Pigmy rush is a diminutive annual species of seasonally-flooded sandy and peaty places, especially on rutted tracks and gateways. Its survival is dependent upon repeated ground disturbance, typically rutting by vehicles on trackways and, traditionally, poaching by cattle in gateways. Plants germinate in spring with numbers fluctuating markedly each year, depending upon the timing of seasonal changes in water level in its ephemeral habitats.
In Britain, pigmy rush has only been recorded from the Lizard Peninsula in west Cornwall, but even within this small area it has undergone a severe decline. It is believed to be amongst the most threatened of the Lizard`s special plants. It has been recorded from over 20 sites, but is now known at only five, just two of these having large populations. Elsewhere, this species occurs locally in western and southern Europe, northwards to Denmark and also in north-west Africa and Turkey.
In GB pigmy rush is classified as Endangered. It receives general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Current factors causing loss or decline
Cessation of use of unmade tracks and gateways where pigmy rush occurs.
Upgrading and infilling of tracks and gateways where the species occurs. This recently resulted in the loss of the best UK site for the plant.
All remaining populations of pigmy rush are protected within SSSIs.
The species occurs in the candidate SAC for Mediterranean temporary pond habitats in the Lizard, Cornwall.
Action plan objectives and targets
Ensure that viable populations are maintained on all extant sites.
Restore populations to at least five historic sites by 2003.
Establish an ex-situ programme to protect genetic diversity, create a reserve population and provide experimental material.
Proposed actions with lead agencies
Policy and legislation
Site safeguard and management
Ensure that appropriate management is in place on all remaining sites. (ACTION: NE)
Promote the uptake of appropriate mechanisms, for example Countryside Stewardship, to encourage the favourable management of historic trackway and gateway sites, and to discourage use of herbicides and fertilisers on land immediately adjacent to extant and restored populations. (ACTION: NE, MAFF)
Species management and protection
Undertake trial management on at least five suitable historic sites with the aim of regenerating plants from the seed-bank. (ACTION: NE)
Collect seed from all extant sites and deposit in the Millenium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place (Kew). (ACTION: NE, RBG Kew)
Advise all landowners and managers on extant and restored sites of appropriate management for the conservation of pigmy rush. (ACTION: NE)
As far as possible, ensure that all relevant agri environment project officers and local authority rights of way officers are advised of locations for this species, its importance and management needed for its conservation. (ACTION: NE, LA, MAFF)
Future Research and Monitoring
Resurvey all sites where populations of this plant were found to be extant in the most recent (1994) survey in order to determine the current status of pigmy rush, ensure that appropriate management is in place, and identify potential threats. (ACTION: NE)
Devise and implement a monitoring programme for all extant and restored sites. Where possible, monitoring visits should be combined with meeting landowners to discuss conservation management for the species. (ACTION: NE)
Collate information, and resurvey historic sites where necessary, in order to determine the most suitable sites for restoration management. (ACTION: NE)
Undertake research in order to increase understanding of the biology and ecological requirements of this species and to refine management techniques for its conservation. (ACTION: NE, JNCC)
Communications and Publicity
Raise awareness of the importance of ephemeral and superficially untidy habitats (such as unmade tracks and gateways) and their associated flora. For example an article could be written for farming and conservation magazines/newsletters in Cornwall and for a relevant national conservation publication. (ACTION: NE)
Links with other action plans
The following LBAPs are working on Juncus pygmaeus:
Originally published in: UK Biodiversity Group Tranche 2 Action Plans - Volume I: Vertebrates and vascular plants (June 1998, Tranche 2, Vol I, p193)
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