National Park approves plan to create grassland on campus
The South Downs National Park has approved a landscaping proposal from the University of Sussex to create a new species-rich grassland habitat within the boundary of the National Park.
Excavated chalk rubble and soil from the construction site of the new East Slope student residences - which would otherwise go to landfill - will be spread over open land on the West Slope of campus to create an area of chalk grassland.
The project will significantly enrich the biodiversity of this land, which currently supports only a small number of species.
The University’s Registrar, John Duffy, says: “We are pleased to be able to enhance the biodiversity of the area on the West Slope of campus, by making the most of materials that are excavated as part of our East Slope redevelopment.”
The newly created grassland will also provide an educational and research resource for the School of Life Sciences at Sussex, and maintain open access for recreation.
Ecologist Dr Alan Stewart from the School of Life Sciences has been involved in preliminary discussions about the project and will be advising on re-vegetation of the area.
Dr Stewart’s research expertise is on invertebrate ecology, especially in grasslands. He says: “The West Slope site is currently of limited ecological value and is a suitable area in which to attempt to create chalk grassland.
“Once established, the grassland will provide greater ecological value for a more diverse range of flora and fauna and will be of special benefit to insects such as butterflies and other pollinators.”
The earth-moving operation is expected to be completed over a period of about three weeks during the summer vacation of 2018.
Construction traffic will have temporary access at this time to the West Slope via land adjacent to the Northfield student residences. Access to Stanmer Park from the campus will be maintained at all times for walkers and runners.
The area will then be sown with a wildflower seed mix of locally appropriate plant species, some of them from nearby grassland nature reserves. Dr Stewart says: “If all goes well, the first flowers will appear in the spring and summer of 2019.
“We’ll then be able to use it as a case study in our teaching to Life Sciences students and also for research.”
The grassland will be protected for a few months to ensure it survives and thrives, but open access to the land will then be fully re-instated, allowing students and staff to enjoy the South Downs setting.
John Duffy adds: “It is our ongoing priority to maintain the highest environmental standards on campus and this project is part of our sustainability strategy and our integrated landscaping strategy.”
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