Water voles are our fastest declining mammal, between 1989 and 1998, the UK population fell by 90%. They are classed as endangered and are now highly protected. The Lincolnshire Rivers Trust, as a part of the Bringing the Limestone Becks Back to Life project, are working closely with ecologists and experts to restore habitat for water voles, and other species. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, in partnership with the Environment Agency and the Wild Trout Trust, this project is aiming to improve the limestone becks at Branston, Nettleham, Welton, Scopwick and Dunston.
An ecological survey undertaken at Branston Beck found 30 breeding pairs of water voles. So, restoration work has had to be adapted to ensure minimal disturbance to this significant population. Experts conclude that much of the beck is unsuitable habitat for these charismatic animals, owing to its history of being straightened, deepened, and widened. This discovery demonstrates that there is potential for this beck to sustain larger populations of water voles, if it is restored and improved.
The work undertaken so far at Branston Beck, by the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust, has added a large pond and two new backwaters with plans to introduce limestone gravel, create two new channels with small pond features, and plant native wetland vegetation along the river margins. These changes will provide food and burrowing habitat for water voles, restore habitat for fish such as brown trout and encourage spawning.
Paige Donnelly, Project Officer for the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust is keen to get volunteers involved in the next phase, “We will be holding community volunteer days and events to undertake practical conservation work and for people of all ages to learn about water voles and the beck habitat. The activities can involve getting your hands wet and dirty, but it’s fun and we provide full training and refreshments.”
Senior Environment Agency Officer David Hutchinson stressed the importance of these river restorations, “Historic changes to the limestone becks, such as straightening and deepening, have led to significant habitat change with the resulting loss of animals and plants. We have seen from our work with partners including the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust that the restoration of more natural habitats is critical to ensuring that a diverse range of species, including water voles can thrive.”
For further information contact Paige Donnelly at Lincolnshire Rivers Trust
Tel: 07599 075706