Flagship Focus: The Lizard, Cornwall 2017

18th April 2017

Our series about the wonderful Flagship Pond sites continues – with an introduction to some special sites on The Lizard from our Southern Officer Francesca Dunn.

Stonewort Training day

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).

Stonewort training NickThe Lizard is scattered with seasonal ponds and trackway pools which support a number of extremely threatened freshwater plants and animals. Three areas on The Lizard that are particularly important for the freshaters have been identified as Flagship Pond sites: 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 caused by gentle grazing and trampling.

During our Million Ponds Project from 2008-12 we worked with the National Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust to dig 30 ponds and scrapes across these sites. The new waterbodies were designed specifically for the special requirement of The Lizard rarities. Then, through the Heritage Lottery funded People, Ponds and Water project (2015-17) we were able to revisit the ponds to assess them and make management recommendations to ensure their success into the future. The project also enabled us to engage further with the local community, many of whom have a great knowledge and enthusiasm for the area.

Strawberry Stonewort (Chara fragifera) - this species is classified as Vulnerable Strawberry Stonewort (Chara fragifera) – this species is classified as Vulnerable

The Lizard is designated as an Important Stonewort Area of European importance. Stoneworts are complex algae that look like higher plants at first sight, requiring exceptionally clean water and bare mineral substrates to grow. Sadly many stonewort species are now rare, mainly because of water pollution. The Lizard is home to the rare Strawberry Stonewort (Chara fragifera).

In 2015 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 exceptional botanist, Nick Stewart. During the course we studied examples of different stonewort species under the microscope and visited 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 carried out extensive stonewort surveys of the ponds on The Lizard for our Flagship Ponds project getting round 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 helped to create during the Million Ponds Project in 2011. This is excellent news and highlights the success of the Million Ponds Project.

Stonewort training day.2 Local volunteers, and staff from the National Trust and Natural England learn how to identify Stoneworts

The Flagship Ponds Project is enabling us to collect up to date ecological data for a large 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.