Letting in the Light

This summer and autumn, a group of volunteers have been  assisting Dr Alison Smith from Plantlife, to carry out a citizen science survey of some of the ancient woodland boundaries in the Bovey Valley. They have been recording the lichens found growing on the ancient oaks that span some of the old boundaries and they have been helping to photograph the canopy cover of the trees, using a 360 degree fisheye lens camera. These photographs can be used to measure the amount of light reaching the tree trunks through the canopy, light is an important factor in helping lichens and other lower plants to thrive. This season of monitoring was conducted as part of a fascinating new Plantlife project – Building Resilience in South West Woodlands.

Fisheye lens photograph used to measure tree canopy cover

In November, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded Plantlife £433,700, to deliver the Building Resilience project over the next three and a half years. This grant enables Plantlife to work across the Atlantic woodlands in Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset, by conducting a range of conservation work, research, education and awareness raising. The project will specifically focus on the diverse and fascinating lower plants, such as mosses, lichen and liverworts, that are found in this internationally important habitat.

Rare Atlantic woodlands hold immense ecological value, and are a stronghold for important lichen assemblages. They require a relatively warm and wet climate, so the South West is an ideal location. They are richly biodiverse, but are affected greatly by the challenges of our modern world, including climate change and air pollution. Organisations like Natural England, the Woodland Trust and Plantlife play an invaluable role by managing and sustaining these pockets of wonderful woodland, and by encouraging others to find passion for lichens and other lower plants, which are often underappreciated.

This project will encourage people to take a closer look at lower plants

An important goal for the project is to better understand the special lichens, liverworts, mosses, and ferns in these Atlantic woodlands. The funding will help to provide the best management to conserve the habitats across the three counties (Devon, Cornwall and Somerset), along with building essential relationships with the local communities, woodland owners, farmers, and working together with numerous other organisations to achieve the desired outcomes over the next three and a half years. Plantlife aim to achieve this through family events, a walks program, and ID training sessions on ferns, bryophytes and lichens and surveying using their rapid woodland assessment.

Taking a break from woodland management work to say thank you to HLF – Reserves Manager, Albert Knott, (centre) and woodland contractors working in the Bovey Valley

In December, as part of this wider project, woodland contractors started woodland management work here in the Bovey Valley Woods. This new management work is being carried out to preserve our vital lichens and mosses and will involve removing the younger shade-casting holly, beech and in some cases sycamore trees, to let in the light to the older trees trunks. It is these older trees, even the older hollies, beech and sycamore, that hold, or could hold, the riches to lower plant diversity. Local contractors are being used (pictured) and most of the work will be carried out on foot, owing to the steep terrain found in the Bovey Valley.

You can learn more about this new managment work, to let the light into the woods of the Bovey Valley and Yarner Wood, at an evening talk by Albert Knott from Natural England…

Evening talk – Wednesday 16th January
A talk by Albert Knott, Natural England’s Reserves Manager of Dartmoor National Nature Reserves on new management work to preserve our vital lichens and mosses in Bovey Valley and Yarner Wood.  Free entry – 7.30pm.  Refreshments available. Venue: Manaton Parish Hall.

If you would like to find out more about the Building Resilience in South West Woodlands project please follow this link

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