�500k boost for rare Broads wildlife

Some of the rarest species of plants, insects and birds in the Norfolk Broads are set to benefit from almost �500,000 of national grant funding.

Projects to protect fragile wetland habitats at Sutton Fen and Hickling Broad, both near Stalham, are among this year's 11 successful bidders for a share of the �10m Biodiversity Action Fund.

The fund is distributed by WREN, a not-for-profit business which awards grants generated by landfill taxes donated by Waste Recycling Group (WRG).

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) was awarded �244,098 to improve biodiversity at Hickling Broad, while the RSPB will invest �247,327 in the restoration of Sutton Fen – one of its few reserves not open to the public due to the fragility of the landscape.

The site provides one of the few remaining habitats for species which were previously more widespread in the Broads, including the fen mason wasp, shining ram's horn snail and small dotted footman moth.

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The grant will aid a five-year project which includes the restoration of 10 hectares of lowland fen, the creation of 20 shallow turf ponds, research into fen orchids, and the installation of fencing to allow grazing by Highland cattle.

Erica Howe, communications manager for the RSPB, said: 'The Sutton Fen nature reserve is an exceptionally diverse, species-rich site. The area supports one of the most extensive areas of semi-natural primary lowland fen habitat in Britain. Sutton Fen is considered by Natural England and the Broads Authority as part of the finest example of unpolluted valley fen in Western Europe.'

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The NWT's grant will launch a long-term project to extend wetland habitats at Hickling Broad National Nature Reserve.

The project will create 35 hectares of fen from grassland, and restore a further 42 hectares. By creating seasonal variations in water levels, the trust hopes to improve the wetland landscape and attract larger populations of species such as the bittern, crane and swallowtail butterfly.

The scheme will raise water levels on drained marshes to improve fen habitat and install infrastructure to allow the managed retreat of flood defences and help habitats adapt to climate change and sea level rises. Further work will include the restoration of 2.5km of dykes, providing a corridor for wildlife like otters, water voles and invertebrates.

NWT chief executive Brendan Joyce said: 'The funding will have a significant impact as it will allow us to restore prime wetland habitats on this important site. This will be of great benefit to wildlife, such as bitterns and cranes, but will also provide an even greater experience for the many people who visit and enjoy this wonderful place.'

Another successful applicant was RSPB Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, which was awarded �130,337 to create and protect coastal and flood plain grazing marsh at four sites in the Fens and the Wash.

?Conservation or wildlife projects interested in the Biodiversity Action Fund can check their eligibility by visiting www.wren.org.uk. The next deadline for applications is January 31, 2012.

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