Suffolk residents called to survey precious wood pasture & parkland sites across the county

Wednesday 19th April 2017

Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is launching a new conservation project this April to help protect Britain’s precious wood pasture and parkland habitats, which are home to several endangered species such as the lesser-spotted woodpecker, violet crick beetle and the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. The first phase of this new project will be piloted in Suffolk, a county which is home to 1,250 of these ecologically important and iconic landscapes. PTES is calling for local volunteers to help by trialling a simple survey that has been devised to assess the condition of these important habitats.

PTES is asking for Suffolk residents to start volunteering from April, for 7 months until October. No prior experience or training is required, as all volunteers will be sent a comprehensive survey pack which includes detailed instruction and guides. The survey is designed to be incorporated into a walk through these beautiful areas with family or friends. For those who want to find out more, PTES is also hosting a training day on Sunday 11 June at Lackford Lakes, in collaboration with the. This day is not essential for volunteers to attend, but is designed to inform those who are particularly interested in the conservation of this habitat.

With the help of local volunteers testing the survey, PTES aims to record the extent and condition of Suffolk’s existing wood pasture and parkland areas, the results of which will help refine the survey for wider use across England. The results from Suffolk will comprise the first comprehensive and robust inventory in the country, which PTES hopes will significantly improve the quality of information known about this habitat.

Megan Gimber, Key Habitats Officer at PTES said: “Despite the value of wood pasture and parkland, it is a habitat that is little understood and has historically been overlooked – often being mistaken for other habitats such as degraded woodland or grassland containing trees. Here at PTES we are excited to launch the first phase of this new project. This pilot in Suffolk is the first step towards preserving this key habitat. We believe Suffolk may have a plethora of remaining wood pasture fragments, so we hope that local residents will help us by surveying these sites.”

Derived from wooded commons and medieval hunting forests, wood pasture is an ecologically important and iconic British habitat characterised by large, ancient trees growing in open pasture-land. Sadly, despite being a UK Priority habitat found in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and registered historic parks, wood pasture is under-represented in the protected site series, and as with many other natural habitats, wood pasture is facing many threats, including urban development, overuse, conversion to arable farmland, climate change and fragmentation of habitat.

Teeming with wildlife, wood pasture is vital for numerous organisms, as the veteran trees provide a direct link to bygone landscapes and are home to many rare and threatened species, including the lesser spotted woodpecker, the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly and the violet click beetle. Deadwood that is found across wood pasture sites is home to many invertebrates, bats, birds, lichens and fungi. In fact, deadwood invertebrates are one of the two most threatened ecological groups of invertebrates in Europe, so are at risk of being lost if wood pasture and parklands are not preserved.

Gimber concludes: “Wood pasture is an ancient British habitat that is home to numerous rare and endangered lifeforms, so PTES’ work to protect these habitats is paramount in not only conserving wood pasture as a vital habitat, but also the key species who depend on them to survive.”

To become a volunteer and request a survey pack, please visit www.ptes.org/campaigns/wood-pasture-parkland.

Wood pasture & parkland facts

• There is a strong correlation between the age of a tree and high species richness.
• At least three-quarters of the 18 British bat species use tree holes for their summer and winter roosts.
• In Britain, the rarest and most threatened saproxylic invertebrates (invertebrates that are dependent on dead or decaying wood) are found in historic parkland and open wood pasture.
• Deadwood, found in wood pasture sites, is more alive than living wood: a living tree trunk is about 5% living cells per volume, compared to 40% living cells per volume in a dead tree.
• There are more than 2,000 different invertebrate species in Britain (650 in Ireland) which are dependent on deadwood.
• There are no reliable statistics on the extent of the overall condition of wood pasture and parkland, nor any historical or current rates of degradation. The figure ‘10-20,000 ha currently in a working condition’ was given in the habitat statement of the UK Biodiversity Steering Group report, and is the current best estimate.