The interaction of different species with each other and with their habitat, and the natural processes which occur as a result, forms an ‘ecosystem’. The Lightshaw Meadows ecosystem includes many habitats each supporting particular species of plants or animals. This means that the habitat creates the perfect conditions for certain plants to grow, which then provide food or places to breed for particular animals.
In Lightshaw Meadows, for example, the fen habitat includes plant species such as Great Willowherb, which provides food for insects and bees. These insects are food for small birds or ducks. Shrubs and hedgerows provide fruit for small mammals such as mice or voles, and these in turn are food for birds of prey such as the kestrel. Some plants which grow in wetland areas such as tussock hair-grass and soft rush grow in clumps or bunches which could provide suitable areas for ground nesting birds to breed.
For the interactions to take place management at all levels of the ecosystem is required, from the soil and invertebrates that help the plants to grow, through to the birds of prey at the top of the food chain. The effective management of this ecosystem in Lightshaw Meadows will therefore ensure the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity including the survival of some of the most threatened species in the UK.