Our series about the wonderful Flagship Pond sites continues – with an introduction to some special sites on The Lizard from our regional officer Fran Dunn
The Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall is the southernmost part of mainland Britain. It’s an area of heathland and rocky coastline, known for its beautiful scenery. The peninsula is part of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and much of The Lizard is designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The Lizard is scattered with seasonal ponds and trackway pools which support a number of rare species. Three areas on The Lizard have been identified as Flagship Pond sites, these are: Grochall, Windmill Farm and Predannack. These sites are owned and managed by the National Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The Flagship Pond sites on The Lizard are important for a number of rare wetland plants, including Pillwort Pilularia globulifera, Yellow Centaury Cicendia filiformis, Three-lobed Water-crowfoot Ranunculus tripartitus, and Pygmy Rush Juncus pygmaeus. These species grow in ponds and trackways with clean water, seasonally fluctuating water levels, and disturbance from grazing.
During our Million Ponds Project in 2011 we worked with the National Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust to dig 30 ponds and scrapes across these sites. The new ponds and scrapes were designed to be suitable for the rare species of The Lizard. Through the Heritage Lottery funded Flagship Ponds project we are now able to revisit these ponds to assess them and make management recommendations to ensure their success into the future. The project also enables us to engage with the local community, many of whom have a great knowledge and enthusiasm for the area.
The Lizard is designated as an Important Stonewort Area of European importance. Stoneworts are complex algae that look similar to higher plants, they require clean water and bare mineral substrates. Sadly many Stonewort species are now rare, mainly because of water pollution. The Lizard is home to the rare Strawberry Stonewort Chara fragifera.
In March this year we held a Stonewort identification training course for local people and staff from the National Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Natural England working on The Lizard. The course was led by the national recorder for Stoneworts and all round excellent botanist, Nick Stewart. During the course we studied examples of different Stonewort species under the microscope and visited some nearby ponds to look for Stoneworts. Whilst out and about volunteers actually identified new records for Strawberry Stonewort and for Pillwort in two ponds!
Following the course Nick Stewart carried out extensive Stonewort surveys of the ponds on The Lizard for the Flagship Ponds project. Nick surveyed over 70 ponds in three days! The surveys increased the number of records we have for the rare Strawberry Stonewort on The Lizard by 50%! Many of the new records were from ponds which Freshwater Habitats Trust help create during the Million Ponds Project in 2011. This is excellent news and highlights the success of the Million Ponds Project.
We are now getting the ponds on these Flagship Pond sites professionally surveyed for invertebrates and are excited to find out the results!
But what about the other rare plants on The Lizard? Well, this summer we will be running a plant identification training course at Windmill Farm and will be working with volunteers to survey for these species across the Flagship Pond sites. The involvement of local volunteers is really important for the long term monitoring of the sites.
The Flagship Project is enabling us to collect up to date ecological data for a huge number of ponds on The Lizard. This information will enable land managers to make informed management decisions and will help to protect these special ponds.