Species Recovery Projects
A flavour of some of the work we are up to:
Indisputably one of the rarest plants in the country, this sedge is now confined to two native sites. A third site has been created in recent years (near a wood from which it vanished in the 1950s) using plants grown by Kew Gardens, and this is being closely monitored to discover if the plants have formed a breeding population.
In 2014 we carried out extensive habitat restoration work at all the known sites for this species, including tree-felling, coppicing, clearing bramble and scarifying the ground to promote seed germination. We shall be keeping a close eye on the sites in 2015 to monitor the results of this work. See here for a video of our work.
Southern Oyster Mushroom Beetle
In 2014 we commissioned a survey of Southern Oyster Mushroom Beetle sites in the New Forest, Kent and Sussex. Sadly, the beetle could not be found at the
sites in either Kent or Sussex. If beetles do remain here, it is likely that the populations are facing a very real threat of extinction. However, it was not all bad news, as beetles were found in three locations in the New Forest, the stronghold for this species.
Another important finding from the survey was the scarcity of oyster mushrooms at all of the sites. This may be related to the increasing popularity of mushroom foraging. This year we are planning a campaign to promote the damage that unsustainable mushroom picking can have on biodiversity, and in particular, the Southern Oyster Mushroom Beetle. The beetle may yet survive in Kent and Sussex and so if we can improve conditions at these sites, and in particular the abundance of oyster mushrooms on which they depend, the populations may be able to recover.
CLICK HERE FOR THE SURVEY REPORT ON THE SOUTHERN OYSTER MUSHROOM BEETLE
In 2014 we used plants that had been bulked up at Kew Gardens to create a new population in a woodland glade close to one of the existing populations. Some of the plants were placed in deer-proof enclosures, which will allow us to study the long-term effects of deer grazing (which we suspect is becoming a real problem at other sites). All eight sites for the species were monitored, with some sites now starting to respond to the woodland management we have been carrying out. Others are still critically low, and we are worried that the populations may become so small that they fall below the number where they can self-sustain. In 2015, we have already carried out bramble clearance at one site, and will be carrying out some experimental bracken removal at the stronghold site at Riverside, as well as closely monitoring all of the other populations. A huge thank you to our army of Rampion volunteers, as well as friends at Kew and the Forestry Commission.
With funding from Natural England, we have been working to re-establish semi-wild populations of Darnel and Upright Goosefoot. These plants were once relatively widespread, but declined due to improvements in agricultural technology, and are now virtually extinct across Europe. As the plants are considered to be agricultural weeds and as Darnel can have a toxic effect on livestock and people, it is unlikely they would survive on modern farms. ‘Living history’ sites, however, are ideal places to grow these fascinating plants.
In 2014, we focussed on sourcing seed and identifying suitable reintroduction sites. Volunteers sowed Darnel seed at Butser Ancient Farm in Dorset and this is currently growing well. Upright Goosefoot will be sown at Castell Henllys in Pembrokeshire and the Scottish Crannog Centre in Perthshire this spring and we are in discussion with a number of other sites where we hope to establish the plants. In the future, we hope to apply similar techniques to other extinct archaeophytes, such as Downy Hemp-nettle.
We had huge excitement in 2014 when the pupation at Godmersham Down finally produced enough plants to allow us to collect seed to bank up at the Millennium Seed Bank. This has never been possible before, and now allows us to take the first steps to establishing a fourth population (there are currently only three in Kent). Elsewhere, we saw a small increase in plants at Purple Hill, where we had cleared scrub away at the start of the year, although this site still has a long way to go before being out of danger.
CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST REPORT ON DWARF MILKWORT
In 2014 we made contact with the landowners at a site in Sussex, which has been earmarked for development for several years. Thankfully, the owners are as excited as we are at having one of the UK’s rarest plants on their site and we are now working closely with them to ensure its survival, and hopefully, its spread. In July-September 2015, we plan to monitor all 8 sites where Heath Lobelia grows, as well as visit former sites to identify which, if any, could be restored.
Wart-biter Bush Cricket
Work in 2014 focussed on the Wart-biter site in Kent, Lydden Temple Ewell. The population of crickets on this site were reintroduced in the 1990s, having gone extinct there earlier in the century. Lydden Temple Ewell has a relatively large population of crickets, but the site was becoming overgrown with scrub, which is a serious threat to cricket survival. We worked in close collaboration with Kent Wildlife Trust throughout 2014 to carry out the essential scrub clearance work to bring this site back into optimum conditions for the cricket. A massive thanks to Bazuka for funding this work.
In 2014 we concentrated our work on monitoring habitat scrapes in the Thames Basin and Surrey heathlands. These scrapes are created in uniform stands of Purple Moorgrass and often attract a wide range of species onto their bare peat, from carnivorous plants to dragonflies and wading birds. On Thursley Common these scrapes are already being colonised by Marsh Clubmoss, which previously had been hemmed in by competing vegetation.
We are currently working with several volunteer groups, including the Scotland Section of the British Pteridological Society, to monitor sites where Forked Spleenwort has previously been recorded. Monitoring will help us to protect those sites where this rare fern grows and identify where management work is required.
In 2014 we monitored a number of Deptford Pink sites and were sad to find that the species had disappeared from several of these.
In 2014/2015, with funding from SITA Trust, we undertook management at 7 sites in southern England where Deptford Pink faced local extinction. This involved scrub clearance and soil disturbance, to create the open conditions that Deptford Pink requires. We will return to these sites in summer 2015 to see whether the hard work has paid off!
We continue to work with an army of dedicated volunteers, including Maggie Nolan, who ensures that Deptford Pink thrives at Sandymouth,
a site in Cornwall owned by the National Trust.
Our future plans for the species include creating new sites in Buckfastleigh, Devon, where Deptford Pink has a stronghold.
Cosnard's Net-winged Beetle
In May this year we are planning a survey of the Forest of Dean and Wye Gorge area for Cosnard's Net-winged Beetle. Surveys have not been carried out for many years which means that we do not have a clear idea of how many beetles remain, or what threats they are facing. This survey will provide us with key information on which to base our future work. We will also be holding a volunteer day to teach local people how to survey for the beetle. We hope that this will be the first step in setting up a long-term monitoring programme.