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Press release: Suffolk residents called to survey precious wood pasture & parkland sites across the county

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Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is launching a new conservation project this April to help protect Britain’s precious wood pasture and parkland habitats, which are home to several endangered species such as the lesser-spotted woodpecker, violet click beetle and the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. The first phase of this new project will be piloted in Suffolk, a county which is home to 1,250 of these ecologically important and iconic habitats. PTES is calling for local volunteers to help by trialling a simple survey that has been devised to assess the condition of these important habitats.

PTES is asking for Suffolk residents to start volunteering from April, for 7 months until October. No prior experience or training is required, as all volunteers will be sent a comprehensive survey pack which includes detailed instruction and guides. The survey is designed to be incorporated into a walk through these beautiful areas with family or friends. For those who want to find out more, PTES is also hosting a free training day on Sunday 11 June at Lackford Lakes, near Bury St Edmunds, in collaboration with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. This day is not essential for volunteers to attend, but is designed to inform those who are particularly interested in the conservation of this habitat.

With the help of local volunteers testing the survey, PTES aims to record the extent and condition of Suffolk’s existing wood pasture and parkland areas, the results of which will help refine the survey for wider use across England. The results from Suffolk will comprise the first comprehensive and robust inventory in the country, which PTES hopes will significantly improve the quality of information known about this habitat.

Megan Gimber, Key Habitats Officer at PTES said: “Despite the value of wood pasture and parkland, it is a habitat that is little understood and has historically been overlooked – often being mistaken for other habitats such as degraded woodland or grassland containing trees. Here at PTES we are excited to launch the first phase of this new project. This pilot in Suffolk is the first step towards preserving this key habitat. We believe Suffolk may have a plethora of remaining wood pasture fragments, so we hope that local residents will help us by surveying these sites.”

Derived from wooded commons and medieval hunting forests, wood pasture is an ecologically important and iconic British habitat characterised by large, ancient trees growing in open pasture-land. Sadly, despite being a UK Priority Habitat found in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and registered historic parks, wood pasture is under-represented in the protected site series, and as with many other natural habitats, wood pasture is facing many threats, including urban development, overuse, conversion to arable farmland, climate change and fragmentation of habitat.

Teeming with wildlife, wood pasture is vital for numerous organisms, as the veteran trees provide a direct link to bygone landscapes and are home to many rare and threatened species, including the lesser spotted woodpecker, the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly and the violet click beetle. Deadwood that is found across wood pasture sites (the quality of which is rarely seen outside of these habitats) is home to many invertebrates, bats, birds, lichens and fungi. In fact, deadwood invertebrates are one of the two most threatened ecological groups of invertebrates in Europe, so are at risk of being lost if wood pasture and parklands are not preserved.

Gimber concludes: “Wood pasture is an ancient British habitat that is home to numerous rare and endangered lifeforms, so PTES’ work to protect these habitats is paramount in not only conserving wood pasture as a vital habitat, but also the key species who depend on them to survive.”

To become a volunteer and request a survey pack, please visit www.ptes.org/campaigns/wood-pasture-parkland.

Wood pasture & parkland facts
• There is a strong correlation between the age of a tree and high species richness.
• At least three-quarters of the 18 British bat species use tree holes for their summer and winter roosts.
• In Britain, the rarest and most threatened saproxylic invertebrates (invertebrates that are dependent on dead or decaying wood) are found in historic parkland and open wood pasture.
• Deadwood, found in wood pasture sites, is more alive than living wood: a living tree trunk is about 5% living cells per volume, compared to 40% living cells per volume in a dead tree.
• There are more than 2,000 different invertebrate species in Britain (650 in Ireland) which are dependent on deadwood.
• There are no reliable statistics on the extent of the overall condition of wood pasture and parkland, nor any historical or current rates of degradation. The figure ‘10-20,000 ha currently in a working condition’ was given in the habitat statement of the UK Biodiversity Steering Group report, and is the current best estimate.

– ENDS –

For further information, interview requests, or images please call Adela Cragg or Jane Bevan at Firebird PR on 01235 835297/ 07977 459 547 or email ac@firebirdpr.co.uk

Notes to Editors

Available for interview:
• Megan Gimber, Key Habitats Officer, PTES
• Laura Bower, Conservation Officer, PTES
• Jill Nelson, CEO, PTES

About Wood Pasture & Parkland
• Wood pasture and parkland is a precious, ancient habitat, which native to the UK and is under threat due to urban development, fragmentation, conversion to arable farmland and climate change.
• These habitats are home to numerous rare, endangered species such as the lesser spotted woodpecker, the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly and the violet click beetle.
• This new conservation project will be launched in April 2017, and aims to assess the condition of surviving wood pasture and parkland habitats.
• Suffolk will be the pilot county for the survey, with local volunteers testing the suitability of the survey, before it is rolled out across England
• To find out more, visit: www.ptes.org/campaigns/wood-pasture-parkland

About PTES
• PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events. Our current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards, native woodlands and wood pasture and parkland habitats.
• Visit www.ptes.org for more information, or follow PTES on Twitter (@PTES) and like them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ptes)

Let's keep in touch...

We'd love to tell you about our conservation work through our regular newsletter Wildlife World, and also how you can save endangered species through volunteering, taking action or donating. You must be 18 or over. The information that you provide will be held by People’s Trust for Endangered Species. For information on how PTES processes personal data, please see our privacy policy.

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