Needingworth Quarry is the location for an exciting wetland restoration project arising from a collaboration between Hanson and the RSPB. As gravel extraction is completed in sections of Needingworth these areas are being restored into wetland habitats, including large areas of reedbed and associated rough grassland, which has been named Ouse Fen Nature Reserve. The open water and reedbeds provide much of the focus of the RSPB's efforts, given the importance they have for birds, some of which are rare and threatened in the UK. The attention given to reedbeds is part of a national effort by the RSPB, which has included studies on non-bird wildlife, including aquatic plants, amphibians, mammals and invertebrates. However reedbed restoration sites, typified by Needingworth also include areas of wet or dry rough grassland, with varying degrees of management through grazing, mowing and fencing. These grasslands in themselves potentially provide a valuable habitat for biodiversity, especially given the context of the considerable intensification of agricultural and other grasslands that has taken place over recent decades.
In this project we propose to investigate the insect biodiversity of grasslands surrounding the reedbed restoration units at Needingworth/Ouse Fen. The focus of our work will be the leafhoppers (Auchenorrhyncha), which are common in grassland and have been found to be useful indicators of management intensity effects. In particular we are interested in how leafhoppper communities are affected by the level of grazing by cattle and how they vary with distance from the reedbeds and open water. The principal objective is to increase our knowledge of insect communities in these habitats at Needingworth/Ouse Fen and to inform management practice decisions in relation to these grasslands, which it is hoped will help to further enhance the biodiversity value of the restoration.