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Forestry Commission Wales has come to the rescue of rare lichens growing on an abandoned metal mine in Ceredigion.
Eaglebrook Mine, by the Nant-y-Moch reservoir near Talybont, is the finest and only fully-verified place in Wales where the rare blue-green mineral, devilline, can be found.
But the “metaliferous” lichens that grow on the harsh acidic and metal-rich rocks where most other plants will not grow were being smothered by conifers growing over the old mine, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The mixture of open, rocky ground and the slight shelter of the surrounding woodlands means that Eaglebrook Mine provides a perfect, undisturbed location for these rare lichens.
However, conifers from the woodlands have been seeding onto the mine spoil and were slowly colonising the site and shading out the bare scree areas where the lichens are growing.
Left unchecked, the trees would shade out the lichens and other plants and smother the site, which is on Welsh Assembly Government-owned land managed by Forestry Commission Wales.
Nick Young, FC Wales Conservation and Heritage Manager, said, "Carefully removing the young self-seeded conifers from the open rocky areas will restore the right conditions for the lichens to thrive and also preserve an example of the industrial areas that once dotted the landscape.
"We manage Assembly Government woodlands to provide environmental benefits and by working with the Countryside Council for Wales to clear these trees we can preserve the SSSI and ensure part of our industrial heritage is not lost."
Karen Heppingstall, CCW Senior Conservation Officer for north Ceredigion, said, "We are very pleased to see the positive conservation work carried out by FC Wales on this SSSI.
"Regeneration of conifers on the mine spoil was threatening to shade out the rare and specialised lichens that grow there and would have ultimately concealed the rare minerals and industrial archaeological features."
Lichens are in fact not one plant, but a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship between an alga and a fungus.
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.
For more information on the conservation work at Eaglebrook Mine, contact Nick Young on 01341 592018, mobile 07899 734058.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Wales Information Officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922.
Photos available of site pre and post clearance, and of some close ups of plants/lichens
Photos could be obtained by Nick has e-mailable copies.
We should probably pass this by CCW for their approval once the press release is drafted.