Aqualate Mere SSSI - Decoy Wood (042)
Staff member responsible: PAUL CANDLIN
Unit Id: 1028649
Unit area (ha): 4.8116
Unit Status: Live Gridref: SJ 778 199
Date of last site check: 14/03/2018 Checked by: Admin Assessor
Condition and Comments (click for history): Unfavourable - Recovering Assessed by: TOM HOLLAND
Last assessed: 23/12/2016 Last assessment field visit: 23/08/2016
ISA Survey: View Surveys
Last CSM assessment: 23/12/2016
Estimated year unit will go Favourable: 2019 Confidence in estimate: Low
  1. Wet woodland – W5, W2

I’m not sure which areas should be scored against the wet woodland targets. On the one hand the peat map shows the whole unit to be underlain by peat, which suggests the whole lot should be scored against these wetland targets.

If that is the case then the wood will fail because most of the woodland is too dry. Scored against wet woodland targets the whole area would fails the i) W2 community extent targets; ii) the W2 ground flora targets (because the ground flora is dominated by brambles and buckler fern that make it more similar to W10 than W2); and iii) the non-native composition targets (because of the high >5% cover of rhododendron in the understorey and high >5% cover of sycamore in the canopy).

This would imply that all the ditches that run through and around the unit through the peat should be blocked to raise water levels in the peat. Is that possible or desirable?

If it is, the feature and the unit will need to be assessed as unfavourable.


If most of the dry woodland in the unit is treated as supporting habitat and the only area to be assessed against wet woodland targets is the strip of land that lies behind the reedbed (unit 38), I think the wet woodland feature could be assessed as favourable: -

There is some rhododendron in the understorey, some sycamore in the canopy and Himalayan balsam in the ground flora but none have a cover of more than 5%.

Otherwise i) canopy and understorey composition targets are hit – Salix fragilis and Alnus glutinosa have a 50% canopy cover and Salix cinerea has a 40% cover in the understorey (according to my estimates at nine stops); ii) there is plenty of deadwood; and iii) most (>80%) of the area has a ground flora that is referable to W2 (dominated by Phragmites australis with occasional stands of Phalaris, Glyceria and Carex acuitformis).


  1. Variety of Birds Target

As per the 2014 assessment of the site – that is:

  • As a notified feature it’s dubious. It’s not given a big mention in the citation and the criteria sheet says the selection criteria are not proven. The baseline is recorded as 83 but over a nine year period from 1968 – 1976, eleven years before notification. It says the ‘this data is now unreliable but the qualifying level of 70 breeding species is probably met’ by the revised SSSI. It’s not clear whether breeding was shown to be probable or just possible.
  • Allan Drewitt advises that the feature is kept but 70 is used as the target for the number of breeding species.
  • No formal survey has been carried out for this assessment but Mel Brown and Tim Coleshaw report 50+ species breed on the reserve in any one year. Fluctuations in populations are allowed and the number of breeding birds has to fall by 25% (to 52) before the feature is deemed to be in unfavourable condition. With 50+ birds probably breeding on site I would suggest the feature is recorded as favourable (and AD agrees).

I would suggest that a more formal survey is carried out before 2020.

Number of adverse condition reasons: 0
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