Monday, 31 January 2011

Romney Marsh & Dungeness the last refuge of rare species

Monday, 31 January 2011

An area of Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay has been identified as one of the ten most important wildlife sites in the country by Natural England, the government’s advisor on the natural environment.

The sites, registered as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) which mark the best examples of wildlife and geology that the UK can offer, are the last refuge of some of England’s rarest species. The Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay SSSI being the last place in the South East were the Sussex Emerald moth is found.

The larvae of the moth loves the Dungeness peninsular, where the caterpillar's favoured food – wild carrot – thrives on the free-draining, vegetated shingle.

Helen Phillips, Natural England’s Chief Executive, said: "SSSIs are often all that stand between some of our most threatened species and extinction. By providing essential habitat that may not be found elsewhere, they represent a life support system whose importance cannot be overstated. It’s important that we celebrate these last refuges and the species they sustain, so that we can ensure they receive the attention and support they need."

The Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay SSSI was one of 10 sites highlighted by Natural England without which the organisation says a number of fragile species clinging to survival would disappear from the UK and some would become globally extinct.

The other sites identified are:
  • Avon Gorge SSSI in Bristol/Somerset,
  • Derbyshire Cressbrook Dale SSSI,
  • Cranmore SSSI on the Isle of Wight,
  • Lindisfarne SSSI in Northumberland,
  • Windsor Forest and Great Park SSSI,
  • Upper Teesdale SSSI in Co. Durham.
Two sites Dorset and Cambridgeshire were also identified but remained undisclosed.

The ten SSSIs are among 4,119 across England, ranging from a 4.5 sq m barn in Gloucestershire (home to lesser horseshoe bats) to huge areas such as 37,000 hectares of the Humber estuary (where a colony of grey seals and 50,000 golden plovers are found) which in total cover more than 8 per cent of England.

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