Biodiversity action in the New Forest

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Bechstein's bat - record count

A radio tracking survey in the Park revealed a fourth maternity roost for Bechstein’s bat and a record count of 64 bats in one roost.

The Bechstein’s is one of the UK’s rarest bat species and in 2005 experts had only discovered six breeding populations. Intensive research and survey work by experts is improving our knowledge of the species and revealing the importance of high-quality old woodland habitats such as those found in the New Forest.

A new roosting site for grey long-eared bats was also discovered this year. Past estimates of population have shown as few as 10,000 individuals in the UK.

Natural History Museum team maps biodiversity

Supported by the New Forest National Park Authority and funded by public donations to the Natural History Museum, a team has started collating a New Forest inventory of the area’s wildlife and environment.

This will provide a snapshot in time of the New Forest against which changes over the next 10 years can be mapped.

The New Forest is one of the most important areas for wildlife in the UK as it is home to a wide range of species and habitats including New Forest ponies who roam the ancient woodlands and heathlands as part of a traditional commoning system. Yet there are still huge gaps in our knowledge about the species that can be found here and how widespread they are.

Fighting forest invaders

In the summer of 2009 a three-year £35,000 project began to fight the invasion of the forest by non-native species.

Many invasive species were introduced to the UK as ornamental plants for gardens or, in the case of New Zealand pygmyweed, as an oxygenator in garden ponds. However many have now jumped the garden fence and invaded our countryside. They grow vigorously, spread rapidly and elbow-out our native wildflowers which provide important food and nectar for invertebrates.

Non-native species being tackled under the scheme include:

  • Himalayan balsam
  • Japanese knotweed
  • giant hogweed
  • American skunk cabbage
  • New Zealand pygmyweed
  • parrot's feather
  • creeping water primrose

Land management advice service launched

This service was established in February 2010 to promote biodiversity and provide:

  1. A free and independent service for the land managing community in and around the New Forest and Avon ValleySupport for landowners, farmers, New Forest Commoners, equine owners, graziers and community groups
  2. Advice to anyone who owns or manages a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) in the area
  3. A small grant scheme which can support capital works which benefit the landscape, biodiversity and cultural heritage of the area

To date 173 customers have asked for and received advice from the service.

The New Forest National Park in numbers

The New Forest is home to:

  1. Around 6,500-7,000 animals - ponies, cattle, pigs, donkeys, sheep - grazing on the Open Forest as part of an ancient commoning system
  2. Nearly 10,000 hectares of ancient semi-natural woodland, including the greatest concentration of ‘veteran’ trees in Western Europe
  3. 19,500 hectares of lowland heath, the largest area of this rare habitat remaining in the UK
  4. 31,000 hectares of national or international importance for nature conservation – more than half the Park and a higher proportion than in any other English National Park