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A team of ecologists is embarking on a long journey this month – they will be walking along 690 kilometres of streams and rivers in South Wales to survey the riverbanks in Welsh Assembly Government woodlands.
The team will be collecting information about the condition of the land approximately 20 metres to each side of the watercourse – known as the riparian area – which provides a habitat for a number of species such as fish, birds, reptiles and insects.
The data collected during the surveys will be used by Forestry Commission Wales - which manages the Assembly's woodlands - to determine how to manage these sites in future and to target work where it is most needed.
Such work could include treating invasive species, removing conifer trees close to the rivers and streams, and planting native trees.
Rosalind Codd, Conservation Manager, Forestry Commission Wales, said, "The information collected by the surveyors about the condition of the riparian areas in our woodlands will help us plan work to restore the riversides and watercourses to a more natural state.
"Restoring our woodlands will deliver environmental benefits, improving the rivers and streams for wildlife, as well as helping to preserve the special landscape character of Wales."
The need to survey all watercourses within Assembly woodlands was identified after the publication of the Water Framework Directive, an EU directive that means that the UK has to improve the quality of its rivers.
The surveys are expected to take four years. They are being carried out on behalf of Forestry Commission Wales by AECOM, a multi-national consultancy that won the work via competitive tender. AECOM has recruited a team of ecologists to carry out the survey work.
Peter Burston, AECOM Project Manager, said, "AECOM is proud to be involved in this ground breaking project which aims to restore large areas of the Welsh hillsides to their native vegetation cover.
"Our surveyors will be using the latest technology to capture biological information using handheld computers and GPS units.
"This will provide Forestry Commission Wales with the information it requires to prioritise its efforts to deliver the best for people using and living around the forests as well as for wildlife."
NOTES TO EDITORS
About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
Forestry Commission Wales provides advice on forestry policy to the Minister responsible for forestry. It provides grant aid to the private sector and regulates forestry by issuing felling licences.
Forestry Commission Wales is also part of Forestry Commission GB and contributes to the international forestry agenda.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Press office contact: Mary Galliers, email@example.com , tel 0300 068 0057.