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Jack Dazley

Cryptic Biodiversity in East Stoke Fen Nature Reserve, Dorset

Tuesday 2nd May 2017

Cryptic biodiversity refers to ‘hidden’ wildlife, which is microscopic to the naked eye. These single celled organisms include microscopic algae and ciliated protists, with hair like structures surrounding the cells. Cryptic biodiversity includes aquatic microorganisms less than 2 millimetres long. These organisms are found in water rich in organic matter and with low oxygen levels. The freshwater bodies of the East Stoke Fen are a rich source of these organisms. Some 100 species of microorganisms, some of which are unique to the East Stoke Fens, have been found.

The fens are also home to around 80 species of tiny invertebrates, up to half a millimetre long, which are called meiofauna. These tiny invertebrates are very sensitive to water quality, and so their presence can be utilised as an indicator of water quality.

So why are they important? These organisms form the basis of aquatic food chains, with many aquatic organisms feeding on them. Without them, many freshwater ecosystems would collapse. Many species of cryptic wildlife also play a major role in nutrient cycling within the environment, and hence are crucial to maintaining the habitats in which they live. Therefore cryptic biodiversity must be considered in fen and wetland management.

© J.Dazley