There is increasing recognition of the importance for local biodiversity of post-mining sites, many of which lie near communities that have suffered significant social and economic deprivation as the result of mine closures. However, no studies to date have actively used the knowledge of local communities to relate the history and treatment of post-mining sites to their current ecological status.
This paper presents a study of two post-mining sites in the Yorkshire coalfield of the UK in which the local community were involved in developing site histories and assessing plant and invertebrate species composition. Site histories developed using participatory GIS revealed that the sites had a mixture of areas of spontaneous succession and technical reclamation, and identified that both planned management interventions and informal activities influenced habitat heterogeneity and ecological diversity.
Two groups of informal activity were identified as being of particular importance. Firstly, there has been active protection by the community of flower-rich habitats of conservation value (e.g. calcareous grassland) and distinctive plant species (e.g. orchids) which has also provided important foraging resources for butterfly and bumblebee species. Secondly, disturbance by activities such as use of motorbikes, informal camping, and cutting of trees and shrubs for fuel, as well as planned management interventions such as spreading of brick rubble, has provided habitat for plant species of open waste ground and locally uncommon invertebrate species which require patches of bare ground.
This study demonstrates the importance of informal, and often unrecorded, activities by the local community in providing diverse habitats and increased biodiversity within a post-mining site, and shows that active engagement with the local community and use of local knowledge can enhance ecological interpretation of such sites and provide a stronger basis for successful future management.
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