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Colliery Spoil
Biodiversity Initiative

Colliery spoil tips (and their associated collieries) are among our most important wildlife sites, yet they remain gravely overlooked, underappreciated and misunderstood. Regardless of how well nature has transformed them, perceptions of dereliction and despoliation stubbornly persist. What should be seen as an ecological asset is still often viewed as a problem in need of ‘fixing’. Developing support and interest in these sites is key in our efforts to protect them and the threatened wildlife that they support. The Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative was founded for this exact purpose – to raise awareness of their importance in an effort to safeguard as many of these sites as possible. 

The Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative was founded in 2015 by Liam Olds – a young entomologist based in South Wales. Liam's fascination for colliery spoil sites began in his early teens when living opposite the former Coedely Colliery and Coking Works in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Liam spent much of his time exploring the site, seeing what wildlife he could discover. Many memorable wildlife encounters followed and a lifelong passion for natural history began to flourish.

After completing an undergraduate degree in Zoology at Cardiff University in 2013, Liam began an apprenticeship in Entomology at the National Museum of Wales, during which he began scientific research into the invertebrates found on colliery spoil sites in South Wales. This involved undertaking invertebrate surveys on the sites that first ignited his passion for nature close to his home. This research revealed an astonishing array of invertebrate species, with over 1000 species recorded. Over 20% of these species were found to be of ‘conservation priority’, meaning that these are species that we should be striving to protect in the UK. When such totals are combined with the species totals of vascular plants, mosses, lichens, fungi, birds, mammals, reptiles etc., an incredible community on these sites is revealed.

This raised the question - why do we continue to destroy these sites and their associated habitats and species? Colliery spoil is clearly a regional resource that contributes greatly to the biodiversity of South Wales and these sites deserve to be appreciated, managed and protected for the benefit of both people and wildlife. The Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative was established in 2015 to address these questions and to champion these sites and their special habitats and species. Today, Liam continues to run the Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative, while also working as a freelance entomologist. Liam uses a mix of social media, public talks, guided walks, articles, scientific publications, TV and radio appearances, and other outlets to continue to raise the profile of colliery spoil at the regional and national level (often at his own expense).

If you would like to support this work, please consider donating. A small amount of money can go a long way in helping us to ensure that these sites, and their special wildlife, persist for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

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