Our work in Nant Gwynant and the Gwyrfai catchment: an ecosystem interpretation

An introduction to Nant Gwynant and the Gwyrfai.

Our case study will focus on the Nant Gwynant and Gwyrfai areas.  This mountainous region includes mountain peaks, valley floors, natural lakes and rivers, woodland and heathland, and  features a number of protected sites such as:

  • Afon Gwyrfai and Llyn Cwellyn Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
  • Coedydd Abergwynant Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • Coedydd Nant Gwynant SSSI

Llyn Cwellyn is home to the rare floating water plantain – boasting some of the healthiest populations in the UK.  It is also home to a good population of salmon, as well as otters and three-lobed water-crowfoot.  The SSSI woodlands support birds such as the pied flycatcher and are rich in invertebrates, fungi, mosses and lichens, while the heathland areas support specialities like the Ashworth’s rustic moth.

What our volunteers have done:

Our work has included:

  • Rhododendron clearance
  • Tree planting
  • Footpath maintenance
  • Management of proliferating ‘cairns’
  • Litter clearance
  • Peat bog workdays (ditch filling)
  • Himalayan balsam bashing
  • Hedge laying
  • Scrub clearance

How do these separate strands of work connect with the flora, fauna, environment, climate and human activities?  Is our work complementary to that of other stakeholders or could we find more joined-up ways of working together on biodiversity and natural resource conservation?

Land use:

Farming and to a lesser extent forestry are the main primary land uses, with abundant sheep and Sitka spruce respectively.  Policies and subsidies for agriculture and forestry have been important drivers of land management and the familiar impacts on ecosystems of these monoculture approaches are evident, though the examples here are perhaps less extreme than in other upland areas.

Natural lakes such as Llyn Gwynant make this area popular with canoeists, anglers and wild swimmers.  The region is hugely important for tourism.  Snowdon, Wales’ most famous mountain, lies on the Northern side of the Nant Gwynant valley, while multi user routes such as Lôn Gwyrfai link honey pot tourist sites such as Beddgelert and Rhyd Ddu.   Campsites, bed & breakfast and hostels are understandably popular, with people flocking to the area in the summer months to enjoy the scenery.  Nant Gwynant’s landscape is a key element for the tourism industry which is so significant in Northwest Wales.

Renewable energy has a low profile here due to the National Park protection of this priceless landscape, although there has been a recent surge in development of micro- and small-scale hydro schemes.

When considering Nant Gwynant from an ecosystem approach perspective, there are many stakeholders and points of view to consider.  Farmers, fishermen, walkers, campers, kayakers, swimmers, livestock and wildlife all use this area.  How well do we all understand the ecosystems and our different interactions with them?

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