1:00pm Thursday 31st December 2009
By James Tourgout
A LIVE firing range in Purbeck is home to some of the rarest pond life in the country.
Ponds on Ministry of Defence land on the Lulworth firing ranges at Povington contain a caddis larva never before recorded in Dorset and a number of nationally scarce insects and plants.
They include the small red damselfly, the Downy Emerald dragonfly, the threatened medicinal leech, pilwort rare aquatic fern and rare beetles.
The 11 ponds were investigated as part of the Purbeck Important Ponds Project and feature high on the list of the best of the area’s ponds.
Rachel Janes, who is Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Purbeck pond project co-ordinator, said: “The exciting thing about these ponds is that, while they do not have a vast range of species because they are naturally acidic, many of the species that they do have are rare and certainly special to this kind of habitat.
“These ponds are extremely important nationally.”
Dorset Wildlife Trust led the project with funding by Biffa Waste Services’ Biffaward, the Environment Agency and the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It identified the best of Purbeck’s ponds with the help of landowners, including the MoD.
The ponds remained undisturbed because of their location in a live firing area and are free of agricultural chemicals or introduced species such as fish. Stuart Otway, head of Natural Environment for Defence Estates, said management of defence estate land presented an enormous challenge because of its size and diversity.
“It is vital that we provide the right facilities needed to train and prepare our service personnel, in particular for current operations in Afghanistan,” he said. “But we must also balance that requirement with sensible stewardship of the estate.”
Oliver Howells, natural environment advisor for Defence Estates said: “The ponds across Lulworth ranges receive no active management and the survey has shown how pristine these ponds are because they’ve not been drained or modified.
“The fact they’ve never been stocked with fish is also very important.”
(Submitted by Mark North)