This August saw the return of Plantlife’s Building Resilience in the South-West project to Bovey Valley woods. In partnership with the Woodland Trust and Natural England, this National Lottery Heritage Fund funded project has seen the valleys historic field boundaries surveyed and managed, to increase their habitat value for the many rare lichen species they support.
In previous years, the surveys have been carried out with the help of citizen science volunteers from the local community, gathering data on light levels, species richness and encroachment from coarse vegetation such as holly, bramble and bracken which can smother out sensitive lichens. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project had to demonstrate its own resilience by adapting to the restrictions on volunteering and social distancing measures.
In response, staff from Plantlife and the Woodland Trust were joined by professional ecologists who carried out pre and post management surveys on multiple woodland boundaries over 5 days, safely. Conditions were challenging, some days the team were faced with stifling humidity and temperatures in excess of 27 degrees, and others with monsoon-like rain showers accompanied by thunder. These conditions highlighted to us the backdrop of an increasingly turbulent climate associated with man-made global heating, and the importance of Dartmoor’s deep valley ‘refugias’ for lichen species that rely on their unique moisture levels.
With the surveying completed for 2020, the next stage is for professional habitat management contractors to begin work clearing the remaining wood-banks which remain stifled by over-grown holly bushes and other vegetation. Managed boundaries from 2019 showed marvellous improvement in light levels which will allow lichens growing on ancient and veteran trees such as oaks to thrive in the coming years, care was also taken to retain larger holly trees, which can in themselves support many rare lichen species such as Stenocybe sepate.
In a follow up to this blog we will be sharing some photographs of the habitat management work to compare the boundaries before and after this work.
Written by Sam Manning, Assistant Site Manager for the Woodland Trust. Photos by Paul Moody
Plantlife has produced some excellent resources for the Building Resilience project on Plant Identification, Surveys and Management Advice for the Atlantic Woodlands in the SW. Download here
To find out more about the Building Resilience project you can view all the previous articles on our blog here
With thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for funding the project and making the partnership possible