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Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 16:20 UK
Cannock Chase teams combat bracken threat to wildlife
Bracken
If it is left to itself, bracken can destroy fragile eco-systems

Parts of Cannock Chase will close during August as part of plans to combat spreading bracken in the area.

If left uncontrolled, the plant can pose a significant threat to wildlife and to eco-systems, smothering out other heathland plants.

Teams will be out spraying herbicide on the bracken.

Officials have given assurances that only pockets of the Chase will be closed at a time, and that they will be clearly marked.

Bracken threat

Without control, bracken spreads at a quick rate, pushing out heathland plants including purple heather.

Skylark
The skylark's habitat is one that is threatened by bracken spread

Species that would be affected by spreading bracken are the nightjar, woodlark and skylark - all rare ground-nesting birds. Insects which are now attracted to the 'restored' habitat include the green tiger beetle and the green hairstreak butterfly.

Ancient traditional bracken management techniques such as grazing and cutting for animal bedding are no longer practised - this allowed bracken to run out of control for much of the 20th century.

Spraying

Teams on foot or using small all-terrain vehicles use a wildlife-safe spray which kills the bracken, but is completely harmless to animals, birds, humans and other plants.

The operation has been given approval up by Britain's national wildlife guardians, Natural England.

The work is being carried out by Staffordshire County Council's environment and countryside department.

Cannock Chase was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1958. It is the largest surviving area of lowland heathland, an internationally scarce and threatened wildlife habitat, in the Midlands.





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