Eelmoor Marsh Conservation Project
Marwell Zoo's Eelmoor Marsh project
The Eelmoor March project recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. During this time Marwell has been working with the landowner QuintiQ on the restoration and management of this site of Specific Scientific Interest.
Eelmoor marsh covers 79 hectares and includes a diverse range of heath, grassland, mire and bog communities which are of national importance in their own right. Lowland heath has declined by some 88% in north-east Hampshire during the last 200 years and the site now provides a refuge for over 300 species of conservation concern.
In 1995 Eelmoor Marsh was in need of restoration following many years of neglect and the impacts of development that had led to the drying of the site and the rapid colonisation of Scots pine an other invasive species. Many of the valued vegetation communities and species had declined with some species having disappeared on present only in very low numbers. Large herbivores (Przewalski’s horses and highland cattle) were introduced as integral components of the ecosystem. Their impacts, together with mechanical restoration techniques, have since played vital role in the restoration of Eelmoor Marsh.
A comprehensive monitoring programme was undertaken to evaluate the effects of habitat management and to inform the adaptive management regime. Ten years later, results of the monitoring programme have demonstrated tangible improvement in the extent and quality of vegetation communities, including the enhancement of botanical diversity, and dramatic increases in populations of many rare and vulnerable species including: pale heath violet, early marsh orchid, green flowered helliborine, pale butterwort and long-leaved sundew. Fauna includes: woodlark, small red damselfly, keeled skimmer, Dartford warbler, scarce blue-tailed damselfly, the nail fungus and fenugreek. This project also shows the strengths of partnership – with the land owners and English Nature and there are six monthly meetings to review progress. The SSSI is included in the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. It is a key component of the Rushmoor Borough Biodiversity strategy.