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Discover the wonders of the Welsh environment

A white mushroom called the puffball

Our wonderful Welsh environment is home to an incredible variety of plants and animals which is rightly celebrated in Wales Biodiversity Week, which starts tomorrow (Saturday).

So what has Wales got to offer in terms of biodiversity?

Well, a number of new discoveries have been made and the work of Natural Resources Wales officers has led to a greater understanding of some of Wales’ less well known and exotic species.

Here is the NRW Top Five rundown of the most exciting discoveries and success stories of the last 12 months.

  1. In November 2014, a NRW survey into 200 of the country’s most important bog and fen sites uncovered the Fen Puffball (Bovista paludosa) in Mynydd Epynt in Powys.  This was the first time this extremely rare fungus has been found in Wales and only five examples have ever been recorded in the UK. Such is its rarity that that the Fen Puffball is named on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) list as a UK priority conservation species. Although there are more than 30 British puffball species, the fen habitat of Bovista paludosa is distinctive and its rarity reflects the lack of fen vegetation in southern Britain
  2. Deep under the waves near the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve in Pembrokeshire, NRW’s annual survey of the area identified 51 different species of Nudibranches. Nudibranches or sea slugs as they are more commonly known are not your average slug, and come in a variety of different shapes and dazzling colours. Around 68% of the total UK species can be found in the waters off Skomer. Sea slugs are carnivores and are at the top of the food chain. Each species has its own prey, so those at the top are supported by an equally diverse eco-system
  3. A project which surveyed an area of woodland equivalent in size to 1,000 football pitches has discovered not one, but three internationally significant species. Conservation charity Plantlife has spent the last 18 months mapping the Meirionnydd Oakwoods in a project funded by NRW and found a type of barnacle lichen never before recorded in Wales; a species of felt lichen that was last seen in the 1800s and a species of tree flute thought to be extinct in England and Wales. The woodland forms part of the Celtic Rainforest of Western Britain and Ireland. This habitat is rarer around the globe than tropical rainforest but what makes it really special are the plants and fungi that grow there
  4. One of the largest and most distinctive of the dolphin family – Risso’s dolphin makes its home in Welsh waters. With its distinctive light grey and even white body, a Risso can grow up to 4m long and is easily distinguishable from other dolphins thanks to its round head and no beak but most people are unaware of this unique marine mammal. Is our near neighbour. NRW has commissioned Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) to survey the dolphins around Bardsey Island, using photo ID to identify individual animals by unique features such as nicks or scratches on their dorsal fins. During the 2014 survey, the team had several encounters with groups of up to 35 dolphins which appeared to be feeding and socialising in Bardsey sound
  5. The number of rare black grouse in a part of north Wales is almost back to its 2011 record breaking high when 328 lekking males were counted (lekking is when the males gather to attract females) thanks to work to protect them and improve their habitat. In north Wales, there were only around 140 displaying black grouse males left in the 1980’s and the extinction of one of Wales’ most enigmatic bird seemed likely. However, dawn surveys in the summer of 2014 by staff from NRW, RSPB Cymru, Denbighshire County Council and many other organisations, revealed that almost 320 lekking males were counted. So following two years of lower counts (297 in 2012 and 249 in 2013) black grouse numbers seem to be making a comeback. The bird had been in serious decline and had disappeared from all of south and most of mid-Wales by 2000, matching declines in England and other parts of western Europe, but habitat management, predator control and drier summers are thought to be the reasons for the continuing increase in the population

Ceri Davies, NRW Director for Knowledge, Strategy and Planning, said:

“We are so lucky in Wales to live in such a rich and diverse environment and managing it correctly for the plants and animals that we share it with delivers many hidden benefits for society.                 

 “Whether it is reducing flood risk, storing carbon or simply or boosting the economy we have to ensure we continue to do our best to protect and understand the plants and animals we live alongside.

“But don’t just take our word for it join the thousands of people across Wales who will be celebrating Biodiversity Week and discovering more about our natural environment.”

To find out more about Wales Biodiversity Week and events in your area visit

http://www.biodiversitywales.org.uk/Wales-Biodiversity-Week

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