Birkbeck Lectures 2014: Herds on the Heaths; innovative techniques to reintroduce large herbivore herds


Herds on the Heaths; innovative techniques to reintroduce large herbivore herds

part of the series 'This blasted heath–the future of lowland heathland, acid grassland and mire'

Partner Event @Birkbeck University of London, Lecture theatre B36

Free public lecture series, Autumn 2014.

18:30 Friday 14th November 2014

herbivore herds

In Act I of “Macbeth”, Shakespeare used a heath near Forres as the forbidding setting of a supernatural encounter. Heaths have long had a bad public image. Most heaths are ancient. They were established when woodland was cleared in places with an underlying geology forming an impoverished acidic soil, and maintained by traditional practices. However, they are diminishing throughout the country, even if pockets are still to be found in the southern counties and in the suburbs of London. These remnant heathlands are now much valued as natural open spaces. They are precious because they support a specialised biota, some of which is not found elsewhere. Loss may occur from ecological succession following the neglect of traditional management, or conversion to agriculture or to urban development. How can the remaining patches be saved? How can these important areas be managed to best effect? Management practices in different sites will be discussed and compared. Current problems will be highlighted and specialised conditions for particular groups of plants and animals discussed.

Nov 14th. Herds on the Heaths; innovative techniques to reintroduce large herbivore herds. James Adler, Grazing Manager, Surrey Wildlife Trust.

James Adler graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in Geography. He has managed ‘Natura 2000’ heathland sites for Local Authorities, Government Departments and the Surrey Wildlife Trust. He currently manages over 3000ha of the Thames Basin Heaths in Surrey under High Level Stuardship schemes with the Ministry of Defence. Since 2007 he has established conservation herds for the Surrey Wildlife Trust to graze Surrey’s heaths. He now manages over 300 Belted Galloway cattle, 100 red deer and 60 goats for conservation grazing and sustainable meat production. His animals graze on 17 partner organisations’ land over some 3,500ha throughout Surrey, Berkshire and London. The red deer project has won the Sanctuary Award for innovative conservation management on the Ministry of Defence estate. He will describe the motives behind the introduction of grazing animals, the practicalities in actually getting them onto a site and how their welfare and effectiveness are monitored. James has a secondment to The Wildlife Trusts as their national Agriculture Officer. He has helped develop the Basic Payment Scheme and NELMS with Defra and Natural England.

Surrey heaths have endured dramatic declines in area, biodiversity and value since 1850. Only an estimated fifteen percent of the heath remains from that era. What are left are fragmented but environmentally vital sites protected by UK & EU regulations. These areas are treasured by Surrey people but have been in great need of management. Encroaching scrub, coarse grasses and bracken are reducing biodiversity and straight lining habitat structure. The full suite of heathland management techniques are employed on the Surrey heaths but one of the most challenging has been the reintroduction of large herbivores. Surrey Wildlife Trust has led this work by breeding specialist stock, creating suitable enclosures and managing significant herds of animals across 3000ha of the Surrey heaths. What have been the challenges for reintroducing large animals into such an urban county? What are the measures of success and how do you make such a system sustainable?

This free public lecture is part of a series hosted by Geography Environment and Development Studies (GEDS), Birkbeck University of London. The lectures are suitable for those who may be considering, or undertaking, university courses in ecology, biological conservation or related subjects. They will interest environmental and ecological practitioners, natural historians, wildlife organisations and others with similar interests.

The lectures are supported by GEDS, Birkbeck University of London and would not be possible otherwise. They are organised and promoted by the Ecology and Conservation Studies Society, with assistance from the Linnean Society of London.