Conservationists join forces to help incy wincy spider

Another major conservation project is underway in the west of Northumberland National Park to protect an ancient peat bog which is home to a rare and diminutive species of money-spider.

The Lampert Mosses near Spadeadam, is a classified Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its rich peat habitats and varied species of flora and fauna, including the rare cloud-living spider (Semljicola caliginosus).

The tiny spider, which grows to around 2mm in length, is one of the UK’s smallest and most elusive arachnids, favouring living conditions found in damp, moss-rich upland areas.

A recent ecological study which was funded in partnership by Natural England, Buglife and the British Archaeological Society, recorded a number of cloud-living spiders at Lampert Mosses, but the research also showed that the area required sensitive conservation and repair work to preserve the spider’s unique peatland habitat.

Now a team of volunteers led by Northumberland National Park and Tyne Rivers Trust are working together, using funding from Natural England, to help protect the cloud-living spider’s upland home by replacing eroded dam structures to preserve the Lampert Mosses’ peat bogs.

Programmes Officer at Northumberland National Park, Abi Mansley, said: “In the 1990s marine plywood dams were installed at Lampert Mosses to prevent the peat bogs from fragmenting and losing their peat.

“Now, over 20 years later, the original dams are delaminating and need to be replaced to safeguard this important habitat. We’re creating around 100 mini dams to prevent further fragmentation and to slow the water flow reaching the Tyne and Irthing rivers.

“It has been great to join forces with Natural England and Tyne Rivers Trust. This is exactly the kind of practical conservation project which brings people together to protect and enhance rare habitats in the Park. We hope to partner-up on more projects of this nature in the future.”

Volunteer Coordinator from Tyne Rivers Trust, Simone Price, said: “Reinforcing the existing dams in the ditches at Lampert Mosses benefits the Tyne as well as the cloud-living spider. The dams reduce peak flows and improve water quality by decreasing the amount of sediment reaching the river, which in turn benefits invertebrates and several species of fish.

“Our continuing work takes us to many locations throughout the Tyne catchment but this beautiful location is new for us and we look forward to working with the National Park again in the future.”

Part of the grant from Natural England funded the hire of a specialist Softrak vehicle which operates with less ground pressure than an adult foot in a wellington boot which means disturbance to the fragile peatland is minimal.

Marjorie Davy, Lead Adviser from Natural England, Northumbria, said: “We are delighted to have been a partner in this project. This is a remarkable collection of peat bogs, which is partly a product of the remote setting and also the very high rainfall that characterises this part of the country.

“It is also a very challenging place to work and so we are really pleased with the huge efforts put in by Northumberland National Park and their partners to help protect this sensitive habitat that is home to some rare invertebrates, including the cloud-living spiders.”

The Lampert Mosses volunteering project is one of a number of partnership-led conservation and education projects which are being carried out by Northumberland National Park in the run-up to the public opening of The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre this summer.

The £14.8 million project, which has been significantly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Northumberland National Park, which is set to change the way people experience and engage with the great outdoors.

Tyne Rivers Trust has been working to improve the River Tyne and its catchment since 2004. In that time they have reduced the number of barriers to fish migrating upstream, improved huge amounts of river habitat and the quality of water so that aquatic life can thrive. Working with schoolchildren and communities that live along the Tyne, the Trust also help future generations to understand the value of the river.