Of mice and man

Joined up thinking to save threatened species

Overhead power line corridors in Sheffield are set to double wildlife havens in an ambitious project to save threatened species.

National Grid is teaming up with Sheffield City Council’s ecology unit to link isolated breeding populations of great crested newts and harvest mice through focused environmental management and habitat creation beneath the pylons that connect the sites.

great crested newt
The great crested newt’s breeding ground will form part of a new corridor

“Many land-based species face a problem of genetic isolation because of road building, development, inappropriate land management practices and unsuitable habitat,” said Angus Hunter, the city council’s biodiversity officer. “Small isolated populations struggle for survival because of inbreeding and an inability to spread to other areas and gene pools.”

The project aims to link Holbrook Marsh and Beighton Marsh in the south-east of the city with a series of breeding ponds a few hundred metres apart.

willow tit
The Grid and Council partnership aims to keep the rare willow tit thriving

The harvest mouse’s favourite nest building plant reed canary grass will be planted in what is now dense, dry and unsuitable woodland habitat. The woodland edge of the power line corridor will also be managed to provide breeding sites and suitable habitat for the increasingly rare native willow tit.

It is hoped initial works will be funded through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, followed by a species specific management plan in a partnership between National Grid and SCC.

Beighton Marsh in Sheffield
Beighton Marsh will be linked by breeding ponds to nearby Holbrook Marsh

Chris Plester, environmental advisor at National Grid, said: “The project is the latest example of our collaborative approach to managing our overhead power line corridors to create a natural grid of bigger, better and more connected habitats.”