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Deadwood supports life in the Cadzow Oaks at Chatelherault

Published Thursday, 20 July 2017

Cadzow Oaks at Chatelherault Country Park

The ancient Cadzow Oaks are a nationally significant remnant of what may be the most ancient surviving oak woodland in Scotland.

Planted nearly seven centuries ago, when Robert the Bruce was still alive and hunting deer, they are considered a ‘national treasure’ through their status as part of the Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve.  And now, the public are being offered the chance to get to know this nationally significant and iconic habitat through a series of events and volunteering opportunities.

The Cadzow Oaks are a fantastic example of ancient wood pasture. As veteran trees lose vitality in older age, they start to become more interesting to other forms of life: a self-renewing deadwood resource playing host to an ever richer and more diverse flora and fauna. Even within one veteran tree, a range of deadwood habitats including dry rot holes, wet rot holes and rotting heart wood will support a different variety of lifeforms.

The reserve at Chatelherault is nationally important for its wealth of rare invertebrate life. Around 40% of woodland wildlife is thought to be dependent on these habitats in the UK which support a breath-taking range of saproxylic (deadwood dependant) species, including fungi, lichens, invertebrates, mosses and birds.

The project, Life in the Cadzow Oaks, focuses on invertebrate species, most notably spiders and beetles such as the nationally notable rove beetle Bibloplectus pusillus or the cobweb beetle Ctesias serra, for the first time since the 1950s and 1960s. Survey results will be compared to a survey completed over 50 years ago, the results of which are held in the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow. It’s hoped that the survey will confirm the presence and abundance of key species that were recorded in the past and note any changes. Findings will be used to inform management plans, ensuring the appropriate conservation of these unique habitats for the future.

The project is led by the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum, with assistance from South Lanarkshire Countryside and Greenspace team and funding from Heritage Lottery Fund and LEADER supported Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP) and Glasgow Natural History Society. 

The Hunterian Museum are looking for volunteers to assist in regular fieldwork, including trap checking and general surveying duties at the Cadzow Oaks site from now until March 2018. No experience is necessary as training will be given. Volunteers will be able to enjoy surveying whilst spending time in a beautiful landscape, some of which is usually inaccessible to the general public. The amount of time that volunteers can contribute to the project is flexible, but they should be available through the day on Thursdays and/or Fridays to fit in with the project schedule.  People interested in volunteering to help with the Cadzow Oaks Deadwood Invertebrates Survey should contact Jeanne Robinson at jeanne.robinson@glasgow.ac.uk or call 0141 330 2303 (Monday – Wednesday).

Jeanne Robinson, Curator of Entomology at the Hunterian Museum, who is leading the project says, “The sampling will concentrate on the saproxylic fauna throughout the year, using a combination of proved search methods. Up-to-date knowledge of the invertebrate community is of central importance in the conservation of the natural heritage of this area. A remarkable 40% of woodland wildlife is dependent on deadwood and a number of the saproxylic insects that depend on it have now become extremely rare, as a result of loss of habitat. Hopefully the Cadzow oaks are offering a safe haven for many such species.”

She continues, “We are looking forward to comparing the new survey results with those of Roy and Betty Crowson’s survey from over 50 years ago. Hopefully we will find a thriving saproxylic fauna. The results will facilitate the evaluation and formulation of appropriate management prescriptions and future monitoring of site quality.”

Located in the Hamilton High Parks area of Chatelherault Country Park, which is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and part of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), the Cadzow Oaks were planted when the area was still a Hunting Forest in the Kingdom of Strathclyde and are silent witnesses to huge changes that have occurred in the landscape over the centuries.

Donna Marshall, CAVLP Programme Manager says, “We hope that people are inspired to volunteer for the Cadzow Oaks Deadwood Invertebrates 50 Years On survey. The Landscape Partnership programme includes a range of large scale projects, including the removal of non-native conifers in Chatelherault Country Park, Community Links path maintenance projects and the installation of fish passes on the Avon Water at Millheugh and Ferniegair Weirs. The Deadwood Invertebrates study is an example of what may look like a small-scale intervention, but has vital and lasting impact on the wider landscape.”

Two FREE Insects at Cadzow Oaks Guided Walks have been scheduled on Sunday 13 and Thursday 24 August, 10:30am – 12 noon each day. People are invited to come along to find out more about the field work that is happening and explore parts of the ancient site not normally accessible to the public. Places on the guided walks are FREE but booking is essential, you can book at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/insects-at-cadzow-oaks-tickets-35788958739, or by searching ‘Insects at Cadzow Oaks’ at www.eventbrite.co.uk.