Plantlife receive backing from National Lottery to build coastal woodlands' resilience

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Wistman's Wood, Dartmoor © Dave Lamacraft

* Heritage Lottery Fund backs conservation work to safeguard woodlands celebrated by Wordsworth, Coleridge and Tolkien

* Wonderful ancient woodlands and their plants face severe challenges from climate change, air pollution and diseases

* Conservation of ancient woodland lichens which link us back to the 'wild wood' to be undertaken

A new Plantlife-led project to save and protect the ancient trees and coastal woodlands and has been backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.

Plantlife has received initial support from the HLF for the Building Resilient Woodlands in the South West project. Development funding of £82,469 has been awarded to help Plantlife progress their plans to apply for a full grant in 2018.

The project promises to carry out essential woodland conservation work that will help to protect some of our most rare and threatened lower plants (lichens, mosses and liverworts) and contribute to our knowledge about how best to care for them and make them more resilient in the face of climate change, air pollution and tree diseases including ash dieback.

Fostering public engagement is at the heart of the programme, which includes citizen science opportunities, a schools future scientists programme, and specialist training to enhance the volunteer skills base and community outreach.

Plantlife will be working in partnership with the National Trust, Exmoor National Park, Dartmoor National Park, the Quantock Hills AONB, Cornwall AONB, Devon Biodiversity Records Centre, British Lichen Society, Woodland Trust, and Natural England and hopes to work with other partners in the area.

Rachel Jones, Plantlife's Development Manager for the Building Resilience Project, said:

"The ancient deciduous woodlands of the south west of England are a wonder to behold; ancient trees in grey-green jackets, soft bright mossy hummocks, carpets of ferns and misted light beams flooding through to the forest floor. As well as being places of discovery and joy for generations these woods have inspired generations of writers, poets and painters including Wordsworth, Coleridge and Tolkien.

"Sadly these ‘Atlantic’ woodlands, one of Britain and Ireland’s most important habitats and home to a vast diversity of plant life, are increasingly threatened. We are thrilled to receive support from the National Lottery so we are able to make plans for this crucial conservation work.

"The success of the project and the future of these extraordinary woodlands depends on it being embraced by the local public and the project plans to connect with at least 17,000 people to forge a resilient and sustainable future for the woodlands."

The conservation focus will be on the three classic Atlantic woodland lichen communities:

  • Lobarion (typified by the lungwort lichens along with species such as the 'stinky Stictas' which smell of fish)
  • Parmelion (which reside in high rainfall areas on leached bark and include species used for textile dyes and the perfume industry)
  • Graphidion (crustose species that form a mosaic on smooth bark including some of the earliest recognised lichens - the script lichens, the pox lichens, and barnacle lichen).

Dave Lamacraft, Plantlife's Important Plant Area Lower Plants Champion, said:

"These lichen species are indicative of sites with a long ecological continuity so in many cases they are our closest links to the 'wild wood'. While some of these species are increasingly challenged by climate change and air pollution they have benefitted from centuries of stable conditions such as continuity of tree cover. Plantlife and partners are aiming to build and strengthen the resilience of our Atlantic woodlands."

More information:

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Building Resilience in South West Woodlands

Building on the work of the Make the Small Things Count Project, we are developing a new Heritage Lottery Funded project that addresses the challenges faced by the Atlantic woodlands of Devon, Somerset and Cornwall.

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