Poole Harbour from Arne by Sue Macpherson ARPS

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Summary & Outcomes

Conserving the Cyril Diver archive containing information from a systematic survey of Studland in the 1930’s was the aim of this project. Cyril Diver was the first Director General of the Nature Conservancy. During the first year, £54,000 was secured from the Neptune fund towards salary costs, and a project officer appointed.

During the three years, local volunteers have spent many days working with professional ecologists to resurvey the Studland peninsula, looking at everything from vascular plants to beetles, from lichens to sand lizards.

The document archive, herbarium and insect collection that Diver collated has been properly conserved and made available for use by researchers and the general public. Collections are now owned by the Hope Museum (zoological specimens), the Dorset Museum (Herbarium), and the National Trust (documents, photographs and artefacts). The project has also featured at the National Federation of Biological Recorders conference, through a presentation and field day in 2013.

An early analysis of the data indicated an alarming decline of Little Sea’s specialist plantlife to a few marginal areas. Indications were that this was largely due to the effects of carp churning up the sediment. Carp have been removed by the ranger team, and it is hoped this will lead to a recovery of specialist aquatic plants.

The project has compared “then and now” plant species from the 1930’s and last two years’ surveys in all 92 compartments originally used by Cyril Diver.



Surveying Studland back in the 1930's

A comparison of the two surveys has indicated that significant ecological change has occurred at Studland since the 1930’s. Vegetation succession has been the main driving force, with open dunes becoming closed heaths, heaths becoming wooded, and dune slacks becoming colonised by marsh vegetation and wet woodland. New species from sika deer to New Zealand pigmy weed are also be having an impact.

The project has also supported two PhD studentships to look at interactions between plants and insects, and issues around volunteering in ecological recording and conservation. Bursaries have been offered to enable people to develop their ecological skills and assist with survey work at Studland, including lichens.

Cyril Diver Survey 2013

Surveying Studland 2013

Highlights and challenges


Without doubt, the highlight of the Cyril Diver project has been the huge input of many hours of dedicated survey work, data entry and archiving. Around 2,200 days of survey have been carried out, which has far exceeded original expectations. 8 placement students have completed 119 days of surveys.

The project has recorded over 2,500 species including 465 moth species (one of which only feeds on prickly saltwort and hadn’t been recorded at Studland for 80 years). It was featured in an episode of Countrywise, and an article in British Wildlife.


What next?

The challenge for the future is to maintain the momentum and enthusiasm generated, so that Purbeck becomes a beacon of excellence in biological recording and conservation. The two PhD studies that were carried out throughout this project will be used to inform a potential follow up from Cyril Diver and this project’s legacy could be a methodology that can be used on other sites, perhaps even other organisations.

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