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Dean Natural Alliance

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Why is the Forest of Dean Important?

 

The Forest of Dean is a very important refuge for reptiles and amphibians because it is relatively free from intensive agriculture and has hitherto been largely protected from building development. As a result many wildlife habitats have evolved and these are linked by natural corridors which wildlife can use. Much of this habitat is suitable for reptiles and amphibians and the natural corridors allow them to move between areas and essentially form one very large gene pool. In the wider countryside most reptile habitat has been destroyed or become marginalised and isolated by insensitive agricultural practices and human population expansion. As a result reptile and amphibian populations have become isolated with no hope of replenishing their gene pool from elsewhere. This means that in the longer term these isolated colonies will probably die out. The importance of areas such as heath land have now been realised and some have been given protection. The Forest of Dean has heathland areas but also many other suitable reptile habitat types along ride edges and clearings and also the areas known as ‘Forest Waste’ which are open areas not used for growing trees. This Forest Waste is incredibly diverse in its wildlife, particularly for invertebrates and it is vitally important for reptiles and amphibians and for their freedom of movement.

 

Why is the CNQ Development so Bad?

 

The proposed development will be especially damaging for reptiles and amphibians, not just because it will destroy a very large area of good habitat but also because it will essentially form a ribbon development and spine road stretching out several hundred metres into the statutory forest. This will create a virtually insurmountable barrier to animal freedom of movement and will hinder their ability to find a mate, breed and forage for food.

 

What Reptiles and Amphibians will be affected?

 

There are four species of reptile and five species of amphibian all living and breeding within the proposed development area. This is the absolute maximum number of species which could be expected to occur in this type of habitat.

The amphibians:  great crested newt, smooth newt, palmate newt, frog  and toad.

Reptiles: viviparous lizard, slow-worm, grass snake and adder.

 

There are at least 10 water bodies where great crested newt has been found and one of these pond clusters represents possibly the best GCN breeding site in the whole greater Forest of Dean area. This animal is a European protected species and its habitat should only be disturbed for development which is of overriding public interest ie public health and safety. It should not be disturbed solely for commercial reasons.

 

Adders breed within the development site. These would be particularly badly affected by the development because they need to travel quite long distances to successfully complete their normal lives. Males in particular have been shown by radio tracking techniques to travel more than a kilometre during the summer in their search for a mate and to find suitable breeding and hibernating areas. It is not possible to solve this problem by mitigation. Such attempts would merely pick up the adders and place them in another area which is strange to them and is already fully populated by the species. It will merely result in their death with the added risk of also spreading disease or parasites to another otherwise healthy population.

Adders do not have such a high level of protection as the great crested newt but in reality it is more threatened on a national level because of habitat destruction.

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Reptiles and Amphibians