Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Port Development Proves a Success for Rare Wildlife Species

London's Former Waste Tip Sees Life Blossom Again
Shipping News Feature

UK – All conscientious developers these days must take into account the effect their projects have on wildlife. Britain, for all its beauty is one of the least bio diverse countries in terms of habitat for native species and many which once were common are now getting progressively rarer.

Development of the country’s ports can have a devastating effect on the local flora and fauna hence the efforts of such as the new deep water port at London Gateway to mitigate this. However nearby River Thames neighbour Port of Tilbury can raise its head for its own efforts to increase the ecological footprint of the riverside by use of the former waste tip at the aptly named Mucking.

When developing its London Distribution Park in 2014 an area designated as a wildlife sanctuary was created and five years later this was recognised as of national importance for insects and other invertebrates. The ground for this special habitat was literally laid seven years ago by spreading chalk slurry over an area equivalent to six football pitches on the bare surface of a former landfill, and then placing ‘dunes’ (made from waste fly ash) and chalk bunds on the top. It was then left to mature.

We published the full details of how the site was developed and the observations of such as the Essex Wildlife Trust back in 2019 when the site was recognised for its merits as a sanctuary for rare species. Those surveys undertaken in 2018 found that the new habitats created at the Mucking site already supported a proportionally higher number of rare and scarce invertebrate species than had been found at the LDP site prior to development, and the most recent report has concluded that the new habitat ‘continues to support a remarkable richness and abundance of invertebrates and is habitat of very high conservation importance for invertebrates’.

Some of the interesting insects and invertebrates found by the latest study, which was conducted by one of the foremost invertebrate surveyors in Britain in conjunction with ecology experts Bioscan, include some striking species. There now appears in residence such as the Bombardier Beetle Brachinus crepitans, a creature which possesses a secret weapon. Its rear end acts a chemical reactor and creates explosions to defend itself and ward off predators.

Also present is the Pantaloon Bee Dasypoda hirtipes, which sports large pollen baskets on the hind legs, akin to a costume of fluffy yellow pantaloons, plus the Six-belted Clearwing Bembecia ichneumoniformis, a day-flying moth which resembles a wasp as an act of protective mimicry.

All of these are nationally scarce species which favour this particular area of South Essex. The Wildlife site bears the sounds of its own success, from different insect densities and activity levels the buzzing can sometimes be amplified to an over-powering hum. Commenting on the results, John Speakman, Snr Asset Manager for Property at Port of Tilbury, said:

“Port of Tilbury takes its responsibilities as a developer seriously. This is further confirmed through the results of this study clearly showing that, working with our advisers at Bioscan, this habitat, is now an important nature area for creatures.

”In an area that is predominately industrial, it is pleasing to see this ‘urban meadow’ thriving. Through our partnership with landowners and ecology experts, we have collectively delivered on our environmental objectives when we developed the London Distribution Park.”

Ecologists will monitor the site again in five years, with the scheduled intervals between monitoring becoming longer as the habitats become established. However, with the positive trajectory set thus far, expectations are for the discovery of more exciting finds by surveyors in 2025. As the initial study has been so successful the report recommends creating additional invertebrate habitats at Mucking, a scheme that is now well underway to offset the impacts from the Tilbury 2 development on the site of the former Tilbury Power Station. Dominic Woodfield, Managing Director at Bioscan UK Limited, concluded:

“One of the best parts of my job is seeing habitat creation theory become practice, and the LDP compensation area at Mucking landfill is a fantastic example of how nature will thrive if you give it the right building blocks and the time to do so. From the very beginning, the Port of Tilbury have been fully invested in seeing this project achieve fruition, and the success shown by the invertebrate monitoring is just reward for their commitment to corporate responsibility.”

Photo: Image credits: Main picture Bioscan UK Ltd, and inset the Pantaloon Bee – credit Steven Falk; the Bombardier Beetle – credit Mark G Telfer.