Individual study: Artificial disturbance promotes recovery of rare Mediterranean temporary pond plant species on the Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, England
Scott A., Maclean I.M.D. , Byfield A., Pay A.R. & Wilson R.J. (2012) Artificial disturbance promotes recovery of rare Mediterranean temporary pond plant species on the Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, England. Conservation Evidence, 9, 79-86
Many plant species require habitat disturbance and are therefore tolerant of low-level, anthropogenic disturbance, such as that created by traditional farming practices. Where such practices have declined, conservation management often includes artificial disturbance as a substitute. Nationally important populations of rare plants associated with temporary pools and disturbed trackways had declined at Windmill Farm Nature Reserve on the Lizard Pensinsula in Cornwall (England). In light of the historic records for these plants, the presence of a seedbank in the soil was assumed, and was confirmed as likely when the deliberate disturbance of a trackway in 2004 was followed by germination of two rare plant species (Pigmy Rush Juncus pygmaeus and Yellow Centaury Cicendia filiformis). As a result, the adjacent very overgrown trackway was more fully excavated in 2009. Within eighteen months of management, both these species and two other characteristic plants of temporary pools (Pillwort Pilularia globulifera, Three-lobed Crowfoot Ranunculus tripartitus) germinated and re-established on the excavated site. The existence of the historic records, together with surveys in both 2002/3 and 2010/11, enabled robust pre- and post-monitoring of the impact of the conservation management. The work shows that excavation has the potential to promote rapidly the recovery of plants associated with disturbance, with the greatest chance of positive results likely to occur when restoration exploits an existing soil seedbank.