The New Forest cicada is the only representative of the Cicadidae in the UK. The species occurs on warm, south-facing, open scrub and woodland- edge sites and has an unusually long life cycle. Eggs are laid in woody stems and bracken and hatch during September to November. The tiny nymphs burrow into the ground where they feed on the roots of purple moorgrass Molinia caerulea and woody plants. They take 6-8 years to mature. Nymphs build small earthworks ('turrets') in March before emergence as adults in May and June. The winged adults live for about three weeks.
The New Forest cicada is very rare, known with certainty from only two areas in the New Forest in the last 50 years, although there are some other doubtful records from other areas. Between 1941 and 1962 there were two records, but in 1962 a new site for nymphs and adults was discovered and 100 singing males were counted. The cicada has been monitored here since 1962, but there has been a long slow decline which is probably due to habitat change. There were occasional peak years (eg 30 turrets in 1986), which could relate to an eight-year life cycle. On a second site, singing has been heard occasionally up to 1994 and an adult was collected in 1990. In 1996 and 1997 there was no evidence of the occurrence of cicadas. In nearby European continental areas the species is uncommon, and has declined in alpine sites; it is commoner in parts of Russia and the Caucasus.
In Great Britain this species is classified as Endangered. It is given full protection under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Current factors causing loss or decline
Natural succession to shaded woodland on ungrazed sites.
Loss of habitat due to intensive grazing on the common lands preventing bush regeneration.
Loss of open bush and deciduous tree habitats resulting from conifer forest management.
Extensive bracken invasion causing shading.
Trampling damage to turrets and egg nests between March and October.
The best known site for the New Forest cicada is managed by the FE, NE and the Hampshire Wildlife Trust to provide optimal habitat for the species. Glades were cleared in 1993, 1996 and 1998 by volunteers and FE.
The best site is monitored for singing males, nymphal turrets, and egg nests in plants.
Surveys of suitable habitat are organised by NE, to include searches for cicadas near sites with recent records, and in the New Forest generally.
A species action plan, commissioned by NE, was written in 1995 and has been revised annually since then.
Action plan objectives and targets
Maintain all current populations.
Enhance the population size at all known sites by 2020.
Establish populations at two suitable sites within the known range by 2020.
Establish an ex-situ programme for study and to provide material for reintroductions and ecological research.
Proposed actions with lead agencies
Policy and legislation
Site safeguard and management
Where possible, ensure that all occupied and potential habitat is appropriately managed, including reduction of trampling by grazing animals between March and October by 1999, and rotational management of woodland margins by 2004. (ACTION: NE, FE)
Ensure that the species is included in site management documents for all relevant SSSIs. (ACTION: NE)
Species management and protection
Strengthen populations by using captive-bred stock if necessary, taking into account the long generation time. (ACTION: NE)
Consider (re)introducing the New Forest cicada to a series of sites within the former range, if necessary to establish two new viable populations by 2020. (ACTION: NE)
Ensure that all relevant managers and local staff in the New Forest are aware of the species and its conservation requirements. (ACTION: NE, FC)
Future Research and Monitoring
Attempt to determine the current status by making annual searches for singing males and egg nests in suitable habitat areas in the New Forest, with special attention to the last two known sites and adjacent areas. (ACTION: NE)
Monitor emergence turrets, singing males and egg nests on any extant site. (ACTION: NE)
Encourage research on the ecology and conservation of this species at an international level, and use the experience gained towards its conservation in the UK. (ACTION: NE, JNCC)
Test rearing methodology using stock from continental sites. This is a long-term project as the life cycle is 6-8 years underground. (ACTION: NE)
Communications and Publicity
Improve awareness of the song of the male cicada in the New Forest in order to increase the chances of finding small dispersed populations. (ACTION: NE)
Promote opportunities for the appreciation of the species and conservation issues associated with its habitat. This should be achieved through articles within appropriate readership journals, as well as by a publicity leaflet. (ACTION: NE)
Links with other action plans
Originally published in: UK Biodiversity Group Tranche 2 Action Plans - Volume IV: Invertebrates (March 1999, Tranche 2, Vol IV, p441)
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