|IPA Factsheet - Somerset Levels|
Site Description The SPA is within this area covers approximately 35,000 ha in the floodplains of the Rivers Axe, Brue, Parrett, Tone and their tributaries. The majority of the site is only a few metres above mean sea level and drains through a large network of ditches, rhynes, drains and rivers. Flooding may affect large areas in winter depending on rainfall and tidal conditions. The Somerset Levels is considered to be of European importance for stoneworts.
Botanical Significance Area generally noted for stoneworts interest. Typical plant commnunities found in Westhay heath are Golden Dock Rumex maritimus, Marsh Dock Rumex palustris and Milk-parsley Peucedanum palustre; together with Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus, Water Plantain Alisma plantgao-aquatica, Fine-leaved Water-dropwort Oenanthe aquatica, Reed Canary-grass Phalaris arundinacea, Water Dock Rumex hydrolapathum, Cyperus Sedge Carex pseudocyperus and Trifid Bur-marigold Bidens tripartita, whilst the floating plant Frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae is abundant. The site is of importance for the presence of a nationally rare fen community.Plants commonly seen in Shapwick heath are a variety of grassland communities has developed in the unimproved pastures and hay meadows. There are good examples of the nationally rare and threatened species rich ’mire’ type meadows characterised by Common Sedge Carex nigra, Carnation Sedge Carex panicea, Purple Moor-grass Molinia caerulea, Meadow Thistle Cirsium dissectum and Devils-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis. Drier grasslands include the Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra/Crested DogŐs-tail Cynosurus cristatus type, with frequent Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaris, Quaking Grass Briza media and Oval Sedge Carex ovalis. Shapwick heath also have plant communities within its ditches such as Lesser Water-plantain Baldellia ranunculoides, Water-violetHottonia palustris and Greater Water Parsnip Sium latifolium. Floating species include the nationally rare Rootless Duckweed Wolffia arrhiza. Maintaining Shapwicks ditches is crucial to the survival of stoneworts that survive. Large populations of orchids are associated with the ’mire’ type and heath communities, notably Fragrant Orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, Lesser Butterfly Orchid Platanthera bifolia and Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa. Other nationally restricted vascular plants include Marsh Cinquefoil Potentilla palustris, Marsh Fern Thelypteris thelypteroides and the national rarities Marsh Pea Lathyrus palustris and Milk Parsley Peucedanum palustre. The remnant of active raised bog occurs on the eastern part of the site at Ashcott Heath. Shapwick Heath have ditches and abandoned peat cuts that are diverse in aquatic and bank-side floras. Catcott, Edington and Chilton Moors provide habitats for many plant species such as mire-type communities characterised by Meadow Thistle Cirsium dissectum, Meadow Rue Thalictrum flavum, Quaking-grass Briza media, Heath-grass Danthonia decumbens, Carnation Sedge Carex panicea, Common Sedge C. nigra, Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare, and Meadow Vetchling Lathyrus pratensis. and Southern Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa. 127 aquatic and bankside vascular plant species have been recorded in the field ditches, IDB-maintained rhynes and deep arterial watercourses. Among this number stonewort species such as Tolypella intricata and Tolypella polifera that are endangered, which merely emphasises how crucial it is that ditches within Somerset Levels are maintained.
General Habitat Description
Conservation Issues Habitat loss through drainage for agriculture, eutrophication.