By Toni, 17th Dec 2021
Climate change is a concern for everyone, but we can all do our bit to help by protecting and nurturing the valuable natural environments around us. At Bryngarw Country Park, we have some incredibly important habitats, and our dedicated rangers take great care to manage them so that they not only thrive today but continue to exist for future generations. So, why exactly are our mixed woodlands, wetlands, wildflower meadows, ponds, lakes and river habitats so important to the ecosystem?
The River Garw
A tributary of the Ogmore river, the Garw brings rainwater down through the hills north of Blaengarw. Once highly polluted due to industrialisation, the river is now much cleaner and home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. Rivers are incredibly important to our environment. They drain water from the landscape, are a vital source of food and fresh water for people and wildlife, carry vital nutrients to surrounding soils and offer a rich habitat for plants and animals. A healthy river is an environment where fish, molluscs, insects and plants can thrive, and well-managed riverbanks provide the perfect habitats for voles, otters and birds like kingfishers, grey wagtails, and dippers.
Lowering carbon levels in our atmosphere is crucial in combatting climate change and wetlands play a very important role in trapping decaying plant matter and storing carbon. They also play a vital part in managing water flow and reducing risk of flooding, not to mention their ability to function as a natural water filter. Well-managed wetlands like ours here at Bryngarw are home to a wide variety of animal and plant species like dragonflies, newts, and many species of fungi. Conserving these highly valuable environments is an important part of the habitat management of Bryngarw.
Ponds and lakes
Much like the river Garw, our ponds and lake are also a vital resource for aquatic plant and animal life in the park. These carefully balanced ecosystems are teeming with toads, frogs, newts and freshwater fish like tench, roach and rudd as well as a rich variety of plants and algae that provide nutrients, absorb waste and help filter the water. They also offer the perfect habitat for wildfowl to thrive.
Like wetlands, our woodlands are vital to the ecosystem as they store carbon and also release oxygen. As well as their starring role in helping combat carbon emissions, the wide variety of tree species we have at Bryngarw offer shelter and food for our native wildlife. Living trees are home to squirrels and birds, but dead wood and fallen leaves also provide ideal habitats for fungi, hedgehogs, beetles and other insects. Some of the trees here are hundreds of years old and need careful nurturing to ensure they remain standing for hundreds of years to come. In the spring, our woods are also carpeted with thousands of bluebells. This display isn’t only beautiful, it’s ecologically significant – the UK has over half of the world’s population of bluebells, so it’s something that’s vital to preserve.
The number of wildflower meadows has decreased alarmingly over the last few decades, so any we still have need conserving. They’re an essential environment for many species of insects, particularly pollinators like bees and butterflies, which are also in sharp decline. Animals that feed on insects, like birds and bats, also rely on these habitats to provide their food. The flowers that grow here aren’t just a lovely sight on a warm summer’s day – they’re an essential part of a biodiverse natural environment.
If you’d like to get involved with helping to conserve the wonderful habitats we have here at Bryngarw, you can find out more about becoming a volunteer here. And you keep your eyes peeled for conservation events on our What’s On page or our Facebook feed.