A joint project of The Grasslands Trust and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust has resulted in an exciting discovery of the rare Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis), a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species, at Carmel National Nature Reserve.
Carmel National Nature Reserve, near Cross Hands in Carmarthenshire, is one of the UK’s richest wildlife areas and an internationally significant site. Its range of habitats includes ancient woodland, heathland, and species-rich grassland which support some of the UK’s rarest plant and animal species. Situated on a limestone ridge, the area was historically used for quarrying and traditional agriculture, resulting in a mixture of ancient meadows and woodlands, quarries, spoil heaps and lime kilns. Declared a National Nature Reserve in 1999, Carmel is managed by The Grasslands Trust and the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).
In 2006, The Grasslands Trust took over the management of a greater part of the Reserve to restore grasslands that had been damaged through intensive agriculture back to flower-rich meadows and pastures. Through the “Working with Nature” Project funded by GrantScape, The Grasslands Trust, in partnership with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, has been working to increase the populations of bumblebee species by undertaking restoration of their primary habitat: wildlife-rich grasslands. Restoration work has also included the restoration of woodland glades and small sunny quarries, by managing the encroaching shrubs.
Bumblebee numbers have sharply declined with the loss of traditional habitat and intensive agricultural practices. The UK’s wildlife-rich grasslands have declined by 97% in the last 70 years as a result of intensive agriculture, development and neglect with profound impacts for native bumblebee populations, including loss of habitat and food resources. An important element of the “Working with Nature” Project includes training volunteers in bumblebee identification.
The Brown-banded carder bee prefers open, flower-rich habitats on drier sites. Quarries and brownfield sites, like Carmel, play a significant role in the conservation of the species. This new discovery of the Brown-banded carder bee is as an exciting and important result for the project. Other bumblebees reported include the Barbut’s cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus barbutellus) and the Heath Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus).
In a joint press release issued today, The Grasslands Trust CEO Lucy Cooper said that this was “incredibly exciting news for us and is an excellent example of public and charitable funds being put to good use for the benefit of people and wildlife. Bumblebees are essential for the pollination of wild flowers and food crops and play an intrinsic role in the provision of ecosystem services vital to maintain life in our ever-increasingly industrialised world.”
Dr Ben Darvill, CEO of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust added that “The UK’s farmed landscape is largely brown or green. It never used to be that way. A visit to Carmel in the summer months reveals the full palette of natural colours, with wall-to-wall wildflowers and the uplifting buzz of bees. Hopefully this conservation work will inspire others to create vibrant meadows on their doorsteps.”
The restoration of Carmel NNR has been made possible by the generous support of our funders GrantScape, Biffaward, WREN (Gwendraeth Grasslands Project), the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, The National Lottery and the Charitable Trusts who support our work. GrantScape’s £200,000 award for the project ‘Making a beeline to Carmel’s meadows’ provided critical funding for the restoration and management of Carmel’s bee-friendly habitat.
In speaking of the award, Andrew Budd, who is also Grant Manager for the CWM Community and Environmental Fund in Carmarthenshire, said: “On what is only just the second anniversary of GrantScape’s 3-year grant, it is fantastic to hear that such a scarce bumblebee species has already rediscovered Carmel’s wildlife-rich grasslands. This is a clear indication of the project’s success, and one which we hope can be built on over the coming years”.
Miles King, The Grasslands Trust Director of Conservation said: ““Finding such a threatened bumblebee at Carmel is great news for The Grasslands Trust and it is a strong endorsement of all the work we have been doing restoring the meadows at Carmel. It shows how important it is to focus conservation effort in the right places, forge partnerships between communities, landowners and conservation charities, and the need to carry out detailed surveys of key species.”
The 1994 UK Biodiversity Action Plan was the UK Government’s response to signing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, setting out a programme for conserving the UK’s biodiversity. Twenty years on, while the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) has been discussing the sustainable future of our planet, and whilst many of the targets have not yet been met, The Grasslands Trust and Bumblebee Conservation Trust are delighted that their vital work in the restoration of the UK’s grasslands to provide essential habitat and food resources for bumblebees is returning such a positive result.
Elaine Shaughnessy, Director of Communications