Habitat Translocation


Habitat Translocation is not something new – great designers such as Capability Brown were using machines to move trees and preserve root systems. Now it is used alongside habitat enhancement and creation schemes to preserve eco systems that would otherwise take much longer to regenerate. Knighton Countryside is a company that understands both the sensitivities of ecological work and the complexities of hard landscaping, and we are the ideal company to carry out this kind of work right across the UK.

A translocation can be as simple as using the original topsoil or pond silt to preserve the seedbank, which encourages the same type of growth much more quickly, or it can be as complicated as carefully removing woodland or hedgerows from their locations and transplanting them to new sites, along with their original soil. In a recent project delivered for Wessex Water, Knighton staff removed several kilometres of ancient hedgerow and planted them in holding beds while a new pipeline was installed. Once work was complete, the ancient hedgerow was then replanted in its original location, preserving the seed bank and local provenance of the hedges.

Plants in a pond in Berkshire

Planting a newly created pond on a newt receptor site Berkshire

There are a number of surprising advantages to using translocation methods rather than creating habitat from scratch.

  • Using the original topsoil for final landscaping not only preserves the seedbank, it also saves the cost of disposing of tonnes of waste at the start of a project, and then of buying in soil at the landscaping stage. This greatly reduces the amount of heavy traffic moving to and from sites, and reduces the overall carbon footprint of a development project.
  • It can take several years for newly planted or sown habitats to establish themselves fully. Translocated habitats reach maturity more quickly, and have a complexity that takes a while to develop in newly planted areas. Because they mature faster, they also help retain wildlife corridors, which in turn help to retain populations of species such as bats and dormice.
  • Using a mix of translocation and careful new planting should retain the existing complexity and help retain animal populations but can help to reduce costs.

Successful translocation projects depend on getting four critical factors right, and this is where Knighton Countryside’s multi-skilled staff and extensive resources can really help. We have the ability to look at the whole picture and carry out every aspect of the work. We are familiar with working on construction sites at all phases of development, and our staff all hold CITB qualifications such as CSCS or SSSTS. What this means is that any plant operators will be employed by us, and will be trained in working on ecologically sensitive sites. The teams we send will be interested in what they are doing, and will be invested in the long term success of the project.

  • The receptor site needs to be as similar as possible to the original site. Knighton have the capability and understanding to prepare receptor sites as directed. This might involve re-landscaping, soil improvements, soil compaction or pond excavation.
  • It is important to use the right equipment. Machinery should be as low impact as possible to protect root systems and to prevent compaction. Knighton’s fleet of skid steer loaders are ideal for this kind of work, being light weight, low impact and extremely manoeuvrable. Excavators should have large buckets so that as little damage as possible occurs to the ecosystems when soil or turves are being lifted. Receptor sites should be completely ready for the translocated materials so that there is as little delay as possible in re-establishing growth.
    A fence in a ditch in a field in kent

    A ditch crossing as part of a water vole translocation scheme in Kent

  • Successfully translocations need to happen at the right time of year. For example, Autumn is ideal for hedgerow translocation, as the ground is still warm enough for new growth to take place, and there is more rainfall than during the summer, so the re-establishing eco systems are subject to less stress.
  • After-care and monitoring as with any newly created habitat. On some sites where we have carried out the planting and landscaping, such as the Brewery Square development in Dorchester, we have continued to maintain the planting for several years, and this gives our staff a sense of pride and a real desire to see projects succeed. As well as having the machinery required for earthworks and hard landscaping, we have the equipment required for aftercare such as cutting, trimming and watering.

Knighton Countryside has plenty of experience as contractors in working on translocating creatures as well as vegetation. In this situation, working under the strict supervision of the site ecologist, we can install the traps and fencing that may be required, and we can also prepare the receptor site by enhancing the existing habitats, and installing protective fencing until new colonies have been established. Knighton worked on one of the biggest water vole translocation projects in the east of England on a site in Essex.