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We’ve planted more than 1,500 native junipers to bolster populations in the Wiltshire and Oxfordshire countryside.
Our efforts to prevent native lowland juniper from becoming extinct gathered pace during 2022/23 as we took extensive action to protect new plants so they can thrive in the future.
Our staff and volunteers spent the winter planting around 1,500 healthy juniper shrubs next to scrapes which were dug the previous year in the Wiltshire and Oxfordshire countryside. The cuttings had been taken two years earlier and grown by a specialist nursery until they were ready to plant.
Juniper will only bear fruit if male and female bushes grow close to each other. As such, we made sure we included samples from both, which will give them the greatest chance of producing additional shrubs in years to come.
Our vital work to protect this important plant also saw us test these cuttings for Phytophthora austrocedri before planting. This disease is a threat to juniper and can be spread by infected plants and in soil. To help minimise any risk, we sent samples away for testing by specialists at Forest Research. As the results were negative, we were able to safely plant the shrubs into the wider countryside.
Grazing animals, such as rabbits, hares and sheep, also pose a threat to newly-planted juniper. We therefore placed temporary mesh guards around individual bushes in areas of highest risk. This will offer protection for up to 10 years while the juniper is at its most vulnerable.
Without positive action, juniper is likely to become extinct in southern England within the next 50 years. This ambitious 10-year project aims to make sure that does not happen.
The early stages have been incredibly promising and show it is possible to regenerate juniper in a near-natural manner. This provides hope not only for this important shrub, but also for more than 40 species of insect and fungus which rely on it.
It has been another successful year for our dedicated volunteers who are helping to monitor plant populations in the Brecks.
The dedication of hundreds of National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS) volunteers across the UK is continuing to support research into the health of our habitats.
We have enhanced habitats at Greena Moor, our culm grassland nature reserve in north Cornwall, for the benefit of three critical species.