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Natural resources in Neath Port Talbot

NPT has traditionally been associated with heavy industry and mining communities. However, this doesn’t do justice to the incredible variety and quality of biodiversity that exists here. Our underlying geology, the geography and hydrology of the county allow many important ecosystem services to work and improve our lives.

Some examples:

  • Peatland and bogs – peat soils capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide. This can be held in the soil permanently when the soil is in good condition.
  • Saltmarsh on the coast – helps dissipate wave action and high tides to prevent flooding and erosion.
  • Floodplains in the valleys – help dissipate water during high rainfall events reducing flooding downriver.
  • Species rich grasslands – provide essential habitat and connectivity for pollinators and food for livestock.
  • Woodlands – help clean the air of pollutants, provide flood alleviation, reduce the heat island effect in urban environments, provide oxygen and timber products.

The varied habitats also bring job opportunities. NPT is well known for its waterfalls, country parks and seafront. Recreational activities here include glamping, walking and mountain biking. Easy access to these resources provide opportunities to improve health and well-being.

Many sites in NPT are designated for nature conservation. These include local, national and international designations.

Our marshy grasslands in the valleys support Marsh Fritillary butterflies. Their populations fluctuate, so having connected, good quality habitat is key to retaining the species in the area. Much work has been done by Butterfly Conservation to map and manage this species. The habitat is also important for Harvest Mice and Barn Owls.

Our woodlands provide a home to the rare Honey Buzzard. This bird of prey specialises in eating wasp grubs. It is a very scarce breeder in the UK and the Neath population is well known and studied. Recently a population of Blue Ground Beetles was discovered in ancient woodland in Skewen. This is the only site where they have been found in Wales. Spectacular displays of Bluebell carpets can be seen each spring in many of our ancient woodlands.

Our fens and canals at Pant y Sais are home to the only Welsh population of one of Europe’s largest spiders – the Fen Raft Spider. Also found here is Royal Fern, one of the largest in Europe. This species has stayed mostly unchanged for 180 million years. Otters are found on all our waterways.

Our coastal dune systems are important for rare plants and invertebrates. Sea Stock is an attractive plant found in our sand dunes, its main stronghold in the UK is the coastal strip of Wales. Shrill Carder bees are also found on the coast, one of our rarest bumblebees, NPT is a stronghold for them in south Wales. Also along the coast are the rare Small Blue butterflies, the UK’s smallest butterfly.

Peat bogs, important for storing carbon, can be found on upland plateaus. They form at a rate of 1mm per year from partially decayed organic matter. They are home to plants such as heathers and cotton grasses and the carnivorous Round-leaved Sundew. Nationally important numbers of Nightjar breed in our uplands.

We have even discovered recently just how good our brownfield sites are for wildlife. Along the coastal strip many have become home to nationally important numbers of breeding Lapwing. Inland our coal spoil appears to be providing much needed habitat for species displaced from the coast. To date over 900 invertebrate species have been identified on coal spoil. Some of these species are new to Glamorgan, Wales, the UK and even new to science!

Ecosystem services

  • Supporting - underpins all other services and includes nutrient cycling, soil formation and primary production
  • Provisioning - all our food, fresh water, wood and fibre, fuel
  • Regulating - cleaning air and water, flood control, carbon sequestration
  • Cultural - aesthetic, spiritual, educational, recreational