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Serpentine Island is one of the few locations in the central London Royal Parks that remains undisturbed by human traffic. However, even these seemingly untouched habitats are heavily influenced by human activity. Consequently they are not subject to the same natural successional processes that truly wild undisturbed landscapes are. We therefore have a duty to maintain these unique spaces if we want to them to continue to support viable ecosystems and their services. Albeit on a small scale the Island project aims to improve the potential for wildlife habitat whilst making its future maintenance achievable.

Funding for the project was provided by the Mastaba exhibition in 2018

The project started on 18th November after being postponed for an entire year due to herons nesting early in December 2018.

The first step was to reduce the intensity of grazing and nutrient loading. For several decades the Island was fenced in a manner that reduced the impact of large flocks of grazing geese. We reinstated this fencing with a longer-term alternative material which will permit smaller less prolific waterfowl to enter the recesses of the Island for nesting.

The second step was to thin the woodland on the island which in most areas had become arrested in growth and potential. This will improve the variation of vegetation age, permitting mature trees to reach their apex whilst promoting the understory and lesser trees such as hawthorn elder and hazel. These are species associated with invertebrates and songbirds. Much of the cut timber was dead hedged by a volunteer group on the West end of the island to create a wind break and nesting habitat for small songbirds.

We also ensured that shading of the small central pond was reduced to allow marginal plants to grow which will encourage insects and with luck aquatic invertebrates to take refuge here.

The pond was previously dry and filled with eroded soil, waterfowl guano and silt. This was excavated, then landscaped and connected with the main body of the serpentine to ensure that it continues to hold water throughout the year. The spoil was reused in the landscaping process.

The final step involved fencing the East, South and West and margins of the island then positioning pre sown matting containing European common reeds (phragmites) in the lagoon between the two fences. This will give the reed bed a chance to grow with less intensive grazing.

We still have some final touches to add which will include the positioning of several heron nesting baskets which may encourage the current heronry.

Our long term plans for the maintenance of the project will be to hold volunteer work parties on the Island each autumn to manage vegetation through coppicing and dead hedging.

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