Data and diggers

Data and diggers

Watching turf stripping ©Lorna Allen

After some time spent logging data in the office, Lorna visited the Lincolnshire coast and discovered that conservation can sometimes look brutal.

I’ve been beavering away on the keyboard in the office at the Trust HQ, Banovallum House, and haven’t had lots to write about, however I’ve recently been out on a few visits so it seemed the right time to continue my blog.

The office work I’ve spent most of my time on has consisted mostly of data entry from the Wildlife Site Officer, Jeremy Fraser's botanical-surveying site visits throughout the year.

Sheet of data relating to plant surveys

The data we have to input ©Lorna Allen

For every day spent in the field there is at least an hour, or longer, spent at the computer inputting everything the visit taught us about the site. It’s important so this data can be easily passed on and transferred to other software such as mapping programs like GIS and online record systems.

Looking back through all this data, although perhaps not as exciting as fieldwork, is very useful for me as it has allowed me to learn more of the scientific names for plants I have seen. The names are difficult to memorise but I have found, even at the beginning of my botany journey, is it very useful to recognize the scientific names.

As well as being able to speak to botanists from other countries (which I obviously won’t be doing much of during my placement), the main benefit I have noticed is the ability to recognise a plant despite it having several common names used between different botanists.

Group of people learning about coastal plants

Listening to Louise ©Lorna Allen

On a recent Sunday, I went to a coastal botany course at Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes National Nature Reserve led by Dr. Louise Dennings from Natural England and organised by LoveLincsPlants and Dynamic Dunescapes. Here, I dipped my toes into the water (not literally sadly, the tide was too far out) learning coastal species.

As I’m West Yorkshire born and bred, I’m not a regular visitor to the coast and I have never really looked at any coastal plants before. However, to explore the saltmarsh, sand dunes and strandlines all in one day was both a blessing and a challenge (so many species!). It was also great to meet other young people excited about nature conservation and botany, these meet-ups are less common than you would think.

A couple of the interesting species we encountered in saltmarsh habitat included common glasswort (Salicornia europaea) and common cord-grass (Spartina spp.). Also commonly known as samphire and often seen sold at the coast, glasswort is an annual plant with fleshy finger-like stems and no leaves. These adaptations allow it to take in a lot of water, but also accumulate heavy metals when growing in particular areas so it’s not advisable to chow down on any old glasswort you find.

First discovered in 1890, in Portsmouth, common cord-grass is another interesting species in saltmarsh. It is in-fact a complex cross derived from a hybrid of two other species - the European native cordgrass Sporobolus maritimus (small cordgrass) and the introduced American Sporobolus alterniflorus (smooth cordgrass). It is used worldwide to help reclaim land and develop saltmarsh habitat as the stems increase silt deposition by decreasing wave action and its roots bind coastal mud, which over time causes elevation of the land.

Group of people watching turf stripping on the Lincolnshire coast

Watching turf stripping ©Lorna Allen

Whilst we were there we had chance to have a brief look at some of the management work being undertaken. Contractors are currently turf stripping: removing the first layer of soil to remove any scrub and plants that dominate the surface and allow any seeds that sit dormant underneath some light to grow and thrive. Although the diggers and machinery look brutal, they’re doing important environmental work.

Cattle with GPS collars at Saltfleetby

Cattle with GPS collars at Saltfleetby ©Owen Beaumont, Natural England

I also particularly loved hearing about the pioneering cattle that live at Saltfleetby. They wear collars to determine their grazing boundaries (set on an app). When an animal reaches a boundary, the collar delivers a short pulse notifying them to turn back. They don’t need physical boundaries when they wear these collars, making it easier to move them between specific areas within the site for conservation grazing and also easier to find with GPS tracking.

If you fancy a long walk and a trip to see a variety of important habitats and plants, I would highly recommend spending the day at Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and I’m looking forward to going back for further visits in the future.