Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Celebrating Another Year of the Little Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail

We have made good use of last year’s findings in our work to manage for the Little Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail and its habitat this year. We are trying to improve the conditions, long-term, for this rare and very vulnerable species.

The monitoring in 2018 showed that the ditches in the centre and south of Pulborough Brooks, where the snail used to occur, are no longer in a suitable condition so it was considered not sensible to move the snail into them.
Instead we are trying to enhance the population in its strong-hold in the northern part of the Brooks and make it easier for the snail to naturally colonise further south, once the conditions are right.

With help from volunteers, we have been monitoring water quality so that we can get a better idea of what’s going on, and we are looking into the hydrology of the site to understand the sources of  water entering the site and how it flows across the reserve. We have found the site has become very silted up and this is impeding the ability to manage the water levels and move water around. We are now considering how to improve the water-flow which we hope will lead to improvements in water quality and enable the snail to colonise more ditches by being carried on vegetation.

The ditch management trials were monitored, for the second year running by snail specialist, Toby Abrehart who, with the help of his amazing horologist’s goggles (see photo below), can identify and count the snails in the sampling trays without needing to use a microscope. The results supported those found in 2018, with a fairly consistent pattern of more snails found in the sections of ditch that were cleared compared with the adjacent uncleared sections. The findings of these trials should help us with the future management of the site.


Toby Abrehart and his amazing horologists’ goggles for identifying the tiny snails.

The exciting news is that the snail is occupying the new ditch and 2 of the new spurs that were specially created to provide extra habitat for it! This habitat is also being colonised by the rare Sharp-leaved Pondweed and other aquatic plants that indicate good water quality, like Frogbit with its attractive white flowers... We will monitor these ditches again next year to see if any more spurs are occupied.

In October, we were pleased to host an art event organised by Outdoor Studios at Pulborough Brooks. Children and their parents were shown the snail’s larger cousin, the Ram’s Horn snail (Planorbis sp) and informed about our work to help the Little Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail. They enjoyed making their own dyes from local plants and using them to paint snails and the landscape. They also made clay snails and decorated their matchbox-sized homes with ferns and leaves.

Despite its diminutive size, Little Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail features alongside Lapwings and Water Voles on the Pulborough Art Trail organised by Horsham District Council, that runs from Pulborough village to the reserve.
An eye-catching image invites you to learn more about the snail and why its important by using an app.

Following the final set of monitoring in autumn 2020 we are planning to hold a workshop to share our findings with land managers in the other two key areas of England for the snail – The Norfolk Broads and Pevensey Levels. We hope that they and the snails will benefit from what we have learnt.

 

Jane Sears

Project Officer

 

 

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

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