Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

GPS used to preserve ants' nests


Look North's Lyttanya Shannon saw the ants' nests for herself

Conservationists in Northumberland have used satellite technology to pinpoint 69 rare ants' nests before work to fell thousands of trees begins.

The nests, made of conifer needles, are home to the hairy northern wood ant.

The Forestry Commission is removing 10,000 tonnes of conifer planted in the 20th Century to restore the area to its ancient roots as an oak wood.

Foresters will be provided with the nests' GPS co-ordinates to ensure they do not damage them.

Some conifers will be left in place to provide the ants with building materials.

We are tweaking our plans to ensure that the wood ant nests continue to thrive
Jonathan Farries, Forestry Commission

The nests can be found on the Forestry Commission estate in 375-acre (150-hectare) Holystone Wood, near Rothbury, Northumberland.

Spokesman Jonathan Farries said: "Holystone is one of the most important ancient woods in Northumberland and also a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

"This long-term project will see many of the conifers planted in the 20th Century removed to allow native species like oak and birch to regenerate.

"But we are tweaking our plans to ensure that the wood ant nests continue to thrive."

The hairy northern wood ant, which is red and black, is Britain's largest ant.

Nick Brodin, Natural England's regional biodiversity officer, said: "Hairy wood ants are a very uncommon species in the north-east of England and it's great news that these amazing ant nest stacks in Holystone Wood will be safeguarded thanks to satellite technology.

"Use of GPS technology has revolutionised nature conservation research and habitat management and this project will make it easier to find the nest stack of the wood ants."

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