Saturday, 20 October 2012

Field Week 2012: Ideford Common

Ideford Common, Devon. [Photo: Paul Ramsay]
Every year, the first year students on BSc Conservation Biology and BSc Environmental Biology carry out a survey of the vegetation of Ideford Common, between Newton Abbott and Exeter.

The lowland heath is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and supports some rare invertebrates and birds. But these animals need the right kind of disturbance: enough to stop the trees and shrubs from completely filling up all the space, but not so much that it completely kills the plants (needed as food sources by some invertebrates and nesting sites by some birds). Traditionally, farmers would produce the right conditions with a  mixture of burning and grazing, but the economics of this kind of farming have ruled out these disturbances nowadays.

So, Teignbridge District Council, who manage the site, have burned and mown parts of the site as part of an experiment to see if the animal populations benefit. Our job is to see how the vegetation has responded to those experimental treatments. Here are a few photos from our visit this week...

One group of surveyors. [Photo: Paul Ramsay]

Another group. [Photo: Paul Ramsay]
Araneus quadratus, a common orb-web spider in heathland,
and the UK's heaviest spider.
Spot the one who woke up late and forgot his
coat... [Photo: Paul Ramsay]

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