Campaign to protect rare lichens in Pembrokeshire
Ecologists have launched a campaign to protect internationally important lichens at a national park.
Tycanol National Nature Reserve in Pembrokeshire is one of just six sites in Wales where the protected species grows.
But because it requires open, light conditions to thrive, park managers need to fell trees to protect it.
Around 400 species of lichen, which is a cross between a fungus and an algae, grow in the reserve.
The site is designated as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), NNR (National Nature Reserve) and SAC (Special Area of Conservation).Lost glades
Pembrokeshire National Park woodland officer Celia Thomas said the authority had been contacted by some members of the public concerned that felling trees would detract from the character of the ancient oak woodland.
But she said aerial photographs from the 1940s would show that the area has become much more densely forested since World War II and is in need of some management.
She told BBC Wales the lichens would be lost unless action was taken as the mossy covering under the trees is out-competing it.
"This site is one of Britain's best for lichen and has international recognition.
"It's a wood pasture set in a canopy which has closed over since the war and although we have kept sheep grazing to the right level, it hasn't prevented the canopy of trees becoming so dense.
"We have to act now to reopen the lost glades and thin out the tree canopy to allow more light to reach the rocks and trunks where the lichens grow."
She said that last winter ecologists had numbered trees which didn't have lichen interest and have already secured a felling licence, but any felling will be gradual.
"We don't want to spoil the place, it has a huge atmosphere, with mossy boulders and lovely gnarled trees and is very popular.
End Quote Celia Thomas Woodland officer
People are often alarmed when trees are felled, but we will work hard to achieve a balance between removing some of the trees and keeping the sense of place at Tycanol”
"Lichen doesn't like sudden change so the felling will be phased but we do plan to manage the woodland better in the future.
"People are often alarmed when trees are felled, but we will work hard to achieve a balance between removing some of the trees and keeping the sense of place at Tycanol."
The national park authority, which owns the site, and the Countryside Council for Wales, have scheduled a programme of management work to start in November.