Insects thrive in quarry wetlands

The research was undertaken at Hanson’s 975ha Needingworth Quarry at Cambridgeshire – one of the largest sand and gravel extraction sites in the UK – in order to increase biodiversity knowledge in quarries.

Through a collaborative initiative between Hanson and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a nature conservation charity, sections of the quarry had been progressively restored after extraction to create wetland habitats for wildlife. Dr Alvin Helden, lead researcher and senior lecturer in animal and environmental biology at Anglia Ruskin University, studied 26 points across the site over June and July of this year to assess the biodiversity value of the rehabilitated areas. {{image2-A:R-w:200}}

Helden’s results showed that 94 different species of insects had established themselves at the quarry, including five species of leafhoppers and planthoppers that were of specific conservation interest. The research also found that insect populations in areas of unmanaged grassland were about 15 per cent higher than in areas grazed by cattle.

Additionally, the findings showed that – for the most part – there was no link between the age of the grassland and the number of insects found, indicating that insect populations could be quickly established after restoration.

“The discovery of several very rare species of leafhoppers and planthoppers shows that the site has an incredible biodiversity, and not just for the wetland species for which it was primarily created,” Helden commented. “Setting aside ungrazed areas has clearly been effective in encouraging insect populations … We recommend that some areas continue to be fenced off and are allowed to remain ungrazed.”

Helden was awarded with the UK Quarry Life Award for his research at the end of November. At the time of publication, the national Quarry Life Award winner for Australia had not yet been announced.

The Quarry Life Awards is an international competition organised by global cement and aggregates producer HeidelbergCement, the parent company of Australian heavy building materials supplier Hanson.

More reading
Awards for biodiversity in quarries
Award to highlight value of quarry sites

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