Monday, 25 January 2016

Habitat destruction is a very serious threat to the survival of many species

What local habitats have you seen destroyed? 

If, like me, you are very concerned about the vanishing wildlife around the world and the increasing threats to so many species of flora and fauna, you will know that habitat destruction is one of the main threats that plants and animals face.  I expect there are places you can remember that have been destroyed by housing developments, urban expansion, new roads, and other forms of 'progress'. What local wildlife habitats can you recall that are no longer there? 

Common Lizard (PhotoS Rae)

One location in Fairwater, Cardiff, I spent a lot of time in as boy I used to call the “Coal Yard.” It was actually an abandoned railway siding on the other side of the railway line that ran parallel to the lane that backed onto the house where I lived with my family.  High steel railings blocked access to it from a field that was on one side and a road with another fence of metal railings was at its bottom. The only easy way in was going over the railway bank and railway line. This left the Coal Yard like a mini nature reserve where few people ever went.

Female Wall Brown (PhotoJorg Hempel)

I used to cross the railway to get there and would discover all sorts of flowers and creatures living in the Coal Yard, including common lizards (Zootoca vivipara), small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus), common blue (Polyommatus icarus) and wall brown (Lasiommata megera) butterflies, and rest harrow (Ononis spinosa) and bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) wild flowers. All were common enough species then, though the wall brown is one of the British butterflies that has suffered an alarming decline.

Rest Harrow (PhotoPublic Domain)

For many people, the Coal Yard was just some waste ground at the side of a railway line but for me it was a wildlife habitat that has been destroyed. To the creatures and plants that were there it was home. To a property developer it was somewhere houses could be built and money to be made. Nowadays it is the site of blocks of flats and neatly tended lawns.

Ponds at Llandaff Weir

A pair of Common Toads (PhotoPublic Domain)

There were two ponds on the banks of Llandaff Weir that were once home to many forms of aquatic wildlife, including common frogs (Rana temporia), common toads (Bufo bufo) and the common newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) and palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus). The frogs and toads bred in the larger of the ponds, which was also home to various dragonfly and damselflies, water snails, water beetles, and the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).

Sticklebacks (Photo Public Domain)

I use the past tense because these ponds were destroyed when the bank of the river was bulldozed flat. I cannot be sure of the reason given in the local press for this but I seem to remember it was supposedly to improve the bank with a view to a new pathway or road that was planned. All I knew for sure was that these two pools were where I used to find all the creatures mentioned. It was there home. It had been destroyed and it saddened me. I remember wondering where all the amphibians would go when they returned in spring to their breeding places to find they had gone. There was no freshwater suitable left, only the river which was too fast and polluted for the frogs, toads and newts. I have often wondered where do amphibians go when they find a place they have known is no longer there? What goes through their little minds?

Now, it can be said, that all the species I have mentioned were common species, but that is not the point. The problem is, and it is a big problem, is that the more habitats like these, that get destroyed, the less places the wildlife can live.

Both these locations, the Coal Yard and Llandaff Weir, were within a short distance of each other, probably about a mile. I point this out to show how wildlife habitat destruction is cumulative. That is just two examples of what has gone from where I lived as a boy. Multiply this sort of destruction all over the country and you have a main reason that many types of wildlife are endangered.

This is why it is so important that nature reserves are set up and maintained and that, if we have gardens, that we leave plenty of room for wildlife. A garden pond can be just what a toad, frog or newt needs for its survival.

Here is a good example of a threatened wildlife habitat so please sign the petition!

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