21 September 2001
Virus devastating wildlife – report

By Isabel Davies

FOOT-AND-MOUTH has devastated grazing patterns, which could lead to the loss of wild species, the governments wildlife advisers have warned.

English Nature has produced a new report which admits that reduced grazing has caused some species to flourish but put others under threat.

The first assessment of the effects of foot-and-mouth on biodiversity provides a mixed picture of how wildlife is faring.

It says the most serious effect of the foot-and-mouth outbreak has been that of grazing patterns on habitats.

English Nature chief executive David Arnold-Forster said the report confirmed that the disease affected wildlife as well as the rural economy.

“We need plans to provide appropriate grazing levels to prevent already scarce species from disappearing altogether; and we need to capitalise on those that have benefited from less grazing.”

Movement restrictions and culling have meant some areas have been overgrazed, others undergrazed and some not grazed at all.

The restrictions could lead to the loss of the Culm grassland habitat in Devon that supports an internationally threatened butterfly, it warns.

Similarly, the report says, the Lundy Cabbage is under threat because overgrazing on the island of Lundy has severely reduced the plants area.

Lundy is the only place in the world where the cabbage grows.

Insect populations are being destroyed because there is less food available. Grazing must be reduced to prevent world extinction of a number of species.

But other species have fared much better.

The removal of livestock from Moor House-Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve, in Northumbria, has boosted the seeding of rare herbs and grasses.

The report recommends that reduced grazing must be established in the future to make sure current benefits are maintained.