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  • Writer's pictureRussell Wynn

Welcome to the New Forest Biodiversity Forum!


The New Forest Biodiversity Forum is now 'open for business', and this week we are holding a two-day New Forest Biodiversity Conference, going live with an online New Forest Biodiversity Hub, and inviting applications to our Small Grant Scheme. More on those later, but before that a bit of context….

 

First, what do we mean by biodiversity? Here we use it to mean the variety of life within an area (or globally), including all species and the natural systems that support them. The New Forest is nationally and internationally recognised for its mosaic of protected habitats, including ancient woodland, lowland heathland, valley mires, and coastal lagoons. Together these habitats create a biodiversity hotspot that contains an impressive array of species, many of which have disappeared from the rest of southern England - current estimates suggest there are likely to be at least 20,000 species of animal, plant, and fungi in the New Forest, including many that are of high conservation concern.

 

However, perhaps surprisingly given the proximity to large population centres and the >15 million day-visits per year, biodiversity recording in the New Forest is extremely patchy; for example, there are relatively few modern records for most insect groups and fungi, even though these comprise as much as 85% of macro-species diversity. Another issue is that existing survey and monitoring schemes are generally not co-located in space and time. Overall, this makes it challenging for landowners and land managers to access data that would enable them to deliver conservation actions that benefit the full spectrum of priority species that may be present on a site, particularly in the context of environmental change.

 

As well as being one of the most biologically complex regions of the UK, the New Forest is also administratively complex, with numerous public and third-sector organisations operating in a relatively small space (~500 km2). At present there is limited co-ordination of recording effort between different organisations, potentially leading to missed opportunities for collaboration and a risk of overlap.

 

The New Forest Biodiversity Forum has therefore been established to support and improve biodiversity survey, monitoring, recording, and conservation in and around the New Forest National Park. The Forum has three main aims:

 

  • Improve co-ordination of biodiversity survey, monitoring, and recording, through delivery of an annual New Forest Biodiversity Conference and an online New Forest Biodiversity Hub to share resources, news, and expertise.

  • Provide funding to initiate and support biodiversity survey, monitoring, recording and conservation in the New Forest, and to aid recruitment and retention of expert biodiversity recorders.

  • Provide guidance and support to biodiversity recorders in the New Forest about species identification, record submission, and site access.

 

The Forum is financially supported by Kairos Philanthropy Fund and is co-ordinated by a Chair supported by an expert Steering Group of 13 members representing diverse interests and expertise. The Chair, Prof Russell Wynn, is also the Director of Wild New Forest CIC, a not-for-profit organisation that is the hosting partner for the Forum. Further information on the Chair and Steering Group is available on the Hub.

 

One of the first actions of the Forum was to set up a New Forest Biodiversity Conference, which is being delivered on 06-07 Feb at Careys Manor Hotel in Brockenhurst. With a maximum capacity of 100 attendees this inevitably had to be an invite-only event, but we’ll be producing a summary blog and the presentations will be available on the Hub soon.

 

On that note, the online Hub is now live and contains further information about the Forum, including a Small Grant Scheme and the outputs of the last major biodiversity conference in the New Forest that took place 15 years ago. The Hub will be populated with lots of additional content in the coming weeks, so please sign up to receive the latest news and updates via the home page.

 

The timing of the Forum launch also coincides with the launch of major conservation strategies that exemplify the requirement for up-to-date biodiversity data, including the New Forest Re:New Nature Challenge and the Hampshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy. Several representatives of our Steering Group are responsible for shaping and delivering these strategies, and so they will be able to incorporate Forum outputs as the programme develops and direct future Forum resources towards the key strategic priorities.

 

Finally, many thanks to our Sponsors and Steering Group members for enabling and supporting this initiative. We’re now keen to get your views as to how we can best serve the New Forest biodiversity community going forwards, so please contact the Chair with ideas and suggestions at russ@wildnewforest.co.uk.

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