Graveyards offer hope for wildlife

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The Independent Online

Churchyards are a haven for much of Britain's threatened plants and insect life, as these are spared the use of pesticides, according to David Bellamy.

The botanist and television personality described graveyards as "islands of hope" for the future of the country's wildlife, at the first national conference in Ludlow, Shropshire organised by the secular charity, Caring for God's Acre. His comments were endorsed yesterday by conservationists who increasingly view cemeteries as wildlife sanctuaries, containing a diversity of grassland plants and old trees as well as historic features.

Professor Bellamy said he was more optimistic about the survival of species than he has been for many years. He stressed the importance of cemeteries for ecology: "I am more optimistic than I have ever been. The green renaissance has started and churchyards are major players in this area. They have been spared the use of pesticides and insecticides, which should be banned.

"They are refuges and have been refuges throughout history for grasses, mosses, lichens and flowers as well as a wealth of animal and bird life," he said.

More than 300 species of lichen have been recorded in churchyards across the country because of their love of stone or rock, with up to 100 in a single churchyard. It is hoped that next year's conference on cemeteries will helpform a national network of organisations involved in churchyard conservation.