Joining forces to help incy wincy spider

Volunteers John Chrisp and Mike Lightfoot repairing mini dams.
Volunteers John Chrisp and Mike Lightfoot repairing mini dams.

Another major conservation project is under way in the Northumberland National Park to protect an ancient peat bog which is home to a rare and diminutive species of money-spider.

The Lampert Mosses, near Spadeadam, is a classified Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its rich peat habitats and varied species of flora and fauna, including the rare cloud-living spider (Semljicola caliginosus).

The tiny spider, which grows to around 2mm in length, is one of the UK’s smallest and most elusive arachnids, favouring living conditions found in damp, moss-rich upland areas.

A recent ecological study, which was funded in partnership by Natural England, Buglife and the British Archaeological Society, recorded a number of cloud-living spiders at Lampert Mosses, but the research also showed that the area required sensitive conservation and repair work to preserve the spider’s unique peatland habitat.

Now a team of volunteers led by Northumberland National Park and Tyne Rivers Trust are working together, using funding from Natural England, to help protect the cloud-living spider’s upland home by replacing eroded dam structures.

Programmes officer at Northumberland National Park, Abi Mansley, said: “In the 1990s, marine plywood dams were installed at Lampert Mosses to prevent the peat bogs from fragmenting and losing their peat.

“Now, over 20 years later, the original dams are delaminating and need to be replaced to safeguard this important habitat. We’re creating around 100 mini dams to prevent further fragmentation and to slow the water flow reaching the Tyne and Irthing rivers.”

She added: “The presence of the cloud-living spider at the Lampert Mosses site has made the preservation of the peat bogs even more important. With population numbers of cloud-living spiders in rapid decline due to habitat loss, the north of England is now home to a globally important population of cloud-living spiders which have special ecological significance in scientific communities.

“It has been great to join forces with Natural England and Tyne Rivers Trust. This is exactly the kind of practical conservation project which brings people together to protect and enhance rare habitats in the Park. We hope to partner-up on more projects of this nature in the future.”

Part of the grant from Natural England funded the hire of a specialist Softrak vehicle to prevent any damage to the peat bogs during the delivery and removal of equipment at the remote site. The Softrak operates with less ground pressure than an adult foot in a wellington boot which means disturbance to the fragile peatland is minimal.