Cragside Wetlands at Blackburn Lake
2 February is World Wetlands Day and Cragside Ranger, Dan Iceton, tell is more about this vital habitat which supports complex food webs and a vast range of species.
These habitats are very important for many insect species which rely on the water and different types of vegetation for part of their life cycle. In turn these insects form the basis of many different food chains providing good habitat for a range of different amphibian, fish, bird and mammal species.
Wetlands also play an important role in flood prevention by temporarily storing excess water that has run off the land after storm events. Water is then released at a slower rate and so reducing the potential for floods further downstream. Through this act of temporary water storage particulates that are found in water have a chance to settle to the bottom before leaving wetlands. This provides a natural filtration process preventing an excess of sediment flowing downstream with increased water levels.
As plants die and rot away they release carbon. However, in wetlands this matter falls into water or wet boggy anaerobic conditions. This helps prevent the release of carbon dioxide and instead this excess carbon is locked up in the soils. Because of these systems wetlands have been found to be a fantastic carbon store, locking carbon up and preventing it from entering the atmosphere.
Blackburn Lake was once the largest waterbody at Cragside but the dam burst during a flood in the 1920s and water levels have remained much lower ever since. The lake has now developed into a significant wetland feature with areas of open water, reed beds and swamp communities of vegetation. This habitat is surrounded by wet woodland as the outer fringes have dried up further and trees such as birch and willow have begun to grow with great areas of sphagnum moss covering the ground.
This wetlands and wet woodland habitat within Blackburn lake is a great place to spot wildlife, even during the winter months. Our ranger team have spotted many different bird species including crossbills, long tailed tits, bull finches and a green woodpecker at Blackburn. Throughout the year Roe deer, buzzards, frogs, toads and a myriad of different dragonflies and damselflies can be seen using this fantastic habitat.