Recent news has brought attention to the increased conservation effort on British soils to help save our most endangered species and habitats. In the last week ladybird spiders and meadow habitats have both been publicised due to the conservation work which will hopefully bring their abundance back from the brink.
The ladybird spider (Eresus sandaliatus) appears at first glance to be a very exotic arachnid. By mimicking the ladybird’s bright warning colours and patterns the spider can trick predators into thinking that, similarly to a ladybird, it is fowl smelling, distasteful and able to ‘reflex bleed’ by squeezing a staining and foul tasting fluid from its leg joints and abdominal segments. Despite these deterrents the ladybird spider is Britain’s rarest spider, with only 56 individuals existing in the 1990’s. The main reason for such a massive decline in these spiders is primarily due to the destruction of their heathland habitat, resulting in them only existing in one UK site.
Fortunately, this devastating drop did not go unnoticed by conservationists and over a thousand have now been bred in captivity. Last week thirty individuals were released into the RSPB’s Arne Reserve in Dorset. The spiders are being translocated in plastic bottles and buried in top secret locations across the reserve with an aim to mimic their natural tunnel burrows. This technique is to be carefully monitored, and if successful will be repeated in suitable habitats over the next few years.
The diminishing abundance of British ancient grasslands and wildflower meadows has also recently been brought to public attention. Since the Second World War, 97% of grassland has been destroyed due to the rise in the demand for agricultural land, having a huge impact on the biodiversity of plant life, insects, birds and other animals which are found in meadows. However Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank has jumped on the challenge of restoring this enchanting habitat.
It is hoped that in the future the seed hub will be able to support commercial seed industries with high quantities of good quality and diverse native seed, which can then be used to revamp the British countryside. The project has started by growing 10 species native to the British Isles including oxeye daisies, birdsfoot trefoil and sneezewort. It is hoped that through these efforts rich habitats can be created for future generations to enjoy.
The inspirational conservation efforts being put into ladybird spiders and grassland habitats are both going on right now, so if you’ve got the time go along to Arne Nature Reserve and the Millennium Seed Bank. Such initiatives give hope that in the future we will still be able to see and experience British nature.
By Lizy Tinsley