Monday 22 October 2012
The restoration of a rare wetland habitat at the Colin Best Nature Reserve has exceeded expectations.
Earlier this year Public Services restored the saltmarsh to help offset the loss of some wet grassland as a result of the current essential maintenance and improvements at the airport. Working with consultants Environment Guernsey, thousands of tonnes of aggregate deposited at the nature reserve in the 1980s, to make access to the fields easier, was removed from the site.
Environment Guernsey managing director Jamie Hooper said the area of saltmarsh is the largest in the Channel Islands, and was a natural feature. However its extent had been reduced by the aggregate with a corresponding detrimental impact on ecology.
"Saltmarsh habitat is very rare in the island so we were delighted with the proactive approach of Public Services in taking its responsibility to offset the environmental impact of the airport project so seriously," he said.
"We have been monitoring the area since the aggregate was removed and the historic field levels restored, and are very surprised how well it has recovered. We were unsure how long it would take but the seed bank within the ground quickly germinated and plant cover has been increasing."
The nature reserve is within the L'Eree headland RAMSAR site, and is leased and managed by La Société Guernesiaise. Botanist Jane Gilmour said two species of glasswort, which had originally been native to the area, had already germinated prolifically in this area.
"They are very rare; we have about five to ten plants at Vale Pond and a small area at Pulias Pond so it's very encouraging to see how quickly they have recovered. Several other locally rare saltmarsh plant species are also germinating which is really exciting. It's absolutely stunning and has exceeded all of our expectations," she said.
"It's not especially species-rich as only a few species of plants and insects can cope with the environment but entomologist Charles David had already identified a number of rare insects there before his recent and sudden death".
Mr Hooper added that the area had seen an increase in waders and ducks and it was also popular with migrant birds. A Pectoral Sandpiper from America was a recent rare bird sighting and two Spoonbills have visited the reserve this autumn.
The focus now was on maintaining the area and ensuring the salt water levels were controlled throughout the year. Three sluices have been installed to act as a safety net during storms and further improvements to the drainage are due to take place shortly.
Public Services Minister, Deputy Paul Luxon, said the Airport 2040 Project Board had taken the environmental impact of what was essential work at the airport very seriously.
"This is an area of high ecological importance and so we are delighted that it has recovered so quickly. Environment Guernsey has invaluable expertise and is a perfect partner for Guernsey Airport to have in identifying suitable schemes to offset the impact of the work where possible."
Additional offsetting projects, including the creation of new hedgerows along the northern perimeter of the airport and tree and shrubbery planting schemes on various other States-owned properties, are also being considered by the Department.