Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Introducing the Little Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail

The diggers are out as I write. They’ve started creating new channels and spurs at RSPB’s Pulborough Brooks reserve to provide habitat for a small snail with a long name; the Little Whirlpool Ramshorn snail.

At only a few millimetres diameter, this is a tricky species to see but it is the only European Protected Species of snail in the UK, with only three main populations left. Living in ditches on mostly privately farmed land, the snail is vulnerable to changes in the way the land is managed.

Favouring well vegetated ditches, its requirements aren’t fully compatible with the need to keep ditches open for water flow and to act as ‘wet fences’ for keeping cattle at bay.

So, we’re creating some alternative habitat for it that isn’t required for those functions and can be allowed to vegetate up. We’re also trialling several ways of managing ditches, all of which have been deemed suitable for the snail, but have not been fully tested. That way, we hope we can find methods that are good for both the landowners and the snail.

Another issue we will be trying to tackle is the presence of carp in the ditches. These unwelcome guests are thought to have been washed in from the adjacent rivers when the flood banks over-top. Their habit of digging into the mud stirs up the sediment, which the snail dislikes. We are hoping they can be removed from sections of ditch and we will be monitoring the cloudiness of the water before and after to see if it improves.

Look out for opportunities to see the wetland work and learn more about the project through organised study visits.

Jane Sears

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