From its inception, the principal aim of this project was to establish a demonstration area of best practice for sustainable farming and biodiversity enhancement, where land managers and practitioners can experience sympathetic management first hand. The project highlighted the problem of diffuse pollution, the benefits of buffering watercourses and demonstrated actions for enhancing biodiversity. It also examined the best practice and restoration options that could enhance habitats on farmland and improve the connectivity of the floodplain with its backwaters, ponds, wet grassland, marshes, reedbeds and ditch network. The effectiveness of these various options has been tested through a series of comparative experiments designed to measure changes in habitat and abundance of key biodiversity indicator species (such as the water vole).
Recent research by WildCRU and others has provided a firm foundation on which to build a Species Recovery Programme for the water vole in Britain. We now have a good understanding of the ecological and biological equirements of the species, as well as detailed knowledge about the threats it faces across its range in the country. The Chichester Coastal Plain Sustainable Farming Partnership project has addressed three factors that are essential to ensure the recovery of the water vole in the wider countryside in Britain:
1) Habitat enhancement
2) Population reinforcement
3) Mink removal (an invasive non-native species and major predator of the water vole).