Biodiversity action in the South Downs

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'Landscape' project benefits bats and butterflies

The wide-ranging Landscape Project is aimed at making a difference to the whole natural environment of the West Weald - with bats and butterflies in particular feeling the benefit to date.

The scheme involves park staff working in partnership with private landowners, farmers and foresters to support positive management for nature and create new habitats and ecological networks for key species.

The £250,000 project is being part-funded by the Tubney Charitable Trust from for fives from 2009-2014, matched by funding from the BBC Wildlife Fund, Chichester District Council and others.

During the past year the project has:

  • planted more than 1km of new hedgerows
  • established new floodplain woodland blocks
  • enabled more than 10 landowners to enter Environmental Stewardship agri-environment funding agreements from Natural England

The project has also carried out various surveys during 2010 of both priority habitats and species, including:

  • lowland meadows
  • hedgerows
  • traditional orchards
  • bats
  • butterflies
  • moths
  • wild flowers

Second appearance for wood white butterfly

The rare wood white butterfly had a good year during 2010. It was sighted for the second time at the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Butcherland Reserve, next to Ebernoe Common, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

The wood white was also spotted in a completely new location - four individuals were sighted near Northchapel.

The even rarer pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly also increased in numbers in 2010 at its sole remaining site in the West Weald near Midhurst, doubling in numbers here to more than 10 individuals.

Rare barbastelle bats numbers treble

Bats are a key group in the West Weald Landscape, which is home to internationally important populations of rare species such as the barbastelle bat.

Last year's data (2010) from automatic logger surveys of bats along flight corridors and around specific locations is still being analysed however:

  • a 10-year repeat survey of barbastelle bats at Ebernoe Common shows numbers have trebled
  • numbers are up from a minimum of 29 breeding females in 1998 to 86 in 2009

This is due to a richer, more diverse surrounding landscape for foraging - a result of targeted, sympathetic land management and habitat creation being promoted by the West Weald Landscape Plan.