Reedbed Cutting at Anton Crescent

This frosty Tuesday, the SNCV began the first stage of pond works at Anton Crescent Wetlands. This local nature reserve is fairly small in size, but has one of the densest reedbeds in the whole of Sutton, and is home to a rich variety of wildlife associated with aquatic and wetland habitats.

The reedbed at Anton Crescent Wetlands

Reedbeds form in areas of shallow water and contain dominant stands of a tall wetland grass called common reed (Phragmites australis). They can be found along all sorts of water bodies, including lakes, ponds and rivers, and they support a wide range of invertebrate, bird, amphibian and mammal species. However, reedbeds are particularly vulnerable to environmental changes such as pollution, dredging and lack of management. Unfortunately, they have experienced a worrying decline in recent years, and have become increasingly fragmented and isolated in many parts of the country. As a result, this valuable habitat has been identified as highly threatened and reebeds are now a high priority for wildlife conservation in the UK.

Reedbeds were the focus of the day on Tuesday, and volunteers were cutting back sections of the dense reedbed at Anton Crescent. Cutting is a technique commonly used for managing reedbeds, as it creates structural variation (or differences in reed height and density), which is really important for specialist reedbed passerines such as Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), Sedge Warblers (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) and Bearded Tit (Panurus biarmicus). These reedbed birds prefer to feed and build nests at the edges of reedbeds, where the vegetation is not too dense.  Creating variation in structure can also expose bare patches of muddy ground, which provide an important habitat for many invertebrates and space for marginal wetland plants to grow.

Reed Warbler. Photo: © David Lee

Cutting the reedbed also helps to reduce the rate at which dead vegetation builds up and prevents the site from gradually drying up. If the reedbed received no management at all, over time it would dry up and allow scrub or woodland species to invade.  So volunteers once again stepped into the waders and got to work cutting the exposed parts of the reeds, using a combination of hand sickles and scythes. The SNCV return to Anton Crescent each year to cut different sections of the reedbed, a method called ‘rotational cutting,’ which helps minimise disturbance to wildlife. With volunteers completing another day at Anton Crescent, on Thursday, the annual reedcutting comes to an end, until we return again next year!

Eleanor Kirby-Green

SNCV Biodiversity Assistant

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