A fire at a Salford nature reserve will prove 'devastating' for wildlife, an environmental charity has said.

Firefighters were called to the blaze at Little Woolden Moss at Cadishead on Monday evening (April 12).

The Wildlife Trust says around 500 sq m (5382 sq ft) of peat land has been left 'decimated'.

The charity fears some of the animals who call the site home, including common lizards, field voles and field mice 'may not have been able to escape the flames quickly enough'.

The cause of the fire is unknown, although Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue service say it is believed to have been started deliberately.

The site had been subject to 'repeated acts of vandalism and anti-social behaviour' in recent years, according to Jenny Bennion, Peatlands Communications Officer at The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside.

She added: “We are absolutely devastated by this latest fire.

"It will be hard to ascertain the extent of the damage to the plants and animals for some time, but we will do our best to monitor the situation and restore the habitat.”

Last September, trees dating back 10,000 years were destroyed in a suspected arson attack at Little Woolden Moss.

Just months earlier, items including pumping and irrigation equipment and planting troughs with an estimated value of over £500 were stolen from the site.

Significant damage was also caused by off-road vehicles including motorbikes and quad bikes being ridden across large areas of planting that had been completed by volunteers and Wildlife Trust staff.

Little Woolden Moss is a former horticultural peat extraction site and one of the few remaining fragments of peatland in Greater Manchester.

Little Woolden Moss provides a habitat for a number of rare plants and animals

The site not only provides a habitat for a number of rare plants and animals, but is a vital natural resource in the fight against climate change, as healthy peatlands absorb and store large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere which would otherwise contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

A spokesperson for the fire service said: "At 7.35pm on Monday, April 12, firefighters were called to a fire Little Woolden Moss, a nature reserve near Salford.

"Firefighters were quickly on the scene and found an area of vegetation roughly 25 metres by 25 metres alight.

"Firefighters extinguished the fire as best they could before sunset and returned at first light the next day to assess the scene and extinguish some smouldering areas."