Legacy of foot-and-mouth threatens rare species

A A A

One of Britain's most beautiful beetles is among several wildlife species facing extinction in the wake of foot-and-mouth disease.

One of Britain's most beautiful beetles is among several wildlife species facing extinction in the wake of foot-and-mouth disease.

The problem for the blue ground beetle, Carabus intricatus, and other insects is that they depend on farm livestock to maintain the habitats vital to their existence in south-west England. The crisis that devastated the sheep and cattle industry is threatening to shatter that delicate relationship.

Many farmers are considering pulling out of livestock, and conservationists fear that biodiversity action plans (Baps) to safeguard a range of rarities could founder if this essential element is missing or in severe decline.

The blue ground beetle was considered extinct by the Seventies but surviving populations have been found in seven ancient pasture woodlands, four around Dartmoor, Devon, and three on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.

Blue ground beetles, the largest and most beautiful of the ground beetles, grow up to one and a half inches long and eat slugs, snails and caterpillars. They are found only in moist oak and beechwoods in river valleys. The ground must be sparsely vegetated, because of grazing livestock, for example.

"Farmers were already struggling to make a living in these marginal areas before foot-and-mouth," said David Boyce, an ecological consultant who is working on conservation of the beetle. "There is much talk now of pulling out of livestock. That inevitably sounds alarm bells for this and other dependent species. We have been looking at helping the remaining beetle populations to spread by creating new habitat next to existing sites and converting conifer plantations to broadleaf woodlands. We hope the 1,000 acres suitable for them can be doubled over the next 50 years.

"But grazing is such an important factor that if we end up with more potential habitat but much less livestock to keep down ground cover, it won't work. With so much uncertainty over farming's future, it's impossible to predict the outcome."

Similar problems face six other rare invertebrates on adjacent moorland. One is the Kugelann's ground beetle, Pterostichus kugelanni, which inhabits bare, sandy ground – the result of livestock feeding – on south Devon lowland heaths. Two butterflies, the high brown fritillary, Fabriciana adippe, and the pearl-bordered fritillary, Clossiana euphrosyne, live on south-facing bracken slopes. They need livestock to prevent bracken spreading over open areas occupied by the wild violets on which they depend at the caterpillar stage.

Stock grazing helps bog hover flies on wet moorland patches, and fairy shrimps require animals trampling around the edges of their ponds. Hornet robber-flies also have a special need; at the grub stage they feed on the larvae of dung beetles.

Dr Roger Key, senior invertebrate biologist with the government advisory body English Nature, says: "There is so much potential for grazing in the South-west that we are optimistic there will be a recovery in the long-term and livestock will continue to play a part in the survival of these species. In areas where there are national nature reserves, which we manage, we can ensure suitable grazing occurs."

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices