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Rare species under threat on the Lizard undergo restoration

Coastal landscape near Kynance with rocks & thrift in the foreground and the sea in the background.
Coastal landscape near Kynance | © Ross Hoddinot

In often overlooked places such as cliffs, bare rocks, ditches, pools and trackways, many species that are key to the ongoing success for nature and the whole landscape across the Lizard are in decline and even facing extinction.

Rare species

The Lizard is one of the most biodiverse places in the country, with many unique species finding refuge on semi-natural heathlands and grasslands, and along the coastline. But worryingly, many species that make the Lizard such a special place for nature seem to be in decline and are potentially facing extinction.

Many ‘Lizard specialities’ are to be found nowhere else in the UK, and 15 of these key species are central to the success of this new project – from very rare, crusty lichens and rosettes of black crystalwort to wild asparagus, dainty yellow centaury and pygmy rush. Using a diverse approach of different land management practices, including using multiple species to help manage the land – this unique project aims to restore and revitalise not only the Lizard rarities but also the unique wider landscape.

Upright clover (Trifolium strictum) at Kynance Cove, Cornwall
Upright clover (Trifolium strictum) at Kynance Cove, Cornwall | © Tony Blunden

Land management

The serpentinite rock on the Lizard is of national importance for lichens, and these are at risk from encroaching ivy which has to cleared by hand. Wild asparagus is being crowded out by a creeping blanket of invasive, non-native species Hottentot-fig and purple dewplant along the cliffs at Lizard Point. And the caterpillars of Grayling butterflies feeds on bristle bent and sheep’s fescue – both of which grow well here after targeted heathland burning and the cutting of firebreaks.

These firebreaks will be created to protect isolated species from the impacts of fire, summer wildfires are increasingly common as the climate warms and pose a real threat to fragmented populations confined to small areas. They also encourage other plants to grow, such as pale dog violet and devil’s-bit scabious.

Rangers brushcutting on the Lizard, Cornwall
Rangers brushcutting on the Lizard, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/Seth Jackson

Additionally, targeted scrub clearance will also link up existing botanical hotspots, reinstate previously scrub-free grassland slopes and remove encroaching scrub from rock outcrops and historic quarries. Mechanical pond digging and scrape creation will create new microhabitats, including fresh habitats for annuals that require bare, disturbed ground to germinate. Alongside this work, there will be the controlled heathland burns and pony and cattle grazing to help create a mosaic of different heathland habitats that benefit a wide range of Lizard wildlife.

You can read more detail about this project and other partnership work taking place across the Lizard by visiting the Natural Lizard partnership website.

Black cattle with a small brown calf grazing coastal grassland, The Lizard
Cattle grazing coastal grassland, The Lizard | © Seth Jackson
A gravel path leads straight ahead towards Lizard Point, and to the right to the wooden wireless station. A white A frame sits in front stating the wireless station is open.

Discover Lizard Wireless Station

Get hands on with Morse Code and discover how Marconi received the first over the horizon wireless signal at the Lizard Wireless Station.