I was a little surprised last Saturday to see bullocks grazing in the Merthyr Mawr National Nature Reserve but it’s all part of the Countryside Council for Wales’s management plan. Research and monitoring have shown that the sand dune ecosystem needs to be dynamic – the dunes need to be exposed, the sands able to move with wind, tide and storm, in order to function as effective flood defences and to maintain the right environment for the rare plants and invertebrates that live there.
So, some of the grasses and shrubs that had previously stabilised the dunes have been removed by earthmoving equipment and, to prevent the dune system developing into woodland, cattle are being allowed to graze parts of the reserve at certain times of the year. The plan is to maintain sparsely vegetated dunes and open grassland so that the rare species that were being choked towards extinction will be rejuvenated.
One additional benefit for the photographer – the bullocks are very photogenic, and I’m sure the Yellow dung flies I saw on Saturday are pretty happy with the plan as well.