ENGLAND'S second ‘super’ National Nature Reserve (NNR) has been declared in Somerset by Natural England on the 70th anniversary of the creation of national nature reserves.

The Somerset Wetlands NNR has absorbed the six reserves on the Somerset Levels and Moors and added 56% more land to the area occupied by the original site.

Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, said: “The creation of this very large National Nature Reserve is an important moment for nature recovery in England.

"This is not least because it presents a practical demonstration of what can be done by working in partnership across the landscape at scale to reverse nature’s decline. Natural England intends to encourage other projects with similar ambition."

It will be managed by Natural England, Environment Agency, National Trust, RSPB, Somerset Wildlife Trust and new partners The Hawk and Owl Trust and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Becoming England’s third largest NNR, the Somerset Wetlands is 6,140ha and adds landmarks like Burrow Mump, Catcott Lows and Steart Marshes to the list of locations.

Georgia Stokes, CEO of Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT), said: “The Somerset Wetlands NNR represents a shift in approach and a scaling up of ambition and action in a low-lying county that’s hugely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News: Steart Marshes is part of the nature reserve.

“By joining up land in this way, we can put a significant proportion of the county into recovery for nature and climate - from inland wetland reserves all the way to Somerset’s coast – rebuilding ecosystems and restoring the land's ability to capture and store carbon and achieve real gains for climate and biodiversity for future generations.”

Highlights of the wetlands have been listed as:

  • A third of the UK’s bittern population, a large marsh bird of the heron family; avocets, black-and-white waders which bred in Somerset in 2012 for the first time in more than 150 years and new colonisers like the great white egret, which bred for the first time in Somerset and the UK ten years ago.
  • 19 species of dragonflies including a ‘Merited Site of National Importance’ by the British Dragonfly Society.
  • Round-leaved sundew – a carnivorous plant whose original habitat was the peatlands before drainage and farming.

The declaration of the Somerset Wetlands NNR coincides with the date NNRs were established on 19 May 1952.

To mark the anniversary, the Festival of National Nature Reserves is launching today celebrating NNRs past, present, and future.

Juniper added: “Seventy years from the creation of our first National Nature Reserves in England, these wonderful places are needed now more than ever, as we face the challenges of global warming, wildlife decline and reconnecting people with the natural world.”

To find a Festival of National Nature Reserves event at your local reserve visit www.NNRfestival.com.