Back to the future: restoring threatened metapopulations on the Lizard Peninsula

Species Recovery Programme 2023/2024

The Natural England National Nature Reserve (NNR) team on The Lizard in Cornwall have been successful in securing £216k of Species Recovery Programme funding to support the recovery of a suite of rare species on the Lizard Peninsula. The Lizard has been famed amongst naturalists, and especially botanists, since the late seventeenth century, and is noted as one of the five most important plant hotspots in the British Isles, and home to over 60 rare and threatened species, of which 10 are largely or wholly confined to The Lizard in Britain today.

The Back to the Future project has two main areas of work; the first centres around the delivery of targeted management of microhabitats, noted for a wide range of rare plants and animals, whilst the second is concerned with trialling various land management techniques to deliver sustainable landscape-scale management appropriate for the 21st century.

We are focusing on 27 of the most threatened plants and animals, including Twin-headed Clover (Trifolium bocconei), Dwarf Rush (Juncus capitatus) and Upright Clover (T. strictum), which have been lost from 50%, 39% and 36% of all locations, respectively, over 40 years, with significant declines in population size even in surviving locations. Faunal species include the Grayling (Hipparchia semele), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) and Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) butterflies, as well as the Heath Bee-fly (Bombylius minor).

Pigmy Rush (Juncus pygmaeus)
Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia)

Practical works on the ground will include the restoration and creation of trackways and seasonal waterbodies, Mediterranean temporary pools, which, in Britain, are only found on the Lizard; the burning and grazing of heathland areas to restore a grassland-heathland-bare ground mosaic; and the clearance of scrub from rocky outcrops. The first year of this project will focus on the area around Kynance and Lizard Downs, taking in some 380ha of the NNR.

The trialling of various management techniques will include the introduction of goats to West Lizard, as well using invisible fencing systems for the first time. Detailed small-scale management trials, including vegetation cutting techniques and humus stripping and burning, within and outside grazing compartments, will help us to better understand issues relating to the management of rare species and their microhabitats. We will use the information gathered to review the best management methods for the wider Lizard heathlands.

For further information on this project, please contact Sarah Board, Lead Adviser for the Lizard Species Recovery Project (