Monitoring stations are being erected across the Ashdown Forest, including one next to the A26 in Crowborough, to investigate the effects of car pollution.
There is a concern increases in nitrogen oxides released from vehicle exhausts might be seriously damaging the Ashdown Forest ecosystem.
In the same way nitrogen fertilizer boosts the growth of grass in your lawn, there is a worry sensitive plant species on the Forest will be replaced by a few nitrogen-loving species. If the vegetation were to change, ecologists fear there will also be an impact on rare animal and bird species the Forest supports.
As part of a package of measures aimed at reducing impact on the special heathland habitat, Wealden District Council have awarded a £½ million contract to two environmental consultancy firms. The study aims to monitor both atmospheric pollution and changes in vegetation diversity. Air Quality Consultants Ltd will be responsible for the monitoring and modelling of air quality, while ECUS Ltd will be undertake ecological surveys. The monitoring will cover more than 100 sites and measure a suite of air pollutants. It is expected that the monitoring will continue for a number of years. Air quality will be monitored annually, but as changes in plant species are unlikely to be detected over short time periods, this study will be repeated every three years.
The 4,000 acres of Ashdown Forest’s heathland represents 3 percent of all lowland heathland in the UK, making it an important national conservation area, significant even in European terms. The habitat support threatened animal species such as nightjar, Dartford warbler and silver-studded blue butterflies.