Cliff erosion is just great for buglife
Norfolk's cliffs have become famous over the years for yielding important fossils, fascinating historical relics and iconic archaeological finds. The West Runton elephant and the Happisburgh flint axehead, which both helped to rewrite the history books, are just two of the key finds in recent years.
Norfolk's cliffs have become famous over the years for yielding important fossils, fascinating historical relics and iconic archaeological finds.
The West Runton elephant and the Happisburgh flint axehead, which both helped to rewrite the history books, are just two of the key finds in recent years.
From school parties to experienced academics, the attraction of our cliffs is undeniable.
But a little-known nature conservation group yesterday revealed evidence of how vital the cliffs are for a rather surprising reason.
Scientists with the charity Buglife say the county's soft cliffs are home to many rare bees, beetles, butterflies and other invertebrates.
These creatures include the rare cliff comber beetle (Latin name: nebria livida), a nocturnal predator only found in the UK on a handful of sites in Norfolk and Yorkshire.
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Buglife's Andrew Whitehouse said: "Coastal soft cliffs are some of the most wildlife-rich habitats in the UK.
"And it is the fact that they are constantly eroding which makes them such a fantastic wildlife habitat.
"The eroding cliffs and resulting land slips create bare ground which is essential for warmth-loving invertebrates, and for solitary bees and wasps to dig their burrows. Soft cliffs also feature abundant wildflowers which are important for bees."
For the past three years, members of Buglife have been carrying out wildlife surveys of Norfolk cliffs, recording hundreds of species.
As well as the cliff comber beetle, they have also found the burrowing rove beetle (Latin name: bledius filipes), a rare species which is only found on the soft cliffs of Norfolk.
But the habitat and its wildlife are under threat from human activities, warned Mr Whitehouse.
"Species are being lost as sites are damaged by coastal protection, and where intensive agriculture has replaced flower-rich grassland on the clifftops," he said.
"The wealth of wildlife on the Norfolk soft cliffs is absolutely staggering.
"However, if we want to keep enjoying it in the future we must ensure that our coasts are managed in a sustainable way, which means making space for nature."
Conservation organisations will meet this week to discuss how the wildlife of the county's cliffs can be protected and enhanced.
The meeting will also see the regional launch of the new Buglife report, called Managing Coastal Soft Cliffs for Invertebrates.
For more information about Buglife, visit www.buglife.org.uk