Vegetation and Hydrological Monitoring at Monk’s Dale

Vegetation and Hydrological Monitoring at Monk’s Dale

Wardell Armstrong were commissioned to monitor vegetation communities, alongside the hydrological conditions, in a section of the Monk’s Dale Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), within the Peak District National Park.

Monk’s Dale is a SSSI designated for its diverse woodland, species rich grassland and wetland habitats. Wetland habitats within the SSSI include areas of fen that support regionally and nationally important assemblages of plant species. The habitats are associated with a number of springs and a stream that flows along Monk’s Dale, from north to south.

Wardell Armstrong were involved to assist in determining whether nearby limestone extraction, and associated water abstraction at Dove Holes Quarry, was impacting these nationally important wetland floral communities in potential downstream habitat.

We were commissioned to monitor the origin and flow of water in the Dale, concurrently with assessments of the extent and condition of fen habitats in a section of the Monk’s Dale floodplain, located towards the southern end of the SSSI. A baseline survey was undertaken in 2007 and annual monitoring was carried out by Wardell Armstrong between 2008 & 2015 using National Vegetation Classification (NVC) survey, to confirm the presence and extent of fen communities, as well as through visual assessment of the plant communities present.

Monitoring work by Wardell Armstrong indicated that water abstraction associated with deepening the quarry was not having a discernible impact on the vegetation communities present. Hydrogeological monitoring has confirmed that the springs that feed the fen are supported by an upper aquifer associated with a volcanic sequence which is separate from the limestone extracted at the quarry.

The extent of habitats, particularly the unusual mire & fen vegetation for which the site was designated, although variable over the survey period, did not change materially over the course of monitoring. Small changes in vegetation composition over the survey period was attributed to variable grazing and trampling levels and variable rainfall over the monitoring period. Future impacts of grazing, surrounding land uses in the watershed and more unpredictable weather patterns were discussed in concluding the reporting.

The vegetation monitoring at Monk’s Dale SSSI complements the spring monitoring programme to assess potential hydrogeological impacts of a revised quarry development scheme. The general conceptual hydrogeological model has been agreed with the Environment Agency and Natural England.