A team of four WWTC staff have spent the last week gathering ecological and hydrological data and assessing the current use of the Shishou Milu Nature Reserve visitor centre in the Hubei province, China.
After a brief introduction to the enormity of Beijing the team travelled overnight by sleeper train followed by four hours on the road to arrive at their small town based 20 minutes drive from the Shishou Milu Nature Reserve.
Despite the last few days of constant rain forcing us into thick plastic ponchos, the fieldwork is going well. One of our main tasks is to characterise the major habitat stands within the reserve to allow us to interpret satellite imagery of habitat areas and ultimately produce a map of current habitat use. This will inform a habitat restoration plan for the reserve. The characterisation involves describing the vegetation, hydrology and soil structure of each habitat as well as sampling the invertebrate communities and conducting bird surveys to assess the overall diversity of the site.
The bird list is increasing daily, with the site supporting a high diversity of wetland and terrestrial species. The habitats include reedbed, seasonally flooded wet woodland, ex cotton fields, wet grassland, poplar planations cultivated for the paper industry, open water of the Yangtze River oxbow and muddy scrapes, attracting a diverse waterbird assemblage. Our regular encounters with herds of Milu deer (Pere David’s Deer) and their field signs have shown the species to be using a wide range of the wetland habitats within the reserve. This knowledge will help us to produce concept plans for restoring wetland habitat in drier, previously cultivated areas and typical wetland habitat for the Milu deer.
Together with our partners, we are working with key stakeholders including the reserve Director and staff, as well as local communities and government NGOs, to obtain key information on the current use of the site and the aspirations and issues involved with the production of a masterplan for the Shishou Milu Nature Reserve.
Right, to bed with me! See you bright and early for the dawn bird counts…