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Biodiversity in the New Forest

The New Forest is teeming with natural plant and wildlife but ecologists know surprisingly little about the status and distribution of species within the UK's newest National Park.

This fact has led experts from the British Ecological Society, Bournemouth University, the Forestry Commission and the National Park Authority to convene a major conference on Biodiversity in the New Forest next week (25th & 26th September - Balmer Lawn Hotel, Brockenhurst).

Best known for its ponies and beautiful landscape, the New Forest is a crucially important habitat for many of Britain's rarer - but less high-profile - species. Few of the millions of people who visit the Forest each year realise that it is home to around 3,000 species of fungi, including many threatened species, and that it also supports many of Britain's rarest lichens. It is also one of the most important areas in the country for reptiles, bats and woodland insects, as well as providing a home to many rare plants and bird species. But more information is needed about the status and trends in these species and the habitats with which they are associated.

According to conference organiser Professor Adrian Newton of Bournemouth University: “The New Forest is widely recognised as one of the most important areas for wildlife in the country, but there are concerns about how wildlife is faring, given the enormous number of visitors that the New Forest attracts and other emerging threats such as climate change. So the conference is designed to provide an account of the current situation, to help inform future planning and action.”

Featuring specialists on the New Forest's birds, butterflies and bats, as well as its reptiles, beetles, plants, fungi and lichens, the meeting will be the first event of its kind to focus on the distribution and abundance of species in the Forest, particularly those which face specific conservation interests or concerns. Bringing this information together and identifying gaps in our ecological knowledge of the New Forest is crucial to the future management of the National Park.

“This conference will provide a forum for both naturalists and ecological researchers to present current information about biodiversity in the New Forest. Much of the information relating to biodiversity in the Forest is widely dispersed and difficult to access, and no previous attempt has been made to provide such an integrated overview, until now,” Newton says.

The New Forest covers some 30,000 hectares of woodland, heathland and wetland across Hampshire in southern England. It is widely recognised as an important haven for wildlife, and includes some of the richest landscapes in lowland western Europe.

Becky Allen | alfa
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