The distribution trend for the Silver-studded Blue had shown a 43% drop since 1970. Region conservation status for this butterfly is "High" with only one population now found in East Sussex.This project will reinvigorate habitat areas and help to ensure a strong future for the population of this beautiful butterfly within the High Weald.
The project activities are:
The Silver-studded Blue is found mainly in 4 landscape areas within the South East region – New Forest (connecting to Dorset Heaths), Thames Basin Heaths, Wealden Greensand, and High Weald. Within the High Weald landscape area, Silver-studded Blue is only known to exist within the Ashdown Forest area (a 3,000ha SSSI).
The Ashdown Forest Silver-studded Blue population represents the smallest and most isolated population in South East England and represents the only population in the county (East Sussex) and within the High Weald AONB. The next nearest colony (at Chailey Common, 7 miles south) became extinct in 2005.
Broadly similar in landscape and management structure, the New Forest population seems to have increased its distribution by 27% since the mid-nineties. The Ashdown Forest population’s distribution has declined by 50% over the same period. Where once it was recorded distributed widely across the Forest, it now only seems to be recorded in 3 loosely formed meta-populations.
The strength of the population is not fully known and mainly based upon anecdotal evidence. Of two transects where the butterfly features, it is declining on one and stable in very low numbers on the other.
This is a butterfly which is known to respond well to positive targeted habitat management. Targeted work in other areas, such as the Wealden Greensand sites, has significantly increased butterfly abundance and has kept distribution at least stable within the same timeframe. The National Trust are also undertaking a translocation attempt at Black Down within the greensands area and are looking to develop a large Silver-studded Blue project in the future.
Significant improvements to management and management infrastructure have been undertaken at nearby Chailey Common (7 miles south of Ashdown). 3 of the 8 units are now in Favourable condition. Meanwhile, the RSPB has embarked on 97ha of heathland restoration at Broadwater Warren, 11 miles to the north.
A project focussing on Ashdown Forest could answer many of the questions about the butterfly and its management.
The Ashdown Forest population within the High Weald landscape is the most south-easterly population in the UK and also the most limited spatially and the most isolated.
Contact Steve Wheatley ,Butterfly Conservation Senior Regional Officer - South East England
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