You may have noticed that there seems to be a little more mud around Parc Slip Nature Reserve than usual? Apart from the heavy rain that we’ve been having recently, the reason is that we, with help from Natural Resources Wales, is digging a series of shallow water scrapes into one of our fields.
Freshwater scrapes are a unique and scarce kind of wetland, supporting some species of wildlife which depend entirely on this type of habitat for survival. Our scrapes have been designed to be temporary pools, which can fill up in the rainy months, and dry out into smaller pools and puddles in the summer.
We are very excited about the scrapes because they are going to be great for wildlife, but one of the things that will benefit most from them is freshwater invertebrates. Because the pools are shallow, they will be able to warm up quickly and cool down quickly, meaning that productivity in the water should be high, and there will be plenty of food for the invertebrates. This should lead to a great diversity of inverts at the scrapes- a mix of beetles, bugs, larvae and flying insects.
The temporary nature of the scrapes means they will not be inhabited by fish, and this will also allow lots of invertebrates to breed and thrive in and around the edges of the scrapes. However, the scrapes will constitute a little ecosystem of their own and so, in turn, the inverts will provide food for the birds, reptiles and amphibians which are also using the habitat.
At Parc Slip, when the summer sun comes out, dragonflies and damselflies can be seen whisking over the surface of the visitor centre pond and pausing on the platform by the dipping pond. At the scrapes we can expect to see a lot more of this.
The location of the scrapes will encourage dragonflies and damselflies to travel greater distances to lay their eggs, and because the pools may dry up in the warm weather, the dragonflies will fly between them spreading their eggs amongst different sites to increase survival chances and breeding success.
In particular we are hoping that the scrapes will provide a good home for the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio). This damselfly likes shallow water conditions where the water can reach high temperatures. This causes the Scarce Blue-tailed larvae, which lives in silt or on plants in the water, to develop within one year.