A neglected area for coastal wildlife is set to give up its secrets, with the help of wildlife enthusiasts across Dorset. Dorset Wildlife Trust has launched the 3-year Welly Zone project to investigate intertidal and shallow water habitats. The Welly Zone - from the strandline at high water mark down to the shallows accessible by wellies - covers a range of different habitats with a huge variety of wildlife from marine to land-based species.
Missing out on protection
The project, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s Sustainable Development Fund, aims to involve local people in finding out about the wildlife that relies on these special habitats along our coast, which are currently not set to be protected by proposed conservation plans. Peter Tinsley, Living Seas Manager at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “We are concerned that this large area, stretching right along our coast, may lose out on protection. For example, the proposed new marine Special Area of Conservation for reef habitats from Studland to Portland is not expected to extend above the low-water mark, despite the rocky reefs and their wildlife continuing across the sea/land boundary onto the shore.“
Local volunteers monitoring the wildlife
The Welly Zone project will see volunteer groups set up along the coast, with identification and training sessions so that people can undertake regular recording and monitoring in their own time. Finds can range from pink seafan skeletons and mermaids’ purses to living sightings such as crabs and anemones in the shallows or shore birds feeding on insects on the strandline, all of which will be used to increase knowledge both of the habitats themselves and of wildlife further out to sea, adding to the marine biodiversity database.
Peter added: “This is something everyone can do whether out walking your dog or just for days at the beach this summer. All you need is to come to one of our training sessions and a pair of wellies! Volunteer diver surveys in the past have helped us to influence marine conservation proposals and these records from across the county could be used in the same way. We expect to turn up some more interesting finds.”
The first Welly Zone training day is on Saturday 5th March at Lyme Regis from 10am to 3pm, including low tide rockpooling and species identification. Booking is essential on 01929 481044.