“ I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor.” Steven Spielberg.

Burrator Biodiversity Project

South West Lakes Trust (SWLT) has recently appointed Deborah Deveney as their new Biodiversity Officer to deliver an exciting new project focussed around the wider Burrator Catchment. This two year study is funded by South West Water (SWW) to explore the habitats and species across 2,500ha of land around Burrator Reservoir on Dartmoor. The results from this investigation will be used by SWW to help inform future habitat management decisions and improve opportunities for biodiversity, water quality and resilience to climate change within the catchment.

Deborah has worked on various farmland conservation projects across Devon, so is really looking forward to putting on her walking boots and getting out to discover her new ‘patch’. The Burrator Catchment supports a fantastic mosaic of habitats, from wet woodlands, conifer plantations and open moorland to fragments of upland heath and wet mires, and is also home to wide variety of wildlife dependent on these habitats, but how are these habitats faring?

The history of land use in this area has changed from predominantly tin-mining and agriculture to a more multi-use landscape where farming, recreation, forestry, water storage, MoD training and the historic environment all co-exist. The way the land is used, along with external factors such as climate change, ash dieback, the political and economic landscape etc., can all influence the condition of these habitats and ultimately affect the species they support.

Working with local stakeholders and wildlife recorders in the area, this project aims to assess the potential of these habitats through a habitat survey and explore opportunities to enable wildlife to thrive in this multi-use landscape by undertaking species surveys.

The weather during May was perfect so Deborah, along with SWLT ecologist Emma Scotney, ventured out into the catchment to record birds, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. They were rewarded with the evocative song of the cuckoo, the churring of a nightjar, sightings of rare butterflies such as the marsh fritillary and green hairstreak, along with good numbers of large red damselfly, beautiful demoiselle, four spotted chaser and keeled skimmer. Vegetation and species will continue to be recorded throughout the project to understand what this catchment currently supports to guide any future management recommendations.

Burrator Reservoir supplies drinking water to the residents of Plymouth, Tavistock and other towns and villages around the South Hams, and therefore protecting this drinking water supply is vitally important and at the core of this project. However, SWW are keen to see this catchment work more holistically and visualise a high nature value landscape which can continue to support multi-uses but is resilient and adaptable to change.

For more information about the Burrator Biodiversity Project and the work of South West Lakes Trust visit www.swlakestrust.org.uk.