Habitat Restoration on a Landscape scale: Restoring the Post-Industrial Landscape for Wildlife Conservation: A Case Study

Authors and Affiliations: 

M. H. Champion

The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Merseyside, Preston

Thom Dallimore

Department of Biology, Biosciences, Edge Hill University

Paul Ashton

Department of Biology, Biosciences, Edge Hill University


The Great Manchester Wetlands is a 3000ha area in the northwest of England that stretches from Wigan in a broad south-easterly arc down to the Mersey valley and then towards Manchester. The region has been heavily modified by various industrial processes over the last two centuries including extensive mining, spoil dumping and peat winning. This has left a variety of damaged wetland habitats with a potential conservation value including several SSSIs. This includes reedbed, lowland raised bog and grassland habitats. Some of these habitats are of national or international importance for their species assemblages. More recently their value for ecosystem services has also been recognised. 

Within the last fifteen years major effort and expense has gone into restoring these habitats. The work has incorporated major earthworks alongside more traditional conservation approaches. The major earthworks have involved unifying the hydrology, re-profiling the topography, ditch creation, and the installation of bunding and sheet piling. Traditional approaches have included grazing management, hay and reed cutting. Taken together this management has led to the general improvement of habitat quality compared with the initial condition. It has also led to marked success for important species hence delivering significant regional, national and international conservation gains. However it is possible to view the restored habitats as species rich islands within a mixed periurban, post-industrial landscape. The next challenge is to identify, develop and maintain corridors between these species rich sites in a way that establishes linkage between the existing reserves while improving biodiversity within the wider landscape.

This paper outlines successes in the Great Manchester Wetlands to date. It identifies the potential corridors and the management approaches that are required to improve connectivity and thus species mobility within the area. Likely challenges and potential fruitful research questions are also highlighted.


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