THE National Trust is calling on the public not to release Chinese lanterns near sensitive wildlife sites after more than 20 were found on Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve near Studland in Dorset.

It warns that they pose an obvious fire risk as well as a threat to livestock.

"They may look pretty in flight, but once they land they just become litter at best" said National Trust Lead Ranger Paul Bradley.

Godlingston Heath and neighbouring Studland Heath together form one of the largest remaining areas of lowland heath, a priority protected habitat, and have been looked after by the National Trust since 1982.

Threatened species found there include all six native British reptiles, birds such as the nightjar and Dartford warbler and diverse communities of plants and invertebrates.

Wildfires are a constant threat to this delicate balance and heathland can take decades to recover from a major incident, said Paul.

"We want the public to enjoy special places like Godlingston Heath responsibly but please be careful and be vigilant" he added.