Brown Moss Update

Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter - Autumn 1999 - page 4

Sarah Whild

 

The restoration programme at Brown Moss appears to have faltered this year. There was a good start in 1997, when a small proportion of the trees were removed. This was immediately rewarded by a rise in the water levels, which undoubtedly had something to do with the weather, but the pools have steadfastly remained full since then, so perhaps it is not entirely a coincidence. Most of the trees removed were around the edges of the pools, and the result has been a good growth of such marginal vegetation as Branched Bur-reed, Sparganium erectum, swamp.

Another management activity associated with the removal of the trees was an attempt to restore heathland, by scraping off the nutrient-rich topsoil and scattering cut heather. An initially good start has been overwhelmed somewhat by the growth of other vegetation, and without grazing (another recommendation of the management plan, but not yet implemented) it seems unlikely to succeed.

Also among the failures at this reserve has been the effort to control New Zealand Pigmyweed, Crassula helmsii, by spraying with herbicide. The Crassula has perhaps been restrained slightly more by overgrazing of the margins of the pools by geese, but has finally established itself throughout the main pool, where it now forms some extensive carpets. It would be fair to consider this battle to have been demonstrably lost.

What good news is there? Well, among the rare plants, Orange Foxtail, Alopecurus aequalis, is still thriving at this, its only known current site in Shropshire; Shoreweed, Littorella uniflora, is still surviving in small quantities; Floating Club-rush Eleogiton fluitans has reappeared; and the aquatic liverwort Ricciocarpos natans was seen again this year. But it seems increasingly likely that Floating Water-plantain, Luronium natans, and Lesser Water-plantain, Baldellia ranunculoides, have now gone from this, their last remaining site in the county. It is likely that an increase in the scale of management with respect to tree felling would bring about a reversal in the decline of species at Brown Moss, but what the council really needs to address is the desilting of the pools, as the nutrient-rich build up from leaf litter is probably the main contributing factor to the botanical decline at what is arguably Shropshire's most important botanical site.

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