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Discovering rare species in the Brecklands

Thetford Warren Ts survey

Volunteers working alongside Plantlife to monitor populations of target plants in the Brecklands recorded two significant finds during 2021/22 after discovering rare species at two new sites.

Members of the Breckland Flora Group (BFG) found the first new site for native Grape-hyacinth for several years in King’s Forest, with the area now being carefully managed by Forestry England to ensure it thrives. A new population of Creeping Marshwort was also recorded, around one kilometre from plants which were discovered at Barnham Cross Common in 2020. As this endangered species is only found at three sites across the country, we anticipate the discovery will positively impact its red list status at a national level.

The 54-strong group focused on recording the status of 13 target plants during the year, and counted, mapped and photographed a total of 463 at 84 sites, as well as noting 21 other plants of interest. As 40 of the areas surveyed fall within designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the information collected by BFG has been shared with Natural England and individual landowners to help guide management planning in the future. Volunteers from the group also collected the seeds of seven plants on our target list for Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, taking the total species gathered in Breckland to 15 since 2019.

Seed collection (c) Anna Saltmarsh
Perennial Knawel (c) Adrian Penrose

During the year, we also began work to develop a conservation action plan for Spring Speedwell, which is an endangered annual listed as a priority for conservation under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. The plan will be based on data supplied by BFG members, whose sterling efforts have so far seen seven sites for the plant rediscovered, taking the total number of known native sites to 10.

Alongside our work with volunteers, we have continued to support the Breckland Farmers Wildlife Network, which is committed to creating a landscape-scale wildlife network across this unique ecosystem. Guided by our conservationists and other ecology experts, these 52 farms are proactively adjusting their farming techniques for the benefit of vulnerable and rare Brecks species, many of which are found nowhere else in the UK.

Image credits: Header image & image 3 - Adrian Penrose, image 2 - Julia Masson, image 4 - Anna Saltmarsh

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Joining forces to make meadows

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