July 22, 2008

North East’s Rare Grasslands Are Under Threat

THERE is one last chance to save a slice of the North East's natural heritage, warn conservationists.

Two years ago Northumberland Wildlife Trust surveyed rare whin grassland which is only found in Northumberland and limited to areas along the Great Whin Sill rock formation.

The survey found that a number of the sites which were originally examined in 1980 have now disappeared and those that remain are under imminent threat from scrub, neglect or overgrazing.

Calaminarian grasslands are also on the brink of vanishing.

These grasslands, found among the river shingles of the Tyne at places such as Beltingham and Close House host a number of rare species including spring sandwort, Young's helleborine and alpine pennycress.

The trust has launched an appeal to save the grasslands. Steve Lowe, trust head of conservation, said: "This is our last chance to conserve the natural heritage of the area. Once they disappear they will be gone forever."

Over the past 60 years, 97% of Britain's wildflower grasslands and meadows have been destroyed. One in five of the nation's wild plants are on the verge of extinction and species-rich grasslands are becoming increasingly rare.

For details on how to support the appeal or become a conservation volunteer log on at www.nwt.org.uk or call (0191) 284-6884.

(c) 2008 The Journal - Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.