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Page last updated at 08:01 GMT, Friday, 24 September 2010 09:01 UK
Natural History Museum surveys New Forest biodiversity
New Forest National Park Authority Ecologist Ian Barker, Paul Eggleton, Head of the Natural History Museumís Soil Biodiversity Group and Museum researcher Dr Dan Carpenter collect samples in Whitley Wood, Lyndhurst.
National Park and NHM staff have taken samples at Whitley Wood

A snapshot of biodiversity in the New Forest is being taken by experts from the Natural History Museum.

As part of a large-scale study project, they will revisit the area in 10 years' time to map any changes in the landscape.

Forty plots within six habitats across the forest are being used to sample lichens, algae, insects and soil.

A parallel project is taking place in Paraguay later this year.

Ongoing study

It is hoped this data will provide a baseline from which comparisons can be made when the study is repeated in 10 years time.

Ian Barker, New Forest National Park Authority ecologist said: "The New Forest continues to be a magnificent landscape with an abundance of really special wildlife.

"Insects, lichen and soils - which are the building blocks of biodiversity are often overlooked because people are generally more interested in the bigger species such as birds.

The New Forest is the most densely populated national park in the UK and has over 13 million visitors each year.

Unique landscapes

The New Forest's unique landscape has evolved largely due to grazing by New Forest ponies who roam the ancient woodlands and heathlands as part of the traditional commoning system.

Dr Dan Carpenter, of the Museum's Soil Biodiversity Group, said: "The New Forest is an ideal area to sample in this way because it is one of the most important areas of pasture woodland, heathland and valley mires in Europe.

"As it's in the south it is likely to be strongly affected by climate change, species invasion, land use change and pollution."

Meanwhile another group of museum scientists is preparing to embark on a field trip to Paraguay in November to conduct a similar biodiversity survey.

The area is the largest dry forest in South America and the continent's most extensive forested region after the Amazon rain forest but little is known of its flora and fauna.

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