Enhancement of Protected Habitats Planned for Berwyn Mountains

Efforts are in progress to eradicate invasive conifers from Denbighshire’s Berwyn mountains, a move aimed at revitalizing rare and protected ecosystems.

The initiative, spearheaded by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), targets the removal of self-sown conifers that span roughly 700 hectares within the Berwyn Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the broader Berwyn a Mynyddoedd de Clwyd / Berwyn and South Clwyd Mountains Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Non-native conifers like Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine adversely impact the local environment by drying out unique dry heath and blanket bog habitats, both recognized for their European conservation significance.

The removal process involves a tracked mulcher for larger conifers and chainsaws for the smaller ones. The resulting wood chips are left on site to naturally decompose. NRW, in collaboration with local landowners and RSPB Cymru, is overseeing this project, which is expected to conclude in 2025.

The Berwyn and South Clwyd Mountains SAC, covering 27,132ha, is home to Wales’ most extensive blanket bog and European dry heath. It is a crucial habitat for breeding birds, supporting a diverse array of species, including significant populations of black grouse and curlew.

Anya Wicikowski, RSPB Cymru Conservation Officer for the Black Grouse Recovery project, said:

“We are facing an unprecedented nature and climate crisis. To reverse these effects, we must make the ecosystems we have deliver for people, climate, and nature.

“Sitka Spruce is grown in the uplands of Wales for timber, however the proximity to our finest protected sites means it is one of the factors damaging such valuable peatland areas like the Berwyn. Restoring this area to Blanket Bog and Dry Heath will allow nature to thrive, with a plethora of other benefits. Working in partnership across the landscape as a whole is allowing us to be more effective and impactful.

“We hope to continue this work into the future to help ensure our finest protected land areas are delivering for biodiversity and climate such as the Black Grouse and birds of prey which call these places home.”

Ms Portia Kennaway, a local landowner, said:

“As an organic, conservationist farm for over 30 years we are extremely grateful to NRW and RSPB Cymru for the very important work they have carried out on the mountain, and we are thrilled with the results.

“Bathilda and Anya have achieved amazing things in this project, way beyond our expectations, and it has been a pleasure to work with them, everyone involved has been cooperative, efficient and highly sensitive to the particular vulnerabilities of the site. Special thanks should also go to Keith Offord, Birds of Prey Officer for the area.”

Image credit: Natural Resources Wales