is not possible to draw a conclusion in relation to these variables as there is no valid data.
Our high species diversity could be a result of a lack of pesticides or herbicides used whilst the different species grow this would mean that it is less likely for those species to die, which therefore increases the variety of species. It is also possible that when the seeds for the plants were sown, a wide range of species was planted, rather than just a monoculture, which also increases the variety of the different species. It is difficult to draw conclusions in terms of biotic factors, as very little data was collected on it. However, it can be assumed that insects and animals rely on the plant species as a food source, so it is possible that the numbers of certain species may be lower than others because they are a food source for more animals/insects.
Created in the 1970s, along with the Rutland Water reservoir, the nature reserve has grown and developed to occupy a total area of around 1000 acres (Rutland Water, 2019). The reserve has a long, stretching shoreline and several shallow water lagoons that span a total of 9 miles. Within the nature reserve, there are more than 30 bird watching hides and a variety of nature trails which range greatly in length. The nature reserve has now been recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) (Rutland Water, 2019), and as a globally important wetland Ramsar site (designated by the Ramsar Convention) (Ramsar, 2014).
Rutland Water is split into several zones that cater to a variety of interests and needs: for example, the site contains areas dedicated to birdwatching, fishing, outdoor adventures, walking, and family-oriented activities. The area is also home to the UKs largest trout fishing site. Rutland Water is a good example of industry and conservation working in partnership. One of the key aims of the management of the site is to stop, or at least delay the rate at which succession occurs. Throughout Rutland Water, special observation is given to the management of lagoons, woodland, meadows and reed-beds.
Five black ewes arrived at the nature reserve in 2001; Hebrideans, a breed of sheep which, in recent years, have become more widely utilised in conservation management. The group of animals are now vital to the containment of the grasslands in which they inhabit. Their flock has increased in size over the years, aided by the Hebrideans natural ability to lamb easily.
Following the arrival of the Hebridean sheep, other conservation grazers began to use the grasses as a habitat four very small black cows and their calves (Rutland Water, 2019). These are Dexters, which, thanks to their natural adaptations, are particularly suitable for grazing the grassy areas along the sides of the reservoir, as they are better suited to wetter lands.
The cattle are being raised organically which will ensure that the cow pats they produce are particularly attractive to insects. In turn, the attracted insects will be attractive to other, different birds.
The long-term aim for this grassland is to create the right sort of habitat to establish Yellow Wagtails (a type of bird) as a breeding species on the reserve. This aim is helped by the Dexters on the reserve puddling the edge of the water, which helps to keep the grass short during the winter; conditions ideal for grazing wildfowl such as Wigeon.
As a result of the introduction of the cattle, by March 2002 the effect described above was making a notable difference: demonstrated by a Green Woodpecker, which was seen turning over the cow pats in front of the visitor centre and the areas they grazed. This effect continued attracting other birds, in particular Fieldfares, Redwings and Stonechats. When the animals were moved to a new area just to the north, it was very noticeable that the Stonechats moved with them.
An initial sample of woodlice was taken and all were marked with Tip-Ex. These woodlice are then released into the wild (in the same area in which they were caught). After an hour, a second sample of woodlice was taken, in the same area, with the number of marked woodlice noted. Our group has an initial sample size of 6, and a second sample size of 7. Of these 7 woodlice, 3 were marked. This gives a total population size of 14.
This method assumes that there is no death, immigration or emigration in the time in which the samples were taken. It also assumes that the sampling methods used are identical and that the marking has not affected the survival rate of the animals. If the sampling methods are assumed to be identical, and that no external factors have affected the woodlice population size, different population sizes can be reliably compared. However, as it is unlikely that these conditions are met, it is unlikely that the different population sizes are the same.
Holkham National Nature Reserve stretches from Burnham Norton to Blakeney and covers about 3,706 hectares (Holkham, 2019). The Holkham Beach Nature Reserve comprises several different habitats (tidal mudflats, sand dunes, salt marshes, grazed marsh and pinewoods) and is an important refuge for wildlife, including waders and sea birds.
Due to the high salinity and the regular submergence of the foreshore zone (the section at the front of the shore), very few plants are able to grow in the extreme environment, as they are not suitably adapted (Holkham, 2019). However, Lugworms and Cockles provide food for larger organisms like waders (types of birds commonly found on mudflats) such as Curlews and Oystercatchers.
Moving further inland, the sand dunes are regularly submerged by the salty sea water during springtime, when the tides are at their peak (Holkham, 2019). This means only salt-tolerant pioneer species such as Marram Grass can colonise the dunes. The roots of these plant species act as anchors for the loose sand, making the dunes more compact and easier for other species to colonise. It is these pioneer species that are able to alter the environment in which they live by releasing nutrients into the soil upon their decomposition. This creates an environment that is better suited to other species, which will also increase the areas species diversity as these new primary colonisers succeed the pioneer species.
In the sheltered environment behind the sand dunes, sediments build up to form salt marshes, as it is not possible for wave erosion to take place (Holkham, 2019). Saline-tolerant plants like Sea Aster and Sea Lavender provide food for Redshank and Brent Geese here, undergoing a similar succession mechanism to the above Marram Grass and waders. The climax community in this ecosystem is the pinewoods that grow the furthest from the shore. They are and are the result of continuous succession from an extreme foreshore environment into a benign, wooded habitat. The pinewoods filter out most of the sunlight as they grow in tightly packed clusters. This means that the types of plant life that are able to grow is limited, but Brambles, Honeysuckle and Orchids are all able to grow at ground level. Following this plant life, there is a wide variety of animal species thriving in the ecosystem, including Hawk Moths, Grey Squirrels and Willow Warblers.
The ongoing process of succession in Holkham Nature Reserve is managed in a variety of places and ways. In the 1800s, a large area of salt marsh was reclaimed for agricultural use; however, in the 1980s the area was re-wetted and has since been managed as a grazing marsh that is important for both cattle and breeding birds. Suckler herds and store cattle commence the grazing season around mid-May (the late turnout is to prevent bird nests from being get trampled). The cattle graze throughout the summer and are taken off the marshes around late October. Summer grazing keeps the grass at an optimum length, i.e. 5-10cms by mid-October. This provides the best grazing for wintering Pink-footed Geese, Brent Geese and Wigeon. Regular wildfowl grazing during the winter produces a very short turf by the spring, which is ideal for breeding Lapwing and Redshank. Therefore, the grazing cattle play an important role in maintaining the environment in conditions suitable for the breeding bird species found at Holkham.
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