Cwmaman discovers the wonders of wildlife!

With the help of Science Shops Wales the people of Cwmaman in the Cynon Valley are finding out about the wondrous tapestry of flora and fauna that they have on their doorstep! Over the spring and summer this year, Cwmaman residents, the Science Shops team and local naturalists have got together to search for and identify many of the flowering plants, trees, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, moths, birds and river wildlife that populate the valley. Fungus forays and bat detecting is next on the list for this autumn!

Many people assume that the south Wales valleys are a barren wilderness scarred by their industrial past, but that is far from true. The area of Cwmaman, in common with much of the countryside in the south Wales valleys, is particularly rich in biodiversity and is relatively untouched by intensive farming processes that have had a damaging impact on more rural areas. True, Cwmaman once relied mainly on coal mining to support its local economy, and this has left areas of coal spoil. Despite this, the land is recovering well and showing extremely interesting combinations of acid and alkaline micro-habitats in close proximity, resulting from the varied sources of spoil. There are also examples of a fairly rare phenomenon known as ??????lichen bryophyte heath??????, where fungus, lichen and vascular plants occur together as part of the land??????s recovery process.

The results from moth trapping events show another way in which the land is recovering. This year, many of the moths observed in the valley have been light-coloured. In the past, there was more coal dust on grasslands and lighter species were picked off easily by predators while greater numbers of darker species survived to breed. This situation is now reversing.

The people of Cwmaman will use the results of the audit to create displays to tell local people and visitors about the wildlife of the area. The information will also be sent to local and national biodiversity databases. Most importantly, it will be used as a basis for acting to protect and encourage local wildlife. A few local people are talking about forming an action group to continue conservation activities beyond the end of this year??????s audit. It??????s also been a steep learning curve for Science Shops, and, on the basis of their experience, they are working to create a handbook and toolkit to help other communities carry out their own audits.

written by Nicky Shelswell

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