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Forestry Commission England is taking action to tackle the decline in rare woodland butterflies and moths and helping them to thrive once again.
Working with Butterfly Conservation, the Commission today (24 May) announced its plan to improve the plight of this important and charismatic part of our national fauna. One of the key sites listed in the plan is found in South West Surrey.
At Chiddingfold Forest, a nationally important wildlife site near Dunsfold, the rare Pearl-bordered Fritillary is being sustained by the joint efforts of the Forestry Commission and Butterfly Conservation. Butterfly Conservation staff and volunteers have undertaken site management to improve conditions for Pearl-bordered Fritillary in one of the butterfly’s last egg laying areas in Surrey This work has been supported by the Forestry Commission’s ancient and native woodland restoration programme ‘woodscape’ and the enhancement of a network of wildlife corridors that connect open space across the forest..
Jay Doyle, Forestry Commission Ecologist for South East England said “The combined efforts of the Commission and Butterfly Conservation at Chiddingfold Forest demonstrate how Government and non-governmental organisations are working together in partnership to conserve and enhance rare and threatened species at the landscape level”.
The Chiddingfold is the last refugia for pearl-bordered fritillary in Surrey, England’s most wooded county and supports the wood white butterfly now known from a handful of sites in the county. The wood white has benefited from ride enhancements being delivered across the forest. Chiddingfold Forest is also home to an impressive range of rare moths including the Argent & Sable, Common Fan-foot, White-line snout, Waved carpet and Drab looper moth.
The Lepidoptera on Forestry Commission Land in England Conservation Strategy 2007-2017 is a commitment by Forestry Commission England and Butterfly Conservation to conserve and increase populations of butterflies and moths in the nation’s woodlands.
One hundred and forty Forestry Commission woods in England have been identified in the strategy as key sites for woodland butterflies and moths; 37 of which are in the South East of England. Seventy-seven of these English woodlands have been designated as A grade priority sites, as they support some of the UK’s most endangered species, including the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, the Wood White and the Argent & Sable moth. The success of the strategy will be reviewed in 2012 and 2017 to assess how many of these sites have maintained or increased populations of the priority species.
The reasons for the fall in woodland butterflies and moths are complex but have been linked to a decline in regular woodland management and the loss of traditional skills, such as coppicing, which create the sunny, open paths and glades favoured by the insects. Few woodland butterflies can cope with the well-shaded habitat offered by unmanaged or neglected woodland.
Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation, said: “This new strategy will have enormous benefits to butterflies and moths, as well as other woodland wildlife. We look forward to working with the Forestry Commission to ensure a brighter future for England’s woods.”
Simon Hodgson, Chief Executive of Forest Enterprise England, said, “Butterflies and moths are known to be valuable indicators of the changes affecting the wider countryside and recent studies suggest that a large number of species are in rapid decline. Butterflies and moths are one of the most threatened wildlife groups that inhabit the Forestry Commission estate and as active land managers, responsible for almost 20% of England’s forests; we are able to play an important role in their future.
“Managing woodlands for butterflies and moths will make an important contribution to the Forestry Commission’s other priority work areas, such as work to restore ancient woodland. We must raise awareness of their habitat requirements to ensure that forest design, planning and management takes this into account. There is much positive work already going on across the country and most of the priority sites simply need more action, and urgently, to sustain populations and enable their spread though the wider countryside.”
For more information and for photographs or interview requests please contact Jo Fowler, Forestry Commission England Press Officer on 07833 672903, 01223 346034
Notes to editors
1. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development. For further information, visit www.forestry.gov.uk.
2. Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity taking action to save butterflies and moths. Butterfly Conservation staff and volunteers manage habitats to ensure their survival, with particular attention being given to threatened species.Butterfly Conservation has 12,000 members and is the largest organisation of its kind in Europe: www.butterfly-conservation.org
3. For more information and for a copy of the strategy please see www.forestry.gov.uk/england-butterflies. The Prioirity Lepidoptera sites identified in the strategy represent 3% of the public forest estate and 50% of them are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
4. Chiddingfold Forest in South West Surrey stretching into West Sussex is designated by Natural England as a nationally important wildlife site or Site or Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Forestry Commission owns and/or manages some 830 hectares of woodland in the forest complex of which approximately 500 hectares is designated SSSI.
Lepidoptera is the word used for an order of insects, which includes butterflies and moths. They have broad wings, covered with minute overlapping scales. The larvae are called caterpillars. During the 20th century there has been an increasingly rapid decline in woodland