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Alliance seeks to mitigate changing rainfall patterns in Kent woods

Words: Laura Edgar
Blean Woods / RSPB

The RSPB and ecological consultancy Ecological Planning and Research (EPR) Ltd have teamed up to alleviate the impact of the climate crisis on critical ancient woodland in Kent.

The work would also seek to safeguard various bird species, including the lesser spotted woodpecker, nightingale and spotted flycatcher.

The RSPB and EPR note that woodlands across the south of England were once “highly biodiverse and dynamic”, mostly owing to temperate conditions and reliable rainfall, which supports varied insect life. This, in turn, provided food for larger species.

However, the impact of the climate crisis, which includes heavier rainfall over winter and hot dry summers as well as drainage for historical wood cropping, has seen many woodlands dry out. This has resulted in fewer insects for birds and other wildlife to feed on.

Habitat loss and fragmentation are also contributing factors to the loss of woodland biodiversity.

The RSPB, in partnership with Kent Wildlife Trust and Canterbury City Council, secured £1.9 million for a restoration project that aims to help mitigate the effects of climate change on local woodland and grassland habitats.

The money has come for the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, which is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund alongside Natural England and the Environment Agency.

EPR will use GIS and LiDAR tools to map the topography of the area to predict where water will flow.

This will inform a dam placement strategy to slow down water movement throughout Blean Woods reserves. This should mitigate the effects of changing rainfall patterns and prevent areas of woodland from drying out.

The survey work will be conducted from now and through the summer. It is expected that dams will be constructed later this year.

Dave Smith, eastern region director and principal ecological consultant at EPR Ltd, said: “It is critical to ensure important sites such as Blean Woods can act as a refuge for wildlife while providing a space that local communities can explore and use to learn about the natural environment. Healthy woodland spaces are essential for our mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as for the wildlife that directly rely on them for sustenance and shelter."

Julian Nash, north Kent reserves site manager at the RSPB, added: “Blean Woods is one of the most popular nature reserves in Kent, and as an ancient woodland and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) it represents both precious heritage and a crucial educational resource. Our work with EPR to rewet the site will ensure future generations can develop a connection to nature in a healthy, biodiverse environment.”

Chloe Sadler, head of wilder landscapes at Kent Wildlife Trust, said the project would also prove “hugely valuable” in strengthening the connection of local communities with their local wild spaces.

Image credit | RSPC