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Pioneering study reveals UK biodiversity hotspot
Date:11/30/2010

g it a key area for conservation within the UK," said Dr Paul Dolman of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, who led the study. "Although much of what conservation has achieved is excellent, new approaches are urgently needed or we risk many of these species drifting towards extinction"

Covering around 1000 km2, Breckland is one of the driest places in England and encompasses the largest lowland forest in the UK including the popular Thetford Forest Park. Because the sandy soil made ploughing easy, Breckland was one of the first places in England to be settled and its unique biodiversity remains dependent on people. The medieval word 'breck' means a fallow cropped field and the team found that these lightly cultivated fields were crucial to many species unique to the region - but many of these farmland species are now extremely rare and threatened. "We need to put the brecks back into Breckland," said Dr Dolman.

Breckland boasts a range of other important habitats - including the UK's only inland sand dunes, grazed heathland, pine forests and wetlands.

The report's key findings are:

  • Twenty-eight per cent of all the priority Biodiversity Action Plan species in the UK occur in Breckland.
  • Sixty-five species, largely restricted to Breckland, are rarely found anywhere else in Britain, including the plants Spanish Catchfly, Field Wormwood, Breckland Thyme and rare insects such as the Brush-thighed Seed-eater and the Basil-thyme Case-bearer moth.
  • Conservation managers should encourage bare ground and complex mixtures of grazed and ungrazed vegetation. Heather, although thought to be an icon of heathland sites, is less important than disturbed ground. ("We shouldn't be scared of getting machinery in and making a right mess," said Dr Dolman, "physical disturbance isn't always bad in fact it is essential for many plants and insects.") - Wild plant conservation charity Plantlife is today launching a new project to tackle t
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Contact: Simon Dunford
s.dunford@uea.ac.uk
44-016-035-92203
University of East Anglia
Source:Eurekalert

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