Reed Marshes on Orford Ness

Reed marshes on Orford Ness

Reed-bed communities are relatively scarce on Orford Ness. In late 1997, under an EU LIFE-Nature project, one site was extended by 2 ha, from 0.4 to 2.4 ha. The area had been rank grassland with two small pockets of common reed (Phragmites communis) and sea club-rush (Scirpus maritimus) growing in some old 'borrow pits' (where clay had been dug for river wall defences).

The work involved scraping off between 30 and 80cm of clay from the surface of the site, with the intention of lowering ground levels to those of the base of these pits, to enable the reed rhizomes beneath the clay to produce productive shoots. This lowering also in effect enables water levels to be raised, which suits the reed. To compliment this, areas of deeper open water and islands were also created.
Since the work was completed the areas of reed have already expanded, and the new habitat is already benefiting, amongst others, marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), an Annex 1 species under the EU Birds Directive (79/409/EEC), and bearded tit (Panurus biarmicus), as well as many invertebrate species. Marsh harrier have bred and successfully raised broods on this site since 1999.