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Future Landscape Conference visits Sussex

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British white cattle at Friston Forest

From the 13 to 16 September Brighton plays host to the International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE UK) and its conference on Future Landscapes. The three-day conference is being held at the University of Brighton.

Leading ecologists, planners and practitioners from the UK and beyond will meet to discuss the shaping of future landscapes which function to the benefit of people and wildlife under the influence of a changing climate.  Friston Forest and the adjoining Cuckmere Valley will be the focus of one of two conference field trips being held on 16 September.

At the 850 hectare (ha) Friston Forest near Eastbourne the Forestry Commission, Natural England, Sussex Wildlife Trust, South East Water and others are leading on a collaborative conservation project.   By adopting a landscape-scale approach to expand, buffer and reconnect threatened wildlife habitat the project is enabling restricted species to disperse and flourish over a wider area in this part of the South Downs National Park.

Adjoining Friston Forest, the 65 ha Lullington Heath National Nature Reserve (NNR) is the single largest block of chalk heath now remaining in the UK.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust have overseen the implementation and management of a naturalistic grazing project where an 80 ha unit of land adjoining Lullington Heath NNR at the Northern edge of the Forestry Commission managed Friston Forest has been enclosed.

Hardy British white cattle have been released into the grazing unit to help soften the transition between open habitats on Lullington Heath and the beech woodland interior of the wider forest. The Forestry Commission is helping to restructure the woodland in this part of the forest through its economic harvesting operations so as to create a pasture woodland appearance.

Extending beyond the area of the grazing project, the Forestry Commission has been busy enhancing a network of woodland corridors which function as arteries for both timber extraction and wildlife dispersal.

The improved connectivity at Friston Forest from the NNR into the woodland interior and onward into adjoining privately managed land is likely to benefit key species of butterfly including the Silver-Spotted Skipper, Adonis Blue, Grayling and Chalkhill Blue.

On the eastern edge of the forest, the Forestry Commission, Natural England, a local farmer and a horse racing establishment are working together to manage of an area of open habitat called The Gallops (covering 33 ha) and Butchershole Bottom (covering 60 ha) with the help of Butterfly Conservation.

The mosaic of habitat types includes chalk scrub and grassland which grade into beech woodland. During high summer the area teems with Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue and Marbled White butterflies that were once much more common in the wider landscape.

This holistic approach is turning the tide on the past excesses whereby decades of intensive land management created a hard divide between different habitat types such as woodland, meadow, heath and chalk grassland. This made it very difficult for wildlife to move freely across the landscape and for individuals to exchange genetic material. 

Over much of Southern England the move to arable crop production and permanent loss of land to development as towns and cities expanded left ever-dwindling pockets of isolated wildlife habitat. 

Protected Areas such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), National Nature Reserves (NNRs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) provided a refuge for wildlife in these more hostile landscapes.

In recent decades attempts have been made to repair some of the past damage, one example being the Forestry Commissions restoration of ancient woodlands and expansion of new native woodland on the public forest estate and in the wider countryside.  On parts of the public forest estate the Forestry Commission has also restored areas of open habitat including lowland heath.

Jay Doyle, Ecologist for the Forestry Commission in South East England said:

“In this the ‘landscape era’ the future of our treasured natural heritage in part depends on an expansion of collaborative approaches between sustainable land management and nature conservation interests whereby boundaries between habitats are blurred and their edges softened.  We need to protect, buffer and expand these wildlife havens across the wider countryside and ensure that management of the landscape is economically sustainable in order to secure a healthy future for both people and wildlife.”

Notes to Editors

The UK Regional Association of the International Association for Landscape Ecology was established to promote landscape ecology. Our core objectives are to promote communication, inter- disciplinary research and the development of knowledge and interaction between scientists and those engaged in the planning and management of the landscape. We have achieved these objectives by organizing annual meetings on topical themes in landscape ecology and by the prompt publication of the proceedings of those meetings.
The core aims of IALE UK
• To promote interest, learning and understanding of landscape ecology
• To promote inter-disciplinary research across the many fields in landscape ecology
• To encourage communication between scientists, policy makers, planners and practitioners concerned with landscape ecology.

2) Landscape Ecology
Landscape ecology is the study of the interactions between the temporal and spatial aspects of a landscape and its flora, fauna and cultural components.

3) Forestry Commission England

Forestry Commission England is the Government Department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woodlands and increasing their value to society and the environment.

Forest Enterprise England is an agency of the Forestry Commission whose purpose is to manage the public forest estate owned by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in a sustainable way, so as to contribute towards the economic, social and environmental objectives of the England Forestry Strategy. In GB the public forest estate currently extends to some 800,000 hectares.

The Forest Research Agency is one of the world’s leading centres of research into woodlands and forestry. We aim to provide research services relevant to UK and international forestry interests and inform and support forestry’s contribution to UK governmental policies. Our core roles are to provide the evidence base for UK forestry practices and to support innovation.

4) Natural England
Natural England is an independent public body whose purpose is to protect and improve England’s natural environment and encourage people to enjoy and get involved in their surroundings. Natural England’s purpose is to conserve and enhance England’s natural environment - including its landscapes, biodiversity, geology and soils, natural resources, cultural heritage and other features of the built and natural environment. 

5) Sussex Wildlife Trust

Sussex Wildlife Trust is the leading conservation organization in Sussex covering Brighton and Hove, East and West Sussex.
Sussex Wildlife Trust looks after over 3000 acres of downland, woodland, wetland and heath. Our work also includes environmental education, working with land owners, companies and local communities to conserve Sussex. We are supported by over 32,000 members which is comfortably over 2% of the population of Sussex. We are one of 47 local Wildlife Trusts across the UK.
Our aim is simple: Taking Care of Sussex

6) The South Downs National Park
The South Downs has been nationally recognised for its natural beauty and the space it offers for people to enjoy the countryside. This is why it has been made into a National Park.
The twin purposes of the South Downs National Park are:
1. To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area
2. To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Park by the public
The South Downs National Park Authority is the lead organisation responsible for promoting the purposes of the National Park, working in partnership with other Local Authorities and organisations. In delivering Park purposes, the Authority has an important duty:
• To seek to foster the economic and social well-being of the local communities within the National Park

Media contacts
Jo Spouncer, PR contact, Forestry Commission South East England
T: 01483 326265 M: 07828 762045 E: