Norfolk’s nature reserves offer great recreational opportunities and help to provide safe and clean drinking water to the whole of East Anglia. There are an impressive 32 nature reserves in Norfolk and there are plans for a 33rd in the form of Sweet Briar Marshes.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) recently spent £600,000 to secure the site which will hopefully open up in the next few years. But in the meantime, what are Norfolk’s current nature reserves doing to keep water quality high for the sake of local wildlife?
Norfolk’s top nature reserves
Some of the most notable nature reserves in Norfolk are:
- NWT Cley Marshes
- Welney Wetland Centre
- NWT Ranworth Broad
- Snettisham Spectacular
- Titchwell RSPB Reserve
- NWT Holme Dunes
- Blakeney National Nature Reserve
- NWT Foxley Wood
These nature reserves provide a habitat for a variety of wildlife, including migrating birds, rare birds, wading birds, wildfowl, geese, butterflies, crabs, anemones, sea squirts, sea slugs, fish, amphibians, and seals.
The importance of good water quality
As highlighted above, good water quality is vital for humans as it provides drinking water. But Norfolk’s wildlife needs quality drinking water to be able to survive too. When the water is clean and safe, the local wildlife can thrive. Clean and unpolluted water ensures that there’s the right balance of nutrients and stops algae from taking over.
Oxygen levels must be maintained too. Simple things that can be done to improve oxygen levels in Norfolk’s nature reserves are to increase the amount of aquatic vegetation in the water and maintain the plants surrounding the water. However, when plants overgrow in clean, oxygenated water, vessels are used to remove them.
A third vessel has recently been bought to do this in the Norfolk Broads. Speaking about the extra vessel, Dan Hoare, the construction, maintenance and engineering at the Broads National Park says, “as water quality keeps improving in the Broads, we can keep up with that demand”.
Reducing the fish population can also help and this can be done by increasing the number of other wildlife living in nature reserves. This leads on to biodiversity which is also improved when water quality is good. The new baby beavers that have recently been spotted at the Hawk and Owl Trust for the first time are a prime example of how Norfolk’s nature reserves are seeing an increase in marine species due to the high quality of its water.
Preserving water quality
Across the Norfolk Broads, a Water Quality Partnership has been built. This partnership includes the Environment Agency, Natural England, scientists and wetland experts. Together, they work to prevent ecological decline. They also deal with water quality improvements and finding ways to reduce flood risks.
Thankfully, floods don’t occur very often in Norfolk, but there was flash flooding in May in some parts of the county. The risk of flash floods like this is that pollutants from commercial premises can get caught up in the rainwater and spread to the water in nature reserves. As a result, the water quality degrades which can affect local wildlife.
The good news is that business owners can do plenty of things to stop bad weather’s impact on nature. A well-maintained lawn and garden beds are recommended as they create a barrier against floodwaters. Rock infiltration pits can also be used around the exterior of buildings as they collect and disperse excess rainwater to the surrounding soil slowly and reduce the likelihood of contamination.
Although there are reassuring signs that the water quality in Norfolk’s nature reserves is doing well, conservation work must be carried out. The landscape recovery scheme is a new initiative which aims to restore lost biodiversity across 22 different areas, including Norfolk. In Norfolk, it’s hoped that conservation efforts will bring back the grayling butterfly, the spoonbill, the turtle dove, the natterjack toad, and the barbastelle bat.
Another example of a Norfolk nature reserve protecting local wildlife is Welney which has a special protection order for swans. Swans play a big role in protecting the ecosystem in Norfolk’s nature reserves. For example, swans help with habitat management by feeding on aquatic plants and grazing on aquatic seeds. They also balance out the ecosystem by eating small aquatic animals and redistributing nutrients to bodies of water through their faeces.
Norfolk arguably has some of the best nature reserves in the UK. The result of this is that the water quality is high and local wildlife is thriving. Best of all, local conservation work is constantly improving in a bid to further boost biodiversity in the area.