Oxfordshire contains a remarkable number of fens fed by springs emerging from chalk or limestone in valleys and on hill slopes. In the UK this distinctive habitat is found mainly in Anglesey, East Anglia and Oxfordshire, and is internationally important.
These alkaline fens are among the most biodiverse of all habitats. They support many wetland plants that are rare or endangered nationally or in the county such as the carnivorous Butterwort, Grass-of-Parnassus, Marsh Helleborine and the parasitic Marsh Lousewort. Endangered insects include species of Soldier-fly, Horsefly and Damselfly, while molluscs include the Desmoulin’s Whorl-snail (the infamous Newbury Bypass snail!).
In the past, the rich diversity of such fens was maintained by light extensive grazing, but many sites are suffering habitat degradation by drying-out, eutrophication and loss of grazing. While some fens are now in good remedial management, there have been substantial losses of wildlife at many others.
This project aims to restore declining Oxfordshire fens using methods developed at Lye Valley Local Nature Reserve in Oxford, and at other recovering fens. The project will:
- bring together landowners and managers, local experts, and volunteers including the general public
- ensure the long term survival and resilience of the fen resource via a joined-up landscape scale approach
- engage and train conservationists and members of the public in the wildloife, management and the importance of alkaline fens
- enhance the water-holding capacity and chemical status of headwaters, and so contribute to a healthy water environment.
The many rare and endangered species within these fens contribute to Oxfordshire being a hotspot for wetland species. The Freshwater Habitats Trust is therefore pleased to host the Oxfordshire Fens Project.