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A break for Breckland wild flowers
New £200,000 conservation project launched by Plantlife to save the unique threatened wild flowers of Breckland
November 30 2010
Breckland is one of the UK’s top five places for British botany, home to more than 120 rare and threatened wild flowers and plant species and is of international importance.
With its open heathland and grasslands and dry ‘continental’ climate, the area is unique in the UK for its landscape and flora. However, it is a critical time for the Breckland’s most vulnerable wild flowers. In recent decades, landscape changes, especially commercial conifer planting and intensive farming, have led to significant losses with many surviving species facing local extinction. The area has already lost three types of orchid, as well as starry breck lichen, pasqueflower and spring cinquefoil. Between 1934 and 1980, 86% of Breckland heathland was lost, with more than 20,000 hectares of this commercially afforested.
In response, a three-year, £200,000 project has been launched by Plantlife to carry out conservation work at 30 Breckland sites across Norfolk and Suffolk. The project - funded by GrantScape through its ‘Working with Nature’ biodiversity grants programme – hopes to introduce new approaches to conservation in the Brecklands, as called for in the Breckland Biodiversity Audit report (click here to download a copy), also launched today by the University of East Anglia.
"Without action, the future for Breckland’s most threatened and unique plants is bleak."
“Breckland is one of the most important botanical ‘hotspots’ in England, yet many of its distinctive plant species have declined and are now extreme rarities,” said Tim Pankhurst, Plantlife’s Regional Conservation Manager based in the East of England. “Without action, the future for Breckland’s most threatened and unique plants is bleak. GrantScape funding will allow Plantlife to put wild plants at the forefront of conservation action in Breckland for the first time, bringing plant populations at 30 sites literally back from the brink.”
Plantlife’s Breckland project is focusing on:
- The recovery of nine UK BAP priority species: Spanish catchfly (60% decline over last 40 years), spring speedwell (57%), tower mustard (33%), rare spring sedge (25%), red-tipped cudweed (63%), field wormwood (77%), prostrate perennial knawel (50%), fingered speedwell (70%) and grape hyacinth (14%);
- Carrying out experimental management to benefit the above species and their habitats at around 30 sites across Breckland;
- Establishing a new network of volunteers to underpin and monitor the conservation work, with training and field days;
- Taking forward recommendations from the Brecklands Biodiversity Audit (BBA) in collaboration with partners in the region. The BBA report is launched today by the University of East Anglia.
- Developing plans with local partners for a comprehensive landscape-scale conservation project in Breckland, using the knowledge gained from the project.
Additional funding is coming from Anglian Water, who will be providing access to sites for potential restoration projects for rare Breckland plants. The Breckland project is also part of Plantlife’s Action for Plants programme, supported by Natural England.
For more information on this project, including images, please contact:
Sue Nottingham Senior Press Officer - T 01722 342757 / 07861 655438
Tim Pankhurst Regional Conservation Manager – T 01223 762052