Kirsty Bailey, NWT Reserves Officer, installing a dipwell in a dyke at Catfield Fen

Hi-tec installation for internationally-important fen


Thursday 29 March, 2018


A data logging piezometer system has been installed this week at a Norfolk fen to gather detailed data about the site’s underground water levels and to warn of any changes that could cause long term damage to the internationally important habitat.

It is a key element in the project by Norfolk Wildlife Trust at Catfield Fen at Barton Broad. The project has received a £67,700 grant from Biffa Award as part of the Landfill Communities Fund to monitor the sub-surface water levels, remove scrub from the fen to restore the habitat for fen orchids, restore the dykes and create new turf that will re-create flashes of open water for wildlife to colonise.

Head of Nature Reserves at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Kevin Hart said: “the piezometers have been installed successfully at strategic locations to provide fixed points on the fen where sub-surface water levels can be recorded daily. This will provide the data to direct the appropriate future management of the site’s designated features, as well as creating an invaluable on-going record. The data will also feed in to national knowledge of how wetlands change and develop over time.”
 
Catfield Fen is one of the finest examples of tall herb fen in the world and is nationally and internationally recognised as being a site of ecological importance for its fauna, flora and geological features through its designations: Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protected Area (SPA), Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), National Nature Reserve (NNR).  

The Fen holds populations of some of the rarest species in the country including fen orchid, marsh fern, swallowtail butterfly and the Norfolk hawker dragonfly, all of which depend on the complex habitat mosaic and fen vegetation communities present on site.

Chief Executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Brendan Joyce added: “We are grateful to Biffa Award for funding this crucial project. The technology we’ve been able to install will really help steer our work to protect some of Norfolk’s rarest wildlife. Many volunteers will contribute to the project too, working alongside staff to clear scrub and restore the dykes.

“As fens are such a sensitive habitat, and prone to being extremely wet underfoot, not many are open to the public, including Catfield Fen. However, NWT Hickling Broad and NWT Upton Fen both have footpath trails through areas of fen where it is possible to spot some of the rare wildlife associated with these wonderful wet places.”
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