By Fran Southgate
Wetland Landscapes Officer
On a pleasantly warm June afternoon, accompanied by 11 enthusiastic pond volunteers, we ventured out last weekend onto Pulborough Brooks Nature Reserve to see what wetland plants we could find and identify. There were a great many more than I thought there would be, and it was fantastic to learn so much about things that we would normally walk past without noticing.
I suppose we should have known that any trip involving our ecologist Graeme Lyons would probably include the discovery of a rare and exciting species little known to man. And so it was that in the middle of a field somewhere near a river bank, Graeme picked up a small and unobtrusively beautiful plant called water purslane and in an excited voice shouted ‘I think I’ve found a rare weevil’. Sure enough, we can confirm that Dieckmaniellus gracilis was happily perched on the water purslane plant, and that there are only a handful of other records of this weevil in
The key realisation for many of us at this point, was how an insignificant and much overlooked plant, turns out to be the sole home of an even more insignificant beetle which almost no one would be able to identify. It made us all extremely aware of how fragile a balance life is out in the wild, and how easy it would be through ignorance and lack of knowledge, to completely destroy this delicate balance.
Too often, important parts of the natural world like slugs and algae and micro moths are overlooked purely because there is no one expert enough or with enough patience to identify them. They may be less glamorous and more time consuming to identify, but most of these species play important roles in the life cycles and diets of other species which we in turn rely on. I’m a landscape ecologist at heart, managing projects across vast areas of land which try and create a healthy environment for all species, including humans. It’s an interesting dilemma, and one that is likely to keep me busy for most of my career trying to work out how we can align large landscape management objectives with the micro landscapes that many species live in.