VIDEO: Royal Marines' wild-life saving mission

ROYAL Marines from Lympstone are used to defending the British way of life – but this week were drafted in to protect our environment as well. On Tuesday, they organised an airlift of 100 bales of gorse as part of an operation to help safeguard rare lowland heaths in East Devon

ROYAL Marines from Lympstone are used to defending the British way of life - but this week were drafted in to protect our environment as well.

On Tuesday, they organised an airlift of 100 bales of gorse as part of an operation to help safeguard rare lowland heaths in East Devon.

The bales will be used to reinforce and protect important bog areas on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, owned by Clinton Devon Estates, which have been seriously eroded over the winter due to the prolonged wet and icy conditions.

A Sea King helicopter from 848 Squadron Royal Navy, supported by Royal Marines from Lympstone has been transporting the bales to three different locations on the heaths.


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The bogs are home to special flora and fauna, such as insectivorous plants like butterwort and sundew, which support rare wildlife and can only be found on the few remaining lowland heaths in Britain. Lowland heaths are now recognised as being rarer than tropical rainforests.

Commons Warden Bungy Williams said: "The bogs hold hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and this weather has caused the peat to become badly eroded. This means that the bogs turn into rivers and the plants simply get washed away. Without the plants, the wildlife cannot survive."

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He added: "We have harvested the gorse from the heaths and put it into bales and the Royal Marines will be helping us to move it to some of these hard to reach areas. We've used gorse in the past to help repair the bogs and it has worked successfully, but this is the first time we've ever done an operation of this scale."

The lowland heaths in East Devon are among just a few remaining in Britain. They are home to a number of rare birds, such as Dartford warblers and nightjars, as well as special flora and fauna and the damsel fly.

The unique characteristics of the heaths have to be continually managed to stop trees from re-establishing themselves and preventing gorses and bracken from taking over. Equally important is keeping the wetland areas open and this work is being done by a herd of Devon Reds, as part of a 12-month trial, initiated by the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Trust, in conjunction with Natural England, under the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme.

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