Keeping our precious heritage
The Royal Parks manages over 2000 hectares of precious green space in London and the ecological quality of the parks and other green spaces we manage enriches and benefits all of London; rather like the global benefits we all get from tropical rainforests.
In the ecology team we work to help our colleagues to conserve and enhance these precious environments. In order to understand how to manage the parks better and to monitor progress, with the help of skilled volunteers, conduct regular surveys. Our records show that the varied habitats across The Royal Parks support at least 5148 species of plants, animals and fungi, which includes around 418 species of conservation importance.
Within the parks are a large number of ponds, lakes and streams, and they are among the most challenging types of habitats to work with.
Feeding ducks, geese and other waterfowl is, for many, synonymous with a trip to the park, but an unintended consequence is that uneaten food can create a nutrient-rich sludge in the water. When added to by the excretions from the birds it is a recipe for the rapid growth of algae which is unsightly, ecologically damaging and a potential health hazard to animals and humans.
Once a lake or pond gets into this state, it is very hard to fix it without draining and de-silting - a massive operation!
Another problem is invasive exotic plants or animals, like carp or terrapins which can have a negative impact on aquatic wildlife..
As a result of these issues, almost all current projects involve work to control invasive plants or animals and to get nutrient levels down. Reedbeds and other vegetation are now often added around the edges of the lakes to help absorb some of the excess nutrients in the water.
Floating and underwater plants can also help limit the growth of algae, while providing a habitat for many kinds of invertebrates, birds and amphibians.
2013 improvement projects
As I write this blog we can be proud of having a number of projects to improve water bodies in the parks in various stages of progress. All are the result of teamwork with our colleagues and external partners.
In Greenwich Park, the Flower Garden Lake has over the last year been renovated and replanted in partnership with the charity Froglife. This project, funded by Biffaward, also created a new small pond to provide a 'stepping stone' for amphibians between the lake and another small pond nearby.
Bushy and Richmond Parks have benefitted from work with Froglife (funded by the SITA Trust), to create enhanced wetland areas to help conserve Great Crested Newts.
In The Regent's Park, also thanks to funding from the SITA Trust, we drained the lake in Queen Mary's Gardens and used the silt to create new areas for reeds and other water's edge planting. A fine boardwalk has also been built so that when the reed-beds mature, visitors will be able to get right in amongst the wildlife.
There is also ongoing work is to de-silt, create a new reedbed plus water's edge planting and stream enhancements in Richmond Park's Isabella Plantation. This project sits alongside a separate initiative with the Friends of Richmond Park who are raising money to fund an extensive programme of pond and stream enhancements and the control of invasive plants. Works so far have included the creation of the entirely new Jubilee Pond in Richmond Park, funded by Healthy Planet and supported by Sir David Attenborough.
Finally we have been working on a new partnership project with Thames21, The Wandle Trust, The London Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency and others to enhance the ecological quality of the Beverley Brook, which runs for 2km through Richmond Park. If we are successful this will be a major project with benefits for the entire river catchment.
Keeping our precious heritage