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Devon's damselflies in distress given £5,000 boost

02/09/2010 10:53:57

RARE: The southern damselfly. Picture: Matt Boydell

Countering the effects of quarrying

A £5,000 grant is set to boost the chances of southern damselflies that were released to an east Devon nature reserve last summer.

The Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) has been awarded the £5,408 grant by RockETS, a fund administered by Devon County Council. It will go towards vital conservation work at DWT's 25 hectare Venn Ottery Nature Reserve near Budleigh Salterton.

The money comes from Defra's Aggregates Sustainability Levy Fund in order to compensate for the impacts of quarrying. It is estimated that since 1947 a staggering 383 hectares of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths have been lost, 31 per cent of which have been due to quarrying the rich sand and gravel deposits that underpin it. Bardon Aggregates is due to recommence quarrying its site over the road on Venn Ottery Hill in the coming months. DWT is working closely with the firm to minimise any impact and welcome their continued support.

'We won't know yet if the project is a success'
The grant will pay for work to enhance the wetland habitats of the reserve where the rare southern damselflies prefer to breed. This will be achieved by removing areas of scrub woodland and moving the fence line back to allow the ever important spring line to be grazed by the charity's Exmoor ponies, keeping water flowing at optimum levels in the runnels. Other essential works include conducting repairs to dams and cutting back surface vegetation along the runnels.

Ian Chadwick from Devon Wildlife Trust who manages the site said: ‘This is a nervy year for us following the release of 500 damselflies which were translocated from a heathland site in Dorset.

‘We won't know fully until next summer whether they have bred successfully as the larvae take two years to mature. We hope that the work this winter will give them more of a fighting chance as water levels have been pretty low following the dry summer.'

Work done prior to the release was extensive and carried out thanks to support from both the East Devon AONB and Pennon Environmental.

Ian added: ‘It might seem like a costly business just to save a few damselflies, but this new colony will be a vital boost for the UK population which has seen a 30 per cent decline in the past 40 years and adds to the handful of sites in Devon which provide a home to this rare and beautiful insect.'

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