With minimal extra care by the operators, many bird species can profit from the activities of mineral extraction and the novel habitats created at sand and gravel pits.
A new partnership project will improve the habitats for breeding birds at three mining sites in Southern Poland. Conservationists hope to boost the regional populations of several rare species.
Tomasz Wilk from OTOP, the BirdLife partner in Poland , reports that their new project with Górażdże Group, is the next level of cooperation with the mineral extraction industry. Last year OTOP carried out a scoping study for the company to identify opportunities for biodiversity ‘quick wins’ across all mining sites operated by Górażdże. Sand martins, terns and gulls are clearly a winner in the adaptation to sand pits. Being adaptive and opportunistic, they often profit from the waterbodies created by mining. The mining activities mimic the early succession habitats found along rivers and floodplains (and the latter have gone nearly extinct in Europe) and the birds move in.
The extraction, washing and deposition of unused materials create novel habitats, like islands, peninsulas and banks. These initially bare surfaces offer ideal conditions for pioneer species, from mosses to insects and birds, until they are gradually taken over by vegetation. The quality and biotic potential of these temporary habitats vary from place to place and according to the technology used for separation of the commercial fractions from the waste material. Interestingly, the current market prices of sand and gravel also determine the physical characteristics of the depostited material.
Sand and gravel banks also play an important role for many water birds, as safe nesting places. Islands are particularly favoured by some threatened and conservation dependent species because they are less prone to predation and other disturbances. Man-made islands are a well known conservation tool in regions, particularly effective where natural river habitats have been destroyed. In Southern Poland, the mining sites of Górażdże Group add an important element to the conservation of island-breeding birds at a regional and national level.
The aim of the project is to improve island habitats in selected Górażdże mining sites to target bird species. The activities will be carried out at three sand and gravel pits:
- Creation of a sandy island in Malerzowice pit, where a sand peninsula will be cut off from the bank;
- Creation of two artificial islands of modular concrete type in Nowogród Bobrzański pit;
- Removal of reeds, trees and bushes and clearing of small gravel beaches on selected islands in Wójcice and Malerzowice pits.