National Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre

Managing for conservation

People have had an impact on Titchfield Haven for a very long time and certainly since the estuary was closed in 1611. It is through on-going management that the reserve's rich biodiversity is being maintained and increased. Natural systems develop through a sequence of changes which ecologists call succession. These take varying amounts of time to complete and lead to a relatively stable end state which is characteristic of the area.

For example, ponds eventually end up as woodland typical to an area - oak, for instance. This is because pond plants die and decompose in the water, vegetation is blown into the water and the pond slowly silts up.

Terrestrial plants can germinate in the dryer areas around the pond and will spread across it as it dries out. The first ones will be simple annuals, followed by shrubs and bushes and then small trees, finally providing a situation in which slow-growing deciduous trees such as Oak can become established. Different plant and animal communities are found during the different stages.

In an uninhabited area, they would stand a good chance of finding alternatives once their current habitat had changed so much that it no longer met their survival needs. Britain is a heavily populated place and the scope for wildlife to find alternatives has been very much reduced. Therefore, if a species is dependent on open water, then it may be necessary to manage a pond so that it does not “succeed” to a woodland endpoint. Thus, conservation management for dragonflies, frogs and newts, for example, will involve clearing vegetation from ponds and, indeed, creating new ones.

Successful, long-term conservation action needs the support of local people and this requires an understanding and appreciation of what is being undertaken and why. Education and interpretation are therefore also important.