Biodiversity in quarries

When extracting minerals, we change the landscape and at first glance would appear to destroy nature and undermine biodiversity. Yet quarries can actually provide important habitats for plants and animals that are being increasingly displaced by development in other areas, both during the active phase and also through reclamation to nature habitats.

Quarries can provide a dynamic mosaic of habitats at different stages of succession, and landforms that provide an interesting microtopography with unique climatic conditions. Through the active process of the quarry, these features are often transient in nature, occurring in different parts of the site at different times.

These ecological niches offer animals and plants an area of retreat that they would rarely find nowadays outside our quarries. Some examples of these species are: sand martin, bee eater, eagle owl and peregrine falcon, yellow-bellied toad, natterjack toad as well as the bee orchid and other rare orchids.

Habitat creation and management opportunities can be split into three distinct areas: the active extraction zone, non-operational land (areas that fall under the management control of the company but that will never be extracted) and reclamation post extraction.

Habitats associated with the active phase of a quarry comprise early pioneer wetlands and grasslands, and support many species that require bare ground, or minimal vegetation, nutrient poor substrates and warm climatic conditions. Due to the geology, areas maybe extracted, left for a few years and then re-worked. Due to this dynamic way of working, these pioneer habitats are often disturbed, and develop elsewhere so there is a constant movement of pioneer habitats throughout the quarry, following the extractive process.

To a greater or lesser extent quarries may have areas of habitat surrounding the extraction boundary that will not be worked and be left undisturbed throughout the life of the quarry. These areas have the possibility to be enhanced for the benefit of biodiversity either through targeted management actions, or by developing new habitats, for example ponds.

Following the extraction process quarries are reclaimed, with the end-use determined through consultation with the relevant authorities and surrounding communities. This offers a new opportunity for habitat creation. At many sites, the extraction of mineral results in the water table being met, leaving waterbodies which can be enhanced for nature. Other notable habitats that can develop on exhausted quarries are calcareous grasslands, forests / woodlands – wet and dry, heathlands and other wetland features.

You can read more about Heidelberg Materials' biodiversity approach on the company website.