Rare flowers and butterflies to benefit from £350,000 project at Cornish reserve

Rare coastal lichens, wildflowers and butterflies are being given a helping hand through the conservation and creation of “micro-habitats” across a landscape in Cornwall, the National Trust said.

The project aims to help wildlife recover across the entire 2,400 hectare (5,900 acre) Lizard National Nature Reserve, with many “Lizard specialities” found nowhere else in the UK.

The £350,000 project, funded by government agency Natural England, is focusing on conservation of micro-habitats on cliffs, bare rocks, in ditches, pools and tracks, where tiny lichens, liverworts and plants can be found.

Wild asparagus with the sea in the background
Wild asparagus is one of the species targeted for help in the project (Ross Hoddinott/National Trust/PA)

Conservationists warn that although the Lizard is one of the most wildlife-rich places in the country, many species seem to be in decline or even facing extinction.

Species face the impacts of climate change, invasive species such as Hottentot fig which crowds out wild asparagus, and pollution, the National Trust said.

The charity is undertaking work including hand-clearing ivy from the serpentine rock of the Lizard – which is an important habitat for lichens – scrub clearance, digging ponds and creating scrapes for plants that need bare disturbed ground to germinate.

Grayling Butterfly resting on bell heather
A grayling butterfly rests on bell heather (Ian Ward/National Trust/PA)

The firebreaks will also protect isolated species from the affects of wildfires, which are on the rise as the climate warms, the National Trust said.

Pony and cattle grazing will also help create a mosaic of different heathland habitats for wildlife.

Seth Jackson, National Trust project manager, said a 2020 review suggested 40% of the most important plant species appeared to be in decline, and many such as twin-headed clover and dwarf rush had become fragmented and lost from up to 50 surveyed sites in just 40 years.

“The most important and urgent task is to expand wild populations, encourage natural recolonisation and cushion the expected impacts of climate change,” he said.

“Working closely with tenants, graziers and the local community will ensure a joined-up and long-term sustainable approach to habitat management, along with a programme of monitoring and surveys to improve the understanding of Lizard flora and fauna.

“Here on the Lizard, despite the wonderful landscape and the rich biodiversity it supports, we are not immune to the pressures that climate warming and habitat change bring, and many rare species are struggling.”

The funding will help protect species and microhabitats, and link the whole landscape together, he said.

Group of Highland cattle with foggy landscape behind
Highland cattle graze at the Lizard, Cornwall (Seth Jackson/National Trust/PA)

Andrew Byfield, technical adviser to the National Trust, added: “The Lizard is one of the most exciting lowland coastal landscapes in the county, with a great many nationally rare and threatened species.

“By addressing the fate of these threatened plants and animals that together make this place so special, the project is also protecting the whole landscape, and also supporting the more common ones.”

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