Team to assess impact on wildlife following fire
Dr Sam Bridgewater, Head of Wildlife and Conservation for Clinton Devon Estates, will now lead a team to assess the impact on wildlife of the fire, the biggest on the Pebblebed Heaths since 2010.
He said: “We have recently recorded around 3000 different species of wildlife on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, including animals, insects, reptiles, birds and plants. We expect that most of the birds will have survived the fire simply by the fact they can fly away. At this time of year ground nesting birds such as Nightjars, and Dartford Warblers which breed in gorse, will be building their nests, so it’s a particularly bad time of year for the fire to happen. However, there is still chance in the season for them to breed elsewhere. Animals that are less mobile or slower such as reptiles, including adders, will have been more adversely impacted, with many individuals killed.
“It has taken nearly seven years for the landscape and habitats from the last big fire in 2010 covering nearly 100 hectares to recover. This site is only now becoming suitable for supporting populations of birds that were there prior to the fire. Although we wouldn’t have wished for this recent fire to occur, nature is resilient, and heathland is adapted to coping with fire. We expect the current burn site to make a full recovery, but it will take decades. Later this year we will see grass shoots emerge, with gorse and heather sprouting in future years. The landscape will look quite different for a while though.
“We will be assessing the site and mapping the areas of damage onto our system. A regular programme of wildlife monitoring will begin. During very dry weather periods such as the one we are currently experiencing, we are asking people to be very vigilant. Fires such as the one that occurred yesterday are harmful. It’s particularly important that cigarettes are disposed of responsibly and that there are no camp fires.”