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Local biomass plan to benefit threatened wildlife

Last modified: 05 April 2013

Reeds blowing in the wind against a stormy sky, Otmoor RSPB reserve

Waste generated from reedbeds can be used to produce biomass.

Image: Ben Hall

The RSPB at Blacktoft Sands has appointed a conservation professional to explore the possibility of developing a locally produced low-carbon biofuel that will benefit wildlife.

Mark Cleaver has been recruited as part of the Humberhead Levels Nature Improvement Area Partnership, a landscape-scale conservation initiative, which aims to improve, expand and link up existing wildlife-rich wetland sites within the area.

His role is to identify the best option for producing an economically viable biofuel product using the waste generated from these newly restored wetland habitats such as reedbeds. 

Mark explains: “Over the past few centuries, large areas of the Humberhead Levels’ important wetlands have been lost due to drainage schemes, which have had a devastating effect on wildlife. These habitats are gradually being restored but if we want to secure their long-term future, we need to make them pay for themselves. One way of doing this is to harvest the reed and turn it into biofuel briquettes, which could be sold to local consumers.”

Biomass is big business in the region with Drax power station currently transforming itself into a predominantly biomass-fuelled generator. However, the RSPB’s plan to combine small-scale local biomass production with wildlife conservation is a groundbreaking concept. 

Mark continues: “There is a vast amount of biomass produced through conservation that is largely under used.  Put to good use, this resource could contribute to resolving global energy problems at local level whilst delivering real benefits to wildlife and to rural communities.”

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