Grayling

Durham Priority Species
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Brownfield Sites Action Plan

Priority Habitats and Species: Early successional brownfield land, Dingy Skipper, Grayling

Priorities
1.     Safeguard key sites and ensure their appropriate management to retain open ground habitats with appropriate food plants for BAP species.
2.     Raise awareness of the biodiversity value of brownfield sites, and of the need to manage reclamation projects with sensitivity.
3.     Improve knowledge of invertebrate communities supported by brownfield sites through survey, research and monitoring.
4.     Create new areas of complementary brownfield habitat which links to existing brownfield sites.

Early-successional Brownfield Land Targets
Vision Statement: For the value of brownfield sites for wildlife to be more widely recognised, and taken into account in planning.  For the best sites to receive protection and appropriate management. To maintain overall area of early successional brownfield land

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the current extent of brownfield land of wildlife value in the Durham BAP area (no net loss) maintain ha tbc

Dingy Skipper Targets
Vision Statement: To ensure all known sites are managed to maintain habitat in a series of successional stages.

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the range of dingy skipper in the Durham BAP area maintain number of sites  tbc
2. To maintain the population of dingy skipper in the Durham BAP area. maintain individuals  tbc

Grayling Targets
Vision Statement: To ensure all known sites are managed to maintain habitat in a series of successional stages.

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the range of grayling in the Durham BAP area. maintain number of sites tbc

Brownfield sites are naturally-seeded areas of post-industrial land, and are sometimes regarded as wasteland in towns, cities and the urban fringe.   However brownfield sites are often rich in types of wildlife that do not occur in the countryside, supporting true urban communities of native and non-native species. They are also valuable sites for species whose natural habitat has declined or disappeared.

Post-industrial sites are often very similar to natural habitats such as sand dunes, dry grassland and heath (Eyre & Luff, 1995).  Much of this habitat has long since disappeared and much that remains is under threat, thus the existence and conservation of man-made habitat analogues becomes ever more important.

Early successional brownfield land

Brownfield sites are especially important in their early successional or ‘open ground’ phase when the combination of a diverse community of ruderal plants (with high density of flowers and abundant seed supply), and bare ground (basking and hunting territory), leads to diverse communities of invertebrates, often with a number of rarities.   Early successional brownfield land is more likely to persist on the highly contaminated and nutrient poor soils, and these sites require the least intervention to maintain their conservation interest.

Our definition of early successional brownfield land is based on the frequency of certain plants, which are indicative of stressed soils, and the amount of bare ground.  The value of this priority habitat is significantly increased with structural diversity such as banks, slopes and cliffs with different aspects and with small temporary pools.

There are increasing pressures on these derelict sites to be reclaimed for housing or retail development or as landscaped public open spaces.

Although many of these sites are now known to harbour rare species and unique communities, we have a long way to go to fully understand these sites and their inhabitants.  The inherent non-uniformity and successional un-predictability of man-made sites makes them more difficult to understand and to manage.  The conservation argument may be doubly difficult to get across since it largely relates to invertebrates and because post-industrial sites can be seen as eyesores by some.

Brownfield sites in the Durham BAP area include some quarry sites and workings in the west and east, coal spoil and workings in the Coal Measures, as well as disused railways and urban demolition sites.

Invertebrates

Very little work has been done to survey brownfield sites in Durham for invertebrates (rare or otherwise), and their value is probably underestimated as a result.  Many red data book ground beetles (for example) are found on brownfield sites elsewhere in the country.

However, two butterfly species of concern which are known to be associated with brownfield sites in the North-east of England. Both occur on dry well-drained soils with sparse vegetation and plenty of bare ground.

The dingy skipper is widely distributed across approximately 100 sites in the Durham BAP area, using birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) as its foodplant.

The grayling was historically widespread along the Durham coast, but the only recent records are from Gateshead and Hartlepool.  Foodplants for grayling include sheep’s fescue (Festuca ovina), red fescue (Festuca rubra), and early hair grass (Aira praecox).

Threats

  • The decline of heavy industry means that the distinctive communities and uncommon species associated with many waste and spoil tips will decline.
  • Development of sites for housing or industrial use.
  • Lack of awareness of the importance of early-successional sites.
  • Unimaginative reclamation or redevelopment of disused land to a uniform land use.
  • Loss of open ground communities through unmanaged succession
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