Dry stone walls have several ecological benefits, including:
Providing habitat for plants and animals: Dry stone walls create small niches and crevices that provide shelter and a habitat for a variety of plant and animal species. In particular, the walls provide an ideal habitat for insects, reptiles, and small mammals, as well as plants such as lichens, ferns, and mosses.
Reducing soil erosion: The walls act as barriers to prevent soil erosion by holding back soil and preventing water from washing it away. This is especially important in areas where the terrain is steep and prone to erosion.
Enhancing biodiversity: By creating microhabitats, dry stone walls can help enhance biodiversity in an area. The walls provide nesting sites and shelter for a range of bird species, including sparrows, finches, and wrens, and can also provide a home for bats.
Contributing to the landscape: Dry stone walls are a traditional feature of many landscapes and can add to the visual appeal of an area. They are often used to define boundaries and to provide a visual barrier between different types of land use.
Using local materials: Dry stone walls are built using locally sourced stone, which can help reduce the carbon footprint of a project by reducing transportation emissions. They also require minimal maintenance and can last for centuries, making them a sustainable choice.
Dry stone walls can provide shelter for livestock during bad weather. The walls act as windbreaks and can provide a barrier against harsh winds, rain, and snow. In addition, the small niches and crevices in the walls can provide shelter for livestock to huddle together and keep warm.
Dry stone walls are a traditional feature of many agricultural landscapes, particularly in upland areas where sheep farming is common. Farmers have long used dry stone walls to define boundaries and enclose fields, and these walls also provide an important function as shelter for livestock. The walls can help protect sheep from the elements, reducing stress and improving their welfare, which can ultimately benefit the farmer in terms of improved animal health and productivity.