2017 marks the 10-year anniversary of the RSPB’s involvement with ‘Nature After Minerals’ (NAM). It’s a partnership programme in which the main focus is to encourage the restoration of ex-mining sites to wildlife habitats, in an attempt to conserve and to help endangered species to flourish.

What are the benefits of restoring Quarries?

The restoration of quarries carries several benefits for people and nature.

For one, it creates a nice area for people to learn about and discover nature. Aesthetically pleasing areas like these can also encourage people to be outdoors more and enjoy the fresh air. By restoring old land, it can also inspire people to make beneficial changes in their local areas. The restoration sets an example of what we should be doing.  

Bittern at RSPB Minsmere - by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

It also supports biodiversity by providing several different habitats, such as heathlands, grasslands and wetlands. In response, this increase in possible habitats combats the increase in the number of endangered species. For example, NAM states that ‘15% of endangered Bittern nest in UK restored quarries’, a very large percentage, and without the restoration of these quarries, we would be missing out.

These green areas can also act as carbon storage, an aspect that is important in areas such as Middleton Lakes that is situated near some larger urban areas.

What has been done?

Since 2010, NAM has provided restoration advice on some 3,600 hectares worth of land through interaction with over 40 quarries. On its website, NAM also showcases restoration best-practice case studies examples, one of which is Middleton Lakes in Staffordshire.

The RSPB’s Middleton Lakes reserve is a great example of a quarry restored for nature. Before the rejuvenation of the land, it was an excavation site for gravel and alluvial sand. Now, it’s a large wetland site and is home to an increasing numbers of birds such as bittern. One thing that was done to enable this was the planting of reed beds, and other vegetation along the banks of the rivers. This filters the water from the River Tame for the benefit of the wildlife within the reserve and improves the general water quality.

Additionally, several river features, such as ponds and river braiding, have been made in attempt to reverse the impact that the hard engineering river techniques had on the river. As a result, the NAM case study states that since the opening of Middleton Lakes in 2011, the reserve attracts 20,000 to 30,000 people a year.

Middleton Lakes is far from a lone success story, Dungeness is another good example. Dungeness in Kent is a coastal area that brings around 30,000 people a year and 214 notable species can be found in the reserve.

I think this partnership programme has been very successful in achieving their goals.  I hope for the future, they will continue to be, and continue to support, encourage and aid communities, mineral planners, industries and others to restore and create habitats for endangered species.

If you are interested in knowing more about Nature After Minerals, you can look at the website here: http://www.afterminerals.com