The Butterfly Effect

‘The Butterfly Effect’ is a term coined by the meteorologist and mathematician Edwards Lorenz in 1969 to capture the idea that a small cause (the flap of a butterfly’s wing) could have a major effect such as an extreme weather event. We have borrowed the metaphor as it reflects our ambition for the activities envisaged in a single geography, in this case Gloucestershire, to be scaled up throughout the UK, and the knowledge imparted in a small number of people to be shared with many.

The Butterfly Effect is a new initiative that aims to activate community support and bring a new wave of volunteers to Butterfly Conservation. Education and engaging young people and families will be at the heart of the project but it will pull together a ‘toolkit’ of different opportunities for involving communities.

The main driver of the project is to use this education work as a focus for raising awareness and understanding of how people can get involved to save butterflies, moths and their environment.

Built around Butterfly Conservation’s proven education programme Munching Caterpillars and public campaigns, Big Butterfly Count, Garden Survey and Plant Pots for Pollinators this initiative will draw all these elements together.

The project will operate among a diverse range of groups to include schools. higher education establishments, local government, gardening and nature groups.

Lower Woods Nature Reserve – sustainable woodland management

Lower Woods is one of the largest ancient woodlands in the south-west, and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The traditional woodland management technique of coppicing was carried out over centuries, which meant trees of varying ages were found throughout the wood, so there was always somewhere different for a range of plants, fungi, invertebrates and birds. The abandonment of coppicing and loss of dense scrub meant that species like nightingales were lost, but the reintroduction of this management practice by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) has resulted in many species making a comeback.

Following on from Restore Our Planet providing funding for GWT to develop a showcase of sustainable woodland management, the Trust has continued this important work through a number of follow-on projects.

GWT has been undertaking selective felling of non-native conifer species, planted after WWII, specifically targeting veteran Oak trees which had become shaded by these quicker growing species. Felling around the trees, haloing them, aids ‘slow release’ so the Oaks are not immediately exposed to high winds for example, and allows them to grow naturally following years of competing with straight, fast growing evergreen conifers.

GWT also felled Ash trees along Public Rights of Way to protect future veteran trees. There has been significant Ash felling, a problem not envisaged 10 years ago, to maintain public safety. The main routes through the wood were targeted, including the scalloping of ride edges to remove uniform straight edges to increase micro-habitats. This will allow for the development of wide, grassy/scrubby rides, and eliminate harsh grassland/woodland boundaries

An on-site tree nursery has been established to grow seeds collected from the woods to be planted in areas dominated by Ash trees. Natural selection will be the favoured option, but planting will be where needed, especially in areas of conifer plantation.

Ride work has been undertaken along selective routes to restore them to their former glory. This includes Abrahams Walk, once known as ‘Adder Bank’ where these stunning reptiles could be reliably seen. The ride has become overshaded, and the work has opened it up for the first time in decades. As above, scalloped edges, with veteran trees remaining, to increase microhabitats and remove uniform grassland/woodland boundaries.

The School Ponds and Natural Habitats for Learning Project

The School Ponds and Natural Habitats for Learning Project encourages schools to develop and use their own wildlife ponds, providing habitat for a variety of species including frogs.

The three schools chosen are The Moat in Gloucester, Arthur Dye in Cheltenham and Severnbanks in Lydney.

Ashleworth Ham and Meerend Thicket Nature Reserve

Ashleworth Ham and Meerend Thicket Nature Reserve lies in the flood plain of the Severn Vale, to the north east of Ashleworth Village and approximately 8 miles from Cheltenham.

The reserve is part of a much larger SSSI, the remnant of an extensive area of wet meadow land. Access to the reserve is prohibited and birds may only be viewed from hides and a viewing screen in Meerend Thicket.

Ashleworth Ham nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest remains a hugely important wetland site within the Severn Vale, both on a local and national context. It forms part of a suite of functionally linked wetlands which are closely associated with the Severn Estuary, an internationally designated RAMSAR which supports a range of vulnerable communities including fish, wild fowl, waders and migratory bird species.

The site is hugely popular with naturalists and general public alike and provides an important resource for people to reconnect with nature. Wetland habitats provide a front seat opportunity for seeing nature in action, and the facilities funded through Restore Our Planet funding have provided a fantastic visitor experience which continues to be enjoyed today.

The area around Ashleworth ham forms an integral part of Gloucestershire’s Nature Recovery Network, and has been prioritised as a focus area by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust for restoring priority wetland habitat on a landscape scale, further enhancing the important value of the site for both people and wildlife.

An extensive program of work supported by Restore Our Planet has included replacing the viewing screens and the bird hides, creating new scrapes and a grassland mosaic for breeding waders, laying hedges and ditch re-profiling. The sponsored activity has also included a plant and invertebrate survey, and the installation of sluice valves and pump.

The Amphibian Sanctuary Project

Earth is facing its largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs with amphibians particularly threatened with up to half their species in danger. Not only are they affected by habitat loss, climate change, pollution and pesticide but they face an even bigger threat from a deadly parasitic fungus known as amphibian chytrid.

Bristol Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in Europe, founded in 1836. It is now a leading education and conservation charity making a significant contribution to conservation in the wild both overseas and in the UK, such as breeding and re-introducing two native species-the Barberry carpet moth and the water vole.

The objective of the Amphibian Sanctuary is to provide a biosecure unit capable of breeding groups of endangered amphibians, while protecting them from the fungus. Also to increase awareness and understanding of amphibian conservation and to integrate the breeding programme with a field project examining how to mitigate the threats in the wild.

It is hoped the project will secure the long-term survival of at least two amphibian species whilst at the same time developing a greater understanding of the amphibian crisis.