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The Pearl-Bordered Fritillary, one of the UK’s rarest woodland butterflies, has spread its wings again in the woodlands of East Sussex and Kent where it previously became extinct. A pioneering conservation project by the Forestry Commission, Butterfly Conservation and the RSPB is helping to secure the future of this woodland butterfly.
The stunning orange and black woodland butterfly, with white ‘pearls’ on the edge of its hindwing, has been seen in record numbers this year, following successful reintroductions by the Forestry Commission at Abbots Wood in East Sussex and the RSPB at Tudeley Woods in Kent.
More than 250 butterflies were spotted at Abbots Wood in woodland corridors, along pathways and across open spaces from the heart of the forest to the outer edges.
At Tudeley Woods in Kent, where the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary had previously disappeared, the RSPB has had initial success with a similar scheme. After several years of coppicing there is a good supply of plants for both adults and caterpillars and an encouraging number of butterflies were seen using them this summer.
Elsewhere in recent years the population of Pearl-Bordered Fritillary has been in steep decline, and it was only found in small numbers in less than ten isolated sites in the South East. This priority species is now thriving on Forestry Commission land in East Sussex and is a significant success in halting the decline during the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.
Dan Hoare, Senior Regional Officer for Butterfly Conservation in South East England, said:
“These projects are pivotal to the success of this butterfly’s conservation in the future. It has given us new hope that we can reverse the declines, and it’s brilliant that organisations are working together across the country to share reintroduction techniques. The Forestry Commission and the RSPB have shown that both modern forestry and traditional woodland management can support this threatened species.”
Both projects started with butterflies collected from a Forestry Commission donor site in Rewell Wood near Chichester, which also has an increasing population of Pearl Bordered Fritillary.
Butterflies have used the favourable sunny weather to take advantage of the Forestry Commission’s carefully targeted management of the forest landscape. The Pearl-Bordered Fritillary is now thriving in the open spaces that have been created by felling trees to provide sustainable timber for British industry.
The ever changing mosaic of open space within the woodland that is linked by the internal corridors along forest roads and rides provides warm and dry conditions necessary for butterfly larvae to grow and an ample source of flowers and nectar during the summer months.
Once considered to be a flagship species of British woodland, the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary used to be widespread and abundant in the woodlands of Southern England, following the trail of the woodcutter’s axe. They have been in steep decline for decades, as a direct result of a lack of forest management.
Jay Doyle, Ecologist for the Forestry Commission in South East England said:
“The decline of forest management across the British landscape is the single biggest issue affecting woodlands and their biodiversity. Steps are now being taken to address this, typified by the success at Abbots Wood. A growing demand for woodfuel as part of our commitment to renewable energy may well revitalise forestry and woodland management and deliver a brighter future for woodland wildlife such as the pearl-bordered fritillary.”
Jane Sears, Biodiversity Projects Officer for the RSPB said:
“We aim to protect all biodiversity on our reserves, not just birds. It’s wonderful to see that the woodland management at Tudeley Woods is supporting this beautiful butterfly. We will continue to keep a close eye on them and check we are providing the right conditions and I hope we can encourage other woodland managers to follow our example.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Forestry Commission England’s mission is to protect and expand England’s forests and woodlands and increase their value to society and the environment. Further details for the Forestry Commission and its work can be viewed at: www.forestry.gov.uk/
The Forestry Commission in South East England manage some 22,000 hectares of forest and woodland including a network of nationally important wildlife sites and part of the European designated Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. 33 forest blocks on the public forest estate in South East England have been identified as being ‘priority’ sites for butterflies and moths.
Lepidoptera on Forestry Commission Land in England Conservation Strategy 2007 – 2017: this conservation strategy is an agreement between Forestry Commission England and Butterfly Conservation. Forestry Commission England has agreed to manage the Public Forest Estate to encourage and support butterflies and moths and in turn Butterfly Conservation will monitor species populations and provide encouragement, management advice and support. Both organisations will strive towards achieving favourable conservation status and butterflies and moths identified in the Strategy across the Priority Sites on the Forestry Commission England Estate. A network of priority sites has been identified where conservation effort can be targeted over the 10-year duration of the strategy. Further details of the joint strategy can be found via the link below:http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/fce-butterfly-conservation-flyer.pdf/$FILE/fce-butterfly-conservation-flyer.pdf
Woodfuel is wood that can be burnt to generate heat or electricity. It can be a clean, sustainable, low-carbon form of renewable fuel. Woodfuel comes in three main forms – logs, chips and pellets of compressed sawdust. The Forestry Commission website contains further information on woodfuel at the following link: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-6PGGQR
The Pearl-bordered Fritillary was once widespread in Britain, but has been lost from much of central and southern England and continues to decline across its range, largely due to the abandonment of traditional woodland management. Its population has declined by more than 70% over the last thirty years, and it is a Priority Species for conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Butterfly Conservation is the largest insect conservation charity in Europe with nearly 15,000 members in the UK. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. It runs conservation programmes on over 60 threatened species of butterfly and moth and manages over 30 nature reserves. Further information www.butterfly-conservation.org
The RSPB speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. The charity has over a million members, including over 195,000 youth members. We own200 nature reserves covering 130,000 hectares home to 80% of our rarest or most threatened bird species.
Chris Johnson, Press Officer, Forestry Commission England
T: 01438 817448 M: 07867 580492
Nik Shelton, Media Officer, RSPB
T: 01767 693554 M: 07739 921464
Dr Dan Hoare, Senior Regional Officer, Butterfly Conservation
T: 023 9259 7612 M: 07736 470 090