Digging up a nature reserve may not sound like the best way to increase biodiversity but experts think it is worth trying in the Brecks.
So diggers have moved into Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Brandon Heath in an experiment to find the best way of creating the ideal conditions for rare flora and fauna to flourish.
The Ground Disturbance Project is part of the Breaking New Ground Landscape Partnership Scheme, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and explores a range of different ‘disturbance treatments’ to increase populations of plants, invertebrates and birds through varied habitat management.
Traditionally the creation of bare ground was a result of grazing and the munching of the huge populations of rabbits the landscape once supported, but since the planting of forests and the dawn of industrial agriculture, these natural processes in the Brecks no longer occur on the scale that they used to.
Nick Dickson, Breaking New Ground project manager said “The Ground Disturbance project really is a ground breaking opportunity to explore the best way of recreating natural processes which are no longer able to function given the land use change in the Brecks.
“The results of these ongoing experimental techniques will feed into land management plans long into the future, restoring the Brecks to the rich and biologically diverse landscape that it once was”.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Brecks heathland project officer Andy Palles-Clark said: “Brandon Heath is particularly important for solitary bees and wasps which utilise it as a nectar source and also require bare ground for burrowing into for breeding.
“Increasing the invertebrate population will also provide feeding and breeding habitats for birds including nightjars, stonechats and woodlarks.”
But the Brecks have also been occupied by humans for thousands of years, so Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service and Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service have been working alongside the conservation organisations to ensure the works do not damage archaeological remains.
Many archaeological features were discovered in their surveys, including a possible prehistoric burial mound, an Anglo-Saxon boundary bank and medieval rabbit warren boundaries.