MORE than 1,000 invertebrate species – including more than 30 with a high nature conservation status – have been identified at a pioneering nature recovery project near York.

The 25-acre Three Hagges Woodmeadow site created in 2012 at Escrick by the Woodmeadow Trust on a former barley field offers hope of rapidly tackling declines in nature by establishing similar biodiversity hotspots UK-wide.

The woodmeadow, is on the Escrick Estate between Selby and York, and is a centre of scientific research, with national experts monitoring mammals, birds, insects, spiders, reptiles, amphibians, wildflowers, trees and soil.

Ros Forbes Adam, project leader at the trust said: “Wildlife has moved into our woodmeadow at a speed that’s taken experts by surprise, even though the site is in its infancy and won’t mature for many years.

“This is a real cause for optimism. It shows that woodmeadows could help reverse the UK’s catastrophic decline in biodiversity, if created on a large scale and connected to other habitats to form wildlife corridors. Our aim is to see a woodmeadow established in every parish in the country.”

Painstaking annual surveys since 2015, mostly carried out by expert Andrew Grayson, have so far formally recorded the presence of 1,113 invertebrate species – including a wide variety of ladybirds, moths, beetles, grasshoppers and spiders – with more being discovered all the time.

A wealth of insect pollinators, attracted by a huge diversity of wildflowers that form a blaze of beautiful colour in the spring and summer, includes 34 bee species, 26 butterfly species, and 43 hoverfly species – none of which would have been found on the site when it was a barley field.

Butterflies include the dingy skipper – a species usually found on chalky soil, and unexpected in Escrick – marbled white, and purple hairstreak. Bees include the red mason bee and wool carder bee, and bumblebees such as the tree bumblebee and red-tailed bumblebee.

The aim has been to attract and boost species that should be widespread in the UK, although unusual sightings include the yellow-legged Clearwing – an insect rarely documented since records began in 1883 – and the third-ever recent British record of the ruby-tailed wasp Chrysis corusca.

Little known in the UK, woodmeadows are mixtures of woodland and meadow that combine the biodiversity of both habitats, and are exceptionally rich in life. Over 60 flora species per square metre have been recorded in woodmeadows in Scandinavian and Baltic countries, where they were common until the last century.