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Silver-studded blues rising from the ashes

Author Jane Willmott

Living Landscapes Officer

silver-studded blue / Nigel Symmington silver-studded blue / Nigel Symmington

We carried out a heather burn on Iping Common

on Wednesday 4 December. A burn! I hear you cry, isn’t fire damaging to wildlife? Well it can be and summer burns often are, certainly in the short term. What I am talking about is a controlled winter burn under very specific conditions.

Unlike accidental fires in summer, this burn will not kill existing wildlife as it is carried out when vulnerable species will be in their dormant phase underground and out of harms way. We also walk the burn area first to ensure any active animals such as birds are not around. Burns are only carried out on a suitable day when weather conditions are right.

Burning on heathland is a centuries-old technique used for management of dense stands of over-mature heather. It reduces the risk of accidental fires and creates a mosaic of bare ground and different aged plants. Heather begins to die back after a number of years and a controlled burn at the right temperature will move swiftly across the surface burning off built up vegetation without harming the inhabitants. This will remove nutrients that allow invasive species such as birch pine and bracken to establish and out-compete the heather.

Although the area will look black and desolate for a while, the bare ground is very useful for rare heathland insects such as the chirruping field crickets and ferocious tiger beetles to make their burrows. The heather also quickly regenerates providing ideal conditions for the beautiful silver-studded blue butterflies and the ants that they depend upon for protection – Silver really will rise from the ashes!

We plan to carry out other burns around Iping and Stedham Commons in future years to create the right conditions. All this ensures that the Commons are home to a fantastic array of insect, reptile and bird life, including nightjars, woodlarks and tree pipits.

[dropshadowbox align="none" effect="lifted-both" width="98%" height="" background_color="#dfdab9" border_width="1" border_color="#dddddd" ]We are also currently consulting on management of Iping and Stedham Commons Local Nature Reserve. We are proposing to fence and graze Iping and Trotton Commons. If you are interested to read more here. The deadline for comments is Monday 9 December 2013.[/dropshadowbox]

controlled burn / Mark Monk-Terry controlled burn / Mark Monk-Terry

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